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Alan SaundersFebruary 22, 2024The Kansas City Chiefs are signing former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza, according to a report by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Araiza, nicknamed the “Punt God,” was a highly-touted prospect out of San Diego State that was drafted in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Bills. He seemed likely to take over the team’s punting duties as a rookie but that didn’t happen when he was abruptly released late in August, one day after he was named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit alleging a gang rape of a minor involving Araiza and his San Diego State teammates. Araiza denied the allegations from the beginning of the process. Criminal charges were not filed against any of the alleged participants. Araiza admitted that he had sex with his accuser, but claimed it was consensual and that she lied about her age. He later counter-sued for defamation. Ultimately, both lawsuits were dropped this past December, with neither party admitting wrongdoing. It’s unclear if Araiza could possibly face NFL discipline stemming from the event. He has not been signed by or worked out with another NFL team since the lawsuits were dropped.  The Steelers had been linked to Araiza by Pittsburgh native and former NFL punter Pat McAfee, who said he’d be a fit for the Steelers. Pittsburgh released incumbent punter Pressley Harvin III earlier this offseason and do not currently have one on their 90-man offseason roster. “After watching his film and how he punts, Matt Araiza is a guy that would be able potentially to handle the AFC North stadiums”, McAfee said on his show earlier this month. “You have to have a very strong leg, just like Pressley Harvin did”. Chiefs punter Tommy Townsend, who won two Super Bowls with the club and was a first-team All-Pro in 2022, is set to become a free agent. [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 22, 2024The Montreal Canadiens made two decisions related to waivers on Thursday when they claimed Colin White from the Pittsburgh Penguins while attempting to send Brandon Gignac back to their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, via the waiver wire. But it may not be the end of their waiver-wire-related adventures. The Tampa Bay Lightning announced they have placed forward Alex Barré-Boulet on waivers. Barré-Boulet, 26, has scored six goals and three assists in 36 games for the Lightning this season, but he’s best known for his excellent production rate in the AHL. The talented centre has managed to maintain a point-per-game pace while playing for the Syracuse Crunch, to the tune of 283 points in 271 games. Montreal Canadiens Angle There were whispers the Canadiens had originally been one of the teams courting Barré-Boulet when he was on the cusp of signing an NHL deal.  Barré-Boulet preferred to head down South, but despite his high-end scoring pace in the AHL, he was not afforded many opportunities to prove his worth in the NHL. Barré-Boulet has played in parts of four NHL seasons, scoring 12 goals and six assists in 68 games. His underlying numbers aren’t exactly what you would describe as awe-inspiring, but they’re certainly not awful when you consider the limited chances he received in the NHL. He doesn’t necessarily fit the profile of players Kent Hughes likes to acquire when it comes to frames, as  Barré-Boulet only stands 5’10, but he certainly does present the Canadiens with an interesting opportunity given their roster situation. With the NHL’s Trade Deadline looming, there’s a high likelihood the Canadiens will make a few trades, which would free up precious ice time. If they believe Barré-Boulet still has untapped potential, giving him a chance to flourish in the top six could be a worthwhile endeavour. [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 22, 2024The Montreal Canadiens made a pair of waiver-wire-related moves on Thursday in an attempt to add depth to their NHL lineup while providing reinforcements to their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket. In addition to placing newly signed forward Brandon Gignac on waivers, the Canadiens also claimed forward Colin White from the Pittsburgh Penguins. White, 27, was originally an Ottawa Senators draft pick, going 21st overall in 2015. Since then, the Boston native has played 304 games, scoring 44 goals and 39 assists in the process. White’s production has slowed considerably in recent years, as evidenced by his lack of points this season, but the 6’1 centre did manage to score 17 goals and 27 assists during his sophomore season in the NHL, indicating that there may be some offensive talent left to tap. As for his underlying numbers, the Boston College alumnus has managed to make a positive impact in his last three seasons, finishing well above 50 percent in shot share and expected goals. He produced those numbers while playing for three different teams, the Penguins, The Florida Panthers, and the Ottawa Senators. The waiver claim follows a clear pattern for Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes. He tends to acquire players with a little potential who are looking for a fresh start in the NHL, which is certainly the case for White. White signed a one-year contract this summer that carries a very reasonable $750,000 annual average value. AHL Talent With White set to play in the NHL, the Canadiens could afford to make a corresponding move that will hopefully provide much-needed relief to the Rocket. Gignac, 26, was the team’s leading scorer prior to signing a two-year contract with the Canadiens in early February. Since then, he has played seven games in the NHL, scoring a goal and adding an assist. His underlying numbers were far from impressive during his short tenure with the Canadiens, par for the course when you consider he joined a team midway through the season. As for the Rocket, despite losing most of their best players, they’re still in the playoff hunt. There’s a possibility Gignac will be claimed, but given that his guaranteed AHL contract is $150,000 this season and $350,000 next season, the odds a team takes a flyer on him are fairly low. If he clears, Gignac will resume his role as the engine that powers Laval’s offence. In 43 games with the Rocket this year, Gignac managed to score 14 goals and 28 assists. An awesome moment as Brandon Gignac scores his first career NHL goal. Full marks to Guhle. There was no way he was going to shoot there. Good for Gignac, a nice reward for a player who has given the organization a lot of good games. pic.twitter.com/7yfqL1O9DF — Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 14, 2024 [...] Read more...
Dave MolinariFebruary 22, 2024Colin White is expected to be on the ice when the Pittsburgh Penguins face Montreal this evening at PPG Paints Arena. It will not, however, be as a member of the Penguins, because the Canadiens claimed him off waivers today. White, who can play center or wing, did not have a goal or assist in 11 games with the Penguins this season. He attended their training camp on a professional tryout agreement and earned a two-way contract. After claiming White, Montreal put forward Brandon Gignac on waivers, with the intent of assigning him to its farm team in Laval after he is not claimed by 2 p.m. Friday. With White’s departure, the Penguins have 48 players under NHL contracts. That’s two below the maximum allowed. [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 22, 2024Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Tim McKyer has been arrested in Florida on several hit-and-run charges, according to court documents. McKyer, 60, was arrested on Monday in Palm Beach County, Florida and charged with five counts of leaving the scene of a crashed. FOX News first reported the incident. McKyer has been accused of crashing his car into five parked vehicles in the parking garage of a housing complex in Riviera Beach, Florida. The police report says that security cameras footage caught McKyer being involved in the crash and then leaving the garage on foot. The arresting officer, after interviewing McKyer, said that he smelled the odor of alcohol on his breath, and that McKyer was “not aware of an accident that occurred.” McKyer was not charged with DUI. He has a court date on March 4. The journeyman McKyer played one season with the Steelers in 1994, playing in all 16 games and making two starts as a veteran depth defensive back. The indelible image from McKyer’s tenure in Pittsburgh was his emotional reaction to giving up a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers in the 1994 AFC Championship Game, a game the Steelers went on to lose. Head coach Bill Cowher never blamed McKyer for the loss, and the Steelers paid him his bonuses for the season, even though he ended up falling a bit short of the numbers. The Steelers left him unprotected in the expansion draft the following season, and former Steelers defensive coordinator Dom Capers took McKyer with him to the Carolina Panthers. RELATED: Exclusive With Former Steelers Cornerback Tim McKyer, 1994 A third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1986 NFL Draft, he won two Super Bowls in San Francisco and a third with the Denver Broncos in 1997, after which he called it quits. In his 12-year NFL career, McKyer also played for the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. A native of Orlando, Florida, McKyer attended high school in Port Arthur, Texas and then played college football at Texas-Arlington at the Division I-AA level. The UT-A program closed after his final season in 1985, but there has been momentum for the program to return in recent years.   [...] Read more...
Colby GuyFebruary 22, 2024The Florida Panthers know that the target on their back has only grown larger as they come to Raleigh for an Eastern Conference Final rematch with the Carolina Hurricanes. Florida is riding a six-game winning streak into Thursday night’s contest with a shot at matching an NHL-record 12-straight wins on the road. The Panthers know what they are going up against with a Hurricanes team looking for revenge after they fell 5-2 in their first crack at it in November. “It’s the guys in this locker room,” said Brandon Montour. “I don’t think we’re really watching the standings. We keep winning games and we keep playing our hockey, our style. ”Every team is going to come in and play their toughest game against us and everyone is trying to play their best hockey, so as long as we keep getting better and growing as a group, come April, we will be a dangerous team.” To this point, they have done a good job of maintaining their style of game. The Panthers currently have the best point percentage in the NHL at .696 and have been doing it with a hard, physical style that works in the playoffs to boot. As they learned in the Eastern Conference Final last season, Carolina has the capability of doing the same. There was a reason why every single one of the games in that series were decided by one goal. “They are a really good team,” Gus Forsling said. “We saw them in the playoffs and we know what they bring. “It’s going to be a lot of speed and a fast game out there.” The Hurricanes are in an interesting spot at the moment. They sit six points behind the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers, but also have a five-point cushion over the rest of the pack in that division for second place. In a situation like that, they are looking to build a game good enough to win in the playoffs just as much as the Panthers are. And they are coming in almost as hot riding a three-game winning streak and wins in five of their past six games. “They are a good team, and obviously, it’s a tough road game,” Kevin Stenlund said. “It’s a tough building to come into. We just have to focus on our game, stay connected and we’ll do well.” GAME NOTES Per coach Paul Maurice, the Panthers will start Sergei Bobrovsky in net while making no lineup changes. Florida will run with the same lines it started Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators with. Per Hurricanes team reporter Walt Ruff, there is a “decent chance” Pyotr Kochektov gets the start in goal. No official announcement was made as of 1 p.m. EST with the team not holding a morning skate.   ON DECK FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CAROLINA HURRICANES When: Thursday, 7 p.m. Where: PNC Arena; Raleigh, N.C. TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2,WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app Local Odds — Hurricanes Favored: Money Line (-120); Puck line (-1.5, +200); Over/Under 6.5 (+105/-130) Last Season — Regular Season: Carolina won 2-1; Eastern Conference Finals: Florida won 4-0. This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Hurricanes 2 (Nov.10). At Carolina: Thursday; March 14 All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-47-10, 11 ties Postseason History: Florida 1-0 (2023 ECF) Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Washington, 6 p.m. PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (37-15-4) LINES 23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov// 13 Sam Reinhart 21 Nick Cousins // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 17 Evan Rodrigues 12 Jonah Gadjovich // 82 Kevin Stenlund //94 Ryan Lomberg 42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad 77 Niko Mikkola // 62 Brandon Montour 91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson// 7 Dmitry Kulikov 72 Sergei Bobrovsky 41 Anthony Stolarz Scratched: Josh Mahura, Steven Lorentz, Will Lockwood Injured: None PROJECTED CAROLINA HURRICANES (33-17-5) LINEUP 37 Andrei Svechnikov //20  Sebastian Aho // 71 Jesper Fast 58 Michael Bunting // 18 Jack Drury // 88 Martin Necas 48 Jordan Martinook // 11 Jordan Staal // 24 Seth Jarvis 23 Stefan Noesen //82  Jesperi Kotkaniemi //86  Teuvo Teravainen 74 Jaccob Slavin // 8 Brent Burns 76 Brady Skjei // 22 Brett Pesce 7 Dmitry Orlov // 5 Jalen Chatfield 52 Pyotr Kochetkov 41 Spencer Martin Scratched: Brendan Lemiuex, Tony DeAngelo Injured: Antti Raanta (lower-body), Frederik Andersen (blood clotting issue) Hurricanes lines provided by NHL.com [...] Read more...
Trevor NeufeldFebruary 22, 2024The Calgary Flames continue their everlasting battle to stay above a .500 points percentage tonight against a Boston Bruins group with more than their fair share of roster issues. Here is your game day preview!    Calgary Flames (26-25-5, 57 pts) vs Boston Bruins (34-12-11, 79 pts)        Last Ten: Calgary (5-5-0) Boston (5-3-2)        Time: 7:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.         TV: Sportsnet One, Sportsnet West, NESN, ESPN+    Déjà Vu  While the memory may have been repressed by most of the Flames faithful, almost a year ago today, Boston handed Calgary truly their most back-breaking loss of the season. The Bruins rolled into Calgary on Feb. 28, 2023, having played the Oilers in Edmonton the night prior; a 3-2 win for the visitors. Out of gas and ready for the road trip to end, The Flames outshot the Bruins 57-20. Naturally, the Flames ended up recording one of their 17 overtime losses on the season.   Those who chose to hold on to the memory of that game may remember a particularly egregious play involving Bruins defenceman Charlie MacAvoy hitting Kadri from behind, leading to an overtime change in possession. No call was made on the play. The league didn’t even record it as a hit.  It was simply one of those games. The Flames finished 18-2 in even strength high danger chances and left with a single point in the standings.     Bruins Blue Line Blues  Bad luck broke out in Boston when it was announced that left-side defenceman Hampus Lindholm would be in attendance for this Bruins road trip due to what is believed to be a knee injury.   Things only got worse last night when fellow left-side defenceman Matt Grzelcyk left the game and did not return following a slash from Oilers center Ryan McLeod.    BRUTAL luck for the Boston Bruins! They were already down Hampus Lindholm, and now are down Matt Grzelcyk. #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/BhZD0qQjJI — Drop the Mitts Hockey (@DropMittsHockey) February 22, 2024 Highly-rumored Bruins trade target Noah Hanifin just happens to play the left side. Queue the trade market circus.    Kuz-Drama Andrei Kuzmenko has been on one heck of a seven game rollercoaster with the Calgary Flames. Goals in his first two games (including one against Boston), scoreless in the following two, a goal against San Jose, a –1 performance against Detroit and a demotion to the fourth line in Calgary’s last game against Winnipeg.   “Kuz” returns to the top line tonight alongside Jonathan Huberdeau and Yegor Sharangovich. Will the mercurial sniper respond positively?     Calgary Flames Projected Lineup  Zary-Kadri-Pospisil Huberdeau-Sharangovich-Kuzmenko Mangiapane-Backlund-Coleman Hunt-Rooney-Duehr     Hanifin-Tanev Weegar-Andersson Kylington-Pachal   Markstrom Vladar    Boston Bruins Projected Lineup Marchand-Coyle-Heinen DeBrusk-Zacha-Pastrnak Van Riemsdyk-Geekie-Richard Frederic-Boqvist-Brazeau   Lohrei-McAvoy Lauko -Carlo Forbort-Wotherspoon   Swayman Ullmark   [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 22, 2024A new center option has hit the free agent market for the 2024 offseason, as the Los Angeles Rams have released veteran center Brian Allen, the team announced on Wednesday. Allen, 28, has spent all five of his NFL seasons with the Rams, three of them as a starter at center, though he has struggled with injuries throughout his career. A fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Allen was named a starter in his second season in 2019, but he was lost to a brutal injury after just nine games. He also dealt with a crippling bout of COVID-19 the following year, and ended up missing the entire 2020 season. In 2021, he had his best year, starting 16 games and being selected as a Pro Bowl alternate, though he did not play due to the Rams playing in the Super Bowl. He turned that season in a three-year, $24 million contract extension, but knee and thumb injuries limited him to seven games in 2022. In 2023, he lost his starting job to Coleman Shelton and played in just five games as a reserve. The Rams will absorb a $3.15 million dead cap hit by releasing Allen. The Steelers are expected to make additions to their center position this offseason, with 2023 starter Mason Cole struggling and entering the final season of his contract. While the 2024 NFL Draft class is strong at the center position, the Steelers likely won’t want to go into the draft needing to land one or into the season with a rookie as their only option. But they could also save $4.75 million against the 2024 salary cap if they release Cole before mid-March.  The Steelers could look to cut ties with Cole and sign a stop-gap free agent such as Allen, who may come cheap on a one-year bounce-back deal. The exchange could let the team save some money to use elsewhere in free agency. [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 22, 2024Could Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark hit the goalie trade market again before the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline? During the TNT pregame broadcast before the Bruins-Oilers game on Wednesday night, TNT studio analyst and Spittin Chiclets co-host Paul Bissonnette opined that the Bruins still need to improve their center depth when asked if they were finally feeling the void left by former captain Patrice Bergeron and longtime Bruins center David Krejci retiring. Bissonnette’s suggestion to solve that issue up the middle was to potentially trade one of Ullmark or his goaltending-hugging partner, Jeremy Swayman. “They’re relying heavily on the top-two center role for Charlie Coyle, and he’s been pointless, I believe, in his last six or seven,” Bissonnette pointed out. “So to sustain that top six position, it’s very difficult if that’s not your natural position. I would say on a Stanley Cup team, Charlie Coyle is probably a third line center. So it definitely, in my opinion, is an area that they have to address. That’s why I keep reiterating that maybe it is time to come off one of their goaltenders to try and go get a piece like that out there. Now, maybe that isn’t available but the organization did also prepare for the absence of those two centermen.” The timing of Bissonette’s comments was interesting. Yes, we are deep into the silly season of NHL trade rumors with the NHL Trade Deadline two weeks from Friday, but this wasn’t the first time this month this scribe has heard NHL trade chatter on the 2023 Vezina Trophy winner. In fact, when speaking to NHL sources during the Bruins’ recent seven-game homestand, Ullmark’s name came up a few times as being a possible trade chip that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was potentially thinking about using again. It sounds almost preposterous to suggest that the Bruins would even listen to any NHL trade offers on Linus Ullmark and certainly not on Swayman. They are the main reason the Bruins led the Atlantic Division until last Thursday and have hovered atop the Eastern Conference and the NHL standings all season. After making  37 saves in the Bruins’ 6-5 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night, Swayman is 18-6-7 record with a 2.47 GAA and .920 save percentage. Meanwhile, Ullmark will head into tonight’s start against the Flames in Calgary at 16-6-4 with a 2.72 GAA and a .914 save percentage. So why would NHL general managers ask if Ullmark is available on the NHL trade market right now? “Because you got multiple teams that thought they were a playoff team suddenly in grave danger of missing the playoffs thanks to questionable goaltending,” a veteran NHL team executive told Boston Hockey Now recently. “The market for Ullmark won’t be this great in the offseason, so I would think, if moving on from Ullmark then was still the plan, maybe that plan gets moved up to now. The Bruins could turn around and use that money ($5M AAV this season and next) to get Hanifin or another big piece they think they need to make a run and just ride Swayman into and throughout the playoffs.” The Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, and Toronto Maple Leafs are all looking for goalies who can come in and be their No. 1 guy between the pipes. It’s highly unlikely if the Bruins did actually consider trading Ullmark before the NHL Trade Deadline, that they would send him to any of the latter three teams, given they could face them in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ullmark has a modified n0-trade clause this season and next. Are the Oilers, Kings, and Avalanche on his list of teams he won’t be traded to? The read here is yes because this is what Ullmark had to say to BHN just before this season when discussing how happy he is to be in Boston: “Feels like home,” Ullmark told Boston Hockey Now on October 9 when talking about Boston. “That says a lot about it. Everything surrounding hockey, everything off the ice, everything like that, we know what to expect. We said that when we came in last year and this year, it just feels like home. It’s a great feeling to have and to have the security, and also for the kids and my wife too, to feel the same too.” Does that sound like a player willing to go play on the other side of the continent and then uproot his family if he doesn’t have to? Also, what about the bromance with Swayman? If Ullmark gets traded, it will have to be a team not on his modified no-trade clause, but at this point, that remains a huge IF in the opinion of this puck scribe! [...] Read more...
Michael GallagherFebruary 22, 2024Yaroslav Askarov was labeled as “the next Carey Price” when the Nashville Predators drafted him 11th overall in 2020, and saves like the ones he made Thursday afternoon against the Chicago Wolves are the reason why. With a little over seven minutes to go in the first period, Askarov, who was named an AHL All-Star last month, left his crease and made a diving poke-check between the circles on Wolves forward Ryan Wagner, who had separated from every Milwaukee Admirals skater and had a clear, uncontested breakaway attempt. As the puck bounced toward the boards, Wagner hit the brakes, spun around and fired a rebound toward the open net. But Askarov sprung back to his feet, slid back to the crease and made a glove save on Wagner’s follow-up shot, preserving a 1-0 Admirals lead. today's heart attack brought to you by Asky 😳 "he's a human circus!" –@aaronadmirals #MILhockey pic.twitter.com/SbzgQ8x2eX — Milwaukee Admirals (@mkeadmirals) February 22, 2024 As impressive as his first-period acrobatics were, his diving glove save in the second period may have been even more remarkable. As former Predator Rocco Grimaldi skated into the offensive zone, he tried to execute a give-and-go with fellow forward Maxime Comtois. Grimaldi fired a shot from the left face-off dot, but his attempt was staved off as Askarov pushed off the ice with his left leg, dove to his right and swatted the puck out of the air before it crossed over the line. The 21-year-old Russian, again, preserved a 1-0 Admirals lead. YAROSLAV ASKAROV HIGHWAY ROBBERY🛑🤯@mkeadmirals | #MILvsCHI pic.twitter.com/tR9MZMcn24 — American Hockey League (@TheAHL) February 22, 2024 At time of publication, Askarov had saved all 25 shots he faced and the Admirals held a 2-0 lead. If Milwaukee holds onto to win, it would mark their 18th in a row, giving them sole possession of the second-longest win streak in AHL history. If Askarov, who has been red-hot since switching his goalie pads from black to white, can keep the Wolves off the scoresheet, it would also mark his fifth shutout of the season. His previous four all came after the New Year. Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_ Be sure to follow Nashville Hockey Now on X/Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers need a center, with 2023 starter Mason Cole struggling in his second season with the team and his contract ending at the end of the 2024 season, which has eyes turned to the 2024 NFL Draft class for potential solutions. The good news is that there are lots of quality centers in this draft class — perhaps a historic haul at the position. As many as three players could be taken in the first round, which would be unprecedented. Only two were taken in the entire 2023 NFL Draft. The last first-round center was Cesar Ruiz back in 2020. Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson has become the favorite to be the first center taken and it now seems likely that he will be a first-round pick. Graham Barton played tackle at Duke, but he projects to be an interior lineman at the NFL level, and some teams would use him at center, including likely the Steelers.  West Virginia center Zach Frazier has been repeatedly linked to the Steelers in the second round, but recently has been shooting up draft boards. Frazier has also entered the conversation as a first-round pick, which could limit the Steelers options to needing to draft one in the first round or not get one at all. But there is a fourth option, and for a long time, a lot of people thought that option was the best of the bunch. That is Georgia center Sedrick Van Pan. At one point considered a first-round pick, his NFL Mock Draft Database average now has him in the middle of the third round. Listed at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Van Pran came out as a redshirt junior after starting for three seasons at Georgia and winning two national championships. This past season, he was a first-team All-America selection by ESPN and Sports Illustrated. For most of the season, Van Pran was considered to be the top center prospect in the country. So how did he end up fourth?  For one, Powers-Johnson came out of relative obscurity in the Pacific Northwest. An underclassmen, it wasn’t even a sure thing that he would come out for the draft this season. With Oregon having a strong year and several other high draft picks on the offense, he got a lot more attention in 2023 than he had coming in. Then, he went to Mobile and had about as good of a week at the Senior Bowl as possible. Van Pran and Barton, meanwhile, made the curious choice to withdraw from attending the Senior Bowl, and Frazier went but didn’t practice while rehabbing a broken leg. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in the case of NFL scouts, Van Pran’s Bulldogs missing the college football playoff and him not participating in the Senior Bowl has led to a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” Van Pran could change that at next week’s NFL Combine, with ESPN analyst Matt Miller saying that a strong week could bring the Georgia center right back to the forefront of the draft class. “I was really surprised that he didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl,” Miller said in a conference call with Steelers Now this week. “I thought that was going to be a great opportunity for him. I think the biggest thing that he has to show is that movement ability at the second level, so the combine is going to be big for that. Because it’s all agility, right, so being able to see how the balance in space, the movement in space, the speed and quickness, those are all going to be huge for him. Thinking about the position-specific drills, I think that’s where he can put himself back I that conversation with Zach Frazier, with Jackson Powers-Johnson from Oregon. Because when the season started, he was the top center on every draft board that I was aware of, at least. This is a great chance for him to get his name back into that mix.” Of course, the Steelers might not necessarily be rooting for him to do so. Pittsburgh has plenty of needs, including tackle and cornerback in what appear to also be deep first-round groups. If they could take a tackle — like perhaps Van Pran’s teammate Amarius Mims — in the first round, and then land Van Pran on Day Two of the draft, that would probably be a close to idea result for Omar Khan and company. [...] Read more...
Trevor NeufeldFebruary 22, 2024Nine months and three trades into his burgeoning career as an NHL general manager, the concept of the win-win deal has quickly become a calling card for Craig Conroy of the Calgary Flames.  The Flames were forced to move their top scorer last season in Tyler Toffoli? Conroy gambles on a return of Yegor Sharangovich and a 2023 third round pick. New Jersey moves a player pushed out of the top six for a top-line, proven playoff performer carrying a cap hit of $4,250,000 for the season. Calgary uses their open lineup space to better utilize Yegor’s potential. Toffoli and Sharangovich have 38 and 37 points on the season, respectively. Win-win. If you factor in third round pick Aydar Suniev’s 21 points in 27 games in his first NCAA season with UMass? You might even tip the scales in Conroy’s favor.  The rookie exec’s next trade? Moving Nikita Zadorov, who requested a trade in late November, to a team that would give him the top four minutes that he so desires; the Canucks.  The Flames ended up netting a 2026 third round pick, a 2024 fifth round pick, and enough cap space to capacitate further trades as the season progressed. Originally deployed in a top four role in Vancouver, Zadorov has once again found himself on the third pairing averaging 15:08 over seven February games.   Trade number three? The classic haul for a first line center. Elias Lindholm joined Zadorov in Vancouver on Jan. 31 in exchange for winger Andrei Kuzmenko, a 2024 first round pick, a conditional 2024 fourth round pick, and defence prospects Hunter Brzustewicz and Joni Jurmo.   Canucks GM Patrik Allvin gets beaucoup center depth and a right-handed faceoff option; the Flames get an abundance of futures and a high-entertainment player in Kuzmenko on contract until the end of next season. Win-win. With that said, what does this all have to do with today? Elliotte Friedman provided further clarity on the Chris Tanev situation on Wednesday night in his written 32 Thoughts piece.  “With Chris Tanev, the Flames continue to hold and see if a first-rounder (or something they consider comparable) becomes available. Dallas is very much into this, although some teams suspect they like Hanifin, too. Others: Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver. Colorado’s been in and out, as have others.”  From this, we have five confirmed teams and two questions to ask.   What can these teams offer up that the Flames would “consider comparable” if the return isn’t a first round pick? And What destination is most ideal for the Flames if the return is a first round pick?     Potential Targets – Tanev Trade   Dallas  Surely the easiest to begin with. Prospects Logan Stankoven, 20, and Mavrik Bourque, 22, sit first and second in AHL scoring, respectively, with the Texas Stars. We could get into whether these two should be traded for Tanev or the younger Noah Hanifin, but let’s keep it to scouting reports for today.   Logan Stankoven   Position: F 5’7” / 170lbs Shoots: R Birthdate: 2003-02-26 Birthplace: Kamloops, BC   The diminutive Stankoven doesn’t play a game you would expect from a player his size. A far reach from the lateral play of former Flames undersized star Johnny Gaudreau, you could attribute a more Theo Fleury-style to Logan’s game. He won’t be trying to fight the Bob Proberts of the league, but he brings a similar north-south fearlessness to his approach up the ice and into the offensive zone.  His shot has similar mechanics and a near-flawless form.   You don’t see many 20-year-olds lead the AHL in scoring and not move on to greater things, but his size may be a concern when he inevitably starts pushing for an NHL role.   It’s worth noting that the Flames had the opportunity to draft Stankoven in 2021 and instead went for 6’3” William Strömgren out of Sweden at pick #45. Logan went two selections later to Dallas.   Mavrik Bourque Position: F 5-10 / 179lbs Shoots: R Birthdate: 2002-01-08 Birthplace: Plessisville, QC   Stankoven’s East-West counterpart, the two make a dynamic pair in the AHL.   Who else but Logan Stankoven and Mavrik Bourque with the assists? Chase Wheatcroft is the goal scorer. pic.twitter.com/TgF4rfQZnn — David Castillo (@DavidCastilloAC) February 18, 2024 You get a high hockey IQ game from Bourque. He’s constantly on the lookout for a defender to bait-and-switch before he finds a passing lane to make a play.   Mavrik Bourque trying to catch up to his teammate Logan Stankoven with goal #17 off this one timer. pic.twitter.com/nwUTAWnzI8 — David Castillo (@DavidCastilloAC) February 17, 2024   Edmonton  You have to imagine the rivalry tax is quite a heavy ask for Conroy and the Calgary Flames. The Oilers have been the best team in the NHL since turning a corner on Nov. 11 with a 31-9-1 record. Any and all veterans sent from the archrival Flames will be highly accounted for if the Oilers go on a deep playoff run.   Conroy is fully entitled to start the conversation with former eighth overall pick Philip Broberg and offer Logan Roy’s catchphrase if Oilers general manager Ken Holland balks. After all, the only thing worse than missing the playoffs is seeing the Oilers go on a run.   Philip Broberg Position: D 6’3” / 203lbs Shoots: L Birthdate: 2001-06-25 Birthplace: Orebro, Sweden   Broberg brings an excellent combination of speed and size. If it weren’t for injury issues occuring in his D+1 season, he would likely have carved out a top four role on Edmonton’s roster. A competent play reader and puck distributor, the 22-year-old has a goal and 18 assists in 29 AHL games this season.     Toronto  Former Flames GM Brad Treliving appears all too hesitant to part with his first round pick this season. Earlier in the 2023-2024 campaign, the circulating story was that Treliving offered his first as the centerpiece of an offer for both Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev. Toronto also wanted the Flames to retain salary.   In the words of Dr. Evil of the Austin Powers series: “Right.”   If Brad won’t part with his first, then the top product of the Toronto Hype Factory will have to do. In this case, Saskatoon Blades forward Fraser Minten.   Fraser Minten  Minten, 19, is actually a pretty fun player to watch.   Fraser Minten with a RIP for his 19th of the season.He is up to 16 goals in 25 games with the Blades pic.twitter.com/AX98h7wLLG — Rink Rat Report (@RinkRatReport) February 19, 2024 Editor’s note: There is no worse of an example when evaluating tape than watching a player tee-up a shot with absolutely zero puck pressure. Still, it’s fun to watch. Actually, why not? Let’s do one more.   Fraser Minten caps off a 2 goal night with the OT winner. His 18th goal of the season.pic.twitter.com/y2w6vpFxfN — Rink Rat Report (@RinkRatReport) February 18, 2024 The concern in acquiring Minten is that most of his highlights are either similar to the above or a big skating play that includes blowing past a defenceman to the outside. As Jake Virtanen’s NHL toolset underlined, it’s hard to do just that alone in the NHL.  [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pXqrRY_jng?si=AXwZKnLdWaCPZUDX&w=560&h=315]  Seriously, here is a hat trick of all low-pressure goals.  [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odMPHgEVbN4?si=mrfsumaeCgRGlfW4&w=560&h=315]  The caveat here is that space is generally earned. Minten has a great combination of size, speed, and a lightning-fast release. His hockey IQ will make the difference once competition gets faster, stronger, and smarter.     Colorado  The likes of Calum Ritchie and Bowen Byram are simply out of the question when it comes to a Chris Tanev rental. Those players are far too rich in potential for the notion.   The dropoff is hard after that. Undersized defenceman Mikhail Gulyayev (5’10”, 172-pounds) comes in at #3 on the prospect list, and the Flames already have non-physical offensive defencemen in the system in Hunter Brzustewicz and Jeremie Poirier.   The fact of the matter is that the guys below Ritchie are likely not what the Flames “consider comparable” to a first round pick. Luckily, the Avalanche do have their next two actual first round picks that would suffice in a trade for Chris Tanev.     Vancouver  The Canucks are hard-pressed in this situation. We’ve already identified their top two prospects in Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Tom Willander as too expensive to even include in a Lindholm trade. They already gave the Flames this season’s first round pick and their former third-best prospect in Kitchener defenceman Hunter Brzustewicz. Therein lies the Goldilocks win-win Conroy trade. The Canucks could send off their 2025 first round pick for Chris Tanev and likely re-sign the 34-year-old to a hero’s return contract during the offseason. While other teams are likely only end up offering a 2024 pick at best, 2025 is widely considered the better draft and would surely get the deal done.   The kicker? If the Canucks do well in the playoffs, an inevitable playoff hangover may have the Flames picking in the mid-10s with that pick at the next draft. Vancouver likely won’t mind, given that they would need to go deep in the playoffs for that to happen. Everybody wins. Just how Craig Conroy likes it.    [...] Read more...
John PerrottoFebruary 22, 2024PITTSBURGH – The easiest column to write about the Pittsburgh Pirates is that Bob Nutting is cheap. It is what every Pirates fan seems to want to read. The number of pageviews that those pieces generate serves as proof. And, usually, those columns are right on the money, pun intended. Or lack of money. There are numerous examples of the owner being thrifty to the point of embarrassment. Jason Kendall’s six-year, $60-million contract that was signed in 2000 with Kevin McClatchy then owning the team stood as the most lucrative deal in franchise history for 22 years. Twenty-two years! Yet while Nutting will never win the Owner of the Year – if there was such an award – he does deserve some credit. He is at least trying to ensure the Pirates’ best players stay with the franchise for the long haul. Right-hander Mitch Keller agreed to a five-year, $77-million deal on Thursday morning to become the third Pirates with a lucrative contract extension in as many years. Left fielder Bryan Reynolds was signed to an eight-year, $106.5-million contract last year. Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes received an eight-year, $70-million contract in 2022. That’s an outlay of $253.5 million on three players. For example, by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ standards, that’s tip money. By Nutting’s standards, it is at least a step toward changing the cheap narrative. The success of Nutting’s strategy won’t be known for many years to come. However, there is reason to believe the Pirates are spending their money wisely. The 29-year-old Reynolds and the 27-year-old Hayes should be productive players for at least most of the life of their contracts. Reynolds may not be a superstar but finished fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2019 and 11th in the NL MVP voting in 2021, a rather remarkable feat considering he was playing for a dreadful 101-loss team that gained almost zero national attention. In his three full major-league seasons beginning in ’21, Reynolds has a 128 OPS+, meaning he has been 28% better offensively than the league average during that span. The marked improvement the 27-year-old Hayes showed at the plate over the final two months of last season seems real and in line with the type of hitter he was in the minor leagues. Words have a hard time adequately describing how good Hayes is defensively. Let’s just say the Gold Glove he won last season should be the first of many. As far as Keller, there is always risk in signing a pitcher to a long-term contract. However, the 27-year-old has been healthy and durable throughout his career and his 194.1 innings pitched last season were eighth in the major leagues. He did miss a turn in the rotation until the Pirates decided to have him skip his scheduled start on the final day of the season. Keller also provides reason to believe he can continue to be an above-average major-league pitcher after being selected to his first All-Star Game. The command and control of his pitches continue to get better, and he is a very good self-evaluator when it comes to correcting mistakes. Now the big question is whether Nutting will ever be willing to do what it takes to adequately fill in the roster around the long-term anchors. The Pirates are hopeful some of the voids will be filled internally through scouting and player development. However, general manager Ben Cherington still has much to prove in those areas even in his fifth year on the job. But all the help can come from within. Sometimes some veterans are needed and not just players on the tail end of their careers who are willing to take steep pay cuts to continue playing. The largest contract the Pirates have ever given a free agent is $39 million over three years to Francisco Liriano during the 2014-15 offseason. So, while it’s heartening to see the Pirates lock up their players, Nutting is going to have to write more checks before the franchise can break its 45-year World Series drought. [...] Read more...
Andrew FantucchioFebruary 22, 2024When the New York Islanders demoted Kyle MacLean to the minors earlier this month, it was expected that the young center would somehow, someway, find his way back to the NHL at some point in the future. Little did anyone know that it wouldn’t take very long for that to happen. MacLean is now heading back up to the NHL after the Islanders recalled him from Bridgeport on Wednesday afternoon, according to an announcement from the team. MacLean made his NHL debut with the Islanders on Jan. 19 and performed well in six games for the club while filling in for Casey Cizikas on the fourth line. “I think he has a future with us, no doubt in my mind,” Islanders head coach Patrick Roy said after the team sent MacLean down to Bridgeport on Feb. 8. “He played really well. I felt like he was very reliable and played really well defensively.” Check It Out: Kyle MacLean Passes First Test In NHL With Islanders Now it appears the Islanders may need MacLean to do just that once again. According to multiple reports, MacLean was skating in Cizikas’ spot on the Islanders’ fourth line this morning at Enterprise Center as they prepared for their matchup with the St. Louis Blues tonight. Cizikas exited the Islanders’ overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday after blocking a shot off his hand. Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Cizikas will be evaluated when the team returns home from their current road trip, according to Andrew Gross of Newsday. Lou Lamoriello said Casey Cizikas, who took a puck off his hand in Pittsburgh, will be evaluated when team returns to New York. — Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) February 22, 2024 To make room on their roster for MacLean, the Islanders moved Hudson Fasching to long-term injured reserve. Fasching’s injury is retroactive to Jan. 25, when he suffered a lower-body injury against the Montreal Canadiens. Fasching has not played in a game since then and only just resumed practicing with the team last week. He did not join the Islanders on their current road trip due to illness. With Fasching having not played in almost a month, Lamoriello said the forward will play at least one game in Bridgeport as part of his rehab before rejoining the Islanders. In further injury news, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo will be absent indefinitely after suffering a setback while rehabbing a lower-body injury he suffered on Jan. 2 in Colorado. Tonight’s game in St. Louis would’ve been a quasi-homecoming for Bortuzzo, who spent 10 years playing for the Blues before being traded to the Islanders acquired him in a trade on Dec. 8. The Islanders (23-18-14) and Blues (29-24-2) will drop the puck tonight at 8 p.m. EST. FOLLOW ANDREW FANTUCCHIO ON 𝕏: @A_FANTUCCHIO FOLLOW NYI HOCKEY NOW ON 𝕏 AND FACEBOOK [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers have big needs to fill at defensive back. They need a safety, slot cornerback, and an outside cornerback just based on the initial view of the team. But some guys could fill multiple spots by being a safety and coming down to play in the slot. One of those names is the fiery Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson has played with the Saints, Eagles, and Lions and has proven to be a net boon to each defense. He’s chirpy, but that’s his personality. And Pro Football Network believes that he is the type of player who fits what the Steelers do well on defense, especially with their needs on the back end. “Steelers slot corner Chandon Sullivan is on track for free agency, while Pittsburgh might try to find a better second safety to play opposite Minkah Fitzpatrick this offseason. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson could compete for both roles and shouldn’t cost much after missing most of the 2023 campaign with a pectoral injury. Another one-year contract in the $6-8 million range could make sense,” they wrote. This past season, he earned $6.5 million from the Lions, but if the Steelers want to shore up the spot next to Minkah Fitzpatrick and get some stability in the slot, it would make sense to extend that to two to three seasons. Gardner-Johnson has not found a long-term home yet, but the tape clearly shows he is worthy of that deal over multiple seasons. Of course, the Steelers have three safeties under contract: Damontae Kazee, Keanu Neal and Fitzpatrick. Still, it feels like a natural inclination that change is coming to that room after the play they received in 2023. Pairing Gardner-Johnson with someone like a returning Eric Rowe would make sense, as it would give the team that flexibility on the back-end of the defense. Fitzpatrick played far too much in the slot and the box in 2023. It took out one of his best strengths, his range, and made him too stationary to unleash on quarterbacks. They need to get back to the roots of what made him great, and Gardner-Johnson’s flexibility and ball skills fit what they want to do beautifully. He did not play that much last season due to a leg injury in training camp and a pectoral injury that he suffered early in the season. But when he did play, Gardner-Johnson was integral to the Lions’ secondary. Gardner-Johnson also has an extensive history as a blitzer, which adds to his appeal here. The Steelers, outside of Fitzpatrick, rarely stuck to their roots as a team that blitzes the slot often. But Gardner-Johnson would bring that flair back to the defense to create more looks that they could bring out up front. [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 22, 2024VOORHEES, N.J. — The Philadelphia Flyers have made a name for themselves this season as one of the NHL’s best teams in scoring and creating off the rush. Conversely, creating off the cycle and the forecheck is, markedly, a weakness. That is, until the alchemy was altered over the last few weeks. In the Flyers’ Feb. 12 game against the Arizona Coyotes, head coach John Tortorella rolled the dice on a different third line combination. Noah Cates, Ryan Poehling, and Garnet Hathaway formed a new trio for Philadelphia that night, playing 3:31 together at 5-on-5 and out-attempting Arizona 9-3 in the shot column. Three days later, on Feb. 15, they were equally as good at 5-on-5 against the vaunted Toronto Maple Leafs, out-attempting their opponents 11-5. Hathaway scored a goal as the unit created three high-danger scoring chances to the Maple Leafs’ one while owning a 9-2 advantage in scoring chances overall. No other Flyers line had a positive shot differential against their opponents that night. The story stayed the same in last weekend’s Stadium Series matchup with the New Jersey Devils, as Cates, Poehling, and Hathaway out-attempted the hosts 9-3; scoring chances were about even that contest. After Hathaway’s second goal with this line, which he scored on Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, you had to wonder why the Flyers haven’t used this arrow they’ve had in their quiver this whole time. What’s in the past is in the past, but Cates and Hathaway have theories on why their new line is dominating, night in and night out. “I think (the line is) in a good spot. Poehls has so much speed and brings so much to the game on our line,” Cates said. “I’m just trying to win battles and be around the net. I think we’ve been good defensively and offensively. We’ve been close a lot; I think we just need to break through and keep pushing it offensively here.” Hathaway, second in the NHL in hits with 202, has helped them get that breakthrough, scoring two goals in four games since jumping onto this line. “I think they both do a lot of great things on the ice,” Hathaway said of Cates and Poehling after a recent practice. “I like Poehls’s speed to get on pucks and get through the zones, and to get in the offensive zone. And then Cates’s ability to read plays and hold onto pucks – I think it works well with trying to protect the puck and hold onto it a little bit more, which has helped my game, I think.” The 31-year-old played 13:23 against Arizona, 14:59 against Toronto, 15:02 against New Jersey, and then 15:02 again against the Blackhawks on Wednesday. Tortorella has acknowledged the fruits of his decision to move Hathaway up and give the veteran a chance to do more for the team. “It’s about time he got rewarded,” Tortorella said of Hathaway’s goal on Wednesday night. “That line was a very important line for us here tonight. It’s such a line I can use in so many different spots.” “That’s one line I had trust in tonight.” Tortorella said the top line of Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, and Travis Konecny was “too lateral” against Chicago. That’s where that third line comes in, once again. Cates, Poehling, and Hathaway all play heavy minutes on the penalty kill, so it’s no surprise to see Tortorella turning to them as a unit. Cates also feels that, away from the puck, his line can serve as a shutdown line for the Flyers. “I think we all can bring an aspect of being hard to play against,” the 25-year-old added. “We all kind of know how each other plays, and playing with each other has been really good.” Cates had stressed the importance of protecting pucks offensively and establishing possession. But why is that important, even for a team that hasn’t been good at that? “I don’t think you can be a one-facet offense,” Hathaway explained. “I think figuring out different ways to either wear down teams or create offense will help you win games.” “Especially later in the season when defenses get really stingy,” he continued. “There’s a lot less turnovers. Teams have been playing their systems for about three quarters of the season so far, so there’s less mistakes being made. You have to wear down teams in order to create offense and tire teams out to end up scoring goals.” Hathaway’s analysis is a positive sign for where this Flyers team is headed, too. As a player who’s made the postseason on five different occasions at the NHL level, Hathaway is a leader who will help keep this team in check over the next few weeks. The longtime Washington Capitals forward is showing, by example, what it is and what it means to play playoff hockey. This new line is a revelation for Tortorella – the man tasked with returning the Flyers to the postseason and keeping them there. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Chris GawlikFebruary 22, 2024The show goes on for the Vegas Golden Knights (32-18-6) as they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs (31-6-8) Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. This is the third game of the week for the Golden Knights, who won Monday in San Jose against the Sharks and lost at home to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. The Maple Leafs defeated the Arizona Coyotes last night by a score of 6-3. From this point forward, the injury bug that plagues the Golden Knights season after season will now be known as the Giant Weta. The Giant Weta is the largest bug on Earth. The Giant Weta claimed Mark Stone during Tuesday’s game against the Predators late in the second period. Stone collided with Yakov Trenin and left the game. The Golden Knights announced that Stone was sent to injured reserve Thursday morning. Brendan Brisson, Byron Froese, and Sheldon Rempal were recalled to the Golden Knights. Grigori Denisenko was assigned to the Henderson Silver Knights. The Golden Knights held a morning skate at City National Arena at 11:00 a.m. before Thursday’s game against the Maple Leafs. Projected Lines Barbashev-Roy-Marchessault Brisson-Stephenson-Amadio Cotter-Karlsson-Kolesar Morelli-Froese-Rempal Martinez-Pietrangelo McNabb-Theodore Hague-Whitecloud Hill Thompson Golden Knights Notes The Golden Knights are in second place in the Pacific Division with 70 points and trail the Vancouver Canucks by 10 points with two games in hand. Jonathan Marchessault is the active points leader for the Golden Knights with 44 points. The Golden Knights went 2-0-0 last season and are 4-3-3 lifetime against the Leafs. Keegan Kolesar plays in game No. 250 tonight against the Maple Leafs Maple Leafs Notes The Maple Leafs are in third place in the Atlantic Division with 70 points and trail the division-leading Boston Bruins by nine points. The Maple Leafs are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and are on a five-game winning streak. Auston Matthews has 51 goals in 54 games this season. A familiar face in Martin Jones could be in net for the Maple Leafs. Key to the Game Who is going to seize the moment? Nic Roy has become the best version of himself since Jack Eichel’s injury. Which Golden Knights will follow in Roy’s footsteps? Can Chandler Stephenson elevate his game? Will Brendan Brisson make a case to stay in the lineup? Time: 7:00 P.M. PST. TV: Vegas 34 (Scripps Sports) Streaming: KnightTime+ Radio: FOX Sports Las Vegas 98.9/1340 | Deportes Vegas 1460 For more Golden Knights news, visit Vegas Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow Chris Gawlik on 𝕏: @TdChrisG [...] Read more...
James NicholsFebruary 22, 2024NEWARK — On Thursday, the New Jersey Devils revealed their first-ever jersey sponsor to be worn at home games only. Much like their sponsor at the New Jersey practice arena attached to the prudential center, RWJBarnabas Health is the home patch partner on the Devils’ red home jersey. According to the press release, “As part of the agreement, the Devils and RWJBarnabas Health have developed a comprehensive, over-arching youth hockey program to engage with children across New Jersey. Touching more than 40 hockey rinks throughout the state as part of the New Jersey Devils Rink Partners program, this multi-platform initiative is designed to grow the sport of hockey via accessibility, training, on/off-ice skills, and the promotion of health and wellness. The Devils and RWJBarnabas Health share a commitment to support children from the first day they step onto the ice, all the way through their high school years, and beyond. RWJBarnabas Health has created an educational blueprint that will teach children and their families the importance of leading active, nutritious lifestyles and important injury prevention techniques, all with the goal of encouraging healthy habits at a young age. This is combined with the Devils support of coaching, mental health, and athlete care seminars, providing participants with access to NHL-level guidance and education. ‘The opportunity to strengthen RWJBarnabas Health’s 30-year partnership with the New Jersey Devils reinforces our shared commitment to improve community health,” said Mark E. Manigan, President and Chief Executive Officer, RWJBarnabas Health.  “While this multi-faceted affiliation serves to provide world-class clinical care to professional athletes, equally important, our combined resources will continue to elevate and advance critical community-based health care programs and services across the state.'” Jersey partnerships were approved by the NHL at the beginning of the 2022-23 season in which 17 teams had deals in place. New Jersey is the latest to join the jersey patch sponsorships. New Jersey defenseman Dougie Hamilton will also partner with RWJBarnabas Health to launch “Dougie’s Buddies.” The program is “a community program where multiple times a month throughout the season, Dougie will host a guest and their family at a Devils home game. The guests will be determined by Devils’ Grassroots and Community Initiative groups, while incorporating RWJBarnabas Health patients. The experience includes tickets to a Devils’ home game, food and beverage, Devils merchandise and a postgame meet and greet with Dougie.” “Connecting with our youth is a passion of mine, and it is an honor to partner with RWJBarnabas Health to launch this community program and create a meaningful experience for children and their families,” said Devils’ defenseman Dougie Hamilton. “Having made New Jersey my home and seeing how important the Devils are to the community, I wanted to offer this unique opportunity and bring smiles to their faces during what may be a difficult time.” The RWJBarnabas Health patch will debut on Thursday night vs. the New York Rangers. For more Devils news, visit New Jersey Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @NJDHockeyNow, @JamesNicholsNHL And on Threads: @JamesNicholsNHL   [...] Read more...
Andrew FantucchioFebruary 22, 2024As Adam Pelech’s wrist shot from the high slot hit the back of the net 57 seconds into overtime at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night, not only did he save the New York Islanders from another late-game collapse, but he may have also broken the backs of the Pittsburgh Penguins. During a press conference on Wednesday morning, Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas laid out his plan for the team with the NHL trade deadline approaching. Unless the Penguins turn things around in their next handful of games, Dubas plans not to necessarily usher in a full rebuild in Pittsburgh but begin preparing for one. From an Islanders standpoint, that’s wonderful news, as it’s potentially one less team they have to worry about in the wildcard race. However, there are still other teams in the mix, and the moves they make before the deadline could drastically affect the Islanders’ chances of making the playoffs. Pittsburgh Penguins: In his press conference, Dubas made two things abundantly clear. Firstly, he’s not trading away any member of the Penguins’ so-called core four in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang or Erik Karlsson. Secondly, he wants to make the team younger. To do that, Dubas is going to need to sell, and although he didn’t say it in such certain terms, it seems he’s prepared to do that by trading Jake Guentzel. “We have to take stock of where we are at and be realistic about the fact that one of the issues we have is a need to get younger,” Dubas said. “We have a lot of guys in their 30s signed. Some of them are the best players in the history of the franchise.” Guentzel has been out of action with an upper-body injury since Feb. 14 and isn’t expected to be back until after the deadline. Nevertheless, his name has been one of the hottest on the market. If the Penguins ultimately decide to move Guentzel, it’s essentially the equivalent of them waiving the white flag for the season. The Islanders are currently four points ahead of Pittsburgh, and having them drop out of the race would be a huge help to their playoff chances. Washington Capitals: While the Penguins are slightly leaning toward selling, it’s widely expected the Washington Capitals will be at this year’s deadline. Washington surprised early this season by getting out to a stronger start than many anticipated and was even as high as second place in the Metropolitan Division around Thanksgiving. But since then, the aging Capitals have run out of steam and are now prepared to start stripping down. Nic Dowd is believed to draw wide interest from clubs looking to add a bottom-six forward, and Anthony Mantha is a big body who teams covet in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Joel Edmundson can serve a contender as a depth defenseman with a Stanley Cup pedigree. Washington is just two points back of the Islanders, but that gap should begin to widen after the deadline. New Jersey Devils: The New Jersey Devils are a sleeping giant. It’s not a matter of will they add, but who will they add? If  New Jersey doesn’t add goaltending help at the deadline then something has gone terribly wrong, as it’s been the area most to blame for their disappointing run thus far. In recent weeks, they’ve been heavily tied to Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom, and there’s also the potential of bringing in John Gibson from Anaheim. In the crease is the one area where the Islanders are undoubtedly superior to the Devils, but that won’t be the case if either of those deals get made. The two rivals are tied with 60 points, so the battle for a playoff spot will remain tight until the very end. Detroit Red Wings: Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman is as unpredictable as they come in regard to trades. But given the fact that Detroit is in possession of a playoff spot, one would think Yzerman would like to add to his team. That may not be the case, though. Recent reports state that Yzerman doesn’t want to risk ruining the chemistry within the Red Wings’ dressing room by making a trade. That could either bode well or be detrimental for the Islanders. What would be worse is if Yzerman does ultimately decide to add because both the Red Wings and Islanders could use some scoring depth. The two teams are already in direct competition on the ice, and that would pit them against one another in the trade market as well. Tampa Bay Lightning: It’s hard to remember the last time the Tampa Bay Lightning were battling for a playoff spot rather than being clear favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Nevertheless, the Bolts are in the thick of the race, currently occupying the first wildcard spot after battling injuries all season. The most significant of which is the gruesome leg injury Mikhail Sergachev suffered a few weeks ago. Sergachev is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season and potentially the playoffs, leaving a gaping hole on the blue line for the Lighting that they’ll try to fill at the trade deadline. The top defenders on the market both currently reside in Calgary, as it’s widely expected the Flames will move both Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev. The Islanders already trail the Lightning by five points in the standings, which will be even more difficult to overcome if Tampa brings in the reinforcements they need. FOLLOW ANDREW FANTUCCHIO ON 𝕏: @A_FANTUCCHIO FOLLOW NYI HOCKEY NOW ON 𝕏 AND FACEBOOK [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 22, 2024Steelers Daily News & Links: Your daily stop for all of the news and links from the Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL and around the Sports Now Group. 🏈 Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields thinks the refs cheated when the Bears played the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football in his rookie season in 2021. Outside linebacker Cassius Marsh, who played with the Steelers in 2020, did a roundhouse kick celebration after sacking Ben Roethlisberger on third down late in the game and stared down the Steelers sideline. Marsh was called for taunting, which resulted in a first down for the Steelers. Instead of punting, Chris Boswell made a 52-yard field goal to extend the Steelers’ lead to 26-20. The Steelers ended up winning 29-27. Justin Fields thinks the refs cheated when the Bears played the Steelers on MNF his rookie season. He's 100% correct. pic.twitter.com/AQv5kTA6hH — Dave (@dave_bfr) February 21, 2024 RELATED: Justin Fields Praises Pittsburgh, Doesn’t Want Trade from Bears https://steelersnow.com/pittsburgh-steelers-justin-fields-does-not-want-trade-bears/ 🏈 The Steelers official X account shared a clip of Joe Greene congratulating Cam Heyward on winning Walter Payton Man of the Year in the next episode of The Standard, coming Thursday at 7 p.m. Greene surprised Heyward during a media conference call by saying, “Hello Cam. This is Joe from Vegas.” "Hello Cam. This is Joe from Vegas." 🤣 Joe Greene congratulates @CamHeyward on winning Walter Payton Man of the Year in the next episode of The Standard, coming Thursday at 7 PM ET. pic.twitter.com/DXhGcrHjvb — Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 21, 2024 🏈 The 33rd Team compared Justin Fields’ stats to Kenny Pickett’s. They added the fact that Fields is a year younger than Pickett but has been in the NFL for an extra season. Justin Fields is also a year younger than Kenny Pickett but has been in the NFL for an extra season 🤔 https://t.co/1Hxu9IeNDW pic.twitter.com/Ezr0Q89jFZ — The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) February 21, 2024 🏈 Former Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is holding a charity event at Oakmont Country Club for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The highest bidder will get the chance to have a golf outing with Big Ben at the prestigious Oakmont Country Club, all proceeds from the bidding (ends March 5), directly benefiting the organization. 🏈 According to Warren Sharp of Sharp Football, the Steelers had 34 drives start at/inside their own 15-yd line in 2023, which was the third-highest mark. 🏈 Former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz believes the Steelers’ front office should do everything they can to bring Russell Wilson to the Steelers. He went as far as saying that the Steelers would win the AFC North with Wilson as their quarterback “Russell Wilson wins the division next year if he goes to the Steelers next year, Cruz claimed on The Carton Show. Former Steelers offensive tackle Willie Colon, who’s also on the show, followed up with a dig at Kenny Pickett. “Bye bye, small hands,” Colon said emphatically. 🏈 Ben Roethlisberger gave advice to young star athletes on how to deal with fans when out in public. “I figured out early that if I didn’t want to deal with that, that you just don’t go out,” Roethlisberger said on former Steelers backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski’s Alpha 5 Method podcast. “You don’t leave your house. You don’t go to dinner. If you’re not in the mood to deal with it, ’cause the last thing you want to do is go out and give someone a first impression that you’re a jerk. You could have an off day. Everyone has off days. The nicest people in the world have off days. “They’re going to go tell people. I’ve always realized that when you, if you’re a nice guy to somebody, they might go tell one or two people. ‘Man, I met Ben, he was such a nice guy.’ If you’re a jerk, they’re going to go tell hundreds of people that you’re a jerk. It’s just like anything you get the mass of people that love you, they’re not the loud ones… The few that don’t like you or don’t have something to say, they’re the loudest. “You just don’t go deal with it. If you’re not in the mood to deal with it, don’t go out and do that because someone’s first impression of you needs to be who you really are and so, to me, and I’m not saying I was always the nicest or the best because, you’re right, sometimes you’re sitting at dinner with your family, you’re trying to have an intimate conversation or whatever, and it’s always, ‘Hey, one more thing.'” 🏈 Mike Greenberg of ESPN believes that Justin Fields would make the Steelers a Super Bowl contender. “You put Justin Fields on the Steelers, I think they are a Super Bowl candidate.” Another person advocating for Fields to Pittsburgh. Mike Greenberg: “You put Justin Fields on the Steelers, I think they are a Super Bowl candidate.” pic.twitter.com/Ycv8nPMTgX — Baku 🐧 (@Mazursky8895) February 21, 2024 🎂 Happy Birthday to Steelers cornerback Darius Rush, born on February 22, 2000 in Kingstree, South Carolina. Rush was fifth-round pick out of South Carolina by the Indianapolis Colts in 2023. He was waived by Indianapolis on August 29 and was claimed by Kansas City a day later. On October 18, the Steelers signed Rush off of the Chiefs’ practice squad. Rush was active for three games in 2023 for the Steelers. He recorded three tackles and a pass defended in the Steelers’ Week 9 win over the Tennessee Titans. 🎥 Steel City Star shared a clip of NFL Films’ intro for the 1983 Steelers yearbook. John Facenda is the narrator. NFL Films intro for the 1983 Steelers yearbook John Facenda narrates pic.twitter.com/VKZaDmEYBC — Steel City Star (@steelcitystar) February 21, 2024 NEWS FROM AROUND THE SPORTS NOW NETWORK Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Kyle Dubas talked about Jake Guentzel’s future and more. Pittsburgh Baseball Now: “Skenesmas” is almost here for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Pittsburgh Sports Now: The 2024 Big 33 roster has been announced, with plenty of Pitt football connections. West Virginia Sports Now: West Virginia football hopes Beanie Bishop can be the blueprint for more transfer DBs. Nittany Sports Now: The fans stormed the court after Penn State basketball beat Illinois in a game at Rec Hall. Pittsburgh Soccer Now: The Pittsburgh Riverhounds have new home and away kits.   [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 22, 2024“Please, no,” was Evgeni Malkin’s playful response when someone asked if he could play until he’s 50 years old. The Pittsburgh Penguins honored Jaromir Jagr for several days last week leading to Sunday’s jersey retirement, and if there was a player who most resembled Jagr’s ferocity and strength with the puck, it was Malkin. Malkin’s answer was partly tongue-in-cheek but also serious. He conceded he’d like to spend more time with family. And that was only the first moment of a short media availability during which Malkin dropped his guard regarding the end of his career. This season has been a tribulation for the big Russian center. His stat sheet is respectable, with 41 points, including 16 goals, in 52 games, but those numbers are well below Malkin’s career norms and expectations. Worse, the quality of his play has fallen sharply. He’s coming to grips with the fact that what was once possible might no longer be. “I’m not playing like 15 years ago. It’s not the same game,” Malkin said recently. “I want to try to change a little bit. I know I’m not flying like before.” Malkin, 37, made that stunning admission in the midst of scoring just two goals in the last 19 games. It was the first such concession from the Penguins’ core and drilled home the idea that Malkin is confronting his new station. Malkin and Father Time are engaged in a battle this season, and that means the Penguins need Malkin to change. Moving Malkin to left wing should not be out of the question. Especially without Jake Guentzel in the Penguins’ lineup until at least March 10 (if ever again). He’s not the premiere second-line center in the NHL anymore, and he can’t make the plays or embarrass defenders by swooping past with a little hop and stickhandle like he did for most of his 18-year career. He expressed a desire to play smarter hockey within his limitations, but that’s never been his strong suit. Being stronger, faster, and supremely talented have been his calling cards. But age lessens all. So, there was a candid moment Saturday, just a flicker, when Malkin talked about Jagr. Play until he’s 50? No, Malkin wants to spend more time with his family. And there was a hesitation, a sentence that was started but wisely incomplete, that alluded to the end. “I want to spend a little more time with my family and my kids,” Malkin said about his future. “(Jagr) is special. You don’t see many players play to 50. I’m not feeling (good) right now.” To buttress his need for family, Malkin’s resurgent game in the Penguins’ 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders Tuesday was a breakout of sorts. Perhaps not coincidentally, his family is in town, and his young son Nikita running around the locker room this week. This writer has a great distaste for driving in the rearview mirror. Nothing good comes from debating whether the Penguins should have traded Malkin to Florida in 2018 or let him walk in 2022. It’s wasted energy. Yet former GM Ron Hextall’s decision to structure Malkin’s contract as a four-year deal and a 35+ contract may haunt both parties for the next couple of years. If Malkin’s contract expired after this season, or it wasn’t a 35+, and he could walk away without harming the team, I wonder how much thought he would give to spending more time with family. “I’d like to play to 50, but who knows?” he said. “Sometimes, you can only play hockey. It’s hard to find a job, do something after hockey with positive vibes, but I don’t want to be coaching, (that’s) for sure.” Malkin’s laugh and joke belied his genuineness. How much pushback and how much emotion does Malkin have left? That’s not a criticism of the player; it’s a question about a human who has given everything and now finds himself fighting the effects of age and his team in an uncharted territory that is depressing on its own. If Malkin had more to give, now would be the time. More games like Tuesday’s are what the team desperately needs. In days past, now would be the moment Malkin grabbed the puck, raced end to end, bullied defenders with speed and a lowered shoulder, or a quick flick of his stick to stare down a goalie who already knew the eventual result. Well, time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister. It was an emotional moment last season in Tampa when Nikita announced the starting lineup in the locker room prior to Malkin’s 1,000th game. Tampa is closer to the Malkin family home in South Florida than it is to Pittsburgh, and it would be understandable, if not expected, that Malkin would like to be with his family sooner than later. It surely sounds as if Malkin is staring at the end as the game becomes more difficult, but he must perform at least one more task as a core member of the Pittsburgh Penguins: He must change. Malkin and his coaches will determine whether that change is merely a smarter game from the middle or if he could rejuvenate his season with time on the wing beside Crosby, Lars Eller, or a yet-to-be-acquired center. One day, Malkin will have his jersey raised to the rafters, too. But not yet. [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to a five-year extension with starting pitcher Mitch Keller, according to Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN. The deal is worth $77 million, which sets a new franchise record for average annual value at $15.4 million per season. Keller, who turns 28 in April, is the club’s top starting pitcher and was named a National League All-Star for the first time in 2023. Last season, Keller went 13-9 with a 4.21 ERA across a career-high 32 starts. The right-hander set the franchise record for strikeouts in a season by a right-handed pitcher with 210. Keller was long-considered one of the Pirates’ top prospects, but he didn’t find immediate success at the big-league level.. Through his first three seasons, he went 7-17 with a 6.02 ERA in 39 starts. After starting off the 2022 season slowly, Keller was briefly shifted to the bullpen in the middle of May. After he was reinserted into the starting rotation, Keller began a career emergence. From May 31 through the end of the season, Keller pitched to a healthy 3.22 ERA in his final 22 starts. He ended the year with a career-best 3.91 ERA in 31 appearances/29 starts. Keller sits atop the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation for 2024. He is the anchor of a rotation that is largely still a question mark. Behind Keller are offseason acquisitions Martín Pérez and Marco Gonzales. The final two spots are still up for grabs. Prior to agreeing to a contract extension, Keller was set to hit free agency at the end of the 2025 season. He had agreed to a salary just south of $5.5 million in arbitration earlier in the winter. Keller is the third core player the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed to a long-term deal in the last three seasons. Shortly after the 2022 season started, the Pirates signed Ke’Bryan Hayes to an eight-year deal. Last year, the Pirates extended Bryan Reynolds, who also received eight years. Keller’s deal is pending a physical. [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 22, 2024It’s starting to become a yearly tradition around the NHL for the Vegas Golden Knights to take advantage of the LTIR rules to load up prior to the playoffs. When their GM announced on Wednesday that their Captain Mark Stone was going to be “out for a while,” you can imagine what the first thought to pop into everyone’s heads was. The Buffalo Sabres have had a high level executive at both Avalanche games this week. It could mean nothing, it could mean everything. What could they possibly be looking at? Late Wednesday night, Elliotte Friedman reported that the Avalanche may look to Arizona in their search for a center. Would any of them make sense? All that and more in this Thursday edition of Evan’s Daily. Colorado Hockey Now Looking back at the win over the Canucks and the well-deserved ovation Sam Girard received. In their search for help down the middle, could the Avalanche look to Arizona? Alex Kerfoot? Or maybe the gigantic Nick Bjugstad? Vegas Losing Stone On my colleague Jimmy Murphy’s podcast, Vegas Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon announced that Mark Stone is going to be “out for a while.” Where does everyone’s minds wander after hearing that? The Golden Knights using LTIR and loading up prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, of course. Thanks to #VegasBorn GM Kelly McCrimmon for joining Pierre McGuire and me on the @sickpodnhl today! Some injury notes from McCrimmon starting at 24:42 mark of podcast: -Mark Stone will be 'out for awhile'-Jack Eichel and William Carrier getting closer to returning https://t.co/STjFbXXoHK — Jimmy Murphy (@MurphysLaw74) February 21, 2024 It’s a tradition at this point. They seem to do it every year, and if the rules allow for it, can you really blame them? Their problem is going to be that they’re running out of assets to move because of all the trades they’ve made in the past, but I still expect them to do something. Sabres Following The Avalanche Buffalo Sabres associate GM Jason Karmanos has been at both Avalanche games this week at Ball Arena. Could it mean something? Yes. Could it mean absolutely nothing? Also yes. Still, it gives us something to talk about this year leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline. What could they be looking at? Defense is the first thing that comes to mind. Bowen Byram and Sam Girard would be of interest to the Sabres, and in a summer deal, I could see them going after a guy like Josh Manson if the Avalanche need to make moves to get under the cap. Heck, everything could be a summer deal. Teams don’t just scout for the deadline, but also the offseason as well. Buffalo Hockey Now takes a look at what they could be looking at here. As for what the Avalanche would want? Well, a center. Casey Mittelstadt is the obvious name, and if you’re dealing a key defenseman, that’s who you’d want, but they could always be interested in lesser players like Girgensons and Peyton Krebs. Those guys aren’t nearly as exciting as Mittelstadt (to put it mildly), but they also aren’t going to cost as much. National Hockey Now Kyle Dubas said what literally everyone is thinking – the Pittsburgh Penguins need to get younger. The Boston Bruins lost another defenseman to injury. Guess we know what they might look for prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. If any team wants Granlund, they’re going to have to pay up. [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 22, 2024If Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny has one fan, his head coach, John Tortorella, is one of them. The Flyers needed Konecny’s marvelous solo effort to help lift them to victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, but nobody was quite expecting what Konecny had in his locker for the goal. Not even Tortorella. At the end of his shift in the defensive zone, Konecny picked up the loose puck, deftly evaded an incoming MacKenzie Entwistle, and raced up the ice with possession. The 26-year-old flubbed the puck near the boards on the left side of the ice, which worked in his favor as it dragged defenseman Jarred Tinordi far out of possession. Of course, Konecny would scoot by Tinordi and rip the puck past Arvid Soderblom from a sharp angle. “He kind of stutters with it in the neutral zone. I thought he was going to lose it,” Tortorella said of the play after the game. “He has to concentrate on his shift lengths; we’re always going to try to keep everybody accountable there. I’m never worried if he gets extended out there because he has such a great engine.” It’s plays like this that remind Tortorella of a certain Artemi Panarin he coached with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Panarin also happens to be one of the best players in the NHL. “I coached a guy in Columbus, Panarin. He is the best player I’ve seen play tired,” Tortorella asserted. “It’s something some people have. TK has a little bit of that in him. When he’s tired, but he still sees an opening, he takes a chance. He finds a way.” “That’s part of who he is, and I’m not going to take that away from him.” Panarin, of course, is a player whom the Flyers have grown to become quite familiar with over the years. The New York Rangers ace has spent each of the last seven years in the Metropolitan Division, including his stop with Columbus under Tortorella. Konecny isn’t necessarily the perennial 90-point superstar for the Flyers like Panarin is for the Rangers, but he’s already established himself as one of the NHL’s premier wingers. It helps when your head coach is the same one that coached Panarin in his early years. Maybe Konecny is due for a late-career breakout that even the Flyers hadn’t seen coming. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 22, 2024The Montreal Canadiens (22-26-8) will face the Pittsburgh Penguins (24-21-8) on Thursday night. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET. The Canadiens are fresh off a hard-fought loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre, a game in which defenceman Arber Xhekaj stole the show with his physical play, his offensive prowess, and his underrated work in the defensive zone. He may be known for his soul-stealing hits, but Xhekaj tends to finish games with the best underlying numbers of anyone who patrols the blue line. The top line of Juraj Slafkovsky, Nick Suzuki, and Cole Caufield failed to register a point for the first time in a long time when the Habs faced the Sabres, but they did manage to control well over 70 percent of the shots and scoring chances. However, the top line did not produce the best results. That honour belonged to the Joshua Roy, Alex Newhook, and Josh Anderson line. They were responsible for four of the seven high-danger chances the Canadiens produced at 5v5. It’s a small sample size, but Roy leads the Canadiens in xGF% this season, with an impressive 60.9 percent. #NHL GameScore Impact Card for Montreal Canadiens on 2024-02-21:#GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/vFgAkUaWOq — HockeyStatCards (@hockeystatcards) February 22, 2024   Seeing as the Canadiens played last night, they will not hold a formal practice this morning. The healthy scratches are expected to hit the ice toward 11:30, with head coach Martin St-Louis addressing the media shortly afterward. Montreal and Pittsburgh met in late January, resulting in a solid game from Kaiden Guhle and Slafkovsky, but the Penguins eventually emerged with a 3-2 overtime. They’ve only managed to win two of their seven games since then, pointing to the type of inconsistency that has plagued the once-great team all season. But there is one player in the lineup who simply refuses to abide by the laws of nature, displaying the type of elite consistency you’d only expect to see from one of the best NHL players of all time. Sidney Crosby leads the Penguins in scoring with 55 points in 53 games, a rather impressive scoring pace for a 36-year-old forward. Jake Guentzel has also been a reliable source of offence for the Penguins, with 22 goals and 30 assists. But there’s a significant gap between Guentzel and the rest of the roster, as Evgeni Malkin is third in team scoring with 42 points. The matchup will also feature one of the worst penalty kills in the NHL (Montreal, 31st) and a shockingly bad powerplay (Pittsburgh, 30th). What happens when a stopable force meets a movable object? Stay tuned! If you’d like to get the view from the other side of the rink, don’t forget to check out our sister site Pittsburgh Hockey Now. Montreal Canadiens Injuries Carey Price (IR) Chris Wideman (IR) Kirby Dach (out indefinitely, ACL/MCL) Rafael Harvey-Pinard (4-6 weeks) Christian Dvorak (out) Pittsburgh Penguins Injuries Matt Nieto (IR) Noel Acciari (IR) Montreal Canadiens Projected Lineup   Pittsburgh Penguins Projected Lineup Rakell – Crosby (doesn’t) Rust O’Connor – Malkin – Phillips Smith – Eller – Puustinen Harkins – Carter – White Defence Joseph – Letang Pettersson – Karlsson Graves – Ruhwedel Goalie Nedeljkovic   How to Watch Or Listen TV Sportsnet, RDS Radio Montreal Candiens: TSN 690 [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the red for cap space, and with that, multiple moves need to be made to become cap-compliant and have enough room by the time the season starts to sign their rookie class and an entire practice squad full of players. One of the obvious moves that has not been made just yet is what the team will do with wide receiver Allen Robinson II. As it stands, Steelers Now analysis has the team at $5.4 million over the salary cap at a league figure of $242.5 million. However, it’s possible that an upward move of that number could have the Steelers fully compliant before the start of the new league year in mid-March without having to make any additional moves. But they will have to make some roster cuts to get some flexibility. And Robinson is at the top of that list. Pro Football Focus named Robinson as their top cut candidate for the Steelers this offseason. “The Steelers may still want the veteran presence Robinson brings to a young wide receiver group, but they did not alter his 2024 compensation following his trade from the Los Angeles Rams before the 2023 campaign kicked off, and odds are the Pennsylvania native won’t earn his scheduled $10 million salary whether or not he’s back,” they wrote. Editor’s note: Robinson is not a Pennsylvania native. He was born and raised in Detroit and now lives in New Jersey. He did attend Penn State. Robinson had minimal production but became an integral blocker in their run game as the season went along. He fits the Arthur Smith system well, but his cap hit is too large to justify keeping him at that tag. Maybe they negotiate a new contract to keep him in Pittsburgh, but that seems like one that will happen at some point soon. With his release, they save $10 million on the cap while incurring less than $2 million in dead money. It’s always possible that Robinson could return on a reduced salary, but he is not coming back at his current tag. [...] Read more...
