Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I'm reading, while writing this from the city of Brotherly Love.
*The natives are getting restless with Loui Eriksson in Vancouver. He hasn't lived up to the big contract he signed with the Canucks and you can't say that a lot of people around the Bruins didn't see this coming. Loui is a nice guy and has some pretty good skills as a two-way forward, but in my opinion, the fire doesn't burn quite as brightly for him when he's comfortably in the middle of a long-term deal. This was inevitable no matter where he signed.
*The Hockey News believes that the Sedins have shown enough this season to remain in Vancouver for the entirety of their NHL careers. I, however, am not quite as convinced of that at this point. One interesting question on them: Would they retire if they had to play for different teams, and staying together just wasn't an option anymore.
*A first-rate evisceration from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Harrington after another loss in Buffalo where the Sabres have become an embarrassment.
*PHT writer James O'Brien has Erik Karlsson fully aware of what he's worth on the market as the conversation in recent days has moved to the next contracts for Karlsson and Drew Doughty. Hint: They will both be massive.
*Down Goes Brown is wondering if the goaltending injury is the final straw that is going to break the Edmonton Oilers.
*For something completely different: If you're wondering where the "Agents of SHIELD" got their idea for going into outer space this season, look no further than "Guardians of the Galaxy".
Taking penalties is a penchant the Ducks have been unable shake as they head into a contest against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night.
It is the Ducks’ first visit since May when they lost Game 6 of the Western Conference finals to the Predators, whose 6-3 victory propelled them to their first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.
This team isn’t the same one that took the ice months ago. The Ducks are without Ryan Getzlaf (cheekbone) and Ryan Kesler (hip) but also,adidas Sidney Crosby jersey, in an ironic twist, won’t have Rickard Rakell (upper body) and Patrick Eaves (illness). Rakell and Eaves did not play in Game 6 last spring due to injuries.
But they did get back Ondrej Kase after a 10-game absence due to a head injury. There is also the possibility that Jakob Silfverberg (upper body) comes back to the lineup after missing Friday night’s 4-2 loss to Columbus.
The Ducks (11-11-4) had their opportunities to win but Josh Anderson’s goal in the third period proved decisive. Hampering their efforts were repeated visits to the penalty box. Nine minors were taken, with seven creating power plays for Columbus.
Chris Wagner and Kevin Bieksa each took two, while Logan Shaw’s delay of game penalty for putting the puck over the glass left them with a 5-on-3 disadvantage to kill off. The Ducks did so but also allowed the NHL’s worst power play to convert one on Artemi Panarin’s second-period goal for a 2-2 tie.
Lack of discipline had Ducks coach Randy Carlyle steaming but it has been a continual issue. They’re either second or third in minor penalties,adidas Jake Guentzel jersey, total penalty minutes and average minutes penalized per game. They’re 10th in penalty killing at 82.6 percent but have been shorthanded 109 times.
“Seven penalties, it’s tough to gain any momentum really,” Ducks winger Andrew Cogliano said. “It’s tough to sustain a forecheck and really outplay them at any time because you’re constantly killing penalties.”
Ryan Miller (2-0-3, 2.06 GAA, .935 SV%) is expected to get the start after John Gibson played Friday and made 27 saves against the Blue Jackets. On a back-to-back situation,adidas Joe Thornton jersey, Carlyle could bring in Korbinian Holzer on defense and Kalle Kossila at center as possible lineup changes. If Silfverberg returns, Logan Shaw would likely drop to the fourth line.
A deadly power play has played a prominent role. Nashville has scored on the man advantage in nine of those 13 games and has converted 13 of 45 chances for a 28.9 percent success rate. The Predators have the NHL’s third-best power play overall.
Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith have feasted in those situations. Forsberg has eight of his team-leading 13 goals on the advantage, while Smith has five of his nine. Mattias Ekholm has four as Nashville’s defense corps has pumped in 20 goals overall.
It hasn’t hurt them in the big picture but the Predators have been troubled by their propensity to commit fouls. They’ve been penalized more often that the whistle-happy Ducks, with 119 minors committed to tie Pittsburgh for the league’s most. The penalty kill has had to deal with four or more situations in 20 of their 25 games.
Pekka Rinne (14-4-2, 2.38 GAA,adidas Brent Burns jersey, .925 SV%) allowed four goals on 31 shots Thursday in a 5-3 home loss to Vancouver. Rinne made 35 saves against the Ducks in the first meeting between the teams.
