Who would have thought the 2013-14 first-round playoff series between the Blue Jackets and Penguins would result in one of the most heated rivalries in the league? And as if tempers between the two teams weren’t hot enough, Columbus coach John Tortorella may have thrown more fuel on the fire by calling out Pittsburgh star Evgeni Malkin.
In the second period of the Penguins’ 5-2 victory over the Blue Jackets, Columbus center Boone Jenner clipped Malkin with a knee-on-knee hit that sent him flipping to the ice and clutching his knee in pain. Following the hit Jenner dropped the gloves and fought Penguins winger Scott Wilson, and Jenner was given an additional two minutes for tripping: Read more
This will be the final Prospect NTK for at least a week or two, as the holidays and my travelling to Finland for the world juniors conspire. Expect a lot of world junior stuff on the web site in the meantime, so with that in mind I’ll concentrate more on the World Jr. A Challenge right now, since that tourney is done. There was some nice talent there once again, culminating in a Canada West gold medal.
Elsewhere in the prospect world, trades and other movements are heating up in the Quebec League, one of which I cover off below. Let’s get to our weekly wrap.
Even if Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen is saying all the right things, he has to be at least a little frustrated with his current situation in Columbus. Johansen has been benched and was a healthy scratch last week. But Johansen is channelling that frustration the right way as he powered through a hit and drove Pittsburgh Penguins blueliner Ian Cole through the glass Monday night.
The hit came late in the first period with the Penguins attempting a breakout. With Columbus on the forecheck, Pittsburgh blueliner David Warsofsky spun the puck from the left wing corner back behind the net to Cole, who picked it up on the right wing side. But as soon as Cole got the puck, he was met with a heavy check from Johansen — a check so heavy the glass popped out of place and into the stands. Read more
With the NHL holiday trade freeze in effect until midnight on Dec. 27, here’s a look at the recent speculation on several notable stars.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning’s visit to play the Maple Leafs in Toronto last week created considerable chatter over the pending UFA’s future in Tampa Bay. In an interview with The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith, Stamkos insisted he wants to re-sign with the Bolts.
He dismissed rumors of a rift with coach Jon Cooper, claimed his camp has engaged in contract discussions with Lightning management and claimed all other info suggesting he wants out of Tampa Bay is false.
Jonathan Bernier’s recent four-game stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL team failed to significantly boost his performance at the NHL level. The 27-year-old Bernier gave up five goals on 22 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in his first game back with the Leafs on Tuesday.
Bernier had a better effort in the Leafs overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, giving up three goals on 29 shots. However, he remains winless this season (0-8-3), with a horrid 3.46 goals-against average and .883 save percentage. There’s talk Bernier’s days with the Leafs could be numbered.
Sportsnet’s Luke Fox cites analyst Gord Stellick suggesting Bernier might benefit from a change of scenery, like Devan Dubnyk did last season. Stellick claims there are some teams interested in the netminder.
The time for downplaying Ryan Johansen trade rumors in Columbus is over. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella all but cemented that by making his supposed star center a healthy scratch for Thursday night’s game in Arizona. Aaron Portzline, team beat writer and THN correspondent, confirmed the decision.
We can believe Tortorella’s claims that Johansen is “an important guy to our organization” and that Johansen will be shown video to illustrate what the team wants from him. Or we can believe that GM Jarmo Kekalainen, who openly supported the scratching, will start making trade calls on Johansen instead of just taking calls, which he was already reportedly doing.
Which teams are ideal fits for Johansen based on what they need and what they can offer the Jackets? Consider these five destinations:
The Blue Jackets’ season hasn’t gone according to plan, and a tumultuous campaign has led to an up and down year for Ryan Johansen. The 23-year-old center had another tough night Tuesday as coach John Tortorella benched Johansen for the entire third period.
Johansen, who has six goals and 22 points in 31 games this season, played a season-low 11:03 Tuesday against the Dallas Stars and didn’t take a single shift in the third frame. His last shift of the game came with 4:35 remaining in the second frame. Post-game, when asked about Johansen’s status, Tortorella said it wasn’t an injury that kept Johansen from playing.
“Coach’s decision,” Tortorella said. “No explanation. I just didn’t play him.” Read more
As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep wallowing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, speculation persists over a potential roster shakeup at some point this season. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports the Jackets are entering a crucial point in the season where deals could get made should they fail to significantly improve.
Dreger claims some in the league believe Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen could try to move out some veteran players. He notes forwards Ryan Johansen and Scott Hartnell are among those who’ve been bandied about in the rumor mill this season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes Johansen could be dealt at some point this season. He notes the center had contentious contract negotiations with Jackets management prior to last season. Friedman also points out the 23-year-old has already spent some time in coach John Tortorella’s doghouse, though he doesn’t rule out the possibility of the two working out their differences.