Bryan Smolinski, Radim Vrbata and Rene Borque also scored for Chicago (7-1), and Nikolai Khabibulin made 21 saves.
Marian Gaborik scored for the Wild (3-3).
Bryan Smolinski, Radim Vrbata and Rene Borque also scored for Chicago (7-1), and Nikolai Khabibulin made 21 saves.
Marian Gaborik scored for the Wild (3-3).
The Calgary Flames pick is off to a sizzling start in his NCAA career and already has a world junior gold medal. Meet him and other future NHLers in our weekly wrap
Talk about program building. Penn State was ranked No. 1 in the NCAA by one of two national polls this week – pretty remarkable since the Nittany Lions didn’t even have a Division 1 team until five years ago. The team has tougher games ahead of them, but they've already beaten ranked opponents this season and it will be interesting to see if Penn State can qualify for its first ever Frozen Four in the spring. On top of that, the biggest name in the 2017 draft got back on the ice this weekend, so with all that in mind, let’s take a trip around the world of prospects.
Adam Fox, D (Calgary): With 19 points in his first 15 games with Harvard, Fox has been one of the great surprises of the NCAA season. To hit the ground running as a freshman while also taking classes at the most famous university in the world? Pretty impressive.
“It’s kinda surreal,” Fox said. “You’re not going to get a better education than at Harvard. Knowing the history of people who have gone there is something I take a lot of pride in. Playing hockey there is an honor and I’m happy to do it.”
Fox’s course load includes classes in writing, economics and another entitled “Understanding Darwinism.” Perhaps the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder can do an essay on the evolution of the defenseman, as his offensive hops are what make him just as a dangerous as the 6-foot-4 monsters of the past.
“From a young age I’ve always been able to handle and move the puck,” Fox said. “But obviously I’m a defenseman, so I still take pride defensively and shutting it down back there.”
Calgary landed Fox 66th overall in the draft this past summer and though players of his size are just now becoming more prominent in the elite ranks, it was hard to ignore the smarts and puck movement Fox was utilizing from the point for the U.S. National Team Development Program last season. Still, it’s stunning to see how well the kid has fared in the ECAC, which tends to be stocked with older, stronger collegians.
“The coaching staff has really helped,” Fox said. “Playing exhibition games against college teams last year with the NTDP helped prepare me for the competition and our forwards are really skilled up front, so getting the puck to them is definitely good for me.”
And good for any forward wearing the same jersey as the blueliner. Fox helped Team USA win gold at the world juniors and now he has Harvard off to a great start, with the Crimson ranked sixth in the nation.
In the Pipeline
Denis Gurianov, RW (Dallas): Gurianov was great at the world juniors, using his speed and skill to burn opponents. Now back in the AHL with Texas, the Russian teen is back at it. Just check out this highlight, which looks eerily similar to the overtime play he made to win bronze over Sweden.
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C (Boston): Coming into college, the only question about ‘JFK’ was whether he could be a top offensive threat; we knew he was a great two-way player. But with seven goals in his past four games, the Boston U. sophomore is now a point-per-game player and the Terriers are on fire.
Brett Murray, LW (Buffalo): Penn State, as I mentioned, is rolling. And the Nittany Lions got even bigger recently when Murray joined early from the USHL. The 6-foot-5 power forward was playing great for Youngstown and decided to take on a new challenge in college. Murray picked up an assist in his NCAA debut.
Christian Fischer, RW (Arizona): The AHL player of the week, Fischer has been excellent for the Tucson Roadrunners in his first pro season. The power forward has seven points in his past four games and is now a point-per-gamer, sitting second in team scoring overall.
2017 Draft Stars
Nolan Patrick, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): It’s been a long time coming for Patrick, the consensus top prospect for 2017. The big, dominating center missed three months due to an undisclosed injury, but jumped right back in with a four-point night in his return against Kootenay. The best part? From the get-go, Patrick looked like he wanted to take over the game…and then he did.
