Can Nicklas Backstrom become the highest-scoring Swede of all-time?

Ken Campbell
Nicklas Backstrom. (Photo by Patrick Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Nicklas Backstrom quietly scored his 500th career point against the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night.

He did it quietly because Backstrom does everything quietly. That has something to do with the fact that he’s Swedish and, remarkably like almost all his countrymen, is singularly unimpressed with himself. It also has something to do with the fact that he plays alongside Alex Ovechkin, a larger-than-life figure who is comfortable in the spotlight. Backstrom is more than happy to allow Ovechkin to soak up all the adulation, and have to handle the pressure that comes with being an NHL superstar. Read more

PK Subban’s Halloween costume is a Thriller

Jared Clinton
P.K. Subban (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

In a lot of ways, PK Subban could remind you of a young Michael Jackson: they’re both incredible at what they do, they’re both almost unanimously loved, and they have similar dance moves.

All right, fine, we can’t be sure about that last part, but chances are the young Canadiens defenseman at least busted out a few of his finest MJ impressions at the Habs Halloween bash, where the young superstar donned his finest Thriller attire: Read more

David Clarkson doesn’t fear the THN cover curse – and he’s fighting back

Matt Larkin
David Clarkson has started 2014-15 strongly after a nightmarish 2013-14.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Do hockey players believe in curses? The easy answer is “Of course not.” An athlete who lets superstitions dictate his game isn’t made for The Show. But if there were ever a player to start believing, could you blame David Clarkson?

In the summer of 2013, fresh off landing a seven-year, $36.8-million contract, Clarkson appeared on THN’s cover, postured as Toronto’s next great fan favorite. He grew up a diehard Leafs fan, so he happily posed for the shoot, after which we photoshopped blue blood trickling down his cheek.

He was positioned for a season he’d never forget. And while that did come to pass, it wasn’t what he imagined. There was the 10-game suspension to start the year after he left the bench to join a fight during a pre-season game. There was the gruesome elbow gash that cost him eight contests. And there were the slumps. A man expected to chip in 20 to 30 goals gave Toronto five in 60 games.

This September, excited to have a blank slate, Clarkson broke his cheekbone in a fight with Buffalo’s Cody McCormick just days before the season started. Ugh. Even the most scientific person would start to wonder about a hex at that point.

“It definitely went through my head,” Clarkson said. “It was tough. After hitting that reset button and feeling good this year and doing everything I did over the summer, to break the bone, that wasn’t fun.”

Read more

Wild sign Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin to extensions; Mikael Granlund, you’re next

Adam Proteau
Charlie Coyle (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Minnesota Wild locked up another young talent Wednesday, signing right winger Charlie Coyle to a five-year, $16-million contract extension with an average annual value of $3.2 million. The deal is the second major extension handed out this month by GM Chuck Fletcher to a pending restricted free agent: on Oct. 12, he signed defenseman Jonas Brodin to a six-year, $25-million deal – and that leaves 22-year-old center Mikael Granlund as the organization’s biggest RFA concern this season.

As is the case with Brodin, Fletcher’s investment in the 22-year-old Coyle, who in his first full NHL season posted 12 goals and 30 points in 70 games, is not outrageous. He has slowly and steadily grown his game, and his 6-foot-3 size, skill and resolve – remember, this is someone who played with two separated shoulders in last year’s post-season – bode well for his employer’s future. A less than maximum-term-length contract also encourages Coyle to be motivated to cash in on another big-bucks pact in his prime. Fletcher has limited his risk with the new deal and put the team in a good position to reap a lot of value out of Coyle if he continues to improve.

Now comes the biggest challenge of all: signing Granlund, Minnesota’s long-touted Finnish sensation who scored eight goals and 41 points in his sophomore NHL campaign. Read more

L.A. district attorneys want “follow-up” from detectives in Slava Voynov domestic violence investigation

Ken Campbell
Slava Voynov (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

(NOTE: This post has been updated. See below.)