Shelly AndersonFebruary 22, 2024It might be a contest of which team can muster more desperation Thursday when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Montreal Canadiens. If the Penguins (24-21-8) are in a bad way trying to climb into a playoff spot, then the Canadiens (22-25-8) are hanging on by a fingernail at best. The Penguins are coming off a 5-4 overtime loss Tuesday against the New York Islanders. Montreal is coming off a 3-2 loss Wednesday against Buffalo. Game Time The game starts a little after 7 p.m. Penguins Preview During what was supposed to be a push for a wildcard spot, the Penguins have stumbled to a 1-4-1 record in their past six games, 4-6-4 in their past 14. In the Penguins locker room, they are talking about continuing to believe, about the way they came back Tuesday to erase a two-goal, third-period deficit before falling in overtime 5-4 against the New York Islanders. In the Penguins front office, they are talking about what to do with the March 8 NHL trade deadline approaching. President of hockey operations and general manager Kyle Dubas, during a press conference Wednesday, seemed to walk the line between wanting to make moves to infuse some youth into the lineup, and wanting to express continued confidence in the core four of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson. The Penguins are four points ahead of Montreal with three games in hand, which would seem to make this game one that the Penguins should have no business losing. It looks as if the Penguins will be getting one player back Thursday. Fourth-line center Noel Acciari seems likely to return from a concussion. Read more: Kingerski: Dubas Presser: Guentzel’s Future, Shakeup Trade, and the Rebuild Plans Molinari: Do Lots of No-Trade Clauses = Few Trades Coming for Penguins? Montreal has lost three straight games and five of six. The Canadiens can perhaps feel some of the pain the Penguins have felt recently; Buffalo’s winning goal Wednesday was a shorthanded tally after the Canadiens blew two one-goal leads. Penguins Expected Lines Rickard Rakell-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust Drew O’Connor-Evgeni Malkin-Matthew Phillips Reilly Smith-Lars Eller-Valtteri Puustinen Jansen Harkins-Noel Acciari-Jeff Carter Defense P.O Joseph-Kris Letang Marcus Pettersson-Erik Karlsson Ryan Graves-Chad Ruhwedel Goalies Tristan Jarry Alex Nedejkovic Expected Canadiens Lines Cole Caufield-Nick Suzuki-Juraj Slafkovsky Joshua Roy-Alex Newhook-Josh Anderson Joel Armia-Jake Evans-Brendan Gallagher Tanner Pearson-Brandon Gignac-Jesse Ylonen Defense Mike Matheson-Kaiden Guhle Jayden Struble-Jordan Harris Arber Xjekaj-David Savard Goalies Sam Montembeault Jake Allen Penguins Special Teams Penguins power play: 13.5%, 30th Penguins penalty kill: 82.1%, 8th Canadiens power play: 20.1%, 18th Canadiens penalty kill: 74.0%, 31st Penguins Game Notes The Penguins have won both meetings against Montreal this season, 4-3 in a shootout Dec. 13, and 3-2 in overtime Jan. 27. The Penguins are 0-1-1 on a four-game homestand. Sidney Crosby has 63 points (23 goals, 40 assists) in 48 career games against the Canadiens. That is good for 1.31 points a game, third-best among active players. Evgeni Malkin has 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists) in 48 career games against the Canadiens. Erik Karlsson has 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists) in 48 career games against Montreal. Tristan Jarry is 5-1-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage and one shutout in eight career games against Montreal. How to Watch TV: SportsNet Pittsburgh Radio 105.9 FM The X Also visit sister site Montreal Hockey Now [...] Read more...
Dan KelleyFebruary 22, 2024Yesterday the New England Patriots had head coach Jerod Mayo and their three new coordinators meet the press. There will be separate coverage of what those men had to say. They also had a “happy hour” for media members to chat with the entire Patriots coaching staff after those four had spoken. To say the absolute least, things are different in Foxboro. While it is refreshing in many ways to have significantly more open communication in New England (especially as a member of the media) will this new approach be better for New England? This is the million-dollar question. The New England Patriots haven’t made the playoffs in two seasons and haven’t won a postseason game in five. But before those five seasons was the 2018 Super Bowl season. And there were five Super Bowl championship seasons in Foxboro before that, in addition to nine AFC Championships under former head coach Bill Belichick. Post being, the “old way” in New England worked very well for a very long time. But part of the reason for the “Belichick coaching tree” not having more success (in this scribe’s opinion at least) is because too many of Belichick’s assistants tried to emulate their former boss when they landed head coaching jobs elsewhere. It’s a copycat league in many ways, but coaches are only going to earn and keep credibility by being themselves. Trying to copy Bill Belichick’s success does not mean needing to copy every aspect of how he went about his business. Jerod Mayo doing what works best for him and his staff is what is most important now. Mayo is his own man and seems comfortable doing things his way. That is good. It does not mean the way Bill Belichick did things was bad though, just different. Very, very different. Also in today’s Patriots Football Daily… New England Patriots Patriots Football Now – End of an era: Matthew Slater announces retirement Patriots Football Now – New England parts ways with two veteran leaders “The Dynasty” Patriots Football Now – Review of Episode 1: Backup Plan Patriots Football Now – Review of Episode 2: The Snow Bowl NFL Draft Patriots Football Now – NFL Draft: History of the No. 3 pick Patriots Football Now – NFL Mock Draft 2.0 NFL News Patriots Football Now – Key dates on the 2024 NFL calendar NFL.com – Each team’s WR outlook ahead of free agency, draft Pro Football Network – Insider details Eagles late season collapse Yardbarker – Adrian Peterson responds after his trophies, including MVP, go up for sale ESPN – Justin Fields tired of trade talk Boston Bruins Go over to our sibling site Boston Hockey Now to check out the great Boston Bruins coverage from Jimmy Murphy and the BHN team. The NHL season is underway and plenty is happening in the Bruins 100 Anniversary season. PFN+ Subscribe here or on Boston Hockey Now to get a subscription to both sites. Subscribers get bonus coverage such as NFL Draft scouting reports and weekly NFL Power Rankings. It also provides a completely ad-free experience on the sites. Use code KELLEY10 and get $10 off a yearly subscription. It is less than $2.50/month! Football Fun Fact of the Day The New England Patriots now have two players from their 2014 Super Bowl championship team on the coaching staff, but zero are still on the roster. Post of the Day Post of the Day comes from Matt Chatham with help from Gus, the kicking mule…   [...] Read more...
Chris GawlikFebruary 22, 2024Vegas Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy has an issue on his hands. The line of Ivan Barbashev, Nic Roy, and Jonathan Marchessault has been producing consistently since Jack Eichel suffered a lower-body injury on Jan. 11. The other three forward lines have not been nearly as consistent as the Roy line. Coach Cassidy tried a couple of different line combinations in the last two games. Tuesday vs. Nashville Predators Stephenson-Karlsson-Stone Barbashev-Roy-Marchessault Cotter-Howden-Denisenko Morelli-Amadio-Kolesar Monday vs. San Jose Sharks Howden – Stephenson – Stone Barbashev – Roy – Marchessault Cotter – Karlsson – Amadio Morelli – Froese – Kolesar Vegas Hockey Now asked coach Cassidy about Stephenson’s game on the wing after Tuesday’s loss to the Predators. “It’s situational for Stephenson.” Coach Cassidy on Stephenson playing the wing. “It’s not ideal to move him (Stephenson) to the wing with Jack Eichel being out. We’re already down a top center.” What is the situational circumstance that coach Cassidy is referring to? Does the opponent matter if Stephenson lines on on the wing or center? Or is this Nic Roy’s fault? Relax everyone. This is partially Roy’s fault because of how well Roy is playing. That is not a knock on Stephenson as much as it is a credit to the job that Roy has been doing. Coach Cassidy has mentioned many times in Vegas that players need to step up when opportunities present themselves. Cassidy does not expect someone to perform at the level that Jack Eichel performs at night in and out. But he does want to see players become the best versions of themselves. Vegas likes this version of Nic Roy, who has 16 points in 14 games Eichel has missed. Stephenson has 31 points in 52 games (0.596 points per game pace) and is a minus-7 on the season. This season’s numbers are a sizeable drop-off from his last three seasons with the Golden Knights. Stephenson has averaged 0.778 points per game while being a plus-22, plus-5, and plus-12 for his previous three seasons. What Makes Stephenson the Odd Man Out? It starts with Nic Roy and his $3 million AAV through the 2026-27 season. The Golden Knights extended Roy before last season, and it is a good thing they did. Roy was compensated as a fourth-line center who could kill penalties while helping on the powerplay. The 27-year-old’s career-high points total is 39 from the 2021-22 season. Roy has 31 points in 47 games this season. Speaking of contracts, this is the final year of a four year deal worth $2.75 million AAV for Stephenson. It is fair to assume that Stephenson’s next contract will exceed $5 million AAV. General manager Kelly McCrimmon will have a tough decision to make regarding Stephenson. The Golden Knights, when healthy, have great depth at center. A potential one-two-three punch of Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, and Nic Roy is a great start to any lineup. Michael Amadio, Brett Howden, Jonas Rondbjerg, and Byron Froese have done well in the center position when called upon. Stephenson’s best value to the Golden Knights, from a long-term perspective, is if he can contribute on the wing. If Stephenson can elevate his game as a winger, that could help his prospects of remaining with the Golden Knights. Can Stephenson Perform on a Line Without Mark Stone? We are about to find out. General Manager Kelly McCrimmon said Stone will be out “for a while” yesterday. Stone was having tests conducted Wednesday morning to check the severity of his injury. It is fair to assume that the initial results did not yield great results for the captain. [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 22, 2024In one of the quadrants inside of the Pittsburgh Pirates spring training clubhouse, you’ll find a line of lockers belonging to some of the club’s top pitching prospects. Towards the end of the line is where Anthony Solometo is stationed. The Pirates drafted the left-hander in the second round of the 2021 draft out of high school in New Jersey. Solometo is considered one of the Pirates’ top pitching prospects and is listed in MLB Pipeline’s top 100 for the first time. They have him ranked No. 82 overall. “It’s a blessing,” he said on the recognition. “I’m doing everything I can every single day to perform on the field and get wins on the field. If they wanna rank me high because they think I’m doing well, then it’s much appreciated. “But at the end of the day, it doesn’t affect my day-to-day and I’m just trying to go out there and compete to the best of my ability. Hopefully I keep rising up those boards.” In speaking for only a few minutes with Solometo at his locker, it’s obvious how focused he is on perfecting his craft. He has plenty of motivation surrounding him at Pirate City. Solometo is one of four Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching prospects ranked in the top 100 currently in camp. He’s joined by Paul Skenes (No. 3), Jared Jones (No. 62) and Bubba Chandler (No.93). There are other notable pitching prospects, too. “It’s really awesome,” Solometo said on being at spring training with other top pitching prospects. “I came into the draft with Bubba and it’s awesome being paired side by side the entire way. Then all the other guys I’ve met along the way over time that came along. Jared has been here and Braxton and all those guys. Paul obviously, it’s really exciting. They’re all great dudes. We’re all pulling for each other. Sean Sullivan, too. “It’s an exciting group and everyone is just getting after it. We’re all pushing each other and competing with each other like brothers. That’s what makes you better.” Solometo’s familiarity with so many other fellow prospects in camp helps on a number of levels. A prospect finding his way at major-league spring training can be difficult at times. Most of the prospects in camp aren’t making the Pirates’ opening day roster, but they’re still still matching up against established big-league veterans. The Pirates’ farmhands are such a tight-knit group, the relationships they have with one another feels more like a relationship between brothers. Through a competitive environment, brothers can bring out the best in each other. “We always feed off one another because we love each other and love working hard,” Solometo explained. “You see somebody working their (butt) off, you’re like, ‘Okay, I gotta get that guy.’ It’s all positive. Whatever happens in the future happens but everybody is pulling from the same side of the rope making sure everyone is where they need to be. All that matters is winning.” Down the line, these Pirates’ prospects will be fighting each other for roster spots. But there is a respect and appreciation present to inspire a healthy level of competition. For now, Solometo will continue to feed off of his teammates at spring training, and they will reciprocate. [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 22, 2024Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is becoming an offensive coordinator in the United Football League with the St. Louis Battlehawks, the team announced on Wednesday. Last year, Gradkowski was an offensive analyst with Toledo after jumping up from the high school level. Now, he gets an opportunity to make some significant noise in the UFL to show off what he can do. Gradkowski, 38, was a three-year starter at the University of Toledo, where he threw for 9,225 yards and 85 touchdowns. His 68.2% completion percentage is the best all time in MAC history. Gradkowski led the Rockets to a MAC championship in 2004 and was inducted into the Toledo Hall of Fame in 2012. Gradkowski was drafted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006 and later played with the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals before joining the Steelers in 2013. His only passing attempts with the Steelers came in the 2014-15 playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens, filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger. Gradkowski ended his NFL career with 4,057 yards and 21 touchdowns in 37 games. Gradkowski is a Pittsburgh native who graduated from Seton-La Salle. Over his decade-long NFL career, he traveled around the league as one of the better backups for teams to turn to throughout his entire career. Gradkowski was not the only former Steelers player to land a coaching job in the UFL. Carnell Lake will be returning to the UFL for a second season as defensive coordinator in 2024 for the Memphis Showboats. Lake served as the defensive coordinator for the Showboats in 2023 under former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was the team’s head coach. The Showboats went 5-5 and finished in last place in the USFL South Division. Lake, 56, spent one season in the XFL as defensive backs coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits before getting his first crack as a defensive coordinator with the Showboats. He previously served as the Steelers defensive backs coach from 2011-17. He stepped down to spend more time with his family, including his son Quentin, who attended UCLA from 2017-21 before being selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2022 NFL Draft. [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 22, 2024NHL prospect goalies don’t find express lanes in the American Hockey League. Alex Lyon played in the AHL for seven different seasons before landing as Detroit’s No. 1 this season. Premium young goalie prospects Yaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators) and Jesper Wallstedt (Minnesota Wild) are in their second full season in the NHL. Even Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy spent parts of two seasons in the AHL before becoming the Lightning’s starter. That certainly suggests that Grand Rapids Griffins rookie Sebastian Cossa has more ground to cover before he is NHL ready. But Cossa’s play this season, particularly over the past two months, shows he’s making the progress the Detroit Red Wings need him to make. Cossa made 28 saves Wednesday night to post his first AHL shutout — a 1-0 decision over the Central Division rival Texas Stars. The win extended the team’s points streak to 13 games and moved the Griffins past Texas for second place in the Central Division. Cossa on Roll This was the first time in 11 years that a Griffins rookie netminder has recorded a 1-0 shutout. Cossa is 7-1-2 in his last 10 decisions with a 1.90 goals-against average and save percentage above .930. Can't stop watching this AMAZING save by the one and only Sebastian Cossa 🤩 #GoGRG pic.twitter.com/4bP7U8Y3Gm — Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) February 22, 2024 “It’s a long process, five games doesn’t make it for you,” Cossa told Griffins broadcaster Bob Kaser. “It’s over a whole  season. A lot of hard work left. Just trying to continue the streak.” Coach Dan Watson lauded 2021 first-round pick Cossa for the preparation he put into his craft every day. He has found his rhythm for what he needs to do to be ready to play. “He’s playing well,” Cossa said, “and tonight you saw him take another step against a good team in a big game for us.” Defenseman Albert Johansson (drafted 60th overall in 2018) scored the game’s only goal 25 seconds into the game. Austin Czarnik had an assist for his 16th point in the past 17 games. [...] Read more...
George Richards, FHN PublisherFebruary 22, 2024The Florida Panthers can tie an NHL record tonight with a win in North Carolina against the Hurricanes. Florida has won its past 11 road games, one away from the record set first by the Detroit Red Wings (March 1-April 15, 2006) and then tied by the Minnesota Wild (Feb. 18-April 9, 2015). The Panthers have not lost a road game since losing 3-1 at Calgary on Dec. 18. Since then, Florida has outscored its opponents a whopping 52-18 in those wins. But, with the road streak interrupted by the Christmas break — Florida did not play a road game after Calgary until it beat Tampa Bay 3-2 on Dec. 27 — as well as the All-Star break, coach Paul Maurice said this current run of wins does not feel all that special. Of course, the Panthers would much rather be on an 11-game road winning streak than the alternative. “Feels a little bit less, honestly,” Maurice said when asked about the potential for tying the record. “we have had some pretty good runs and they have been around breaks. I got asked about where we lost our last road game — and we had just been talking about where our season had turned. We lost in Calgary, then came home and lost to St. Louis. That would be a low point. But then we took off. “The (streak) just doesn’t feel connected. If we had played nine, 10, 11 straight road games and you went on that run, yeah, you would feel that. It doesn’t feel like. But it’s good. Better than the other.’’ The Panthers, as the aggregate score shows, have not had too many close calls during this streak, although there have been a few. Before the All-Star break, Florida had a back-to-back in Pittsburgh and on Long Island. The Penguins tied the score late in the third but Florida won in a shootout; the following night, Florida beat the Islanders in overtime. Aside from that, most of Florida’s games have been of the lopsided variety. The Panthers, for instance, outscored Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Tampa Bay 18-4 on their previous three-game road trip. Tonight should be a little more challenging. Carolina, the team Florida swept in the Eastern Conference finals last spring, has won its past three games and eight of its past 10. The Hurricanes are currently six points back of the Rangers for first in the Metropolitan Division. Here is how the Panthers got to within a win of this NHL record: Dec 27: Panthers 3, Tampa Bay 2 Florida takes a 2-0 lead before Tampa Bay scored 28 seconds into the third. It was 3-2 with almost 17 minutes left, but Sergei Bobrovsky slammed the door. Sam Reinhart scored twice; Aaron Ekblad got things going. Jan. 2: Panthers 4, Arizona 1 Carter Verhaeghe, Reinhart, Matthew Tkachuk and Gus Forsling all score in a game which featured a number of fights — and a big hit from Jason Zucker on Nick Cousins. Jan. 5: Panthers 4, Vegas 1 Down 1-0, the Panthers rattle off four unanswered goals as Florida beats the Knights for the second time in a span of a couple of weeks. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tkachuk, Verhaeghe and Reinhart all score. Jan. 6: Panthers 8, Colorado 4 Reinhart gets a hat trick as the Panthers take a 3-0 lead and do not look back. Colorado has won 11 of its past 12 home games — its lone loss during the streak is this one. Jan. 9: Panthers 5, St. Louis 1 Tkachuk comes home to Missouri and gets a hat trick as the Panthers trailed early but turn this one into a rout in Florida’s eighth straight win. The Panthers get to nine before the streak ends. Jan. 22: Panthers 4, Nashville 1 Facing Andrew Brunette for the first time as a head coach, the Panthers put on a show for their dads as Reinhart, Verhaeghe, Brandon Montour and Tkachuk all score. Jan. 26: Panthers 3, Pittsburgh 2 (SO) Evan Rodrigues and Reinhart each score, but Evgeni Malkin ties it with 41 seconds left. Sasha Barkov and Reinhart take it in the shootout as Bobrovsky played a very strong game. Jan. 27: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 (OT) Reinhart and Tkachuk helped the Panthers take a 2-1 lead into the third before Kyle Palmieri forces overtime by scoring with 1:29 left. Ekman-Larsson wins it in overtime, coming off a 2-on-1 with Rodrigues. Feb. 14: Panthers 5, Pittsburgh 2 The Panthers celebrate Valentine’s Day by running out to a 4-0 lead and rolling to another win. Tkachuk, Jonah Gadjovich, Ekblad, Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen all score. Feb. 15: Panthers 4, Buffalo 0 Anthony Stolarz makes 45 saves for his first shutout with the Panthers as Verhaeghe scores twice; Tkachuk and Ryan Lomberg also score. Feb. 17: Panthers 9, Tampa Bay 2 Down 1-0 24 seconds into the game, Florida sets a franchise record by scoring nine unanswered goals and roll past its cross-state rival. Bennett and Tkachuk both had four points as 13 players hit the scoresheet. ON DECK FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CAROLINA HURRICANES When: Thursday, 7 p.m. Where: PNC Arena; Raleigh, N.C. TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2,WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app Last Season — Regular Season: Carolina won 2-1; Eastern Conference Finals: Florida won 4-0. This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Hurricanes 2 (Nov.10). At Carolina: Thursday; March 14 All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-47-10, 11 ties Postseason History: Florida 1-0 (2023 ECF) Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Washington, 6 p.m. [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers seem content with giving Kenny Pickett another shot at becoming their next quarterback based on public comments and actions. But that has not stopped the national media from speculating about upgrades they could make, and the biggest splash they could make this offseason would be to add Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Despite coming off a torn Achilles, Cousins has improved over his years as a quarterback, and is undoubtedly the top option on the market. But that does not mean Pittsburgh is interested, as they want to give Pickett another chance and have publicly expressed a desire to re-sign Mason Rudolph. But on Thursday, Sports Illustrated named Cousins’ top landing spot the Steelers. “The Steelers need a proven quarterback, and they have plenty to offer Cousins with a talented group of skill players and a coach in Mike Tomlin, who has had a winning season for 17 consecutive years. Outside of the 49ers, the Steelers make the most sense roster wise, and they could make a serious financial offer. Pittsburgh’s cap space issues aren’t as dire as San Francisco’s, since the Steelers can cut a handful of veteran players who aren’t in their long-term plans. For example, the Steelers can cut wide receiver Allen Robinson to easily create $10 million in cap space. They’re currently $13.8 million over the salary cap,” they wrote. According to Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press, Cousins wants $90 million guaranteed in a two-year contract. “Buzz now is that it will take $90 million guaranteed for two years, despite that he’s still not yet fully recovered from Achilles surgery in November, to sign ,” Walters wrote. Pittsburgh did clear some cap space with the releases of Mitch Trubisky and Chuks Okorafor. Okorafor was the big move, opening up $8.75 million in cap space, while Trubisky’s release saved the team about $2.9 million. Harvin, who was still on his rookie contract, did not contribute much cap savings in his release. After roster displacement, the Steelers are are still about $5.4 million over the salary cap heading into free agency, so they still have work to do to get salary cap compliant. In addition to their current offseason deficiency, the Steelers will need to clear up nearly another $20 million between March and the start of the season in order to sign their rookie class, a practice squad, account for players on injured reserve and other moves that must happen before the start of the season. All told, the Steelers are still functionally about $24.4 million over the cap after Monday’s moves. That makes a deal with Cousins very unlikely, though there would always be workarounds that they could employ. But given all the comments this offseason so far, a guy like Cousins coming in seems unlikely.   [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 22, 2024The Boston Bruins won another extra-time thriller, but the injuries on their blue line continue to mount as the NHL trade deadline approaches. That, NHL news, the latest NHL trade rumors, and more in the latest Boston Hockey Now Bruins Daily: Boston Bruins Boston Hockey Now: The Edmonton Oilers stormed back in the third period, but the Boston Bruins won 6-5 in overtime thanks to defenseman Charlie McAvoy. Boston Hockey Now: Following his team’s game-day skate on Wednesday, Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery confirmed a week-to-week injury for defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Boston Hockey Now: Unfortunately just hours later, the Boston Bruins blue line suffered another blue as they lost defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. Boston Hockey Now: Could the Lindholm and Grzelcyk injuries finally force Bruins general manager Don Sweeney to acquire Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin? Patriots Football Now: For the latest on the New England Patriots, check out our sister NFL site, Patriots Football Now! Atlantic Division Montreal Hockey Now: Who are some realistic NHL trade targets for Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens? Detroit Hockey Now: Can general manager Steve Yzerman maintain team chemistry if he uses the NHL trade market to improve the Detroit Red Wings? Florida Hockey Now: How lucky are the Florida Panthers to have forward Anton Lundell? 32 Thoughts Podcast: How badly do the Toronto Maple Leafs want to acquire Calgary Flames defenseman Chris Tanev? Sportskeeda: What teams are interested in acquiring Ottawa Senators winger Vladimir Tarasenko? NHL NYI Hockey Now: Will a 5-4 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night become a pivotal moment for the New York Islanders? New Jersey Hockey Now: Could a potential Pittsburgh Penguins firesale at the NHL Trade Deadline help the New Jersey Devils? Philly Hockey Now: The struggles of the New Jersey Devils have really helped the Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburgh Hockey Now: A plethora of no-trade clauses could hamper the Pittsburgh Penguins. Chicago Hockey Now: The losing just keeps coming in different ways for the Chicago Blackhawks. Colorado Hockey Now: Could the Colorado Avalanche reacquire center Alex Kerfoot? Vegas Hockey Now: Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is going to be ‘out for a while’ according to general manager Kelly McCrimmon. Don’t forget, for exclusive insightful, insider Bruins and NHL coverage, subscribe for BHN +!     [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Penguins and president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas dominated the 24-hour news cycle. From Jake Guentzel’s future to Dubas’s admitted failure to find a shakeup trade and the Penguins’ desire to get younger, it’s all under the microscope and fueling the NHL trade talk. Elsewhere in the Daily, Auston Matthews is on a goal-scoring heater that would make Alex Ovechkin blush. Philadelphia is starting to get playoff fever and look down on the Devils, Islanders, and Penguins, as the Penguins lost more ground in the playoff race Wednesday night. I thought Dubas’s presser was quite interesting, though I was in the minority. He gave enough signals and words beyond the platitudes that I think we have a pretty good idea of what’s to come. Also, it does indeed appear that Dubas will keep Jake Guentzel if the Penguins are in the playoff race. Trade him if they are not. Despite all of the noise and debate, just remember your buddy Dan told you until he was blue in the face that keeping him for a playoff run, only trading him if they were out, was the most likely scenario. I feel like in the social media age, too many people judge opinions or projections based on popularity, not accuracy, eh? Pittsburgh Penguins Pittsburgh Hockey Now: First, the surprising news (at least to me). The Penguins needed a spot, and they waived Colin White. I defend Jansen Harkins against the over-the-top criticism, but between the two, that was certainly a choice. PHN+: There’s one place where there is no Penguins trade talk. No admitted knowledge of such and no desire to know. Dave Molinari put it bluntly to the Penguins players. Pittsburgh Hockey Now: The full Dubas. From Guentzel’s future with the club to the shakeup trades he tried to make and what the future would look like. It was a wide-ranging presser, and even though he said his answers would be unsatisfying, I think he answered the bell and answered the important Penguins questions. There are problems with the Penguins’ path. Do all of those no-trade clauses equal no Penguins trades? PHN Video: And here’s a new feature I’m testing — a single-issue video. Fire Mike Sullivan? Lord knows our comments section is full of that sentiment. So, we put it to the test and evaluated the Penguins’ coach on three criteria. NHL Trade Talk, News, & National Hockey Now TSN video: The boys at TSN radio were joined by Daren Dreger. They spent a healthy 12 minutes on Dubas and the Penguins. How do the Penguins get younger? 32 Thoughts: An attempted shakeup trade. Elliotte Friedman also devoted a healthy portion of his latest 32 Thoughts to Dubas and the Penguins trade chatter. TSN: Auston Matthews is the fastest to 50 goals in a season since Mario Lemieux did 50 in 50 three decades ago. He has 151 goals in his last 181 games. Just…wow. Perhaps we should be watching Matthews, not Ovechkin, chase Gretzky. He’s going to score 70 this year. On the ice… Philly Hockey Now: The gap grows. The Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t get it done. Samuel Ersson played well in the net, and Morgan Frost is defending like his job depends on it. Get the latest from the Philadelphia Flyers win. A golden road to the playoffs. The Penguins lost. New Jersey lost. And the Flyers playoff hopes grow. Montreal Hockey Now: The Penguins should have a leg up tonight against. The Buffalo Sabres won a hard-fought game against the Montreal Canadiens last night. New Jersey Hockey Now: The Devils continue to shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic, demoting goalie Akira Schmid and recalling a rookie from the AHL. The latest Devils goalie moves. NYI Hockey Now: The Islanders beat the Penguins, and optimism grew. Can they get back into the playoff race? Things haven’t taken off like they hoped after making the coaching change, but now it’s go-time for the New York Islanders. [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t been sellers at the NHL trade deadline since 2006.  You certainly are not going to see Kyle Dubas move Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang before the March 8 NHL deadline. But Dubas was clear Wednesday that it’s not business as usual this trade deadline. With regard to re-signing Jake Guentzel, Dubas said: “It’s obviously at the forefront … I think the way our whole strategy plays out in the next two-and-a-half weeks, how our team continues to play, will dictate the answer at the trade deadline We’ll continue to have those discussions leading up to that and then afterward. But I would say I understand how valuable he’s been as a teammate, a person in the community, and as a contributor helping this team win a Stanley Cup. So, it’s important, but we have to take stock of where we are at and be realistic about the fact that one of the issues we have is a need to get younger. We have a lot of guys in their 30s signed. Some of them are the best players in the history of the franchise.” PHN’s Dan Kingerski took a stab at reading between the lines on Dubas words. “Those words could be heard and read a few different ways,” Kingerski wrote, “but the words after “but” sure seemed to indicate that Guentzel will not be a Penguins winger next season, and if the team isn’t in the playoff race very soon, he won’t be a Penguins winger past March 8.” Dubas said he’s not going to give up any draft capital in the name at the deadline. And if he wants to get younger, it could certainly mean he moves some veterans for prospects or additional draft picks. Red Wings In Case You Missed It The Red Wings rewarded Michael Rasmussen’s development into a strong, two-way forward by giving him a four-year contract extension. Here’s what Detroit’s playoff rivals may do at the trade deadline. The New Jersey Devils likely will add a goalie. Former Red Wings player Valtteri Filppula made hockey history on Wednesday. Why has former Detroit player Tyler Bertuzzi‘s offensive numbers so low?  And how did Anthony Mantha rehabilitate his game in Washington? Red Wings Next Game Alex Lyon will be the starting goaltender for the Red Wings tonight when they play the Colorado Avalanche. Klim Kostin and Justin Holl will remain the healthy scratches. According to puckmoney.com, the Red Wings have a 52.3% chance of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Hockey Now Network Boston: On Wednesday morning, the Boston Bruins announced that defenseman Hampus Lindholm will be out “week to week” with a lower body injury, The media believes it is a knee issue. On Wednesday night, Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk went out with an injury. Buffalo: Jason Moser explores the Buffalo Sabres trade fit with the Colorado Avalanche. Montreal:  The Montreal Canadiens reportedly have interest in Anaheim forward Trevor Zegras. New Jersey: If the Pittsburgh Penguins are sellers, what would it mean for the New Jersey Devils? [...] Read more...
James NicholsFebruary 22, 2024The New Jersey Devils won’t hit the ice for skate this morning. They host the New York Rangers tonight at 7 PM and the media will speak with head coach Lindy Ruff at 5 PM. It’s another in-division, four-point game against the Devils’ rival in New Jersey’s quest to regain playoff position. Yesterday, the Devils recalled their breakout rookie goaltender from the AHL. It’s likely, however, that the start goes to Nico Daws, which would be his sixth in a row. Elsewhere, Pittsburgh’s GM opens up about his plans for his team ahead of the March 8th trade deadline, Montreal is targeting a big-name center in Anaheim, and because the Devils dropped their game to Washington on Tuesday, it made Phill’ys path to the playoffs a bit easier. Let’s do that hockey. Devils News New Jersey Hockey Now: The Devils recalled their breakout rookie goaltender from the Utica Comets while reassigning Akira Schmid back to the AHL on Wednesday. New Jersey Hockey Now + Subscribe to NJHN+ here⤵️ and use code James10 for 10% off (yearly subscriptions) at checkout. Subscribe to NJHN+ Here’s what you get with a + subscription: All content ad free! Exclusive #NJDevils stories! Access to all paywall sites on the NHN Network, some are even in today’s links below! NHL Trade Talk, News, & National Hockey Now NY Post: Jonny Brodzinski inked a two-year, one-way extension — which holds an average annual value of $787,500 — with the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Pittsburgh Penguins GM Kyle Dubas addressed the possibility of a trade, as well as Jake Guentzel’s future, Mike Sullivan’s requests, and why you should not expect to see a tear it down, burn it down, rebuild. Montreal Hockey Now: The Montreal Canadiens are on the lookout for young offensive talent and it looks like they have a target in mind in Anaheim. It’s Trevor Zegras. San Jose Hockey Now: Mikael Granlund has outperformed expectations with the San Jose Sharks. According to head coach David Quinn, if the Sharks trade Granlund it will have to be for a hefty price. Quinn doesn’t want Granlund going anyway. NYI Hockey Now: The New York Islanders bounced back from their Stadium Series meltdown and now need to build momentum with time running out to get back into playoff position. Philly Hockey Now: Because the Devils didn’t capitalize in their Tuesday night tilt, the Philadelphia Flyers‘ playoff path is a bit clearer now. For more Devils news, visit New Jersey Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @NJDHockeyNow, @JamesNicholsNHL And on Threads: @JamesNicholsNHL [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 22, 2024Take a look back at the latest Montreal Canadiens news, highlights, and stories you may have missed on Wednesday. Habs News According to Pierre LeBrun the Montreal Canadiens did enquire as to the availability of Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras.   [Trevor Zegras on the Montreal Canadiens’ Radar]   We already covered the risks involved in trading for a player like Zegras. He’s certainly talented, and he’d provide the type of offensive boost the team desperately needs, but there are some red flags in his game. [Pros And Cons Of Potential Trevor Zegras Trade]   The Habs lost to the Sabres on Wednesday at the Bell Centre, but there were a few positive elements to take from the game. Notably, Joshua Roy continues to provide the Habs with quality hockey during most of his shifts. And we can’t ignore the play of Arber Xhekaj, who doesn’t just bring a much-needed physical element to the table, he also provides offence, and he happens to own the best underlying numbers of all defencemen this season. If you don’t understand why fans immediately made Xhekaj a fan favourite, you probably have a hard time understanding why people love watching hockey in the first place.  [Arber Xhekaj Dominant In Hard-Fought Loss To Buffalo]   The Laval Rocket may be playing without most of their best players due to injuries and NHL call-ups, but they’re still giving an honest effort every night. The Rocket beat the AHL’s top team, the Hershey Bears, on Wednesday night thanks to a nice shootout goal by defenceman Logan Mailloux. Ce but de Logan Mailloux en fusillade offre la victoire au Rocket! 🚀🔥 pic.twitter.com/hBpfb48SPr — RDS (@RDSca) February 22, 2024   Okay, this is adorable. Take a look at Cole Caufield when he was shorter than a raspberry bush. guys can we talk about baby Caufield in this picture pic.twitter.com/JeXt7EkXH9 — ash ✨🍉 (@NHLN0VA) February 21, 2024   There are still two Habs names appearing on most NHL trade bait boards: Tanner Pearson and Jake Allen. [TSN – Trade Bait Board] National Hockey Now Network Throughout the grind of the NHL season, some games simply fade to memory as various plays, dates and arenas all get blurred together  For the New York Islanders, though, their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night will not be one of those. Instead, their 5-4 overtime win at PPG Paints Arena will stand out as a pivotal moment when their season is all said and done. However, what they do with it will determine whether it’s for good or bad. [New York Islanders] The Winnipeg Jets are apparently willing to tango as a Philadelphia Flyers trade partner. The Flyers have scouted many Western Conference teams this year, just as the Jets have scouted many Eastern Conference teams. However, the two sides have scouted each other a substantial amount in recent months.[Philadelphia Flyers] Kyle Dubas remained noncommittal Wednesday about whether the Pittsburgh Penguins will be buyers or sellers — or neither — between now and the March 8 NHL trade deadline. That decision, he suggested, will be determined by how the Penguins perform — and where they stand in the Eastern Conference playoff race — as the deadline gets closer.[Pittsburgh Penguins] [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 22, 2024In Thursday’s edition of Bailey’s Daily, we’ll be talking the latest Philadelphia Flyers news, NHL news, stories, highlights, and more from the last day. Flyers News Travis Konecny led the way for his team in the Philadelphia Flyers game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night; No. 11 extended his point streak to seven games with his goal. Come for the Flyers game; stay for the Nick Seeler fight. Seeler beat the brakes off of Blackhawks forward Reese Johnson early on in the third period. Are the Flyers really headed towards the playoffs? With the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh Penguins all fighting to become ‘Best of the Worst’, it seems highly likely. The Winnipeg Jets have been heavily scouting the Orange and Black, and Philadelphia has returned the favor. Who could some Flyers trade targets be out in Manitoba? ICYMI: Matvei Michkov discussed his offseason plans with MatchTV and quietly admitted that he’s never actually seen the ice at Wells Fargo Center before. NHL News from National Hockey Now There’s no way around it: a Penguins trade or two is on the table as Kyle Dubas continues to search for answers, whether it be short-term or long-term. Out west, Colorado Avalanche trade talk is heating up as the team continues to look at Chris Tanev, as well as options to address their non-existent center depth. After blowing another lead against the Penguins, the New York Islanders finally bounced back to win a game. Mat Barzal says it’s up to the team to keep it going. The Vegas Golden Knights placed Jack Eichel on LTIR, and Mark Stone got injured shortly thereafter. Has anyone seen this movie before? It’s been a rough few years for Florida Panthers forward Anton Lundell, but he’s stepping up when it matters the most. “I just tried to pick the corner.” For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers are rounding out their strength and conditioning staffs, officially making two other hires after naming Phil Matusz as their next head strength and conditioning coach. The team hired Justus Galac as the team’s assistant strength and conditioning coach while adding Roderick Moore as the sports science coordinator. Galac spent the last two seasons as the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Temple. He had been with the Steelers for one season as the assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2021. Before that, he was the head strength and conditioning coach for the New York Jets from 2012-20. Galac also worked at Villanova from 2005-11. Moore is following offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to Pittsburgh from his staff on the Atlanta Falcons, where Moore spent three seasons as assistant strength and conditioning coach. Moore was a strength and conditioning coach at Tennessee from 1997-07 and FIU from 2007-12 before working in the commercial fitness sector for companies like Cybex, Bilt, Catapult Sports, Sparta Science and Vald, according to his LinkedIn page. The Steelers moved on from head strength and conditioning coach Marcel Pastoor last month. Pastoor had been the team’s head strength and conditioning coach since 2021, and had been with the team for 23 years overall. The only holdover on the strength staff will be longtime strength and conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont. In addition to Pastoor, the Steelers also moved on from assistant Rodain Delus and intern Tyler Judkins. Now, the team officially has its strength and conditioning staff filled out, at least for the most part. In addition, many of the offensive coaching voids are filled, with only two or three more positions left to be filled on the staff at large. [...] Read more...
Colby GuyFebruary 22, 2024SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers did not play their best in a 3-2 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Far from it. Coach Paul Maurice saw a sluggish game coming from his team a few days removed from a 9-2 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which capped a three-game road trip where Florida outscored its opponents 18-4. “I had one of my trainers text me in practice yesterday a line that I would remember for my pre-game speech,” Maurice said. “And when he texted me this, I was like, ‘I’m going to need to remember this tomorrow because this is ugly.’ So we live, and we learn.“ A goal from Aaron Ekblad 19 seconds into the game made the Panthers even more comfortable. While the Panthers recovered from a sleepy start to the second period — one in which they were outshot 6-1 through the first 9:33 — with a Brandon Montour goal late in the period, they gave Ottawa enough bounces to get back into the game. Florida had multiple chances to win a puck battle in the corner before Thomas Chabot put the Senators on the board with a wrist shot from the point 5:36 into the third period. The Panthers also made a few choppy passes in the offensive zone — particularly a forced backhand pass to the slot by Sam Bennett, which was poked away — before Tim Stutzle broke out on the rush, split two Panthers defenders and beat Sergei Bobrovsky through his five-hole with 11:14 to go to tie the score. ”We hadn’t played poorly in one, and today we did,” coach Paul Maurice said, referring to the road trip. “That’s not a style that we’d like to kind of nail down. We’ve been really good, we played very, very well. We weren’t very good tonight. You could almost feel it coming when you score nine the game before and then you score in the first minute.  “It felt like the first game back from a road trip, but it’s not something we’ve really suffered from, so we just weren’t very good. “And I mean this as a positive thing: It’s good when you have that many guys (who are) bad. If you have one or two guys that are off and half your team’s right then that’s that, but when you have a group that’s not as good or not really close to where we would expect them to play, there’s something else there that you have a pretty good handle on.” Still, they found a way to win the game. Maurice swapped the lines up, paired Anton Lundell and Evan Rodrigues with Ryan Lomberg and liked what he saw from them in the defensive zone to help them get to overtime in the first place. And Lundell ended it in overtime. “It’s fitting,” Ekblad said. “He deserves it. He’s getting inside on puck battles and he makes the right play all the time. And then he goes and makes an ESPN Top 10 play, so we’re pretty happy.” The Panthers have grown used to being in situations like last night and will only have to continue to do so as they look to extend their winning streak from six to seven games against the host Carolina Hurricanes tonight. Florida, which ended Tuesday night with the best point percentage in the NHL at .696, has come into the third with a lead 29 times this season. The Panthers are 26-0-3 in those games. “I think it’s one of those where teams are going to keep coming,” Montour said. ”They did a good job, obviously tying it up, but we kept it cool. Our group is good at living in the moment, shift by shift, the next group goes out there. We’re getting good shifts by each guy, each line and then a skill play in overtime there and we just keep rolling.” But as the team took off for Raleigh, the Panthers were not planning on looking back at this game much. Maurice canceled the team’s practice ahead of their Wednesday flight, and hopes his team comes back with the same hard-checking, responsible style of game that has been their calling card.  “The hallmark of our team is that we’ve had some games where we haven’t played particularly well and we’ve come out and built off it,” Maurice said. “So we’re probably not going to do too much video off this one. We’re going to change the way we do things and prepare for the next one.” ON DECK FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CAROLINA HURRICANES When: Thursday, 7 p.m. Where: PNC Arena; Raleigh, N.C. TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2,WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app Last Season — Regular Season: Carolina won 2-1; Eastern Conference Finals: Florida won 4-0. This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Hurricanes 2 (Nov.10). At Carolina: Thursday; March 14 All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-47-10, 11 ties Postseason History: Florida 1-0 (2023 ECF) Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Washington, 6 p.m. [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 22, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers are amid rumors surrounding Justin Fields trade talks. And while the idea makes sense on the surface, some factors could likely stop it from happening. But more than anything, the fifth-year option that Fields would carry adds another layer of complication to the entire idea. Fields is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Bears — or another team, if he’s traded — must decide this offseason if they want to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract. That would be a guaranteed $25 million contract for 2025. The Bears or another club could negotiate a traditional contract extension. But if Spotrac is right on a future extension, the fifth-year option becomes even more questionable. In their projections, Fields would be eligible for a 6-year, $283 million extension following the end of his rookie contract. That’s a lot of money, but when Daniel Jones, for example, gets $40 million per year, it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility. And if a team wants Fields as the long term answer, having that flexibility is huge for building what they would hope becomes a Super Bowl contender. Fields took a small step forward in 2023, his third year as Chicago’s starting quarterback. The 24-year-old Ohio State alum threw 370 times, completing 227 for 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns. He threw nine interceptions and maintained an 86.3 passer rating and a 5.29 adjusted net yards per attempt. Last season, he was 192 of 318 for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, an 85.2 quarterback rating and 4.63 adjusted net yards per attempt. But if it’s up to him, he does not want to leave Chicago. “Of course I want to stay,” Fields said on the St. Brown Brothers Podcast. “I can’t see myself playing in another place. If it was up to me, I would want to stay in Chicago. I love the city. The city’s lit. The fans are great. It’s a business; I ain’t got no control over it. The biggest thing with all this going on I just want to it to be over. Let me know if I’m getting traded let me know if I’m staying.” Appearing on ESPN 1000, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport believes that not only will the Bears not move off the first overall pick, but that they can get a solid haul for Fields, whether that be from the Steelers or another team. “I think the Bears could get a premium pick, a second-rounder, maybe more,” Rapoport said. “They’re in a really good spot getting so many picks no matter what they do.” So, it seems likely that the cost will end up being at least a second-round pick to get Fields from the Bears, especially with other teams in the conversation. Rapoport answered ‘definitely’ that all of the Steelers, Falcons, and Raiders were teams to watch. [...] Read more...
Nate BrownFebruary 22, 2024Chicago Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson couldn’t help but crack a smile describing the energy Colin Blackwell brings to the team. He’s mentioned it before, but during Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, someone else couldn’t help but notice, either. “He gives us a spark, and he was fired up in the bench in the third period too,” Richardson said.  “The referee had to come and tell me to settle him down. But everybody can respect his energy and his desire out there.” Yes, even the men in stripes on the ice can’t help but note what Colin Blackwell brings in terms of energy. Perhaps that energy could earn him another year in Chicago. What a pass by Joey Anderson and finish by Colin Blackwell, who scores his fourth goal of the season. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/1sfouoPi3s — Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 22, 2024 Blackwell’s Energy is What the Hawks Want Up and Down Their Lineup Teammate Joey Anderson, who fed Blackwell a heck of a pass that eventually evloved into a heck of a goal, noted what the veteran brings to the Blackhawks. “He’s a bus out there,” Anderson said.  “His feet never stop moving–whether he’s hitting a guy, trying to make a play, stick in the lane, he’s kinda a little bug out there, in everybody’s face, makes good plays offensively. The energy just bleeds on the ice.” That energy jumpstarted a Blackhawks team down 1-0 at that point, and while the momentum couldn’t be sustained, many took note of how that goal electrified the United Center crowd and Blackwell’s teammates. Why? Because he brings a maximum effort on every shift. “If you’re doing things 100%, more times than not good things are going to come out of it,” Anderson noted. Where’s Colin Blackwell on the Ice? Pretty Much Everywhere Playing out the final year of his two-year deal signed back in 2022, Blackwell missed several months due to a sports hernia surgery, and finally made it back on the ice in November. The impact was almost immediate. The high energy, physical Blackwell was not only hitting other players, but has been hitting his spots on the ice, too. He’s nearly hit his point total from last season in half as many games, and while he’s unlikely to near his career high in goals and points that he had with New York in 2021, Blackwell has done everything asked of him, including being matched up against the Flyers’ best line. He did it well Wednesday night. But as the Blackhawks begin to size their roster up, and make decisions as to who remains, Blackwell should be one of the names at the top of the list. Richardson’ pointed out that he was pitted up against Philadelphia’s top line and handed his business well. Blackwell isn’t likely to be a 20-goal scorer, and he’ll likely have referees reminding Richardson to have him tone it down some. But there’s no denying the role Blackwell plays is precisely what the Blackhawks are hoping to build throughout their roster. Besides, he’s making his presence known all over the ice. “He’s earned the right to play as much as he is,” Richardson said. Sure seems he’s earning the right to play another year in Chicago, too. Follow Chicago Hockey Now on Facebook and Twitter Follow Nate on Twitter [...] Read more...
Trevor NeufeldFebruary 22, 2024Following the NHL on any given morning, afternoon, or evening can be an arduous process. Look at one site, check another; that can take a lot out of your day.   The Flames Daily Roundup finds the Flames news you may have missed and sprinkles in some drama from around the League. For example, the Flyers and Jets have been scouting one another extensively of late. Who on the Jets makes sense as an ask heading back to Philidelphia? [Flyers Scouting Jets: 5 Potential Trade Targets for Philadelphia]   Calgary Hockey Now   -A common narrative circulating the Flames fanbase is that losses to basement teams is what is keeping the team out of the playoff picture. While Chicago and Columbus remain as problems for Calgary, their middle-standings peers are the true issue.   -The Flames still only have one player in the current lineup with a fighting major recorded in 2023-2024 – and it’s not who you would expect.     Other Flames Daily News   -Elliotte Friedman dropped a new 32 Thoughts piece. Flames info abundant. -Coaches, players, management – the entire Flames organization isn’t giving up on stealing a playoff spot. Even if fans have written off this season.   -Luke Gazdic, Frank Seravalli, and Tyler Yaremchuk make a case for the Flames keeping Jacob Markstrom.   -Oliver Kylington remains a bright spot among a tumultuous season.   Around the NHL   -The Ducks are taking calls on Trevor Zegras. Would Montreal be a fit?   -Former Flames Mark Jankowski is having a strong season in the AHL with 47 points in 40 games. Good for third place in scoring across the League. The 2012 first round pick was sent down and then recalled within 24 hours on Sunday-Monday. A shrewd move in terms of cap management.     -Pittsburgh general manager Kyle Dubas addressed the media about Jake Guentzel, roster flexibility and a potential shakeup trade.   -Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett have formed a dynamic duo in Florida. Oof. Colby Guy has analysis.   -Hampus Lindholm is skipping the Bruins road trip due to an injury. Does that mean Boston will pull off a move for a left-side defenceman sooner rather than later?   -A rumored landing spot for Noah Hanifin, here are the trade needs of the Vegas Golden Knights as the games become more important.   -Connor Bedard is tearing up the league once again – despite his team struggling to find their way into the win column.   [...] Read more...
Bob DuffFebruary 22, 2024The first purchase he plans to make now that he’s put his signature to a big-ticket contract with the Detroit Red Wings tells you everything about Michael Rasmussen the person. What’s he gonna buy? A Lamborghini? His dream home? How about none of the above. “I’ll get the guys a nice dinner and that’s gonna be my purchase,” Rasmussen was explaining Wednesday following practice. He and the Red Wings agreed to terms Tuesday on a four-year contract extension with an AAV of $3.2 million. Not a bad way to start the day. ✍️ pic.twitter.com/hgk1jn1PPn — Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 20, 2024 Ras, as he’s known to his Red Wings teammates, isn’t about the bling bling. There may be an M and and E in Rasmussen, but in the case of this Rasmussen, he’s never about me. Center the fourth line? No problem. Check on the third line? His pleasure. Kill penalties? He thrives on that assignment. Do the dirty work in the corners and at the net front? Bring it on. Red Wings Coaches Big Fans Of Rasmussen “You see the way I use him,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said. “The staff is a fan of him, know he’s a valuable player. “Last month alone, he centered a quality fourth line, he’s been on a checking line, we put him on our top line to give us a spark. Obviously, he kills for us.” Penalties, that is. Rasmussen kills penalties for the Red Wings. There are some lines even he won’t cross. In general, though, no matter what the Red Wings coaching staff asks of him, or in some instances, throw at him, Rasmussen embraces the role without complaint. “A good pro, a good human, a good individual,” Lalonde said. “Really happy for him. Sometimes it feels earned and it feels like there’s a little team success with it. “We’ve improved as a group the last couple of years and he’s been a big part of it.” Rasmussen The Ultimate Team Guy In some manner through the roles he so willingly embraces, Rasmussen feels like a cliche. But the fact of the matter is, every team that wins is populated with guys like him. A club can’t get over the hump without role players who are prepared to take the lesser, often thankless roles that comprise a true team. Thankless to the general public. Inside the Red Wings locker room, everyone understands that value that Rasmussen brings to the team. They embrace him for what he does, appreciate that he accepts playing without the spotlight shining on his accomplishments for the greater good of the team. "It's going to be a promising few years here and it means a lot to me to be a part of it." pic.twitter.com/naz3YLyXav — Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 22, 2024 For Rasmussen, knowing that is all that really matters to him. “That’s kind of just what I needed to do to be successful,” Rasmussen says of the NHL role he’s come to fill. “Just tried to work my best at it. “That’s the constant thing that I’ve tried to do, is prove it to myself. Just work hard and above all, prove it to this organization and the guys in the locker room. I think I’ve done that pretty well.” [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 22, 2024The Boston Bruins outlasted the Edmonton Oilers in a see-saw game and pulled out a 6-5 win on a Charlie McAvoy goal 3:10 into overtime and into the wee hours of the night for Bruins fans back home. After goals from Boston Bruins forward Morgan Geekie and Oilers forward Warren Foegele in the first period, the Bruins jumped out to a 4-1 lead thanks to second period goals from Brad Marchand, Trent Frederic, and Jake DeBrusk. Foegele made it 4-2 Bruins with his second goal of the game at 15:27 of the second period. The Oilers then got goals 1:10 apart from forwards Mattias Janmark and Corey Perry to tie the game at four 7:24 into the final frame. Bruins winger David Pastrnak made it 5-4 Bruins with his 36th goal of the season at 12:41 of the third period, but just 42 seconds later, Oilers forward Zach Hyman tied the game. Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman struggled to control rebounds but still made 37 saves and has now stopped 79 of 88 shots faced in his last two games. Oiler goalie Stuart Skinner allowed six goals on 35 Bruins shots. Here’s your Boston Hockey Now Postgame: CLUTCH: It’s amazing to this puck scribe how almost on a daily basis, I read ‘Trade McAvoy’ in the comments sections of my articles here. With all due respect, are you folks who suggest that actually watching Boston Bruins games or just listening to the ignorant shock jock radio hosts who do a drive-home show on the somehow highest-rated show in Boston and, at times, the country? Here’s a newsflash: They don’t watch the games either, so if you want an actual, real, and educated account of the game and players’ performances, check here or any of my beat reporter colleagues’ posts, too. Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy was already having a stellar season defensively, and now, with a five-game point streak, McAvoy will likely re-enter the Norris Trophy conversation. McAvoy scored his second-straight game-winner in extra time to finish the night with a goal, an assist, three shots, five hits, and three blocked shots. The 26-year-old stud defenseman continues to prove he’s worth every penny of his eight-year, $76 million ($9.5 AAV) contract and more.   Charlie McAvoy with a FILTHY overtime winner, what a goal#NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/dzzMD9AzF9 — Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) February 22, 2024 DOGHOUSE: As I continue to say here and on Twitter (sorry, won’t call it X still), the Boston bruins need an Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller-type defenseman to clear bodies out in front. Two of them would be even better. While goalie Jeremy Swayman allowed some juicy rebounds, why should he or fellow goalie Linus Ullmark always have to be the ones to save the Bruins’ bacon? Too many times, opposing forwards are allowed to park themselves in front and also take liberties with the Bruins’ goalies. This needs to be addressed by Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney ahead of the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline. BANGER: As mentioned above, McAvoy had five hits and led all Bruins, but forward Anthony Richard deserves an honorable mention here as he finished with four hits in his fourth game with the Bruins. UNSUNG HERO: You could almost see it coming for Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk lately, and some home-cooking was apparently all the Edmonton native Jake DeBrusk needed. The 27-year-old potential 2024 unrestricted free agent winger was on a mission and snapped a nine-game goalless streak 13:57 into the second period. That saved DeBrusk from having to do 30 push-ups for his Dad and Sportsnet Edmonton rinkside reporter Louie DeBrusk.   Jake DeBrusk just bet his dad Louie 30 push-ups if he doesn't score a goal tonight 😭 pic.twitter.com/ssvsaiMR6I — B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) February 22, 2024   JAKE DEBRUSK SCORES! NO PUSH-UPS FOR JAKE! 🚨🚨🚨 pic.twitter.com/IE9vUMi1Ir — B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) February 22, 2024   Honorable mention also goes to recently recalled rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei, who finished with three assists, four blocked shots and was a +2.   NEXT UP: The Boston Bruins play the tail end of a back-to-back in Calgary tonight when they try to get revenge for a 4-1 loss to the Flames back on Feb. 6. Boston Bruins Lineup Forwards Brad Marchand – Charlie Coyle – Danton Heinen Jake DeBrusk – Pavel Zacha – David Pastrnak James van Riemsdyk – Morgan Geekie – Anthony Richard Trent Frederic – Jesper Boqvist – Justin Brazeau Defensemen Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy Mason Lohrei – Brandon Carlo Derek Forbort – Parker Wotherspoon Goalies Jeremy Swayman Linus Ullmark     Don’t forget, for exclusive insightful, insider Bruins and NHL coverage, subscribe for BHN +!         [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 22, 2024Is there a curse on the blue line for the Boston Bruins right now? Following his team’s game-day skate ahead of their tilt with the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night, Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery confirmed to the media that second pairing, left-side defenseman Hampus Lindholm is week-to-week with what’s believed to be a knee injury. Lindholm left halfway through the third period of his team’s 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Monday. Then, just 1:05 into the game on Wednesday night, Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk exited after taking a slash to his left foot from Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan McLeod and falling awkwardly along the boards.   BRUTAL luck for the Boston Bruins! They were already down Hampus Lindholm, and now are down Matt Grzelcyk. #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/BhZD0qQjJI — Drop the Mitts Hockey (@DropMittsHockey) February 22, 2024   Thankfully, McLeod was given a two-minute tripping minor and the Boston Bruins converted on the powerplay with Morgan Geekie’s tenth goal of the season at 2:34 of the first period.   Morgan Geekie continues to make the most of his opportunity with the Bruins. He now has a career-high 10 goals. pic.twitter.com/V48qEPZ7pY — Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) February 22, 2024   Unfortunately, Grzelcyk left the game and didn’t return to the Bruins’ bench until just under six minutes left in the opening frame. He wouldn’t play another shift, and the Bruins ruled their top-paring left-side defenseman out for the game just as the second period began.   UPDATE: Matt Grzelcyk (lower-body) will not return to tonight's game. — Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 22, 2024   The Bruins had already recalled rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei on Tuesday, and the 23-year-old rearguard played on the left side next to Brandon Carlo on the second pairing on Wednesday night. There’s no doubt that with just one goal and 18 assists in 56 games this season, Lindholm has regressed offensively after he scored ten goals, had 43 assists, and was a +49 in 80 games last season. That being said, he has still been strong defensively and does a lot of the little things the common eye won’t notice, but his teammates and Montgomery appreciate it. That understandably can’t be said for a 23-year-old rookie like Lohrei, who has three goals and three assists but is a minus 4 in his first 27 NHL games. As for Grzelcyk, he has really struggled in a contract year this season after finishing with a career-best in assists (22), points (26), and plus/minus with a +46 in 75 games last season. So will Lindholm’s injury force Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney’s hand and see him make trade weeks ahead of the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline? Could the Noah Hanifin to the Bruins rumors finally become a reality? Stay tuned. [...] Read more...
