Gruesome Seguin injury, Suspensions for stray punches, playoff scenarios, key injury updates, What’s Drouin doin’? and a whole lot more.
Eastern Conference Recap:
With three weeks left in the season, teams such as Montreal and Tampa are dealing with personnel issues, Columbus is dealing with a major blow in regards to their goaltending, a suspension, and milestone all in a matter of a few days, and Philadelphia is also dealing with a suspension as well.
One such team that is shoring up for next season is the Montreal Canadiens. It has been a disappointing season for Les Habitants. After getting off to the best start in franchise history, many thought the Canadiens would be a force to reckon with in the Eastern Conference this season. However; injuries (including to MVP Carey Price) have taken their toll. Many have speculated that there has been dissention in the ranks, beginning with head coach Michel Therrien. In fact, reports out of Montreal have the embattled Therrien coming back next season, despite all the injuries and suspected infighting. General Manager Marc Bergevin refused to comment on or confirm this report by stating, “I’m not discussing that. (Therrien’s future) I’m not going to talk about my coach today, but don’t believe any reports you read, by the way.”
Another team that has been in the news regarding personnel have been the Tampa Bay Lightning. The team has had to deal not only with the distraction of the contract status of captain Steven Stamkos all season, but the drama surrounding Jonathan Drouin as well. As reported earlier this year, Drouin and his agent requested a trade out of Tampa. As a result, the team sent him to the AHL, and Drouin refused to report. The team then suspended the second year left winger as a result. He was subsequently not traded at the trade deadline and finally reported to Syracuse, where he has 7 points in 11 games. Despite all of this drama surrounding Drouin, general manager Steve Yzerman has entertained the idea of a possible call-up. Said Yzerman, “…if it is good for our team and it is the right thing to do, he will be recalled. So, it’s very realistic.” This is an interesting positon Tampa Bay is taking, even though the trade request still is on the table by Drouin and his agent. It will be interesting to see how the Lightning will handle this situation in the off-season.
While the Lightning are dealing with drama regarding a few of their players, the Columbus Blue Jackets are buzzing with news regarding some of their own, and head coach John Tortorella is also grabbing headlines in a positive way for once. Defenseman Dalton Prout was suspended for one game for punching the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov.
Prout jumped in and punched Kucherov in the side of the head after Kucherov was already tied up with Nick Foligno, who had taken out goaltender Ben Bishop behind the play. As Prout sits for a game for his sucker punch of Kucherov, it appears the Blue Jackets will now be without goaltender Curtis McElhinney for the rest of the season. McElhinney sustained a knee injury in the team’s practice on Friday. As a result, the team has recalled Joonis Korpisalo to serve as the back up to Sergei Bobrovsky. In 26 games with the Blue Jackets, Korpisalo has posted a respectable 14-8-4 record with a 2.63 goals against and a .918 save percentage. Out of all the bad news coming out of Columbus this week, who would have thought the most positive news would surround head coach John Tortorella? Hard to believe, but it’s true. The winningest American head coach in NHL history celebrated a milestone on Saturday by coaching in his 1,000th career game. Not only is this quite the substantial marker in his career, he is also the first American born head coach to accomplish this feat. “I’m very fortunate in having some people around me who have given me the opportunities that I’ve been given, where some very good coaches have not been given the chance. A thousand games means you been given chances. People have entrusted you with their teams, and obviously I’ve been around some really good people to be involved in so many games.” Love “Torts” or hate “Torts”, 1,000 games coached in the NHL is quite the feat.
As Columbus deals with injuries and suspensions, the Philadelphia Flyers also are dealing with a suspension this week. Center Chris VandeVelde has been suspended for two games after elbowing all-star Jonathan Toews in the first period of Philadelphia’s 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. What makes this even more peculiar, is both VandeVelde and Toews were teammates in college. Also, while hits like this can cause acrimony between players and teams, Toews reached out to VandeVelde and communicated to him that there weren’t any hard feelings and that VandeVelde’s hit was a simple mistake.
Finally, it’s important to address the important, impactful news in the Eastern Conference, there are stories that happen that are just either too eye raising or too funny or not to report. A good example of this are stories out of Buffalo and Florida.