A spokesman for the Redondo Beach Police Department refutes the notion that there was no crime committed during the incident allegedly involving Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov Sunday night. He also said Voynov could know his fate as early as Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it’s not a given that the league will reinstate Voynov in time for him to play with the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres even if charges are not filed against Voynov. “No,” Daly wrote in an email to thn.com. “I don’t think that is fair to assume. We are certainly going to want to satisfy ourselves with respect to the facts and circumstances before any thought would be given to lifting the suspension.” Read more

Is Barry Trotz a magic man? Early Capitals’ advanced stats say yes

The Hockey News
Barry Trotz (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Dom Luszczyszyn

It’s still too early to make any meaningful judgments, but so far it looks like the Washington Capitals’ biggest problem has been solved.

The Caps have been a notoriously abysmal defensive team for a while now, and missing the playoffs last season meant changes had to be made to the former powerhouse. The biggest one was bringing in coach Barry Trotz, arguably the most reputable defensive coach in the game.

While changing the coach isn’t always the right call, it was clear that Adam Oates wasn’t getting the most out of his players, specifically his best one, Alex Ovechkin. The same can be said for Trotz, who was well past his expiration date in Nashville. Washington and Trotz were a perfect fit. Read more

All eyes on torrid-scoring Connor McDavid tonight in Buffalo

Ken Campbell
Connor McDavid (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Buffalo Sabres are bad, epically bad, and they’ll get even worse once they trade away Tyler Myers and Chris Stewart. (To Detroit and Boston, respectively, is our guess.) And while they have a lot of company in the dregs of the NHL standings, their chances of getting one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel are looking very, very good.

(Depending on how the New York Islanders do, there’s a chance the Sabres could get a crack at both. And while the early results don’t favor that possibility, remember, it’s the Islanders we’re talking about here.) Read more

Memorable night for young guns as three rookies register first point

Jonathan Drouin (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

In 50 years, there will be three separate sets of grandkids hearing tell of Tuesday night’s NHL action. The reason being for rookies Jonathan Drouin, Adam Lowry, and Seth Griffith, it was the night they registered their first NHL point.

The Bruins’ Griffith and Jets’ Lowry both registered their first of what will hopefully be many NHL goals, while the shifty Drouin notched an assist on the game-tying goal in Tampa Bay’s overtime victory over the Calgary Flames.

Drouin, who has been lauded for his playmaking ability, showed it off in fantastic fashion. The 19-year-old Quebec native won a puck battle below the Flames goal line, worked the puck up the boards, and made a seeing-eye backhand saucer pass that landed right on the tape of defenseman Jason Garrison:

Valtteri Filppula pushed the blast by Garrison home. In overtime, Drouin would get an excellent opportunity on a 2-on-1 with Steven Stamkos – with whom Drouin lined up with throughout the game – but was stopped on an incredible save by Karri Ramo.

For Griffith, he’ll be able to tell his children and grand children about an absolute laser of a shot:

A product of Wallaceburg, Ont., Griffith was a rookie sensation at the American League level last season, putting home 20 goals and 50 points. The goal couldn’t have come at a bigger time, either.

With the Bruins down 3-2 to the San Jose Sharks, Griffith’s big-league snap shot found the back of the net and brought the Bruins even. The Bruins would go on to win the game 5-3, thanks in large part to Griffith’s timely tally.

Finally, Adam Lowry, the son of former NHLer Dave Lowry, did what his father managed to 164 times at the big league level:

With the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps last season, Lowry stood out for his gritty play and nose for the net and was a large part of what made Winnipeg’s farm club so successful. As an AHL rookie, Lowry amassed 17 goals and 16 assists, good for 12th on the team in scoring.

His big body and powerful forechecking ability are what got him into the lineup with the Jets, but they certainly won’t shake a stick at him contributing in other ways on the score sheet. Lowry’s marker would stand as the game-winning goal.