Sheng PengFebruary 21, 2024Shakir Mukhamadullin is injured. The star San Jose Sharks prospect missed his second-straight AHL game tonight, a 5-4 loss to the Coachella Valley Firebirds. After the game, San Jose Barracuda head John McCarthy said that Mukhamadullin has an upper-body injury: “They’re still talking about it. We should know more by the end of the week.” Mukhamadullin last played on Feb. 15, a 4-0 loss to Coachella Valley. He appeared to finish that contest with no obvious injury. Hopefully, Mukhamadullin’s injury is minor. The Cuda, still trying to make a desperation playoff push, are 10 points back with 23 games to go, and will need all the help that they can get. Losing their top offensive defenseman and their lone AHL All-Star won’t help. Speaking of, Danil Gushchin was supposed to appear in the AHL All-Star Game on Feb. 5, but hasn’t played since last January because of an upper-body injury. “Same deal kind of ,” McCarthy said, “we should know more by the end of the week.” The top San Jose Sharks prospect is second on the Cuda with 37 points in 39 games, and hasn’t played since Jan. 26. He may have had a setback. Barracuda announcer Nick Nollenberger had reported earlier in the month that the playmaking winger could return soon. Per @NickNollen, Danil Gushchin could be ready to return on Wednesday night for the San Jose Barracuda. — JD Young (@MyFryHole) February 11, 2024 Instead? “Mostly off-ice right now,” McCarthy said of Gushchin’s activity level at the moment. Finally, McCarthy addressed the continued absence of Eetu Makiniemi, who hasn’t played since Jan. 26. On Feb. 10, San Jose Hockey Now was told that Makiniemi was ill. It was also stressed that Makiniemi’s injury was not related at all to his recent hip troubles. My understanding is Makiniemi is ill, that’s good, considering his injury history. Chrona, Wiesblatt, Vincent also among those almost back: https://t.co/ajEA7PDD8D — Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 11, 2024 McCarthy reiterated, 11 days later, that the San Jose Sharks goaltending prospect is still ill, and that this prolonged absence has nothing to do with his hip. That’s a very long illness, and bears investigating. Special thanks to Marko Ukalovic for his help with this article. [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 21, 2024Does anyone believe anything they hear in the weeks leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline? I don’t blame you if you don’t, but it’s always a time where names are thrown around and you never really know what is going on. Don’t worry, Avalanche fans. Only 16 more days of this. On Wednesday night, Elliotte Friedman released his 32 Thoughts written article, although he only was able to come up with 26 this week. It’s a lot of information leading up to potential move prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, and the Avalanche popped up in two. First, let’s start with one we wrote about earlier this week, as the Avalanche are, once again, linked to Chris Tanev. With Chris Tanev, the Flames continue to hold and see if a first-rounder (or something they consider comparable) becomes available. Dallas is very much into this, although some teams suspect they like Hanifin, too. Others: Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver. Colorado’s been in and out, as have others. We already talked about this one, so no real need to go further into it. If it costs a first rounder, given the needs the Avalanche have, I doubt they’d be the team to walk away with Tanev. Now let’s get to the new information. Everyone knows the Avalanche are looking for center help, and apparently the Arizona Coyotes have a handful of players that may be available at the NHL Trade Deadline. That team loves their draft picks, so I’m assuming that’s what it would cost. Here’s what Friedman had to say… Colorado’s search for a centre may take them through Arizona. They know Alex Kerfoot, and could also consider Nick Bjugstad. Another Coyote name to watch is Michael Carcone, who was red-hot earlier in the season. He’s got 15 goals. Everyone remembers Alex Kerfoot, right? The Avalanche signed him as a free agent out of College, and it was actually a great signing. After a few solid seasons in the NHL, the Avalanche turned around a dealt him to Toronto in the Nazem Kadri deal. I’d say that worked out. Kerfoot signed in Arizona last summer, and is under contract through next season at $3.5 million. I have a feeling fans might not be super excited about a move like this, but I’ve always liked Kerfoot. He’s a talented playmaker whose put up 31 points so far this year. His underlying numbers have always been pretty solid, but there’s no getting around the fact that he’s a smaller guy. $3.5 million is pretty good value for what he brings, but may not be what the fans want. Nick Bjugstad is an interesting one. He was on our trade board last NHL Trade Deadline, but ended up in Edmonton. He re-signed in Arizona over the summer, and will make $2.1 million next year as well. His offensive numbers in Arizona are quite strong this year (29 points), almost identical to that of Kerfoot, but his underlyings are better. He’s also a very different player at 6’6″. For his size, he’s quite a good skater, so I could definitely see a fit. He’s also a fair bit better in the face-off circle than Kerfoot. Carcone makes $775,000 this year and next, and is putting up Cy Young-esque numbers, with 15 goals and just 5 assists. He’s another smaller guy at 5’10”. Be prepared to hear more names get thrown around over the next two weeks. That’s just what happens around the NHL Trade Deadline. What is everyone’s thoughts on these names? Yay or nay? [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 21, 2024The Philadelphia Flyers improved to 5-1-1 since the All-Star break after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1, at the United Center on Wednesday night. Connor Bedard made his first career appearance against the Flyers on Wednesday but was held in check virtually the entire night. It was Colin Blackwell who scored Chicago’s only goal, and Bedard played no part in making it happen. At the other end, Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny, and Garnet Hathaway scored for the Flyers, and it was Konecny’s 27th of the year that stands as the game-winner. For a player who’s carried the load all season, Konecny’s solo effort to go end-to-end and score over Arvid Soderblom’s shoulder was fitting. Frost Shuts Down Bedard Morgan Frost doesn’t get talked about enough in bigger hockey circles. On Wednesday night, he played the most against Bedard out of any other Flyers center, and the results were incredible. Frost played 9:27 of his 16:27 against Bedard and out-shot the Blackhawks 12-10 during that time, per Natural Stat Trick. Bedard and the Blackhawks did have four high-danger chances during that time, but none of those ended up in the net. Frost also made quick work of Chicago’s other studs, like Alex Vlasic, Kevin Korchinski, and Seth Jones. The Flyers out-shot them 12-3, 11-6, and 14-8, respectively, when No. 48 was on the ice. It was a standout night overall for Philadelphia’s top line, which now consists of Frost, Konecny, and Joel Farabee. At 5-on-5, they out-shot the Blackhawks 23-9, putting on a display of true dominance at the United Center. Konecny scored a goal, and together, the trio produced nine scoring chances to Chicago’s four. That’s not a bad body of work for a night. Ersson Bounces Back Prior to puck drop, I was concerned that the Flyers were starting to overwork Sam Ersson after it was revealed he would make his fourth straight start. Well, the 24-year-old responded with his best performance of those four starts. This was the first time in the last four starts that Ersson finished with a save percentage over .900, dropping a .955 with 21 saves on 22 shots. SAM ERSSON. WHAT A SAVE#PHIvsCHI #LetsGoFlyers pic.twitter.com/BWcctz6s4W — Flyers Clips (@Flyers_Clips) February 22, 2024 Ersson didn’t have a ton of work to do against a Blackhawks team that was clearly inferior, but he made the saves that were asked of him. Some memorable stops that come to mind are the glove save robbery of Taylor Raddysh in the first period and a left-pad save on Philipp Kurashev in the final frame. Overall, the Flyers’ new No. 1 netminder finished with 1.47 goals saved above expected, per Moneypuck. After the results update in the morning, that’ll place Ersson over the likes of Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin for total goals saved above expected on the season. For a player who wasn’t even guaranteed to make the Flyers five months ago, Ersson’s run in the crease has been nothing short of remarkable. Third Line Getting it Done No Tyson Foerster, no problem for these surging Flyers. Their third line, which now consists of Hathaway, Ryan Poehling, and Noah Cates, has been putting in the hard work since being united last week. Hathaway, of course, scored the goal, but he was assisted by Cates (primary) and Poehling (secondary) to help put the game away for Philadelphia. Hathaway’s goal was as simple as crashing the crease and swatting home a rebound, but that’s something the Flyers need more of. If their M.O. is going to be shooting through traffic for rebounds and such, there needs to be players getting to the crease in order to seal the deal. Together, the three weren’t overly impressive at 5-on-5, having gotten out-shot 12-11, but all six of their scoring chances were high danger chances. The Flyers’ defense left a lot of open gaps in transition on Wednesday night, so the scoring chances against aren’t necessarily concerning. Nick Seeler also spent five minutes in the box after fighting Reese Johnson, which threw the defense pairings out of whack for a while. What is encouraging is that the Flyers have found a checking line that can do the work offensively and defensively. Those six high danger scoring chances they created reflect that. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic changes when Foerster returns. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Jason MoserFebruary 21, 2024Jeff Skinner came alive Wednesday night, as the Buffalo Sabres were able to hold off the Montreal Canadiens for a 3-2 regulation win. Skinner was rolling all night along with linemates Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch. Whether it was in the offensive zone, defensive zone, or in transition the Sabres’ top line controlled the game and anchored the Buffalo victory. The Canadiens opened the scoring with a blast from Arber Xhekaj, whose goal and physical play made him a standout player early on. It took until the second period for the Sabres to respond, as Zemgus Girgensons was left all alone in front to tip in a Henri Jokiharju point shot. Jayden Struble regained the lead for Montreal with a point shot of his own bouncing off Peyton Krebs and into the net. The goal was a little fluky, but the Sabres didn’t let that deter them. Jeff Skinner cashed in the equalizer nearly halfway through the second on a great rush play with the man advantage. When the Sabres found themselves shorthanded, Alex Tuch poked one free, walked in on the breakaway, and buried his shot for the eventual game-winner. Must Read: Karmanos in Colorado Impact Players The Skinner, Thompson, and Tuch line was Buffalo’s best. Thompson and Skinner were first and third on the team in individual shot quality, per Evolving-Hockey. The trio accounted for two of the three goals, and all three were over 62% in expected goal-share at even strength. Jacob Bryson and Connor Clifton were also oustanding as a defense pair, with Bryson posting an 87% expected goal-share and Clifton a 77% at even strength. The duo was sheltered a bit, being sent out for the most offensive zone draws, but still did a great job not allowing play the other way. The Difference To put it simply, the Sabres seemed to have that extra push versus the Canadiens on Wednesday. Maybe it was the Montreal crowd, or maybe it was having their dads on the road trip, but Buffalo looked determined to win this one. We had some special lineup card guest stars tonight… They did NOT disappoint 👏 pic.twitter.com/6JCSMSfsfv — Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 22, 2024 Unlike the last game, their mistakes didn’t end up in the back of their net. Plays along the boards had that extra effort. The forecheck and backcheck were in full effect. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made the timely saves. In a mostly low-event game, the Sabres did what they needed to do to win. What’s Next The Sabres will stay on the road as they head to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets on Friday. The Blue Jackets are in action Wednesday night but headed into the evening 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. Columbus sits dead last in the Eastern Conference, with only 44 points in 54 games played going into Wednesday. [...] Read more...
Nate BrownFebruary 21, 2024CHICAGO – It wasn’t as if they didn’t put the effort forward. But in what became a ho-hum game until the late stages of the third period, the Blackhawks struggled to beat Philadelphia’s smothering attack and once again, found themselves in the wrong column of standings. Chicago lost to the Flyers 3-1 Wednesday night. Colin Blackwell, who had the Blackhawks’ lone goal, couldn’t help but wonder if things could have gone a different way. “It’s disappointing–we had some opportunities,” Blackwell said.  “Ultimately, it came down to I think they kind of outworked us in some of the different aspects of the game. I thought it was up for grabs for a little bit. It’s been a little while now, we’ve been unable to get a couple games in a row, stringing some wins together. For me, I hope the other guys feel the same way, too, it’s frustrating. Just doing the little things being able to get the ship moving in the right direction.” Those little things haven’t added up many times this season, another tough loss that saw Arvid Soderblom post 30 saves but have another win elude him–which now makes it just short of three months since he picked up a victory. Head coach Luke Richardson said there really isn’t much more his netminder can do to get that win–other than the obvious: get more goals from his teammates and keep playing well between the pipes. “I think he should just continue to keep playing the same way–I think he’s been solid,” Richardson said.  “There’s not much more he can do. He can’t score the goals to help himself. He does his job. We’ve just got to do our job a little bit better in front of him.” Blackhawks Had Chances but They Didn’t Find the Back of the Net Pick several points in the game where Chicago had some great chances. Tyler Johnson hits iron. Connor Bedard makes a nifty move but it’s kicked away. Blackwell’s chance at a second goal is stuffed. That desire is present but the Blackhawks are unable to find that extra gear to keep pace and take a lead. The Flyers had a two-goal lead heading into the second, more than enough for a team that sits 12th in the league in goal against. Samuel Ersson did the rest, having a few deft saves that kept Chicago off the board as they pressured late. But that’s the point from forward Joey Anderson, who assisted on Blackwell’s goal. The pressure was too late. “I think so much of the game we let the other team start off dictating–we’ve gotta find a way to get four lines into it–get four lines rolling–gonna lead to more success,” Anderson said.  “Guys are going to build off that. Getting in the third period and start doing that , it’s too late.” As has been the motif for most of the season.  To hell with moral victories and repeating many of the same things as they have. Putting that effort in for a full sixty minutes will transfer over–but it will require some of the talent to also fill out around Bedard and company. Yes, the effort is there. But a team with just 15 wins in 57 games has obviously seen the same results due to many of the same issues. But chief among them is scoring multiple goals in a game. “We created as many good chances as them, but unfortunately, they got a couple through and we couldn’t find a rebound at the end,” Richardson said.  “There were one or two that got to the net and just seemed to bounce on the other side of us. We’re back at that stage where we’re having trouble getting that second goal again.” Follow Chicago Hockey Now on Facebook and Twitter Follow Nate on Twitter [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 21, 2024Not everyone was happy that the Philadelphia Flyers were up 3-1 against the Chicago Blackhawks, which gave us our first Nick Seeler fight in nearly two full months. With just over 17 minutes remaining in the third period, Blackhawks forward Reese Johnson made the bad business decision to engage Seeler in a fight, and it went about as poorly as you might expect. It’s not clear what caused the fight in the first place, though Seeler is not the type of guy to back down from a challenge. Nick Seeler and Reese Johnson drop the gloves! 🥊 pic.twitter.com/m8fdCYgFr1 — Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 22, 2024 The Flyers defenseman opens the tilt with a flurry of body shots, all of which connected with the stomach of Johnson. To Johnson’s credit, he did do well to use his left arm defensively to disrupt Seeler and knock his bucket off. That’s about as much good as you can say about Johnson’s performance. Seeler got Johnson off balance with a few overhand rights and proceeded to tackle him to the ice from there. Seeler’s last fight for the Flyers was nearly two months to the day; his most recent fight was against Detroit Red Wings forward Christian Fischer on Dec. 22. Excluding the preseason, this is Seeler’s fourth fight of the season for the Flyers. Overall, the 30-year-old has now participated in 11 fights as a member of the Flyers, which includes one against current teammate Nick Deslauriers, oddly enough. Johnson has been in quite a few fights with the Blackhawks, though he’s only been in two this year, excluding the preseason. Perhaps this fight means more for Seeler and the Flyers as the 2024 NHL trade deadline is fast approaching. Seeler has long been pegged as a candidate to be moved, with multiple NHL teams circling Philadelphia’s players. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024The NFL has decided that one streaming-only playoff game isn’t enough. After streaming the first NFL playoff game on Peacock this past season, the NFL is moving a postseason game to Amazon Prime Video in 2024. Amazon will pay $120 million for the right to stream a Wild Card playoff game after the  2024 season, according to a report by Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports. Amazon had reportedly turned the NFL down in 2023, opening the door for Peacock to stream a Wild Card gale. Amazon already has the contract to stream the NFL Thursday Night Football package and also bid in 2023 for a game on Black Friday, the first in the league’s history. The price for streaming games keeps going up. Amazon paid $100 million for the 2023 standalone Black Friday game. Peacock paid $110 million for its playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins on Jan. 14.  That game had an average audience of 23 million viewers, making it the most-streamed game in NFL history and the most-streamed live U.S. event. The over-the-air Wild Card game in that time slot in 2022 drew 21.8 million on NBC. Fans in the market areas of teams playing in the game have an over-the-air option, like always, but the national audience is consistently being asked to pay up if they want to access all of the NFL’s games live. [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 21, 2024The Montreal Canadiens hosted the Buffalo Sabers on Wednesday, a battle of two teams with the identical amount of points in the NHL standings. Of course, the Sabres did not plan to miss the playoffs this year, whereas it was to be expected for the Habs. Regardless, the Canadiens could not take their opponents lightly as they still have several high-end players in their lineup that can make you pay for a lack of defensive prowess with their above-average, bordering on elite, offensive talent. In the end, Buffalo emerged with a 3-2 win, but the story of the game from a Montreal Canadiens point of view was yet another impressive effort from defenceman Arber Xhekaj. Let’s dive into those highlights! A Quick Note About Goaltending As one of the best road hockey goalies to ever participate in the 1988 Pineview Invitational, which took place on Beaverpond Drive in Gloucester, Ontario, I feel more than qualified when it comes to dissecting goaltender performances in the NHL. With that in mind, I’ll share some jaw-dropping industry secrets. The first is that goaltending is very difficult in the best of situations. The second is that the more you play, the more comfortable you feel. The third is that goaltenders have a very hard time getting over any bad goal they allow. And the fourth is that little Paolo Santos was offside when scored the game-winning goal in the 1988 tournament. He was clearly taking a juice-box break and therefore was not eligible to be part of the play. But to make a long story short, Paolo cheated. And he drank the last apple juice, leaving me with nothing but the sour taste of defeat and diet cranberry juice in my mouth. Oh, and another thing. When it comes to serving as a goaltender in the NHL, the only way to maintain consistency is by getting consistent usage, which certainly has not been the case for Cayden Primeau, Jake Allen, and Samuel Montembeault. It’s an impossibly difficult proposal for any athlete, let alone an NHL goaltender. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve tried to avoid heavy criticism of the trio. Montembeault, the Canadiens’ defacto starter, had only started three games in February prior to his start against the Buffalo Sabres. Ipso facto, we’re not going to worry much if the opposition scores after being given too much time to deflect a point shot, or if they score because a Canadiens player was running interference on his own goalie, as was the case for the first two goals against. Girgensons tips the Jokiharju shot. Tie game. Opposing players have had a little too much time to deflect pucks near the Habs net in the last few weeks. pic.twitter.com/CDU8mTVU1Q — Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 22, 2024 Xhekaj Factor Those of you who follow my recaps know that I’m a fan of Arber Xhekaj’s play. And no, it’s not because he could probably drop a water buffalo with a right hook, or that he stole Zack Kassian’s soul, though that certainly adds to the entertainment factor. It’s because this year, he’s improved his underlying numbers by leaps and bounds. And for some reason, the narrative pushed by many is that he has struggled defensively. It’s not true, at least relative to his teammates. He also provides a relatively healthy amount of offence with his booming point shot, as evidenced by the opening goal of the game. Full marks to Joshua Roy for his hard work on the forecheck which kept the play alive long enough for Xhekaj to score his third goal of the year. Roy had a very good game against Buffalo and was rewarded with his first two-point effort in the NHL. A smart pinch by Savard and some good work by Roy down low leads to another Arber Xhekaj goal. 1-0 #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/d4kkPRL5bf — Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 22, 2024 We have to remember that Xhekaj was not drafted. Hell, he’s the only defenceman in the history of the CHL to go undrafted and then immediately jump into an NHL roster. His lack of pedigree may be the reason some are not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but we certainly should not hold the fact that he defied the odds against him. If anything, it’s a feather in his cap and a good reminder that sometimes the so-called ‘experts’ get it wrong. MUST READ: What I Got Wrong When Analyzing Arber Xhekaj’s NHL Potential Some may expect more from him, but we also have to avoid looking a gift horse in the mouth. The Canadiens did not spend any draft capital acquiring Xhekaj. In terms of asset management, he’s pure profit. And yes, Xhekaj is given third-pairing minutes, but he helps his team win in those minutes, and he does a better job in that situation than any other player in the lineup. As for his game versus the Sabres, Xhekaj continued his solid play by bringing a much-needed physical element to the table. Not only did he remind Casey Mittelstadt to keep his head up on a few occasions, but he also sent Zemgus Girgensons to the shadow realm with a beautiful open-ice hit. On top of it, he led all Habs defencemen with well over 60 percent of the expected goals (xGF%) while he was on the ice. If you can’t understand why Arber Xhekaj immediately became a fan favourite in Montreal, I fear you simply don’t understand hockey. More replays of the huge Xhekaj hit. They don't show it in this clip, but he also made a one-handed clear a few seconds later which almost led to a scoring chance for Suzuki at the other end of the ice. pic.twitter.com/rBEv5zNOUr — Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 22, 2024 Confidence Boost Xhekaj was not the only young defenceman to contribute in the offensive zone on Wednesday night. Jayden Struble also scored his third goal of the year after Peyton Krebs deflected his wrist shot from the point. It should serve as an important confidence boost for Struble, as his play in the defensive zone has left something to be desired in the last few weeks. To be perfectly clear, I’m not blaming Struble for struggling at times. Everyone in the Canadiens lineup struggles at times and he has the least experience of the group. It’s perfectly normal, especially when you’re learning on the job. Struble's third goal of the year comes after a very friendly tip by Krebs. 2-1 #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/zkQFDxkEDw — Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 22, 2024   This Is The Segment In Which I Will Show Jeff Skinner’s Inevitable Goal Versus The Habs Here’s Jeff Skinner’s inevitable goal versus the Habs. Because OF COURSE#LetsGoBuffalo pic.twitter.com/WRfwgnFeHp — Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) February 22, 2024     Cauf-ing Up The Puck The Canadiens tend to allow too many shorthanded goals, pointing to a powerplay that oftentimes lacks conviction. Soft passes are a powerplay sin and on Wednesday Cole Caufield was the ultimate sinner. On that note, Caufield looked off against the Sabres throughout the entire game. I have a sneaking suspicion he picked up a knock recently and he’s playing through the pain. Can't blame Matheson here. Caufield was a little too lackadaisical with the puck. pic.twitter.com/fBTBB21mLm — Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 22, 2024   The Montreal Canadiens are back in action on Thursday. They will face the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET. All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via Natural Stat Trick. [...] Read more...
Chris GawlikFebruary 21, 2024Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon appeared on The Sick Podcast – Eye Test on Wednesday. Injury updates for Mark Stone and Jack Eichel were provided. “Mark was injured last night late in the second period and didn’t play the third.” McCrimmon on Stone’s injury. “He was getting tests this morning and is going to be out a while.” The outlook for Eichel was more promising. “Jack’s rehab has gone on time.” McCrimmon on Eichel’s rehab. “He’s not far off, he’s not ready to go right now. He will be playing in the not-too-distant future.” Options to Replace Stone If there is a positive in Stone’s injury, it is when it happened. The NHL trade deadline is just over two weeks away. Stone has a cap hit of $9.5 million. If Stone’s injury is season-ending, it is a certainty that McCrimmon will utilize the available cap space to make an acquisition or multiple acquisitions to set the Golden Knights up for a deep playoff run. The Golden Knights have their first, second, and third-round draft picks available for the next three seasons. Grigori Denisenko, Brendan Brisson, Mason Morelli, Lukas Cormier, and Daniil Miromanov could be used in potential trades. If Stone’s injury is not season-ending, things will get more complicated heading into the trade deadline. The Golden Knights have under $100,000 of cap space available once Eichel is removed from LTIR and multiple players are sent back down to the Henderson Silver Knights. Coach Bruce Cassidy has the difficult challenge of setting four forward lines on a team missing Eichel, Stone, William Carrier, and Pavel Dorofeyev. Below are the forward lines from Tuesday’s game against the Nashville Predators. Stephenson-Karlsson-Stone Barbashev-Roy-Marchessault Cotter-Howden-Denisenko Morelli-Amadio-Kolesar Cassidy has a few different options to replace Stone internally. Sheldon Rempal may be the player best suited to take Stone’s spot on the line with William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson. Rempal has two goals in five games and plays the type of physical game that Cassidy likes. Brendan Brisson is another option, but Brisson typically plays on the left wing. Cassidy could opt to break up the Ivan Barbashev, Nic Roy, and Jonathan Marchessault line to create more balance among the forwards. Will Cassidy leave Chandler Stephenson on the wing? “It’s situational for Stephenson.” Coach Cassidy on Stephenson playing the wing on Tuesday against the Predators. “It’s not ideal to move him (Stephenson) to the wing with Jack Eichel being out. We’re already down a top center.” The situation has certainly changed, a lot, since Tuesday. Golden Knights fans will get a look at a lineup without Stone and Eichel on Thursday when the Golden Knights Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs are surging with an 8-2 record in their last 10 games. [...] Read more...
Nate BrownFebruary 21, 2024CHICAGO – The Philadelphia Flyers outshot, outmuscled, and ultimately outplayed the Blackhawks to a 3-1 decision that notched Chicago’s ninth loss in its last ten. After an emphatic answer to an early Flyers goal, the Blackhawks never could seize any momentum. The Flyers were on the board first after a Travis Sanheim shot redirected past Arvid Soderblom just over six minutes into the game. Colin Blackwell tied things up after he used a toe drag to fool Flyers defenseman Jamie Drysdale before ripping a shot past Samuel Ersson. But the Flyers would get the next two, one on an individual effort from Travis Konecny and then Garnet Hathaway cleaning up a Soderblom rebound later in the period. The Blackhawks from there struggled to generate any sustained momentum to close out the second period. Soderblom Sharp for Blackhawks At Times No one can sneeze at 15 saves in the first period, but the rebounds that have often haunted him led to a Flyers goal and a two-goal deficit. Now, being outshot 33-23, it’s hardly fair to saddle Soderblom with fault especially since the Blackhawks struggled (again) to put goals on the board. It was a tough night for Blackhawks defensemen, too, as several were outmuscled or simply beaten to the puck–or by an individual effort. Blackwell’s goal ignited some energy, but as the game wore on, appeared an isolated moment as the Blackhawks dropped a ninth game in their last ten. Follow Chicago Hockey Now on Facebook and Twitter Follow Nate on Twitter [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety and defensive backs coach Carnell Lake will be returning to the UFL for a second season as defensive coordinator in 2024, the league announced on Wednesday. Lake will be staying with the Memphis Showboats, who are making the move from the USFL to the UFL as one of eight teams in the new unified league that was formed as a merger of the USFL and XFL. Lake served as the defensive coordinator for the Showboats in 2023 under former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who was the team’s head coach. The Showboats went 5-5 and finished in last place in the USFL South Division. This season, Youngstown, Ohio native, Bill DiFilippo, who had been the head coach of the New Orleans Breakers, will lead the Showboats. The Breakers were one of eight teams that were contracted as part of the merger.  Among the players under contract with the Showboats for 2024 are former Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick and safety Antoine Brooks. Lake, 56, spent one season in the XFL as defensive backs coach of the Tampa Bay Bandits before getting his first crack as a defensive coordinator with the Showboats. He previously served as the Steelers defensive backs coach from 2011-17. He stepped down to spend more time with his family, including his son Quentin, who attended UCLA from 2017-21 before being selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Steelers’ second-round pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, Lake became one of the franchise’s all-time greats at the safety position. He was a five-time All-Pro selection and a five-time Pro Bowler. Lake is a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team, and the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor. He spent 10 of his 12 NFL seasons with the Steelers before finishing his career with one season each with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens in 1999 and 2001.  RELATED: Exclusive with Former Steelers Safety, DB Coach Carnell Lake [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 21, 2024Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback DeShea Townsend is joining the Detroit Lions organization as their passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach. Townsend was fired by the Jaguars, but now finds a spot in Detroit, where he will join Antwaan Randle-El on the staff. Townsend, who played 12 seasons for the Steelers from 1998-2009, has coached in the NFL since 2011. The 48-year-old Townsend spent two seasons working with the Jaguars. Before that, he was the secondary coach of the Chicago Bears under Matt Nagy from 2019-21. Townsend also had stops as the New York Giants assistant defensive backs coach in 2018 and was the Tennessee Titans defensive backs coach under Dick LeBeau, his old defensive coordinator, in 2016-17. Townsend spent three years working at the collegiate level at Mississippi State as cornerbacks coach from 2013-15 and two years as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Arizona Cardinals from 2011-12, working under his former position coach with the Steelers, Ray Horton. The Lions did not have a defensive pass game coordinator in 2023. Aaron Glenn will continue to be the defensive coordinator in Detroit, despite multiple head coach interviews in his cycle. Dré Bly appears to set to return as cornerbacks coach for 2024, so Townsend will likely slot in between those two fellow former NFL cornerbacks. A native of Batesville, Mississippi, the 5-foot-10 Townsend attended the University of Alabama, where he was a three-time All-SEC selection. He was the Steelers’ fourth-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft and the somewhat undersized cornerback hit the NFL at exactly the right time, as passing offenses exploded and teams employing three full-time cornerbacks first became a thing. Townsend played 191 games over his 13-year, 183 of them with the Steelers. He was a part of the team’s Super Bowl XL and XLIII championship teams. His best season came in 2004, when he made 15 starts, intercepted a career-high four passes, returning one of them for a touchdown, and also racked up 56 tackles and four sacks. Despite his deep connections to the Steelers and Mike Tomlin, who coached Townsend for the final three years of his Pittsburgh career, he has never coached for the Steelers. The Steelers have not had an equivalent position to passing game coordinator since Teryl Austin was promoted from senior defensive assistant to defensive coordinator in 2022. [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 21, 2024The Boston Bruins will try to start a new win streak when they kick off a four-game road trip against the Oilers in Edmonton on Wednesday night. This game is actually the first game of a back-to-back Alberta set that will conclude against the Flames in Calgary on Thursday night. After that, the Bruins head to Vancouver to play the current league-leading Canucks. They then close the road trip out in Seattle against the Kraken on Monday night. Here’s your Boston Hockey Now Bruins Game Day Preview: Boston Bruins (33-12-11, 77 pts) vs Edmonton Oilers (33-18-1, 67 pts) Time: 10:08 p.m. ET How to watch: TNT, MAX, TVAS, SNP, SNW, SNE, SN1, SN360 Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub Betting Lines: Money Line: Oilers (-135), Bruins (+114) Puck Line: Oilers -1.5 (+180), Bruins +1.5 (-280) Over/Under: Over 6.5 (+102) Under 6.5 (-122) Don’t forget to use the BHN/Draftkings Promo by clicking here! Bost0n Bruins Notes –David Pastrnak leads the Bruins in goals (35), assists (45), and points with 80 in 56 games. -Jeremy Swayman will start in net. -Winger Jakub Lauko (upper-body) is out; defenseman Hampus Lindholm (knee) is week-to-week; rookie center Matthew Poitras (shoulder) is out for the season, and veteran winger Milan Lucic is on indefinite leave. Boston Bruins Lineup Forwards Brad Marchand – Charlie Coyle – Danton Heinen Jake DeBrusk – Pavel Zacha – David Pastrnak James van Riemsdyk – Morgan Geekie – Anthony Richard Trent Frederic – Jesper Boqvist – Justin Brazeau Defensemen Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy Mason Lohrei – Brandon Carlo Derek Forbort – Parker Wotherspoon Goalies Linus Ullmark Jeremy Swayman Edmonton Oilers Lineup Forwards Warren Foegele –Connor McDavid–Zach Hyman Evander Kane–Leon Draisaitl– Ryan McLeod Mattias Janmark – Dylan Holloway – Corey Perry Sam Gagner -Derek Ryan – Connor Brown Defensemen Mattias Ekholm-Evan Bouchard Darnell Nurse–Cody Ceci Brett Kulak-Vincent Desharnais Goalies Stuart Skinner Calvin Pickard   [...] Read more...
Dave MolinariFebruary 21, 2024CRANBERRY — Kyle Dubas remained noncommittal Wednesday about whether the Pittsburgh Penguins will be buyers or sellers — or neither — between now and the March 8 NHL trade deadline. That decision, he suggested, will be determined by how the Penguins perform — and where they stand in the Eastern Conference playoff race — as the deadline gets closer. Dubas did, however, seem to rule out a full-scale makeover of his roster when he spoke of the impact four key veterans — centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and defensemen Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson — can have not only on the current team, but on younger players who join it on coming seasons. And those four aren’t the only ones who appear to have job security with the Penguins, at least in the short term, because Dubas, who is the Penguins’ president of hockey operations and GM,  said he has not approached any player with a no-movement or no-trade clause in his contract to waive it so that he can be sent to another club. That can change with a single phone call, of course, but for the moment, it means that no fewer than 13 of the 26 players currently on the major-league payroll — a total that includes injured forwards Jake Guentzel, Noel Acciari and Matt Nieto and No. 3 goalie Magnus Hellberg, who is on emergency recall from the Penguins’ farm team in Wilkes-Barre –have contracts that include either a no-movement or limited no-trade provision. Crosby, Letang, Karlsson, Malkin, Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter have no-movement protections, which means the Penguins cannot put them anywhere except on their major-league roster without their permission, while Rickard Rakell, Reilly Smith, Marcus Pettersson, Ryan Graves, Tristan Jarry, Guentzel and Acciari can specify some teams — how many varies from contract to contract — to which they do not have to accept a trade. Guentzel’s list includes 12 teams, which means more than a third of the league could be off-limits in trade talks if Dubas decides to deal him rather than allow Guentzel to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He is eligible to come off injured-reserve March 10; whether the Pittsburgh Penguins still will be the team issuing his paychecks then remains to be seen. “How our team continues to play will dictate the short-term answer (about Guentzel’s future here),” Dubas said. “We’ll continue to have discussions leading up to (the deadline). Then afterward, with where it’s at.” Although Guentzel has been the subject of most of the trade speculation swirling around the Penguins in recent weeks, a Canadian TV report said the Penguins are willing to entertain offers for anyone except Crosby, Letang or Malkin. While Dubas did not confirm that report, he did acknowledge that “we’ve received a lot of calls on a lot of our players, especially as our team has been in the spot that it’s at.” How seriously he’s taking those inquiries, at least for now, isn’t clear, and Dubas seems reluctant to begin moving players out just yet. “Out of respect to the group here and what they’ve accomplished, I’m trying to be as patient as possible,” he said. “Give the group the time … to show that we can really make a push and make a run at (a playoff berth).” If the Penguins do make a run, it figures to be something of a marathon, since they’re eight points out of the second wild-card spot in the East and nine out of third place in the Metropolitan Division. “You look today at the standings, it’s a daunting task,” Dubas said. “Is the group capable of it? Yes. We’ve shown this year that we are. But we’re running out of time.” The Penguins (24-21-8) have just 29 games remaining, beginning with one against Montreal Thursday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena, and are far deeper in the standings than they expected to be coming out of training camp. “Where we’re at right now is not where we aspired to be at the beginning,” Dubas said. “And where we aspire to be now.” But it is the harsh reality of where the Pittsburgh Penguins are. On the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff field. And nearing a crossroads for the near- and long-term futures of the franchise. [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 21, 2024Pittsburgh Steelers star defensive lineman Cam Heyward underwent surgery, he posted to his Instagram story. And now, we know what the surgery was for, as NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the procedure was related to his groin and core muscle surgery and was a clean-up procedure that he needed. Looks like Steelers DL Cam Heyward underwent an offseason surgery pic.twitter.com/KZIM989YiN — Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 19, 2024 Throughout the season, the groin injury plagued him, even after returning. Heyward has discussed the injury he suffered at the 49ers at length. First, he stated that he had micro tears dating back to training camp, and they tried to rest it. But when he played against the 49ers, he tore the muscle off the bone, requiring surgery. At some point, while trying to compensate for it, he injured his other groin, too. Heyward should have missed 12 weeks after his surgery, but powered back far quicker than that. Heyward said that in addition to surgery during the season and the new groin injury, he had a knee issue that kept him from practicing fully throughout almost the entire season after his return. “I had my groin, then overcompensating with my other groin,” he said. “There was stuff on top of that, like my knee. It was a grind just to get ready for each game. It wasn’t by choice that I didn’t want to practice. It was ‘get me to the game.’ I don’t like that doing that. I don’t like playing football that way. I don’t ever want to cheat the game. I don’t ever want to think I’m not going to be 100%. But that was the cards I was dealt this year. It was a lot.” Heyward won the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award last week in Las Vegas. He joined Franco Harris (1976), Joe Greene (1979), Lynn Swann (1981) and Jerome Bettis (2001) as the only Steelers players to receive the prestigious honor. The honor is bestowed annually to a player who not only excels on the field, but also with their service in their community. [...] Read more...
Zachary SmithFebruary 21, 2024Welcome to the Steelers Afternoon Drive, our new daily podcast featuring all the latest Steelers news. Alan Saunders and Zachary Smith are back to discuss all things Pittsburgh Steelers. Derrik Klassen of 33rd Team and Bleacher Report joins the show to talk some quarterbacks! What will the market for Mason Rudolph look like, and should be he even want to return to Pittsburgh or seek outside opportunities? Does the Justin Fields fit make sense given Arthur Smith’s offense and the draft capital required to pull off such a move? Is there reason for optimism that Kenny Pickett can improve within this offense? Let’s go for another Steelers Afternoon Drive and discuss! Check out the show on the our YouTube page, or find it on Megaphone or wherever you get your podcasts. Got a question for the guys? Leave a comment on YouTube, here on the website, or find them on Twitter at @ASaunders_PGH and @ZacharySmithPGH  Hey Steelers fans! We want to see your black and gold rides! Show us your car, truck or van that’s painted in Pittsburgh colors, decorated with logos or Terrible Towels, covered in bumper stickers, or uses some other way to show off your dedication to the Black and Gold. [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 21, 2024The realistic packages have varied if the Pittsburgh Steelers are interested in landing Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields. The theories have been anything from a first-round pick to maybe a third-round pick and some change to get it done. Appearing on ESPN 1000, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport believes that not only will the Bears not move off the first overall pick, but that they can get a solid haul for Fields, whether that be from the Steelers or another team. “I think the Bears could get a premium pick, a second-rounder, maybe more,” Rapoport said. “They’re in a really good spot getting so many picks no matter what they do.” But ESPN did their own trade projection on Wednesday. Field Yates concocted a potential deal that he thinks makes sense for Pittsburgh and Chicago. The final results? a 2024 second-round pick and one of their fourth-round picks to land Fields. “While coach Mike Tomlin recently pledged support for quarterback Kenny Pickett, who was a 2022 first-round pick, I would not be going out on a limb by proclaiming the Steelers need to consider other options. Fields would provide a dynamic dimension to the Steelers’ offense, and I’d be pursuing this aggressively if I were Pittsburgh. The Steelers ranked outside the top 20 in completion percentage (63.8%), touchdown passes (13), yards per attempt (6.8) and QBR (41.6) last season,” Yates wrote. It’s unknown if the Steelers, or even Fields himself, would want to make a run at the partnership. Though, it is clear that Fields at least wants the saga about his future to end. “Of course I want to stay,” Fields said on the St. Brown Brothers Podcast. “I can’t see myself playing in another place. If it was up to me, I would want to stay in Chicago. I love the city. The city’s lit. The fans are great. It’s a business; I ain’t got no control over it. The biggest thing with all this going on I just want to it to be over. Let me know if I’m getting traded let me know if I’m staying.” Fields took a small step forward in 2023, his third year as Chicago’s starting quarterback. The 24-year-old Ohio State alum threw 370 times, completing 227 for 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns. He threw nine interceptions and maintained an 86.3 passer rating and a 5.29 adjusted net yards per attempt. Last season, he was 192 of 318 for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, an 85.2 quarterback rating and 4.63 adjusted net yards per attempt. Fields is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Bears — or another team, if he’s traded — must decide this offseason if they want to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract. That would be a guaranteed $25 million contract for 2025. The Bears or another club could also attempt to negotiate a traditional contract extension. [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 21, 2024CRANBERRY — Pittsburgh Penguins president Kyle Dubas had the same thought as many of us. The team needed a shakeup and needed a trade. Dubas addressed that possibility as well as Jake Guentzel’s future, Mike Sullivan’s requests, and why you should not expect to see a tear it down, burn it down, rebuild. Guentzel’s future has been a hot topic amongst the national rights holders up north. First, the Vancouver Canucks were reportedly hot on Guentzel’s trail. Then it was the Edmonton Oilers. Dubas may have tipped his hand Wednesday, though he certainly used enough other words to give his team a longer runway to get back into the playoff race and avoid saying he would trade the most prolific winger to play beside Sidney Crosby in franchise history. Also, as a headline note, Dubas wants to make the team younger. That means grooming prospects such as Brayden Yager, Owen Pickering, and goalie Joel Blomqvist, as well as acquiring younger players. As a backdrop to getting younger, Dubas plans to rely on the core plus Erik Karlsson, whom he inferred was now part of the core four, as the north stars and mentors for the young players. Jake Guentzel Have you ever heard the old expression to ignore everything before the word “but”? “It’s obviously at the forefront … I think the way our whole strategy plays out in the next two-and-a-half weeks, how our team continues to play, will dictate the answer at the trade deadline,” Dubas said. “We’ll continue to have those discussions leading up to that and then afterward. But I would say I understand how valuable he’s been as a teammate, a person in the community, and as a contributor helping this team win a Stanley Cup. So, it’s important, but we have to take stock of where we are at and be realistic about the fact that one of the issues we have is a need to get younger. We have a lot of guys in their 30s signed. Some of them are the best players in the history of the franchise.” Those words could be heard and read a few different ways, but the words after “but” sure seemed to indicate that Guentzel will not be a Penguins winger next season, and if the team isn’t in the playoff race very soon, he won’t be a Penguins winger past March 8. Also conspicuous by its absence was any reference to contract talks. NHL Trade Deadline/Penguins Rebuild At the beginning of the press conference, Dubas admitted that his answers regarding the NHL trade deadline would leave us wanting more, if not be outright unsatisfying. However, he couldn’t help but give away a little bit of the Penguins’ immediate future. You will not see a firesale, nor a teardown rebuild, not while Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Karlsson are here. Dubas’s reliance on the new big four created the foundation for his answers, as well as his strategy moving forward. The Hall of Famers will serve as the foundation for the young players he hopes to acquire or groom. He pointed to more things we will not see: the Penguins will not deal away their draft capital. They don’t have much left, and they’re not parting with what they have to improve in the short term. “I still believe our group is capable. There have been many times when we show that (and) there are also times when I understand why anyone would have that question. I think everyone in the room accepts that,” Dubas said. “My view of it is I can’t see us moving future draft capital at this point to bolster the team. “At the same time, are there moves that will allow us to add good younger players to the organization that can help expedite things here and help us support the group that’s already here? We’re trying to work through all of that. But I can’t see us expending a ton of our future draft capital this year.” Dubas made no reference, passing, faint, or otherwise, that any of the Penguins’ stars could ever wear a different sweater. The Penguins will instead lean on their big four to mentor those who will follow. Of course, if the core players were not of Hall of Fame caliber, with a few Stanley Cup rings, or in Karlsson’s case, a few Norris Trophies, they would not earn the same latitude to fight until the last possible moment to get back into the playoff race. That was another big takeaway from Dubas’s presser: He’s erased the last deadline to make decisions. The Penguins have until March 8 to pull out of the tailspin which has gripped the team, leading to a 1-4-1 record in their last six. With the season on the line, the team has sputtered, but like many, Dubas doesn’t want to believe a team with that many talented players can’t get it together. He’s going to give every second possible before he pulls the plug. “I think if the group didn’t have the pedigree that it has or the history that it has, I wouldn’t feel that they’re owed that same latitude,” Dubas said. “But I feel that this group, in respecting them, what they’ve accomplished in the past here, and how proud they are, I just think even others may not agree, but I think that’s the right and fair thing to do. It’s been outlined to them. They know what’s at stake.” Dubas affirmed he had not asked any player to waive a no-trade or no-movement clause. Possible Trade? Dubas also recognized the Penguins have been in need of a shakeup trade. In one of the more candid moments, the GM conceded he looked for a hockey trade, the kind of which former GM Jim Rutherford was both famous and infamous. None are available. “We’ve explored that in the last several weeks going into the All-Star break, and we’ve tried it this year. I’ve found that those opportunities have been less, and there haven’t been many like that,” the president of hockey operations said. “The two trades that have been made have been expiring contracts for futures. So we’ve tried to give that element of the shakeup. I’m not usually a huge proponent of it, but I felt that was where our group was at, especially coming out of the break. “Not having a really strong surge out of (the All-Star break) that was one of the things we tried to do and continue to try to do. Just the opportunities to do it haven’t really been there.” Odds and Ends Dubas and coach Mike Sullivan speak every day, if not several times per day. Unlike other coaches who request X player or specific assets, Dubas said Sullivan allows him to do the shopping and offers his input. “I’ve had coaches that I’ve worked with before that have said, ‘Can you go and get this player, that player.’ Mike and I don’t work that way. The way we tend to operate is I’ll say to him, ‘Here’s the opportunities we have. Here’s where we’re at. What do you think of this?’ He’ll largely say, if you think it’s the right thing for the team, then let’s do it.” But asking for specific players, “I don’t think that’s his style at all.” Fans “They’re doing their part, and if they can continue to do that, that’s a massive help to the players in the organization.” [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024NFL Network analyst Steve Wyche threw a big bucket of cold water on the speculating linking the Pittsburgh Steelers as a potential trade destination for Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields. In an appearance on the NFL Network’s NFL Report podcast on Tuesday, Wyche, who was in attendance at the HBCU Combine alongside Steelers general manager Omar Khan, said while there is a scheme and need fit between the Steelers and Fields, that people are missing a key part of the equation when it comes to Pittsburgh’s potential desire add to the Chicago passer. That is that new Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, when he was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, was part of a front office that passed on drafting Fields, despite a need at quarterback with the pending departure of Matt Ryan. The Falcons had the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, with quarterbacks going 1-2-3 ahead of them. The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised no one by taking Trevor Lawrence. Zach Wilson was an upset pick to go to the New York Jets and the San Francisco 49ers traded up to get Trey Lance at No. 3. That left the Falcons on the clock and Fields the only realistic option at quarterback. But the Falcons took tight end Kyle Pitts instead, a player that always seemed to be a questionable fit in Smith’s offense and never reached his full potential. “This conversation about the Steelers continues to intrigue me, because Arthur Smith, when he was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, he wanted no parts of Justin Fields,” Wyche said. “He had the possibility to draft him. They took Kyle Pitts. … Why now, all of sudden, would the head coach who designed the offense taking a liking to Justin Fields?  “That’s why this conversation on the Steelers, and Arthur Smith and how he’d be a perfect fit … Why? Arthur Smith didn’t want him once. Why would he want him right now I maybe be completely off base, but I don’t see that.” It seems unlikely that the Steelers will trade for Fields, who will probably cost at least a second-day pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. President Art Rooney II said as much earlier this month, and the Steelers are not looking for a quarterback to replace Kenny Pickett as the team’s starter, multiple outlets have reported. That hasn’t stopped the speculation linking the Steelers and Fields from swirling, but Wyche brings up a good point that the fit isn’t even a particularly obvious one, in addition to the obvious reasons why the move is unlikely. [...] Read more...
Nate BrownFebruary 21, 2024The Chicago Blackhawks (15-38-3) take on the Philadelphia Flyers (29-20-7) tonight at 6:30pm in the United Center. Previously on Blackhawks Hockey: The Blackhawks fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3, extending their road losing streak to 21 games. Connor Bedard added a goal and two assists–giving him six (2-4) in his three games back from injuries. How to Watch and Listen TV: TNT Radio: WGN 720 Scouting the Opponent & Miscellaneous Musings The injury bug tried bite at morning skate with an errant puck getting Seth Jones up high–but he was cleared per head coach Luke Richardson. Arvid Soderblom gets the nod tonight. The Blackhawks try to get another home win as they welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to the United Center. The Flyers still sit third in the division, holding onto a playoff spot in the ultra competitive Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division. So there’s something for them to play for as well, trying to decide as the trade deadline nears if they are going to be buyers or sellers. The Blackhawks meanwhile have scored a combined seven goals in their last three games after struggling to find the back of the net in 14 games. They’d tally 20, but saw eight games where they scored one or fewer goals. Soderblom hasn’t been in net for a win since November 24. It’s been an expected boost having Bedard back–and he’s been even better than initially thought. So does it continue tonight? Can the Hawks notch their second win in their last three, after having an eight-game slide before they knocked off Ottawa on Saturday night? Follow Chicago Hockey Now on Facebook and Twitter Follow Nate on Twitter [...] Read more...
Colby GuyFebruary 21, 2024Can Alexander Barabanov turn his season around? Barabanov, just nine points in 34 games this season, after averaging 0.63 Points Per Game in his first three seasons with the San Jose Sharks, thinks so: “I know I’m a good player.” The Russian winger will get another chance to show it on Saturday. After his first healthy scratch of the season on Monday, head coach David Quinn said today that Barabanov will draw back in against the Nashville Predators, likely higher in the line-up. “He and I talked today before practice,” Quinn said. “He’s gone through a lot this year, he is going to be an unrestricted free agent, so there’s a lot to it.” Barabanov, 29, making $2.5 million AAV, is set to become a UFA after this season. “I try not to think about this, but everybody reminds me about this,” Barabanov said. “Yeah, of course I think about this. I’m human.” Barabanov isn’t just thinking about himself either. He and his wife Valeriia just had their second child this past summer. ”It affects guys differently,” Quinn said of the Mar. 8 Trade Deadline. “Some guys don’t get affected by it, some guys get affected by it a little, some guys get affected by it a lot. So it may cause a little hesitation . “The mind is . Sports is so fast. If you’re just a little off, you look like a completely different player. And I think that can happen to people in his situation.” Besides that, Barabanov missed over a month with a finger injury from Oct. 24 to Dec. 3. When he came back, he was playing some of his best hockey this season with a four-game point streak upon his return, but hit a roadblock soon after that via a bout with COVID around Christmas. He didn’t skate for six days, missed two games, and returned to the line-up cold on Dec. 27. He has just two goals and two assists in 20 games since. “When you prepare all summer for a season, and then you’re out for one month, it’s always hard to come back,” Barabanov said. “After when I broke my finger, I went on the ice and looked good, and then I got COVID. And again, you start again like it’s a new season. It’s tough.” The Russian winger says he’s 100 percent right now. ”He’s had a hard time getting in a rhythm,” Quinn said. Quinn added: “It’s at no fault of anybody. There’s just been some inconsistencies. There’s been some real good moments for him since he’s been back, but there’s been the down moments and we just kind of have to eliminate those bad shifts, those bad situations, so, as we’ve talked about, when you’re bad, you’re bad, we just have to raise the floor a bit on his bad shifts.” We saw an example of that in Barabanov’s last shift, on Boone Jenner’s last-second game-winner in a 4-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 17. Barabanov Going Wrong Way in Sharks Line-Up at Wrong Time (+) Barabanov, who has usually played heavy minutes with the likes of Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture in his previous three seasons, has also had to adjust to new linemates with both of the San Jose Sharks’ top centermen dealing with a slew of injuries this year. ”Of course, it’s tough when you lose good players,” Barabanov said. “But we have what we have.” And that’s who he has to work with if he wants to end the season with a statement. To do that, Quinn wants Barabanov to stop “forcing plays”: “Usually, you don’t generate offense by chasing offense, you generate offense by doing a few things in the game that lead to it.” According to Quinn, for Barabanov, that’s “skating and physical, not killing people, just strong on pucks, 50-50 battles, and moving pucks.” [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 21, 2024Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm did not join his teammates on their current four-game road trip that begins on Wednesday night against the Oilers in Edmonton. Hampus Lindholm fell awkwardly after taking a knee-on-knee hit mid-way through the third period of the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Monday. “I don’t have anything concrete yet,” Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said after the game. “We’ll know more .” There was no update from Montgomery or the team on Tuesday, as they had a travel day with no media availability. However, they did announce that they had re-assigned forward Oskar Steen to the Providence Bruins, placed rookie center Matthew Poitras on long-term injured reserve, and recalled defenseman Mason Lohrei. The latter move obviously raised a red flag when it came to Lindholm’s status for the road trip that also sees the Bruins play the Calgary Flames (Thursday), Vancouver Canucks (Saturday) and the Seattle Kraken on Monday. Per Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe, following the Bruins’ game-day skate at Rogers Place on Wednesday, Montgomery informed the assembled media that Lindholm is not on the trip and his status is week-to-week as he recovers from – while Montgomery would not confirm it – is believed to be a knee injury.   update: Lindholm will not be on 4-game trip. Will be assessed week to week. — Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) February 21, 2024   Montgomery ruled out possibility of surgery re: Lindholm. — Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) February 21, 2024   That’s good news on Lindholm not needing surgery, but for a Boston Bruins team that has allowed four goals or more in its last seven games, the question now is how they will tighten up and tread water with their second-pairing left-side defenseman out for at least the next four games? There’s no doubt that with just one goal and 18 assists in 56 games this season, Lindholm has regressed offensively after he scored ten goals, had 43 assists, and was a +49 in 80 games last season. That being said, he has still been strong defensively and does a lot of the little things the common eye won’t notice, but his teammates and Montgomery appreciate. That understandably can’t be said for a 23-year-old rookie like Lohrei, who has three goals and three assists but is a minus 4 in his first 27 NHL games. So does that mean Lindholm’s injury will force Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney’s hand and see him make a trade weeks ahead of the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline? Could the Noah Hanifin to the Bruins rumors finally become a reality? Stay tuned.       [...] Read more...
James NicholsFebruary 21, 2024The New Jersey Devils have been on a roller coaster ride since they returned from the All-Star break. Nico Daws and Co. have accrued a 4-3-1 record since Feb. 6th and have on some nights made their fans a believer in them again, and on other nights have ripped that encouragement away. It seems like sometimes the Devils haven’t been able to get out of their own way. However, they soon might have one less obstacle as one of their division rivals might voluntarily step out of their way in the playoff race. According to a report, the Pittsburgh Penguins could end up becoming sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline. According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun on the latest Insider Trading, general manager Kyle Dubas is seemingly listening on all of his players, excluding “the core.” “From talking to people around the league over the last couple of days, Kyle Dubas is listening on pretty much everyone on his roster other than his core guys,” LeBrun explained. “That still leaves a lot of players that he’s listening on. For example, a player he’s listening on is Reilly Smith who is not a pending (unrestricted free agent). He’s got another year on his deal at $5 million next year. But, he’s a (Stanley) Cup champion, he has playoff experience and I know that may intrigue a few contenders, he’s somewhere on their list. So, the Penguins will be in sell mode to some degree between now and March 8th.” Smith, one of the players Dubas is listening to offers on, is struggling this season with just 10 goals and 23 points in 47 games. However, the 32-year-old is known as a clutch goal-scorer and the Penguins could certainly receive a bit of value in return. Regardless, the Penguins potentially selling over the next two-plus weeks certainly has its implications for the Devils. Currently, the Penguins sit four points back of the Devils in the Eastern Conference Standings with two games in hand on New Jersey. However, if the Penguins do, in fact, sell, they’re essentially bowing out for the remainder of the season. As a result, that would be one less team the Devils need to worry about to sneak into the playoffs. Although, Dubas is reportedly not going to move the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Erik Karlsson. Despite the Penguins underperforming, it’s a fool’s errand to count out any Crosby-led team. If and when the Penguins sell-off, the Devils are essentially in a five-team foot race for playoff position with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, and Washington Capitals. For more Devils news, visit New Jersey Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @NJDHockeyNow, @JamesNicholsNHL And on Threads: @JamesNicholsNHL [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024Of the potential Pittsburgh Steelers first-round draft pick options that will be attending the 2024 NFL Combine in Indianapolis next week, few will have more to prove than Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims. Mims is a fascinating prospect, who combines an incredible athletic profile with size and strength in spades. He profiles as the kind of prospect that the Steelers could bookend with his former college teammate Broderick Jones, moving Jones back to the left size and locking down their tackle position for a decade or more. The only problem with that idea, and the reason that Mims will likely be available when the Steelers pick at No. 20 overall in the first round, is that he only played in eight college games. Mims is coming out after his true junior season, making him one of the youngest players in the 2024 NFL Draft class. He also played at Georgia while the Bulldogs were winning back-to-back College Football Playoff National Championships in 2021 and 2022. In 2021, he was behind Jamaree Salyer, now with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Warren McClendon, now with the Los Angeles Rams. In 2022, it was McClendon and Jones that locked down the starting roles for the Bulldogs. It wasn’t until McClendon was injured in the 2022 SEC Championship Game that Mims got a chance to shine, and he did. Playing right tackle against Ohio State and TCU, he helped shepherd Georgia to two straight wins and a national title. In 2023, after patiently waiting his turn for two seasons, Mims was expected to get a full season of run as a starter, only to suffer a high ankle sprain in the first SEC game of the season against South Carolina. Mims returned for regular-season finale against Ole Miss, but did not participate in the Orange Bowl after Georgia was not selected to play in the CFP, leaving him with just eight collegiate starts under his belt. Mims also didn’t go to Mobile to play in the Senior Bowl, leaving the NFL Combine as the first chance for a lot of teams to get to know him, hear his story, and understand why such a talented athletic package has such a short resume. “For Mims, the most important thing is answering that question,” ESPN NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller said in a conference call with Steelers Now on Tuesday. “You only started eight games. Where are you at coming back from the injury? I thought he looked good coming back this year, I think it was an ankle injury he came back from. I thought he looked great just as soon as he got back on the field.  “But you’re going to have to spend a lot of time with offensive line coaches if you’re Amarius Mims and let those guys see who you are. But I’m confident after we watch him work out, that it’s going to be one of the best workouts at the combine for offensive line if not the best workout for offensive linemen. Someone is going to talk themselves into, OK if we can get him consistently on the field. It’s a little bit misleading. It’s not that he only started eight games because he was always hurt or because he wasn’t good. Georgia had a great offensive line. He had to wait his turn. As soon as he got his turn, late in 2022, he was amazing, and then unfortunately got hurt this year.  “That’s the story that he needs to tell. Great teammate, I waited my turn. When I got my opportunity, I played as well as anyone in the country, and then unfortunately suffered an injury that he came back from instead of just opting out and saying no I’ll sit it out and go to the NFL. That’s what I’d be telling him to say in those 15-min speed dating interviews they get next week.” Miller believes that the Steelers would be getting a very good value if Mims falls to them at No. 20 and they snap up their second first-round Georgia tackle in as many years. “He only had eight starts in college, but those eight starts are as good as any lineman in this class,” Mims said. “That’s the thing that makes you excited about him, and I why I think, at 20, he’s actually good value. A college right tackle, I thought last year that Broderick Jones would be an NFL left tackle, so now you have the ability to get these two back together.” [...] Read more...
Bob DuffFebruary 21, 2024It was the old Red Wings getting the better of the future Red Wing in Wednesday’s Champions Hockey League final. Swiss club Servette Geneva edged Sweden’s Skelleftea 3-2 in the title game to determine the top club team in Europe. In posting the victory, Servette Geneva forward Valterri Filppula was also making hockey history. He’s the last active player from Detroit’s most recent Stanley Cup winner in 2007-08. Filppula is also among 30 players who are members of the triple gold club. He’s captained Finland to gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics and the IIHF World Hockey Championship. Valtteri Filppula since leaving the NHL in 2021: -Olympic gold-WC gold (& Triple Gold membership!)-Swiss champion-President's Trophy, for impact on Finnish hockey-CHL champion Winner. pic.twitter.com/vJdlGhvycj — the val, pwhl enthusiast🦊⚧ (@Valpix666) February 20, 2024 However, once he was hoisting the Champions Hockey League trophy aloft on Wednesday, Filppula was joining a club of which he is the only member. No player previously was showing Stanley Cup, Olympic and world titles and a Champions League crown on their hockey resumes. “I am happy to join other big European names with my record,” Filppula told RTSsport.ch. “I was lucky to be able to play for so long and to have been part of teams capable of winning. It makes me proud.” Filppula would dish out an assist on Sakari Manninen’s first-period power-play goal that gave Servette Geneva the lead at 2-1. In 13 CHL games, he would account for three goals and seven assists. Filppula tallied twice in the Swiss club’s semifinal win over Finland’s Lukko Rauma. Toista kertaa Euroopan mestarina. #CHLFinal2024 @officialGSHC @JYPJyvaskyla@championshockey pic.twitter.com/77fgNMwOSf — hilkka olkinuora (@hilkkao) February 20, 2024 Also playing a key role in the victory for the Swiss team was goaltender Jussi Olkinuora. Earning the win, the Finnish netminder was turning aside 23 shots. After signing with the Red Wings last season, Olkinuora spent the first half of the 2022-23 campaign with the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins prior to returning to Europe. Red Wings Prospect Sandin Pellikka Blanked Not so fortunate on the day was 2023 Red Wings draftee Axel Sandin Pellikka. Only recently back from an upper-body injury he suffered while playing for Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Championship, defenseman Sandin Pellikka was held off the scoresheet. The 17th player chosen in last year’s NHL entry draft saw 14:21 of ice time during the contest. He had three blocked shots. [...] Read more...
Dave MolinariFebruary 21, 2024The Pittsburgh Penguins have placed blue-collar forward Colin White on waivers. If he is not claimed by another team by 2 p.m. Thursday, the Penguins could assign him to their farm team in Wilkes-Barre, although they have no obligation to do so. White, who earned a contract after coming to training camp on a professional tryout, does not have any goals or assists in 11 NHL games this season. [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 21, 2024A comparison of the Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha scoring statistics this morning makes no sense if you have followed the careers of both former Red Wings. Mantha has 17 goals in 50 games for the Washington Capitals. Bertuzzi has seven goals in 53 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs. At the start of this season, Toronto fans were excited about Bertuzzi signing with the Maple Leafs. Fans believed he was going to be a difference-maker. At the start of this season, Washington fans viewed Mantha as an ongoing disappointment. Six months later, Bertuzzi has one goal in his past 21 games, while Mantha has five goals and four points for nine points in his past 10 games. Mantha started this season on the fourth line in Washington and is currently playing on Washington’s second line. The increase of Mantha’s offensive production has prompted speculation that the Capitals will be able to trade him to a playoff team before the March 8 trade deadline. Best Season as Cap With 17 goals, 28 points and a +6 plus-minus, Mantha is headed toward his best season since the Red Wings traded him to Washington in 2020-21. Both Bertuzzi and Mantha will be unrestricted free agents this summer The Bertuzzi struggles are more surprising than Mantha’s recent success. Bertuzzi had two 20-goal seasons, and one 20-goal seasons in Detroit. He was an impact player, even when he didn’t have the puck. His teammates loved his tenacity and pluckiness.  Bertuzzi was popular with his teammates. After he was traded at the last trade deadline to Boston, Bruins quickly became a fan of his game. Bruins management liked how well he played in the postseason (Five goals, five assists, 10 points) and tried to re-sign him. But the Ontario native opted to sign with the Maple Leafs. To fit into the Maple Leafs’ cap situation, he took a one-year deal for $5.5 million. The Bertuzzi storyline was his was betting on himself. If he played as well as everyone expected he would, Bertuzzi would be rewarded with a lucrative, long-term deal. Salary Cut? Unless he picks up the offensive pace or stars in the postseason, Bertuzzi may be losing the bet on himself. He is on  pace for an 11-goal season. It doesn’t help that he is -7 in his past eight games. It’s not as if he isn’t playing with top players. He’s currently on a line with William Nylander, and he’s been with Auston Matthews or John Tavares at times A Toronto insider said Bertuzzi has not been as feisty and aggressive as fans hoped he would be. There’s still time for him to turn his season around. The Maple Leafs have 28 games remaining, and Bertuzzi’s game — at least the game he showed in Detroit — was made for the playoffs. If Bertuzzi has a strong playoff, all will be forgiven. However, if he doesn’t turn up the volume on his offense, then the bet on himself will cost him. He probably will not be offered the same $5.5 million he earned this season.   [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 21, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers and Justin Fields have become the most popular offseason rumors so far. Most analysts see the fit as a natural one that could help upgrade the team’s quarterback room, but it’s unknown if the Steelers, or even Fields himself, would want to make a run at the partnership. Though, it is clear that Fields at least wants the saga about his future to end. “Of course I want to stay,” Fields said on the St. Brown Brothers Podcast. “I can’t see myself playing in another place. If it was up to me, I would want to stay in Chicago. I love the city. The city’s lit. The fans are great. It’s a business; I ain’t got no control over it. The biggest thing with all this going on I just want to it to be over. Let me know if I’m getting traded let me know if I’m staying.” Fields commented just a bit about the Steelers and Pittsburgh, recalling his rookie year experience there. While the Bears did lose that game, Fields led a rallying comeback that nearly allowed Chicago to pull off the win. “Pittsburgh was lit, too,” Fields said. “I remember going there my rookie year. We went over there, too.” Fields noted that Acrisure Stadium and Pittsburgh was his favorite non-home stadium. His only time playing there was on Monday Night Football. Fields took a small step forward in 2023, his third year as Chicago’s starting quarterback. The 24-year-old Ohio State alum threw 370 times, completing 227 for 2,562 yards and 16 touchdowns. He threw nine interceptions and maintained an 86.3 passer rating and a 5.29 adjusted net yards per attempt. Last season, he was 192 of 318 for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, an 85.2 quarterback rating and 4.63 adjusted net yards per attempt. Fields is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Bears — or another team, if he’s traded — must decide this offseason if they want to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract. That would be a guaranteed $25 million contract for 2025. The Bears or another club could also attempt to negotiate a traditional contract extension. Appearing on ESPN 1000, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport believes that not only will the Bears not move off the first overall pick, but that they can get a solid haul for Fields, whether that be from the Steelers or another team. “I think the Bears could get a premium pick, a second-rounder, maybe more,” Rapoport said. “They’re in a really good spot getting so many picks no matter what they do.” So, it seems likely that the cost will end up being at least a second-round pick to get Fields from the Bears, especially with other teams in the conversation. Rapoport answered ‘definitely’ that all of the Steelers, Falcons, and Raiders were teams to watch. [...] Read more...
Dave MolinariFebruary 21, 2024CRANBERRY — The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t been sellers at the NHL trade deadline since 2006. Then again, it’s also been a long time since they were in as perilous of a position in the standings as they are now. In the wake of their 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena, the Penguins are eight points out of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot and nine out of third place in the Metropolitan Division President of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas hasn’t said whether he plans to be a buyer or seller — or even whether he’s made that decision — but his players are aware that significant personnel changes could be coming. “It’s a possibility,” said winger Rickard Rakell, a deadline acquisition from Anaheim in 2022. But while speculation about personnel moves the Penguins might make is rampant among some members of the press and public, players insist that it rarely, if ever, comes up in the conversation inside the locker room. “We don’t talk about it, really,” defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. “With the experience in this room, we know what comes at this time of year, the (trade) talks and everything, but we try to focus on what’s happening on the ice. I don’t think it’s a talking point in the locker room, for sure.” He acknowledged, though, that uncertainty about where individuals might be working in a few days or weeks could make it a challenge for them to focus on the tasks before them. “It could be, for sure, depending on the guy,” Pettersson said. The Penguins are 1-4-1 in their past six games, and steadily losing ground in the playoff race. Unless the results improve, it seems inevitable that the Penguins will part with more players than they add between now and the deadline. “Our instinct, as players, is that we want to get in a position where we’re forcing Kyle’s hand to make a push for us,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “We have to start winning and force his hand to make something happen.” That would entail stringing together some victories, beginning with Montreal’s visit to PPG Paints Arena Thursday evening. “Other than like, everybody trying to play their best in here, we can’t really control anything that’s going on,” Rakell said. If they can’t do that, the Penguins realize there might be big changes in the makeup of this team before much longer. “It’s a results-driven sport and it’s a business-driven sport,” Pettersson said. “We all know that.” Healthy turnout Although the Pittsburgh Penguins made their midday practice optional, forwards Reilly Smith and Jeff Carter were the only expected players who did not participate. Fourth-line center Noel Acciari was among the 19 forwards and defensemen (and two goalies) who did go through the drills. Acciari, who has been recovering from a concussion, was wearing a regular yellow jersey, not a no-contact one, which suggests that he could be close to rejoining the lineup. Nieto skates again Fourth-line winger Matt Nieto was not on the ice for the full-team workout, but did have another on-ice session earlier in the day. He has missed the past 30 games while recovering from knee surgery. [...] Read more...
