Tampa Bay (11-19-10) at Anaheim (21-16-5) 10:00 p.m. EST
ANAHEIM, California (Ticker) -- Rookie Bobby Ryan is beginning
to find his rhythm in the professional ranks. The Anaheim Ducks
are hoping that his recent surge can translate into wins.
Ryan and the Ducks look to bounce back on Friday when they
return home to face the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 21-year-old right wing, Ryan recorded his first career hat
trick on Thursday, extending his goal-scoring streak to three
games and registering points for the ninth time in the previous
Ryan erased a 3-0 deficit by recording a natural hat trick in
less than three minutes of game time spanning the final two
periods. His flurry was not enough as the Ducks dropped a 4-3
decision to the Los Angeles Kings, falling to 3-4-2 in its last
"It's tough to succeed and have a good night when your team's
not going as well as you would like," Ryan said. "We got behind
the eight ball early and gave them too many opportunities, and
didn't take advantage of the ones we got. We didn't deserve the
two points tonight, that's for sure."
After snapping an 0-2-1 stretch with a three-goal victory over
the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday, Tampa Bay returned to its
losing ways on Thursday, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Phoenix
Jeff Halpern registered a power-play goal and an assist and
defenseman Andrej Meszaros also scored for the Lightning, who
are four points ahead of the last-place New York Islanders
(12-26-4) in the Eastern Conference.
The breakaway challenge is gone, replaced by a long-distance target shooting competition. But wouldn't it be more fun if the players used their shots to break stuff?
The NHL All-Star festivities are fast upon us and there will be change again this year. Gone is the breakaway challenge, which, let's face it, ran the gamut from uplifting to supremely awkward. You could see the pained expressions on some of the players who took part and it's fine to blame humble hockey culture as the problem, but it was never going to be the NBA's slam dunk contest anyway.
The new event this year in Los Angeles will be a the four-line challenge, which invites players to hit targets from the blue line, center ice, the far blue line and the far goal line. Goalies can take shots from the far goal line too, in search of extra points.
This sounds OK to me, particularly if the players are winging the pucks at the target (imagine someone taking a slapshot from center ice and hitting a bullseye?), but I actually had another idea the other day, which I humbly present to you, the fan.
"it was really fun," Matthews said. "You don't get an opportunity to do that all the time. It was a blast – we were shooting at veggie trays and chocolate fondue and cameras."
For me, the random objects are fun, but what I'd really like as an event is for the divisional all-stars to have a competition in which they see who can do the most damage to a car, just by shooting pucks at it. Yes, Gen Xers, I am proposing that the NHL adapt the bonus level from Street Fighter II:
Now, I don't expect the competitors (two guys per team, shooting at the same time) to actually take apart the car like our good friend Ryu, but I bet they could do some pretty good damage in, let's say, one minute of shooting. Obviously you'd have tarps on the ice to catch any broken glass and obviously it would be an old car with no fluids in it (we don't want it to blow up…or do we?). And hey, we can even toss in a charitable element – like whichever teams wins, they get to donate 10 new cars to the cause of their choice. Admit it: you're a little curious about what Shea Weber or Dustin Byfuglien could do to an old Volkswagen Jetta.
Because most Toronto writers flocked to Frankie Corrado this morning (#FreeFrankie), I wasted a minute of Matthews' time by asking him what he thought of my All-Star car smash challenge. Would it be fun for players?
"I guess so, I don't know," he said with a laugh. "I hit my car a few times growing up – my parents weren't too happy about it – but I guess if it was a car no one cared about, it would be fun to do some damage to it."
Sounds like a resounding "yes" to me. And if the NHL needs a judge for a damage panel? I'm willing to volunteer.
A bus carrying the 24 people, including the SPHL’s Columbus Cottonmouths, rolled over Thursday afternoon. All were taken to hospital, but no one aboard the bus suffered life-threatening injuries.
The Columbus Cottonmouths were only minutes away from reaching their destination, the Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill., when the bus carrying the team rolled over, but all 24 people aboard the charter have escaped the accident without life-threatening injuries.
As a result of the crash, the bus everyone aboard the bus was taken to hospital, including two people who were trapped following the crash. In order to remove the two people who were trapped, firefighters on the scene had to cut holes in the top of the bus. The Journal-Star reported that only Dawlford and Cottonmouths goaltender Brandon Jaeger sustained injuries that did not allow them to be treated and released shortly thereafter.
Initially after the crash, the league had not announced any postponement for the weekend set between the Cottonmouths and Rivermen, but it was later determined that the game set to take place Friday would be played at another date. Despite many of the players being released from hospital without serious injury, it appears many of the players are nursing ailments that will likely keep them out of action for a few days.
Despite the Friday postponement, the Cottonmouths could be planning to suit up on Saturday. Rogers told Eminian that Columbus coach Jerome Bechard was “confident” he could bring in players for Saturday’s game.
“The Rivermen, (owner) Bart (Rogers) and (head coach) Jean-Guy (Trudel) asked what we needed, clothes, transportation,” Bechard told Barker. “They’re bringing us a meal at the hotel right now because we don’t have any of our belongings, no money, no phones, nothing. They’ve been really great. As far as the support from Peoria, I can’t say enough.”
Jonathan Huberdeau has missed the entire campaign and Aleksander Barkov has been out for nearly a month, and it could be a while yet before either return to the Panthers’ lineup.
The Florida Panthers’ attempt to build on one of the most successful seasons in franchise history has been marred by a slew of injuries to key players, and it could be a while yet before two of the team’s brightest young stars are back in the lineup.
Panthers interim coach and GM Tom Rowe said Thursday that Jonathan Huberdeau shouldn’t be expected back in the lineup anytime soon, and he stayed away from indicating a timeline for Aleksander Barkov, who has been out of action since midway though a Dec. 28 meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Asked about the possibility of the injuries to Huberdeau and Barkov being potentially season-ending, Rowe said that worry is there whenever a star player is out.