Big-minute defenseman Ryan Ellis took part in the team’s morning skate before their game against the Canucks but he’s not scheduled to make his season debut until the end of December. Ellis underwent knee surgery in the offseason.
Scott Hartnell won’t play as he has been out with a lower-body injury since getting hurt on Nov. 11. Hartnell was scheduled to miss three-to-five weeks of action.
Jason Zucker’s sleep pattern was the subject of intense speculation last month.
The Minnesota Wild forward is happy to report he’s been getting enough Zs lately.
“My wife’s doing a great job making sure I get plenty of sleep,” he said with a laugh before Thursday’s game against his hometown Golden Knights.
Zucker and his wife, Carly, had their first son, Hendrix,adidas Vladimir Tarasenko jersey, on Oct. 27 while the Wild were in the middle of a six-game homestand. Zucker then went scoreless in the Wild’s next four games.
That sent the Twitterverse into a frenzy, as fans theorized the reason for Zucker’s drought was a lack of sleep due to having a newborn in the house.
Coincidentally(?), Zucker went on a goal-scoring tear during the Wild’s next road trip.
He scored six consecutive goals in a three-game stretch, becoming the first player to score six straight goals for his team since Boston’s Glen Murray in 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
That’s when the slumber meme took off, with Carly Zucker leading the trolling.
“Obviously,adidas Steven Stamkos jersey, it’s always nice to have a great family life at home, and that’s what I have,” Jason Zucker said. “I’m very blessed to have a great wife and a beautiful little girl (stepdaughter Sophia) and a healthy young boy right now. Everything’s great, and it definitely makes you feel a little bit better when you’re heading to the rink every day.”
The 25-year-old Zucker is coming off his best season as a pro when he had 22 goals and 25 assists to help the Wild reach the playoffs.
Zucker, who grew up in Las Vegas, had an assist on Mikael Granlund’s second-period goal in the Wild’s 4-2 victory over the Knights on Thursday.
He led the Wild in goals (13) and was second on the team with 21 points entering Saturday’s game against St. Louis.
“For me, I’m just trying to get better every day,” Zucker said. “I feel like I’ve made some jumps in my game, but I still think there’s some work to do. I think we can all say that in this room, and I think we’re looking to have some better performances as a team here.”
Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson told reporters last week he won’t take a hometown discount when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
That’s bad news for the small-market Senators, who could be forced to trade the two-time Norris Trophy winner if they can’t negotiate a new contract this summer.
“When I go to market, I’m going to get what I’m worth,” the 27-year-old Karlsson said, “and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going.”
Karlsson, who helped the Senators reach the Eastern Conference finals last season, is in the sixth season of a seven-year contract that pays him an average annual salary of $6.5 million. He’s expected to command more than $10 million per season in a new deal.
Nashville’s P.K. Subban is the highest-paid defenseman in the league with a $9 million salary cap hit.
Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin recorded his 1,000th career point when he scored during the third period of the Canucks’ 5-3 victory at Nashville on Thursday.
Sedin and his identical twin, Henrik, are the only brothers in NHL history to join the exclusive 1,000-point club. Fittingly, Henrik picked up an assist on Daniel’s goal.
Heading into Saturday’s game against Toronto, Daniel Sedin had a franchise-record 376 goals along with 625 assists in 17 seasons with the Canucks. Henrik had 1,035 points.
“It’s been special playing with him for so long on the same team,” Daniel Sedin said.
The Battle of Alberta is always fun. It peaked during the mid- and late-’80s when the Flames and Oilers were the two best teams in the league and spent every game punching each other, but even in recent years when both teams have been awful you could usually count on something fun happening.
This year’s teams veer closer to “awful” than “best in the league,” which isn’t necessarily how we thought it would look heading into the season. The Oilers’ troubles have been well-documented, although at least they’re getting timely scoring from the blue line these days. The Flames have been better, but are still inching along in win-a-few, lose-a-few mode.
That’s not quite the battle for Pacific supremacy we might have been hoping for. But it does lend a sense of urgency to tonight’s showdown, there’s a decent chance that there won’t be room in the post-season for both Alberta teams. And if so, with both teams badly needing a win to keep pace. This is the second meeting of the season between the two rivals,Authentic Sidney Crosby jersey, and the first since opening night. The Oilers earned a 3-0 win that night, but it’s fair to say a lot has changed since those early days. At the time, we were hoping the matchup might be a playoff preview. But with the Central dominating again, and the Kings and Golden Knights banking points early on,Authentic Jake Guentzel jersey, every meeting between the two will be crucial.