Karl LudwigFebruary 21, 2024FRISCO, Texas — It didn’t take much time for former Aliquippa High School cornerback M.J. Devonshire to figure out he wanted to come home and play at Pitt after deciding to transfer from Kentucky, but once he arrived, it was like he stepped directly out of the frying pan and into the fire. He found himself matched up an awful lot with an eventual Biletnikoff Award winner and first round NFL Draft pick in the slot right away. Pitt desperately wanted Devonshire, who had chosen Kentucky over Pitt just two years prior, because of his defensive versatility. He’s a natural cornerback, but he has the smooth fluidity and (added aggressiveness now) that allows him to play both corner and safety. And when he first arrived at Pitt in the winter of 2021, he played some field safety and some slot corner. And that meant a steady dose of Jordan Addison. “That whole spring I was out there, and it was me and Jordan Addison one-on-one, and he ended up going on to win the Biletnikoff, so it ultimately made me better and helped me sharpen the tools that I’m going to need this week and going forward,” Devonshire told Steelers Now at the Shrine Bowl in Frisco, Texas. It was that experience matching up with Addison, which goes hand-in-hand with his three seasons playing on an island (lots of press, man coverage) at Pitt, that helped him stand out at the Shrine Bowl last month. One on one route for Devonshire against UTSA WR Josh Cephus. Camera angle gets a little too close, but this was a really good rep by MJ. It was consistent. pic.twitter.com/P3cUXUCbeO — Nick Farabaugh (@Nick_Farabaugh) January 27, 2024   “I definitely feel like (playing in the Pitt defensive system) will be an advantage for me,” Devonshire said. “I embraced it, I loved it, it let me showcase the skills that I have and it was great being in that system every day and competing in that system. “Just being hands-on and being physical at the line of scrimmage, I learned at a young age, the more you can control and win at the line of scrimmage, the better you’ll be in the whole aspect of route running as a receiver. I learned that get my hands on, trusting my technique and staying square, staying patient and trusting my speed, I was gonna win a lot more battles than I lost.” It wasn’t the easiest season for Devonshire in 2023. To say it wasn’t an easy season for Pitt would be putting it lightly. But Devonshire battled through adversity, stepped up as a leader in the locker room and continued to do what he’s done his entire career as a Panther. Produce. He finished the 2023 season with 32 tackles (18 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 10 pass breakups. He was a workhorse in 2023, taking a team-high 662 defensive snaps, and according to PFF, he allowed just a 47.4 completion percentage when targeted by opposing quarterbacks. And on the night that Darrelle Revis returned to Pittsburgh to be inducted into the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame, serving as an honorary captain before the Louisville game, Devonshire showed up in a major upset win. Louisville quarterback Jack Plummer targeted Devonshire 14 times Saturday night. 14. And Devonshire allowed just four completions for 34 yards, broke up five pass attempts and picked off Plummer once. It was a pretty impactful interception, too. Confirmed: M.J. Devonshire is the fastest man alive after an interception. 🙌 @MJDevonshireJr 📺 @TheCW @TheCW_Sports #H2P » #PittHC23 pic.twitter.com/9lZPeElOtW — Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) October 15, 2023 In his Pitt career, after playing his first two seasons at Kentucky, he finished with 83 tackles (51 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, eight interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) and 21 pass breakups. And he was an All-ACC punt returner in 2022. It wasn’t a particularly hard decision to come home. Pat Narduzzi was on him immediately. He matter-of-factly told Devonshire that he was in the portal back in 2020. Devonshire just laughed, told him that he had just entered and was looking for a new home. “How would you feel about coming home?” Narduzzi asked him. The intent was obvious, but Narduzzi told him to take his time. “And then like, he sent me a picture of me in high school and he was like, ‘You remember this?’ And I had told him in high school, I wanted to win the Heisman. And it was me in high school, standing on the Heisman Trophy. He was like, ‘You remember when you told me this?’ And I was like, ‘Man, he remembered this from two years ago. All the kids he’s recruited from the time he recruited me until now,’ and that lets you know the kind of guy he is and the kind of guys at Pitt.” It was in the midst of COVID-19, so there wasn’t a chance to meet in person (not that Devonshire really needed it), but he hopped on Zoom with the Pitt coaches. And after the call, Devonshire told his mom that he wanted to go to Pitt. It was a business decision, of course, but it was also the chance to come home. He rode home from games with his mother and father, was able to be back home for Aliquippa games on Friday nights and served as a shining example of a “hometown hero” in Pittsburgh. Aliquippa is known for producing Hall of Famers, a record three Hall of Famers coming out of the high school, and Devonshire was at the enshrinement of two of them — Revis and Ty Law. Law, who went to Michigan, wanted Devonshire to follow in his footsteps. Revis, who went to Pitt, served as an inspiration every step of the way. Devonshire wanted so badly to be the next great out of Aliquippa. He starred with the Quips, he starred with the Panthers and now he’s in line to be the latest Quip selected in the NFL Draft. It remains to be seen where exactly he’ll end up, but he has the pedigree, resume and measurables that NFL teams value. With a strong NFL Combine, his stock could soar. And it won’t hurt to spend more time with NFL personnel — not just Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “(Tomlin and I) talk,” Devonshire said. “Oftentimes I ask him how’s Dino (Tomlin) doing, how’s the family? He asks about my mom, she’s a Steelers fans and was so excited to meet him. When I was younger and playing in 7-on-7, he’d always ask how my mom was doing and just a great guy. Regardless of football, if I was a doctor at Pitt, he’d still ask me the same questions. So, just having that connection and knowing that me and Dino compete all the time, he asks how we doing and stuff like that.” So, of course, Devonshire would definitely like to play for the Steelers. He’d welcome the opportunity to play for any NFL team, but there’s something special about Pittsburgh. “Obviously special to play in any NFL organization, but to be at home, all my family are still Steeler fans and my granddad is a Steeler fan,” Devonshire said. “So, being able to play able to play for the Steelers and knowing how many people would be excited is cool.” It was a short three seasons at Pitt but a very memorable three seasons. It’s the place he’s called home for all but two years of his life. He’ll never forget the highs or the lows of his journey in Pittsburgh — at all levels. “Shoutout to Kenny (Pickett) helping us get that ACC and his fake slide,” Devonshire said. “That ACC championship, that was amazing. I’ve been taught winning championships is most important since I was young, so my first year at Pitt winning a championship became a standard and every day from there, we worked to win a championship. And in the Backyard Brawl and me having that play is crazy.” Devonshire will forever be remembered for his game-winning pick-six in the revival of the Backyard Brawl, but he’s hoping to make a few more memories in the NFL before all is said and done. He’ll be thrown directly into the fire upon reaching the NFL level, but he’s ready for it. Pitt prepared him for it from the day he arrived. Nick Farabaugh provided reporting from Frisco. TALE OF THE TAPE Measured at the East-West Shrine Bowl: Devonshire isn’t the biggest cornerback, measuring in at 5-foot-11, 179 pounds in Frisco, but he measured and tested very, very well. His 33 1/4-inch arms would’ve been the fourth-longest among cornerbacks at the 2023 NFL Combine, trailing only Joey Porter Jr., Julius Brent and Darius Rush (all of whom were selected in the NFL Draft), and there’s an expectation that he will have one of the faster 40-yard dash times in Indianapolis next week. WHERE WILL M.J. DEVONSHIRE BE DRAFTED? Devonshire’s stock has been all over the place, from the edge of the third round to off the bottom of the charts as an undrafted free agent. His current ranking at NFL Mock Draft Database has him at 226th overall in the seventh round. M.J. DEVONSHIRE SCOUTING REPORT / HOW DOES HE FIT? Devonshire does not fit the mold that the Steelers currently seem to be prioritizing at outside cornerback, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fit with the team. When you look at the three rookie cornerbacks the Steelers acquired in 2023, it’s clear the have a type. There was 6-foot-2, 194-pound Joey Porter Jr., 6-foot-3, 206-pound Cory Trice Jr. and 6-foot-2, 198-pound Darius Rush. now compare those three to the 5-foot-11 Devonshire and it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t stack up in terms of the size the Steelers are looking for on the outside. But Devonshire might be a fit for the Steelers in the slot. He’s roughly the same size as former Steelers slot corner Cam Sutton was coming out of Tennessee. Sutton showed just average speed for a cornerback of his size, as well, running a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He had seven career interceptions. Devonshire had eight in fewer games. The problem might be Devonshire’s tackling. The Steelers use their slot corners in run support and as blitzers an awful lot, and that’s why Mike Hilton excelled in that role. He had n 18l9% missed tackle rate in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus. Still, it’s not hard to envision the Steelers taking a late-round flier on the local product, especially if they don’t land a cornerback early. A version of this story first appeared at our partner site, Pittsburgh Sports Now. [...] Read more...
James NicholsFebruary 21, 2024The New Jersey Devils announced just minutes before Wednesday’s morning skate that they have recalled rookie goaltender Isaac Poulter and reassigned Akira Schmid to the American Hockey League. Poulter (22) just signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Devils on Feb. 15th that holds an annual average value annual average value of $812,500. Poulter is enjoying a nice breakout season with the Comets, accruing a 14-7-1 record, a .908 save percentage, and a 2.70 GAA. Only current Devils goaltender Nico Daws has been better in the AHL, and he did so in a much shorter stint this season. Since making his AHL debut in 2022-23, Poulter has totaled a 21-8-4-3 record with Utica. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the club in 2022-23. In a corresponding move, Schmid returns to Utica after serving as Daws’ backup for the last five games. In that same span, Daws made five straight starts for New Jersey. In New Jersey earlier this season, Schmid posted a rough 5-7-1 record, .893 SV%, and a 3.26 GAA. It’s not going any better for the Swiss goaltender with the Comets as his numbers somehow look worse than his NHL statistics. The Devils continue to play goaltending musical chairs while veteran Vitek Vanecek is sidelined with a lower-body injury. Even when Vanecek comes back it still appears to be Daws’ net. However, Poulter will get his first crack at NHL action, even if that means he just serves as Daws’ backup. Taking a peak at the schedule, the Devils play back-to-back games this weekend against the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Devils also play the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Perhaps we’ll see Poulter make his NHL debut over the weekend in a back-to-back situation. For more Devils news, visit New Jersey Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @NJDHockeyNow, @JamesNicholsNHL And on Threads: @JamesNicholsNHL [...] Read more...
Tim RobinsonFebruary 21, 2024Cross Hanas’ first two years of pro hockey is a reminder that a young player’s journey is rarely a straight line. There are detours and sidetracks, due to injury or ineffectiveness or simple bad luck. Hanas, drafted 55th overall in 2020, has been held back by injuries. He missed 42 games last year in Grand Rapids, including the last 30 contests. He spent that time rehabbing a shoulder injury that required surgery and came back strong in the preseason. Hanas played well in the prospects tournament in Traverse City and lasted until the final cut in Red Wings training camp. His winter in Grand Rapids hasn’t gone as well for the Texas native. Hanas (drafted 55th overall in 2020) has four goals and five assists in 35 games this season, less than the nine goals and eight assists he had in 30 games last season. He was scoreless for 18 out of 19 appearances over two months, from Nov. 26  to Jan. 27. 2023-24 Season a Learning Experience But, he says, it’s been a year of growth as a player and as a pro. “This year, the lesson I think I’ve learned the most just take don’t take any opportunity for granted,” Hanas said. “I kinda feel like it only comes around once in a while and I think he just got to every time like this year just like every opportunity to get to be in a lineup is that I’ve  got to play good.” Grand Rapids coach Dan Watson has seen improvement as the season has gone along. “I think the confidence level (early in the season) wasn’t quite there yet still coming off that injury from last year,” Watson said. “But as of recently, the last couple games for sure. You know, the way he’s playing, the way he’s going about his practice habits and his details and practice is better. Now in games, he’s getting better looks, you know, he scored a goal. And just by going to the net, something he wasn’t doing on a regular basis. So it’s getting back to the fundamentals for him, gaining that confidence. That way he can take that next step and get back to the way he was early on last year.” Hanas, meanwhile, has been working on defense and playing a supporting role in the Griffins offense. “I guess I thought it’d be a little easier coming back off the injury with the offensive side but it wasn’t so that was a little bit of a shock I guess, ” he said. “From there, just keep in confidence with my offensive side knowing I can do some stuff with the puck and put the puck in the back of the net.  It hasn’t really been my role this year to be that be the guy to get a ton of goals. I’m just trying to do my part and help the team wherever I can.” [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Matt Baker as an offensive assistant, according to the team’s official website, giving them two staff members with that title for the 2024 season. Baker, 40, comes to the Steelers from the Atlanta Falcons, where he was on the staff of new Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. Baker served as a special teams assistant in Atlanta, but will move back to the offensive side of the ball in Pittsburgh, where his background lies. An East Lansing, Michigan native, Baker was a quarterback for North Carolina from 2002-05, leading the ACC in passing his senior year. He spent four seasons in the NFL, bouncing around between the practice squads and off-season rosters of the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills from 2006-09 without playing in a regular-season game. Baker got his start in coaching in 2010 as a graduate assistant at Ole Miss and then spent a long time working out of football, working in energy related fields. He got back into coaching in 2019 as an offensive analyst and quarterbacks coach at Western Michigan and then was hired as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator at Division III John Carroll University.  JCU is a veritable football coaching and executive factory, with alumni that include NFL GMs Tom Telesco and Nick Caserio and coaches Greg Roman, Brandon Staley, Josh McDaniels and Steelers quarterbacks coach Tom Arth, who was offensive coordinator and head coach for the Blue Streaks from 2010-16. Baker spent three years at John Carroll before being hired by Smith for his one season with the Falcons. It’s not clear exactly what role Baker will provide the Steelers, but it will likely involve the development of the team’s quarterbacks. Baker becomes the second former professional quarterback on the coaching staff, joining Arth, after the team had none in 2023.  The Steelers have also hired Mateo Kambui, another former Falcons assistant, with the title of offensive assistant. Kambui has worked with running backs, tight ends and offensive linemen at his previous stops. The Steelers had one coach with that title in 2023, Glenn Thomas, who left for a job at Nebraska. [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 21, 2024The Montreal Canadiens (22-25-8) will host the Buffalo Sabres (24-27-4) on Wednesday night at the Bell Centre. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET. The Habs are looking to rebound after losses to the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals, games in which they managed to control the scoring chances and flow of the game at 5v5. Of course, moral victories don’t count in the standings, but it’s important to remember the Canadiens are still trying to establish their identity as they attempt to take the next step in the long-term rebuild plan. They won’t win every game, but there’s some value to be found in losses that also feature strong efforts. For now, we know the Canadiens have at least one very good line in Juraj Slafkovsky, Nick Suzuki, and Cole Caufield. On top of finding the back of the net with regularity, the line also controls the momentum whenever they’re on the ice, as evidenced by their strong underlying number, which points to sustainable offence. Against the Capitals we saw another potential line emerge, as Joshua Roy, Alex Newhook, and Joel Armia combined for several strong shifts and a pair of goals. Unfortunately, their strong work was undone by the play of Josh Anderson, Jake Evans, and Tanner Pearson. The line was on the ice for 11 high-danger chances by Washington while generating none of their own. Such is life in a rebuild. There are a few changes to expect on Wednesday as forward Jesse Ylonen will return to the lineup, while Michael Pezzetta watches the game from the press box. Defenceman Jordan Harris will play, with Johnathan Kovacevic serving as a healthy scratch. Goaltender Samuel Montembeault will be given the start against the Sabres. As for the Sabres, they have managed to bank 52 points in 55 games, exactly like the Canadiens. But unlike the Canadiens, it was not part of the plan. The Sabres continue to struggle to get results, seemingly stuck in a never-ending rebuild without much chance for escape. It’s a healthy reminder that not every rebuild will be successful and that sometimes taking the next step is a rather difficult endeavour that takes time and patience. On that note, the Sabres do have a fair amount of talent throughout the lineup. Players like Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt, Zach Benson, and Alex Tuch possess high-end talent,  whereas Jeff Skinner has a penchant for scoring whenever he plays against the Habs. Skinner has 26 goals and 20 assists in just 41 games versus Montreal, far and away his most productive scoring pace against a particular team. Montreal Canadiens Injuries Carey Price (IR) Chris Wideman (IR) Kirby Dach (out indefinitely, ACL/MCL) Rafael Harvey-Pinard (4-6 weeks) Christian Dvorak (out) Buffalo Sabres Injuries Victor Olofsson (out) Owen Power (IR) Jack Quinn (IR) Mattias Samuelsson (IR) Montreal Canadiens Projected Lineup   Buffalo Sabres Projected Lineup Skinner  – Thompson – Tuch Greenway – Mittelstadt – Cozens Benson – Krebs – Peterka Robinson – Girgensons – Okposo Defence Dahlin – Jokiharju Byrson – Clifton Clague – Johnson Goalie Luukkonen   How to Watch Or Listen TV Sportsnet, RDS Radio Montreal Candiens: TSN 690 [...] Read more...
John PerrottoFebruary 21, 2024It is kind of like that Christmas present underneath the tree that you can’t wait to open. That is how Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton and so many others feel about top pitching prospect Paul Skenes. While Skenes logged 6.2 innings in five minor-league games last season during his professional debut, Shelton and the rest of the major-league coaching staff have yet to see the right-hander pitch in game situations. The opportunity will come soon enough as the Pirates open Grapefruit League play on Saturday. The exhibition games are when the wrapping paper will come off Skenes, who the Pirates selected first overall in last year’s amateur draft after he led LSU to the College World Series title. “It’s exciting,” Shelton said. “His progression as he continues to pitch, we’re happy about. To see him in person and be able to get him on the mound, I think it’s something organizationally that we’re excited about. “To get him out there, to get him in competition, as much as we learned about him personally, not being able to see him, but to watch him compete it’s going to be really important for us.” Skenes is nearly unanimously considered the best pitching prospect in baseball, including by such outlets as Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. He burst into prominence last spring after transferring to LSU from the Air Force Academy. In 19 starts and 122.2 innings, Skenes had a 13-2 record, 1.69 ERA and 209 strikeouts. The Pirates used Skenes sparingly last season because of his heavy college workload. However, he is being treated like any other starting pitching prospect this spring. “What’s mapped out would be the same thing that would be mapped out for every one of those young starters,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “It’s when’s the next mound session, when’s the live (batting practices), when are they in games, what’s the inning progression or volume progression look like in spring training and how do we help best prepare, not just Paul, but the entire group for a full professional season?” The Pirates say Skenes is competing for one of two open spots in their major-league starting rotation. However, it seems most likely that he will begin the season at either Triple-A Indianapolis or Double-A Altoona. “We want to respect Paul Skenes and let him be Paul Skenes,” Cherington said. “Whatever the path is, it should be unique to him. We want him to be in the best position to help the Pirates win as many games for as long as possible. I’m not concerned or ready to think about when that’s going to start.” Many of the Pirates players are also anxious to watch Skenes. Among them is catcher Henry Davis, who was the first overall pick in the 2021 draft. The two No. 1s spent part of the offseason working out together at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. “I love how he goes about his day. It’s all business,” Davis said. “You can keep a very serious atmosphere when he’s on the field. That’s how we get better, find something to work on every day. Off the field, he can just be a normal guy. “Obviously, I’ve caught Paul more than most of the guys here this offseason, so I’m excited about (seeing him in game action) personally but I’m sure everyone will share that when they get to see him, too.” Christmas – Skenesmas? – is almost here. [...] Read more...
Colby GuyFebruary 21, 2024Mikael Granlund is on a very short list of players who have outperformed expectations for the San Jose Sharks this season, which makes him all the more valuable as the Sharks look to sell off assets at the Trade Deadline. Granlund has gotten used to hearing his name in trade discussions, though. After all, he got traded twice in the span of a few months in 2023, first from the Nashville Predators to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the last year’s Deadline, then to the Sharks in the blockbuster Erik Karlsson deal during the summer. “There’s nothing you can do about any of that stuff,” Granlund said. “You just go out there, play hockey and try to do all you can. There’s literally nothing you can do about any of that stuff. “So enjoy the game of hockey.” After a disastrous tenure in Pittsburgh which saw him score just one goal and five points in 21 games, he is enjoying it to his usual standard in San Jose. He has six goals, a team-leading 25 assists, and 31 points in just 42 games, which has made him an intriguing trade target, despite having one more year left on his contract after this season at $5 million AAV. The 31-year-old center has no trade protections. “I knew this season, coming into it, was going to be way better than last season,” Granlund said. “It was tough, but I feel like there’s way more to give even in my future years in my game. I know that, and it’s kinda cool feeling good and your game is feeling good. I know there’s another level, too, but it’s kind of cool to feel like you’re on the ice and being able to do the things you want to do.” The San Jose Sharks are thankful to have more than just Mikael Granlund the hockey player. “He is a player, a person, and a leader, and in particular, in the situation we are in, to have a guy with that makeup, the way he plays, his leadership ability, the type of guy he is, that’s invaluable to our soul,” coach David Quinn said. “I mean, Wayne Gretzky got traded, but if Mikael Granlund is going to get traded it’s going to be for a hefty price.” After all, Granlund has handled himself well in a very peculiar situation. The Sharks are rebuilding, they can’t stay healthy, but he’s managed to embrace being in San Jose. “I’ve loved my time here,” Granlund said. “It’s a beautiful city. We’ll see how things go but I’ve loved my time here.” On the ice, that’s meant becoming a leader for all of San Jose’s young players. “Guys like him are few and far between in this league,” Quinn said. “He’s always spending time with our young players, he’s got a great approach to the game, he is always on the right side of the play for the most part. He’s a really smart player, and it can’t always be the coach’s voice that’s heard. So it certainly makes your job as a coach a lot easier when you have players like that.” That’s not just coach speak: With captain Logan Couture and alternate captain Tomas Hertl hitting IR recently, Quinn named newcomer Granlund and Luke Kunin as alternate captains. And Quinn knows what he can provide for a playoff team — after all, both the Predators and Penguins paid handsomely at the 2018 (Kevin Fiala) and 2023 Trade Deadlines (2023 second-round pick), respectively — so he doesn’t want to see Granlund going for a low price. Of course, Granlund had difficulty adjusting to both those in-season trades, and at 5-foot-10, his size isn’t necessarily ideal for a playoff center. But if there’s a player that plays bigger than his size, it’s certainly Granlund, who ranks third among Sharks forwards with 2.54 Puck Battle Wins Per 20 at 5-on-5. “Size is great, but a lot of big guys don’t play with that competitiveness he has and the smarts that he has,” Quinn said. “That’s never been his problem there. He’s always overcome his size because of his intelligence and his competitiveness.” “If you want to talk about Mikael Granlund, you gotta pay up. I don’t want him going anywhere.” [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Phil Matusz to be the team’s next head strength and conditioning coach, according to the club’s official website. Matusz was most recently the strength and conditioning coach at Boston College under head coach Jeff Hafley. Hafley left BC to become the defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers earlier this offseason. New Boston College head coach Bill O’Brien had already announced his intention to bring in his own strength and condition staff. A Greenville, Pa. native, Matusz, spent four seasons at Boston College, helping to develop NFL players like A.J. Dillon, Zion Johnson, Zay Flowers, Hunter Long and others. In this year’s draft, guard Christian Mahogany will join that group. At Boston College, Matusz also worked with Dino Tomlin, the son of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Dino transferred from Maryland to Boston College in 2022 and worked with Matusz for each of the last two seasons. Before BC, Matusz spent six seasons as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State and two years as the head strength and conditioning coach at his alma mater, Villanova. The Steelers moved on from head strength and conditioning coach Marcel Pastoor last month. Pastoor had been the team’s head strength and conditioning coach since 2021, and had been with the team for 23 years overall. The only holdover on the strength staff will be longtime strength and conditioning coordinator Garrett Giemont. In addition to Pastoor, the Steelers also moved on from assistant Rodain Delus and intern Tyler Judkins. Justus Galac has been hired to replace Delus as the assistant strength and condition coach. Galac spent the last two seasons as the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Temple. He had been with the Steelers for one season as the assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2021. Before that, he was the head strength and conditioning coach for the New York Jets from 2012-20. Galac also worked at Villanova from 2005-11. The Steelers have also filled a new position on the strength and conditioning staff, hiring Roderick Moore as sports science coordinator. Moore is following offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to Pittsburgh from his staff on the Atlanta Falcons, where Moore spent three seasons as assistant strength and conditioning coach. Moore was a strength and conditioning coach at Tennessee from 1997-07 and FIU from 2007-12 before working in the commercial fitness sector for companies like Cybex, Bilt, Catapult Sports, Sparta Science and Vald, according to his LinkedIn page. [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 21, 2024As the Pittsburgh Penguins sink further into the abyss of mediocrity and the playoff trail grows cold with mounting losses, many by their own doing, there is a growing segment of Penguins fans pointing fingers directly at coach Mike Sullivan. Sullivan is in his ninth season as the Penguins bench boss and the second longest-tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper. Sullivan is the longest-tenured Penguins coach in franchise history and has amassed a pair of Stanley Cup wins — the only coach to win multiple with the franchise that has five trophies to its credit. However, NHL coaches are hired to be fired. The Penguins’ results are noteworthy because of the talent amassed last summer by president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas, including reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. Ryan Graves, Reilly Smith, Lars Eller, and Noel Acciari are the other big-name additions. The Penguins are eight and nine points out of the wild card and third place, respectively. We put Sulllivan’s job this season under scrutiny using three criteria. Players and the coach have repeatedly talked about being more consistent and decried the inconsistency that has pervaded the Penguins’ game. Can the coach fix that? Has Sullivan made worthwhile changes? After the Penguins’ 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders, we put the coach’s job under careful examination. [...] Read more...
Dan KelleyFebruary 21, 2024New England Patriots offensive lineman James Ferentz is calling it a career. He retires as a veteran of ten NFL seasons, though two were spent exclusively as a practice squad member. James Ferentz played college football at Iowa for his father Kirk Ferentz, a former Patriots assistant coach. He was not selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. Ferentz signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent, spending his rookie year on their practice squad. When he was waived in training camp by Houston the following year, Ferentz signed with the Denver Broncos. Denver won the Super Bowl in 2015, Ferentz’s first year with the team. He appeared in 14 games and one playoff game during their championship run. He spent one more season with the Broncos before coming to New England. Ferentz spent the 2017 season on the Patriots practice squad. The following year he appeared in two games and won his second Super Bowl ring. Ferentz would go on to play 41 games in New England, including one in 2023. Reports indicate Ferentz was a part-time offensive line coach for the Patriots this past season, following the departure of Adrian Klemm. James Ferentz might be following in the footsteps of his father by joining the coaching ranks now that his playing days are done, Perhaps he will return to his alma mater, where his father is still the head coach. Also in today’s Patriots Football Daily… New England Patriots Patriots Football Now – Greatest presidential Patriots in history Patriots Football Now – New England parts ways with two veteran leaders “The Dynasty” Patriots Football Now – Review of Episode 1: Backup Plan Patriots Football Now – Review of Episode 2: The Snow Bowl NFL Draft Patriots Football Now – NFL Draft: History of the No. 3 pick Patriots Football Now – NFL Mock Draft 2.0 NFL News Patriots Football Now – Key dates on the 2024 NFL calendar NFL.com – 44 cut candidates Pro Football Network – Top free agent wide receivers Yardbarker – Dolphins in potential no-win situation with Tua Tagovailoa’s contract ESPN – Franchise tage candidate for each NFL team Boston Bruins Go over to our sibling site Boston Hockey Now to check out the great Boston Bruins coverage from Jimmy Murphy and the BHN team. The NHL season is underway and plenty is happening in the Bruins 100 Anniversary season. PFN+ Subscribe here or on Boston Hockey Now to get a subscription to both sites. Subscribers get bonus coverage such as NFL Draft scouting reports and weekly NFL Power Rankings. It also provides a completely ad-free experience on the sites. Use code KELLEY10 and get $10 off a yearly subscription. It is less than $2.50/month! Football Fun Fact of the Day In 2023, the New England had 11 players from their most recent Super Bowl championship team (2018) on the roster at some point. With the retirement of James Ferentz and Matthew Slater, that list is down to six. Post of the Day Post of the Day comes from Nación Patriota with a clip of Matthew Slater’s final locker room speech with the New England Patriots… [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers have found their new role for former quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan, as he has been reassigned as senior offensive assistant, according to the team’s website. Sullivan had been the team’s quarterbacks coach since 2021 before being reassigned. He had served as the team’s primary offensive play-called through the end of the 2023 season after offensive coordinator Matt Canada was fired mid-year. Sullivan lost his position as quarterbacks coach when the Steelers hired former Los Angeles Chargers passing game coach Tom Arth for that role earlier this offseason. Sullivan interviewed for two offensive coordinator positions, with the Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints. He had a second interview with the Raiders, but ultimately lost out on that job to former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator and Munhall native Luke Getsy. It had been reported that Sullivan was likely remaining with the Steelers, even after Smith was hired, but not what role he might have. The Steelers have never had a coach with the title of senior offensive assistant before, but it matches the title of senior defensive assistant that Teryl Austin and Brian Flores held from 2020-22. If the offensive version of the title carries the same weight, that will slot Sullivan in between offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and the team’s five offensive position coaches. Sullivan has had two tenures as an NFL offensive coordinator, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2012-12 and the New York Giants from 2016-17. He spent the largest part of his NFL career with the Giants, winning two Super Bowls with the club. He was fired by the Giants in 2017. Sullivan then spent one season as the Denver Broncos quarterbacks coach, one season out of football, and one season as the recruiting coordinator at his alma mater Army West Point before the Steelers hired him in 2021. [...] Read more...
Andrew FantucchioFebruary 21, 2024Throughout the grind of the NHL season, some games simply fade to memory as various plays, dates and arenas all get blurred together.  For the New York Islanders, though, their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night will not be one of those. Instead, their 5-4 overtime win at PPG Paints Arena will stand out as a pivotal moment when their season is all said and done. However, what they do with it will determine whether it’s for good or bad.  In the short term, it mitigated the pain of their devastating loss to the New York Rangers at MetLife Stadium and, more importantly, earned them two points. Those points were ones the Islanders desperately needed, but are only a small drop in the bucket and will dry up fast if they fail to build upon them. “We really have no time to sit around and have a bad game,” Mathew Barzal told reporters in Pittsburgh. “Every game is important. Getting tonight was huge.” It helped that the New Jersey Devils, one of the many teams jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference, failed to pick up points as they lost to the Washington Capitals in regulation. But relying on other teams to falter is not a viable strategy for the Islanders, especially if they plan on continuing to hand points to their competition such as they did last night.  After holding a 4-2 advantage midway through the third, the Islanders once again choked away a multi-goal lead late in the game as Pittsburgh tied the score to force overtime and collect a much-needed point of their own.  Nevertheless, the Islanders held on and narrowly avoided a third straight loss.  “Winning is going to bring some confidence to our guys,” head coach Patrick Roy said. “Overall, I was pleased with the compete level. Could we have been better in some situations defensively? Yes. But it’s a big win for our team, period.” The Islanders were lifted to victory as areas in their game that have been anchors all year turned into life preservers against the Penguins. Their league-worst and historically bad shorthanded unit had a perfect night. Even though it came against an equally poor Pittsburgh power play, the Islanders killed off all three penalties they took. It was just the second time in their last nine games the Islanders didn’t surrender a power play goal. “I think it’s just commitment,” Adam Pelech said. “Our penalty kill has been a weakness of ours this year. I think that we have the group and the goaltending to have a great penalty kill. That’s going to be super important for us going forward, and it just takes commitment, dedication and sacrifice.” Pelech’s first goal of the season 57 seconds into overtime decided the game and was the third the Islanders had from depth scoring against the Penguins.  Barzal and Brock Nelson have been reliable scorers for the Islanders all year and were once again as they scored the team’s first two goals on Tuesday, but they still needed contributions from Pelech, Simon Holmstrom and Mike Reilly to walk away with the win. “I was very happy with all the lines,” Roy said. “We got a big goal from the Pageau line by Holmstrom. We got a phenomenal play by Brock on that first goal, and even our defense was very involved.” Without the penalty kill having a rare night of marginal excellence and timely goals from role players, the Islanders would’ve suffered a loss that, in all likelihood, would’ve been enough grounds to waive the white with just a little more than two weeks left until the trade deadline. But just because the Islanders danced around defeat once doesn’t mean they’re firmly back on their feet. As big as the win over the Penguins was, it means very little if the Islanders continue their season-long one-step forward, two-step back waltz by losing in their next game against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. “Looking at the standings this time of year, we got to put together a streak here,” Pelech said. “That’s the only way we’re going to make up ground. Picking up a point, then two and then none every other night just isn’t enough right now. It’s great to get this win, and hopefully, it’s the start of something bigger.” FOLLOW ANDREW FANTUCCHIO ON 𝕏: @A_FANTUCCHIO FOLLOW NYI HOCKEY NOW ON 𝕏 AND FACEBOOK [...] Read more...
Jason MoserFebruary 21, 2024Are the Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche working on a trade? Sabres assistant general manager Jason Karmanos has been in attendance for the Avalanche’s last two home games, sparking some speculation as to who he could want to see firsthand. The Sabres are looking for talent to help now and going forward, according to general manager Kevyn Adams. Two specific players in the same role for the Avalanche fit that criteria – defensemen Bowen Byram and Samuel Girard. The Avalanche currently sit two points out of the division lead in the Central and are third in the Western Conference. They’re not in the business of selling top talent. They do have one glaring hole in their lineup, however, that the Sabres might be able to fill. Second-Line Center Despite scoring twice Tuesday night, Ryan Johansen has not been the number two center the Avalanche had hoped for when acquired over the summer. He is only on a 32-point pace and has seen more goals go in his net than the opposition’s net when on the ice. Finding a low cap hit to fit within their tight salary cap restrictions was a priority for Colorado. Johansen’s $4 million cap hit after salary retention is proving to be restrictive even still, leaving the Avs in a bind. That’s where Casey Mittelstadt’s name comes in. Mittelstadt is posting a career year for the Sabres, leading the team in points with 44. He’s on a much more respectable 66-point pace for a second-line center. Adams made it clear that the team is not shopping the pending restricted free agent, but that hasn’t stopped teams from calling. Must Read: Sabres Not Shopping Casey Mittelstadt Mittelstadt carries a $2.5 million cap hit this season, which leaves plenty of cap flexibility for an acquiring team. A team like Colorado could reap the benefits of a natural playmaker now through a playoff run, while also having plenty of time in the offseason to shuffle pieces around to make room for a long-term deal. Bowen Byram If Buffalo does part with Mittelstadt – a player they identify as part of their core – then they’d need a young-ish, talented NHL player in return. Bowen Byram is the first name that springs to mind, as the agile puck-moving defenseman was drafted fourth overall in the 2019 draft. The Sabres are leaning too heavily on Rasmus Dahlin with Owen Power out, which exposes their thinness at the position. Byram now has parts of four seasons under his belt in the NHL and is only 22 years old. He scored 10 goals as a defenseman in only 42 games last season, which is a 20-goal pace over a full season. The offensive upside is encouraging, and there are elite skating and IQ attributes to his game as well that should make him effective in all situations. The only problem is that he’s struggling. Of all the defensemen to suit up for the Avalanche this season, Byram is the only one posting a negative goal-differential value this season per PuckLuck. Yes, he already has eight goals again this season, but the well-roundedness displayed on his scouting profile just hasn’t been there. Of course, a change of scenery can always help. Byram’s been mostly relegated to play on a pair with the aging Jack Johnson, so perhaps a more prolific defense partner or greater teammates at forward can help smooth out the wrinkles in his game. With another season left on his bridge deal at a $3.85 million cap hit, the Sabres would have some financial flexibility still next season before dealing with his restricted free agency. Samuel Girard Samuel Girard is currently occupying the role the Avalanche probably hoped Byram would fill at this point. Colorado’s not complaining though, because the undersized defenseman has been perhaps the team’s best after Cale Makar this season. Girard, according to Evolving-Hockey, is second among Colorado defensemen with 1.3 wins above replacement. When comparing to Byram, our Colorado Hockey Now’s own Evan Rawal provided some extra insight. “Right now, Girard is the far more consistent player. depends on if wants to bet on Byram’s future.” While Byram is the younger of the two, Girard still fits Buffalo’s timeline at 25 years old. What makes him even more enticing is that he’s locked up long-term at a decent cap hit – $5 million flat through 2026-2027. Girard’s game is similar to Byram’s in that he’s a very good skater and puck-mover. He relies on getting the puck up-ice on the stick of his forwards so as not to chase the game in his end too often. Girard also can provide quality special teams minutes, although his success on the powerplay is really in the hands of his teammates as he’s not a big shooter himself. Girard and Byram have played both left and right defense, although Girard is more natural on the right side than Byram. He’d be a great fit alongside a healthy Power and could help the Sabres regain some of the transition offense they’ve craved through the majority of the season. Karmanos in Colorado While it’s notable when an executive of Karmanos’ status is stationed at a team’s arena over a three-day span, that doesn’t always mean that a trade is in the works. Pro scouting is an extensive, inclusive process that can simply include bumping shoulders with other scouts and executives. It could also mean Karmanos just happened to be in the area on a trip and is taking advantage of being out west. He could be scouting the Arizona Coyotes or the Vancouver Canucks as well, as those were Colorado’s opponents on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively. Speculation could also lead you to say maybe the Avalanche are interested in reacquiring known commodities Erik Johnson or Tyson Jost for depth purposes, and Karmanos wanted a better look at Colorado’s depth. There’s no denying that if the Sabres were willing to part with Mittelstadt, however, the Avalanche are one of the very few teams able to part with a young, top-four defensive talent. Girard was the subject of some trade rumors last season. Byram’s struggles could make him expendable as well. The Sabres would do well in a trade of this nature, by flipping a top-six forward for a position of need. They have a prospect pipeline pushing for NHL forward spots next season. [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 21, 2024As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses in the game against the Vancouver Canucks for the Colorado Avalanche. + Signs Of Life From Johansen Well, ever since I wrote about Ryan Johansen and he has struggled with the Avalanche, he’s gone out and produced four points in four games. Coincidence?!?!? Probably. I doubt he’s reading this. Do I suddenly think he’s a second line center? No. There’s plenty of sample size to show that he isn’t that. However, any sign that he could potentially help the team down the stretch is a good thing. His compete level the last four games has looked remarkably different, and he’s winning a heck of a lot more battles all over the ice. “There’s just a little bit more competitive spirit in his game here recently.” That’s an interesting quote from coach on Johansen, and just goes to show they probably weren’t super happy with what they were getting from him. Can he keep it up? That’s what we’ll have to watch down the stretch. + Big Ovation For Sam Girard Since returning from the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program, Sam Girard has been a difference maker every night, and you could certainly argue he’s been their most consistent defenseman. Towards the end of Tuesday night’s game, the Avalanche were forced to kill off a penalty, and Girard was stuck out there for a significant amount of time, just like the rest of the penalty killers. You don’t usually expect Girard to outmuscle bigger players, especially not at the end of a shift, but that’s exactly what he did to get a clear. He went toe-to-toe with J.T. Miller, outworked him for the puck, and emphatically cleared it down the ice. And the crowd went nuts. Girard seems to be in a very good headspace, and it shows on the ice. His play, along with Josh Manson, has allowed the Avalanche to not force Cale Makar into so many minutes on the penalty kill of late. + Alexandar Georgiev In the first period, Thatcher Demko made the save that Alexandar Georgiev didn’t. The rest of the game, Georgiev locked things down, including a spectacular save on Hoglander in the third period. GEORGIE! GEORGIE! GEORGIE! GEORGIE! #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/lURJfPfDgx — Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) February 21, 2024 He’s not putting up mind-blowing numbers, but over his last nine games, his numbers are closer to what he produced last season. It’s also worth noting that he got a nice break from the All-Star week, as well a few nights off during that time, which I do think helps. If Colorado can get him some consistent breaks down the stretch, maybe things will be okay. – Face-Offs At one point during the second period last night, I checked the box score and the Avalanche were sitting at 20% in the face-off dot. They finished the night at 38%, but that’s still a pretty ugly performance. Did it matter all that much? No, because they won the game. How much face-offs matter is a conversation for another day, but you never really want to see a team get dominated that badly. Even Johansen took a beating in that department. + The Penalty Kill Colorado’s penalty kill has taken a step back of late, but they looked significantly better on Tuesday night against a scary powerplay unit. The PK in the third period we’ve already talked about, but the Canucks got a powerplay in the second and the Avalanche gave them absolutely nothing. That might have been a more impressive kill because Colorado had just tied the game up, so the Canucks could have taken back the momentum, but the PK didn’t allow it. + Pace Of The Game I thought this was a fantastic hockey game. I really wasn’t sure what to expect with the Vancouver Canucks on the second half of a back-to-back, but they still look pretty good to me. The pace of the game was extremely high, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Even though the Canucks lost, I became a little bit more of a believer in what they can do. That’s a good team. – Fourth Line Colorado is still trying to find a fourth line that can truly be relied upon. The returns of both O’Connor and Nichushkin would certainly make a difference, but on Tuesday night, the Avalanche didn’t get a single unblocked shot attempt from their fourth line. Chris Wagner played just 18 seconds in the final 13 minutes of the game. It’s hardly uncommon for a coach to shorten their bench in a tight game, but I just remember back to the Stanley Cup run from Colorado in 2022, and how important a good fourth line was for them. The return of some key players will get them closer to having that. – Drouin Can’t Buy A Goal I don’t know if anyone had more Grade-A scoring chances last night than Jonathan Drouin, and they all came from right around the net. Demko gave him absolutely nothing, though. He had one taken back against the Coyotes, but we’re still looking at 14 games without a goal for someone on the top line. You don’t want that to continue much longer. [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024Steelers Daily News & Links: Your daily stop for all of the news and links from the Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL and around the Sports Now Group. 🏈 The Baltimore County Police investigation of domestic violence allegations against Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers has been suspended without any charges being filed. According to documents released by police, via the Baltimore Banner, the investigation could be reopened if more information comes to light in the future. Identifying information is not included in the report, but it appears Flowers declined to speak to police before the February 16 suspension. 🏈 Kenny Pickett has thrown for 13 touchdowns and completed under 63% of his passes through his first 25 games. The last first-round QB to do that was Trent Dilfer, according to Daniel Valente of The Score. 🏈 Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields will appear on Amon St. Brown’s podcast on Wednesday. Fields will explain why he unfollowed the Bears on Instagram. Yes, Justin Fields unfollowed the Bears on IG He explained why … Full episode goes live tomorrow on our YouTube 🍿 https://t.co/hhSX94ieLd pic.twitter.com/mbAA8igCaf — The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) February 21, 2024 🏈 Former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum thinks Justin Fields would be an ideal fit in Pittsburgh. “So when a number 412 pops up in Chicago, that’s the Pittsburgh area code number. Ryan Poles answer the phone it’s Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin, get a deal done with the Steelers. That is an ideal fit for Fields,” Tannebaum said. Former NFL outside linebacker Sam Acho also thinks it would be a win-win situation for both sides. He thinks Fields needs a stable organization. NFL Live today on where is the best fit for Fields: Both doubled down on where it would be. Mike Tannenbaum: “So when a number 412 pops up in Chicago, that’s the Pittsburgh area code number. Ryan Poles answer the phone it’s Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin, get a deal done with the… pic.twitter.com/iEbjhyFeFz — Baku 🐧 (@Mazursky8895) February 20, 2024 🏈 During Black History Month, the Steelers are honoring the experiences and accomplishments of those who made an impact. On Tuesday, former Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell was honored for his playing and coaching career at the University of Alabama where he broke down barriers. Mitchell was the the first Black player, first Black All-American, first Black captain and first first Black assistant coach at Alabama. Mitchell became the first Black defensive coordinator in SEC history when he was hired by LSU in 1990. Mitchell served as the Steelers defensive line coach from 1994-2017. Assistant head coach was added to his title in 2007. He served only as the assistant head coach in his final five years before retiring after the 2022 season. 🏈 Donny Football of 93.7 The Fan thinks the Steelers should retire Terry Bradshaw’s number. “On this subject, and this is mostly directed at the Steelers – I don’t like how long they wait to retire numbers. What happened with Franco shouldn’t sit well with them,” Donny Football wrote on X. “Good text from a listener: The Steelers should retire Bradshaw’s #12 when they host the Cowboys next season.” 🏈 Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network discussed the championship foundation for the Steelers on the Move The Sticks podcast. T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick were deemed “Blue Chip” players, Diontae Johnson, Najee Harris/Jaylen Warren, Dan Moore/James Daniels were categorized as “Age/Injury/Contract Concerns,” Alex Highsmith, George Pickens, Isaac Semualo were labeled as “Good,” and Kenny Pickett, Broderick Jones and Joey Porter Jr. were selected as “Unproven Young Players.” The Steelers had no defensive playmakers listed. We discussed the championship foundation for the AFC North on today’s MTS pod. Here’s a look at the ⁦@steelers⁩( courtesy of @NFLResearch ) pic.twitter.com/0o48R5Onys — Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) February 20, 2024 🏈 Ben Roethlisberger was a guest on Bruce Gradkowski’s Alpha 5 Method podcast. Roethlisberger spoke candidly about pivotal moments in his life where he has had to overcome obstacles that stood in his way and what you can do when you are facing adversity in your own life. Gradkowski was the backup quarterback for the Steelers from 2013-2016. Happy Birthday to former Steelers safety Eric Williams, born on February 21, 1960 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Williams was selected by the Steelers in the sixth round out of North Carolina State in the 1983 NFL Draft. Williams played for the Steelers from 1983-1986. He recorded 10 interceptions, two sacks and two fumble recoveries. He played one season in Detroit in 1987 before calling it a career. 🎥 Steel City Star posted an NFL Films clip of Myron Cope’s commentary after Franco Harris surpassed O.J. on the all-time rushing list. Myron Cope’s commentary after Franco surpasses OJ on the all-time rushing list. NFL Films pic.twitter.com/JnSL5OqYWt — Steel City Star (@steelcitystar) February 21, 2024 NEWS FROM AROUND THE SPORTS NOW NETWORK Pittsburgh Hockey Now: The Pittsburgh Penguins came back from down two goals, but lost in overtime to the New York Islanders. Pittsburgh Baseball Now: Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Roansy Contreras is setting up for a big season. Pittsburgh Sports Now: Pitt basketball was routed by fellow ACC bubble team Wake Forest. West Virginia Sports Now: West Virginia basketball snapped its losing streak with a home win over UCF. Nittany Sports Now: One Penn State wrestler moved down in the latest Intermat rankings. Pittsburgh Soccer Now: The new WPIAL soccer classifications have been released.   [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 21, 2024The Philadelphia Flyers are currently in pole position to earn a playoff berth, and quite frankly, it would take disaster to strike to change that. Saturday’s 6-3 Stadium Series loss to the New Jersey Devils dampened things a little bit, but that was only temporary. New Jersey failed to build on their win over the Flyers, losing 6-2 to the Washington Capitals in an embarrassing effort on Tuesday night – something that has been a theme for the Devils this season. The Flyers, on the other hand, received major help from the Capitals and now find themselves with a golden road to the playoffs to traverse. Here’s the thing: the Devils have the eighth-hardest schedule remaining in the entire league, per Tankathon. Their latest setback proves that the Flyers are and have always been in control of their own fate. Philadelphia’s remaining opponents combine for a .551 strength-of-schedule, which is the 17th-hardest remaining schedule. Only the Detroit Red Wings (22nd) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (23rd) have easier schedules in the Eastern Conference, and both are jousting for position in the Atlantic Division. The Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders have been so inconsistent – and frankly, bad – that they just cannot be considered threats in the Metropolitan Division anymore. If the Flyers stick to the plan that they’ve followed all year, they should walk into the playoffs just fine. The only thing that can derail them, well, is themselves. The 2024 NHL trade deadline is just over two weeks away, which means a Flyers trade or two is highly likely, at least given the current climate of the trade rumors. Plus, if the Flyers do lose some defensemen or forwards (out of necessity), they have players they can call on. Emil Andrae got a taste of NHL action earlier this year, and Ronnie Attard is a player who’s accumulated some experience over the years. Fellow defenseman Adam Ginning made a serious push for a roster spot, and Finnish forward Samu Tuomaala has had an excellent season in the AHL. There’s also Bobby Brink, who’s spent the last month in the minors. Of course, the Flyers will need to re-stock and add to this pool eventually, but they aren’t without options here. Not only are the Flyers ready for the postseason, but they’re equipped to weather the storm, too. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 21, 2024The Boston Bruins snapped a four-game winless streak with a 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Monday, but they’re far from back on track. That win left the Boston Bruins at 2-3-2 on what proved to be a frustrating, eye-opening, and potentially foreshadowing homestand. The Bruins now begin a four-game road trip out west when they play Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Oilers tonight (10 p.m. ET, TNT, MAX) in Edmonton. Here’s an observation on the state of the team and what the team could look like when the Bruins take to the ice at TD Garden again on Feb. 29 and host the Vegas Golden Knights: Bruins Defense Needs To Tighten Up Again If the Bruins are to turn things around on this four-game roadie, they can’t go into prevent defense and lean too heavily on goalies Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. The Bruins were out-shot 35-32 in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and then 46-30 inn the win over the Stars on Monday. If not for Swayman on Monday, the Bruins wouldn’t even get a point, in this puck scribe’s opinion. As expected, both Swayman and Ullmark have come back down to earth after the 2023 Jennings Trophy winners got off to a torrid start. Unfortunately, during the first half of the season, the Bruins relied on the 2023 Vezina Trophy winner and his hugging partner way too much. Now, it appears as if they’re struggling to realize they can’t always use that safety valve. They will find that out in a hurry on this trip against two high-octane offenses like the Oilers tonight and the Canucks on Saturday.  The team defense needs to tighten up fast and stay that way if the Bruins hope to have a successful road trip. The problem now, though, is that the Bruins could be without Hampus Lindholm for a bit after he suffered an undisclosed injury on Monday. Bruins fans can criticize Lindholm’s noticeable offensive decline this season, but he has still been stout in his own end. The stats and The Eye Test both prove it. Can Mason Lohrei be better defensively in his third stint in the NHL this season? Will Sweeney Make A Trade On The Trip? Speaking of defense, the Boston Bruins continue to be linked to Calgary Flames defenseman and Norwood, MA native Noah Hanifin. In his weekly appearance on Sportsnet’s ‘Saturday Headlines,’ Sportsnet NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman reported that while neither player nor team had confirmed it yet, all of the intel he gathered pointed towards the 27-year-old Norwood, MA native becoming a UFA next July. Then, on Tuesday night, TSN Insider Chris Johnston had this update on the former Boston College defenseman: “The (Calgary) Flames have made a concerted effort to sign the pending unrestricted free-agent defenceman,” Johnston said on the latest TSN NHL Insider Trading. “And they may still have another push to try to get that done. But with a little bit more than two weeks to go before the deadline, it’s seeming increasingly likely that the 27-year-old defenceman will be moved elsewhere. He’s got some say in the matter. He’s got eight teams on a no-trade clause – a limited no-trade clause. I’m told that they’re not all Canadian teams and that there’s maybe an open destination there. But the feeling is he’s going to end up south of the border because it is believed to be his preference to sign his next contract somewhere in the U.S. As we look for destinations where he might land, there’s a number of teams with interest, but keep your eye on the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’re always the stealth operators at the deadline, and they’re believed to be looking at him with Mikhail Sergachev out injured.” Sources have told yours truly that in addition to the Bruins still being in on Hanifin, the Florida Panthers are expected to join the NHL trade sweepstakes for him ahead of the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline. So now it appears that there is an Atlantic Division arms race starting up. Will Sweeney strike first on Hanifin or another defenseman? What about a winger? Sweeney has made some notable trades on this February trip out west (Charlie Coyle in 2019 comes to mind), so don’t be surprised if the Bruins come back home with a different roster.   [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 21, 2024Montreal Hockey Now’s Marc Dumont writes today that the Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes may end up being the third man in to help broker big deals for the March 8 deadline. With plenty of  cap space available (more than $13 million in LTIR space), the Canadiens are in a position to take salary in a three-way deal. For example, Adam Henrique’s salary cap hit is $5.85 million. Montreal could help Anaheim move him. “Adam Henrique is the last top-9 center available on the rental market that could realistically make a difference on a contending team,” Dumont writes. “But he comes at quite the price tag. Even if the Anaheim Ducks were to retain 50% of his salary, that would only reduce his cap hit to $2.912 million; a cost that many contending teams would be unable to fit on their roster without having to trade another player.” The Habs can step in as the middle man, retaining another half of Henrique’s salary before moving him to his final destination. They could pick up a draft pick, or prospect, for their troubles. The Canadiens have one salary retention remaining they can use. Red Wings In Case You Missed It Michael Rasmussen receives new four-year deal worth $12.8 million What the Red Wings rivals are looking to do before the NHL trade deadline, Gordie Howe’s last Red Wings jersey fetched almost $75,000 in an auction. Red Wings Next Game Red Wings play the Colorado Avalanche Thursday at Little Caesars Arena. Detroit is 12-4-2 since New Year’s Day. The Avalanche beat Vancouver 3-1 Tuesday. It was a mixed night for the Red Wings in the playoff race: the New Jersey Devils lost, but the New York Islanders won. Hockey Now Network Calgary: Trevor Neufeld explores the trends that have led to the Calgary Flames on-ice struggles. Chicago: About Connor Bedard: “Not too often does an 18-year-old come in and have this kind of an impact.” Chicago Blackhawks Florida: The Florida Panthers are the hottest team, and now they get Aaron Ekblad back on their defense. Philadelphia: The Winnipeg Jets are scouting the Flyers closely. Jonathan Bailey has some ides about who the Philadelphia Flyers might want. The Jets want defensive help. Pittsburgh: TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun says teams are interested in acquiring some Pittsburgh Penguins, even beyond Jake Guentzel. Reilly Smith is another target. [...] Read more...
Marco D'AmicoFebruary 21, 2024The Montreal Canadiens are on the lookout for young offensive talent and it looks like they have a target in mind in Anaheim. With rumours of his potential availability, Trevor Zegras’ name has been out there for the last few months. After two consecutive 65-point seasons, things simply didn’t start on the right foot this year. On top of being entangled in a heated contract negotiation with Anaheim Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek, Zegras has been unlucky on the injury front. With Verbeek looking to put his stamp on his team, picks from the previous regime could be sacrificed to help him build up the Ducks in his vision; which is exactly what happened when Jamie Drysdale was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Cutter Gauthier. Although Zegras did agree to sign a three-year bridge deal with the Ducks, there appears to be no love lost between both parties, and a change of scenery could be best for the youngster to rebound and perhaps even hit a new level on a more competitive or complete team. Enter Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes. On a recent segment on TSN, hockey insider Pierre LeBrun not only confirmed that the Anaheim Ducks were casually taking calls on Zegras, but confirmed that the Montreal Canadiens were one of the teams that have shown interest. “The Ducks have listened on Trevor Zegras. My understanding is they haven’t phoned another team and brought up his name. This other teams, because his name has been out there, picking up the phone and saying ‘what’s going on here?’,” said Lebrun regarding the Habs’ interest in the dynamic forward. “Of the four or five teams that I’m told have phoned the Ducks, the Montreal Canadiens are one of them.” With NHL betting odds pegging the Montreal Canadiens to finish in the basement of the NHL Standings again this season, the clear need for the club is to acquire a top, young offensive player (or two) by the end of the summer to push their rebuild to the next level. Drafting one at the 2024 NHL Draft would surely help, but also putting together a package that could extract Zegras out of Anaheim would be another coup for the Canadiens’GM. Hughes has an eye for dynamic offensive talent and a penchant for the impressive crop from the 2019 NHL Draft; where Zegras was drafted 9th overall. It’s a tempting avenue to take, given Zegras’ talent, big-game performances in elimination situations and his natural chemistry with top Habs’ winger Cole Caufield. It may not come to fruition before the March 8th NHL Trade Deadline, but Zegrass will be a name to keep in mind as the Canadiens head into the offseason season.   *For more NHL betting lines and futures, head over to FanDuel [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024The draft stock of West Virginia center Zach Frazier has continued to rise and the potential Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft target has now entered the conversation as a first-round pick. In the latest latest mock draft by Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, Frazier is projected to be taken at No. 29 overall in the first round by the Detroit Lions. In the mock draft, Frazier was be the eighth OL taken off the board, out of the 10 projected to go in the first round. The Fairmont, West Virginia native capped off his Mountaineer career as an All-American and finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy. Frazier appeared in 47 games for the Mountaineers over a four-year span. Frazier’s great career at West Virginia came to an end during the Baylor game on Nov. 25 when he suffered a leg injury. Frazier attended the Senior Bowl, but was not able to participate due to the injury. He has continued to recover over the last few weeks and still earned an NFL Combine invitation. Frazier’s strong recovery from his injury and his ability to show his full health before the draft has him rocketing up draft boards. A player that was routinely linked to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the team’s second-round pick, the Steelers may need to use their first-round pick at No. 20 overall , trade back or trade up in the second round to make sure they get Frazier at this point. Frazier’s NFL Mock Draft Database average continues to have him most likely to be a second-round pick, and still within the range of the Steelers. He’s currently the No. 50 overall prospect. But the recent returns have been much kinder to Frazier. Four consecutive mock drafts captured by the database have Frazier going in the first round, as high as 25th overall. ESPN’s Matt Miller still has the Steelers landing Frazier in the second round in his latest mock draft. “Frazier, coming off the leg injury, he was trying to go at the Senior Bowl,” Miller said during a recent conference call with Steelers Now. “He was advised not to do that. But he’s gonna be healthy, ready to go. Four-time all-state high school wrestler, I think perfectly fits that mentality the Steelers want on their offensive line. He’s incredibly tough, physical, but the agility to play at the second level is absolutely perfect. I think with a new offensive coordinator coming in, it’s going to be a lot more RPO, a lot more inside run, and I think Frazier fits that perfectly.” A former all-state wrestling champion, Frazier has off-the-field leadership intangibles to go with his strong play., WVU head coach Neal Brown showered Frazier with praise once it was clear his college career was over, highlighting how much his final play shows his intelligence as a player. “I can’t say enough about Zach Frazier. So appreciative of him and his family. I think one play sums up who he is for his entire career, and I just hope our fanbase, a young man from Fairmont, I think he’s the best center in college football,” Brown said. A version of this story first appeared at our partner site, West Virginia Sports Now. [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 21, 2024Johan Oviedo was often absent from his locker at Pittsburgh Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Fla. No, it’s not because the soon-to-be 26-year-old is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the offseason. Though he wont be throwing any bullpens, Oviedo is still at Pirate City with his teammates this spring. It’s because Oviedo is seemingly attached at the hip with new Pirates’ relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman. The two spent a lot of time together during the first week of spring training. “He’s a great guy to have around for me,” said Oviedo. “He’s one of our idols in Cuba and it’s really a pleasure to just share time with him and learn everything he has to share. Then also realizing that he’s a better human being. That’s one of the reasons I really like hanging out with him.” There’s no hiding how quickly the two players have formed a friendship despite only having known each other for a short period of time. It seems that no matter where you would look, wherever Chapman goes, Oviedo follows. “I walked into the training room at 6:30 and both of them were already in there,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “I think it’s really important to develop that relationship because, obviously, they are from the same country, but more importantly they’re big human beings and being able to develop that relationship should benefit .” Chapman and Oviedo have a lot in common. Both players were born in Cuba, Oviedo in La Habana and Chapman in Holguin. They were born almost exactly 10 years apart, Chapman on Feb. 28, 1988 and Oviedo on Mar. 2 a decade later. Both guys look like they could play in the National Football League, too. Oviedo stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 245 pounds. Chapman checks in at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds. If it wasn’t already clear by looking at them, they spend a ton of time in the weight room. “One thing we know about is in that bucket, too,” said Shetlon. “In the weight room, you can even watch the way he has attacked his offseason program, even with his Tommy John.” When news broke that the Pirates were bringing in Chapman as a free agent for the 2024 season, Johan Oviedo was thrilled. Though he won’t get to see Chapman closing out a game he started, being teammates with an established veteran will pay dividends for Oviedo. “I was really happy about that news,” Oviedo said on the Pirates landing Chapman. “Even though I won’t share time on the field with him, just to have him around me is a blessing.” Chapman certainly has plenty of experience and perspective during his time as a major-leaguer. His on-field résumé is as impressive as any current relief pitcher in baseball. In his career, Chapman was named the winner of the Mariano Rivera Award, has been to seven All-Star games, is a two-time World Series Champion and is third amongst active players with 321 saves. He was also suspended 30 games by Major League Baseball in 2016 under the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse policy. Shortly after signing with the Pirates, Chapman spoke with members of the media and said he has learned from his mistake. It was an ugly incident, but Chapman is trying to do his part to make sure it isn’t duplicated. “I would say that I feel like I’m a different person now. I’m a better person than I was. That was an incident that was in the past and I dealt with that with MLB and I was punished for it. I did receive help after that, speaking with someone and working through that. “It’s something that when I get a chance to work with younger players, it’s something I share so it’s hopefully something they don’t make the same mistakes and they can learn from that experience, which I have.” Through all that has transpired in his career, both the good and the bad, Chapman has become a veteran presence for younger players to rely on. Johan Oviedo is going to soak in as much as he can from one of his heroes, even if it’s only for a year. [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024A potential run on quarterbacks could be setting the Pittsburgh Steelers up for success in the 2024 NFL Draft. This year’s draft class has two obvious picks that will go near the top of the first round in USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye. They will almost certainly be taken among the top three picks in this April’s selection. The third quarterback in the class is Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels from LSU, and his stock has been on the rise. When he played his last game with the Tigers on Nov. 25, Daniels was ranked as the 33rd overall player in the class, according to NFL Mock Draft Database. Now, he’s well established in the top five and could go as high as third overall. The next quarterback in the class has seen his stock rise recently, as well. Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy was ranked No. 28 when the Wolverines won the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Now, he’s at 24 and rising. The last eight mock drafts captured by the database have McCarthy going inside the top 12 picks. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah projected Daniels to the New York Giants at No. 6 in his latest mock draft, with McCarthy going to the Atlanta Falcons two choices later at No. 8. In his latest two-round mock draft, Matt Miller of ESPN had Daniels going at No. 3 to the New England Patriots and McCarthy at No. 13 to the Las Vegas Raiders. Miller even had another quarterback high in the first round, projecting Bo Nix to go to the Denver Broncos at No. 12. That’s right, there could be as many as five quarterbacks off the board when the Steelers select at No. 20. That’s good news for the Steelers, who are likely not considering using the 20th overall pick on a quarterback for the second time in three seasons. The positions that the Steelers are likely considering with that pick — center, cornerback, offensive and defensive tackle — will instead see their players pushed down draft board. Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, once considered a top-five prospect, now has seen his mock draft average fall just below the Steelers at No. 22. Georgia tackle Marius Mims, previously as high as No. 10, is now available for the Steelers more often than not, with a current ranking of No. 23. Miller, speaking in a conference call on Tuesday, said that the quarterback fallout could be good for teams at the back half of the first round. “You want as many quarterbacks as possible going ahead of you,” Miller said. “Vikings, Broncos, Raiders, Saints, 10-14, they could all take a quarterback, right?” The other part of the equation is that the fifth and six quarterback options in the class have been sliding down boards. Nix, once considered a top-15 type of prospect, has been hovering around the end of the first round since a rough performance in the week of practices in the Senior Bowl and just one drive in the game itself. Michael Penix, the likely No. 6 quarterback option in the class, was getting mid-first round hype while the Washington Huskies were making their run in the College Football Playoff, but has seen his stock fall all the way out of the first round. His week at the Senior Bowl was even worse than Nix’s, with a even-worse practice week and then a no-show in the game itself. The stock falling on those two options means that teams outside the top five won’t want to wait to get their hands on one, so the struggles of Nix and Penix at the Senior Bowl have likely contributed to the recent rises for Daniels and McCarthy. The Steelers and some other teams drafting in the back half of the first round could be the big beneficiaries, with top tackles and cornerbacks falling deeper into the draft than they usually would. [...] Read more...
James NicholsFebruary 21, 2024Tuesday night’s contest with the Washington Capitals was the perfect opportunity to build off the momentum the New Jersey Devils built at MetLife Stadium. However, they fell short of two points in a disappointing loss to a team that was 3-5-2 in their previous 10 games. The Devils captain explained after the loss that the Devils played a frustrated game. It hurt double that the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins went to overtime and the Isles squeaked out a win. Now, both of those teams are a bit closer to the Devils in the standings, and the Penguins have two games in hand. Not ideal. Read up on last night’s four takeaways from the loss below. Elsewhere, the one trade scenario no one’s talking about for Sean Walker, Montreal can play broker, and why Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett work so well together. Let’s do that hockey. Devils News New Jersey Hockey Now: The sputtering Washington Capitals hosted the Devils last night. It was the perfect opportunity to build off their Stadium Series momentum. However, the Devils lacked details in their 6-2 loss. New Jersey Hockey Now + Subscribe to NJHN+ here⤵️ and use code James10 for 10% off (yearly subscriptions) at checkout. Subscribe to NJHN+ Here’s what you get with a + subscription: All content ad free! Exclusive #NJDevils stories! Access to all paywall sites on the NHN Network, some are even in today’s links below! NHL Trade Talk, News, & National Hockey Now ESPN: Who are the best wingers in the NHL today? The players and executives weigh in. Florida Hockey Now: Ever since Paul Maurice took over behind the Florida Panthers bench, Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett have been stapled to each other. The Panthers’ forwards and coach explain why they work so well together. Philly Hockey Now: There’s a lot of talk about Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Sean Walker on the trade market. It’s also well-documented that although the Flyers know they can get some valuable assets for Walker, they’d like to keep him as well. Could they work out a handshake agreement for the pending unrestricted free agent to return to Philly in free agency? Montreal Hockey Now: The Montreal Canadiens are in a position to play broker at this year’s NHL Trade Deadline with the flat cap causing restrictions for buying teams this spring. For more Devils news, visit New Jersey Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @NJDHockeyNow, @JamesNicholsNHL And on Threads: @JamesNicholsNHL [...] Read more...
Colby GuyFebruary 21, 2024SUNRISE — With the game on his stick, Anton Lundell knew precisely what was needed to help the Florida Panthers in overtime against the Ottawa Senators. When he drove to the net at a sharp angle, Lundell saw an open spot and quickly picked the top left corner to seal the deal in a 3-2 overtime win. “It’s a shot I’ve been trying to practice for a long time since I was younger,” Lundell said. “I’ve had a couple goals from there here and there, but not too much. It’s a small angle. But when I got the puck, I saw the goalie was playing forward and I just tried to pick the corner.” Bingo. Lundell found his spot for his fourth goal in as many games and secured the sixth straight win for the Panthers. But Lundell being on the ice in overtime was about more than just his recent stretch of goals. When the Panthers initially squandered a two-goal lead in the third period, Lundell played heavy minutes in the defensive zone down the stretch to get them to overtime in the first place. Coach Paul Maurice rewarded him with some minutes in overtime next to Matthew Tkachuk and Brandon Montour. “There was a play late in the third where Anton really, really, backchecked hard, and it won’t get noticed,” Maurice said. “But he killed a play in the corner and then broke the thing out. And that’s why he went out in overtime. Because he had done something good, and it’s not about earning anything. As a coach, you’re thinking ‘who’s got a chance?’ And Lundy was going in the third period, so good for him.” It carried over into overtime as soon as he got his chance on the ice. Lundell took a feed from Tkachuk at the top of the point off a cycle, drove in when he couldn’t find a good angle, and picked his spot. “He made a good decision,” Maurice said. “The angle wasn’t there originally, and he waited for it. Showed some patience. If he had taken the shot at the original angle, we wouldn’t think too much of the opportunity. But he showed a pretty good presence there… Was a fine shot, so good for him.” Lundell had Montour waiting at the backdoor, too, if he needed him but took his chances on the shot with a defender sitting in the slot and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo cheating over to Montour’s side. “You could say I was open, but I have to watch it again,” Montour said. “If he didn’t score that, I probably would have said something, but he is obviously a skilled player and he has all the confidence to make those plays and that was a nice goal.” Lundell’s confidence has shone a lot more recently. After hitting rough patches to start the season, he has been on a roll, scoring three goals and five points through his active four-game point streak. A lot can be credited to a change in linemates, with speedy winger Evan Rodrigues adding an extra kick on offense. “I feel like we have a lot of chances,” Lundell said. “Now we have been able to score some goals too. It’s huge for the team. Our big dogs, we all know how good they are. They’re scoring on the power-play and at 5-on-5. When we are able to have more lines scoring it’s even harder to play against a team like that. It just shows how strong we are.” Maurice opted to make another switch to his line down the stretch, bumping Lundell’s usual left-hand man Eetu Luostarinen up to Tkachuk’s line while putting Ryan Lomberg on his line. ”I liked that. I thought we got a little bit more there,” Maurice said of the switch. “They changed their lines a little bit and I wanted Luostarinen to have a little bit more of a defensive game with Bennett because we changed the matchup and I was grasping at straws. That’d be the truth. “I thought Lomberg can do that, and he has to come up every once in a while to give us the jump, and I thought that line was as good or better when he went in there and then I thought we were a little stronger on the top two.” Whether it sticks or not, Lundell enjoyed playing on that line down the stretch. “Yeah, the Lomberghini,” he said with a smile. ‘He’s fast and he gives everything. You know what you get from him. He’s got speed, he’s strong, he fights, he never quits. So it’s fun to play with him as well. We had a couple of good shifts and we were able to turn the momentum over.” And that momentum shift was exactly what the Florida Panthers needed when the Senators erased Florida’s two-goal lead in the third period. ON DECK FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CAROLINA HURRICANES When: Thursday, 7 p.m. Where: PNC Arena; Raleigh, N.C. TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2,WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app Last Season — Regular Season: Carolina won 2-1; Eastern Conference Finals: Florida won 4-0. This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Hurricanes 2 (Nov.10). At Carolina: Thursday; March 14 All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-47-10, 11 ties Postseason History: Florida 1-0 (2023 ECF) Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Washington, 6 p.m. [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 21, 2024The March 8th NHL trade deadline is just over two weeks away, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have not improved their position in the standings. Several new players have not integrated well into the Penguins lineup, wins have become scarce, and things are not looking rosy for the Penguins to make a playoff push. Tuesday evening, TSN Insider Pierre LeBrun said Penguins players are drawing interest on the NHL trade block, and president of hockey operations/GM is accepting calls. LW Jake Guentzel remains the Penguins’ biggest trade chip, but LeBrun reported some teams are also eying winger Reilly Smith, whom the Penguins acquired from the Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights last June. Must Read: Penguins Report Card, Malkin Rises but Pens’ Ship Sinking Fast Smith, 32, has struggled to produce during his tenure with the Penguins. After a torrid start, Smith has four goals in his last 37 games, though he does have three points, including two goals, in his last six games. This season, Smith has “He’s not your prototypical player that’s dealt at the deadline because he’s not a rental. He’s not a pending UFA. He’s got another year on his deal at $5 million,” LeBrun said on the Canadian sports channel. “But I know that some teams have him on their list because of that Cup-winning experience, and want to see where the Penguins are close to March 8 and see if they’re willing to move him.” The Penguins are nine points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for third place in the Metro Division with only three games in hand. They trail the Detroit Red Wings by eight points with two games in hand. The closest the Penguins would get to a playoff spot if they won all of their in-hand games is three points. The team is 1-4-1 in their last six games and 3-6-2 in their last 11. Should the Penguins begin a sell-off, LeBrun says president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas is listening on nearly all players not named Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, or Kris Letang. “What I can tell you is that the Penguins are pretty much listening on all of their players, other than their core guys,” said LeBrun during the segment. “Because of where they are in the standings — while Kyle Dubas has not given up on the playoff race, he still believes his team can make a run — he has no choice because we’re two and a half weeks out that he is listening on a lot of his players, just not his core guys.” The TSN Sportscentre segment with LeBrun and host Dan Onrait is available only to Canadian readers but can be accessed here. [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new offense with coordinator Arthur Smith, and they will looking to sign, trade for or draft at least two more quarterbacks to go with Kenny Pickett in that room for the 2024 season. So what are the characteristics that make a quarterback successful in Smith’s scheme? Mike Tomlin has talked for years about the impact of quarterback mobility. Is it a deal-breaker for that position, or could someone with less mobility like Mason Rudolph thrive in the team’s new offensive scheme? Alan Saunders of Steelers Now joined the Locked On Steelers Podcast with host Chris Carter to discuss that. The guys also talked about whether Omar Khan might use an early draft pick on a quarterback, and if Smith’s new offense will mean more receptions for Pittsburgh’s tight end duo of Pat Freiermuth and Darnell Washington. RELATED: Does Justin Fields Trade Make Sense for Steelers? RELATED: Peter King Scorches Steelers QB Plan: ‘Colossal Misjudgement’ RELATED: Uninspiring Senior Bowl for Steelers QB Options Can’t give enough black and gold podcasts? Check out the SN Afternoon Drive podcast with Alan Saunders and Zachary Smith. [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 21, 2024In Wednesday’s edition of Bailey’s Daily, we’ll be talking the latest Philadelphia Flyers news, NHL news, stories, highlights, and more from the last day. Flyers News Philadelphia Flyers prospect Matvei Michkov shared his offseason plans, endorsed a 2024 NHL Draft-eligible prospect, and made one shocking admission about his pre-draft visit. With the Winnipeg Jets heavily scouting Philadelphia and vice versa, some brand new Flyers trade possibilities have emerged. History allows us to call back to one Flyers trade possibility that nobody is considering; remember Antoine Vermette and the Arizona Coyotes? With the real regular season about to begin, the Flyers welcomed injured winger Tyson Foerster back to practice this week, albeit in a non-contact capacity. PhHN+: Flyers head coach John Tortorella again laid the team’s trade deadline plans bare, reiterating that he and the team are sticking to their guns, doing everything in their power to safeguard and nurture the future of the organization on and off the ice. NHL News from National Hockey Now After yet another loss to a division rival, it looks like time is quickly running out on the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ season; Father Time waits for no one. NHL: Los Angeles Kings forward Quinton Byfield made his submission for the Goal of the Year for the 2023-24 campaign. We’re ever so slightly under two weeks away from the NHL trade deadline, which means it’s time for the Canadiens trade deadline preview, featuring trade candidates and trade partners. In the midst of his revival season with the Colorado Avalanche, Jonathan Drouin breaks down his game-winning assist in a triumph over the Arizona Coyotes. The Flyers will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, and they’ll have to be wary of a red-hot Connor Bedard in the matchup. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Michael GallagherFebruary 21, 2024Nashville Predators prospect Fedor Svechkov was having a breakout season for the Milwaukee Admirals before suffering a lower-body injury in Monday’s 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Moose. The injury occurred with a little less than 13 minutes left in the second period when he took a forceful hit from a Moose defender along the boards in the defensive zone. Svechkov had to be helped off the ice and didn’t put any weight on his left leg.   “It wasn’t pretty,” Predators GM Barry Trotz told 102.5 The Game on Tuesday. “We understand he’s going to miss a few weeks here, probably four to six. It’s nothing major; I’d say probably 75% of the players who’ve played this great game have had an injury like this at some point. I don’t expect any surgery, I don’t expect anything like that. It’s just going to be some time to heal, strengthen and get back on the ice and continue his journey.” Before the injury, Svechkov had really settled into a groove. He had points in three straight games and 11 points in his last 11 games, including two multi-point games. He’d also had a six-game point streak from Dec. 27 to Jan. 10. The 20-year-old Russian had been centering Milwaukee’s top line with Zachary L’Heureux and Joakim Kemell for the last handful of games after Mark Jankowski and Egor Afanasyev were both called up to the NHL. During Milwaukee’s 17-game win streak, which is tied for the second-longest in AHL history, Svechkov tallied four goals and 15 points on 31 shots with a plus-7 rating. He’s the Admirals’ third-leading scorer behind Jankowski and Afanasyev, notching 33 points in 45 games. His 13 goals are also third-most on the team. Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_ Be sure to follow Nashville Hockey Now on X/Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. [...] Read more...