Timothy Liljegren, D – Timra (Swe.): While Patrick was injured, Liljegren was loaned from Rogle in the SHL to the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-best circuit. While that sounds not-so-good, the highly-rated defenseman is playing big minutes for Timra, while still facing older, stronger competition. Scouts are getting a little nervous about his lack of production, however. This is already shaping up to be a very interesting draft year.
Micah Miller, C – Grand Rapids Thunderhawks (Minn. HS): With 38 points in 15 games, Miller is not messing around in high school. Fast, strong and hard-working, the St. Cloud State commit is just 5-foot-9, but don’t take him for granted or your team might get burned.
Conor Timmins, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): The Hounds are red-hot and Timmins has been a great driver from the blueline. The puckmoving defenseman has 35 points in 43 games and has such great ability and patience when he’s controlling the offensive play.
Dynamic Duo: Ivan Chechovich and D’Artagnan Joly of Baie-Comeau are making it fun to watch the Drakkar this year. Chechovich, who leads the team in scoring, has great skill and vision, while Joly is a big dude who can move well and also has nice hands. Chechovich plays center and has a five-game point streak going, while Joly plays right wing and has four points in his past four games.
2018 Draft Star
Quinn Hughes, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL): His late birthday means the under-18 star will get picked a year later than most of his cohorts, but that’s just another season of development for scouts to drool over. Hughes has been described as a Kris Letang type of defenseman, with great puckhandling abilities. The Michigan commit leads all NTDP blueliners with 26 points in 37 games.
The search is on for the next coach of the Islanders following the firing of Jack Capuano, and a familiar face could be in the mix after New York received permission to speak with Gerard Gallant.
Speaking to media Tuesday about the firing of coach Jack Capuano, Islanders GM Garth Snow said there was no clearcut timeline on when the organization would plan to bring in its next coach and replacement for current interim bench boss Doug Weight. That said, Snow reportedly isn’t wasting much time looking into his options.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Tuesday evening, mere hours after Capuano’s firing, that the Islanders have been granted permission to speak with former Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant about the vacant position behind the bench. However, in an interesting addition to the report, TSN’s Bob McKenzie said the request was made “some time ago,” which could mean weeks before the Islanders made the move to can Capuano.
That Snow is, or possibly was, considering Gallant for the position should come as no surprise. Gallant’s work behind the Panthers bench was fantastic, especially his work with the group during the 2015-16 season which saw Florida post the most wins in franchise history and finish atop the Atlantic Division.
It would be interesting to see what Gallant could do in New York, though, given how he turned around a Panthers team that had mustered only 29 wins two years prior. In his first season behind the bench, the Cats improved by 25 points and posted nine additional wins. That was followed by another nine-win improvement and another 12 points in the standings. The Panthers struggled early this season, which led to Gallant’s firing, but some saw Florida’s change in direction as a move made as much because of philosophy as it was the team’s on-ice performance.
Beyond Gallant’s recent track record of turning around struggling clubs, Gallant has a history with the Islanders organization spanning two seasons. In 2007, Gallant came aboard as an assistant with New York and he remained with the team until 2009, working under coaches Ted Nolan and Scott Gordon. Snow was in his first few years as the club’s GM during Gallant’s years as an assistant with the Islanders, and the two certainly have a relationship from that time with the club.
Turning around the Islanders won’t simply be about finding the right coach, though. New York’s off-season moves, which included letting Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen walk while dishing out big money for Andrew Ladd, haven’t paid off in the least and the inability to build around captain John Tavares has been apparent. The Islanders aren’t likely to simply hire the first former NHL bench boss they can find, either, and the process of hiring a coach is almost certain to take longer than a few days or weeks.
This is a crucial time for the Islanders, who looked ready to take a step forward but are instead sitting in the Eastern Conference basement. Whether Gallant lands the job or the New York chooses to go another direction, it’s not a decision the team will be making overnight.