Earlier this week the Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres were in a scrappy contest, which saw the teams combined for 100 PIMs. At one point, goalie Robin Lehner took exception to Montreal’s Michael McCarron coming through the crease, which the 6-5 netminder decided he had had enough and gave him a taste of his blocker. McCarron didn’t take too kindly to this, and grabbed a hold of Lehner’s mask and gave him a shake. This caught Montreal’s goalie Ben Scrivens to come down the ice gesturing at Lehner. While a fight did not break out between the two goalies, it was quite the scene. Check out the video of the incident here: http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/robin-lehner-vs-ben-scrivens-death-match-who-ya-got/
Robin Lehner and Ben Scrivens attempted to channel their inner Ron Hextall this week, the Florida Panthers had a visit from Hollywood on Saturday night. The post game tradition is to give the game’s best player after a win the “Spacey in Space” hoodie. No one will say how this tradition came to be, other than many Panthers players have been photographed wearing said hoodie. It has been quite the hot item to purchase in Miami this season, as many fans have flocked to purchase this blue hoodie with the Academy Award winning actor on the front of it. Panthers fans were rewarded Saturday night Spacey himself showing up at the game wearing the aforementioned hoodie. While the Panthers did not win, it was good to see him take the time out of a busy filming schedule to give the fans a moment of his time.
Western Conference Recap:
Let’s begin this week’s recap in the Lone Star State. The Dallas Stars suffered a major lineup blow as Tyler Seguin was injured on Thursday night against Tampa Bay. Seguin sustained a cut to his right Achilles tendon during a puck battle with Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman. Seguin is expected to be out of action for the next 3-4 weeks, but GM Jim Nill says he expects him to be ready and back in time for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Seguin injury definitely hurts the Stars chances of winning the Central Division. Heading into Saturday, the Stars are sitting at the top of the Central Division, but only have a 2-point lead over the St. Louis Blues. Seguin is currently 3rd in the NHL scoring race, behind Patrick Kane and fellow Stars teammate Jamie Benn.
Keeping with the Stars, they re-signed rookie defenseman Stephen Johns to a two-year contract extension on Friday. Johns, 23, was acquired by the Stars in the Patrick Sharp/Trevor Daley deal last July. Johns scored his first NHL goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, and he is a 2010 2nd round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Former Dallas Stars Captain Brenden Morrow announced his retirement on Thursday. Morrow, 37, signed a 1-day contract with the Dallas Stars so he could retire as a Star. Morrow played in 991 NHL regular season games with 4 different clubs. Morrow was the Stars 1st round pick back in 1997.
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Nikita Tryamkin made his highly anticipated NHL debut for the club on Wednesday night versus the Colorado Avalanche. In the game, the big 6’7” blueliner recorded his 1st career NHL point as he assisted Henrik Sedin’s goal. Tryamkin, 21, was the Canucks third round pick back in the 2014 NHL Draft.
The Los Angeles Kings have really heated up this month. In their last 8 games, they only have 1 regulation loss. Over the past couple of weeks, they have wins over the following teams: Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, and NY Rangers. The Kings have given themselves a little bit of a cushion in the Pacific, as they are now 6 points ahead of Anaheim, heading into Friday.
Kings forward Anze Kopitar has crept up into the NHL’s top 10 in scoring. He has recorded 24 goals and 64 points in 69 games this year. He has been very productive with fellow linemates Milan Lucic and Tyler Toffoli. Kopitar is also at the top of the NHL’s +/- category with a +31 rating.
While the Kings are hot, the Chicago Blackhawks are not hot. Heading into Friday, they have lost their last 4 games. The Nashville Predators are right on their heels, as they sit 3 points behind them. Could Chicago fall out of the Central Division top 3 and could they end up in the Wildcard?
Speaking of Nashville, they are still hot. Heading into Friday, they have won 2 in a row and they have won 7 out of their last 10 games. The Predators are getting some good scoring their top two forwards, James Neal and Ryan Johansen. Neal has recorded 27 goals, while Forsberg has registered 28 goals.
It was a rough night for the Minnesota Wild in New Jersey on Thursday night. Devan Dubnyk gave up 3 goals on 8 shots, and was yanked from the game late in the 1st period. Darcy Kuemper came in for the next couple of periods and gave up 4 more goals. Wild forward Thomas Vanek is struggling offensively right now. He has only 1 goal in his last 12 games. The Wild are in desperate need for some offensive production, and Vanek is a guy that needs to get going in the remaining games if the Wild want a chance to squeak into the playoffs.
Andi Sobilik – Eastern Conference
George Foussekis – Western Conference