Sheng PengFebruary 21, 2024The San Jose Sharks’ defensive corps has been much-maligned this season, and for good reason. Save for their goaltending, the Sharks have struggled at every position and situation this year, en route to a 15-35-5 record, second-worst in the NHL. In total, San Jose has surrendered a league-worst 211 goals. But let’s dig deeper – to both excavate some bright spots and put a harsher light on what the defensemen, especially the younger ones, need to improve. Per SPORTLOGiQ, here are good and bad stats about each San Jose blueliner, from Mario Ferraro to Marc-Edouard Vlasic. What stories do these micro-stats tell us about each defender? Ferraro, Henry Thrun, Ty Emberson, and David Quinn also shared their insight. All stats are 5-on-5 Per 20 through the All-Star break. Calen Addison True to his reputation, Addison moves the puck at a high level. His 73.2 Passing Success Rate % leads all Sharks rearguards. That’s especially impressive considering the degree of difficulty of some of his passes. Related to that, Addison 13.8 Turnover Rate % is the best on the team. He can be trusted with the puck. Addison has also provided value on the other side of the puck: His 51.1 Defensive Zone Denial Rate % leads the D. That said, Addison has a lot of work to do on his defensive game. His 2.86 Blocked Passes Per 20 is the lowest among Sharks blueliners, suggesting that his defensive awareness needs work. His 15.66 Loose Puck Recoveries Per 20 is also a team positional low, caused perhaps by a below-average motor. And predictably, the smaller Addison doesn’t win a lot of battles. His 0.9 Puck Battle Wins Per 20 is also a team positional low. Kyle Burroughs Burroughs isn’t very strong or weak in any of the stats that I asked SPORTLOGiQ for: He’s a fairly vanilla defender who does bring an element of physicality, leading the Sharks in Hits. His 70.5 Passing Success Rate %, third on the defense, might be surprising. He’s pretty safe with the puck. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-0 Burroughs is willing, but his 1.25 Puck Battle Wins Per 20 is third-worst on the D. Ty Emberson Emberson has been a solid waiver claim, a feather in the cap for the San Jose Sharks’ pro scouting staff. In particular, Emberson has excelled with a 49.6 DZ Denial Rate %, second on the D, which speaks to being able to keep a tight gap on attackers. “That doesn’t surprise me,” San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn agreed, “He’s a hard-nosed player. He’s good with gaps.” “I think my skating ability is decent and just being able to know the angles and the timing of the play,” Emberson guessed, on why he’s been proficient with denying zone entries. It’s also using his stick smartly: “The stick is good for stick on puck, but also good for influencing the play, where you put it kind of the forward where you want him to go.” One area where the 23-year-old can grow? His 0.66 Stick Checks Per 20 is dead-last among the Sharks’ defensive corps. Emberson feels he’s still learning when to use his stick to defend an NHL forward: “They’re a little bit stronger. But I think it’s more just like their knowledge of the game and being able to deceive you with their eyes and their position.” He also ices the puck a lot: His 0.758 Icings Per 20 is a team-worst. Mario Ferraro Ferraro, not surprisingly, leads San Jose Sharks defensemen with 1.72 Puck Battle Wins Per 20. Perhaps surprisingly, Ferraro’s puck movement has been safe and sound. His 74.6 Defensive Zone Passing Success Rate % also leads the D-corps, while his 72.5 Passing Success Rate % in all zones ranks second. “Maybe it’s a sign that I’m holding onto pucks until the appropriate pass is there instead of just giving it away?” Ferraro mused. “I definitely think I’m having a better year than I was last year.” “Much calmer, controlled game which allows him to make better decisions with the puck,” Quinn said. Another surprise, less positive? Ferraro’s 3.77 Blocked Passes Per 20 is sixth among Sharks blueliners. Not awful, but you might expect more from a defensive defenseman. This suggests that passes are beating him in passing lanes. Nikita Okhotiuk When the Sharks acquired Okhotiuk last January, his reputation preceded itself, as a physical “throwback” stay-at-home defenseman who has to work on his puck-moving. That’s been true to form. Okhotiuk is tied for second among San Jose rearguards with 1.72 Puck Battle Wins Per 20. However, his 66.2 Passing Success Rate % is second-worst and 20.5 Turnover Rate % is the worst among Sharks D. Jan Rutta The two-time Stanley Cup champion is still tough to beat one-on-one, but his puck management can be better. Not only is Rutta’s 1.73 Stick Checks Per 20 tops among Sharks defensemen, it’s 20th among all NHL defensemen. However, his 65.0 Passing Success Rate % is worst on the San Jose back-end. Henry Thrun There’s a lot to like about the rookie blueliner. Thrun’s 4.83 Blocked Passes Per 20 is second among Sharks defensemen and 22nd in the league. His 22.16 Loose Puck Recoveries Per 20 leads the team. “Smart Harvard guy, he plays with anticipation,” Quinn laughed. Thrun seems to know his way around the defensive zone. But the 22-year-old has to fill out and improve on his 1.23 Puck Battle Wins Per 20, second-worst among San Jose D. “I feel like I’m not dominating in that area, but for it to be a weakness surprises me a little bit instead of just being mediocre at it. I think that’ll come with time,” Thrun acknowledged. “That man’s strength is something you really can’t replicate until you actually play against men.” Thrun did note that his pre-season strength testing was “pretty proficient”, though he also conceded that those numbers don’t “necessarily transfer to the ice”. When it does, the Sharks should have themselves a pretty good defender. Marc-Edouard Vlasic The much-maligned veteran actually grades out well in a number of key defensive categories. His 1.62 Puck Battle Wins Per 20 ranks third among Sharks defensemen. His 5.4 Blocked Passes Per 20 tops Sharks blueliners and is actually seventh in the league. Of course, San Jose defends a lot, that helps, but this micro-stat also speaks to Vlasic’s still-present defensive smarts. He knows the passing lanes. He’s also safe and sound with the puck: His 14.3 Turnover Rate % is second-best on the San Jose blueline. Regardless, Vlasic can’t stop Father Time. His 39.7 DZ Denial Rate % is a defense-worst, perhaps further evidence of his erosion as a skater over the years. Essentially, because his feet prevent him from keeping as tight a gap on attackers, he’s forced to allow more clean zone entries to the opposition. For what it’s worth, Vlasic actually led the Sharks defense in this category last year. [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 21, 2024Recapping the latest Montreal Canadiens news, highlights, and stories you may have missed. Habs News As the NHL’s March 8 Trade Deadline looms, we took a look at whether the Montreal Canadiens could improve the four Canadian teams currently in a playoff position through a trade. As an aside, former Canadiens forward Sean Monahan scored a natural hat-trick on Monday against the Calgary Flames.  [Trade Deadline Cap Broker Targets For Montreal Canadiens]   Members of the PWHL Montreal chapter will participate in the Canadiens’ skills competition, which is scheduled to take place on February 25.  [PWHL Players To Participate In Habs Skills Competition]   Habs forwards Juraj Slafkovsky and Nick Suzuki currently own some of the longest scoring streaks in the NHL. Longest Active Point Streaks:#GoHabsGo Suzuki – 10#GoBolts Hagel – 10#GoHabsGo Slafkovsky – 8#ALLCAPS Ovechkin – 8 — Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) February 20, 2024   There was some good news on the farm, as prospect Sean Farrell was spotted in a regular jersey at practice for the first time in two months. It’s good timing for the Laval Rocket, especially now that Jan Mysak has picked up an injury. C'était entraînement optionnel pour le Rocket aujourd'hui à Laval. Pour la première fois en 2 mois, Sean Farrell était sur la glace avec un chandail régulier. Reviendra-t-il cette semaine? https://t.co/tHNjFBosnv — Anthony Marcotte (@anthonymarcotte) February 20, 2024   Head Coach Martin St-Louis took time to discuss Josh Anderson’s difficult season. Anderson, 29, has scored seven goals and eight assists in 51 games, a significant downtick in production compared to previous years. Fortunately for Anderson, his coach is not ready to give up on him yet. Coach Marty today on Josh Anderson’s season. 👇👇👇 pic.twitter.com/50nRVSt3hf — /r/Habs (@HabsOnReddit) February 20, 2024 National Hockey Now Network Some may be wondering why Nashville Predators center Mark Jankowski was reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday only to be recalled back to the team on Monday afternoon. [Nashville Predators] The Philadelphia Flyers are reportedly still undecided on the future of pending free-agent defenseman Sean Walker. Walker, 29, was brought over by the Flyers from the Los Angeles Kings in the summer and has scored five goals, 15 assists, and 20 points in 56 games.[Philadelphia Flyers] When the Pittsburgh Penguins raised a banner emblazoned with Jaromir Jagr’s No. 68 Sunday, it joined several others already in the rafters at PPG Paints Arena. There were, for example, the ones commemorating the franchise’s five Stanley Cups, as well as those celebrating the other players who have had their numbers retired, Mario Lemieux and Michel Briere. [Pittsburgh Penguins] [...] Read more...
Alan SaundersFebruary 21, 2024One of the top targets for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the 2024 Senior Bowl was Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell, but a strong week in Mobile might have the hype for the MAC product lifting him out of the Steelers’ reach in the 2024 NFL Draft. Mitchell came into the week as one of the more intriguing prospects, as a potential first-round pick that did not play against Power Five-level completion in college. Mitchell took to the challenge just fine, having one of the best weeks of any cornerback in the three days of practice before skipping the game itself. The Steelers sent scouts to Toledo games on multiple occasions this fall, so he was clearly already on their radar before they got to Mobile, and head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that interest by keeping a close eye on Mitchell during the individual drills. Scouting Report: Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell a Perfect Fit for Steelers But Mitchell’s strong showing against the top competition in Mobile might have taken him out of the Steelers’ range in the 2024 NFL Draft. Mitchell was the consensus 27th overall pick, according to the NFL Mock Draft Database, before the Senior Bowl. Now, he’s one of the hottest prospects in the first round, rising to his current position of 15th, five spots ahead of the Steelers. “Quinyon Michell is just so physical,” ESPN analyst Matt Miller said in a conference call with Steelers Now this week. “If you had to pick a winner from the Senior Bowl, I think it would be him, just because you watch his tape at Toledo and you’re like OK, this guy is dominating this level of play. How is he going to look against Power Five guys for a week? And he dominated everybody there. So what he can do in press coverage at the line is great, and also he has the speed to turn around with these guys.” The NFL Combine in Indianapolis, which starts next week, will always tell a big part of the story for when and where defensive backs get drafted. But if Mitchell impresses as much on the track as he did on the field at the Senior Bowl, the Steelers should probably start making other plans for their first-round pick, unless they want to trade up to get their guy. [...] Read more...
Dave MolinariFebruary 21, 2024Give the Pittsburgh Penguins this: They didn’t quit. Of course, they didn’t win, either. They did, however, manage to score twice in a 56-second span with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation to take the New York Islanders to overtime at PPG Paints Arena Tuesday night. That was enough to earn them one point when defenseman Adam Pelech scored 57 seconds into the extra period to give the Islanders a 5-4 victory. “It’s a tough one,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “Disappointing, because I thought our team competed really hard. Some of the ebbs and flows of the game, certain things didn’t go our way. A couple of the (New York) goals were fluky. I just thought our guys kept competing. … I thought our guys had an inspired effort.” At times, anyway. There also were times, like when New York accounted for seven of the first eight shots in the game, and when the Islanders piled up three unanswered goals in less than 10 minutes during the second period, when the Penguins didn’t seem to have any particular focus or energy. Still, rallying the way they did during the second half of the third period was a plus. “We have to take that with us, that we responded in a really good way,” defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. They also have to realize that they are now eight points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, with a dwindling number of games-in-hand. Which is why they can’t dwell on how the final score took some of the luster off their comeback. “Take the point, and move on,” Sidney Crosby said. “We need points.” 1. Making a mess Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic didn’t hesitate to point the finger at the guy he held responsible for the Islanders’ victory. Himself. “The last two goals, I just got beat,” he said. “That’s not good enough. That’s really all it is. I just got beat.” Pelech got the game-winner by beating Nedeljkovic on an unscreened shot from the slot. “I saw it the whole way,” Nedeljkovic said “I just missed it.” The game-winner came on New York’s 33rd shot. Nedeljkovic stopped 28 of them. “We deserved two points,” he said. “We deserved to win in regulation. I (messed) the bed. Just kind of dropped the ball.” 2. Blue-line shakeup Sullivan overhauled his defense pairings for the New York game. John Ludvig was scratched and P.O Joseph, a healthy scratch for three of the previous four games, worked alongside Kris Letang on the top pairing. Marcus Pettersson dropped down to the No. 2 pairing, with Erik Karlsson, and Ryan Graves was demoted to the third pair, alongside Chad Ruhwedel. Joseph played just 14:45, less than any Penguins defenseman except Ruhwedel (11:25), but acquitted himself fairly well and was not on the ice for any New York goals. Pettersson, meanwhile, opened the scoring for the Penguins, but was on for the Islanders’ first three goals, including one when Brock Nelson sliced past him before throwing a backhander by Nedeljkovic. “I can’t be reaching there on that goal,” Pettersson said. “I gave him way too good of a look.” 3. More power to them The Penguins failed to score on three power plays — the 10th time in the past 14 games they’ve been unable to get a goal with the man-advantage — and generated just five shots against the NHL’s lowest-rated penalty-kill during those six minutes. They spent much, if not most, of their time with the extra man passing the puck around the perimeter, and did little to make life difficult for New York goalie Ilya Sorokin. Sullivan, though, professed to have seen some positive things when the Penguins had a man-advantage. “They had some really good looks,” he said. “We didn’t score. They made some plays. We had a significant amount of offensive-zone time. … Some of the plays that were made — we had a couple of backdoor plays — those types of looks are high-quality looks. They got a handful of those tonight, and I think that’s something to build on.” Of course, part of the reason the Penguins spent so much time in the New York end was that they were so passive and content to move the puck around far from the net that the Islanders had no reason to try to force the issue. 4. Praise for Puustinen Valtteri Puustinen seems to enjoy playing against the Islanders. He’s done it three times now, and he has two goals — the only ones he has scored in the NHL — and two assists to show for it. He played right wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Reilly Smith and accounted for four of the Penguins’ 41 shots on Sorokin in just 12:43 of ice time. Puustinen, a healthy scratch for the Penguins’ 2-1 loss to Los Angeles Sunday, did enough to elicit a positive evaluation from Sullivan. “I thought he played well,” Sullivan said. “He was a significant part of the two comeback goals. He was in the middle of those. I thought he was forechecking well. I think he has good poise with the puck. He has good offensive instincts. There’s an element of offense in him that’s untapped, that we haven’t tapped into yet. “He’s picked up a step, footspeed-wise. That is really evident to me, and I think that will help him moving forward. His learning curve has been steep, and I think he’s getting better with every game he plays. I thought he had a real strong game.” 5. Striking a balance The Penguins scored four goals, despite not getting anything that registered on the scoreboard from the No. 1 line of Crosby, Rickard Rakell and Bryan Rust. Eller’s line, which included Reilly Smith and Puustinen, scored twice and Evgeni Malkin’s unit got one. That’s the kind of offensive diversity the Penguins have sought, but rarely received, in 2023-24. “To get the types of contributions through our lineup — not just scoring goals, but helping us get momentum, offensive-zone time, hanging onto pucks and things of that nature — I thought all of the lines contributed in that regard,” Sullivan said. “I thought Lars Eller’s line had a real strong night. I thought (Malkin’s) line had some (offensive-)zone time. Sid’s always does. “When you get production through your lineup like that, that’s certainly encouraging. If we continue to do that, we’re going to win games.” 6. Is Roy Islanders’ answer? The Islanders are one of the many teams the Penguins would have to overtake to claim a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and New York’s victory made that hill a bit steeper. New York’s playoff prospects were sufficiently poor a few weeks ago that GM Lou Lamoriello fired coach Lane Lambert and replaced him with Patrick Roy. The Islanders haven’t necessarily surged under Roy’s direction, however. Tuesday was the second game in a row in which they faded during the third period — the Islanders allowed two goals in the final four-plus minutes of regulation in what became a 6-5 overtime loss to the New York Rangers Sunday — and they are just 4-3-3 since Roy went behind the bench, which is hardly the kind of boost teams generally are seeking when they make a coaching change. [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 21, 2024The Boston Bruins made some roster changes ahead of their four-game road trip that starts tonight, and the NHL trade market for defensemen is heating up. That, NHL news, the latest NHL trade rumors, and more in the latest Boston Hockey Now Bruins Daily: Boston Bruins Boston Hockey Now: The Boston Bruins placed rookie center Matthew Poitras on long-term injury reserve and recalled rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei. Boston Hockey Now: The Boston Bruins got a great NHL debut from 6-foot-5, 245-pound forward Justin Brazeau.   Patriots Football Now: For the latest on the New England Patriots, check out our sister NFL site, Patriots Football Now! Atlantic Division Montreal Hockey Now: Who are some realistic NHL trade targets for Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens? Detroit Hockey Now: Can general manager Steve Yzerman maintain team chemistry if he uses the NHL trade market to improve the Detroit Red Wings? Florida Hockey Now: Defenseman Aaron Ekblad is back from injury for the Florida Panthers. 32 Thoughts Podcast: How badly do the Toronto Maple Leafs want to acquire Calgary Flames defenseman Chris Tanev? Sportskeeda: What teams are interested in acquiring Ottawa Senators winger Vladimir Tarasenko? NHL NYI Hockey Now: What is the biggest issue for the New York Islanders? Philly Hockey Now: Are the Winnipeg Jets engaged in NHL trade talks with the Philadelphia Flyers? Pittsburgh Hockey Now: The reckoning of a rebuild appears to be near for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nashville Hockey Now: A lack of upholding standards has canned a trip to Vegas to see U2 for the Nashville Predators. Chicago Hockey Now: The Chicago Blackhawks are struggling, but not their rookie sensation, Connor Bedard. Colorado Hockey Now: Forward Drew O’Connor isn’t quite ready to return for the Colorado Avalanche. Calgary Hockey Now: What are four odd trends with the Calgary Flames?   Don’t forget, for exclusive insightful, insider Bruins and NHL coverage, subscribe for BHN +!     [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 21, 2024Try as they might Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins could not overcome themselves or the New York Islanders, losing in overtime 5-4 at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins’ second and third lines with Evgeni Malkin and Lars Eller, respectively, were especially good. However, the mistakes on defense were too much. The power play was 0-for-3 and yielded a breakaway goal to Matthew Barzal as his time in the penalty box expired. The sloppy mistakes overcame the furious comeback attempt. The Penguins earned a point but lost ground to the Islanders in the playoff race. We went through the game analysis before getting to the viewer and reader questions. Should the Penguins move Evgeni Malkin to the wing and Drew O’Connor to center (2:51), more questions on Malkin and should be media be more adversarial with the team (5:04), what would should Kyle Dubas do next and getting another chance for Sidney Crosby (7:14), Mike Sullivan’s future, roster construction and blue line construction (9:53). One trade question is if role players like Eller could be on the block (12:39) and which players answered the bell. [...] Read more...
Bob DuffFebruary 21, 2024Between 1946-71, Detroit Red Wings icon Gordie Howe would play in 1687 regular-season NHL games for the team. The jersey he figures to have been wearing in his final game for the team on April 6, 1971 was sold by Classic Auctions on Tuesday for the sum of $74,022. The red No. 9 road jersey is a durene knit garment. It’s a production of General Athletic. Through photo matching, Classic Auction was able to determine that Howe was wearing this jersey on March 31, 1971 at Toronto. That was Detroit’s second-last away game of the 1970-71 season. This game would mark the 76th game of the season for Detroit, resulting in a 2-2 tie. Howe would also be suiting up the last two games of the season. He would play on April 3rd at home vs Chicago and on April 4th vs the Rangers in New York. The latter contest was marking his last time wearing a Detroit uniform in an NHL game. The Howe is here! Bid now on this awesome Gordie Howe's 1970-71 Detroit Red Wings Game-Worn Alternate Captain's Jersey – Final NHL Season in Detroit ! – Team Repairs! – Photo-Matched! in our #February2024Auction. Auction ends February 20. #WeAreHockeyhttps://t.co/CxmU65331g pic.twitter.com/3LBJHMZUmQ — Classic Auctions.net (@classic_auction) February 13, 2024 By studying an image taken during that Toronto contest on March 31st, Classic Auctions was able to photo match the Howe jersey. The photo clearly shows the pair of orange paint transfer marks on the right side hem, the long loose white thread on the right edge of the alternate captain’s “A” and the particulars in the visible portion of the team’s crest on the front, all of which provide matches to the offered piece. In all likelihood, the jersey in the auction offering is the same one Howe would wear both in Toronto on March 31st and on April 4th in New York. This would be making it the final jersey that Mr. Hockey would ever wear with the team for which he played 25 seasons. How Howe’s Red Wings Jersey Came To Auction The tale accompanying the jersey is almost as compelling as the jersey itself. The story goes that Howe would up giving the jersey to a 12-year old back in the day whose father was a neighbor of Gordie’s. 1: Gordie Howe sets up Alex Delvecchio 2: Alex Delvecchio sets up Gordie Howe 3: Alex Delvecchio & Gordie Howe set up Frank Mahovlich Minnesota North Stars @ Detroit Red Wings, 1968 pic.twitter.com/ev6Q3SodR4 — Evan Streifel (@Evan_Streifel) February 15, 2024 Fast forward many decades later. The then 12-year old, now an older gentleman, had moved away overseas. He would mail the jersey back to North America for his daughter at her mother’s house. Here it sat unattended for nearly a decade. Only reacently was the family unerathing the prize jersey once again. Accompanying it are photocopies of a photo that Howe wound up autographing. Mr. Hockey was even adding a dedication to the once 12-year old child alongside his signature. As well, there are photocopies of a Christmas card that he sent along with the jersey back to North America. The card reads “Enclosed is one of my most prized possessions given to me when I was 12 by Gordie himself. Enjoy!” [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 21, 2024Don’t look now, but the Alexandar Georgiev is in the midst of his best stretch of games since October for the Colorado Avalanche. Over his last nine starts, Georgiev has put up a .911 save percentage. Low bar? Maybe, but considering he’s been sitting below .900 for a large portion of the season, this is a big improvement. Georgiev talked to me before the rest of the media showed up about his crazy save in the third period on Nils Hoglander, where he got a little help from Sam Girard. Speaking of Sam Girard, I asked Jared Bednar if this is the best he’s seen the Avalanche defenseman play in his tenure. He was very complimentary of him. Check out Georgiev’s post-game availability, and read what Bednar had to say about his Avalanche squad pulling out the 3-1 win over the Canucks. Alexandar Georgiev Georgiev on his save on Hoglander: “I felt like I got a glove on it. The puck was coming to the crease, and they made a quick backdoor pass, and I tried to scramble, cover the low part of the net. I think I saw somehow from behind they were shooting, and luckily got a glove on that.” Georgiev on the intensity of the game: “It felt like a big game. Great job by the guys playing smart, finding a way to win. (I) like the score. Not high-scoring game, and I’m glad we got it done like that.” Bednar on Avalanche forward Ryan Johansen‘s performance: “I thought he played hard again. There’s just a little bit more competitive spirit in his game here recently. The team has been digging in. He’s a veteran player. It looks different for everybody, you know, that competitive spirit, but he’s been working hard and doing what he can and he gets rewarded for some of that work here tonight. Nice to see him get rewarded, in two different ways, really. Nice play by Zach on the second one.” Bednar on if he’s spoken to Johansen about that competitive spirit: “Well, we’ve been talking to our whole team about that. I haven’t spoken to him individually on that, like recently, but we’re reiterating that every day and what we need to know. It’s what the game requires in order to win. At the end of the day, you can’t cheat your work ethic, you can’t take shortcuts. He’s got to be hard and competitive or it’s just not going to be good enough.” Bednar on the defensive play of the Avalanche: “I thought it was good, starting with our goalie. We have the same chance they have in the first period with Nate driving the net low, we miss on it, they score on it. You can’t fault him on that, it’s a partial breakaway, it is what it is. He was competitive tonight, and I thought our guys were really competitive in front of him. There were a lot of those net-front scrambles that was hard to find, and our guys collapsed back to the net-front and they played hard. (Kiviranta) keeps the one out, and then they get the next chance, they slide it over and (Lehkonen) gets out and gets a block. The penalty kill at the end of the game – I like the adjustment that Pratt made with those guys. They protected the house really well.” Bednar on MacKinnon‘s streak extending and the crowd wanting it: “Well, I was wanting him to get it. He knows he’s going to be on the ice at the end of the game, right? So if we can hold on to a lead, then he’s going to get an opportunity with the net empty.” Bednar on the play of Sam Girard: “It’s solid. I would say, because it’s getting to be a lot of games now, I would say for this long a stretch, and being as impactful as he is, it probably is the best I’ve seen him play.” Bednar on the Avalanche trusting Zach Parise right away: “You got to look at a guy’s history, and what he’s been doing in the league for years and what he’s been good at. Part of it is that he’s a really responsible defender. He understands the game. On the Johansen goal, we talked in intermission using the strong side low-to-high in the offensive zone that their wingers are really jumping out there to try and cut that, so now you got to implement that in your game. What’s the next option? Well, he gets that puck, and lots of guys would have just went low-to-high and it probably would have got cut and sent out of the zone, but he takes a split-second to turn, get it on his forehand, sees it’s taken, and uses Johansen in the D-2 spot, and it gets us a goal. He pays attention to all the details on anything that can help in the game. That’s why he’s still playing.” [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 21, 2024Sure, the Vancouver Canucks were on the second half of a back-to-back, but whenever the top team in the NHL comes to town, you want to make a statement. And for the second time this season, the Colorado Avalanche took care of business on home ice against the talented Canucks squad. A third period goal by Ryan Johansen, his second of the evening, broke the tie in a tightly contested game between two of the best teams in the West, but it was the Avalanche who came out on top with the 3-1 win. Colorado held the Canucks to just 25 shots on goal, a big defensive performance from a team looking to tighten things up down the stretch. Nathan MacKinnon extended his home point streak to 27 games with an assist on the empty net goal, and Alexandar Georgiev was great in net, stopping 24 of 25 shots. First Period Compared to Sunday’s affair between the Avalanche and Coyotes, the first 20 minutes of the matchup between Colorado and Vancouver moved at warp speed. Both teams came out skating, and the first ten minutes of the opening session were highly entertaining. There was one difference in the period – one team got a save on a great scoring chance, while the other team didn’t. Unfortunately, as they have been far too many times this season, the team on the wrong end of it was the Avalanche. Early in the game, Mikko Rantanen sprung Nathan MacKinnon for a mini-break behind the Canucks defense. Thatcher Demko, one of the best goalies in the league, was up to the task, stopping MacKinnon as he cut across the net. A few minutes later, the Canucks got a scoring chance on a nearly identical play, and took advantage. Rantanen turned the puck over in the neutral zone on a backhand pass, allowing the Canucks to regroup. Boeser hit a streaking J.T. Miller, who snuck behind the defense, was able to beat Georgiev, making it 1-0 Canucks. Colorado did get a powerplay, but couldn’t beat Demko, so the Avalanche went into the intermission chasing the game. Second Period The second period was more of the same, with both teams showing off their speed while also generally keeping things to the outside. Early in the second, the Avalanche tied things up off a hard working shift. After some cycling down low, the puck eventually came back to the point. Jack Johnson’s point shot missed the net, but it bounced perfectly off the boards back to the front, where Ryan Johansen was there to tuck it into an empty net. The center is starting to show signs of life over the last few games. Whether or not he can keep it up down the stretch is another story. Vancouver got their first powerplay of the game soon after, but Colorado’s penalty kill did a tremendous job keeping pretty much everything to the outside, and killed it off. At the other end, Demko made his best saves of the period off Jonathan Drouin, who had some good looks in front off deflections. The winger wasn’t able to bury anything, but Colorado’s top line was at least generating chances. Colorado got another powerplay late in the period, and although it didn’t score, they peppered Demko with shots. There’s a reason why he’s one of the best goalies in the world, and he kept the game tied heading into the third. Third Period Who is ready for a Ryan Johansen resurgence? Very early in the third period, Johansen put the Avalanche on top with a seemingly harmless shot from the point. Zach Parise did a great job winning a battle in the corner to get the puck, feeding Johansen at the blueline. The center’s shot bounced off Ian Cole, who decided he wanted to try and play goalie in front of his own net, and over Demko’s shoulder, giving Colorado the early lead. Even though Vancouver was on the second half of a back-to-back, you couldn’t really tell in the third. They kept pushing, and boy did they get close to tying it. A crazy sequence early in the third period led to Sam Girard and Alexandar Georgiev combining for an absurd save. Girard’s clearing attempt up the boards hit a stick and bounced right into the slot. A quick passing play found Elias Lindholm with the puck at the side of the net, but Georgiev appeared to bat it out from behind him. The puck slid right to Hoglander, who fanned on his shot, but it was still heading into the net. Girard appeared to get a glove on it, deflecting it right into Georgiev’s glove, and sending the sellout crowd into a large chorus of “Georgie!” chants. Later in the third, another chaotic sequence around the net led to a mass of humanity at Georgiev’s side. The puck eventually slid out behind the net, and to Hronek in front. Georgiev was still recovering, and Hronek opted to wind up for a bomb instead of placing his shot. That allowed Lehkonen to get in front of it, which the crowd really loved. Colorado eventually cleared it and lived to fight another day. Vancouver got a late powerplay, but Colorado’s penalty kill outworked them. They bent, but did not break, and after an extended shift in their own end, Sam Girard outmuscled J.T. Miller in the corner to clear the puck. The crowd, which was really into the game in the third period, gave Girard a huge ovation as he got off the ice. With the net empty, Bednar made sure to send out Nathan MacKinnon for a chance to extend his point streak at home, and that’s exactly what he did. MacKinnon hit a wide open Lehkonen to seal the game, and the Avalanche walked away with the 3-1 win at home. Colorado will now head out on the road for one game, as they’ll be in Detroit Thursday night to play the Red Wings. That game starts at 5 PM MST. [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 21, 2024It was a stinging loss that will hasten decisions and the finality of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins earned a point in a 5-4 overtime loss to their rival New York Islanders but lost even more ground in the playoff race. They have less than 30 games to go, only a couple of weeks before the March 8 NHL trade deadline, and trail the playoff spots by margins that exceed their games in hand. Read More: Penguins Report Card, Malkin Rises, Pens’ Season Sinking Fast Even if they could win all of their games in hand, they would still be several points short. Not that winning several games in a row seems a remote possibility for a team that is 1-4-1 in the six most important games of the season that was going to determine their fate. Centers Evgeni Malkin and Lars Eller had an inspired third period. Eller, with rookie Valtteri Puustinen, created energy and pressure. Puustinen scored a goal when he chipped a puck past Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin from close range. Eller and Puustinen amplified the Penguins’ forecheck and put several pucks in the crease, leading the Penguins’ comeback from 3-1 and 4-2 deficits. “We’ve got to keep the faith and belief. It’s tough right now when you only get one point,” Eller said. “But we showed we have no quit in us, regardless of how things went during the game. And that’s going to be important going forward.” However, the Penguins lost. Again. Eller could only shake his head when asked about the effort and performance that led to the deficits. Long silences followed as he tried to put into words the Penguins’ poor effort in the first two periods before the comeback.   Alex Nedeljkovic The Penguins goalie stopped 28 of 33 shots. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad. However, like much of the room after the game, the goalie was dejected. Nedeljkovic blamed himself for the Penguins loss to the Islanders. “We deserved two points. I sh-t the bed,” he said.   Coach Mike Sullivan With the Pittsburgh Penguins season slipping into the beautiful oblivion, Sullivan spun positive. He was not the surly Sullivan that follows many losses, but the cheerleader for his team. There’s no criticism here of Sullivan’s outlook. He spun positively on the Penguins’ effort and the power play. “A couple of the goals were flukey. I just thought our guys kept competing,” Sullivan said. “So, from that standpoint, I thought there was a lot to like about our team game tonight. I thought our guys had an inspired effort. So, we didn’t get the result. Obviously, that’s disappointing, but I think there’s a lot of good things we can take from this one.” [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 20, 2024A power play terrified to shoot and gives up a breakaway goal at its conclusion. A team that can’t muster the fear or urgency to win games on home ice with their season on the line. Last season, it took until Game 81 for the Pittsburgh Penguins to be eliminated from playoff contention. The impatient Penguins are hastening their fate this season and, for too much of the first 30 minutes Tuesday, looked ready to accept the same destiny. They trailed 3-1 in the second and 4-2 midway through the third period before a desperate comeback forced overtime. However, they still lost ground in the playoff race with a 5-4 overtime loss to the New York Islanders at PPG Paints Arena. Don’t dig a hole, and you won’t have to climb out of it. That’s not exactly Confucian philosophy, but it holds. They have one win in their last six games. In the third period, a funny thing happened. The Penguins began to look like the team they could be. Evgeni Malkin created loose pucks and a few more scoring chances with a dogged forecheck. Malkin and winger Drew O’Connor were spirited in the third period. So, too were Valtteri Puustinen and Lars Eller. The Penguins scored three times in the final 23 minutes to force overtime. But it wasn’t enough. Like this season we are watching unravel, the Penguins weren’t good enough. They’re good for fits and spurts and moments and short runs but not good enough overall. The results speak loudly. They earned a point when they needed two. They gave the Islanders life and two points when the Islanders were ready to quit after a dispiriting loss to the New York Rangers in the Stadium Series Game on Sunday. “We went down a couple of goals, but I think our response was great,” said a dejected Marcus Pettersson. “It was a big point for us. I mean, for sure, disappointing, we could have (come out) on top.” Sure, the Penguins could still go on a tear. Sure, they could make the playoffs. But if a team can’t turn up the dial when it matters now, there seems little hope they figure it out with the current cast of characters and roles. Conclusion The ship is sinking, and there aren’t enough players bailing water. How does a coach fix a power play full of talented and worthy participants that passes up shot…after shot…after shot? The Islanders’ goals were a litany of bad decisions and bad plays. Brock Nelson skated past Erik Karlsson and danced around Marcus Pettersson for the first Islanders goal. Matthew Barzal lept from the penalty box for a breakaway goal as the Penguins meekly watched the end of their power play. And Simon Holmstrom poked a loose puck past goalie Alex Nedeljkovic as the goalie thought Karlsson would play it but didn’t. Defenseman Ryan Graves tried to outskate forecheckers but couldn’t, his giveaway leading to Mike Reilly’s goal at 10:42 of the third period. Four horrible goals to give up, not by the goalie but by lackadaisical or bad plays. You can use a lot of adjectives. Careless or irresponsible are the family-friendly versions. On Tuesday, the careless equaled the good. The sloppy equaled the desperate, and the goalie whiffed on an overtime shot. That’s how it works when you only play an honest 20 minutes. Penguins Analysis The Penguins are struggling to put together three defense pairings. They activated their adult defensemen Tuesday, but mistakes in the blue line were a big difference. Marcus Pettersson sneaked to the back door twice, scoring once and putting Islanders captain Anders Lee in a bad spot to deflect a hard pass into the net on the other. We’ll call it two goals but only credit for one. Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson were active and forward from the red line, and the team covered them well. The Islanders did not get odd-man rushes. No, the Islanders got goals from errors and what the team called bad luck. “I don’t know what to say. Just not … Not not our best game,” said Eller with long pauses. “Through two periods there, our game … just … a little bit poor execution, a little bit bad luck and bounces. A little bit of both. All of a sudden, you’re down 3-1. When things aren’t going your way, you can’t quit on your teammates, and I don’t think anyone quit tonight.” No, the team didn’t quit, but they put themselves in that situation. Coach Mike Sullivan took the hits for his team, spinning to the positive on most issues. He credited the team’s “Inspired effort,” and he said the power play had a handful of “high-quality chances.” I saw a lot of passing. More passing. Passed-up shots. Passive standing. And more passes. That’s not on the coach because I’m quite sure they didn’t have a meeting to avoid shots. The team had five shots on goal in three opportunities. In the third period, the Penguins really got to the game they needed to play for 60 minutes. They pressured the Islanders with a desperate forecheck that often created loose pucks and offensive zone pressure. The Malkin line with Matthew Phillips and Drew O’Connor was the Penguins’ best. Eller’s line with Valtteri Puustinen and Reilly Smith also got the puck in the offensive zone and pushed hard around the net. It’s enough to make anyone throw up their hands in exasperation that occurs so inconsistently. Penguins Report Card Team: B- Under the circumstances, perhaps the grade should be much lower. That was the game the Penguins needed, and they knew they needed it badly. Yet they put forth barely a passing effort until the third period. The mistakes. The defense continues to be patchwork. Tuesday, goalie Alex Nedeljkovic wasn’t bad–he wasn’t great–and he took the heat for the loss, but he shouldn’t have. “We deserved two points. I sh-t the bed,” he said after the game. Evgeni Malkin: A Malkin had some hop. It was the game he had needed to play for weeks. With the season on the line, the Penguins star stepped forward, especially in the third period. Matthew Phillips: A I really liked his game. He had energy from the opening faceoff. He zipped around defenseman Mike Reilly in the first period and nearly set up Kris Letang for a sure goal, but Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin deflected the pass. Phillips was part of the Malkin line surge. He may stick if he can keep up this level of play. Drew O’Connor: A I really liked O’Connor’s game. He had a few glorious chances. He took the puck to the net, he made plays in the offensive zone, and he showed some power-forward game. I’m sure the coaches will give him a tap and say, “More of that.” Valtteri Puustinen: A He’s been invisible for a long time, but he was front and center in the Penguins’ comeback, scoring the third goal with a poke near the net. He was on the forecheck and clearly brought some energy to the team. Again–more of that. He had a goal and four shots on goal. Power Play: D “I thought they had they had some really good looks. We didn’t score. You know, they made some plays. We had a significant amount of offensive zone time,” Sullivan said. “You know, I didn’t think we got a whole lot of pot luck — and Barzal comes out of the penalty box at the same time the puck goes around the wall. That’s a tough one. I thought some of the plays that were made — we had a couple of backdoor plays. Rusty had one on the backdoor. Those types of looks are high-quality looks. I thought they got some — they got a handful of those tonight. And I think that’s something to build on.” In the words of Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh, I’m going to have to sort of disagree with you there. The passive nature of the man advantage didn’t create momentum, the chances were sparse, and the passed-up shots against the league’s worst penalty kill were inexplicable. It’s not on Sullivan that Letang, Karlsson, Crosby, Malkin, et al, didn’t let it fly, but it was another killer effort in a tight game. Ryan Graves: C- I circled three dangerous mistakes. One led to a goal. Two more led to high-danger chances. Erik Karlsson: C+ There were flashes of THE Erik Karlsson Tuesday. I liked his game. He had four shots on goal. I can’t give anything higher because of the Simon Holmstrom goal and the Brock Nelson goal. P.O Joseph: B? The grades differ based on expectations. Joseph held the fort and allowed Letang to do what Letang does well. Joseph had a couple of turnovers, which is not good, but he moved the puck forward and defended well. If Joseph can provide that level of play, the Penguins might be able to cobble together a blue line, but I’ve written that a few times this season about others, too. [...] Read more...
Dan KelleyFebruary 20, 2024Matthew Slater played in more games than anyone in history who played all of them with the New England Patriots. Slater has now made what was rumored for months official. Game 264 of his illustrious career was his last as an NFL player. Slater has announced his retirement from the National Football League. New England selected Slater out of UCLA in the fifth round (No. 153 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. Only three other players from that draft remain in the league (Joe Flacco, Duane Brown, and Calais Campbell). Although listed as a wide receiver, Slater caught zero passes in college. He was converted to defensive back after his first season with the Bruins, while also returning kicks. Thus it is no surprise that the pick did not receive rave reviews. Peter Bukowski of Bleacher Report wrote: “Matt Slater was a big reach on a team that could have used a little help behind Welker and Moss. Someone must have forgotten to tell New England that they had depth issues outside of just the linebacker position. This was not one of the best drafts and we cannot blame Super Bowl loss hangover.” Slater was in the same Patriots draft class as New England head coach Jerod Mayo and Minnesota head coach Kevin O’Connell. Special Teams Superstar Bukowski was correct that Matthew Slater did not provide the Patriots with wide receiver depth. New England listed him as a wide receiver throughout his career, but he only had one career reception in 16 seasons. That one catch in 2011 went for 46 yards and places Slater first in franchise history in yards per reception. He did play in 246 offensive snaps in his career but it was largely part of the victory kneel. He played four snaps on defense as well. But it was special teams where Slater made his mark. If Matthew Slater is not the greatest core special teams player in NFL history, he is on an extremely short list with Steve Tasker and possibly Larry Izzo. Slater was selected to ten Pro Bowls between 2011 and 2021. No other special teams player in history has been selected for as many. New England enjoyed tremendous success with Mattew Slater on the team. Not was he a member of five AFC Champions and three Super Bowl winners. With Slater’s retirement, there are now no players remaining from the 2014 Super Bowl champs. When Matthew Slater was in the lineup, the New England Patriots record was 160-79 in the regular season and 16-9 in the postseason. Matthew Slater’s Legacy in New England Jackie Slater, Matthew’s father, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The elder Slater had an even longer NFL career, playing offensive tackle for 20 seasons with the Rams. Like his son, Jackie Slater only played for one franchise. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection, the elder Slater was voted into Canton in his first year of eligibility. Will Matthew Slater join him? No core special teams player has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, nobody has a resume that rivals that of Matthew Slater. A ten-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Super Bowl champion among special teams players is a group of one. Return specialist Devon Hester being part of the Class of 2024 bodes well for special teamers. Will Steve Tasker gain more traction between now and Slater’s first year of eligibility in 2029? Slater will not be judged by whether he winds up in the Hall of Fame though. His legacy expands far beyond the field. He was a team captain 13 times. He won the 2017 Bart Starr Award for character and leadership on and off the field. Slater is a past recipient of the Patriots’ Ron Burton Community Service Award and was twice New England’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Matthew Slater is a New England Patriots legend. Despite his unbelievable career, the best is likely still to come. As fantastic of a player as he was, his legacy will live even longer as a person. For any professional to play 16 seasons under the scrutiny of the New England sports fans, yet have nobody have a negative word to say about them, is truly something special. And special is exactly what this special teams ace has been. [...] Read more...
Chris GawlikFebruary 20, 2024Las Vegas – The Vegas Golden Knights were looking to get their second win in as many nights against the Nashville Predators Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena. This was the second game of a four-game week for the Golden Knights, who were hoping to gain ground on the Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Division. The first five minutes of the game were sluggish for both teams. Passes had a hard time connecting and neither team could generate much through the neutral zone. The first goal of the game for the Predators was gifted by the Golden Knights. Paul Cotter made a nonchalant play on a Predators pass and missed. Luke Evangelista had a clear lane and beat Adin Hill. The Golden Knights got on the board after completing seven passes while in the offensive zone. Alec Martinez found Alex Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo fired a shot from the right-faceoff dot that Kevin Lankinen never saw. Former Golden Knight, Cody Glass, gave the Predators the lead back with 52 seconds remaining in the period. Roman Josi found Glass skating in from the blue line and Glass beat Hill from just inside the right faceoff circle. The Predators took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. The second period featured more physicality from the Golden Knights and it seemed like they were engaged in the game. Unfortunately, the Predators scored the first goal of the second period. Tommy Novak beat Hill low on a shot from just inside the circle seconds after a Golden Knights penalty expired. Hill was partially screened on the shot. Cole Smith extended the Predators lead to 4-1 with four minutes remaining in the period. Smith won his battle in front of the net against Nicolas Hague and deflected a shot from Michael McCarron. The Predators took a 4-1 lead into the second intermission. William Karlsson did not report to the Golden Knights bench until just over 10 minutes remaining in the second period. Karlsson was knocked down on a play that drew an interference penalty near the end of the first period. Karlsson got the Golden Knights back into the game with a powerplay goal just 47 seconds into the third period. Michael Amadio gave the home team hope with three minutes remaining. The Golden Knights pulled Hill and the Predators ended the Golden Knights’ chances of winning with an empty net goal with 1:49 remaining in the third period. The Predators defeated the Golden Knights 5-3. Mark Stone left the game during the second period and did not return due to an upper-body injury. Coach Bruce Cassidy did not have an update after the game regarding the extent of the injury. Tuesday’s game against the Predators was Theodore’s first game in nearly three months. “When you miss an extended period of time, it’s hard to replicate a game.” Theodore on his return. “I thought I fought hard and skated pretty well.” Alex Pietrangelo was asked about fatigue playing a role in the loss. “It shouldn’t, our record in back-to-backs is pretty good.” Pietrangelo on the loss. Wins have been tough to come by in T-Mobile Arena as of late for the Golden Knights, who lost three straight home games after losing just five home games before last week. “If I had an answer it wouldn’t be happening.” Pietrangelo on the home losing streak. “We need to be better at home, it’s as simple as that. Coach Bruce Cassidy has used Chandler Stephenson on the wing for the last two games. “It’s situational for Stephenson.” Cassidy on using Stephenson on the wing. “It’s not ideal to move him to the wing with Jack Eichel being out, we’re already down a top center. I didn’t think it would be a long-term thing.” The Golden Knights remain 10 points behind the Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific Division, but the bigger issue is Stone’s injury and if he will miss time. [...] Read more...
James NicholsFebruary 20, 2024When the puck dropped between the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, there weren’t any distractions like their last game. We are back to your regularly scheduled programming as the Devils took their game back indoors against another division rival. Unfortunately, Devils defenseman John Marino was absent from the lineup due to illness. However, Jonas Siegenthaler made his return from a broken foot suffered on Jan. 6th. Unfortunately, Siegenthaler’s return didn’t inject the spark the Devils had hoped. In fact, the Capitals rang the Devils up for five goals against which is just the fourth time this season they’ve scored that many, and the second time against New Jersey this season (6-4 loss on Oct. 25th). Let’s dive into the Devils’ 5-2 loss to the Capitals. Devils Recap Opposite of Saturday, the Capitals jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a goal scored by Connor McMichael. Alexander Holtz tied the game at one, however, before the opening 20 minutes came to a close. To open the second period, it was McMichael again who regained the Capitals’ lead. The remainder of the second period went scoreless. In the third, Erik Haula netted a late goal, however, two goals from Alexander Ovechkin, and single tallies from Dylan Strome and Michael Sgarbossa sunk the Devils. Nico Daws — who started his fifth game in a row — made 19 saves on 25 shots. Takeaways Wise Beyond His Years Holtz may have scored the goal, but it was Simon Nemec that made the whole sequence. For starters, the 20-year-old defenseman orchestrated the breakout quite well from the Devils’ end of the ice into the Capitals zone. He fed Holtz at the blue line and received the puck back when he joined the attack. With the puck on the far wall, T.J. Oshie made a nice defensive play on Nemec to strip him of the puck. However, Nemec stayed with the play, lifted Oshie’s stick, and regained puck possession. Continuing to move his feet, Nemec forced Joel Edmundson to retreat further into Charlie Lindgren and fed Holtz back door for the easy tap-in goal. Swedish Holtz Mafia dropped the beat. pic.twitter.com/IyHPMFXotl — New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 21, 2024 The things that Nemec is doing as a rookie are quite remarkable and they seem to be happening more and more often. Daws Needs a Breather The Devils have been riding Daws for the past five games. Vitek Vanecek has been injured and unavailable due to a lower-body injury. In fact, the Devils placed Vanecek on injured reserve today, retroactive to Feb. 10th. Regardless, Daws had done quite well for himself leading up to Tuesday night with a 3-1-0 record, a goals-against average of 2.02, and a save percentage of .942. In the Stadium Series tilt on Saturday night, Daws made 45 saves on 48 shots. Tuesday night was a bit different. Granted, the Devils didn’t play their best in front of Daws, but the Devils goaltender didn’t have quite the same magic he’s had of late. Daws allowed six goals against for the second time this season (last on Jan. 29th vs. the Dallas Stars). By the end of regulation, he accrued -3.35 goals saved above expected, according to MoneyPuck. Regardless of Daws’ night, it’s hard to point the finger at the Devils goaltender. He was provided with little support on the scoreboard and even less in front of him. Expected by Whom? Speaking of MoneyPuck, a gander at the expected goals in this one suggests that the Devils should have potted 2.81 goals. That’s more than the Capitals’ 2.65 xG. The fact of the matter is we can sit here and dissect the goaltending, however, in a four-point game against a sputtering division rival, this was the Devils’ opportunity to step on their throats. The Devils got no contributions from any of their stars. New Jersey received a combined zero points from Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, and Jesper Bratt. Part of the problem is the power play woes still continue. There weren’t many on Tuesday, but they couldn’t convert on their two opportunities despite putting seven shots on Lindgren on the man advantage. It’s certainly concerning to see the young Devils unable to rise to the moment at a crucial point of the season which is hanging on by a thread. “We didn’t finish, obviously,” Lindy Ruff explained. “Our second power play had a lot of really good looks. We just didn’t put pucks in the back of the net. You look at missed opportunities, we had a couple of rush plays, 2-on-1’s where we didn’t generate opportunities. You have to give them credit, when we gave them an opportunity they put it away. We didn’t put away our opportunities.” Smith-Hughes Roughed Up The Brendan Smith and Luke Hughes defensive pairing had a rough night. Smith ended the night as a minus-3 and Hughes as a minus-2. For the two goals they were on the ice together for, both were loose pucks in the crease cleaned up by a Washington skater. Both Smith and Hughes struggled to keep the Capitals to the perimeter, and when they were on the inside, neither could clear the puck or bodies from the slot. Mikey in under a minute pic.twitter.com/Jbnrt3R67z — Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 21, 2024 The duo only accrued 1:07 of ice time together. Head coach Lindy Ruff recognized their struggle early, literally as McMichael scored 39 seconds into the contest. However, their little ice time together was still quite damaging and should be a pairing that Ruff stays away from in the future. “We didn’t play well enough defensively,” Ruf explained. “Starting with the first goal against. Around the front of the net, we’ve worked hard to stay in front, don’t give up the inside chances… a couple of the goals were lack of details by our group.” For more Devils news, visit New Jersey Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @NJDHockeyNow, @JamesNicholsNHL And on Threads: @JamesNicholsNHL [...] Read more...
Andrew FantucchioFebruary 20, 2024The New York Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by a final of 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday night. Adam Pelech scored the winning goal for the Islanders, while Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, Simon Holmstrom and Mike Reilly contributed to the effort as well. Ilya Sorokin made 37 saves on 41 shots in goal. Marcus Pettersson, Lars Eller, Valtteri Puustinen and Drew O’Connor scored for the Penguins. Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 28 of 33 shots that came his way. With the overtime win, the Islanders gained two points in the standings that they desperately needed. But that’s just the box score. Here are the key takeaways from the night that was at PPG Paints Arena. Perfect Time For Pelech: Adam Pelech showed shades of Mike Bossy as he sniped a shot past the blocker of Alex Nedeljkovic for the game-winning goal 57 seconds into overtime. PELECH WINS IT! pic.twitter.com/c7S4ICtb7f — New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 21, 2024 It was the first goal of the season for Pelech and his first since April 6 of last season. Short Term Satisfaction: Certainly, the Islanders are happy collecting two points, as they help shrink the gap between them and the Detroit Red Wings down to four. However, at this time of year, it’s just as important for the Islanders to separate themselves from the teams they’re ahead of just as much as they need to catch those they’re chasing. They had the chance to do that tonight against the Penguins, but allowing them to even salvage a single point could hurt them later on should Pittsburgh find a way to close the gap. Either way, they’ll take the two points for now, even if they didn’t come easily. No Lead Is Truly Safe: For the second straight game, and now the eighth time this season, the Islanders blew a multi-goal lead in the third period. Mike Reilly’s fourth goal of the season made it 4-2 Islanders at 10:42 of the third. But just as they have so many times before, the lead for the Islanders disappeared, and this time rather quickly. Ninety seconds after Reilly’s goal, Valtteri Puustinen drew Pittsburgh back to within one with his second career NHL goal, both of which have come against the Islanders. Less than a minute later, Drew O’Connor tied things up at four when his shot hit off the skate of Anders Lee with 6:58 to play in regulation. Cizikas Exits (Twice): It seemed Casey Cizikas spent more time on the trainer’s table than on the ice, as the veteran forward had to twice leave the game. Cizikas first left the action toward the end of the first period when he inadvertently collided with Simon Holmstrom in the defensive zone. He was slow to get up before he skated back to the bench and headed for the dressing room, where he stayed for the remainder of the period. It wasn’t until nearly halfway through the middle frame that Cizikas returned to the ice. Soon enough, though, Cizikas left the game again, this time early in the third after blocking a slap shot from Erik Karlsson off his hand. Cizikas immediately left for the Islanders’ dressing room and did not return. When asked postgame, Islanders head coach Patrick Roy didn’t have an update on Cizikas’ status. Earlier this season, Cizikas was forced to miss 11 games for the Islanders with a lower-body injury he suffered while blocking a shot. Penalty Kill Does Its Job: Almost miraculously, the Islanders didn’t surrender a power play goal, with a perfect three-for-three performance on the penalty kill against Pittsburgh. It was only the second time in the last nine games that the Islanders didn’t allow a power play goal. However, a solid night from the shorthanded unit should be expected against the Penguins, who own one of the league’s worst power plays. Questionable Challenge By Roy: After Lars Eller scored to draw Pittsburgh within one at 16:35 of the second, Islanders head coach Patrick Roy asked the officials to review the play, arguing for a hand pass by Penguins forward Valtteri Puustinen. However, the decision by Roy to challenge the goal proved to be puzzling for a few reasons. Firstly, it was quite evident on the replay that the puck deflected off Pusstinen’s stick after he played it with his hand. Secondly, and more importantly, it forced the Islanders’ league-worst shorthanded unit to kill off a penalty at the end of the period. Fortunately for them, they successfully killed the penalty, but Roy’s choice to even risk their one-goal lead in the first place was bold at best. Up Next: With a record of 23-18-14, the Islanders travel to St. Louis on Thursday to take on the Blues. FOLLOW ANDREW FANTUCCHIO ON 𝕏: @A_FANTUCCHIO FOLLOW NYI HOCKEY NOW ON 𝕏 AND FACEBOOK [...] Read more...
Dave MolinariFebruary 20, 2024The Pittsburgh Penguins know all about late-game comebacks, because they’ve seen lots of them this season. Usually by the other team. But Tuesday night, it was the Penguins, not their opponents, who rallied late in the third period to force overtime. The extra period lasted just 57 seconds, though, before New York defenseman Adam Pelech scored from the slot to give the Islanders a 5-4 victory at PPG Paints Arena. “I saw it the whole way,” Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic said. “I just missed it.” The Penguins (24-21-8) are 1-4-1 in their past six games. Penguins defenseman Erik Karlsson assisted on their first goal to earn the 800th point of his career. He reached that milestone in 973 games, faster than all but eight defensemen in NHL history. Evgeni Malkin, meanwhile, assisted on the Penguins’ fourth goal to snap a four-game streak without a point. The Penguins got off to a sputtering start — New York had a 7-1 advantage in shots 6 1/2 minutes into the game — before putting together some solid shifts as the middle of the opening period approached. Bryan Rust nearly put the Penguins in front at 12:15, as he burst down the left side then went hard to the net, but Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin was able to stop him. The Penguins fared better about a half-minute later, as Marcus Pettersson beat Sorokin from inside the right dot at 12:48 for his third of the season. Rickard Rakell and Karlsson got the assists. Pettersson turned up on the scoresheet again at 14:41, when he was assessed a tripping minor. Although New York generated good pressure while he was off, it was unable to score. Reilly Smith had a chance to pad the Penguins’ advantage in the waning seconds of the period, as he was able to skate unimpeded down the left side, but Sorokin stopped his slap shot from the top of the circle. New York tied the game on an excellent individual effort by Brock Nelson at 3:40 of the second. He carried the puck through the left circle, then cut inside of Pettersson before throwing a backhander past Nedelkjovic from the slot. The Penguins’ power play had an opportunity to put them back in front when Islanders forward Mathew Barzal was called for hooking at 4:28. New York entered the game with the NHL’s lowest-ranked penalty-kill, with a success rate of just 70.7 percent, but the Penguins mostly passed the puck around the perimeter and did not get a shot on Sorokin. That was bad. What followed immediately after Barzal’s penalty expired was worse. He came out of the penalty box and collected the puck at the New York blue line, then charged into the Pittsburgh Penguins’ end and threw a shot over Nedeljkovic’s glove at 6:37 for a 2-1 lead. The Penguins survived an interference minor on Rickard Rakell at 11:10, but five seconds after he returned, New York forward Simon Holmstrom knocked the puck away from Karlsson behind the goal line, then tucked a shot inside the right post to make it 3-1. Lars Eller sliced New York’s lead in half at 16:35, beating Sorokin with a wrist shot from well above the right circle for his 10th. Eller’s shot appeared to deflect off New York defenseman Adam Pelech as it neared the net. Assists went to Chad Ruhwedel and Ryan Graves, but the guy who made it possible was Smith, who set a good screen in front of Sorokin. The Islanders challenged that the goal should have been disallowed because the Penguins had been guilty of a hand pass before Eller scored, but the video review went against New York. That meant the Penguins were awarded a power play, but they again spent most of those two minutes overpassing the puck. New York defenseman Mike Reilly was penalized for tripping 32.1 seconds before the intermission. Another two uneventful minutes followed. Reilly restored the Islanders’ two-goal edge at 10:42 of the third, throwing a shot past Nedeljkovic from the top of the left circle. That figured to be a potentially mortal blow, but the Penguins quickly countered with two goals in a span of 56 seconds. Valtteri Puustinen got them within one at 12:06, punching in a Kris Letang rebound for his second of the season. Smith received the second assist. Drew O’Connor made it 4-4 at 13:02, when his attempt to feed a puck to Pettersson, who was between the left circle and the crease, caromed off Islanders forward Anders Lee and into the net for his seventh for the final goal of regulation. Malkin got the only assist. The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice Wednesday at noon at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. [...] Read more...
Florida Hockey Now, Staff ReportFebruary 20, 2024SUNRISE — The second edition of the Tkachuk Bowl between the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators this season may not have had the fireworks of the first, but, at least it was competitive. The Panthers ended up giving up a two-goal lead in the third but Anton Lundell lifted his team to a 3-2 overtime victory. Florida has won six straight games and will try and tie the NHL record for consecutive road wins at 12 on Thursday in Carolina. Ottawa, which beat Tampa Bay the night before, has dropped three of its past four. Aaron Ekblad opened the scoring just 19 seconds in when he and Carter Verhaeghe traded passes and the Florida defenseman fired one past Joonas Korpisalo. After a lot of defensive hockey was played, Florida finally made it 2-0 with 2:59 left in the second on a terrific series of plays from Brandon Montour. Ottawa ended up scoring twice within the first 10 minutes of the third — the first from defenseman Thomas Chabot, the second from center Tim Stutzle — to make things interesting and, ultimately, force overtime. GOALS OF THE GAME Panthers 1, Senators 0 (0:19, 1st): Aaron Ekblad connects on a give-and-go with Carter Verhaeghe and beats Joonas Korpisalo while folks were still coming down the aisles. Panthers 2 Senators 0 (17:01, 2nd): Brandon Montour picks off a clearing attempt from Shane Pinto — then picks up the rebound off his shot and one-times it for his second goal in as many games. Panthers 2, Senators 1 (5:36, 3rd): Thomas Chabot picks off a loose puck in the Florida zone, gets the puck back off a deflected shot and fires one off at Sergei Bobrovsky that goes off his shoulder. Senators 2, Panthers 2 (8:46, 3rd): Tim Stutzle went coast-to-coast after getting the puck deep in his defensive zone, splitting Matthew Tkachuk and Niko Mikkola before beating Bobrovsky. Panthers 3 Senators 2 (1:36, OT): Anton Lundell scores in his third straight game. FHN’s 3 STARS OF THE GAME 1. Anton Lundell, Florida 2. Brandon Montour, Florida 3. Thomas Chabot, Ottawa ON DECK FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CAROLINA HURRICANES When: Thursday, 7 p.m. Where: PNC Arena; Raleigh, N.C. TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WQAM 560-AM, WPOW 95.6 FM2,WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app Last Season — Regular Season: Carolina won 2-1; Eastern Conference Finals: Florida won 4-0. This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Hurricanes 2 (Nov.10). At Carolina: Thursday; March 14 All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-47-10, 11 ties Postseason History: Florida 1-0 (2023 ECF) Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Washington, 6 p.m. [...] Read more...
Nick FarabaughFebruary 20, 2024Pittsburgh Steelers legend Ben Roethlisberger was just a player that the team took a swing on in the 2004 NFL Draft when they needed a clear uptick in quarterback play. Not everyone in the organization was behind the move to pick him, but two Super Bowls later, and it was the right move. But while he came in as a rookie and led the team to a blazing 15-1 record, he may never have become the player he was without the hard coaching from Bill Cowher. Cowher treated Roethlisberger not like the first-round pick at quarterback, but another mediocre rookie who had to prove his worth. “He treated me like a crappy rookie,” Roethlisberger said on the Alpha 5 Method Podcast. “He’s admitted it and we’ve talked about it. He’s like, ‘Ben, I could have treated you like the greatest thing since sliced bread and put you up there because you were winning games, or I could have treated you like I did, and I chose that route because I felt like that was what was best for you. It wasn’t like you were with Coach Tomlin. You were like, kind of buddies, could go talk to him or whatever. The old open door policy, I never went in the open door. I didn’t want go in and talk to Coach Cowher. That was the last thing I wanted to do.” Cowher, a Crafton, Pa., native who served as Steelers head coach from 1992-2006, finished his coaching career with a 161-99-1 record. He guided the Steelers to victory in Super Bowl XL and won NFL Coach of the Year Awards in 1992 (Associated Press and Sporting News) and 2004 (Sporting News). As head coach, his teams won the AFC two times, made it to six AFC Championships, won the AFC Central or North Division eight times and made the postseason 10 times. He was selected as part of the Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class, an extra large class to represent the NFL’s 100th season. A blue-ribbon panel of comprised of Hall of Fame selectors, inductees, coaches, football executives and historians made the selection. His coaching, like how he treated Roethlisberger, is a clear indicator of who he was and the type of coach he is, and that is why he was able to get the most out of his players.   [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 20, 2024The Detroit Red Wings showed they appreciate how Michael Rasmussen is developing as a player by signing him to a four-year deal worth $3.2 million per season. Detroit management hoped they had found a 6-foot-6 scorer when they drafted Rasmussen ninth overall in 2013. Instead, he developed into a hard-working, two-way forward who can score 15-plus goals, play with grit, kill penalties and check with purpose. Last fall, coach Derek Lalonde called Rasmussen a “proud 200-foot player.” He has transformed himself into a crucial player in the Detroit lineup, a player who can match up with top NHL players. Former Detroit coach Jeff Blashill used to talk to Rasmussen about becoming a Jordan Staal-type player and he has accomplished that. He plays a playoff style, even though the Red Wings have missed the postseason for seven consecutive seasons. The Red Wings have LOCKED UP Michael Rasmussen 🔒 pic.twitter.com/cwEp9h1rAy — Woodward Sports Network (@woodwardsports) February 20, 2024 Rasmussen has 11 goals, 12 assists for 23 points in 55 games this season. He’s also +12. The Red Wings like Rasmussen on the ice when they are protecting the lead. They are also comfortable moving him up on a scoring line, depending upon the situation or the opposing team’s lineup. With Rasmussen signed, Moritz Seider, Joe Veleno and Lucas Raymond are the three regulars who will become restricted free agents this summer. Rasmussen, 24, will be 29 when this contract expires. This deal could end up a bargain if Rasmussen increases his scoring into the 20-goal range. Even if Rasmussen’s scoring stays in the 15-goal range, the Red Wings will get their money’s worth because of Rasmussen’s complete game. [...] Read more...
