Fellow top picks to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: It gets better

Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

COLUMBUS – Despite some high-profile cancellations, a lot of players are happy to be at the NHL All-Star Game in Columbus this weekend. For some, it’s the chance to treat friends and family to a grand experience. For others, it’s the camaraderie on the ice. But Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins may also sneak in some time to do some fact-finding in Ohio.

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Bolts lose key blueliner Matt Carle, but have depth to handle injured vet’s absence

Adam Proteau
Matt Carle (Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Lightning received some tough news Monday when they announced veteran blueliner Matt Carle would be out of the lineup for the next 6-8 weeks after surgery for an injured lower abdomen. Fortunately for the Bolts, they’ve got enough depth in their defense corps to keep them at or near the top of their division until Carle returns.

The 30-year-old Carle was injured Jan. 15 against Edmonton and had a 347-game snapped when he missed Saturday’s game against Colorado. He’ll have surgery Tuesday in Philadelphia to repair torn adductor muscles in his lower abdomen. And although his absence is a significant blow to a Tampa back end that’s already lost Radko Gudas for the rest of the regular season with a knee injury, the Lightning entered the season with one of the NHL’s deepest bluelines and are fortunate to have stellar Swedes Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman to pick up some of the slack. In that game against Colorado, Lightning coach Jon Cooper leaned on the duo to a greater degree, bumping up by a couple of minutes their average ice time of 22 minutes a night. Fellow veteran Jason Garrison will also be given more minutes, and youngsters Mark Barberio and Nikita Nesterov will get tested perhaps a little sooner than the organization would’ve preferred. But this is life in the compressed-schedule NHL – if you’re not anticipating injuries, you’re not being realistic. Read more

Yet more evidence that you should never fight Zdeno Chara

Ryan Kennedy
Zdeno Chara (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

If you have watched hockey consistently for the past 15 years or so, it should be perfectly clear to you that fighting massive Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara is the worst idea in the world. Few brawlers can claim a draw with the B’s captain, let alone a win – and Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette found that out the hard way last night.

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Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman “day-to-day” for lucky Lightning

Jared Clinton
Victor Hedman (Getty Images)

Ask the Tampa Bay Lightning about how much an injury can hurt a team as they head toward the playoffs. They know all about it.

Last season, when goaltender Ben Bishop went down with a hand injury just days before the playoffs began, it destroyed any hopes the Lightning may have had in their first round series against the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal swept Tampa Bay in four games, and the Lightning headed home much earlier than some had expected. That’s why Lightning fans are probably counting their lucky stars on Tuesday. Read more

Five AHL players to watch the rest of the season

(Len Redkoles/Getty Images)

Every season, there are a few players who tear up the AHL and shock the big league when they finally make the jump. Last season, it was Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist. This season, Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman is making a name for himself.

So who are the players to watch from North America’s second best league? One of them, Teemu Pulkkinen, will likely make his debut tonight as a member of the same Red Wings Nyquist broke in with last season. Another, Teuvo Teravainen, worked his way in to the Chicago Blackhawks lineup following Kris Versteeg’s injury, but he was scratched on Thursday before drawing back in on Friday.

Another AHL notable, Pittsburgh’s Derrick Pouliot, is up with the big club, though he hasn’t seen game action since Jan. 2. Were he in the AHL at the moment, he, too, would make the list. But here are the five AHL players to watch in the latter half of 2014-15. Read more

Can anyone dethrone the Lightning as kings of the East?

Jared Clinton
Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate a win. (Gerry Thomas/Getty Images)

Last night’s game in Montreal was a battle between the two top teams, at least in terms of points, in the Eastern Conferece. What was thought would be a heated battle between two teams struggling for supremacy in the East was, simply put, a beatdown.

While the score was only 4-2, the Lightning dominated possession to the tune of a 61.5 percent Corsi For at even strength. According to WarOnIce, Tampa Bay out-chanced the Montreal nearly two-to-one, registering 25 legitimate scoring opportunities to Montreal’s 13 while playing 5-on-5. And the thing is, this isn’t the only game the Lightning have dominated like this in 2014-15. It won’t be the last, either. Read more

Return of Duclair and Draisaitl shakes up the Memorial Cup race

Quebec's Anthony Duclair  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

You can debate whether or not the Edmonton Oilers were right to hold rookie center Leon Draisaitl out of the world juniors, where he would have been far and away Germany’s best player. And you can debate whether or not he should have been kept up by the Oilers as long as he was before they sent him back to junior in the Western League. But the trade that sent his rights (and consequently, him) to Kelowna from Prince Albert is huge in the WHL’s arms race. Just as big as the New York Rangers sending Anthony Duclair back to the Quebec Remparts.

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Lightning defenseman Gudas sidelined four months with knee injury

Jared Clinton
Radko Gudas (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the midst of a dream season on a team that will surely compete for the Stanley Cup, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas will be forced to the sidelines with a knee injury.

The knee, which he had arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday morning, will keep Gudas watching for the next four months, which would put him in line for a return come playoffs. The Lightning have had outstanding injury luck this season, but they’ll need to look to Syracuse to shore up their blueline with Gudas out of the lineup. Read more