Tonight’s game will feature two of the league’s top scorers in Connor McDavid and Johnny Gaudreau, with the latter actually holding the lead in the provincial scoring race. It’s possible that no player has benefitted more from being allowed to actually play hockey without getting hacked on the wrist every shift; if both he and the refs can keep it up, Gaudreau has a legitimate shot at the Art Ross. McDavid will obviously have a thing or two to say about that, and tonight’s game could come down to which team manages to stifle the other’s top threat.
Maybe more importantly, it will presumably feature a matchup between Mike Smith,Authentic Joe Thornton jersey, the Flames’ unquestioned starter and early-season workhorse who’s coming off a shutout, the Oilers’ backup who’s suddenly in the spotlight with Cam Talbot out. Brossoit had an uneven game against Toronto on Thursday in what ended up as a 6–4 loss. Talbot is expected to miss at least two weeks, and Laurent Brossoit, and with the Oilers’ season already hanging by a thread they may not be able to afford much of a downgrade. If Brossoit can’t get it done, Edmonton may need to seek out a trade.
These two teams won’t see each other again until late in January,Authentic Brent Burns jersey, and maybe by then they’ll both have figured things out and be back in the division title race. In the shorter term, both teams play the same opponents over their next three, with home games against the Flyers followed by a road trip through Toronto and Montreal.
Not every team — they have quite possibly the league’s very best in the Lightning, and so far the Leafs are hanging with them. But after that it’s a bit of a mess.
That’s not great news if you’re a Metro playoff contender, since there’s an outside chance that there could be six teams there that are better than the Atlantic’s third best. If that were to happen,Authentic Vladimir Tarasenko jersey, the East wouldn’t send its eight top teams to the playoffs, and we’d been in for another round of complaining about the league’s playoff format.
But it’s very good news if you’re one of the many struggling Atlantic teams, because nobody’s out of this thing yet. The Senators are still hanging around, despite recently losing seven straight. The Bruins are right there and holding games in hand, despite all their injuries. The Panthers still have a shot. The Sabres, uh,Authentic Steven Stamkos jersey, have nice uniforms.
And then there are the Red Wings and Canadiens, who’ll meet tonight in Montreal. The Wings held the Atlantic’s third playoff spot earlier this week, and the Canadiens have it now (assuming you go by total points and not percentage). Both of those were surprising, since the Wings were expected to be terrible this year and the Habs actually were until about a week ago. In they were in any of the other three divisions, they’d be looking up at a wild card. But they’re not, so here we are.
It’s probably stretching it to say that tonight’s game will have a playoff-like atmosphere, but it’s possible that these two points could matter in the eventual race. It will also be a battle of teams heading in opposite directions in a hurry. The Canadiens will be looking to build on a 6–3 win in Detroit on Thursday, and have won four straight since Carey Price‘s return; Detroit has lost six in a row.
Marquee matchup: Nazem Kadri vs. the Canucks
Last year, the Leafs and Canucks engaged in a nasty game that featured plenty of bad blood, and Kadri was right in the middle of it with a controversial hit on Daniel Sedin.
That play reignited the debate on blindside hits (Kadri wasn’t suspended), and the fallout had Canuck players vowing revenge. The league made sure that a rematch a few weeks later came and went without anything silly happening. Now the two teams will meet again for the first time in almost a year, and you wonder if there may be any lingering memories.
Kadri can be, 61-point season, to put it mildly, a divisive player. Maple Leafs fans have had an up-and-down relationship with him over the years, as he went from Brian Burke-hyped draft pick to mild bust to breakout star and then back to disappointing problem child. But he seems to have found his role under Mike Babcock, and that role is the underrated two-way centre who can score at one end, match up with the other team’s top player in the other, and drive everyone crazy while he does it. He hit career highs with last year’s 32-goal, and is on pace to surpass them this year. Leafs fans will take that.
As for the rest of the league, well, it’s fair to say Kadri isn’t exactly beloved. He certainly tends to find himself in the middle of these types of things, as fans of opposing teams have noticed. He has a reputation as a diver, which may not be completely fair, and even the penalty-box officials have had their run-ins with him. But there’s no denying his talent — not many players can do this to Connor McDavid.
We’ll see if he gets a chance to pull off something similar tonight, or whether he ends up spending the night with irate Canucks chasing him around the rink. But knowing Kadri, he’d probably consider that a win. And speaking of wins, Vancouver could sure use one at the end of a tough road trip that had them falling out of the playoff mix. Revenge is a dish best served cold, but two points will matter more tonight.
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