Trevor NeufeldFebruary 20, 2024It’s been a strange couple of weeks for the Calgary Flames and their faithful. Painful questions lingered following a 1-4-0 stretch that featured a sole bright spot in Jacob Markstrom stealing a win from 32nd-place Chicago. Consecutive losses to the Leafs, Oilers, Blues, and Blue Jackets stood as evidence that teams both above and below them in the standings could steal out a victory against Ryan Huska’s crew.   The victory over the Blackhawks was of little positivity given that it required such a strong individual performance to merely keep the Flames from falling to 0-2-0 on the season against what, on paper, should be the worst team in the league. With a shutout from Markstrom and Elias Lindholm’s final goal in a Flames sweater, Calgary just barely managed to pull out a victory over a team that swept the season series (0-2-1) last season.    Chicago finished last place in 2022-2023 and is currently on pace to repeat.  In typical Flames fashion, the organization provided a breath of life into the fan base upon returning to play after the All-Star break. First in taking down the second place Boston Bruins in a dominant 4-1 performance. The team followed that up with two more wins against the Devils and Islanders; both teams with records above .500.   Things were good. Noah Hanifin had moved on to the first power play unit, and the team converted at a 37.5 rate with the extra man on the ice. Jacob Markstrom allowed an average of two goals against per game, posting a .939 save percentage over that time. Not to mention the 6-foot-6 Swede’s two assists during that streak. Jonathan Huberdeau had five points in three games, and newcomer Andrei Kuzmenko scored two goals over that span.   And then, again, in typical Flames fashion, Mr. Hyde emerged. Losses to 15th place Detroit and 31st place San Jose wiped out any and all positive outlook from the group, once again struggling to stay above a .500 points percentage.   The tendency to drop games against teams that, in theory, they should beat once again resurfaced and became the topic on social media.   With that, we come to the question: What are the 2023-2024 Calgary Flames? A team that can beat contenders, but fail to show up against bottom feeders? A team that can beat teams primarily if the opposition takes the matchup lightly?   Today, we’ll dig through some records to find an answer. Let’s start by examining how the Calgary Flames perform against teams according to point drop-offs in the standings.   The Contenders category includes teams further than three points above the nearest Wildcard spot – teams that have all but solidified a playoff position.   Calgary Vs. The NHL  Vs. Contenders 10-8-2 22 of a possible 40 points .550 points percentage  Vancouver: 1-1-0 Boston: 1-1-0 Florida: 1-0-0 Dallas: 2-1-0 New York Rangers: 0-2-0 Colorado: 0-2-0 Winnipeg: 2-0-0 Carolina: 1-0-0 Vegas: 2-0-1 Toronto: 0-1-1   There is a lot to unpack here. Wins over Vancouver and Boston arrived at convenient times in the schedule. Vancouver had finally started to cool down after a torrid 12-3-1 start. Boston stumbled hard after the All-Star break and is 2-3-2 since resuming play.   There are certainly bright spots. Games against Vegas have been arguably the most entertaining of the season. MacKenzie Weegar’s overtime goal may stand as the highlight of the 2023-2024 campaign. The playoff history between those clubs may partially explain positive records against Winnipeg and Dallas. Those extra games and game prep go a long way in understanding how to find seams in opposing defences and offences.   Cryptic explanations aside, a .550 points percentage is impressive enough. It may be a lack of preparation, it may be a clearly defined underdog role helping the Flames – we’re likely looking at a combination of both factors.   The next tier is the muddy middle. A 13-team trench war fighting to glean out five or six playoff positions.   Fighting for a Wildcard 10-13-2 22 of a possible 50 points 0.440 points percentage  Edmonton: 0-2-0 Philidelphia: 1-1-0 Tampa Bay: 1-0-0 Detroit: 0-2-0 Los Angeles: 0-1-0 St. Louis: 0-2-0 New Jersey: 1-1-0 Nashville: 2-1-0 Minnesota: 1-1-1 New York Islanders: 1-0-1 Seattle: 2-1-0 Washington: 1-0-0 Pittsburgh: 0-1-0   Well, this is awkward. We’ve identified the source of Calgary’s matchup issues. 10-13-2 against teams in what are defined as “four point games” is brutal. As much as Flames players may refer to losses to bottom feeders as “unacceptable,” a 0.440 points percentage against what should be your standings peers is a clear enough difference maker to justify the Flames sitting at the bottom of this group in points. Speaking of.   Finally, we come to the bottom eight teams. The cutoff point follows a severe drop in winning percentage. The Calgary Flames sit slightly above this group with a .509 winning percentage. Excluding Calgary, the drop-off is apparent. Seattle currently runs at .518 and Buffalo sits at the top of the drop at .473.   Basement Dwellers 7-5-0 14 of a possible 24 points 0.583 points percentage  Buffalo:  1-0-0 Montreal: 1-0-0 Arizona: 2-0-0 Ottawa: 1-1-0 Columbus: 0-2-0 Anaheim: 1-0-0 San Jose: 0-1-0 Chicago: 1-1-0    You almost want to split this into two categories. The Pretenders and the Zombies. From Buffalo to Montreal is a group that the Flames seemingly show up for. Teams with offensive weapons that need to be prepared for. Games that the Flames will surely lose if they don’t put on their work boots.  The Zombies? When it comes to the Flames, you have to be wondering what’s in their head going into these matchups. The group handles Anaheim and San Jose well enough, but the roster has serious issues beating Columbus and Chicago going back to the departure of star forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. Bear in mind that these four teams finished in the bottom four last season as well.   Flames Vs. Bottom Four Teams in Standings Since October 2022   Columbus: 1-3-0 Anaheim: 4-1-0 San Jose: 4-1-0 Chicago: 1-3-1  Total: 10-8-1  Floating barely above .500 over two seasons against a group of teams that have gone 163-320-64. Very much a head-scratcher.   The term “unacceptable” gets thrown around with those kinds of losses. Most recently, Chris Tanev dropped the term following their late January 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  “It’s unacceptable, four straight losses at home when you’re trying to make the playoffs.”   The term came around a little over a year before that loss when the Flames fell 5-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks. “Obviously, it’s unacceptable.” Said Jonathan Huberdeau on the Flames’ execution that night. hockey betting Calgary would proceed to drop their next meeting with the Blackhawks to a 4-3 tune on April 4. Chicago ended an eight-game losing streak with the win.   It’s difficult to draw a black-or-white explanation from these odd trends in the Flames’ 2023-2024 record. The group appears to have the number of some of the better teams in the league, while teams like the Rangers and Avalanche seem to have theirs. A, dare we say, unacceptable 0.440 points percentage against their middle-of-the-standings peers puts them firmly in their proper place in terms of points on the season – proverbially just at the top of the basement stairs.  We then see a few teams lined up on the basement stairs; teams that the Flames have an encouraging 5-1-0 record against. Followed by a group of four basement dwellers –two of which provide the Flames with four or five back-breaking losses per season.  All of this leaves us with two short questions.   Why do these trends exist?   And when will we see these trends start to fade?   The first question may require a team of sports psychologists with more inside knowledge than your average proctologist to answer.   The second question? Only time will tell.   [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 20, 2024There have been a handful of times this season where Jonathan Drouin has reminded everyone that he was once the third overall pick in the NHL draft. The sweet hands and the incredible vision are still there, and the Colorado Avalanche have certainly gotten their money’s worth this season, considering he’s spent a large portion of the season on the top line while making close to league minimum. In Sunday night’s win over the Arizona Coyotes, Jonathan Drouin made a spectacular play on the game-winning goal. Instead of shooting it from the slot, he sent a quick one-touch pass to Devon Toews, who had all the time in the world to bury the winner. I talked to Drouin this morning about the play, and what he saw. Let’s just say he was ready for the way the Coyotes wanted to defend the play. First off, let’s take a look at the goal, and it really is a thing of beauty. Nathan MacKinnon is unstoppable behind the net, and the vision and intelligence of Drouin to immediately know what he was going to do before the puck got there is off the charts. How did Drouin know something like this was going to work? Because they saw it on tape prior to the game. “There’s the pre-scout meeting (we had) where their two wingers are so tight to the middle, they kind of forget the defenseman behind them,” Drouin told me. The 28 year old winger told me that he knew right away he wasn’t going to be shooting. Granted, Drouin is not someone who shoots the puck a whole lot, but the pre-scout meeting let the Avalanche know how the Coyotes were going to defend a play like this. And it played out exactly like they had seen on video. “I saw right away, when Nate made that pass, I saw (Crouse) kind of creep in, so I wouldn’t be able to get a shot off,” Drouin said. “I saw Toews right behind me, so I just tried to get a little tip to him and he made a great shot.” So all those meetings that the Avalanche have over the course of a season to break down the other teams, they do matter. And on Sunday night, those meetings produced a game-winning goal. Drouin has become a bit of a workhorse for the Avalanche. He’s surpassed the 20 minute mark in 14 of the last 20 games. I asked him if he’s had to change anything up with a heavier workload. “Nope,” he said. “Yesterday was an optional skate, so I’ll try to just stickhandle and shoot. It’s not very tiring on the body. Everyone will say it’s nice to play over 20 minutes. You’re in the game, you’re always kind of going on and don’t really have time to lose that rhythm or lose that feel for the game. You’re always going.” [...] Read more...
Colby GuyFebruary 20, 2024Jacob MacDonald was waived today. Immediately, this opens up a roster spot for Givani Smith’s activation off IR. Considering the San Jose Sharks’ next game isn’t until Saturday though, the timing might seem curious. There are no roster limits for practices, so they could’ve keep both Smith and MacDonald. However, if MacDonald clears waivers now, he will be able to help the San Jose Barracuda with their playoff push on Wednesday and Friday. The Cuda have home games against the Coachella Valley Firebirds and Abbotsford Canucks. MacDonald has had a productive season with the Sharks, alternating between wing and defenseman, while scoring six goals and seven points in just 22 games. Historically, he’s also an elite AHL blueliner: He led all defensemen in that league in goals in 2017-18 and 2019-20. Chances are, the 30-year-old’s production is an outlier at this level, but could another NHL team use MacDonald’s versatility? A skater who’s both a credible seventh defenseman and 13th forward, at the veteran’s minimum, could be tempting. Is Positionless Hockey Future of the NHL? MacDonald, Quinn Share Their Thoughts “I’m not sure. Probably not,” one NHL scout from outside of the San Jose Sharks organization told San Jose Hockey Now. If MacDonald clears, he could be back with the Sharks after the Trade Deadline. AT SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW… The San Jose Sharks would welcome Joe Thornton to join them for practice and warm-ups around the time of his jersey retirement, as Jaromir Jagr did when the Pittsburgh Penguins retired his No. 68. Ryan Carpenter has seen both sides of winning and losing with the Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights. David Quinn says the Sharks need to add to their will and size. What is Team 33? How does this independent scouting service evaluate what #SJSharks have to offer this Trade Deadline? 🦈 Ferraro/Kahkonen 📈🦈 Is Duclair's speed back? Why low on Granlund?🦈 Who should Sharks keep? Watch/subscribe here: https://t.co/GcLE21TqwD — Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 17, 2024 Alexander Barabonov was a healthy scratch in the loss. Why? What matters more to Anthony Duclair than points? Where does he get his taste in style from? We asked, and he answered. IN OTHER SHARKS NEWS Patrick Marleau was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame! BASHOF announces 2024 Class of Inductees: Patrick Marleau, Brian Sabean, John Taylor, Jenny Thompson, and Chris Wondolowski! Join us on May 6th at the 2024 Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame Enshrinement Dinner. Visit https://t.co/uoaLXOjMus for more information pic.twitter.com/iih5LlIg2A — BASHOF (@BayAreaSportHOF) February 20, 2024 Check out the latest on the Sharks in the Morning Tide Podcast. Breakaway Issues + Offense Quiet 🔊 LISTEN: @TedRameyMedia's Morning Tide presented by @CoorsLight. App: Sharks + SAP Center app p/b Western DigitalSpotify: https://t.co/dTtyYuetQPApple: https://t.co/CYLKKisTmMGoogle: https://t.co/iKrCae2at5 pic.twitter.com/9YDeQlR96d — San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) February 20, 2024 The Sharks are giving away some cool things for their Black History celebration. #SJSharks Celebration of Black History is 🔟 days away! Enter to win tickets to the Sharks game against the Ducks, haircuts for a YEAR from @GreatClips, a Zamboni ride, and more! — San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) February 20, 2024 Prospect Quentin Musty is headed to the OHL playoffs with the Sudbury Wolves. #OHLPlayoffs for the Pack! 🐺 See the @Sudbury_Wolves come playoff time on #OHL Live 🖥️📱: https://t.co/HspMoaz1kv pic.twitter.com/jGPTtWMYTa — Ontario Hockey League (@OHLHockey) February 19, 2024 AROUND THE NHL… Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk have been a dynamic duo for the Florida Panthers. The Stadium Series stage was not too big for young New Jersey Devils goalie Nico Daws. Season-long defensive zone issues continued for the New York Islanders at the Stadium Series. New Philadelphia Flyers captain Sean Couturier is cherishing everything after a long absence due to injury. The NHL upheld Morgan Rielly’s controversial five-game suspension for cross-checking Ridley Greig in the face. Who is the best winger in the NHL? ESPN polled folks around the NHL to find out. The star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled to put things together offensively. Could the Columbus Blue Jackets lure Colorado Avalanche general manager Chris MacFarland back? [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 20, 2024It’s been a little over a week since Logan O’Connor last played a game for the Colorado Avalanche, but fans will have to wait a little bit longer for his return. O’Connor joined his teammates for morning skate, but it was clear he’s not quite ready for game action. The 27 year old winger participated in most drills, but when it came time to practice the powerplay and penalty kill, he took a seat on the bench. After skate, Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar confirmed that he’s not an option for tonight’s game, so there won’t be any lineup changes. Joining O’Connor prior to morning skate was Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who continues his rehab. He came back out to join the team, then left, and then rejoined them again, but don’t expect an update on him anytime soon. What everyone does expect to see tonight is a motivated Vancouver Canucks squad, who gave up 10 goals yesterday to the Minnesota Wild. They will turn to their number one goaltender, Thatcher Demko, in hopes of avoiding their third straight loss. Colorado expects them to be a motivated team. “They’re going to bounce back, for sure, and they’re probably pissed off about last night, so we can expect them to have their A-game today,” Mikko Rantanen said. Vancouver sits atop the Western Conference with 80 points, and according to Bednar, they deserve to be there. “Over .700 winning percentage, which is really impressive,” Bednar said of the Canucks. “Stingy defensive group, but they have a high scoring offense and a very powerful offensive attack…Right now, they’re one of the top three, four teams in the league with the defensive metrics.” Other News And Notes Alexandar Georgiev will start in net for the Avalanche. I spoke to Jonathan Drouin about his play on the game winning goal, and he broke it down for me. Turns out, pre-scout meetings do matter. I’ll have that up later today for all CHN+ subscribers. Nikita Zadorov played for the Avalanche for years, and still has friends on the team. Before morning skate, he came onto the visiting bench to talk to Nolan Pratt, and then stuck around to have a long chat with Nathan MacKinnon and Rantanen. After the Avalanche were done with morning skate, he came back out and waited to talk to Gabriel Landeskog. The two hugged each other, and chatted away. In a few hours, they’ll be enemies again, but these are the bonds you make in hockey. Z came back to give his old Captain a hug, who came back out again. https://t.co/RCJBT78iO6 pic.twitter.com/RDh3gcvXXg — Evan Rawal (@evanrawal) February 20, 2024 I asked Rantanen after the game if it’s easy to go from being friendly with a former teammate, to competing against them a few hours later. “I think it’s easy. You see guys, sometimes if the schedule is right, you go to dinner with guys the night before. Get together a little bit and talk about all things and how they’re doing currently. I have no issues turning it on at night and try to bury him. He’s a great guy, he likes to talk on the ice too, so should be fun.” [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 20, 2024The Winnipeg Jets are apparently willing to tango as a Philadelphia Flyers trade partner. The Flyers have scouted many Western Conference teams this year, just as the Jets have scouted many Eastern Conference teams. However, the two sides have scouted each other a substantial amount in recent months. But, what would Winnipeg want in a Flyers trade? Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press asserts on X that the Jets are looking for reinforcements on the blueline. The Flyers, obviously, have a few defenders that might pique their interest, including the likes of Nick Seeler and Sean Walker. #NHLJets have heavily scouted the Flyers as well, including GM Kevin Cheveldayoff staying behind an extra day in Denver during December road trip to watch them play the Avalanche. Winnipeg in the market for blue-line add. Philly has a few likely to be available. https://t.co/JFNoqFLdvR — Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) February 19, 2024 McIntyre’s commentary was in addition to an observation made by Dave Minuk of Illegal Curve, who noted that the Flyers have been scouting the Manitoba Moose for some time now. Not only that, they’ve been sending different scouts to each game, getting a fresh set of eyes on the Moose roster each time. That said, there’s five players who could be available that would make a ton of sense for the Flyers in a potential trade. No. 5: Cole Perfetti, C, Winnipeg Jets Let’s start with the obvious and perhaps the most desirable candidate in Perfetti. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft is coming along just fine, but he hasn’t developed much from last year to this year. The 22-year-old has played fewer than 14 minutes in three of his last five games, and hasn’t scored a point in any of those games. Perfetti, does, however, have a respectable 30 points in 53 games overall. That would tie him with Travis Sanheim for fifth in scoring on the Flyers – three points behind Sean Couturier’s 33 and five behind Owen Tippett’s 35. Perfetti’s scoring pace of 0.56 points-per-game puts him on track for well over 40 points across an 82-game season. The Flyers certainly could use young centers to build towards the future with, but getting the Jets’ blue-chip forward prospect in a trade for a rental defenseman is going to be a tough ask. No. 4: Brad Lambert, F, Manitoba Moose Lambert could be off the table for the same reason Perfetti might be. One could make the other expendable, which means the Jets would have to make a choice. Lambert, the 30th overall pick in 2022, is a dynamite skater who uses his speed and skill to manipulate defenders and create offense. The 20-year-old’s greatest pre-draft concern was his lack of production in Finland’s Liiga. That’s all gone now that Lambert has put up 15 goals and 30 points in 41 AHL games with the Moose this season. If he is available, the Flyers would suddenly have another electric talent to pair with the likes of Tippett and Matvei Michkov as part of their future. Again, this is a huge ask, but there’s no harm in trying. No. 3: Ville Heinola, D, Manitoba Moose Heinola is a player whose NHL career is yet to get off the ground, though it’s not due to a lack of talent. The Finnish defenseman has actually played with the Jets at the NHL level in four different seasons, though he’s never been able to stick for more than a dozen games at any given point. The 22-year-old profiles similarly to Cam York, a player with bundles of hockey IQ and offensive talent who can play well at both ends of the ice. Heinola had 37 points in 48 games with Manitoba last season and was poised to make the big club this year, but broke his ankle in early October and lost the chance. Now back in the AHL, would the Jets be willing to move a defenseman in the minors for Flyers defensemen in the NHL? On paper, it would make a ton of sense for both sides. No. 2: Chaz Lucius, C, Manitoba Moose Lucius is as much of a tragedy as he is talented. The 18th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, Lucius has suffered four season-ending injuries in four straight seasons. The American forward will turn 21 on May 8, but his season is already over after undergoing ankle surgery towards the end of January. Lucius is an incredible offensive talent with a menacing shot, high in-zone IQ, vision, and a quick processor when he has the puck. It’s hard to say whether Lucius would be enough in a Flyers trade on his own at this point, but he’s the kind of talent the Flyers would love to have more of in their cupboard. His injury history undoubtedly darken the clouds which hang over his NHL future. No. 1: Nikita Chibrikov, F, Manitoba Moose If the Flyers want to bring in another Russian to help onboard Michkov, Chibrikov is going to be their guy. Chibrikov is playing in his first season of pro hockey in North America this year, and has managed to put up 14 goals, 19 assists, and 33 points in 46 AHL games with the Moose so far. His 39 penalty minutes will probably be a sore spot, but those could be due to a pace adjustment if not for causing tussles and such. Chibrikov was drafted 50th overall in 2021, and for good reason. The 21-year-old is a skilled passer and puck-handler who can threaten with his shot, and few defenders can handle that in combination with his speed. The only caveat is that Chibrikov doesn’t always use his gifts to create chances or put himself in positions to score or help his teammates score. Given the way the Flyers and head coach John Tortorella have developed players this year, that wouldn’t be an issue for long. The Flyers have plenty of options when it comes to trading with the Jets, but it will, of course, come down to a mutual understanding between Danny Briere and Kevin Cheveldayoff on the returns. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 20, 2024It has been a rough sophomore season for Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman P.O Joseph. In his second full NHL season, Joseph has been in and out of the press box, failing to claim a regular spot in the lineup. He’s had a few chances but has not yet seized the opportunity. He started the season on the third pairing with Chad Ruhwedel, which didn’t go well for either. He has rejoined the lineup and served as a healthy scratch several times. He was to rejoin the lineup in early November against Carolina but pulled himself out of the lineup with an injury. Joseph, 24, has played just 22 games this season, registering only three assists. Now, the Penguins’ defense will turn to Joseph both in desperation and the biggest chance of the season. “I just think he’s got to play to his strengths. I think he’s always a real mobile guy. I think he gets back to pucks,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s a really good puck mover. He can help us drive some of the offense. He joins the rush extremely well. He defends well with his stick. I just think he’s got to bring the game that sets him up for success. And, when he does that, he is a very good defenseman. Tuesday is as close to a must-win game for the Penguins as a regular season game can be. They face the New York Islanders, who are ahead of them in the playoff chase, but both are short of the Detroit Red Wings for the wild card and the Philadelphia Flyers for third place. The Penguins are three points behind the Islanders with two games in hand. They trail Philadelphia by 10 points with four games in hand and Detroit by nine points with three fewer games played. Lose to the Islanders, and there will be too many points in arrears with too many teams ahead of them. Monday, Sullivan put his tender lines in a blender in a beautiful oblivion. Joseph was inserted beside his good friend and former roommate Kris Letang on the top pairing. Joseph has not been the same steady defender this season, often appearing to lack confidence or conviction and intermittently struggling. It’s been a tough step backward. “I think I’ve got to show (my game) first. I’ve got to prove to myself and to others that I deserve to be there,” Joseph said Tuesday morning. “I’ve watched (Marcus Pettersson) a lot, playing with (Letang) throughout the years. So, I know how big of a responsibility it can be. So, I just want to play my game and bring my game to him and the team as well.” Pettersson returned to the “second” pairing with Erik Karlsson, and the struggling Ryan Graves lineup spot is in question. The roster shakeup was the most outward effect of the season-long and team-wide shortcomings. The Penguins lineup is back to the beginning, with four or more changes expected. There’s no more time to waste or no more opportunities to squander. The Penguins need to win. And Joseph is getting another big chance. Like the team, there won’t be many more. [...] Read more...
Nate BrownFebruary 20, 2024The Blackhawks are definitely a different team with Connor Bedard in the lineup. Heck, even the veterans admit it. “Not too often does an 18-year-old come in and have this kind of an impact on a team,” Dickinson said.  “It’s very few players that have the opportunity to do something like that, and it’s even fewer that take that opportunity and run with it. He’s a special player, demands a lot of himself and it shows in his play. He’s going out there and making it happen.” In his absence, the Blackhawks struggled to get on the scoresheet but there were some who held their own. While the Blackhawks have now scored seven goals in the three games since his return, these numbers reveal some more information that could shed light on the future. Knowing Chicago has scored over a third of its goal total in three games compared to the total in his 14-game absence, there’s no denying his importance. Let’s dig in and see how those numbers shook out individually. Blackhawks That Rose to the Challenge Without Connor Bedard Here’s a look at how scoring broke down when Bedard. There are a number of interesting notes to glean from how the team did in Bedard’s absence but it shows that a lot of the guys benefitting from him now did just fine in his absence, too. Philipp Kurashev has absolutely been one of the major benefactors since his linemate returned but he did just fine on his own, too. In fact, if there’s anything that became more clear in this time, it was that his defensive game has also been stellar when it comes to helping the team. Further, any doubt that the two-year deal for Jason Dickinson wasn’t sound can be dismissed seing that he led the team in points and was tied with Nick Foligno in goals. Dickinson, of the players that general manager Kyle Davidson acquired via trade as a “castoff,” is likely his greatest heist only second to Petr Mrazek. Dickinson’s efforts, numbers, and leadership may very well mark him as one of the main contributors to this team for years to come. Another intesting note–how about Seth Jones? One player constantly harangued due to his high cap hit, Jones has not only been key defensively, but chipped in offensively as injuries affected the lineup. Those numbers will improve as the talent on the roster follows suit. A final one–Colin Blackwell. He’s making a strong case to be brought back as his deal expires after this season, but he’s a pest on the ice. Be it physically, chasing down a defenseman on the forecheck, or disrupting a scoring chance, Blackwell embodies the gritty, hard nosed hockey the Blackhawks are baking into their cultural DNA. Some Hawks Who Fell a Bit More Taylor Raddysh’s slump this season wasn’t ever more apparent than during this stretch. Of the 56 games, he’s played 51 and registered just 11 points (5-11). He has just one assist in his last 18 games and four assists if you extend it out to his last 20 games. Last season, Raddysh looked as if he would breakout following a 20-goal performance. Those hopes have been stymied as he enters an arbitration year. From the eye test, Raddysh has appeared as snake bitten as Lukas Reichel, sometimes having golden opportunities get deflected or end up right in the goalie’s glove. One other little note – last year’s 20-goal season came with a shot percentage of 15.5% while this year’s comes with a 5.8% rate. That marks a career low for Raddysh. Reichel also comes to mind as he was sent to Rockford on Sunday to try and ignite his game. A moment where he could have risen to the challenge by taking ice time, Reichel could never really get going. Of course the hope now is he can hone the skills that got him to Chicago and return recharged and as the player the Blackhawks hoped he would be. But it’s still a bit premature to label his trajectory–time is ticking though. One other side note–for a team that has a glut of defenseman in the pipeline, Isaak Phillips being the odd man out for the past few games might be revealing some thinking there. It’s not to say that he’s definitively on the outside looking in, but he didn’t establish himself as a mainstay with the time that he had. Some of that may very well be the veteran presence Luke Richardson has at his disposal. But Phillips is one of many young defenseman trying to make his case to be a mainstay. Of course, the Blackhawks will be a better team with Connor Bedard. But it’s important to see who rose to the top in his absence as the team continues to sort out who will stay and who will go as roster space will become a more competitive reality in Chicago. Follow Chicago Hockey Now on Facebook and Twitter Follow Nate on Twitter [...] Read more...
Colby GuyFebruary 20, 2024FORT LAUDERDALE — Aaron Ekblad will return to the Florida Panthers lineup on Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators after missing Saturday’s 9-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning with an injury. Ekblad only missed that one game after being listed as ‘day-to-day’ with a lower-body injury on Saturday morning. Josh Mahura will be scratched to make room for his return. Dmitry Kulikov will be good to go for the Panthers after leaving Monday’s practice early with an apparent injury. “He’s good,” coach Paul Maurice said. Ekblad has three goals and 14 points in 37 games and had not missed any time with injury since returning from a shoulder injury sustained in the Stanley Cup Final before Saturday. While his offensive numbers are not where they were earlier in his career, he has been having the best season of his career on the defensive end. “I did it because that was what the game decided I needed to do,” Ekblad told Florida Hockey Now of his shift in playstyle back in December. “We didn’t need more offense. The team was creating a lot of offense, so getting up in the rush isn’t necessarily for me to be on offense, but it’s to set my gap coming back. “So, a lot of times, when you see me up in the rush, I’m trying to set my gap so that I’m already skating with those guys as they come out of the zone and creating good gap speed. Forsling and I do that a lot, and our whole d-core does that a lot. It’s just a pillar of hockey that we’ve learned that needs to happen for us to be good.” ON DECK OTTAWA SENATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App Local Odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-250); Puck line (-1.5, -11o); Over/Under 6.5 (-140/+115) Last Season: Florida won 2-1 This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Ottawa: Panthers 5, Senators 0 (Nov.27); April 4. At Florida: Tuesday; April 9 All-time Regular Season Series: Ottawa leads 57-45-5, 3 ties Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Carolina, 7 p.m. PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (35-15-4) LINES 23 Carter Verhaeghe // 16 Sasha Barkov// 13 Sam Reinhart 21 Nick Cousins // 9 Sam Bennett // 19 Matthew Tkachuk 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 15 Anton Lundell // 17 Evan Rodrigues 12 Jonah Gadjovich // 82 Kevin Stenlund //94 Ryan Lomberg 42 Gus Forsling // 5 Aaron Ekblad 77 Niko Mikkola // 62 Brandon Montour 91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson// 7 Dmitry Kulikov 72 Sergei Bobrovsky 41 Anthony Stolarz Scratched: Josh Mahura, Steven Lorentz, Will Lockwood Injured: None PROJECTED OTTAWA SENATORS (23-27-2) LINEUP 71 Ridly Greig // 9 Josh Norris // 19 Drake Batherson 21 Mathieu Joseph // 18 Tim Stutzle // 28 Claude Giroux 7 Brady Tkachuk // 57 Shane Pinto // 91 Vladimir Tarasenko 81 Dominik Kubalik // 12 Mark Kastelic // 27 Parker Kelly 85 Jake Sanderson // 2 Artem Zub 72 Thomas Chabot // 24 Jacob Bernard-Docker 6 Jakob Chychrun // 26 Erik Brannstrom 70 Joonas Korpisalo 31 Anton Forsberg Scratched: Travis Hamonic Injured: None Senators lines provided by NHL.com [...] Read more...
John PerrottoFebruary 20, 2024BRADENTON, Fla. – Roansy Contreras, at least in one way, looks ready to have a bounce-back season. The Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander has bulked up. I’d like to say he is in the best shape of life, but I just can’t bring myself to use that timeworn spring training cliché. “I feel good,” Contreras said before a recent workout at Pirate City. “I’m ready to have a good spring.” The changes to Contreras’ body are noticeable after he spent most of the offseason working out at Pirate City complex. “A lot of it is a credit to the hard work he’s put in, the time he’s put in in Bradenton,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton. “The other thing, and we forget it a lot, when he got to the big leagues he was just a kid. Now we’re seeing him start to grow into his body a little bit. That is really important.” Indeed, Contreras is still just 24 years old, even though it seems like he has been in the Pirates’ organization forever. The Pirates acquired Contreras from the Yankees in 2021, just three weeks before spring training began as part of a four-player package in a trade that sent right-hander Jameson Taillon to New York. Contreras followed a strong minor-league showing that year by making his major-league debut with a three-inning start in the final week of the season. Just 21, Contreras looked like a big part of the Pirates’ future. Contreras then went through an odd development plan in 2022. The Pirates had him start the season in the major leagues then shuttled him from Pittsburgh to Triple-A Indianapolis twice to reduce innings and lessen stress on his arm. It might not have been as bad of the idea of developing catcher Henry Davis by playing him in right field last season in the major leagues. However, it was a plan that left Contreras clearly frustrated and didn’t seem to help him improve. Then came a disaster of a season in 2023. Contreras had a 3-7 record and a 6.59 ERA in 19 games (11 starts). Things got so bad that the Pirates not only sent him to the minor leagues but had him report to Pirate City when the pitching development staff tried to rebuild his delivery – and confidence. Contreras never returned to the big leagues, finishing the season at Indianapolis where he made six starts. He had no record and a 4.96 ERA. Now, it’s hard to tell how Contreras might fit into the Pirates’ plan in 2024. Contreras is competing for one of two open spots in the starting rotation. He could also be moved to the bullpen and be utilized as a bulk-inning reliever. If he does not make the opening-day roster, Contreras’ future would be murky. He is out of minor-leagues options and the Pirates would have to place him on waivers if they tried to send him to Indianapolis and hope he went unclaimed. Shelton is hopeful of a turnaround from Contreras, saying “the ball is coming out of his hand freer than it was last year.” The manager also feels Contreras is sure of himself again. “He’s more confident and … he’s just more fluid, the way he’s moving down the mound, the way his arm speed is,” Shelton said. “There’s just a lot of confidence there.” It is difficult to predict Contreras’ career path. He has taken steps forward in the first week of spring training. However, it will be difficult to gauge his’ progress until Grapefruit League play begins on Saturday. Opposing hitters will begin to start providing answers. [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 20, 2024The Boston Bruins have issued roster updates on forwards Oskar Steen and Matthew Poitras, as well as defenseman Mason Lohrei. On Tuesday morning, the Boston Bruins announced that they had re-assigned Steen to the Providence Bruins, placed rookie center Matthew Poitras on long-term injured reserve, and recalled defenseman Mason Lohrei. The first two transactions were expected, and essentially formalities, but the recall of Lohrei was much more noteworthy given the unknown status of veteran defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Lindholm fell awkwardly after taking a clean hit mid-way through the third period of the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Monday. “I don’t have anything concrete yet,” Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said. “We’ll know more .” As of late Tuesday morning, when the Bruins sent the press release out on Lohrei, Poitras, and Steen, there was no update on the 30-year-old Lindholm, who has one goal and 18 assists in 56 games this season. So, it is not yet known if Lohrei is coming along for the team’s four-game road trip out west that begins in Edmonton against the Oilers on Wednesday night. The only thing that is certain is that Lohrei, the 23-year-old rookie rearguard who has three goals and three assists in 27 games, is. As for Steen, the 25-year-old winger has just one goal in 34 games, playing primarily on the team’s fourth line. The Bruins placed the 5-foot-10, 196-pound forward on waivers this past Sunday, and he cleared on Monday afternoon. Matthew Poitras going on long-term injury reserve was expected after the team announced that he had successful shoulder surgery back on Feb. 7 and would be out for approximately five months. Poitras made the Boston Bruins roster out of camp. He impressed out of the gate and was, at times, used on all four lines and depended on in some crucial situations. As the season went on, though, the wear and tear, as well as the speed of the game, seemed to catch up to the `19-year-old rookie. Poitras was loaned to Hockey Canada for the World Junior Championships, but Canada lost in the quarterfinals, and Poitras had an average showing at best. He returned to the Bruins in early January before going down with an injury on Jan. 9. The Bruins’ 2022 second round (54th overall) had five goals, ten assists, and a +4 plus-minus rating.     [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 20, 2024Magnus Hellberg was called up Sunday a few hours before the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the LA Kings, 2-1, at PPG Paints Arena, but that’s not the end of the story. Coach Mike Sullivan said Hellberg was recalled because one of the goalies was feeling under the weather, and the Penguins wanted to make sure they were covered. Tristan Jarry started, and Nedeljkovic backed up Sunday, but Hellberg was on the ice Tuesday morning during the Penguins’ morning skate. So was Jarry. Nedeljkovic was not. UPDATE: Coach Mike Sullivan confirmed Nedeljkovic would start against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. A team source said it was expected that Hellberg would be demoted Tuesday afternoon. This season, Hellberg has played in three games with solid results, posting a 2.50 goals-against-average and a .922 save percentage. He finished Jarry’s shutout in Anaheim on Nov. 7 when Jarry was struck in the face by a shot and had to leave the game. Hellberg, 32, won the following game as the Penguins beat LA at the Crypto.com Arena on Nov. 9. The 6-foot-6 goalie has spent parts of seven seasons in the NHL with the Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and the Penguins. He has played 17 games in the AHL this season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, posting a .901 save percentage. Pittsburgh Hockey Now has updated the story. [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 20, 2024Scoreboard watching includes a second step this season with Red Wings players and coaches needing to pay attention to both rival scores and trade rumors to know how the playoff races are going. Steve Yzerman‘s history of unpredictability makes it challenging to guess what he will do.  But there is plenty of chatter about teams competing with Detroit for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Here is what’s up with Detroit rivals: New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald is aggressively looking for a new starting goalie. He came close to landing Calgary goalie Jacob Markstrom.  However, the deal fell through. It doesn’t feel like the Devils are giving up. Could they work out something with the Nashville Predators for Juuse Saros? Perhaps they will circle back to Markstrom. What this team does matters to the Red Wings because the Devils have playoff-caliber talent.  They are also looking for a quality defense. The Red Wings expect the Devils to be in the playoff race right until the end. Tampa Bay Lightning The general consensus is that the Lightning are not a lock to make the playoff group this season. They boast a winning culture, some key difference makers and a premium goalie in the Steve Yzerman-drafted Andrei Vasilevskiy. But their depth has eroded over the last three years. The loss of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to injury recently was a major blow. They are tight against the salary cap ceiling, but putting Sergachev in long-term injured reserve frees up some space to trade for a defensemen. They could look at the possible rentals like Chris Tanev, Joel Edmundson, etc. Toronto Maple Leafs The Maple Leafs have a four-point lead for third in the Atlantic Division, but there is still no guarantee they will make the playoffs. GM Brad Treliving has embarked on the annual Maple Leafs quest to land an impact defenseman. We can guess Treliving covets his former player, Chris Tanev, but will have to give up a first rounder to get that accomplished. He doesn’t want to do that. New York Islanders The New York Islanders will be buyers at the NHL trade deadline. They have exceptional goaltending in Ilya Sorokin and they have quality defensemen. They need scorers. The Islanders are 20th in the NHL with a 2.94 goals-per-game average. Time to dust off the Vladimir Tarasenko rumors. Anthony Duclair seems like another possibility. The Islanders don’t have cap space. Creativity will be required on any deal. Philadelphia Flyers The Flyers want to stay in the playoff race, but also turn their potential UFAs into assets. That’s a tricky scenario. They may be trying to keep Sean Walker, even though they may be able to land a first round pick for him in the trade market. Philly Hockey Now’s Jonathan Bailey’s take is the Flyers should trade him and then re-sign him in the summer. The Flyers own third place in the Metropolitan Division, but are worried about the Devils as much as the Red Wings are Florida Panthers The Panthers are no longer in the bubble group, but the bubble teams are still keeping track of what GM Bill Zito is doing. The latest rumor is that Zito is looking at the acquisition of Calgary’s Noah Hanifin. If that deal gets done, it will make the Eastern Conference more challenging in the playoffs.         [...] Read more...
Chris GawlikFebruary 20, 2024The Vegas Golden Knights (32-17-6) take on the Nashville Predators (28-25-2) on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. This is the second leg of a back-to-back for the Golden Knights, who defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-0 on the road on Monday afternoon. This is a great spot for the Golden Knights to bank points against a team they have handled well in the past. The Golden Knights are 10-5-1 lifetime and 4-3-1 against the Predators in T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights are hoping to have Shea Theodore back in the lineup Tuesday night. Theodore last played on Nov. 22 and has 18 points in 20 games this season. The Golden Knights held an optional skate at 11:00 a.m. before Tuesday’s puck drop. It appears Mason Morelli will appear in his second NHL game tonight.  Grigori Denisenko was sent to the Henderson Silver Knights.  Jack Eichel was moved to LTIR to create cap space to activate Theodore. Projected Lines Howden – Stephenson – Stone Barbashev – Roy – Marchessault Cotter – Karlsson – Amadio Morelli – Froese – Kolesar Martinez – Pietrangelo McNabb – Theodore Hague – Whitecloud Hill Golden Knights Notes The Golden Knights are in second place in the Pacific Division with 70 points and trail the Vancouver Canucks by 10 points with 2 games in hand. Mark Stone leads the Golden Knights in scoring with 53 points. The Golden Knights are looking for franchise victory No. 300 on Tuesday night. Nic Roy’s eight-game points streak came to an end on Monday against the Sharks. Player to watch: Theodore looks to make his return after missing nearly three months of the season. Predators Notes The Predators are in fifth place in the Central Division with 58 points and are currently two points out of the final Western Conference playoff spot. Filip Forsberg leads the Predators with 55 points. Roman Josi ranks No. 6 in defensemen scoring with 50 points. Former Golden Knight, Cody Glass, has appeared in 27 games for the Predators and has five points. Player to Watch: Juuse Saros is 4-5-1 with a .921 SV% and  one shutout against the Golden Knights in his career. Key to the Game Pedal to the metal! The Golden Knights held leads at home last week against the Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes and failed to get any standings points. Monday was a different story, the Golden Knights got a lead and knew what to do with it against the Sharks. The Golden Knights need to keep their foot on the loud pedal if they get a lead against the Predators. How to watch and listen Time: 7:00 P.M. PST. TV: Vegas 34 (Scripps Sports) Streaming: KnightTime+ Radio: FOX Sports Las Vegas 98.9/1340 | Deportes Vegas 1460 For more Golden Knights news, visit Vegas Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow Chris Gawlik on 𝕏: @TdChrisG [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 20, 2024Monday saw factions of Philadelphia Flyers social media groups recede back into a full-blown meltdown. Why, you might ask? For no reason other than the burgeoning controversy surrounding the Flyers’ plans for the 2024 NHL trade deadline. Reports emerged over the weekend that the Flyers brass met with the agent of defenseman Sean Walker, Cam Stewart, in Toronto last week. The two sides reportedly didn’t make concrete progress one way or another, though there remains the possibility that Philadelphia signs their ace rearguard to a contract extension at some point. Therein lies the issue. Some fans are extremely pro-rebuild, and the possibility that the Flyers do not trade Walker is extremely frightening to them. With the way the team has been built and repeatedly demolished in the past, the concern is a valid one. Here’s the thing: the Flyers could end up trading Walker and signing him to a new contract in the summer. Indeed, if the 29-year-old truly loves Philadelphia and his teammates and is convinced of the project, Walker could always re-sign with the team as an unrestricted free agent in the summer. Whichever team acquires Walker is not obligated to keep him, nor is the defenseman obligated to stay. Remember Antoine Vermette, the journeyman center perhaps most revered for his time with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes? Well, Arizona traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks for Klas Dahlbeck and a first-round pick at the 2015 NHL trade deadline. Then Vermette returned to Arizona on the first day of free agency, signing a two-year deal on July 1, 2015. Who’s to say the Flyers can’t work out a handshake agreement with Walker and his representation like that? Plus, if Philadelphia managed to get a first-round pick and extend Walker in the summer, I’m sure fans on both sides of the fence would be overjoyed. There would be no loser that way. This is just some food for thought and a friendly reminder that not everything you hear this time of year is true. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Marco D'AmicoFebruary 20, 2024The Montreal Canadiens aren’t done dealing before the NHL Trade Deadline, leaving their options open for an extra move or two. After trading Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets earlier this month, the Canadiens have slowly begun their slide down the standings. As predicted by NHL betting odds, the Montreal Canadiens will likely be picking in the top 10 again, for the third consecutive year; which means they’ll likely be sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline. The only issue is, that there isn’t much to sell right now, unless a surprise candidate comes to the forefront in the next three weeks. Before the All-Star break, all eyes were on Jake Allen to be moved before March 8th, but his disappointing play could scare off a few contending teams. The other option would be David Savard, whom teams will likely show interest in as the thin market for defencemen, especially right-shooting defencemen, gets going after Chris Tanev or Sean Walker are moved. But what happens if the market dries out quickly and the appetite from contenders simply isn’t there for some of the Canadiens’ most tradeable assets? They could become active as the third member of a cap-brokering trade. In a move that has become popular in the flat salary-cap era, a cap broker is a third team that joins a trade with the sole purpose of retaining the salary of the key player involved in the trade going from Team A to Team B. For example, at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, the Montreal Canadiens retained 50% of Nick Bonino ($1.025M) to facilitate a trade between the San Jose Sharks and the Pittsburgh Penguins. In exchange for retaining 50% of Bonino’s salary, general manager Kent Hughes was able to extract a 2024 5th-round pick and the rights to Tony Sund. However, this season could be a little different, as over 75% of contending clubs are either within $2M of the salary cap or currently using LTIR to remain cap-compliant. That means that, for big-ticket players like Adam Henrique, Jake Guentzel or Jordan Eberle, a third team will likely be needed to retain salary just to fit these players under the cap. That’s where Montreal comes in. With one retention slot remaining and over $13M in potential LTIR space remaining, the Montreal Canadiens could become players in one of these trades. Adam Henrique $5.825M Adam Henrique is the last top-9 centre available on the rental market that could realistically make a difference on a contending team, but he comes at quite the price tag. Even if the Anaheim Ducks were to retain 50% of his salary, that would only reduce his cap hit to $2.912M; a cost that many contending teams would be unable to fit on their roster without having to trade another player. However, if a third-party team like Montreal were to come in and retain an additional 50%  and drop Henrique’s cap hit to a more affordable $1.46M, it would be far more feasible for virtually any contending team to fit him under the cap. Clocking in at a retention of nearly $1.5M, the Canadiens would easily be able to command a 3rd or a 4th-round pick from the deal, especially considering that Henrique’s salary for the season mirrors his cap hit at $5.85M; meaning that some smaller market teams may be less inclined to take on that kind of salary in a losing season.   Jordan Eberle $5.5M With the Seattle Kraken slowly slipping out of the playoff race in the Western Conference, Jordan Eberle’s name has been added to the list of potential rental players available. With the Edmonton Oilers rumoured to be interested in a reunion, it could be a perfect time for Eberle to return to Edmonton, but there’s a snag; the Oilers don’t have any available cap space. Even if the Kraken were to retain 50% and bring Eberle’s cap hit down to $2.75M, Edmonton, and most other contenders for that matter, wouldn’t be able to make the money work. However, if a third team comes in and further retains another 50% of his salary, Eberle’s cap hit would become a much more manageable 1.3775M. With Edmonton primed to add at this NHL Trade Deadline, almost any move they make will likely require a third party, so it’s something to keep an eye on.   Jake Guentzel $6M Jake Guentzel is perhaps the biggest fish left on the rental market, and comes in at $6M in both cap hit and salary. The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t yet decided if they want to move their scoring winger, but their slide down the standings has all but ensured that they won’t be making the playoffs this year, and trading Guentzel could provide them with a prime opportunity to recoup some assets. It’s almost a given that the Penguins would retain 50% of Guentzel’s salary to make a deal work, but even at $3M, it may be a tight squeeze for many. But, as we’ve seen in every other scenario, a third team retaining 50% and bringing Guentzel’s cap hit down to a simple $1.5M would likely make his acquisition that much more valuable for Pittsburgh and the cap broker as well. It remains to be seen whether or not Pittsburgh decides to trade Guentzel at all, as they continue to try and negotiate a new contract, but, if it gets to the point of trading him, expect Kent Hughes to be one of the first to offer his services.   *For more NHL betting lines and futures, head over to FanDuel [...] Read more...
Colby GuyFebruary 20, 2024FORT LAUDERDALE — Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice tries to keep pairs together when switching up his lines. Two players he has not broken up since Day 1? Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk.  Tkachuk and Bennett have stuck together since Maurice’s start with the Panthers and have been one of the most dynamic duos in the NHL ever since. Why change anything when Tkachuk has the eighth-most points in the NHL (60-113-173) since sliding onto Bennett’s wing, and the team has been to the Stanley Cup Final? Although the two did not play a lot together during their time with the Calgary Flames, they are inseparable in South Florida. “He’s the guy that can do everything well,” Bennett told FHN of Tkachuk. “He reads the play so well, he’s super gifted offensively and he’s able to make some unbelievable plays. I think we can kind of complement each other. I can use my speed in the middle, and he can slow it down a little bit on the walls and grind pucks out. So it’s just worked. ”He’s such a good player. He’s going to succeed with anyone you put him with, but I’m fortunate to be with him for a while and build off that chemistry.” Bennett brings the best out of Tkachuk, too. The pair plays a hard, checking style that grinds down the opposing defense, and each of them brings their own dynamic to create offense out of the plays that open up from it. “They complement what the other player doesn’t have,” Maurice said. “Matthew does not have blinding speed, but Bennett can get through the middle of the ice very fast. He’s very explosive, and it will open the ice, and that will pull people onto him. Matthew will draw people to him as well. “Neither of them gets to a puck late or is afraid to go to a corner. They are good in the heavy areas and the banging areas and they can still play the game and create. They both have a synergy there.” It showed when both Tkachuk and Bennett recorded two goals and four points in the Panthers’ 9-2 drubbing of the rival Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Up until the final whistle, both fought hard in puck battles, came out on top, and quickly generated offense on the other end of the ice. “He can play in many different styles,” Maurice said of Bennett. “But the physical, grinding, fast games are built for him.” That was what made Tkachuk (11-13-24) and Bennett (5-10-15) so dynamic during the Panthers run to the Stanley Cup Final last year, and it has shown yet again with the team playing a similar style of game during the 2023-24 regular season. Ever since the team’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 23 — a game that arguably flipped a switch for the Panthers — Tkachuk has the most points in the NHL (15-27-42), while Bennett has responded to a slow start to the season with nine goals and 18 points in 23 games. And they have arguably driven the bus at times for a team that has gone from sneaking into the playoffs for a team that struggled to adjust to Maurice’s system last year to a team with the best point percentage in the Eastern Conference. “It’s a tough system to play game in and game out,” Bennett said. “It’s hard hockey, it’s physical, it’s a grind sometimes but I think our whole team is just bought into that system and is prepared to do the right things to win. It’s what you got to play in the playoffs and our team is prepared to play that way.” Maurice switched things up recently and added a familiar face to their left flank. Nick Cousins subbed in for the pure sniper Carter Verhagehe to return to their line after a successful run with them during the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While he only picked up two goals and seven points during that run — with one of them being the series-winning goal in Round 2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs series — and only had two goals and five points in 38 games at the time of the switch, he does his part in other ways. In the words of many around the hockey world — and himself, on occasion — he is a rat. He mucks it up in the corners and plays a physical game, and it compliments the same checking style Bennett and Tkachuk play for the Panthers. “He is the guy that gets in on the forecheck hard,” Bennett said. “He can make plays and I think the more games we get together, the more we’re going to find that chemistry again. ”We played really well together in the playoffs and provided that spark. We’re all guys that can get heavy on the forecheck and grind pucks, so I think that’s when we’re playing our best and I think we can do a little bit more than that.” Since the trio reunited on Feb. 8, Tkachuk has 13 points in five games — second to only Connor McDavid in that span — Bennett picked up all four of his in Tampa, while Cousins has an assist. But Maurice believes Cousins can provide more than just that grinding style. “Last year, it was just balance when he went there,” Maurice said. ”It was the idea that we could have an almost pure speed line with Verhaeghe, Sasha Barkov and Anthony Duclair and then we had that sneaky checking line. And then these guys just fit. “ can make a play, he can hold onto pucks and he’s also very good in the corners with a puck behind the net willing to get to the front of the net. So they have a style. They will close support a puck, anything from the back of the net to that right corner, Matthew kind of owns that area for them. So they can put it there and move. ”Nick’s the smartest. He’s actually got good offensive skills that he sees. He has the skillset to be on the power play, we just don’t have room for it as of right now, but he has those hands to be able to do that. And they are going to need somebody to control the puck for them. They can’t hold onto the puck just the two of them all night, so he can even control a puck in the corner.” And, on top of that, he helps complete one of the hardest lines in the league to play against. “I think we’re on the forecheck and everybody’s finishing checks as long as we’re keeping our speed together and playing tight,” Tkachuk said. “I’d say being physical and trying to wear the other team’s defense down is the most important part of our game and the way we have to play every game to be successful. If we’re not doing that, we’re not going to be successful, so it’s a hard game to play each and every night but we can do it.” For more Panthers news from the FHN Team Bookmark Florida Hockey Now; Subscribe for Exclusives  Like the FHN Facebook Page Follow us on Twitter: @GeorgeRichards // @ColbyDGuy // @TheGovMan Subscribe to the FHN YouTube Channel ON DECK OTTAWA SENATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App Last Season: Florida won 2-1 This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Ottawa: Panthers 5, Senators 0 (Nov.27); April 4. At Florida: Tuesday; April 9 All-time Regular Season Series: Ottawa leads 57-45-5, 3 ties Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Carolina, 7 p.m. [...] Read more...
Shelly AndersonFebruary 20, 2024Blowing up their personnel combinations could be the next step in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ seemingly endless quest to right the ship and make a desperate push to get into a playoff spot. The changes could be in play Tuesday when the New York Islanders visit for a Metropolitan Division clash. The Penguins (24-21-7) sit three points behind the Islanders (22-18-4), who also are going to have to be upwardly mobile to make the postseason. Game Time The game starts a little after 7 p.m. Penguins Preview The Pittsburgh Penguins, who have lost four of five, are a whopping nine points out of the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, with three teams – including the Islanders – in line ahead of them also trying to get in. The one to four games in hand the Penguins have on the others in the wildcard race just aren’t enough to make up the difference. They need to start winning at a rapid clip. The Penguins are coming off a come-from-ahead 2-1 loss Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings. To make things worse, their struggling power play gave up a shorthanded goal late in the third for the winner. Not to mention it put a damper on an otherwise stellar weekend celebrating Jaromir Jagr and raising his jersey to the rafters. This is the Penguins’ first game against a fellow Metro team since a 3-2 overtime loss Jan. 13 at Carolina. They are 4-6-1 in the interim. Coach Mike Sullivan said Alex Nedeljkovic will start in net for the Penguins. Read more: Kingerski: Penguins Players Feel the Heat; Sullivan Unhappy and Blunt Molinari: Penguins’ Offensive Numbers Adding Up to Sour Season The Islanders also are coming off a loss in a big-event game and also blew a lead. They fell 6-5 in overtime Sunday against the New York Rangers in an outdoor Stadium Series game. The Islanders, in contrast to the Penguins, have been plagued by a leaky penalty kill, one that ranks last in the NHL, something that could work in the Penguins’ favor. Like the Penguins, the Islanders have not played divisional games much lately. Their game against the Rangers was their first within the Metro since they lost 3-1 on the road against the Penguins on New Year’s Eve. They were 5-9-4 between those two games. The Islanders are 3-3-3 since Patrick Roy took over from Lane Lambert as coach. Penguins Expected Lines Rickard Rakell-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust Drew O’Connor-Evgeni Malkin-Matthew Phillips Reilly Smith-Lars Eller-Valtteri Puustinen Jansen Harkins-Jeff Carter-Colin White Defense P.O Joseph-Kris Letang Marcus Pettersson-Erik Karlson John Ludvig/Ryan Graves-Chad Ruhwedel Goalies Alex Nedeljkovic Tristan Jarry Expected Islanders Lines Anders Lee-Bo Horvat-Matthew Barzal Pierre Engvall-Brock Nelson-Kyle Palmieri Simon Holmstrom-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Oliver Wahlstrom Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck Defense Alexander Romanov-Noah Dobson Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock Mike Reilly-Scott Mayfield Goalies Ilya Sorokin Semyon Varlamov Penguins Special Teams Penguins power play: 13.7%, 30th Penguins penalty kill: 81.8%, 9th Islanders power play: 23.8%, 7th Islanders penalty kill: 70.7%, 32nd Penguins Game Notes The Penguins have won the first two meetings between the clubs this season and are 6-3-2 in their past 11 games against the Islanders. Sidney Crosby has 132 points (41 goals, 91 assists) in 84 career games against the Islanders, with the Penguins  51-22-11 in those games. Jeff Carter has 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) in 60 career games against the Islanders. Kris Letang leads all active defensemen in goals (13), assists (35) and points (48) in his career against the Islanders. Tristan Jarry is 11-3-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and three shutouts in 15 career games against the Islanders. The Penguins have allowed 137 goals, tied for third-fewest in the NHL. Erik Karlsson is one point shy of 800 for his career and is two points shy of reaching 40 for the 11th time. How to Watch TV: SportsNet Pittsburgh Radio: 105.9 FM The X Also visit sister site Islanders Hockey Now [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 20, 2024BRADENTON, Fla. — Chase Anderson’s career with the Pittsburgh Pirates almost began sooner than it did. On Monday, the Pirates signed Anderson to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. The 36-year-old said that it wasn’t the first time general manager Ben Cherington came calling. According to Anderson, the Pirates were interested in signing him in 2021, but the veteran opted for the other side of the state and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal didn’t pan out. Anderson battled a number of injuries and struggled to the tune of a 6.75 ERA in 14 appearances. He ended up getting released in August. “Looking back in hindsight, this might have been the better spot for me,” Anderson said when speaking to members of the media on Monday. “I’m here now. Looking forward to this opportunity. “I just felt like it was the best opportunity to make a team and compete for a spot. I feel like that division — I played for Milwuakee for four years — this part of the country, it’s kind of like me,. Blue collar people, hard working, steel city. Looking forward to feeling like I did when I was with Milwuakee. That’s kind of how I operate from a small town in Texas. Looking forward to this place.” The best seasons of Anderson’s career came during his run with the Brewers from 2016-19. In 118 career appearances with Milwaukee, Anderson went 38-27 with a 3.83 ERA. With the Brewers, he was teammates with current Pirates’ catcher Yasmani Grandal and non-roster invitee Wily Peralta. They are two of a number of veterans Anderson has crossed paths with in his career. In addition to those two, Anderson has shared a big-league clubhouse with a number of players in Pirates’ camp — Andrew McCutchen, Bailey Falter, Jake Lamb, Rowdy Tellez, Ryan Borucki and Billy McKinney. “The longer you play, the smaller the community gets,” Anderson said. “It’s fun to reunite with some of those guys.” Anderson gets thrown into the competition to land one of the two open spots currently in the Pirates’ rotation. While his overall numbers with the Colorado Rockies last season were poor, he did finish on a high note. Over his final seven starts, five of which came in the final month of the season, Anderson posted a 3.44 ERA with a .644 OPS against him. The right-hander threw seven no-hit innings against the San Francisco Giants on Sep. 15. “Coming off the IL in Colorado, probably pitching in the toughest place to pitch in the major leagues, and then almost pitching a no-hitter and pitching good against the Padres, finally getting a win against the Dodgers that last start,” he said. “I felt like I was back to myself and that was a really good springboard to the offseason to get the confidence back, knowing I can still do it. “It didn’t feel foreign. I just needed to go do it like I did in September to prove to the league and to teams that I can still do this.” Though he’s competing for a spot on the opening day roster, Anderson brings a wealth of experience with him. Anderson has pitched for seven different teams in his 10-year big-league career. Offering guidance to younger players is something Anderson has embraced at this stage of his career. “That’s a huge thing I’ve taken on the last couple years is being a veteran,” he explained. “Being around a long time, this is my 15th spring training, that’s crazy to think about that. “That’s part of being a veteran that you have to embrace. I think it’s some of the most rewarding parts when you get towards the end of your career to give back to the game and teach these guys how to go about their business. How to continue to get better and figure out a way to navigate a lineup two or three times.” Whether by earning a spot or just being a mentor to the younger players, Anderson is looking to make the most out of his opportunity in the black and gold three years after what could have been. [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 20, 2024The Colorado Avalanche certainly have some needs they have to address prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. Everyone knows about the hole at second line center, and how the team wants to add a backup goaltender, but a defenseman? And not just any defenseman, but arguably the best defenseman on the market? Well, color me surprised when Elliotte Friedman linked them to someone who is going to cost a serious asset for any team to acquire. With the Colorado Avalanche, Bowen Byram discussed what went into the meeting he had with Nolan Pratt, and in the AHL, Ivan Prosvetov is doing exactly what he needs to do to earn another shot in the NHL. All that and more in this Tuesday edition of Evan’s Daily. Colorado Hockey Now Is Nikolai Kovalenko any good at center? He played a little bit last year, and he’s getting a test run now prior to the KHL Playoffs. It wasn’t a pretty win, but it was a win. Still, more people were wondering what’s going on with Mikko Rantanen after Sunday night’s game. Bowen Byram is heating up, and apparently getting more comfortable on his off-side. Avalanche Linked To Chris Tanev? I really don’t know what to believe at this time of the year. You hear a lot of different things from various sources, but listening to the 32 Thoughts podcast on Monday, I was caught off guard when Elliotte Friedman linked the Avalanche to Chris Tanev, who will not come cheap at the NHL Trade Deadline. Here’s exactly what he had to say. “When it comes to Tanev, I think the Flames are waiting until a first round pick gets offered. I think that’s what they’re waiting for, and if a team steps up with a first rounder, I could see it happening. I think there’s a pretty big group there. It’s Toronto, which I think is offering multiple picks but none of them a first. It’s Toronto, it’s Dallas, I think Colorado’s in there. Edmonton and Vancouver. Vancouver, I think it’s very hard for them to do, but I think they like the idea of it, and they would really prefer Edmonton not get him.” Based on what centers have been getting so far, I have no doubt that Calgary could get a first round pick prior to the NHL Trade Deadline for Chris Tanev, but I can’t see the Avalanche going there. Colorado’s name even coming up caught me off guard. Tanev is a very good defensive defenseman, but the Avalanche are already deep on defense. Sure, he’d really round it out, and certainly would allow the Avalanche to take a bit of the load off Cale Makar on the penalty kill, but it would still be a surprise. Unless, of course, they move a defenseman in another deal. Or if they feel they can’t find help up front and just decide to load up on defense, but even then, there’s only so many minutes to go around. To me, as good as Tanev is at his job, there are greater needs for the team to focus on. Just interesting to hear Colorado be listed there. Prosvetov Honored Will Ivan Prosvetov get another shot in the NHL before the deadline? We’ll see, but he’s gone to the AHL and don’t exactly what he’s needed to do. On Monday, he was selected as Player Of The Week for his work. Colorado Eagles goaltender Ivan Prosvetov (3-0-0, 1.67, .949) has been selected as the Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week for the week ending Feb. 18.https://t.co/GzhxYTOoKf — AHL Communications (@AHLPR) February 19, 2024 In total, he’s played five games with the Eagles, hasn’t lost, and has a .952 save percentage. Not bad. National Hockey Now The San Jose Sharks don’t have a ton of fantastic assets to deal before the NHL Trade Deadline, but Alexander Barabanov is interesting. A healthy scratch weeks before the deadline won’t help his value. Should the Panthers retire the jersey of Jaromir Jagr? Chemistry on the team may get in the way of trades for the Detroit Red Wings (+) Why the Nashville Predators cancelled their trip to see U2…yes, that’s right. [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 20, 2024Offense is king these days in the NHL. Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov is only six points short of reaching the 100-point plateau. Auston Matthews is on pace for 75 goals. The Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks played a game with 17 goals Monday. But even in the midst of this celebration of offensive might, it’s still remarkable that Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon has a 26-game home points streak.  Evan Rawal of Colorado Hockey Now has the MacKinnon story: MacKinnon just passed legendary Bobby Orr for the second longest home points streak. Wayne Gretzky has the NHL mark of points in 40 consecutive home games. “It’s an incredible feat, but when you watch him day in and day out, sometimes we can get spoiled. So, I’m not surprised,” Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson said. “The way he prepares every day and the way he takes care of himself, on top of his natural abilities, I’m not surprised. If there’s anyone that could do it, it’s him.” MacKinnon and his Avalanche will be playing in Little Caesars Arena Thursday. Subscription Deal We have a paywall story about the Red Wings trade deadline strategy. We need your support. As you may have noticed, we are increasing the number of paywall stories we are offering. We will still continue to offer free stories, but we must find a way to increase our revenue. You can help by buying a subscription, which allows you to see all of the paywall content on all Hockey Now sites with no ads. We are currently offering $10 off a yearly subscription. Simply use the promo: Kevin10. Thanks for your continued support. Click here: Red Wings In Case You Missed It The SHL came down hard on Detroit Red Wings prospect Theodor Niederbach for delivering an illegal blow to the head in a game. Coach Derek Lalonde’s Detroit squad preserved its playoff momentum with an overtime win against the Seattle Kraken. Paywall story: Detroit’s team chemistry may get in the way of GM Steve Yzerman being aggressive at the trade deadline. He doesn’t want to disrupt the bond this team has. Red Wings Next Game The Red Wings are off until Thursday when they host the Colorado Avalanche (34-18-4) at Little Caesars Arena. The Avs are 5-4-1 in their last 10 while Detroit is coming off a 2-2 road trip. Detroit forward Lucas Raymond is on a roll. He has 12 points in his past 10 games. Hockey Now Network Chicago: Nate Brown writes that Connor Bedard is hot even while his Chicago Blackhawks struggle. de Nashville: Michael Gallagher unpacks how Nashville Predators denied their players a U2 concert as punishment for lackluster play. It’s an interesting decision. Pittsburgh: Players are feeling the heat for the Pittsburgh Penguins poor play. Coach Mike Sullivan is blunt in his assessment. San Jose: Coach David Quinn says the San Jose Sharks need more size and will. [...] Read more...
