Eastern Conference Review
The Eastern Conference this week is abuzz with news and notes as a little over half of the teams are reporting some sort of action. Ottawa, Florida, Carolina, Columbus, Philadelphia, Montreal, Detroit, New York, and Pittsburgh are all
The Ottawa Senators are without their star netminder Andrew Hammond for another week. Hammond, who backstopped the Senators to their improbable playoff run last year, was hit in the head with a shot in practice last Saturday. Hammond has had his fair share of injuries in this early part of the season, as he missed the first 6 games of the season with a groin injury, and this latest injury is another setback.
The Florida Panthers are dealing with setbacks of their own. It was revealed that they will be without one of their young blueliners. Dmitry Kulikov suffered a knee injury and will be out 2-3 weeks. This is a small setback for this young Florida team that surprised many NHL pundits last season, as they almost made the playoffs last year, and may make a push to do the same.
However, The Carolina Hurricanes went into this season knowing full well they were going to struggle, as they were a young team trying to find its identity. Defenseman Ryan Murphy sustained a concussion in the team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Murphy, has been filling in an already depleted blue line with playing an average of 17 minutes a night.
While Carolina was expected to have issues posting wins this season, no one expected the Columbus Blue Jackets to do just that, win. Wins will continue to be hard to come by as center Brandon Dubinsky will be out for 2-3 weeks with an elbow injury. Dubinsky’s injury leaves a major hole in Columbus’ offense, as he had 4 goals and 7 assists in 16 games before this latest bit of misfortune.
Staying with major issues, the Philadelphia Flyers announced that defenseman Mark Streit will be out for at least 6 weeks due to a pubic plate detachment. This loss of Streit hampers Philadelphia’s defensive core, and will shake-up Philadelphia’s power-play units, as he was a major contributor to the team in this aspect. As a result of Streit’s injury, Philadelphia has called up Shayne Gostisbehere to shore up the defensive core for the Flyers.
As the Flyers are grappling with the loss of a major contributor, so also are the Detroit Red Wings. News out of Detroit on Thursday has winger Johan Franzen being placed on long term IR due to another concussion. Franzen, who is 35, stated that it has been a struggle for him to play and with this latest concussion, many are speculating that this could very well be the end of the road for Franzen.
The end of the road will be coming soon for the New York Islanders mentioned star defenseman Travis Hamonic has asked for a trade. This is peculiar, as Hamonic has stated that it has nothing to do with the fact he is unhappy with the Islanders, in fact, the opposite is true. “They are very understanding of my personal situation, as I would hope anyone would be in this situation.” Hamonic expressed when confronted about the trade rumors surrounding him.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are going to have to be understanding as they are learning to play yet again without Olli Määtä. Määtä was injured due to an encounter with the bench door and will be out 3-4 weeks with what the Penguins are terming an upper body injury. Many thought that Määtä’s injury was much more serious, as he was taken to the hospital, thinking he had internal injuries, but it was determined later that it was merely a precautionary measure. All tests came back negative and Määtä was released, which is good news.
We end this week’s Eastern Conference with some good news coming out of Montreal this week. The Canadiens star goalie Carey Price returned to action on Friday. Price, who was out for a couple of weeks due to a lower-body injury, lead the Canadiens to a 5-3 victory over the Islanders.
Western Conference Review
Let’s begin in Western Canada. The Vancouver Canucks finished up a disastrous 7 game road trip out East earlier this week. The Canucks managed to get only 1 win and 4 points on the lengthy road trip. They have gone from 1st to 4th in the Pacific Division within a span of a couple of weeks.
Continuing on the topic of Western Canada, NY Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic has requested a trade to a Western Canadian team due to family reasons. Hamonic is a Manitoba native, so Winnipeg would probably be his preferred destination. Other teams that have been associated with Hamonic include Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Minnesota. Hamonic’s services should be in high demand, but the price will not be cheap. Hamonic is very familiar with Western Canada, as he played his junior hockey for the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors. Hamonic is a good physical top 4 defenseman who is good at getting under his opponent’s skin. He has a very cap friendly contract that has four years remaining on his deal.
The Dallas Stars remain the hottest team in the NHL to this point. Heading into Friday, they have won four straight games, and they have the most amount of road wins (9). The Stars are getting better goaltending this season with the tandem of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen’s numbers are a little bit better than Niemi’s, as he has a 9-1 record with a 2.34 goals against average and .923 save percentage. If Niemi and Lehtonen can remain hot, the Stars have enough firepower to make up the difference.
The San Jose Sharks are performing quite well out East this week. They have gone 4-0 so far on their 6 game road trip as they have defeated Detroit, Buffalo, Boston and Philly. Heading into the weekend, they have a back to back scenario where they face Pittsburgh on Saturday and Columbus on Sunday. Can the Sharks make it a clean sweep over the weekend?
Chicago has one of the top scorers in the NHL with Patrick Kane. He leads all skaters with 30 points in 19 games. But there is another Hawk who is also in the top 10 in points. Rookie Artemi Panarin has 21 points in 19 games for the Hawks. Panarin, 24, was signed by the Blackhawks as an undrafted free agent out of the KHL. This was a quality signing by the Hawks, and I am sure several teams are kicking themselves for not drafting this guy.
The NHL is changing up the All-Star game this year and it has a new format…yet again. This time, it will be a 3-on-3 tournament with four teams represented by the four divisions in the NHL. Each Division will have 11 players – 6 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 2 goalies. The fans will get to select one player from each division. The remaining 40 All-Stars will be selected by the NHL Hockey Operations Department.
It will be fun to see the new Divisional format, but I would like to see a regular 5-on-5 format. The NHL has been constantly changing the All-Star Game format, but I think they should scrap the game and just do more individual skills competitions.
So who would you select from the Central Division and Pacific Division for the All-Star Game this year? It is a little early to think about voting, but I am sure Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin would be locks from the Central Division. The Pacific Division has been a little bit more wide open this year, and voting could go a lot of different ways there. Taylor Hall has the most amount of points among skaters in the Pacific Division. Is he a lock to make the All-Star Game?
By Andrea Sobolik and George Foussekis