Eastern Conference Recap
The first full week of the new year has the Philadelphia, the New York Rangers, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Montreal Canadiens shaking up their rosters, the New Jersey Devils dealing with the the loss of their top scorer, and the Florida Panthers bring back a long, lost tradition.
The Philadelphia Flyers made news this week when they traded Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Los Angeles Kings. In return, the Flyers receive center Jordan Weal and a third-round pick in the 2016 draft. While the Flyers send away two of their own, they lose another to injury. The Flyers announced that rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere sustained a lower body injury when he collided with the Minnesota Wild’s Mikko Koivu, and missed their game against the New Year Islanders on Saturday. As of this writing the Flyers are listing Ghostisbhere as day-to-day and will update accordingly.
Staying in the Metropolitan Division, the New York Rangers traded Emerson Etem to the Vancouver Canucks for Niklas Jensen and a 2017 sixth-round pick. This is an interesting transaction for the Rangers, as they had high hopes that Etem would turn into a prolific scorer for them, as Etem posted 51 goals and 92 points in 119 games in at the AHL level. This was not the case. As a result, the Rangers made this move.
Another team in the Metropolitan Division making news are the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus sent embattled center Ryan Johansen to Nashville for defenseman Seth Jones. Johansen, as many know, was not exactly on the good side of the head coach John Tortorella found himself scratched many times. As a result, Columbus felt the need to send Johansen to a team that will allow him to make an impact. While Columbus is dealing with the trade of Johansen, they are also dealing with another disgruntled member of their franchise in Kerby Rychel. Rychel, the son of former NHLer Warren Rychel, is a prospect in the Blue Jacket system, is upset with the fact he has played only 16 games since being drafted three years ago. With the team facing more injuries again this year (as the team just put captain Nick Foligno on injured reserve with an upper body injury), Rychel felt he is not getting the chance to catch on with the big club, and have a chance to make an impact.
One player that may be able to make an impact after changing teams would be Dustin Tokarski. Tokarski was traded by the Montreal Canadiens to the Anaheim Ducks for left winger Max Friberg. This was a deal that the both teams needed to make, as the Canadiens had a bit of a glut at the goaltending position. Tokarski may be able to help the Ducks if either of their goaltenders sustain an injury or simply cannot play well.
As various teams deal with the shake-ups of their roster, the New Jersey Devils are dealing with a roster shake-up of their own. The New Jersey Devils have been a pleasant surprise this year in the Metropolitan Division. The Devils have posted a 20-17-5 record so far this season, good enough for the second wild card position if the playoffs were to start today. One of the best and unexpected sources of the Devils’ good fortune this season would be of left winger Mike Cammalleri. Cammalleri has scored 35 points in 38 games this season. Unfortunately, Cammalleri has been placed on the injured reserve with an upper body injury with no time table for his return at this time. This is a team that already has seen the likes of Patrik Elias, Tyler Kennedy, David Schlemko, John Moore, and Tuomo Ruutu battle injuries this season. Time will tell if the Devils can overcome this latest setback and continue to hold on for that final playoff spot.
Finally, from the lighter side of the sport, the Florida Panthers have brought back an old tradition. It would seem that the Panthers fans have taken to throwing rats on the ice after a team win. If anyone is not familiar with this tradition, it began about 20 years ago when former Panthers right winger Scott Mellanby found a rat in the team’s locker room and cornered it with his stick. Later that night, he scored two goals with the same stick, and goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck called it a “rat trick”, and after that a tradition was born that season, which saw the Panthers reach the Stanley Cup Finals, only to be swept by the Colorado Avalanche. Here’s hoping that the Panthers don’t have the same success that the 1995-1996 team did, just because they brought this back.
Western Conference Recap
It was a rough Friday night in Southern California for the St. Louis Blues as they visited the Anaheim Ducks. The Blues were defeated by the Ducks 4-3 in the shootout, and the Blues lost 3 players during the game. Blues goaltender Jake Allen left the game midway through the 2nd period after he was involved in a big collision with Ducks forward Corey Perry in the blue paint area. Blues centre Paul Stastny left the game in the first period after he took an accidental puck to the face from teammate Alexander Steen. To make things even worse, the Blues lost defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was lost early in the game after he was driven hard into the boards by Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf. This game was very physical as there were 61 registered hits delivered between both teams, and there was a fight between 2 unlikely combatants (Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan Kesler).
Keeping with the Blues, they have hit a rough patch in their schedule right now. After Friday’s loss against the Ducks, they have lost their last 5 games in a row, with their last 3 losses being in either overtime or shootout. In the last 10 games, the Blues only have 3 wins. The Blues had been holding down the 2nd spot (behind Dallas) for a while, but now they have slipped to 3rd in the Central Division and they are now behind Dallas and Chicago.
One of the hottest teams in the NHL right now is the Chicago Blackhawks. They have won 6 in a row and they are only 6 points behind the Dallas Stars for the top spot in the Central Division. Blackhawks rookie forward Artemi Panarin is on a roll for the Hawks as he has 6 points in his last 5 games. He is 2nd on the Blackhawks in scoring behind Patrick Kane. A Calder Trophy could be in Panarin’s future as the NHL’s top rookie of the year.
The Dallas Stars signed General Manager Jim Nill to a 5-year contract extension that will keep him with the club through the 2022-23 season. Nill was hired by the Stars in April 2013. Nill has certainly been one of the most active general managers in the NHL in the last couple of years. He is responsible for bringing players like Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, and Patrick Sharp to Dallas. The Stars have been one of the NHL’s teams all season and they have a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup.
There could be a milestone broken for the Vancouver Canucks in an upcoming game. Daniel Sedin is closing in on Markus Naslund’s Canucks record for most career goals. Daniel Sedin has had a rough week after he lost some team against the Arizona Coyotes, but the NHL All-Star selection is still among the league’s best in points. Sedin has 38 points in 41 games this year and is still producing even at the age of 35.
Keeping with the Canucks, there is some good news out of their camp as Ryan Miller is expected to return to the lineup soon. Miller has been out of action since December 20. He is expected to backup Jacob Markstrom on Saturday night when the Canucks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Earlier in the week, Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers was fined $2,000 for diving/embellishment. He was issued a warning on November 21, and was given his second citation on December 29 (which triggered the fine).
By Andrea Sobolik and George Foussekis