George Richards, FHN PublisherFebruary 20, 2024FORT LAUDERDALE — In the previous episode of the ‘Tkachuk Bowl,’ the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators got into a brawl in the third period, which became memorable not for the punches thrown but for the lead referee. When Brady Tkachuk — the captain of the Senators and younger brother of one Matthew — skated into Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with 7:22 remaining, it set off a melee that put referee Garrett Rank in a mood. The third period was filled with penalties. Rank was done with the shenanigans. He kicked all skaters off the ice — and out of the game. “Every player on the ice has 10-minute misconducts, among other penalties,” Rank said. The Panthers pulled out a 5-0 victory in Ottawa, but it was Rank who won over the internet. Tonight, the Tkachuk Brothers square off in Sunrise again. The rest of the Panthers and Senators will be there as well. At least when it comes to the Panthers, memories of that game are not fuzzy. “We don’t forget in here,” Matthew Tkachuk said after practice on Monday. “That was a very intense game, and I am sure the boys will be fired up and ready to go.” As for the brawl? “I never saw anything like that,’’ Ryan Lomberg said. “I think the ref just wanted to get out of there, did not want to decipher all of the penalties, the minors and majors and stuff. It was funny. A couple of the guys on the ice didn’t do much and got tossed. “We apologized to Kevin Stenlund because we cost him the Lady Byng for getting dragged into the mud with me and Jonah Gadjovich. Hey, it comes with the territory.” Said Brandon Montour: “We obviously protect each other and if anything happens, we have 20 guys ready to do something. They want to play that way? We’re going to protect ourselves, but we are going to play the whole 60 in trying to get the win.” "Every player on the ice has a 10-minute misconduct, among other penalties." 😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/uvWt11PY32 — Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) November 28, 2023 Tuesday night will be a rarity for the Panthers as they play a team that is not trying to fight their way into the playoffs. That is not to say the Senators have given up on their season.  Far from it. Despite coming to South Florida 16 points out of a playoff spot, the Senators seem to be rejuvenated playing under interim coach Jacques Martin — Florida’s former coach and/or general manager from 2004-09. From FHN: Brady, Matthew Tkachuk Star in Hyundai Ad Ottawa comes into the game 6-3-1 in its past 10 games and is coming off a 4-2 win in Tampa on Monday. The Senators play hard, although success has yet to follow this team the way some predicted before the start of the season. Since the two last met, D.J. Smith was fired and replaced by Martin — the winningest coach in franchise history but let go in 2004, leading him to be hired by Mike Keenan and the Panthers. Before joining the Sens, Martin had been living at his home in Fort Lauderdale and scouting games from the press box at Amerant Bank Arena.  “They are a fast team, and, for a young team, they finish all of their checks,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “It is a good team. I don’t know why they are in the situation they are in, I don’t watch them enough. But in pre-scout, you watch them and see the speed and skill, they play hard on the backend. … “They are more dangerous now because they don’t have the same risk profile other teams have. Nothing is going to cost them their season. They carry a different weight into games and they have a great intensity. They are like Buffalo; they have a high skill level and if they are on and making plays, you see Buffalo put up 7 on Los Angeles.” The physical play between the Panthers and Senators is not new although it certainly has ramped up since Matthew Tkachuk was traded to Florida. And Keith Tkachuk may have a little to do with it. After Florida lost its fourth straight game, 5-2 in Ottawa on March 27, he went on a Toronto morning show and tore into the Panthers, saying Florida was “a soft team, and they are getting everything they deserve right now.” Matthew may have banned Dad from doing any more radio shows, but the Panthers eventually responded to the rip job by winning their next six games. Sure, Alex Lyon had a say in it as well. When it comes to the Senators, their willingness to mix it up early and often has not hurt, either. In that previous meeting in Ottawa, 13 players were ejected from the game with 167 penalty minutes. The first ejection was to Zach MacEwen, who went after Florida’s Tkachuk. There were also 12 game misconducts, an unsportsmanlike (on Florida’s Tkachuk), three roughing penalties, and (only) two for fighting. “The official score sheet is going to look like a CVS receipt,” Florida color analyst Randy Moller quipped. Florida and Ottawa may be the rivalry the NHL did not know it needed. “I hear people calling this game the ‘Tkachuk Bowl,’ and I think that is a big part of this game,’’ Lomberg said. “This one means a little bit more to one of our leaders, which means more to us. On the other side, it means more to one of their leaders. Every game is important, but we’re more into it because of the Tkachuks. We all embrace this. We take pride in our teammates and the things that they care about. Everyone has their eyes on this one.’’ Of course, the Tkachuk Brothers are under strict orders not to go after one another. They have stuck to that. The two go after everyone else instead. “It is always fun playing Brady,’’ Matthew said. “I like it better when he comes down here to play. There will be a lot of family as always, just great for them to watch. It will be nice to catch up with everyone.” ON DECK OTTAWA SENATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App Last Season: Florida won 2-1 This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Ottawa: Panthers 5, Senators 0 (Nov.27); April 4. At Florida: Tuesday; April 9 All-time Regular Season Series: Ottawa leads 57-45-5, 3 ties Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Carolina, 7 p.m.   [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 20, 2024Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had enough. Significant changes swept the Penguins lineup Monday at practice as the coach shuffled lines, dropping high-paid players either down in the lineup or out entirely. He didn’t mince words after practice, either. Elsewhere in the Daily, the Ottawa Senators are chumming the NHL trade waters but keeping a high price on Jakob Chychrun. Sportsnet has dubbed the Calgary Flames trade bait as Tanafin, combining Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev, and Elliotte Friedman had the latest update. Tonight is THE night for the Penguins. Let’s be honest, if they lose to the Islanders, there’s almost no question it’s over. But I’ll use this space to bring up something else. Over the last week or more, there has been a crescendo against everything. Whatever it is, you’re against it. Make this change? No! Make that change? Terrible! But make changes! Anything short of burning it all to the ground and peeing on the embers has been met with social media fist-shaking anger. As I’ve done in the past, I’m going to try to present the real situation, giving you the objective, contextualized reality as the absolute best I can see it, stripped of all emotion. It doesn’t always make me popular. This week, I was even blamed for the Penguins re-signing Jarry and losing (pretty funny), but so be it. Populism is generally about anger, and bluntly, that’s easy for a writer. Tons and tons of clicks. The truth is hard, but I’m going to do my best, whether you like the truth or not. Pittsburgh Penguins Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Practice began with a bang. A new Penguins lineup. Ryan Graves rotated on the third pair and the spare pair. New lines. And it all happened with a couple thousand people watching. It was an interesting Penguins practice. People thought Jaromir Jagr would be there? The aftermath of practice was similarly unvarnished. Players dealt with changes and accepted the situation they found themselves in after just 52 games. Players felt the heat. Blunt and unhappy was Mike Sullivan. Dave Molinari dug into the woeful offensive numbers. The Penguins offensive outage. NHL Trade Talk, News & National Hockey Now Ottawa Sun: Given the secondhand chatter that some in the Penguins organization were really keen to acquire Jakob Chychrun when he was dealt from Arizona to Ottawa, he seems worth keeping an eye on now. He’s available, but it’s no small price tag. The Senators are making others available at lower prices. 32 Thoughts podcast: The guys raved about the Jaromir Jagr jersey retirement ceremony and have dubbed the Calgary Flames sell-off the Tanafin sweepstakes. Boston Hockey Now: One team that’s long been interested in Hanifin, a Boston boy, but is digging through the couch cushions to scrape together enough to make it happen is the Boston Bruins. Philly Hockey Now (+): Yes, PHN+ subscribers can read it — The Flyers went through some mental exercises and more on their approach coming to the NHL trade deadline. Detroit Hockey Now (+): The Red Wings are hitting a bit of a problem. Grand puba Steve Yzerman would like to make a few tweaks to solidify their playoff position, but the room chemistry is at stake, too. Some popular players would go. So, what to do for the Detroit Red Wings? NHL.com: Dan Rosen previews the top storylines as we get to about two weeks from the NHL trade deadline, including the Jake Guentzel dilemma. San Jose Hockey Now: Sheng Peng was struck by the Jagr ceremony. How about the same for Joe Thornton when they raise the teal and white to the rafters? “Absolutely,” coach David Quinn said. It sounds like the San Jose Sharks will follow suit. [...] Read more...
James NicholsFebruary 20, 2024After an incredible weekend, the New Jersey Devils came back to reality on Monday. The Devils hit the ice at RWJBarnabas Arena for the first practice following the Stadium Series. Jonas Siegenthaler joined the blue line in regular rushes. It looks like he could return tonight against the Washington Capitals. Nolan Foote was also a regular participant in a regular contact practice jersey, although skated as an extra. At this point, the Devils have mostly returned to full health with the exception of Dougie Hamilton. They know it, the head coach knows it, and they’re in the midst of making a push for the playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings didn’t help last night collecting two points. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost in regulation which is huge considering the Devils have three games in hand on them. The Devils’ final 28 games of the season are all shaping up to be crucial. Anyway, in the links, Brendan Smith divulges he was hoping to drop the mitts at MetLife Stadium, and Luke Hughes top speed among all defensemen. Elsewhere, the downfall in Pittsburgh is rapid, Steve Yzerman’s predicament ahead of the trade deadline, and could another team retire Jaromir Jagr’s No.68? Let’s do that hockey. Devils News New Jersey Hockey Now: Brendan Smith came up big in the Devils’ Stadium Series victory with a goal and an assist. He admitted after the win that he had it in mind to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick. NHL.com: According to NHL Edge, Devils rookie Luke Hughes set the top skating speed by a defenseman this season on Saturday at MetLife Stadium. New Jersey Hockey Now + Subscribe to NJHN+ here⤵️ and use code James10 for 10% off (yearly subscriptions) at checkout. Subscribe to NJHN+ Here’s what you get with a + subscription: All content ad free! Exclusive #NJDevils stories! Access to all paywall sites on the NHN Network, some are even in today’s links below! NHL Trade Talk, News, & National Hockey Now SI.com: The Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks combine for an NHL-record 17 goals in the Wild victory. Pittsburgh Hockey Now: This is certainly good news for Devils fans. The Pittsburgh Penguins are out of runway with 30 games to go and the playoff chase is slipping away at an alarming speed. Boston Hockey Now: Not even 24 hours after he signed his first NHL contract, Boston Bruins rookie forward Justin Brazeau scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on Monday afternoon. Florida Hockey Now: After the Penguins retired Jaromir Jagr‘s No.68, it got Florida Hockey Now thinking. The Florida Panthers should send No.68 to the rafters in the Sunshine State as well. Detroit Hockey Now: Just how important has team chemistry been to the Detroit Red Wings‘ recent success? It could be important enough that GM Steve Yzerman doesn’t tinker with Detroit’s roster. (+) For more Devils news, visit New Jersey Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @NJDHockeyNow, @JamesNicholsNHL And on Threads: @JamesNicholsNHL [...] Read more...
George Richards, FHN PublisherFebruary 20, 2024The NHL Trade Deadline is just over two weeks away and, according to Insider Elliotte Friedman, the Florida Panthers have interest in Calgary defenseman Noah Hanifin. Hanifin, a pending free agent, is one of the top players on the market and there will be many suitors prior to the deadline on March 8. The Panthers do not have a lot of draft stock to offer — Philadelphia has Florida’s first-round pick (Claude Giroux trade at 2022 deadline) this coming summer, Calgary has it in 2025 (Matthew Tkachuk, 2022) — but, as Friedman noted, have a number of young players who could be of interest to another team. One who was mentioned: Anton Lundell, who was Florida’s top pick in 2020 and is center of the team’s third line. “I think Toronto and Tampa are kind of in the same boat where they don’t have a lot of assets they can, or want, to move,” Friedman said on his 32 Thoughts podcast with Jeff Marek on Monday. “I think Boston and Florida are a little bit different because if they wanted to, they don’t have a ton of picks, but they have young players. Lundell has been thrown into some things this year. I don’t know if Florida wants to do that — but if they did, they could.” Lundell alone will not get Hanifin to Sunrise, not with as many teams in the running for the 27-year-old left-handed shot. And, as Friedman alluded to, the Panthers do not want to part with Lundell, a player whom they feel is a big part of their team now and in the future. Lundell, 22, is Florida’s third-line center and a player it does not have a replacement for. How real is the Panthers’ interest in Hanifin? Oh, it is probably legit. Hanifin is a top defenseman in the NHL and a player any team — including a Florida team rightfully satisfied with its defensive play — would want. The cost at the trade deadline will be extremely high and the Panthers may not be flush enough to play at that table. The Panthers are also very happy with the team they have. General manager Bill Zito is big on team chemistry and the Panthers are riding high in that regard. There is a thought Florida is not going to do anything major now and not upset things. Florida is a legit Stanley Cup contender as is. Zito knows this. If the Panthers do anything at this deadline — and with cap space available, they will — it probably will not be in the blockbuster category. Landing Hanifin would be in the blockbuster department. Moving forward, the Panthers could have a shot at landing Hanifin as a free agent as Friedman reports that Hanifin will not be signing with the Flames and will become a free agent after this season. The Panthers have a number of free agents of their own they are trying to sign — Lundell is a restricted free agent and needs a contract of his own — including Sam Reinhart, Gus Forsling, Brandon Montour, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ryan Lomberg and Dmitry Kulikov. The Panthers could be very busy in the offseason, and will make moves if they think it upgrades their chances at the deadline. But Hanifin? The cost may just be too steep. ON DECK OTTAWA SENATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App Last Season: Florida won 2-1 This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Ottawa: Panthers 5, Senators 0 (Nov.27); April 4. At Florida: Tuesday; April 9 All-time Regular Season Series: Ottawa leads 57-45-5, 3 ties Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Carolina, 7 p.m. [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 20, 2024Philadelphia Flyers fans will be happy to know that one top prospect is going to be hard at work this offseason. With KHL playoff hockey officially off the table, Matvei Michkov plans to continue to train and work hard to be prepared for the start of next season. Michkov told MatchTV (loosely translated into English), “I will train separately. I know what components I need to work hard on. I will do just that, already preparing for the next season. Just go ahead! I will not be sad — I will just train, making myself better.” On loan with HC Sochi this season, Michkov plans on returning to SKA St. Petersburg to play under head coach Roman Rotenberg once again. On the other hand, though, it seems that the relationship between the two sides is tenuous at best. “No, we didn’t talk about anything. But my task is to work, and then we’ll see further,” Michkov said. “Not everything depends on me, but a lot. And I have to do everything in my power, doing it 100%.” Neither the Flyers nor Michkov had any true resolutions for the illnesses and absences this season, but the 19-year-old is already putting the tough 2023-24 season behind him. “I don’t even know what it is connected with. Maybe some kind of bad luck. It’s very unpleasant to get sick,” Michkov explained. “I would always like to play without pauses. But whatever is done, everything is for the better. Thank God everything is fine now. Let it continue like this.” The future Flyers star also commented a little bit on a 2024 NHL Draft-eligible prospect – some kid named Ivan Demidov, who happens to be blowing away his competition in the MHL right now. “I closely monitor Vanya Demidov, he scores a lot of points in SKA 1946. We communicate well, friends. Watching his successes,” Michkov said. ‘I’m glad that everything works out for him, let it be MHL. But let it take shape there, grow. I believe that at an adult level he will show the same hockey. Of the young ones, I like Demids the most.” Lastly, Michkov admitted that he’s never seen the Flyers‘ ice at Wells Fargo Center. He’s only seen two NHL arenas: “Once — in Edmonton. The second — when I came to the draft in Nashville,” he said. It’s still a few years away, but Michkov will get to see his new Flyers home eventually. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 20, 2024Check out the latest Montreal Canadiens news, highlights, and stories you may have missed on Monday. Habs News As the NHL’s March 8 Trade Deadline looms, we took a look at whether the Montreal Canadiens could improve the four Canadian teams currently in a playoff position through a trade. As an aside, former Canadiens forward Sean Monahan scored a natural hat-trick on Monday against the Calgary Flames.  [Canadiens Trade Deadline: Assets That Could Improve Other Canadian Teams]   Many raised an eyebrow when the Canadiens selected Florian Xhekaj in the fourth round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. To be fair, Xhekaj was not rated very highly by many outlets due to his low scoring rate, but he’s flipped the script since being given an opportunity to play in the top six. He’s almost tripled his production while scoring several highlight-reel goals.  [Habs Prospect Report: Florian Xhekaj Seizing His Opportunity]   The Laval Rocket announced they have signed veteran goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo to a one-year deal (2023-24). Kaskisuo, 30, has been excellent for the Rocket since joining the team in late December. He has a 5-1 record, not to mention a .923 save percentage. He has been instrumental in the Rocket’s chase for a playoff berth and has provided important insulation for prospect Jakub Dobes. Le Rocket de Laval a annoncé que l’équipe s’est entendue sur les modalités d’un contrat d’une saison (2023-2024 – AHL, un volet) avec le gardien Kasimir Kaskisuo. The Laval Rocket announced that the team has agreed to terms on a one-year, one-way AHL contract (2023-24) with… pic.twitter.com/8ifSJmDWly — Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) February 19, 2024   Juraj Slafkovsky could end up playing for Slovakia this summer at the World Championship, but general manager Kent Hughes has yet to discuss the topic with the youngest player in the lineup. Habs GM Kent Hughes on Juraj Slafkovsky potentially joining Team Slovakia 🇸🇰 for the upcoming World Championship. 👇👇👇 pic.twitter.com/9qd9JH7wiG — /r/Habs (@HabsOnReddit) February 19, 2024 One of my favourite prospect analysts, David St-Louis, released a very interesting video documenting the recent changes and improvements in Slafkovsky’s play. As is always the case in hockey, keeping the statistics in mind is crucial, but so is analyzing actual footage. The stats tell us what happened, but the footage explains why it happened. National Hockey Now Network Some may be wondering why Nashville Predators center Mark Jankowski was reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday only to be recalled back to the team on Monday afternoon. [Nashville Predators] The Philadelphia Flyers are reportedly still undecided on the future of pending free-agent defenseman Sean Walker. Walker, 29, was brought over by the Flyers from the Los Angeles Kings in the summer and has scored five goals, 15 assists, and 20 points in 56 games.[Philadelphia Flyers] When the Pittsburgh Penguins raised a banner emblazoned with Jaromir Jagr’s No. 68 Sunday, it joined several others already in the rafters at PPG Paints Arena. There were, for example, the ones commemorating the franchise’s five Stanley Cups, as well as those celebrating the other players who have had their numbers retired, Mario Lemieux and Michel Briere. [Pittsburgh Penguins] [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 20, 2024The Boston Bruins got that winning feeling back again on Monday afternoon in a 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars. That, NHL news, the latest NHL trade rumors, and more in the latest Boston Hockey Now Bruins Daily: Boston Bruins Boston Hockey Now: The Boston Bruins ended an otherwise dismal homestand with a 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars behind a brilliant performance from Jeremy Swayman. Boston Hockey Now: The Boston Bruins got a great NHL debut from 6-foot-5, 245-pound forward Justin Brazeau.   Patriots Football Now: For the latest on the New England Patriots, check out our sister NFL site, Patriots Football Now! Atlantic Division Montreal Hockey Now: What will the Montreal Canadiens do ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline? Florida Hockey Now: The Florida Panthers have won five straight games thanks to a high-octane offense and the stingy goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky. Buffalo Hockey Now: The reality of another playoff-less spring is hitting the Buffalo Sabres. NHL.com: Who is Toronto Maple Leafs call-up Marshall Rifai? NHL NYI Hockey Now: What is the biggest issue for the New York Islanders? New Jersey Hockey Now: We almost had a Gordie Howe hat trick from a New Jersey Devils defenseman at the Stadium Series. Philly Hockey Now: Is Tyson Foerster returning to the lineup for the Philadelphia Flyers? Pittsburgh Hockey Now: The reckoning of a rebuild appears to be near for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nashville Hockey Now: A lack of upholding standards has canned a trip to Vegas to see U2 for the Nashville Predators. Chicago Hockey Now: No surprise, back to losing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Vegas Hockey Now: It was just the San Jose Sharks, but it was still a nice bounceback for the Vegas Golden Knights. TSN: Arizona Coyotes head coach André Tourigny got the dreaded vote of confidence from Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong. Don’t forget, for exclusive insightful, insider Bruins and NHL coverage, subscribe for BHN +!     [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 20, 2024BRADENTON Fla. — My week at Pirate City covering the 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates spring training has come to an end. It was my first time at spring training and as I expected, it turned out to be a terrific experience. Seeing baseball activity take place under the warm sunshine was a sight for sore eyes after what felt like a year-long winter in Pittsburgh. Below, you’ll find some of my favorite clips and pictures from the first week of Pirates’ spring training. Nothing happening yet at LECOM Park, but my friend and colleague John Perrotto took me there to kick off our trip. The Pirates will play their first game of the spring here on Sunday against the Orioles. 📍 pic.twitter.com/NZoG1IxXmd — Danny Demilio (@Demilio22) February 13, 2024 Aroldis Chapman in his first bullpen in a Pittsburgh Pirates’ uniform. Yes, he is as large as he looks and still throws hard. Aroldis Chapman throwing to Henry Davis in his first bullpen with the Pirates: pic.twitter.com/0aQ3GmMND2 — Danny Demilio (@Demilio22) February 15, 2024 2023 first-overall pick Paul Skenes generated plenty of buzz in his first big-league camp. Here’s a snippet of his first bullpen. Hello, Paul Skenes. pic.twitter.com/8Svnhft0wS — Danny Demilio (@Demilio22) February 15, 2024 Bryan Reynolds has annually been the steadiest player in the Pirates’ lineup. Here he is taking some cuts. Bryan Reynolds taking some cuts pic.twitter.com/iq7410Zepg — Danny Demilio (@Demilio22) February 16, 2024 Pitching prospect Jackson Wolf gets funky as he warms up during his bullpen. Jackson Wolf had his funky windup pic.twitter.com/w4flbEZQmJ — Danny Demilio (@Demilio22) February 16, 2024 Reigning All-Star Mitch Keller throws a live bullpen against Oneil Cruz. The first of many for Cruz, who is getting his legs back under him after missing the majority of last season. Keller wins the battle. Mitch Keller vs. Oneil Cruz in a live BP. Winner: Mitch pic.twitter.com/41UMD5nw3W — Danny Demilio (@Demilio22) February 17, 2024 Aroldis Chapman made some new friends after his workout on Monday. Aroldis Chapman making some new fans: pic.twitter.com/D1CdwIFfCi — Danny Demilio (@Demilio22) February 19, 2024 Thank you all for following along while John and I were down here. We have plenty more coming, so be sure to subscribe to PBN+ so you don’t miss a thing! AROUND THE NETWORK Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Penguins Players Feel the Heat; Sullivan Unhappy and Blunt Steelers Now: Bell: Steelers 7-Round Mock Draft 1.0 Pittsburgh Sports Now: A Deeper Look Into New Pitt Wide Receivers Coach JJ Laster [...] Read more...
Bob DuffFebruary 20, 2024Detroit Red Wings draft pick Theodor Niederbach’s Swedish club is appealing a four-game suspension he’s been given by the SHL. In weekend action while playing for MoDo Hockey, game officials were assessing Niederbac a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head. The Swedish forward drove his left forearm into the head of Timra’s Axel Rindell during an open-ice hit during the second period of the game. His immediate expulsion from the game was resulting from the call on the play. MoDo överklagar disciplinnämndens beslut att stänga av Theodor Niederbach fyra matcher efter den här situationen, rapporterar Expressen 📝 pic.twitter.com/02dWvhrltU — TV4 Hockey (@TV4_Hockey) February 19, 2024 The disciplinary committee of the SHL would follow up by handing Niederbach a four-game suspension. Niederbach, 21, was also given a fine of 6,785 Swedish Krona, the equivalent of about $660. In their ruling, the SHL noted that Niederbach’s only point of contact with Rindell was to the head, presenting a higher likelihood of serious injury. The ruling was also taking note that Rindell had lost possession of the puck. Thus, entire avoidance of the hit was an option available to Niederbach.. The suspension was partially the result of Niederbach being a repeat offender. He was given a match penalty last season for boarding. Instantly, MoDo officials were making the announcement that they would be appealing the suspension to Sweden’s National Sports Board. “We think the outcome is far too harsh considering that their players take no responsibility at all in this case,” MoDo sports director Henrik Gradin wrote in a text message to Swedish website Expressen. “I’m afraid of where Swedish ice hockey is going,” Red Wings Must Make Decision On Niederbach Detroit’s 51st overall selection in the 2020 NHL entry draft, Niederbach remains without an NHL contract. Detroit has until June 1 to decide whether to sign him or the Red Wings will lose his NHL rights. If the National Sports Board makes the decision to uphold his suspension, Niederbach will be missing four of MoDo’s eight remaining SHL regular-season games. MoDo is currently 10th in the 14-team SHL. In his third SHL season, Niederbach owns a share of 12th in team scoring with 5-5-10 totals. He’s second on the team in penalty minutes (31) and owns the club’s third-worst plus-minus (-13). Denna tackling av Albin Grewe på Isac Skedung gick förbi ostraffad. Borde den ha renderat i mer?🤔 pic.twitter.com/kUNmnUOMYa — TV4 Hockey (@TV4_Hockey) January 31, 2024 The chances of Niederbach getting a reduction in his suspension would appear remote. Another former Red Wings prospect, Albin Grewe of Djurgardens, took a similar route. He sought to have his five-game SHL ban overturned by the National Sports Board earlier this month. His bid was denied. Detroit’s 66th pick in the 2019 NHL entry draft, the team made the decision not to sign Grewe to an NHL pact last year. [...] Read more...
Dan KelleyFebruary 19, 2024Today is Presidents’ Day but every day on this site is New England Patriots Day. So why not combine the two? The Patriots franchise has featured 76 players who share a surname with a President of the United States. This list does not include players who spell their name differently than the POTUS (i.e. Larry Eisenhauer) or have the president’s last name as their first name. The list also includes the three Patriots players with the surname King, which was the original last name of Gerald Ford. Of those 76 presidential Patriots, here are the ten greatest in franchise history. 10. Andre Carter, DE (2011, 2013) Carter edged out DT Ted Washington for tenth place on the list. Both had brief but very productive stints in New England. During Carter’s first season in New England, he helped the Patriots win the AFC Championship. He finished with 10.0 sacks and was selected to the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, Andre Carter was injured in Week 14 and missed the Patriots playoff run. Had that injury been avoided, New England might have had a fourth Super Bowl trophy three years earlier than they did. 9. Harold Jackson (1978-1981) His best seasons may have come with the Eagles and Rams, but Harold Jackson was still a force for the Patriots. Jackson played in all 64 games during his New England run, and their lone playoff game as well. When Jackson made a catch he made the most of it. He averaged 20.3 yards per reception during his Patriots career, which is still first in franchise history. Jackson finished his four seasons in Foxboro with 156 receptions for 3,162 yards and 18 touchdowns. 8. Andy Johnson, RB (1974-1982) Andy Johnson played all nine of his NFL seasons in New England. He rushed for 2,017 yards and picked up an additional 1,807 yards receiving. Johnson also scored 22 touchdowns. He even threw four touchdown passes. When he retired in 1982 he was eighth on the Patriots career list in yards from scrimmage and ninth in all-purpose yards. 7. Shawn Jefferson (1996-1999) The wide receiver helped the 1996 New England Patriots win the AFC Championship, just the second in franchise history. He had 91 receiving yards in the AFC Championship Game that season. In 1997 he led the Patriots in receiving yards. The following season Shawn Jefferson led the entire NFL in yards per reception (22.7). He was WR2 behind Terry Glenn during his time with the team. Jefferson finished his four seasons in Foxboro with 178 receptions, 3,081 receiving yards, and caught 14 touchdowns. 6. Eugene Wilson (2003-2007) Wilson won two Super Bowls during his five seasons in Foxboro. New England selected Eugene Wilson in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft. He was a starting safety on two championship squads during his first two seasons in the league. Wilson amassed 146 tackles, 21 passes defended, and 10 interceptions in those first two years, including postseason. Wilson’s most memorable performance as a Patriot came in the 2004 AFC Championship Game when he intercepted Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice. 5. Sam Adams (1972-1980) Sam Adams played for the New England Patriots for the first nine years of his 10-year NFL career.  He was the team’s starting right guard, opposite John Hannah on the left side. Adams played in 121 games for New England, including playoffs. He was a key cog in a dominant Patriots offensive line in the 1970s that featured Leon Gray (LT), John Hannah (LG), Bill Lenkatis (C), Sam Adams (RG), and Tom Neville (RT). A tremendously underrated group that opened up lanes for Sam Cunningham and protected Steve Grogan. 4. J.C. Jackson (2018-2021, 2023) The first run of J.C. Jackson in New England was awe-inspiring. He went from an undrafted free agent to an All-Pro within four seasons. As a rookie, he was part of the New England Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl championship team. In his second NFL season, he became a reliable cornerback in addition to his work on special teams. By season three he blossomed into an excellent cornerback, leading the team with nine interceptions. But in 2021 Jackson went from very good to great. The man dubbed “Mr. INT” led the entire NFL in passes defended (21) and tallied eight interceptions. He made the Pro Bowl and was named second-team All-Pro. He returned for a reunion with the Patriots in 2023, but the results were not as positive. 3. Ted Johnson (1995-2004) Johnson helped New England win four AFC Championships and three Super Bowls during his 10-year run with the franchise. Ted Johnson led the Patriots in tackles in 1996 (115) and 1997 (127). Johnson had trouble staying healthy following that 1997. It was the last season he played in every game until his final season in 2004. His final game was Super Bowl 39 where he lifted his third Lombardi Trophy. He retired with 760 tackles, 11.5 sacks, seven fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles, and an interception. Despite never being selected for a Pro Bowl, Ted Johnson was consistently a solid player when he was on the field for a decade. 2. Rodney Harrison (2003-2008) One of two Patriots Hall of Fame members on the list, Rodney Harrison is still waiting for the call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Harrison played his final six seasons in Foxboro. He helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl in each of his first two seasons in New England. During those championship runs, Harrison had six interceptions in six playoff games. He proved to play his best when it mattered most. He was also the starting safety on the 2007 Patriots, the first NFL team to finish with a 16-0 regular season record. 1. Julius Adams (1971-1987) Adams retired in 1986 having played more games for the New England Patriots than any other player in franchise history. Julius Adams remains fourth on the list 37 years later, trailing only Tom Brady, Matthew Slater, and Bruce Armstrong. While Adams is best remembered by some for his longevity, he was an incredibly productive player. His 80.5 career sacks are second in franchise history behind only Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett. In 1976 he had 3.0 sacks when the Patriots lost a controversion 27-24 playoff game to the Raiders. Adams was also a starter on the 1985 AFC Champion New England Patriots team, the first squad in franchise history to reach the Super Bowl. His continued absence from the Patriots Hall of Fame remains a head-scratcher. [...] Read more...
Sheng PengFebruary 19, 2024We might have got a glimpse of the San Jose Sharks’ immediate future this afternoon. But not on the ice, in a 4-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Instead, it was off the ice, where head coach David Quinn bemoaned both the Sharks’ lack of size and will. “We have a lot of areas of improvement where we can be harder, regardless of our size. I guess I’m touching on both sides of it,” he said. “There are too many instances when we go into these battles and we’re not really into them.” Per SPORTLOGiQ, the Golden Knights won a stunning 71.4 percent of Puck Battles in All Situations. Obviously, Vegas isn’t hurt by the fact that they’re the heaviest team in the NHL. Per Elite Prospects, they average 207 pounds. San Jose, by the way, is 16th at 199 pounds. But as they say, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” The Colorado Avalanche, at 197 pounds, and the Vancouver Canucks, at 196 pounds, are examples of Stanley Cup contenders who are more will and skill than size. Between skill and will and size, of course, skill is the hardest ingredient to acquire. San Jose Sharks fans have to be patient on that score. But GM Mike Grier and Quinn appear to be on the same page, in terms of will and size. Will, then size, should be atop Grier’s wish list this off-season. Grier was asked during last month’s State of the Sharks what his ideal roster looks like. “I think for me, it’s what I talked about from day one, it’s to be fast, competitive, in your face, hard to play against,” he responded. “We’re kind of chipping away at that. We’re not there yet, obviously. “We still need to get a little bit bigger. We need to get a little bit faster. Be harder to play against, get more competitive.” Far from being “there”, the Sharks actually got easier to play against from Grier’s Year One to Year Two, going from being just a plain bad team to one of the cap era’s worst. It’ll be interesting to see how the Sharks address that this summer. David Quinn Quinn, on the Michael Amadio game-opening breakaway goal: We started off great, ready to play, first two-and-a-half minutes buzzin’, crossbar, some chances. And then we give up like our 38th breakaway in three games. It’s just inexcusable. It can’t happen. I mean, listen, guys make mistakes and you’ll live with it, that happens. But we’re just so puck-focused way too often. Our D corps just has to count bodies. We get a puck deep, we shoot a puck, and we stare at it instead of counting bodies and they get a clean breakaway. It wasn’t even close. Listen, when you give up a goal that easily, why wouldn’t you slump your freakin’ shoulders? Nothing they did. Wasn’t any great play they made. We just fell asleep. Quinn, on if puck battles were better tonight than in the last game: I thought there was. You also gotta keep in mind, there is a big-size advantage against that team. When you’re 180, and you go in the corner, and get someone 220, you give your all, he gives his all, you’re gonna lose. That being said, we have a lot of areas of improvement where we can be harder, regardless of our size. I guess I’m touching on both sides of it. There are too many instances when we go into these battles and we’re not really into them. 80 percent into the battle and 20 percent into the puck. At this level, that’s just not good enough. Quinn, on if will is the greater problem with this roster, not size: Our job is to coach the team we have. We gotta keep elevating our will. Quinn, on if healthy scratching Alexander Barabanov was related to his effort on the Boone Jenner game-winner in the last game: Wasn’t just one thing. The trade deadline a distraction? Quinn: "We're all human right? If somebody told us with all the jobs we have that in 2 1/2 weeks, you may not be where you're at, I think we'd all react a little bit differently. These guys are no different. So I'm certainly cognizant of that." — Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) February 20, 2024 Jan Rutta Rutta, on if the Trade Deadline might be weighing on the San Jose Sharks’ minds: Yeah. Everywhere, around the league. Yeah, I mean, we’re probably not gonna make the playoffs. So yeah. Ty Emberson   Emberson, on the message between the first and second periods: First period, like I said, didn’t start well, and in between periods, it was just a lot of gotta win your battles. You have to hold your self more accountable. Hockey is a game of effort and passion. We didn’t have enough of that in the first period. Kevin Labanc Labanc, on his approach since returning from his long benching: I think that’s a big thing, not being scared to make a mistake. When you are, somehow, you just end up making a mistake. I felt great. That was a good team over there. I know they’re missing a couple of guys but felt pretty good. Like I said, we had a lot of good chances. [...] Read more...
Nate BrownFebruary 19, 2024The fun part of watching Connor Bedard is seeing how differently he sees the game. Denied earlier on a goal waived off due to offside, Bedard instinctively went to the net and lo and behold, the puck squirted through netminder Spencer Martin, into the crease and Bedard was there to bang it home. So goes the point streak that Bedard has enjoyed since returning, notching six points (2-4) in just three games. He could have eight–had two goals disallowed by an offside call–both counted as well. Don’t look now, but Bedard is inching closer to a point-per-game pace again. In 42 games, he has 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points. Not bad for a kid who was held off the scoresheet for two-and-half games before his jaw injury. The #Blackhawks have scored 7 goals since Connor Bedard has returned. Bedard has earned a point in 6 of them. — Joe Brand (@Joe_Brand1) February 20, 2024 The Blackhawks were thirsting for goals and points in his absence and now have received the tonic they so desperately needed. Though they’re just 1-2 in those games, the Hawks predictably look like an entirely different team with #98 on the ice. Connor Bedard Leading Blackhawks Charge Nick Foligno and Philipp Kurashev both held their own in his absence, but they’ve benefitted handsomely from his return, too. But maybe the little thing noticed in the game was how Bedard snapped back after a couple Hurricane players shoved and chirped him. Spencer Martin gives Connor Bedard a shove at the end of the second period and Bedard chops back. Dmitry Orlov pushed Bedard into his goaltender on this play, so I'm not sure what Martin is upset about. #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/63ujqejCtp — Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 20, 2024 The interesting part here is that Bedard came back in the third by hurting Carolina on the scoreboard, along with drawing a penalty that led to another goal. This is what Bedard brings and will only get better as the talent level rises within the organization. There are a handful of players who will be on this roster as the Blackhawks rise back to prominence but seeing how Bedard chirped and then chipped in three points is what should be really heartening to Hawks fans. He plays even better when he’s mad. Oh sure, the Blackhawks are going to pushed around all year but they’ll push back. They did tonight even though they could have mailed it in early in the third. The message is resonating and their best player won’t put up with it either. Imagine what it’ll look like when there are others who will be able to light it up, too. Follow Chicago Hockey Now on Facebook and Twitter Follow Nate on Twitter [...] Read more...
Dan KelleyFebruary 19, 2024The New England Patriots cleared up additional salary cap space by parting ways with a pair of the team’s veteran leaders. Lawrence Guy Sr. and Adrian Phillips were the casualties of the moves. The two players’ early notice at least gives them a jump start on finding a new home when free agency opens. NFL Netowrks’s Tom Pelissaro was the first to report the moves. Lawrence Guy Sr. Guy will turn 34 next month. The defensive lineman is a 12-year NFL veteran, the last seven as a member of the Patriots. Lawrence Guy Sr. was a member of New England’s most recent championship team in Super Bowl 53. He had previously played for the Colts, Chargers, and Ravens before finding a home with the Patriots. Lawrence Guy, Sr. was dependable throughout his time in New England. Guy played in 110 of a possible 115 games for the Patriots, including the postseason. He also showed excellent versatility, playing defensive end or on the interior, wherever he was needed most. He accounted for 379 tackles over the past seven seasons, Guy’s tackles total ranked seventh in the entire NFL during his time in New England. The six players above him were all Pro Bowl players: DeForest Buckner, Cameron Heyward, Cam Jordan, Jonathan Allen, Leonard Williams, and Aaron Donald. As good as Lawrence Guy Sr. was on the field, he was perhaps even more important off it. He was twice the New England Patriots nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.  Guy won the Ron Burton Community Service Award for the Patriots in 2021. And this past season, Lawrence Guy, Sr. was honored as the Week 13 NFLPA Community MVP. Adrian Phillips Phillips is a 10-year NFL veteran. He joined the Patriots in 2020 after spending his first six NFL seasons as a member of the Chargers. He will turn 32 next Month. Adrian Phillips led New England in tackles in 2020 and was tied for second in 2021. However, his role on defense decreased in 2022, and last season was used almost exclusively on special teams. He only played in 12% of defensive snaps. The two moves will free up roughly $6 million in caps space for New England, $5.17 million after factoring in their roster replacements (per Miguel Benzan). Both Lawrence Guy Sr. and Adrian Phillips represented their New England Patriots with nothing but class during their tenures in Foxboro. Despite being on the high side of 30, each should easily find a welcoming home for the 2024 season and beyond. [...] Read more...
Nate BrownFebruary 19, 2024Not even Connor Bedard could save the Blackhawks from another road loss. The Carolina Hurricanes were lived up to the billing, swarming Chicago all night long. Whether it was shots on net or pucks that found the twine, Carolina beat the Hawks 6-3 to extend Chicago’s franchise worst road losing streak to 21 games. Bedard, though, had another impressive game despite the loss. Here are four quick thoughts following the game. Bedard On Fire Since Returning From Injury Since returning from his jaw injury, Bedard has points in each of those three games, which is six points (2-4). It doesn’t include the two disallowed goals he’s had as well, negated due to the Hawks being offside, but the fact he’s doubled up his points to the ratio of games played shows again just what the Blackhawks missed when he was watching instead of being on the ice. Bedard also drew a penalty that led to the second power play goal. Another impressive night from the rookie. Even Mrazek Couldn’t Save The Blackhawks Tonight Petr Mrazek has arguably been Chicago’s MVP all season long, but even he couldn’t do much else in an effort that saw Carolina absolutely blister the net with shots. In the second period alone, Carolina blistered the Hawks 17-4 in shots. On a couple of the Hurricanes’ markers, Mrazek had absolutely no chance to make a play. The Hawks aren’t going to put up five goals to tie at this point in the rebuild. It’s the first time Mrazek has given up more than four goals since New Years Eve in the 8-1 drubbing by Dallas. A Potent Blackhawks Power Play In four tries, the Blackhawks potted two goals on the man advantage with Bedard factoring in on both. He buried the first one crashing the crease and slamming in a rebound. On the second, he fired a puck to Tyler Johnson to finished it off to give Chicago its second marker. Yes, Bedard factors into the success on the power play as he does everywhere else. But the Blackhawks passes have been crisper and their movement more fluid when they have been successful. Instead of holding onto the puck just a second too long or being glued to their spots, the Hawks saw success moving more and being far more active. Misery Loves Company The franchise high 21 straight road losses just underscores what has been a challenging year for the Blackhawks across the board. Knowing Bedard will be exactly as advertised helps, but it doesn’t blunt the frustration that is seeing the team unable to keep pace once a more dominant team starts rolling. Midway through the second as the Hurricanes started peppering the net, it was obvious the Hawks were in over their head. To their credit, they continued to fight on and made a foregone 5-1 lead a bit tighter when the power play goals pulled it to 5-3. But 21 straight losses on the road shows how downtrodden things have been for Chicago. This too shall pass. But it still isn’t fun for the fans to watch or the players to push through. Follow Chicago Hockey Now on Facebook and Twitter Follow Nate on Twitter [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 19, 2024The Detroit Red Wings beat the Seattle Kraken 4-3 on Ben Chiarot’s overtime goal Monday. But it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils we need to talk about. This was a critical win for the Red Wings because they completed a successful salvage operation to earn four points on an eight-point Western Conference road trip. After losing the first two games to Edmonton and Vancouver, they won against Calgary and Seattle. Those four points leave Detroit four points ahead of the Devils for the second wild card spot and one point behind the Lightning for the first wild card spot. If you factor in that Detroit has a game in hand against Tampa Bay, coach Derek Lalonde’s squad is ahead of Lightning based on points percentage. By leaving Seattle with a .500 road trip, the Red Wings still have some momentum. Had they lost to Seattle, we would be talking about how the talented Devils were right on their tail. Three times, the Red Wings claimed a one-goal lead against the Kraken and three times the Kraken tied it up. These are games they would lose in recent years. But not this season. Since Alex Lyon took over Detroit’s No. 1 goaltending job, this Detroit team’s resilience has risen significantly. Over their last 25 games, the Kraken have given up one or no goals 10 times, two goals five times and three goals five times. But the Red Wings needed four goals to get the much-needed win. They found a way to get it done. Meanwhile, Lyon continues to be a consistent, stable presence. He made 38 saves against the Kraken to raise his record to 15-8-2 in his 25 games this season. Raymond Hottest Red Wing Lucas Raymond posted a goal and an assist to give him 14 multiple point games this season. Raymond now has 46 points, leaving him just two points behind Larkin for the team lead. No NHLer age 21 and under has more points this season than Raymond. Patrick Kane also set up a Moritz Seider goal for his 800th career assist.  With 24 points in 25 games, Kane has delivered the offensive push GM Steve Yzerman hoped he would. Hello, it's Daniel Sprong! #LGRW pic.twitter.com/2gaaVuoc9z — Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 19, 2024 As helpful as Kane has been for the team’s offense and morale, Daniel Sprong has to at least be in the conversation with Lyon and Kane for Yzerman’s best offseason acquisition. Sprong, who played for Seattle last season, scored his 15th goal of the season. With the NHL trade deadline less than three weeks away, Yzerman has some decisions to make about what this team needs. One of their strengths is their team chemistry. It’s hard to know how aggressive he should be in adding players.     [...] Read more...
Dan KelleyFebruary 19, 2024With the Bill Belichick Era having come to an end in New England after 24 seasons, there was bound to be a lot of turnover on the Patriots coaching staff. Today the team announced just how much turnover there would be. Some positions were previously reported or known. Head Coach: Jerod Mayo Offensive Coaching Staff Offensive Coordinator: Alex Van Pelt Senior Offensive Assistant: Ben McAdoo Quarterbacks Coach: T.C. McCartney Running Backs Coach: Tayler Embree Wide Receivers Coach: Tyler Hughes Assistant Wide Receivers Coach: Tiquan Underwood Tight Ends Coach: Bob Bicknell Offensive Line Coach: Scott Peters Assistant Offensive Line Coach: Robert Kugler Offensive Coaching Assistant./ Quality Control: Michael McCarthy Defensive Coaching Staff Defensive Coordinator: DeMarcus Covington Defensive Line Coach: Jerry Montgomery Inside Linebackers Coach: Dont’a Hightower Outside Linebackers Coach: Drew Wilkins Cornerbacks Coach: Mike Pellegrino Safeties Coach: Brian Belichick Defensive Coaching Assistant / Quality Control: Vinny DePalma Defensive Coaching Assistant / Quality Control: Jamael Lett Special Teams Coaching Staff Special Teams Coordinator: Jeremy Springer Special Teams Assistant Coach: Tom Quinn Special Teams Coaching Assistant / Quality Control: Coby Tippett Strength and Conditioning Staff Strength and Conditioning Coach: Deron Mayo Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach: Brian McDonough Troy Brown, a New England Patriots Hall of Fame player who has been with the staff since 2000, will be back as well. Brown’s hiring (like that of Pellegrino and Belichick) was not announced yet because they are all returning staff. His job title is unknown at this point, though he may continue to work with return specialists. It is unclear at this point if defensive assistant Keith Jones is returning as well. [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 19, 2024BRADENTON, Fla. — There was only one live bullpen at Pittsburgh Pirates spring training on Monday, but it sure was an important one to watch. The Prates have two open rotation spots and a handful of guys will battle during camp to fill those spots. Included in the mix of pitchers competing to earn a place in the starting rotation is right-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz. All eyes were on Ortiz on Monday during his live session at Pirate City. He faced four batters — Oneil Cruz (twice), Bryan Reynolds and Jared Triolo. Considering it was his first one of the spring, things couldn’t have gone much better. “I thought he moved down the mound well,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He threw a couple good changeups and the sinker had some action to it. Talking to Bryan, Tri and Cruzy about it, it seemed like the ball had good action to it, and that’s the most important thing.” Ortiz’s changeup looked particularly sharp on the day. The 25-year-old featured it multiple times throughout his outing and it looked better than it has in the past. Developing his changeup into a more reliable and consistent pitch could go a long way in Ortiz’s development. He possesses a lively fastball and a slider capable of generating swings and misses. His changeup, however, has lagged behind. He certainly showed a step in the right direction on Monday. “He looked really good. His changeup was a lot better,” said Cruz, who struck out looking his first time against Ortiz. “That’s one of the things he was working on. Of all the times I’ve faced Luis, today I saw him in a really good spot.” Cruz bounced one towards the second baseman’s position in his second at-bat against Ortiz. Reynolds walked and Triolo put the ball in play. Ortiz will be among fellow pitchers Roansy Contreras, Quinn Priester, Bailey Falter, Chase Anderson and Josh Fleming in competition to head to Miami with the Pirates for opening day. He knows it’s not up to him, but Ortiz plans on doing everything he can to have the decision go his way when the time comes. “Continue to work hard,” Ortiz said through interpreter and Pirates’ coach Stephen Morales. “Just make sure I put myself in a good spot. I know it’s a competition. Just be myself, execute my pitches and somebody else will make a decision.” Luis Ortiz has something to prove following a disappointing showing last season. At the beginning of the year, Ortiz saw his prospect status rise and he was considered one of the Pirates’ top pitching prospects. The recognition didn’t translate to results while in the big leagues. In 18 appearances/15 starts with the Pirates in 2023, Ortiz went 5-5 with a 4.78 ERA. He only struck out 59 batters and walked 48 in 86.2 innings pitched. As is the case with all adversity, there are lessons to be learned. Ortiz certainly learned his from his first extended look with the Pirates. “Pound the strike zone, execute pitches,” he said. “You have to do that because now you’re getting yourself into deep trouble in the big leagues .” The competition for the final two spots in the starting rotation has barely commenced, but if the first audition from Luis Ortiz is a sign of what’s to come, he could come out on top. [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 19, 2024Earlier in the season, when the Colorado Avalanche were looking to try Bowen Byram with Samuel Girard, it was Byram who was stuck playing his off-side. At the end of last season, Byram told me he’d never played the right side before, and at the start of the year, you could tell he wasn’t quite comfortable there. That’s starting to change. “I’m actually enjoying it a lot right now,” Byram told me of playing the off-side. “Playing with Jack (Johnson), I feel like we’ve kind of found some chemistry together and it’s been a lot of fun. It took me a bit to adjust to that side, but I think it just comes down to moving my feet. When you’re on that side, you get stuck in some awkward positions, so you’ve just got to use your feet and skate out of it sometimes. Just trying to continue to improve on that.” Byram was one of the skaters who took part in an optional skate for the Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon was another, although he usually sticks to one end of the ice on his own, working on whatever he chooses. When it came time to test out his one-timer, he recruited Byram to send him some passes. Right now, things are going well for the 22 year old defenseman. He’s got six points in his last three games, and looks far more involved. After Sunday’s win, Jared Bednar said that Nolan Pratt, who runs the defense for the Avalanche, had a meeting to go over some video with Byram last week. What did that video meeting consist of? “We just talked about when I’m playing at my best and what I’m doing on the ice,” Byram said. “Watched some video on just games where we both thought I played well, and we just talked about my year to date. I was trying to turn the page on that. Obviously, it’s gone well so far.” Byram said he’s making it a point to tell himself to skate. Earlier in the year, he felt he was trying to think his way through games and not use his feet. The difference has certainly been noticeable, and when the young defenseman is on his game, he’s a player other teams don’t have much of an answer for. It’s hard enough to defend Cale Makar and Devon Toews, but when Byram is activating on the next shift, not every team can handle that. Other News And Notes Speaking of defense, the Avalanche have had their top six healthy and together for a while now, but the results haven’t been there. Defense isn’t just the responsibility of the blueliners though, and Bednar was pretty honest when assessing the team defense to date. “I think it’s been sporadic, inconsistent, which I think is normal,” Bednar said. “I think every team, even the good teams, go through stretches of games where you’re not playing as committed when you’d like to defensively…I would say it hasn’t been great. I would say it’s been really good at times, and then other times, like this last little stretch has been poor.” Bednar mentioned segment three (games 21-30) where the team struggled defensively, but worked their way out of it, and sometimes the results take a little longer to come even if you’re working the right way. The Avalanche may face an angry Vancouver team tomorrow. The Canucks gave up a whopping 10 goals today against the Minnesota Wild, and somehow gave the opposition four 5-on-3 advantages. They still lead the Western Conference with 80 points, but they might not be in the best mood when they get to town. [...] Read more...
Dave MolinariFebruary 19, 2024When the Pittsburgh Penguins raised a banner emblazoned with Jaromir Jagr’s No. 68 Sunday, it joined a number of others already in the rafters at PPG Paints Arena. There were, for example, the ones commemorating the franchise’s five Stanley Cups, as well as those celebrating the other players who have had their numbers retired, Mario Lemieux and Michel Briere. And then there are the ones honoring the 15 NHL scoring championships Penguins players have earned since Lemieux captured their first in 1987-88. They are a tribute not only to the immense talents of the four guys — Lemieux (6), Jagr (5), Sidney Crosby (2) and Evgeni Malkin (2) — who claimed those Art Ross trophies, but to the offensive abilities of the players around them. For most of the time since Lemieux broke into the league in 1984-85, the Penguins have had a potent, often overwhelming, offense. Sure, they have struggled at times to prevent goals — that happened quite a bit, actually — but scoring them rarely was an issue. It is now, however. And it is one of the primary reasons the Penguins are in real danger of losing visual contact with the Eastern Conference playoff field. They have scored just 149 goals, sixth-fewest in the NHL. And that number is somewhat padded by their 10 empty-netters, tying Vancouver for sixth-most in the league. The Penguins are not getting many at even-strength — their 105 goals while playing 5-on-5 are tied with Florida and Los Angeles for the 10th-fewest in the league — and their power play does not come close to making up the shortfall. It has contributed just 24 goals, a total dwarfed by that of, say, Florida, which has gotten 48 — exactly twice the Penguins’ total — when the Panthers have a manpower advantage. Still wondering why Florida has 21 more points than the Pittsburgh Penguins? Count defenseman Erik Karlsson, who began playing against the Penguins in 2009, among those taken aback by his new team’s offensive issues. “It’s not anything I’ve seen in my lifetime,” he said. The Penguins have relied heavily on Sidney Crosby’s line, which has had Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust on the wings most of the time, to carry their offense in 2023-24. (Rickard Rakell replaced Guentzel on the left side when Guentzel was injured last week.) Crosby, Guentzel and Rust certainly have done their share — and more — accounting for 68 of the team’s goals, including 54 of those scored at even-strength. “It’s hard to rely on one line,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “Balance is important.” The paucity of production from other lines prompted Sullivan to reconfigure his second and third units during practice Monday, putting Evgeni Malkin between Drew O’Connor and Matthew Phillips and Lars Eller between Reilly Smith and Valtteri Puustinen. “We’re trying to find line combinations that give us a chance to win,” Sullivan said. “What we’ve had here for a while hasn’t produced with any level of consistency. Not nearly the consistency that’s going to give us a chance to win, consistently. … I think we’ve been very patient with a lot of them, up to this point. We’re not getting traction that lives up to our expectations, so change is inevitable.” One positive change that’s been largely overlooked — perhaps because it seems to have come at the expense of the Penguins’ customary offensive productivity — is the improvement in their team defense. Although they’ve had a knack this season for allowing untimely goals, like the two Los Angeles scored in the final 6:11 of its 2-1 victory at PPG Paints Arena Sunday, the Penguins are the fourth-stingiest defensive team in the NHL, giving up an average of 2.63 goals per game. Eller suggested that could prove to be their long-term salvation. “I think it’s a better recipe for success to win games 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, than winning games 6-5, 5-4,” he said. “You’re going to have more success with being able to keep pucks out of your net and defend well, and then capitalize on the chances you get, if you want to go far in the playoffs.” Of course, the Pittsburgh Penguins are nowhere near qualifying for the 2024 playoffs at this point. And that doesn’t seem likely to change unless they can rediscover the collective scoring touch that has been a virtual birthright for this franchise for decades. [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 19, 2024The Boston Bruins snapped their winless skid at four games with a come-from-behind ten-round 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars. Charlie McAvoy (two assists) got the shootout winner for the Bruins, who finished their seven-game homestand at 2-3-2. Here’s your Boston Hockey Now Postgame: CLUTCH: Besides their energy line (see below), Jeremy Swayman was the only reason the Boston Bruins were in this game. Unfortunately, playing a team higher in the standings and the pre-game ceremony for captain Brad Marchand did not bring more consistent intensity from the Bruins. Thankfully, as has been the case so many times for the Bruins this season, Swayman gave them a chance to win. The 25-year-old netminder entered the game winless in his last three games and seemed hellbent on changing that on Monday. In one of his better performances of the season, Swayman made 43 saves in regulation and overtime and then nine more in the shootout. DOGHOUSE: Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery was right to support defenseman Derek Forbort with reporters on Sunday but let’s call a spade a spade here. It’s time for Forbort to sit up top and watch a few games from the press box. Forbort has repeatedly misread plays and once again pinched way too deep. The result was an odd-man rush the other way and Esa Lindell scoring his fifth goal of the season 10:44 into the third period to put the Stars up 3-2 at the time.   Esa Lindell gives the Stars the lead 🌟 pic.twitter.com/PpnQ7Wvj2B — Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 19, 2024   BANGER: On a day when the Boston Bruins honored him for playing in his 1000th game last Tuesday, Bruins captain Bruins captain Brad Marchand got an unofficial Gordie Howe hat trick. With 40 seconds left in the first period, Marchand dropped the gloves with Stars defenseman Joel Hanley.   Brad Marchand is in a feisty mood today. pic.twitter.com/X9nCrsC2N5 — Jamie Gatlin (@JamieGatlin17) February 19, 2024   Marchand then assisted on David Pastrnak’s game-tying goal with 1:45 left in regulation and scored the Bruins’ first shootout goal in the third round. UNSUNG HERO: The Bruins’ newly-formed energy line of Anthony Richard-Jesper Boqvist-Justin Brazeau was easily the team’s best line on Monday afternoon. Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery put the fourth line trio out to start the game, and they were a factor in every shift they played for the rest of the game. Boqvist put the Bruins up 1-0 when he drove to the net and buried a Richard feed in front 4:01 into the opening frame.   “Just gonna sneak by while nobody’s watching” -Jesper Boqvist probably 🎥:@NHLBruins | #NHLBruins pic.twitter.com/hp4FvndmlA — ProStockHockey.com 🏒 (@prostockhockey) February 19, 2024   Then, just 18 seconds after Dallas Stars defenseman Ryan Suter had put the Dallas Stars up 2-1 in the second period, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Brazeau parked his big frame in front of Stars and former Boston University goalie Jake Oettinger and buried a feed from Boqvist.   JUSTIN BRAZEAU! FIRST NHL GOAL IN HIS FIRST NHL GAME! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/E5WBYA2xUB — NHL (@NHL) February 19, 2024   NEXT UP: The Boston Bruins kick off a four-game road trip when they take on the Oilers in Edmonton on Wednesday night. They then play the Flames in Calgary the next night, the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday night and finish the trip in Seattle against the Kraken on Monday night. Boston Bruins Lineup Forwards Brad Marchand – Charlie Coyle – Danton Heinen Jake DeBrusk — Pavel Zacha – David Pastrnak James van Riemsdyk – Morgan Geekie – Trent Frederic Anthony Richard – Jesper Boqvist – Justin Brazeau Defensemen Matt Grzelcyk-Charlie McAvoy Hampus Lindholm-Brandon Carlo Derek Forbort-Kevin Shattenkirk Goalies Jeremy Swayman Linus Ullmark   Don’t forget, for exclusive insightful, insider Bruins and NHL coverage, subscribe for BHN +!         [...] Read more...
Jason MoserFebruary 19, 2024The Buffalo Sabres dominated in shot attempts, shot quality, and shots on goal, but the Anaheim Ducks fired the last shot as the Sabres lost 4-3. It was Buffalo’s 17th loss at home in 29 games, adding to their woes playing at KeyBank Center. The Sabres got off to a fast start, with speed and chances aplenty. Jordan Greenway buried a high-slot wrister just over nine minutes in, giving Buffalo the lead. After Adam Henrique responded about a minute later, both teams went into the first intermission tied despite the tilted ice in the Sabres’ favor. The second period was much of the same, with Buffalo imposing their will and Tage Thompson cashing in on his patented one-timer on the powerplay. This time it took about four minutes, but Frank Vatrano evened things up again and then followed up with another goal to give the Ducks the surprise lead over the Sabres. Zach Benson tipped in a Henri Jokiharju point shot to put the game back to all-square shortly after, but the Ducks regained the lead on a Troy Terry marker and never surrendered again. Must Read: Sabres Force Overtime Late; Win 3-2 in Minnesota Impact Players The Sabres rolled all four forward lines well, but there’s no doubt that Peyton Krebs, JJ Peterka, and Zach Benson stood out right from the jump. Krebs was a new addition to the line, and he fit like a glove with the young wingers on Monday. Peterka posted Buffalo’s highest individual expected goals per Evolving-Hockey, in large part due to the relentless forechecking and great puck movement by the trio. Krebs had a couple plays in particular that set up his linemates for prime scoring chances. “He’s earned his way up,” head coach Don Granato said of the center. “We have a very talented guy there who’s building a foundation of how to play the game the right way.” The Difference The glaring determining factor in Monday’s game was that the defense made some costly mistakes, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was unable to bail them out. “We did not make a lot of mistakes…we paid for the mistakes we made,” Granato said. “We’ve defended really well to the point that it’s typically mistakes rather than system breakdown.” Those mishaps could’ve been overcome by the offensive opportunities generated by the Sabres, but John Gibson was the better goalie in this game. According to Evolving-Hockey, Gibson saved nearly half of a goal above expected, while Luukkonen’s 1.5 expected goals faced resulted in four goals against. What’s Next The Sabres will hit the road following practice tomorrow to face the Canadiens in Montreal. As far as standings go, the Sabres and Canadiens are neck-and-neck despite Montreal being much worse in overall goal-differential. The Canadiens have lost two straight and have only won three of their last 10 games.   [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 19, 2024BRADENTON Fla. — After rain kept workouts inside on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates were back outside under sunny skies for the first full-squad workout at spring training on Monday. There was infield practice, a live bullpen, catcher drills and much more happening at Pirate City. Some of the Pirates’ more compelling players this spring training were in the spotlight. Here are a few takeaways after watching all that transpired. Oneil Cruz Looks Rusty, as to be Expected It’s been over 10 months since we last saw Oneil Cruz on the field in Pittsburgh Pirates’ gear. He’s been working during the Pirates’ daily practices and drills, but was notably at the forefront of Monday’s activities. Cruz’s day began fielding grounders at shortstop. He looked a lot smoother than I expected, but it was still clear that he was getting back into the swing of things defensively. There were a few drops and bobbles, but he was moving pretty well and his arm looked strong. The 25-year-old also faced Luis Ortiz in a live bullpen and had two at-bats. His timing was understandably off, not only because of how early it is in spring but because it’s going to take even longer for him to get acclimated. Manager Derek Shelton offered what he wants to see from Cruz this spring. “At the plate, it’s just gonna be about timing. You miss an entire year and it’s rusty,” Shelton said during his media session. “That’s why we’re gonna try to get him in as many live situations as possible like he was today off Ortiz. Movement-wise, laterally, he’s been doing it since last year during the season. Running the bases is gonna be the last one and sliding is gonna be a big one.” Luis Ortiz Looked Sharp Speaking of Ortiz, he is one of a handful of pitchers in competition for a starting rotation spot this spring. He threw his first live bullpen on Monday and looked pretty good. The most encouraging sign for Ortiz is how his changeup played. It’s a pitch he has been working on to help complement his power fastball and sharp slider. Ortiz faced Cruz, Bryan Reynolds and Jared Triolo during his session. It was only a small showing, but his stuff looked crisp, especially considering how early it is. That changeup could be a game-changer for Ortiz if he is able to consistently execute it. “I thought he moved down the mound well,” Shelton said. “He threw a couple good changeups and the sinker had some action to it. Talking to Bryan, Tri and Cruzy about it, it seemed like the ball had good action to it, and that’s the most important thing.” Henry Davis Might be Able to Salvage His Position Davis is by no means a finished product defensively. He has a long way to go with only two major-league innings caught. Still, there are some things to like. One of the drills the Pittsburgh Pirates’ catchers were working on was throwing to each base with a simulated batter standing in the box. When it was Davis’ turn, I took out the stopwatch on my phone and clocked his pop-time wen throwing to second base. It’s not an exact measurement on my part, there is human error, but I had Davis with an average of about a 1.90-second pop-time from each of his three throws. That would put Davis amongst the better in the league. His cannon of an arm certainly helps. Will Pirates Add Another Starter? The Pittsburgh Pirates have still been linked to starting pitchers this spring. They recently signed Chase Anderson as a non-roster invitee. Anderson was seen at Pirate City for the first time on Monday. He will be in competition to earn a spot in the rotation. “He’s been pitching in the league for a while and he’s a guy we had liked previously and had talked to in previous situations,” said Shelton. “We’re just needing to add starter depth. We’ve named guys who are in that and we’ve talked about adding veteran guys in. He’s in competition in that spot.” Anderson doesn’t move the needle much for the Pirates. They still have some time to bring in a more solidified option, but will they? [...] Read more...
Clay BrewerFebruary 19, 2024Many are likely wondering why Nashville Predators center Mark Jankowski was reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday only to be recalled back to the team on Monday afternoon.  To put it simply: it was a classic paper transaction — one that those familiar with the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement see quite often but one that may catch the casual observer a bit off guard. So, let’s explain. By reassigning Jankowski to Milwaukee, Nashville not only saved approximately $4,000 on his salary-cap hit but it also saved a calendar day on the amount of time Jankowski can spend on the Predators active roster for waiver-exemption purposes. Nashville plays in Las Vegas on Tuesday against the Golden Knights, so with Monday being a travel day, it benefited the Predators to have Jankowski travel with the team, which is why the extra day on Monday was not used. If Nashville was playing at home and Jankowski could stay in Nashville, he likely would not have been recalled until Tuesday before the game. Here are the specifics: Jankowski signed a one-year, $775,000 one-way contract with the Predators last March. This means his salary is $775,000 regardless of whether he’s in the AHL or NHL. However, the daily cap hit this season is based on how many days of the regular season he is on the active NHL roster. There are 192 days in the 2023-24 regular season, meaning Nashville saved $4,036.50 on Jankowski’s salary by having him technically listed as being in the AHL for one day.  Jankowski has accumulated a total cap hit of $40,365 to this point because he’s been on the Predators’ active roster for 10 days this season (Dec. 3-7, Feb. 12-18). With the way the NHlL’s waiver-exempt rules work, Jankowski doesn’t have to clear waivers to be sent back to Milwaukee because he originally cleared waivers back in October when he was reassigned to the Admirals during training camp as the Predators finalized their opening-night roster. Because of that, he can be on Nashville’s roster for 10 games or 30 calendar days before needing to pass back through waivers to be reassigned to the AHL. Dennis Gurianov recently went through the same process and had this waiver exemption expire not that long ago. As of today, Jankowski has six more NHL games or 19 more calendar days before his waiver-exemption expires. It’s likely this won’t be the last time that Jankowski will be involved in a paper transaction. Be sure to follow Nashville Hockey Now to stay  up to date on contract nuances outlined in the CBA, like this one.  Follow Clay Brewer on Twitter/X: @ClayBrewer10 Be sure to follow Nashville Hockey Now on X/Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. [...] Read more...
Chris GawlikFebruary 19, 2024Scoring the first goal has not been trouble for the Vegas Golden Knights as of late. Finishing games strong and putting opponents away when the opportunities presented themselves has been difficult. The Golden Knights scored first in each of their games last week and failed to get a point. A matinee against the San Jose Sharks can fix many problems that a team is going through. The Golden Knights scored three, first-period goals against the last team in the Pacific Division. Zach Whitecloud hit Michael Amadio with a stretch pass from behind the Golden Knights’ goal. Amadio converted on his breakaway opportunity just 2:28 into the game. It took the Golden Knights just two minutes to get their second goal. William Karlsson attempted a shot from the slot that hit a Sharks defenseman who was next to the post. Karlsson tapped in the loose puck to make it 2-0 Golden Knights. Mason Morelli made his NHL debut with the Golden Knights and was fortunate to score a goal. Morelli won an offensive zone faceoff during a Golden Knight’s powerplay. Alex Pietrangelo found Morelli in the slot, all Morelli had to do was deflect the puck on net for his first career goal in the NHL. The Golden Knights enjoyed a 3-0 lead heading to the first intermission. This was the exact start the Golden Knights needed. The second period did not have the same excitement as the first period, but the Golden Knights were able to extend their lead. Keegan Kolesar scored off a nice centering pass from Alec Martinez. Morelli got the secondary assist for his second point in his NHL debut. The Golden Knights took a comfortable 4-0 lead into the second intermission. The third period did not feature any scoring, which was just fine for the Golden Knights. A win against the Sharks was important, but doing so in a convincing fashion was of greater importance. The final score from the SAP Center at San Jose was 4-0, in favor of the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights improved to 32-17-6 (70 points) on the season and gained two points on the Vancouver Canucks (80 points), who lost 10-7 to the Minnesota Wild on Monday. This was Logan Thompson’s first shutout of the season. The Golden Knights face the Nashville Predators in the second leg of the back-to-back on Tuesday night in T-Mobile Arena in Vegas. [...] Read more...
Kevin AllenFebruary 19, 2024Just how important has team chemistry been to the Detroit Red Wings recent success? That’s a question that Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman has to wrestle with as he plans his actions for the March 8 NHL trade deadline. History tells us Yzerman wants to make a move. He has shown himself to be an aggressive, decisive manager, someone who isn’t timid about changing personnel. But this year is different because this team seems to have a bond that has helped them win games with late rallies and push for a playoff spot that was well out of their reach a year ago. Some players in the trade market are more talented than players on his roster. But this team works well together, and Yzerman doesn’t want to remove a block that will cause the stack to collapse. This could be a year that Yzerman doesn’t do anything, although that doesn’t sound like him. The need to be mindful of team chemistry won’t stop him from seeing what is available to him. Like most teams, the Red Wings are looking at the possibility of adding a proven top four defensemen.  Here are players the Red Wings have probably considered: Noah Hanifin, Calgary Flames The Red Wings have been linked to Noah Hanifin for several weeks because they have the assets necessary to make a trade work. Plus, Hanifin would prefer to end up with an American team. At 27, Hanifin is in the prime of his career. He contributes offensively (nine goals, 30 points, 55 games) and defensively. He’s 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and that fits into the bigger defense the Red Wings are clearly trying to build. The problem is the Boston Bruins are in line ahead of Detroit because Hanifin is a Boston native and former Boston College player. But neither the Bruins or the Red Wings probably like Calgary’s initial asking price. Yzerman might be willing to give up this year’s first-round pick, but isn’t likely to part with his best prospects or an added first rounder. The other issue for the Red Wings may be Hanifin’s contract expectations. It seems clear that Yzerman prefers shorter term deals and we hear Hanifin’s preference is a long-term deal. Can’t see Yzerman acquiring Hanifin and giving him eight years. Chris Tanev, Calgary Flames This may be a better fit for the Red Wings because Tanev’s game is all about defense. He is a right shot, defend-first blueliner who is second in the NHL with 159 block shots. Tanev is a strong penalty killer, and has been a 20-minute defenseman throughout his career. Chris Tanev is usually on the ice against the league’s top forwards. He’s not a true physical defenseman, but doesn’t back down. He uses positioning to be one of the league’s best one-on-one defenders. He is 34. A team would must factor that in if it wants to re-sign him this summer. He will also be a UFA. But at his age, he won’t be looking for long-term deals. A team might get him on a two-year deal. Tanev is making $4.5 million this season The Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers are believed to be interested in Tanev. His price tag is high. Bidding started at a first-round pick. Jacob Chychrun, Ottawa Senators The Red Wings interest in Chychrun started when he was with the Arizona Coyotes. He is a 220-pound left-shot D man who logs almost 23 minutes per game.  He’s still only 25, and has one season remaining on his contract after this season. Chychrun owns a 51.6 Corsi. The question is whether the Senators would move him to Detroit? They are now intense rivals, and the Alex DeBrincat deal hasn’t worked out yet for Ottawa. Those are the three “name” defensemen who might be on Detroit’s list. The forward list isn’t all that compelling.  They have 11 players with 10 or more goals, and they have been ranked near the top five in scoring all season. Giving up assets for a Jake Guentzel probably doesn’t make sense at this point. Vladimir Tarasenko might have interested the Red Wings in the past, but not now. The situation could change if they experience injuries. But Detroit does have Jonatan Berggren playing well in Grand Rapids. If they run into a string of injuries, forwards like Frank Vatrano (Anaheim Ducks) or Pavel Buchnevich (St. Louis Blues) might draw interest. Vatrano already boasts 24 goals and Yzerman has a relationship with Anaheim GM Pat Verbeek. Buchnevich already has 40 points and Yzerman has done deals in the past with St. Louis GM Doug Armstrong. Do Red Wings Need Goalie? Jacob Markstrom (Calgary) is the No. 1 goalie in the trade market, and it’s possible the Red Wings have already made a call. Ville Husso is out of the lineup for the second time this season and the Red Wings have to be thinking about their future. Husso has one season remaining on his contract. Could they move him this summer? Prospect Sebastian Cossa is making progress with the Griffins, but he’s not going to be ready next season. Markstrom has two seasons left on a contract with a salary cap hit of $6 million. A Markstrom-Alex Lyon tandem could seem like an attractive alternative. But like the aforementioned defensemen, Markstrom’s trade value is high. The New Jersey Devils, competing with Detroit for a wild card spot, seems like the frontrunner for Markstrom. [...] Read more...