"Those are two franchise-type players and we're certainly not going to rush them back," Rowe said, according to NHL.com’s Alain Poupart. "They'll be back in the lineup when everybody feels they're ready to play. You're always concerned about it [being season-ending], but we're not consumed with it every day. We're moving forward and playing with the guys we have, and when they're ready to come back, they'll be welcome. It'll be a huge boost to us.”
The indication was that Huberdeau could potentially be back into action early in March, which would be slightly longer than originally expected. When Huberdeau first suffered the injury to his Achilles in the Panthers’ final pre-season game back in October, the expectation was that he would miss somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 months. An early-March return would put Huberdeau’s absence up to five months and would only allow him to get into action for a handful of games this season.
Huberdeau’s loss has already been impactful this season, as the Panthers have struggled greatly on offense with one of their top guns out of action. Huberdeau was coming off of a career-best 20-goal, 59-point season with the Panthers in 2015-16 and the 23-year-old was primed to take another step forward in his growth before being sidelined with the ailment. Without Huberdeau, the Panthers’ offense has mustered 111 goals this season, and only the New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes are averaging fewer goals per game.
The Panthers struggles without Huberdeau have been exacerbated by the additional loss of Barkov, who manned the top line alongside Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr for much of the 2015-16 campaign. At the time Barkov exited the lineup, he was Florida’s leading scorer with nine goals and 27 points in 36 games, with a five-point edge on second-place Jonathan Marchessault.
There is a bit more clarity on what is ailing Barkov, though. The initial report was that Barkov would be sidelined with a lower-body injury, but Rowe revealed the 21-year-old is dealing with an upper-body ailment. The exact nature of the injury hasn’t been announced, however.
Given Huberdeau won’t be back in the near future, the Panthers will have to hope Barkov is in line to make his return post-all-star break or shortly thereafter. Every game without both Huberdeau and Barkov is a tough one for Florida, and with only 35 games remaining on their schedule, the Panthers could be in tough to find their way back into the post-season.
The Jets have done a lot of things well since moving back to Winnipeg. Drafting and developing goalies has not been one of them.
When it comes to their goaltending, the Winnipeg Jets remind me a lot of the clueless prospect with the wicked slapshot. It’s great that he has a bomb from the blueline, but he has a lot of deficiencies in his game that are keeping him from getting better. So what does he do? He continues to work on his slapshot at the expense of the areas of his game that really need work.
In a desperation move that worked, at least in the short term, the Jets recalled veteran Ondrej Pavelec from the minors for their game against the Arizona Coyotes last night. After allowing a bad goal on the very first shot he faced, Pavelec stopped 30 of the next 32 he faced – including a candidate for save of the year - and helped deliver a much-needed victory to his team. Jets coach Paul Maurice hinted strongly that Pavelec had earned the start Saturday afternoon when the Jets host the St. Louis Blues.
And who knows what will happen? Perhaps the Jets will ride a rejuvenated Pavelec down the stretch after picking him up off the scrap heap, and into the playoffs the way the Minnesota Wild did with Devan Dubnyk two years ago. That move was every bit as desperate as the one the Jets made in turning to Pavelec. Dubnyk has emerged as a contender for the Vezina Trophy this year, proving that goalies can get back to the top of their game after hitting rock bottom. Mike Smith did the same thing. There is no shortage of examples.
But the deeper issue here is the Jets and how they’ve handled their goaltending. And that’s where the clueless prospect comparison comes into play. Since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta five years ago, the Jets have done a ton of good things. They’ve drafted and developed skaters very, very well and have a roster that should allow them to compete on most nights. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has not been afraid to make significant deals, he re-signed Dustin Byfuglien long-term when conventional thinking had him out of town on the first luxury jet and he stared down defenseman Jacob Trouba when he demanded a trade. The Jets have a terrific group of young players and prospects as well.
Yeah, but that goaltending, though. According to corsica.hockey, the Jets have had a save percentage of .905 since 2011-12, which is better only than the Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers. In that time, they’re the fifth-worst team in the NHL in goals-against per 60 minutes, despite the fact that they’re a very respectable 11th-best in the league in scoring chances against per 60 minutes.
And all the while, it seems that Cheveldayoff and the Jets have been whistling through the graveyard, not worrying too much or addressing the root problem. Since moving the Winnipeg, the Jets have used a total of six goaltenders in five-plus seasons – Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson, Al Montoya, Connor Hellebuyck, Chris Mason and Peter Mannino. That’s not very many, which would be a good thing if the Jets were at or near the top of the goaltending statistics. But they aren’t. And with the exception of 2015-15, the only season they’ve made the playoffs since moving to Winnipeg, they haven’t been.
In Cheveldayoff’s time, the Jets have drafted five goalies – Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, Jamie Phillips, Jason Kasdorf and Mikhail Berdin. Not one of them was chosen with a pick higher than 59th overall. In addition, he has traded for only two goalies, dealing for the negotiating rights to Jonas Gustavsson before he signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings, and dealing for Peter Budaj, who was left in the minors and never played a game for the Jets. His only free agent signing was Hutchinson.
Those are not the moves of an organization that is being proactive about its goaltending, either in the immediate future or the long-term. And when you ignore that aspect of your game, both from a drafting and developing standpoint, it’s bound to suffer and show up in the results. Back in our annual Future Watch edition in 2015, we at THN boldly predicted that based on their prospect crop, the Jets would win the Stanley Cup in 2019.
We're going to have to amend that because unless they do something bold to address their goaltending, the Jets can forget about winning the Cup. They’re going to continue to struggle to make the playoffs.