Sheng PengFebruary 19, 2024The San Jose Sharks welcome the Vegas Golden Knights into SAP Center. But despite a decent effort, they got shut out 4-0. Period 1 Good weakside pass by Kunin to Hoffman entering, then looks like Kunin deflection off post. Then I think an Addison post? Amadio goal: The San Jose Sharks’ season in three minutes there. The Sharks were all over the Golden Knights. Not sure how he got behind everyone for breakaway? Very nice play by Whitecloud on stretch. Ferraro needs to keep better tabs? Karlsson goal: Sharks just running around.  Good minute of VGK possession. Zetterlund can’t contain Karlsson in front. 6 in: Sharks got first four shots. VGK next seven of eight. Then a Labanc chance there. Very loose! 9 in: Miromanov walks down, maybe a post. No one marks him. Usually Hoffman’s man? Hoffman appears to chase Kunin’s man high, leaving backdoor open. Not sure why Hoffman goes on the other side of the ice? 9 left: Like that Granlund stick check on Stephenson along the bench wall. 7 left: Labanc forecheck on Pietrangelo, turns it over, but can’t connect next play. 6 left: Again, Granlund on NZ wall, can’t win puck, but he takes his man, Froese in this case, to prevent opposition from grabbing a hold. 4 left: Good Labanc breakout exit pass to Zadina. Labanc playing for his NHL life, I think he’s done decent last couple games. Rutta penalty: Vet doesn’t like the call, will probably say Cotter tripped over his stick as opposed to Rutta tripping him. Good hustle by Cotter though, keep skating after he gets rid of puck. #SJSharks give up a power play goal for the first time in almost a month, 1/22 at LA. 20-for-20 kill streak snapped. Morelli gets his 1st NHL goal on the power play in his 1st NHL game — Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 19, 2024 FWIW per Hockey Reference, #SJSharks have given up 124 career 1st NHL goals in their franchise history. The Senators, who started play a year after the Sharks, are also at 124. The Lightning, also 1992-93 expansion year, are at 102 — Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 19, 2024 Class of 1993-94, Anaheim Ducks at 108, Florida Panthers at 90. Some fun tidbits in the research: Hall of Famers Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer both scored their first career NHL goals against the San Jose Sharks at the Cow Palace. Brent Burns also scored his first against the Sharks. Vegas 8-3 Slot Shots, 5-3 High-Danger at Even Strength, looks about right. San Jose had nothing after a quick start. Period 2 1 in: Eklund good entry up the middle, then Hoffman makes a forecheck play for the steal. A decent shift to start the period. PP2 tonight is Labanc-Hoffman-Zadina-Kunin-Ferraro. San Jose Sharks don’t score, but that’s a pretty good power play, good chances, hopefully some momentum. But then Bailey takes a penalty. 7 in: Eklund does good job of PK, cutting off half the ice and forcing I think a Cotter shot, then almost getting ahead of Cotter for a break. Runs out of gas though. Then Zetterlund slot chance, good Duclair speed and vision and work, after Granlund springs him. 9 in: Good Emberson work to back up Ferraro, lock up middle. 10 in: Good vision Vlasic, slow it up, find Hoffman in high slot. Hoffman is mired in the longest goal-less streak of his career, 25 games and counting. Previous high was 21 games. 9 left: Good pace by Thrun, quick pass up to MacDonald. He takes a hit to make a play. Sharks have come back with a decent, basic period. Ferraro then eliminates Amadio on the wall with a second effort. Like. 6 left: Outstanding work by Zadina out of box, puck in OZ corner, to take the man first, he moved Pietrangelo away. That’s a pretty big, strong defenseman to be bodying. 3 left: Great OZ seam by Emberson to Ferraro. Carpenter just misses. Sharks playing hard. Kolesar goal: Kunin looks a touch slow getting down to Kolesar. Can’t let that happen. Kunin’s reaction looks slow. Kolesar gimme off good Martinez find. Small thing, but on the Kolesar roll to the net, wonder if Hoffman high can give him the slightest of bumps. That could’ve bought Kunin an extra split-second. Shame for San Jose Sharks, they’ve honestly played a really good second period. Way better work than in opening frame. But scoreboard. Per Natural Stat Trick, Sharks dominated that middle frame. Of course, score effects involved. But SJS 21-8 shot attempts, 11-3 Scoring Chances, 4-1 High-Danger at 5-on-5. Had a good power play and clean work on PK too. But that kind of season. Period 3 Stone trips himself after Ferraro avoids him chasing puck, that draws a reaction from crowd. 7 in: Labanc loses it on his own circling NZ to DZ, losing it in DZ. Lucky that leads to nothing. 9 in: That was a good Labanc shift, fighting for the puck through traffic down low, getting it back to the point. 5 left: Another good Labanc shift. Quick exit pass to Zadina, crashes net, almost gets the tip. [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 19, 2024CRANBERRY — The mulligans are spent. All of the leeway used up. And in a recent analogy used often around the Pittsburgh Penguins room, the runway is getting short. In fact, the Penguins are out of runway. With 30 games to go and the playoff chase slipping away at an alarming speed, it’s time for answers and accountability. After a few days of jovial excitement surrounding Jaromir Jagr’s jersey retirement, the team gave away a vital game in the final minutes. In response, coach Mike Sullivan made sweeping changes to the Penguins lineup at practice. Nothing, except Sidney Crosby’s line, and perhaps the fourth line, was spared. Even Marcus Pettersson was abruptly called to the coach’s office for unknown reasons (it could have been anything, including a pump-up chat–Marcus, we really need you to keep playing lights-out defense. But the oddity underscored the tumultuous day even as TV reporters revisited the Jagr wig story for fluff pieces). There were big changes at practice, and the stern message sounded like a five-alarm fire … which it is. Jesse Puljujarvi was removed from the lineup. Reilly Smith was dropped to the third line with Lars Eller. Pettersson was put with Erik Karlsson, and P.O Joseph got the call–and perhaps his best chance this season–on a pairing with Kris Letang. Sullivan didn’t mince words or parse words after practice. Time is up for everyone, especially struggling defenseman Ryan Graves, who was demoted to the third pairing … or the press box. He skated on both the extra pair and the third pair in practice. “We’re trying to find line combinations that give us a chance to win. And, what we’ve had here for a while hasn’t produced with any level of consistency, “said Sullivan. ” (We haven’t had) nearly enough consistency that’s going to give us a chance to win consistently. So we’re going to effect some change here and see if we can put some combinations together that can help us.” Karlsson has been one of the running stories of this season. Much was expected, and much was needed, and if he’s delivered enough is debatable. He has 38 points (7-31-38) in 52 games, which would make most D-men happy. However,  it doesn’t sound like Sullivan feels Karlsson has performed up to full capabilities. Sullivan didn’t take the bait with a softball question about Karlsson’s impending 800th career point. “Obviously, he’s an elite player and a really talented guy, and a guy that drives a lot of offense whether 5-on-5 or the power play,” Sullivan said. “That’s what he’s done in his body of work in the league. That’s what he’s done for us. You know, I still think there’s another level of Karl that we’re trying to unlock here; I think it’s an important element of us having success moving forward.” It was in that vain that Sullivan had no time for talk-arounds or obfuscations. He was direct. The Pittsburgh Penguins have not been good enough, and he’s done waiting for players to perform to expectations. The Penguins trail the Philadelphia Flyers for third place by 10 points with four games in hand. They trail the Detroit Red Wings by seven points with two games in hand in the wild-card race. The Penguin have 30 games to go, but that’s not the deadline unless the president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas plans to sit on his hands through the NHL trade deadline, making no changes, improvements, or recouping assets for pending UFAs. The stark reality confronting the Penguins is the long-term direction of the franchise. They missed the playoffs last season after faceplants followed stumbles in the second half of the season. Stumbles, faceplants, and detachment have followed this season, putting the team in a rotten position. The ever-honest Karlsson had a little bit of a reaction when PHN asked if the next three games were essentially now-or-never for the team. “I think it’s been feeling like that for six weeks, maybe. But yeah, it’s been feeling like that for a while,” said Karlsson. “And it’s tough to play under those circumstances. But that’s the circumstance that we’re in. I think with the group that we have here, it’s been handled as good as we possibly can. I don’t think that we’ve had the result that we wanted. You know, there are various reasons for that, I’m sure. But I think that one thing that I’ve seen is the resilience, and the belief has never really wavered.” Honest and troublesome. If the team has felt that urgency and pressure for six weeks, how in the world has it come to this? The recent losses to Winnipeg, Florida, Minnesota, and LA surely have at least shaken the coach’s confidence in the lineup he’s put together. Graves acknowledged the importance of the coming games, though he softened the blow. “We’re definitely in a win-now mentality. The season is getting shorter, and the games are running out. We need to make moves to get back in the playoffs,” Graves said. “The games in hand, they don’t matter if you don’t win them. If we don’t win the next three games, we’re not going to give up, but yeah, there’s an elevated importance on, honestly, the rest of the season pretty much.” Those are words that sound nice, but this is a team accustomed to success at the highest levels, who have controlled their fate or weeks 0nly to have given it away. Any team ahead of them could knock them out with a winning streak of their own, including the New York Islanders, whom they face Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins’ deadline is not the end of the season unless they earn the right to compete. Otherwise, the fork in the road is the NHL trade deadline, which is much closer. The players might not give up, but another loss or two in the next couple of weeks might force Dubas to do just that. [...] Read more...
Jimmy MurphyFebruary 19, 2024Not even 24 hours after he signed his first NHL contract, Boston Bruins rookie forward Justin Brazeau scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game on Monday afternoon. Just 18 seconds after Dallas Stars defenseman Ryan Suter had put the Dallas Stars up 2-1 in the second period, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Brazeau parked his big frame in front of Stars and former Boston University goalie Jake Oettinger and buried a feed from Bruins forward Jesper Boqvist.   JUSTIN BRAZEAU! FIRST NHL GOAL IN HIS FIRST NHL GAME! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/E5WBYA2xUB — NHL (@NHL) February 19, 2024   Just hours before the Boston Bruins hosted the Stars and a pre-game ceremony honoring captain Brad Marchand, the team announced that they had signed the 26-year-old Brazeau to a two-year, two-way contract that carries a $775,000 salary cap hit. In order to make room for Brazeau, the Bruins waived forward Oskar Steen on Sunday. Steen cleared waivers on Monday and reported back to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League. Justin Brazeau is quite the story of perseverance. In his final season (2018-19) with the North Bay Battalion (OHL), Brazeau lit the lamp 61 times and finished with 113 points. However, he was passed up for a second time in the NHL Entry Draft and wound up signing with the Newfoundland Growlers in the ECHL. Brazeau scored 27 goals and had 28 assists in 57 games for the Growlers in the 2019-20 season. That would be his only season with the Growlers, as he spent the next two in the AHL playing for the Toronto Marlies. After two seasons there, Brazeau signed a contract with the Bruins’ ECHL affiliate, the Maine Mariners, for the 2021-22 season. Brazeau spent a season with the Mariners before signing an AHL contract with the Providence Bruins prior to last season. He scored 16 goals and had 29 assists in 67 games for the P-Bruins last season and had 18 goals and 19 assists in 49 games for Providence this season. “What a great story,” Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said prior to the game on Monday. “Someone who I think started out on an East Coast two-way American League deal and fought his way to earn an American League deal, and now he’s earned all his way up. It is a great story. It’s the best thing you appreciate about anyone in life. No one starts as a CEO, right? You hope to end up being a CEO. Here he is. His dream was to play in the NHL, and he’s worked his way up to earn this opportunity. It’s a great story, and I’m grateful to be a part of it, to be honest.”     [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 19, 2024With the NHL’s Trade Deadline quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look at some of the Montreal Canadiens players who could be moved between now and March 8. To spice things up a little, we’ll focus on the four Canadian teams currently in a playoff spot to evaluate whether the Habs can offer a player that would improve their respective lineups.   Toronto Maple Leafs The Leafs shifted to a more physical lineup after suffering frustrating losses in the playoffs to the Canadiens in 2020-21, the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021-22, and the Florida Panthers in 2022-23. Given their lack of playoff success, a change was probably due, but we must never lose sight of the fact that winning four rounds of NHL playoff hockey is not an easy proposal. For example, the 1995-96 Pittsburgh Penguins featured one of the best lines of all time, with Mario Lemieux (161 points), Jaromir Jagr (149 points), and Ron Francis (119 points) finishing first, second and fourth in NHL scoring. The team made it to the Conference Finals, where they were eliminated by a Florida Panthers team that had finished with 11 fewer points in the regular season. 1995-96 also featured one of the most impressive regular seasons in recent NHL history when the Detroit Red Wings enjoyed a 62-13-7 record. Coached by Scott Bowman, the team earned 131 points, almost 30 more than the next team in the standings. It was all for naught, as they were eliminated by their rivals, the Colorado Avalanche, in the Conference Finals. And we all know how long it took Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals to finally win it all. Simply put, winning the Stanley Cup is very, very difficult. But the changes made by the Leafs this summer haven’t yielded very encouraging results. They’ve gone from a top-5 or top-10 team in most metrics, to a middle-of-the-pack club. And despite what some fans may tell you, it’s more than just goaltending that’s holding them back. The Leafs are 12th in the NHL when it comes to their team save percentage. Montreal Canadiens Trade Options With that in mind, Toronto still possesses the type of offensive talent that can power a healthy run in the NHL playoffs. Few, if any NHL lineups possess as much scoring depth. Toronto already possesses the foundation for greatness, at least from an offensive point of view. To improve their lineup, they could stand to add a defenceman or two who can play a physical brand of hockey while maintaining strong underlying numbers. That’s Arber Xhekaj’s music. Not only is he one of the toughest players in the league, but he also has some of the best underlying numbers in the organization. On that note, the Montreal Canadiens are not interested in moving Xhekaj, and it would take a king’s ransom from the Leafs to acquire the 23-year-old defenceman. Arber Xhekaj with a big blast from the point, ties the game. Joshua Roy and Joel Armia with assists. #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/kff2QR2NRg — Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) February 18, 2024 A more realistic option would be veteran David Savard. On top of having Stanley Cup experience, which is highly valued by NHL general managers, Savard can absorb a significant amount of 5v5 and penalty-kill ice time. He’s also a great player to have in the locker room, providing an important leadership presence while keeping things light when the results aren’t forthcoming. Unfortunately, his underlying numbers are far from impressive, but it must be said that the Canadiens have not put Savard in a situation that’s conducive to producing good defensive results. He’s not a top pairing defenceman, but he has been used in that manner throughout his time with the Habs. Savard’s on-ice value would increase if he was used in a role that’s more suitable to his skill set.   Vancouver Canucks The Canucks are such a fun team. Yes, analysts will tell you they’re overachieving, and that the Canucks don’t ‘deserve’ to be in first place in the NHL. But there’s no such thing as ‘deserve’ in professional sports. Besides, a team potentially defying the odds is the reason we watch sports in the first place. Risk management is important when evaluating potential trades, but we tend to overlook the risk that comes with standing pat. The ultimate goal is to win a Stanley Cup, after all. Montreal Canadiens Cap Space Value Vancouver does a very good job of limiting chances. They allow the fifth-fewest chances against per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time in the league. But they don’t generate a ton of shots or quality scoring chances, at least not relative to other Cup-contending teams. The Canucks are 25th in the league when it comes to shots (Corsi) per 60, just two spots above the offensively-starved Canadiens. They could stand to improve their offensive punch, which explains why they acquired Elias Lindholm from the Canucks a few weeks ago. That’s where the Canadiens come into play. They don’t have much to offer the Canucks in terms of offensively gifted players with low cap hits, but they could serve as a trade broker to facilitate a deal with another team, a topic we’ll discuss in depth on Tuesday morning. The Canadiens have ample cap space, the most precious asset in the NHL   Winnipeg Jets The Jets already made one of the smartest deals of the season when they acquired versatile veteran Sean Monahan from the Canadiens in exchange for a first-round pick. Some may say the cost was too high, but they’re ignoring the variable factors that come into play when discussing the first round of the NHL Draft. They’re also ignoring that Monahan has one of the most reasonable contracts in the entire NHL. He was also far and away the best centre available once Lindholm was moved to the Canucks. The Jets may get bounced in the first round, or they may even end up lifting the Holy Grail. That remains to be seen. But you can’t hitch a ride on the riverboat without going down to the river. A late first-round pick has little value to a team like the Jets. By the time the player is ready for the NHL, the Jets will no longer be in a position to make a run at the Stanley Cup. However, it does hold value to a rebuilding team like the Habs. Whether they use the pick to draft a late-round gem, or they once again use draft capital to acquire a young player with potential— as they did when they traded for Kirby Dach and Alex Newhook, it gives general manager Kent Hughes options. Sean Monahan inscrit son 1er but dans l'uniforme des Jets! ✈️ pic.twitter.com/lJwUVlYFpN — RDS (@RDSca) February 18, 2024 Edmonton Oilers At the midway point of the season, the Oilers ranked among the worst NHL clubs in team save percentage. Jack Campbell’s struggles were well documented, leading to an increased workload for goaltenders Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard. Since Campbell has been removed from the picture, the Oilers’ goaltending situation has improved by leaps and bounds, to the point that you’d have a hard time arguing it’s their most pressing need. This means Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau are no longer considered front-runners as trade targets when it comes to a potential deal with the Montreal Canadiens. That being said, the Oilers could stand to improve their defensive depth, as well as their forward depth. This could lead to an interest in a player such as Jordan Harris, or Joel Armia, but it should be noted that ‘could’ is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence. When we get down to brass tacks, there simply aren’t many available trade targets in Montreal that would significantly improve the Oilers lineup. Mike Matheson’s offensive prowess, mobility, and endurance could serve the Oilers well as they gear up for the playoffs, but the price tag is likely to be a little too rich for Edmonton’s blood. WOW. Mike Matheson with an early goal-of-the-year candidate. End-to-end beauty. pic.twitter.com/MLJLiz5bSf — Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) October 25, 2023 All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted, via Natural Stat Trick. [...] Read more...
Nate BrownFebruary 19, 2024The Chicago Blackhawks (15-37-3) take on the Carolina Hurricanes (32-17-5) tonight at 6pm. The Hawks are currently Previously on Blackhawks Hockey: The Blackhawks bested the Ottawa Senators on Saturday 3-2, snapping an eight-game losing streak and seeing Connor Bedard score his first goal since returning. How to Watch and Listen TV: NBC Sports Chicago Radio: WGN 720 Scouting the Opponent & Miscellaneous Musings Carolina is in playoff mode will present a challenge in overcoming the 20-game road losing streak that has set a franchise record. Bedard returning certainly helps, but beating the Hurricanes won’t be a simple task. The Hawks were able to get past the Senators, but they’ll be hard pressed to score against a team ranked ninth in goals against. The Blackhawks, before and even with Bedard, have struggled to get on the board, and the Hurricanes will only add to that frustration. Chicago has four goals in its last two games, but had only 20 in the 14 games it competed in without Bedard. The other positive? In three of their last four games, the Blackhawks have two or more goals, where previously, in their last six games, Chicago was shut out three times in those five. They only scored three goals total in that stretch. Things are definitely looking up, and adding Bedard into the mix has been another aspect of it. But to notch that first road win in 21 tries, they’ll have to play things close as they have with others teams that on paper, are much better. The standings and the stats certainly favor the ‘Canes. But the game is decided on the ice. What Blackhawks team will be out there tonight is all that’s left to ask. Follow Chicago Hockey Now on Facebook and Twitter Follow Nate on Twitter [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 19, 2024BRADENTON, Fla. — Hopefully Canaan Smith-Njigba didn’t spend too much time house hunting in Seattle. Hopefully he didn’t put his Pittsburgh residence up for sale, either. The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed the outfielder from the Seattle Mariners after designating him for assignment on Jan. 31. Seattle had claimed him from the Pirates on Feb. 7 before DFA’ing him over the weekend to make room on their roster for right-handed pitcher Levi Stoudt. Smith-Njigba’s Pirates’ tenure should be pretty easy to remember. The Pirates acquired him from the New York Yankees as part of a four-player return for right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon prior to the start of the 2021 season. He made his big-league debut with the Pirates in 2022 and made the club’s opening day roster last season. In 2023, Smith-Njigba appeared in 15 games with the Pirates. The 24-year-old collected four hits in 32 at-bats (.125 batting average) and drove in five runs. The bulk of his season was spent with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he batted .280/.366/.473 with 28 doubles, 15 home runs, 74 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 105 games. To make room on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 40-man roster, right-handed pitcher JT Brubaker was placed on the 60-day injured list. Brubaker is recovering from last year’s Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected back until midseason. [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 19, 2024Ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers’ game against the Chicago Blackhawks, John Tortorella and the rest of the coaching staff aren’t taking any chances. That includes on-ice practices and off-ice practices. Tyson Foerster (lower-body) made a cameo at practice on Monday afternoon, skating and shooting around for roughly 20 minutes before heading off for the day. Tortorella said that Foerster “will play when he’s ready to play,” and that he’s “day-to-day”. The 22-year-old has missed each of the Flyers‘ last three games after blocking a shot against the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 10, but his return to the ice might indicate that his injury truly isn’t as severe as some might have thought. The Flyers expected him back by the weekend for the Stadium Series game against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, but that, obviously, did not happen. In fact, I ran into him in the press box at MetLife Stadium and he was still donning a small walking boot. This leads me to believe his absences from practices and games were likely a swelling, pain management, or comfort issue, or some combination of the three. We’ll say that Foerster has an outside chance to return for the game against the Blackhawks on Wednesday, one Tortorella and Co. are making extra sure the team isn’t taking lightly. “We have some things to work on, as we always do,” Tortorella explained. The Flyers’ bench boss was galvanizing his team at one point in Monday’s practice, pointing to guys, yelling, and asking them to run the drill again. The message from Tortorella was a simple one: stay focused. “Chicago plays hard, and they’re in all the games,” he continued. “I just don’t want us to think ‘Outdoor game, Jersey, we just played Toronto, and now we’re playing a team that’s last’, right? I just don’t want them to play with their minds, because it’s too important of a game for us.” “I have to worry about that as a coach of a team. You have to worry about that, and as I’ve said, I trust the team. I just want to make sure that we are dead-set ready to play.” Away from the Flyers’ mental exercises, trade rumors around players like Sean Walker and Nick Seeler persist. Tortorella was adamant that the team is still committed to their plan, and that the players know where they’re at. “I already talked to the players that could be moved,” Tortorella said bluntly. “They know. I want to show them as much respect as I possibly can and not have something sprung up.” “The whole team knows where we stand,” he continued. “There’s always an open door if they have other questions about it when starts getting nearer and nearer.” Not that this is anything new from Tortorella, but it sounds like the Flyers are (and have been) admitting the inevitable. The team’s fairytale run to a healthy position in the standings, and likely the postseason, has been loads of fun to watch, but they have a long ways to go with respect to long-term success and sustained postseason runs. The team’s window opens as soon as Matvei Michkov arrives in 2026-27, and the Flyers will have a lot of work to do until then. Is Sam Ersson definitely the starter of the future? Are Alexei Kolosov or Cal Petersen going to prove themselves as worthy backups? Then there comes the question of building a reliable supporting cast around Michkov. These are talks Tortorella and the Flyers have every day. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
George Richards, FHN PublisherFebruary 19, 2024For the second time in the past month, Florida Panthers star Matthew Tkachuk has been named one of the NHL Three Stars of the Week. On Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews was named the NHL’s First Star of the week followed by Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Tkachuk. Sam Reinhart has been a Star of the Week four times this season; this is Tkachuk’s second such honor with Sergei Bobrovsky being the second star last week. Tkachuk has been on an absolute tear lately as he leads all NHL players with 15 goals and 37 points since the start of 2024 —four points more than the next-closest players. This past week, Tkachuk was third in the NHL with eight points off three goals as he helped the Panthers win three games and take the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings going into today’s games. Tkachuk had a goal and two assists in Florida’s win at Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the had an assist Thursday in Buffalo. In Saturday’s 9-2 romp in Tampa, Tkachuk got his third four-point performance of the season — all since the start of 2024 — with two goals and four points. Tkachuk has four goals and 13 points in the five-game point streak he takes into Tuesday’s game against brother Brady and the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. ON DECK OTTAWA SENATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+ Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App Last Season: Florida won 2-1 This Season (Panthers Lead 1-0) — At Ottawa: Panthers 5, Senators 0 (Nov.27); April 4. At Florida: Tuesday; April 9 All-time Regular Season Series: Ottawa leads 57-45-5, 3 ties Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday at Carolina, 7 p.m. [...] Read more...
Dan KelleyFebruary 19, 2024New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown had his contract reworked early last season. It gave him the ability to collect more money at the time, while still being able to hit free agency in 2024. Nick Korte and Miguel Benzan report there are four upcoming triggers for Patriots players’ 2024 contracts, including Trent Brown. Trent Brown was the Patriots’ biggest bright spot on offense at the midway point of the 2023 season. However, he had issues with both health and attitude that contributed to a poor second half. Pro Football Focus graded Brown at 80.2 for the 2023 season. Brown recorded only one game score above 62.1 after Week 7. He was critical of the team’s handling of Malik Cunningham, and reportedly told teammates he planned to play in the NFC next season (before the 2023 season was over). While Bill Belichick and the offensive staff might be gone, there are still plenty of people in Foxboro who cannot be thrilled with Brown’s contributions to the team culture last season. A return seems unlikely. Jalen Mills, also with a deal voiding in March, will presumably be headed to free agency as well. He was featured in a recent Patriots Roster Breakdown segment. Raekwon McMillan is due a roster bonus in March. He has been with the New England Patriots for two seasons but has only played in one game to date (he did record a sack). McMillan began 2022 on the PUP list and 2023 on IR. Health is a determining factor in what McMillan can bring to the squad. The roster bonus kicks in on Mar. 16 and would pay McMillan $255,000. Finally, cornerback J.C. Jackson is due a roster bonus of $2 million on that same date. Jackson counts $14.375 million against the New England Patriots salary cap in 2024 if he remains on the roster. Considering Jackson’s struggles on the field last season, not even considering issues off it at this point, there is no scenario in which J.C. Jackson will still be on the Patriots roster to collect that money. He could still return to New England via free agency. Also in today’s Patriots Daily… New England Patriots Patriots Football Now – Patriots Football Sunday Patriots Football Now – Questions and concerns for offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt “The Dynasty” Patriots Football Now – Review of Episode 1: Backup Plan Patriots Football Now – Review of Episode 2: The Snow Bowl NFL Draft Patriots Football Now – NFL Draft: History of the No. 3 pick Patriots Football Now – NFL Mock Draft 2.0 NFL News Patriots Football Now – Key dates on the 2024 NFL calendar NFL.com – Biggest Super Bowl windows Pro Football Network – Baker Mayfield contract projection Yardbarker – Predicting the future for Justin Fields ESPN – Ravens extend WR Nelson Agholor Boston Bruins Go over to our sibling site Boston Hockey Now to check out the great Boston Bruins coverage from Jimmy Murphy and the BHN team. The NHL season is underway and plenty is happening in the Bruins 100 Anniversary season. PFN+ Subscribe here or on Boston Hockey Now to get a subscription to both sites. Subscribers get bonus coverage such as NFL Draft scouting reports and weekly NFL Power Rankings. It also provides a completely ad-free experience on the sites. Use code KELLEY10 and get $10 off a yearly subscription. It is less than $2.50/month! Football Fun Fact of the Day The 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots knocked the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs both years on their way to becoming back-to-back Super Bowl Champions. Those Patriots teams have two representatives in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Ty Law, and Richard Seymour). Their Colts rivals already have six (Bill Polian, Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, and Dwight Freeney). Post of the Day Post of the Day comes from Simpsons NFL with a clip from The Simpsons to summarize every NFL teams 2023 season… [...] Read more...
Danny DemilioFebruary 19, 2024BRADENTON Fla. — Oneil Cruz was back on the field smiling for the first full-squad day under the sunny skies at Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training. It’s almost hard to believe that 10 months ago, Cruz was being helped off the field at PNC Park after a home plate collision with Chicago White Sox catcher Seby Zavala. The injury resulted in a fractured left ankle for Cruz, a surgery that ultimately cost him his season after playing in nine games to begin the year. It’s been a long road back for Cruz to return to full health, but he says he’s ready to go. “I think I’m in a way better spot this year because I’ve been working so hard,” Cruz said through interpreter and Pirates’ coach Stephen Morales. “I had so much time to work on different stuff that I’m in a better spot this year.” Cruz was fielding grounders from his usual shortstop position during infield drills and faced right-hander Luis Ortiz in a live bullpen on field No. 4 at Pirate City. It was the second live bullpen for Cruz this spring. He also faced 2023 All-Star Mitch Keller over the weekend. Nobody quite looks like himself at this stage of spring training, Cruz especially considering how much time he missed last season. Still, Cruz simply being back on the field is another sign of progress after a significant injury. “I put in a lot of work in the offseason and right after I got hurt,” he said. “You’re trying your best and your hardest to get back on the field as soon as possible. I put in a lot of work to be where I’m at right now.” The comeback for Cruz wasn’t linear. The initial projections pegged a return from his ankle surgery at some point in August. On top of it, there are the mental hurdles that need to be cleared. Given the cause of the injury, sliding is going to take some getting used to again, but Cruz was able to slide during a Dominican instructional league game over the winter. Running was another hurdle Cruz had to clear. Speed is a critical attribute for Cruz, and he feels like he’s — no pun intended — back up to speed. “I lost my confidence on running because that surgery was on my leg,” he explained. “At the beginning, that’s what I struggled with, just to be able to run again like I used to. But now I feel 100%. I’m in a good spot.” It will always be a wonder how much different the Pirates would have looked last year if Cruz was healthy for a full season. Without his services for essentially the whole year, the Pirates showed a 14-win improvement from 2022. They did this largely with a revolving door at shortstop in his absence. With his mighty presence back in the lineup next year, Cruz feels like the Pirates will be able to do even more winning. “Me being in the lineup will help the team a lot,” he said. “Last year, I missed it, and I know I was missed by the team not being in the lineup. I know I can contribute a lot to the team and get more wins, that’s for sure.” [...] Read more...
Sheng PengFebruary 19, 2024I had one thought watching Jaromir Jagr, in full uniform, take part in Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice and warm-ups before his jersey retirement game yesterday. Will Joe Thornton do the same thing, when the San Jose Sharks retire his number next season? Can we make 'Jaromir Jagr Day' an annual holiday? pic.twitter.com/ZoCfXPEQcz — Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 19, 2024 Dan’s Daily: TSN Debates Penguins Sell-Off; Jagr Speaks Wisdom Head coach David Quinn certainly isn’t getting in Jumbo’s way. “Absolutely,” Quinn smiled, when asked if he would extend Thornton the same courtesy this morning. “Try to keep him off,” San Jose Sharks color commentator Drew Remenda cracked from the side. Thornton, 44, just two years removed from his last NHL game, should look like he never left the ice if he chooses to don his No. 19 next season. The San Jose Sharks have yet to schedule Thornton’s jersey retirement game, but there’s a good bet that the Boston Bruins, who drafted him first-overall in 1997, will be involved somehow. Thornton skated for the Bruins between 1997 and 2005, before they traded him to Sharks in Nov. 2005. He left San Jose as a free agent in the summer of 2020, finishing his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers. The other Jumbo-sized question: Pens players wore mullet wigs in honor of Jagr, when he joined them in warm-ups before they took on the Los Angeles Kings – how about costume beards for the Sharks next year? Sharks Will Retire Thornton’s Jersey Next Season [...] Read more...
Bob DuffFebruary 19, 2024The Detroit Red Wings make their annual visit to Seattle to face the Kraken on Monday. It’s the only NHL city where they’ve never won a game. The Red Wings were the first American-based team to win consecutive Stanley Cups with victories in 1935-36 and 1936-37. However, what’s not as well known in U.S. hockey history is that Seattle was the first American city to win a Stanley Cup. Welcome back to Stanley Cup contention, Seattle! The @NHL has officially added the @SeattleKraken as the league's 32nd team. The Seattle Metropolitans won the Cup in 1917 as a member of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association & were the first American team to win. pic.twitter.com/DB1GAEV8RB — Hockey Hall of Fame (@HockeyHallFame) April 30, 2021 The Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association beat the original Newsy Lalonde and the Montreal Canadiens in the 1916-17 Stanley Cup final. That was the season prior to the birth of the NHL. In that final series, the Canadiens qualified as champions of the National Hockey Association, forerunner to the NHL. Here’s another twist that might also not be as well-known even by some of the most ardent of Red Wings supporters. Several players from that Seattle Cup-winning squad would form the nucleus of Detroit’s first NHL team in 1926-27. Before Red Wings They Were Cougars Inaugurated as the Detroit Cougars that season, many of the players on the Detroit roster were rescues from the defunct Western Hockey League. They would include four members of that Seattle Cup-winning club. Goaltender Hap Holmes would post the first win and shutout in franchise history. The Hockey Hall of Famer was a four-time Cup winner – with Seattle, Victoria (1924-25) and twice in Toronto (1913-14, 1917-18). Today, the top goaltenders in the AHL receive the Hap Holmes Memorial Award. Jack Walker was another member of that Seattle squad who’d earn enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. He’d also be an original NHLer with Detroit. Were he in today’s game, Walker would be an annual contender for the Selke Trophy. Walker was capable of playing all three forward positions. He was an outstanding defensive performer, reknowned in hockey circles for his hook check – an uncanny knack for hooking the puck off an opposition player’s blade. Registering a hat-trick for Seattle in Game 2 of the 1917 Cup final series, Frank Foyston would finish third on the 1926-27 Cougars with 10 goals. He played two NHL seasons in Detroit. Jim Riley is the only person to play in both @MLB and the @NHL. #MLBNow #ThinkBaseball pic.twitter.com/kLodXUCgTU — MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) September 18, 2017 The fourth member of this Seattle-Detroit quartet owns a unique place in NHL history. While current Red Wings defenseman Jeff Petry is the son of ex-MLB pitcher Dan Petry, left-winger Jim Riley was an MLB player. Along with playing for Seattle and with Detroit and Chicago in the NHL, Riley saw stints in the big leagues of baseball with the Washington Senators and St. Louis Browns. He was an MLB teammate of Hall of Famers Walter Johnson and George Sisler. [...] Read more...
Jason MoserFebruary 19, 2024The Buffalo Sabres are hosting the Anaheim Ducks in a rare Monday matinee on Presidents’ Day. The Sabres will try to take advantage of playing one of the league’s worst teams regarding standings points and goal-differential. The Ducks are in a growth stage, looking to see what some of their top young talent can do at this point in the season. The Sabres announced Monday morning that they have recalled defenseman Kale Clague and goaltender Dustin Tokarski, as head coach Don Granato confirmed an illness is going around the room. As a result, Eric Comrie will be scratched and Tokarski will backup Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Must Read: Sabres Force Overtime Late; Win 3-2 in Minnesota How to Watch Gametime: 12:30 p.m. ET Location: KeyBank Center (Buffalo, NY) TV: MSG (Buffalo); BSSD (San Diego); BSSC (Southern California) Stream: MSG+; ESPN+ (Out of market) Radio: WGR550 The Sabres On Saturday, the Sabres saved another near miss in a fun, back-and-forth game in Minnesota. They’ll likely ice a similar lineup today, with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in his established spot between the pipes. One line to keep an eye on is Tage Thompson’s unit. Thompson, Alex Tuch, and Jeff Skinner struggled to get anything going Saturday after being reunited. The offensive threat on the rush and established zone time needs to be there for the top line to be successful, as they’re not very strong defensively. The Ducks If you want a fun new player to watch on the Ducks with Trevor Zegras out versus the Sabres, look no further than defenseman Pavel Mintyukov. Mintyukov burst onto the scene this season as a rookie. He almost immediately took over top powerplay duties and made Jamie Drysdale expendable in a trade. Speaking of top young talent, Anaheim is loaded with it down the middle. Their top two centers are top prospects Leo Carlsson and Mason McTavish, and both are key contributors at even strength and on the powerplay. Injury Report Buffalo Eric Comrie (Illness) Day-to-Day Owen Power (Hand) Week-to-Week Jack Quinn (Lower Body) Out 5-7 Weeks Mattias Samuelsson (Upper Body) Out For Season Anaheim Brock McGinn (Upper Body) Out Trevor Zegras (Ankle) Out Projected Lines Buffalo Sabres Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch Jordan Greenway – Dylan Cozens – Casey Mittelstadt Zach Benson – Peyton Krebs – JJ Peterka Victor Olofsson – Zemgus Girgensons – Kyle Okposo Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju Jacob Bryson – Connor Clifton Ryan Johnson – Erik Johnson Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Confirmed) Lineup Source: PuckLuck Projected Goalie Source: PuckLuck Projected   Anaheim Ducks Adam Henrique – Leo Carlsson – Ryan Strome Frank Vatrano – Mason McTavish – Troy Terry Alex Killorn – Isac Lundestrom – Jakob Slifverberg Ross Johnston – Sam Carrick – Max Jones Jackson LaCombe – Cam Fowler Urho Vaakanainen – Radko Gudas Pavel Mintyukov – Ilya Lyubushkin John Gibson (Projected)   Lineup Source: PuckLuck Projected Goalie Source: PuckLuck Projected Betting Odds Breakdown The strongest play in this Monday matinee between the Sabres and Ducks is to go on the under. Obviously, both teams are low scoring and Luukkonen has been outstanding in 2024. Setting the game at 6.5 seems like a big miss by the sportsbooks, and the PuckLuck model supports that notion. If you want to lean either way on the moneyline or puckline, Anaheim is the value here. It’s not a huge edge, but considering how Buffalo has performed at home it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Ducks pulled off the upset. For more betting analysis across the NHL, be sure to head over to PuckLuck.com. *PuckLuck.com provides data related to gambling and cannot guarantee the success of any suggested or related wagers. Please gamble responsibly.* [...] Read more...
Dave MolinariFebruary 19, 2024CRANBERRY — Mike Sullivan made some significant personnel changes during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex Monday. The top line, with Sidney Crosby between Rickard Rakell and Bryan Rust, remained intact, but most of the other lines and defense pairings were scrambled. Here are the the lines and pairings from the workout: Rickard Rakell-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust Drew O’Connor-Evgeni Malkin-Matthew Phillips Reilly Smith-Lars Eller-Valtteri Puustinen Jansen Harkins-Jeff Carter-Colin White P.O Joseph-Kris Letang Marcus Pettersson-Erik Karlsson John Ludvig/Ryan Graves-Chad Ruhwedel Jesse Puljujarvi worked with members of the third pairing, who were rotating, to create a fourth pairing early in the practice, but later did some drills in White’s spot on the fourth line before shifting back to defense. It is not known if any of the changes will remain in effect when the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have lost four of their past five games, face the New York Islanders Tuesday evening at PPG Paints Arena. Penguins Power Play Sullivan separated Karlsson and Malkin, elevating Lars Eller in the process. PP1: Karlsson-Crosby-Rust-Rakell-Eller PP2: Letang-Malkin-Smith-Phillips-Carter Nieto skates Blue-collar winger Matt Nieto, who has missed the past 29 games while recovering from knee surgery, had an on-ice workout before the full-team session Monday. It is believed to be the first time he has gone through such drills since his operation on Jan. 4, although that could not immediate be confirmed. Nieto was joined by usual linemate Noel Acciari, who has sat out the past 13 games because of a concussion. [...] Read more...
Marc DumontFebruary 19, 2024When it comes to Montreal Canadiens prospects, the bulk of the attention has been focused on a few very interesting players. Prospects such as Owen Beck, Fillip Mesar, Lane Hutson, and Jacob Fowler have certainly played well enough to deserve the praise they’ve received this season, but there’s one player who was chosen in the fourth round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft that has flown under the radar to a certain degree. Florian Xhekaj, 19, is in the midst of his breakout season in the OHL, as evidenced by his scoring rate, which has improved significantly from his draft season. Last season Xhekaj only managed to produce 0.37 points per game while playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs, a somewhat decent, if not underwhelming scoring rate when you consider Xhekaj was older than most players who expected to hear their names called at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. But as we’ve come to learn, development is never linear. Some prospects take longer than others to find their rhythm. And usage also plays a big part. For example, now that Owen Beck is playing on a team with more talent his scoring pace has skyrocketed. The situation in Saginaw has allowed him to spread his wings in the offensive zone rather than solely focusing on defensive play. With that in mind, we have to give Xhekaj credit for seizing his opportunity with the Bulldogs. A promotion to the top six, as well as increased powerplay usage, has resulted in an impressive offensive uptick, to the tune of 0.94 points per game. Another way of saying it is that Xhekaj almost tripled his production since the Bulldogs moved to Brantford. He’s also shown much more consistency in his game. As it stands, Xhekaj is enjoying a six-game goal-scoring streak. Florian Xhekaj is UNSTOPPABLE. 😤 The @CanadiensMTL prospect finds the back of the net once again, extending his goal scoring streak to an incredible six games 📽️@BulldogsOHL | #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/Y6Oh7sV9UG — Ontario Hockey League (@OHLHockey) February 18, 2024 Goal Scoring Prowess There’s always a lot of white noise when analyzing prospect production in the CHL, which means we have to take a closer look at the situation to determine if various prospects are improving, or if they’re simply beating up on weaker, younger opponents. One of the first numbers that jumps out when evaluating Xhekaj’s season is that he’s taking a lot more shots on net. Last season he only managed a little over one shot per game, whereas he’s hovering near three shots per game this season. And when you evaluate the footage, it’s clear that Xhekaj isn’t simply standing in the crease waiting for rebounds. He’s shown us ample evidence to suggest that his offensive prowess is based on more than just his size advantage. Of course, an ugly goal counts the same as an end-to-end effort, but these days, prospects must be able to score in a variety of situations. And that has certainly been the case for Xhekaj this season. On top of creating havoc in the crease, Xhekaj has scored his fair share of high-end goals, many of which featured strong individual efforts. FLO GOES END-TO-END 🥵@CanadiensMTL prospect Florian Xhekaj does it all himself!@BulldogsOHL | #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/Px1PzB8EIZ — Ontario Hockey League (@OHLHockey) November 19, 2023 What To Expect From This Montreal Canadiens Prospect Some will be quick to point to Xhekaj’s age as a reason why fans should mitigate their hopes for an eventual NHL ascension. Age is a very important factor when evaluating prospects, and there’s no doubt that Xhekaj has benefitted from being older than most players in his draft year. But even if we compare Xhekaj’s Draft+1 production to the scoring rates we’ve seen from Habs prospects currently in their Draft+2 seasons, the numbers are fairly similar. Cedrick Guindon, chosen in the fourth round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, has produced 23 goals and 28 assists in 54 games for the Owen Sound attack this season. Xhekaj, on the other hand, has registered 27 goals and 21 assists in 51 games, leaving both prospects with an identical points-per-game ratio of 0.94. And when it comes to raw totals, other than Guindon and Owen Beck, no other Habs prospect has managed to register their name on the scoresheet with more regularity than Xhekaj. Florian Xhekaj keeps putting the puck in the net 🚨@CanadiensMTL prospect hit 25 goals on the season with two more in Wednesday's road win, extending his goal-scoring streak to four games 🎥@BulldogsOHL | #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/catGwE33WZ — Ontario Hockey League (@OHLHockey) February 15, 2024 This doesn’t mean Xhekaj is destined for NHL greatness, nor does it eventually guarantee a spot in the Montreal Canadiens lineup, but there’s more potential to be found in this player than most, including myself, originally anticipated. After all, NHL rosters necessitate more than just three good players on the top line. Any good NHL team will have effective players in their bottom six, and those players must be able to generate a certain level of offence to justify their place in the lineup. Like any other prospect, there are still a few red flags in Xhekaj’s game. Most notably, he’s scoring on nearly 20 percent of his shots, which points to an unsustainable pace. But we also have to be realistic when it comes to expectations for a fourth-round pick, and we’d be foolish to ignore the lessons taught by Xhekaj’s brother, Arber. Underestimate the Xhekaj family at your own risk. [...] Read more...
Jonathan BaileyFebruary 19, 2024The Philadelphia Flyers finally got some positive injury news on practice Monday afternoon. Tyson Foerster, who has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, returned to practice on Monday for the first time since getting injured on Feb. 10. Rasmus Ristolainen (upper-body) was not spotted at practice, although the Flyers were originally hopeful the defenseman would be able to return some point over the weekend. Foerster practiced in a yellow non-contact jersey, which indicates the Flyers won’t have him back just yet. The good news, though, is that the Flyers only play two games this week. They’ll face the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago on Wednesday night, and then return home to the Wells Fargo Center to host the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon. Depending on how Foerster feels, I imagine the Flyers could see him return for New York on the weekend. It’s unclear what Ristolainen’s status will be; his ailment was originally said to be minor, though recent reports indicated that he would have a procedure in a few weeks and then be re-evaluated after that. If this is the case, any Flyers trade hypotheticals involving him will be off the table, because he’ll be out through the 2024 NHL trade deadline. As for the Flyers, that means veteran Marc Staal will have a regular place in the 11-forward, seven-defensemen lineup as he continues to rotate with youngster Egor Zamula. Nick Seeler, Travis Sanheim, Cam York, and Sean Walker all still have their places in the lineup locked in, barring anything unforeseen. As the Flyers continue to practice throughout the week, we’ll continue to monitor any changes in Foerster’s status, as well as keeping on the lookout for any signs of Ristolainen. For more Flyers news and up-to-date coverage, visit Philly Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow us on 𝕏: @PhillyHockeyNow, @ByJonBailey, @BroadStBull [...] Read more...
Michael GallagherFebruary 19, 2024When Nashville Predators head coach Andrew Brunette told reporters his players were more focused on vacation than winning games following the team’s embarrassing 9-2 loss to the Dallas Stars last Thursday at Bridgestone Arena, it sparked many debates about what he actually meant. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman cleared things up on his “32 Thoughts” podcast on Monday morning when he detailed the situation after speaking with Predators general manager Barry Trotz. “The players had asked for permission to fly to Vegas after (the St. Louis Blues) game on Saturday and go see U2 at The Sphere,” Friedman said. “…They paid for the staff to go and it was going to be a big event, and after that 9-2 loss, the Predators canceled it. … It was a big, big deal internally. “Barry Trotz, when I spoke to him, he was careful to say, ‘We don’t have bad culture.’ He said, ‘Our standards had slipped below expectations.’ And he says when you have young players, especially, you have to send them a message that you can’t be rewarded if your standards and your preparation slips below your principles. And he said to me, ‘Particularly at home.’ This is not about the Predators and their players, this is about the Predators and their fans. …The Predators are going through a rebuild or a retool or whatever it is, and you’re asking your fans to buy into that. You’re asking your fans to believe in what you’re trying to build. “…What Barry Trotz is telling the fans, and not only his players is, ‘We will not tolerate those efforts in front of our fans paying their money to see us play.’ …What Trotz is really going is sending a message to the fan base that ‘If you buy a ticket to our game, we’re going to demand the best out of our players.’” Nashville’s 15 home losses is tied with the Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens for the second-most in the NHL, behind only the Anaheim Ducks (18). It also ties last season for the most home losses (though that was through all 82 games) since they went 19-17-5 during the 2013-14 season. The Predators haven’t had more regular-season home losses than wins since the 2000-01 season, their third year in the NHL. The practice the day after the loss to the Stars at Centennial Sportsplex was one of the Predators’ more physical and grueling of the season — an apparent punishment for the performance they put forth nearly 16 hours earlier. Andrew Brunette sounds like a head coach who’s still very much gunning for the playoffs pic.twitter.com/jGjgKYA00w — Michael Gallagher (@MGsports_) February 16, 2024 Brunette stated after Thursday’s loss that the team’s issues could only be addressed so many times, and he hinted Friday afternoon that until they finally fix those underlying issues, practices like that day’s would be the norm. The Predators seemingly responded to Brunette’s challenge the following day with a 5-2 win over the Blues in St. Louis. It was just the second time since the New Year (18 games) that they’d scored more than four goals in a game. While Trotz’s message was presumably heard loud and clear, fans will have to wait until the Predators host the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 27 to judge for themselves. Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_ Be sure to follow Nashville Hockey Now on X/Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. [...] Read more...
John PerrottoFebruary 19, 2024BRADENTON, Fla. – Andrew McCutchen spoke. Major League Baseball listened. The Pittsburgh Pirates veteran outfielder/designated hitter was outspoken last season about infielders blocking bases when runners were attempting to steal bases, which is against the rules. McCutchen saw enough players get banged up – and outright injured – on the basepaths. “I’ve seen too many people pulling up, grabbing their wrist, grabbing their shoulders, having to come out of the game,” McCutchen said. “I saw (Pirates infielder/outfielder) Ji Hwan Bae have to do it countless amounts of times last season. As fast as a runner as he is, sliding into the basepaths and coming back in, he’s grabbing his shoulder. ‘Awe, man, he had his legs in front of the base and tried to get around but couldn’t. It’s the little things like that. “To me, I felt like it was pretty obvious. It was like, obviously, why should we not be doing this.” Major League Baseball officials read McCutchen’s comments in various media outlets and got in touch with him. While McCutchen did not talk with Commissioner Rob Manfred, he did speak with people who worked in MLB’s on-field operations department. McCutchen’s message resonated with those officials. During spring training, MLB is advising managers that umpires will be vigilant about calling obstruction on infielders this season. Infielders who do not possess the ball and are impeding runners violate rule 6.01. “I had a lot to do with that, so I think it’s important for a lot of reasons,” McCutchen said. “With stolen bases going up, that’s what the game wants – they want more action – so you have pitch clocks, you’ve got the amount of times guys can (make pickoff throws). So obviously stolen bases are going to go up, and that’s going to give more time for injury on the basepaths. I think it’s a good thing, just cracking down on it, just being careful about it. That’s one of those things where there are rules that go hand in hand. No one really does it but sometimes people can when they can take advantage. “If I’m stealing a base, a guy can pretty much throw his whole body in front of the base to stop me from getting there. There are no rules that say he can’t. I feel like it was pretty important that there needs to be some language in there that speaks on that, so guys aren’t getting hurt on both sides, defense or offense. I think it’s a good thing. We’ll see what happens.” Of course, it is one thing to emphasize a rule in spring training. It’s yet another, though, to enforce it during the regular season. Every few years, it seems that MLB decides to crack down on various rules violations. Sometimes, the edict sticks. Other times, it is forgotten by the end of April. McCutchen is hopeful MLB is serious about the obstruction emphasis. “The game has evolved. The game’s changing,” McCutchen said. “There’s some language with home plate now. We’ve had that for 10 years or so now. There’s been no language changed on the base paths. My thing was, there needs to be something done with that as well. We’re trying to prevent injury. That’s why I mentioned it and why I was vocal about it. I’m just trying to prevent injury here. What can we do? It was nice that Major League Baseball and a few of the people I talked to were pretty responsive to it.” It also speaks to how much respect McCutchen has earned during his 15-year career. Enough that MLB responded when he spoke up. [...] Read more...
Evan RawalFebruary 19, 2024As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses in the game against the Arizona Coyotes for the Colorado Avalanche. + MacKinnon’s Point Streak No matter how you look at it, 26 straight games with a point at home is a remarkable statistic. Just look at the guy he passed… The legend that is Nathan MacKinnon. #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/OggAWqTS0h — Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) February 19, 2024 There’s still a ways to go, as the Avalanche are at home a lot down the stretch, but could Nathan MacKinnon really do this? – MacKinnon’s Poor Face Listen, Nathan MacKinnon is not putting on a face shield, but I do wonder if the Avalanche have tried to talk him into it at all to protect their investment. Just a few days after breaking his nose, he took a high-stick to the face that caused some blood. I’m sure the blood was a result of the fresh broken nose, but he seems to have no luck right now. Nathan MacKinnon after having his face reconstructed over the last 8 days. pic.twitter.com/9GbGXx9xsF — Evan Rawal (@evanrawal) February 19, 2024 + The Touch By Drouin Jonathan Drouin had a goal taken off the board because of a correct offside challenge, a goal he really could have used. He bounced back immediately with a beautiful touch pass on the game winning goal. Just incredible skill and touch on display from him. Devon Toews gives the Avalanche the lead in the third period! #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/YL5yEr8fNp — Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) February 19, 2024 – Mikko Rantanen I think people have been a little harsh on Mikko Rantanen of late. No, he hasn’t been perfect, but we’re still looking at a top 10 scorer in the NHL. I’m not sure anyone can look past his play on Sunday night. It started with the slashing penalty. I didn’t see too much there, but you move on. On the Dumba goal, he was forced into a turnover at the offensive blueline, which led to a rush the other way. If you watch it back, he’s on Dumba the whole time, but he leaves him for a second, and Dumba gets the rebound and scores. That wasn’t the end of his nightmare of a first period. With under two minutes left, he made a great play to force Dumba out of the zone, and chase him all the way back into his own end. That pressure even created a turnover, but Rantanen took it just a step too far, as he hit Dumba well after the puck was released. Yes, I think Dumba went down a little easy, but it was really more about the frustration Rantanen showed in that moment. I thought we were going to get another game where Rantanen snaps at the refs, which we saw a few times last year, but he at least didn’t do that. The first period wasn’t the only one with some head scratching moments from him. At one point in the second period, while the Avalanche were on a powerplay, Rantanen’s stick shattered when he went to shoot. No big deal, but instead of rushing to the bench, he just kind of glided there while his teammates worked to maintain possession. Even the fans in the nosebleeds started to yell a little bit at him. Then you get to the third period, and it looked like the Avalanche had taken the lead on a Drouin goal, but on the zone entry, Rantanen was in the zone far too early, and didn’t seem to make any attempt to stay onside. It didn’t end up costing the Avalanche, but these are a lot of very correctable mistakes happening on one night. It should be noted that Rantanen was the guy in front of the net creating the screen on the game winner, so the night wasn’t a total wash, but expectations are a little higher for someone like Mikko. He’s got just four points in seven games since the break, so you know he’s got a lot more to give. He has mentioned multiple times about how the previous two seasons were a “grind.” Part of me wonders if the heavy minutes have caught up with him more than anyone else on the team. + Ryan Johansen Credit where credit is due – the last two games from Ryan Johansen have been two of his best in a long time. No, he’s not a second line center, but barring giving up an asset to get rid of the contract, he’ll likely be on the Avalanche down the stretch. Seeing a response matters, and Johansen seems to have responded to getting dropped to the fourth line for a few games. Will he be able to keep it up? Given how the season has gone, I doubt it, but I thought he looked good on Sunday. + Jack Johnson?!? Games where Jack Johnson scores are extremely rare. Games where Jack Johnson picks up multiple points are even more rare. The Coyotes just kind of left him all alone to walk in, and he took advantage. If that goal got by Georgiev, we’d probably be a little annoyed because I didn’t think it was the best angle, but you take any offense you can get from a guy like JJ. Turned out to be a pretty big goal. – Lengthy Offside Reviews We need a time limit on these things. Granted, they got this one right, but how often do you see a goal get overturned after a 10 minute review? And how did the Avalanche have the blueline camera angle right away, but the NHL needed so long to figure things out? Sunday’s matchup took nearly three hours to complete, which is absurd for a regular season game that didn’t need overtime. That third period review is a big reason why. It really kills any flow the game has. + Byram’s Awakening I’m sure the Avalanche staff has had multiple meetings with Bowen Byram this season, like they would any player, but whatever Nolan Pratt showed him last week has seemed to work. He’s been active joining the rush and in the offensive zone. Bednar and Pratt have taken notice, as he’s had multiple shifts up with Cale Makar when the team gets an offensive zone face-off. Byram is an extremely talented young player, and at just 22, has plenty of room to grow. Even with his struggles, the staff hasn’t sheltered him, as they clearly believe in him. Only Devon Toews averages more time-on-ice at even strength than him on defense. An activated Byram is a difference maker for this team, and could really help down the stretch. +/- Scout Season I really had nowhere to put this, but with the NHL Trade Deadline rapidly approaching, we have reached the point of the year where you do look at the scout list a little more intently. Does it matter? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s fun to talk about. The Coyotes are likely to sell, as they’re out of it, and with no games at Ball Arena for nearly a month, there were at least 10 scouts in attendance. The most notable ones were two from Los Angeles, and Buffalo Sabres Associate GM Jason Karmanos. Does it mean anything? Again, I really don’t know, but it’s always more interesting around this time of the year. – Makar’s Defensive Game Something is just off with him in the defensive zone this year. He’s already been on the ice for five more even strength goals against than he was all of last year, and he’s played nine less games. Again, like Rantanen, the bar is extremely high for Cale Makar, so he gets graded on a different scale. When you listen to him talk, he knows he hasn’t been perfect. Plenty to clean up down the stretch. [...] Read more...
Dan KingerskiFebruary 19, 2024The Pittsburgh Penguins again won a 54-minute game but lost the 60-minute version, the latest in a series of hard-knuckled blows to their playoff hopes as they dropped a 2-1 heartbreaker to the LA Kings on Jaromir Jagr day. For his part, Jagr dropped a little F-bomb on TV, captivated everyone with his speech, and dropped some real pearls of wisdom about life and his future before watching his No. 68 jersey hoisted to the rafters. Elsewhere in the Daily, TSN debated if the Penguins should become sellers. The Philadelphia Flyers are undecided if their biggest trade chip is actually going on the NHL trade block. And the New York Islanders are failing to gain ground, too. I absolutely loved Jagr’s speech, but I sent his quote from the press conference to a few people who are like me — people for whom their business is their passion and have said that we work too much or too hard. At that moment, I felt like I completely understood Jagr on a different level. If only I were as great, eh? “Once you’re satisfied with something, you’re done. There always has to be a hunger to be better and better and better. And that’s the drive in life. I always compare me to the Amazon jungle. If you’re satisfied in the jungle, you’re dead. There’s no, ‘I’m sorry, you were good, we let you live.’ No, somebody’s going to eat you,” Jagr said. And that’s why my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. despite being at the arena until midnight or later. That’s why I buy the wifi on plane rides and try to work with my knees cramped to my chest on an awful Spirit flight. It’s why I read every National Hockey Now site every day and try to explain to writers how to sharpen their product. It’s why I work seven days a week, every week. It’s also why a venture capitalist called me on Sunday afternoon with what he said was very good news … Stay tuned. This weekend, I grew a profound respect for Jagr, the human. I may need to add a Jagr bobble or something to the background of what’s left of my radio studio. Pittsburgh Penguins Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Retirement, regrets, and pearls of wisdom. The Jaromir Jagr press conference. It was a sad ending to a happy weekend. The LA Kings scored twice in three minutes late in the third period, and that was enough. Dave Molinari’s Penguins game recap. The report card. I had a good portion of it written before the final 10 minutes. And then it all changed. The surprising power play became the albatross again. The better defensive efforts became sloppy. The win … became a loss. The analysis, the player grades, and the blunt truth. The toxic power play and inexplicable mistakes are crushing the Penguins. PHN video: Viewers seemed to like this one. More from PPG Paints Arena – Another sad microcosm of the Penguins’ season. What went wrong, and what needs to happen this week — the PHN Penguins postgame. Dave Molianri’s morning six-pack. Bryan Rust didn’t mince words. Dave’s take on the latest Penguins letdown. In case you were wondering, they also changed the Mario Lemieux banner. The new Mario banner (four star change. MUCH better). And the kid. Until the last 6 minutes of the game, this was a storybook weekend. pic.twitter.com/8BGVx7zmnp — Dan Kingerski (@TheDanKingerski) February 19, 2024 And the viral moment of the night. Jagr in the TV booth. Jags,  you can’t say that on TV, but it was gold. Jagr droppin’ the f-bomb 🤣 pic.twitter.com/jAsgZYZMLm — Benstonium (@Benstonium) February 19, 2024 NHL Trade Talk, News & National Hockey Now TSN: Frank Corrado had a different take on the Penguins being sellers at the deadline. You can’t acquire Erik Karlsson and then sell? NYI Hockey Now: How’s this for a headline: Islanders allow greatest weakness to spell disaster on biggest stage. The Islanders got a loser point but lost to the Rangers in overtime. Andrew Fantucchio cracked the struggling New York Islanders. But wasn’t a new coach supposed to fix everything magically? Philly Hockey Now: Sean Walker could be the Flyers’ biggest trade chip, but the orange and black are undecided on his future. Should he stay or should he go? The uncertain Flyers trade deadline plan. Here’s the deal, Philly. The Islanders and Penguins can’t get it together. The Devils don’t have any goaltending. Go for it. Enjoy the ride, make the playoffs, and see what happens. Cinderella seasons don’t happen often. Wear that glass slipper with pride. New Jersey Hockey Now: The Devils rolled the Flyers in the Stadium Series game. Brendan Smith had a goal and an assist. He wanted for the Gordie Howe hat trick but couldn’t find any takers?! The New Jersey Devils were feeling it. [...] Read more...
Chris GawlikFebruary 19, 2024The week of Feb. 12 was a forgettable one for the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights entered the week 19-5-2 at T-Mobile Arena and left the week 19-7-2 at T-Mobile Arena. Next up for the Golden Knights (31-17-6) is a Monday matinee in San Jose against the Sharks (15-34-5). The Golden Knights are 3-0-0 against the Sharks this season, 11-0-3 lifetime in the Sap Center at San Jose, and 23-2-5 lifetime against the Sharks. On one hand, there is no better time than now for the Golden Knights to face the Sharks. However, the Sharks are playing better hockey with a 5-3-2 record in their last 10 games and would love nothing more than to defeat the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights held an 11:30 a.m. practice Sunday at City National Arena before heading to San Jose, CA. for Monday’s game. The Golden Knights lines will be a mystery until warmups on Monday. Jonas Rondbjerg played in Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes and we sent down to the Henderson Silver Knights on Sunday morning. Shea Theodore could return for Monday’s game against the Sharks or Tuesday’s home game against the Nashville Predators. Logan Thompson will likely make his first start against the Sharks since Jan. 27 against the Detroit Red Wings. Golden Knights Notes The Golden Knights have 68 points which is good for second place in the Pacific Division and they trail the Vancouver Canucks by 12 points with two games in hand. This is the first, of a four-game week that features games against the Sharks, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Ottawa Senators. Players to watch Jonathan Marchessault has 11 goals in his last 11 games. Nic Roy has an eight-game points streak. Sharks Notes The Sharks have 35 points, the second-fewest overall in the NHL. Tomas Hertl, Matthew Benning, Henry Thurn, and Givani Smith are on Injured reserve. Logan Couture remains out with a week-to-week designation. Player to watch: Mikael Granlund leads the Sharks (active players for today’s game) with 31 points in 41 games. Keys to the Game Coach Bruce Cassidy has stressed the importance of puck management all season long. The Golden Knights also need to play better with a lead. The Golden Knights need to put the Sharks away early. The Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Golden Knights last week despite the Golden Knights scoring first in both games. How to watch and listen Time: 1:00 P.M. PST. TV: Vegas 34 (Scripps Sports) Streaming: KnightTime+ Radio: FOX Sports Las Vegas 98.9/1340 | Deportes Vegas 1460 For more Golden Knights news, visit Vegas Hockey Now and like our Facebook page. Follow Chris Gawlik on 𝕏: @TdChrisG [...] Read more...
Sheng PengFebruary 19, 2024Ryan Carpenter has seen both sides of the coin with the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights. In 2017-18, after the Sharks waived him, the expansion Golden Knights claimed him on Dec. 13. From that point on, Carpenter saw Vegas peel eight-straight wins off, announcing to the world that this expansion team was for real. This year, Carpenter was called up from the AHL at the tail-end of the Sharks’ 0-10-1 start. He also was a part of San Jose’s recent 12-game losing streak. So Carpenter has seen first-hand how both winning and losing snowball. Of the so-called Golden Misfits, Carpenter recalled, in the midst of the Sharks’ 12-game losing streak, “I’m sure the way they started the year they probably didn’t come in with that belief. Came in just trying to prove people wrong and take it one day at a time.” Not one pundit predicted that the first-year team would make the playoffs. But they got off to a quick start, winning eight of their first nine games, and never looking back, on their way to taking the Pacific Division and reaching the Stanley Cup Final. “There just seems like there’s momentum in a season and if you can kind of carry it and ride it, sometimes, you start winning games and maybe you didn’t even deserve to win, but you find ways to win them because your belief is there. There’s no self-doubt creeping in,” he said. “To get to a point where you’re winning games like that, takes a lot of building.” Losing games like the San Jose Sharks have this year takes a lot of building too. Not building belief though – building self-doubt. In training camp, I asked Nico Sturm what the Sharks needed to do to avoid the 0-5-0 start that sent their 2022-23 campaign in the wrong direction. He didn’t say anything about scoring more goals or adhering to defensive structure or a five-man forecheck. “Get some points in the bank,” he said. “I don’t care how.” Carpenter echoed that, “You don’t want to play the wrong way and win, but sometimes, you find a way to get a win or goaltending plays well or special teams wins you a game and it isn’t how you draw it up, but you win a game, and sometimes, that belief just starts kicking back.” The Sharks never got that win at the right time, that’s for sure. “The losing snowballs, for sure,” Carpenter said. “Sometimes, that one win just helps guys relax. I think when you’re losing, self-doubt comes in. That’s when your character’s tested and tested as a team to really stay bought in and trust the process, trust the system and trust each other.” San Jose Sharks (15-34-5) Mackenzie Blackwood starts, Henry Thrun is a possibility. Here’s how the Sharks practiced yesterday: Looks Barabanov has found his way to the 4th line after his backcheck on the Jenner goal yesterday. #SJSharks lines at practice: Zetterlund-Granlund-DuclairHoffman-Eklund-KuninZadina-Sturm-Labanc-SmithBarabanov-Carpenter-Bailey-MacDonald — Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February