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After giving up three goals in five games, the Capitals gave up eight in one on Monday night, but still don't have a regulation loss in 2017.
The Washington Capitals are hoping that history repeats itself. The last time goalie Braden Holtby was pulled in a game prior to Monday night’s wild 8-7 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals went on to win five straight games.
Monday night’s crazy encounter not withstanding, the Capitals have still been the hottest team in the league despite the loss, compiling a record of 9-0-1 in their past 10 and gaining at least a point in 13 of their past 14 games. They're also the only team in the NHL that has yet to lose a regulation game in 2017. That’s why they’re at the top of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.):
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Washington Capitals (2)
2. Minnesota Wild (6)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (1)
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (7)
5. Chicago Blackhawks (3)
6. Edmonton Oilers (16)
7. Toronto Maple Leafs (13)
8. Anaheim Ducks (8)
9. New Jersey Devils (25)
10. Vancouver Canucks (22)
Defenseman John Carlson, who missed the loss to Pittsburgh Monday night, will likely miss his second game of the season Thursday night against St. Louis…The Wild have a league-high 33 points in the road, including a point in 12 straight road games…The Penguins haven’t lost in regulation on home ice since Nov. 21, a span of 13 games…Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky had 47 goals between them last season, but got just their 12th, 13th and 14th in a 4-1 over Carolina Tuesday night…Good news for the Hawks – in Tuesday night’s win over Colorado, all five goals were scored by their bottom-six forwards…The Oilers are rolling, but Jordan Eberle isn’t. He hasn’t scored a goal in his past 18 games…Morgan Rielly, who has been the Leafs’ all-round best defenseman this season, will miss Thursday’s game against the Rangers and is out day-to-day with a leg injury…The Ducks haven’t given up more than two goals in a game in their past eight games…The Devils picked up seven of a possible eight points on a four-game road trip to get back into the hunt for a playoff spot…Only four teams in the NHL have zero or one regulation loss in their past 10 games. The Canucks (6-1-3) are one of them.
THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Detroit Red Wings (27)
12. San Jose Sharks (5)
13. Montreal Canadiens (9)
14. Calgary Flames (14)
15. Ottawa Senators (12)
16. New York Islanders (23)
17. New York Rangers (4)
18. Boston Bruins (11)
19. St. Louis Blues (15)
20. Carolina Hurricanes (10)
Darren Helm, out since mid-November with a shoulder injury, could be back in the Red Wings lineup this weekend…After missing the past two games with an upper-body injury, Joonas Donskoi was placed on the injury reserve list…Alex Galchenyuk had a goal in his first game back after missing 18 with an upper-body injury…The Flames are in the middle of the pack in penalty killing this season after finishing dead last in that category last season. And they need a better PK, since they’re on pace to be shorthanded 304 times this season, compared to just 233 last season…The Senators have the league leaders in hits – Mark Borowiecki with 197 – and takeaways – Mark Stone with 55. Erik Karlsson is tied for second in blocked shots with 110…After firing coach Jack Capuano, Islanders GM said he was, “not hiding from the fact that it starts with me.”…This is mind-boggling. Henrik Lundqvist has allowed 16 goals on 76 shots in his past seven periods of work for a save percentage of just .789. “It’s embarrassing, frustrating and disappointing,” Lundqvist said…Bruins star Patrice Bergeron is on pace for exactly half as many goals this season as he had in 2015-16. Last season, Bergeron had 32 and he’s on pace for 16…Vladimir Tarasenko, who had a seven-game goal drought earlier this season, has gone five without a goal. But what’s more concerning according to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, “he isn’t getting any chances.”…If the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, they can look to their play on the road as a major reason why. They’re just 6-12-6 away from the PNC Arena.
VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Los Angeles Kings (18)
22. Dallas Stars (26)
23. Philadelphia Flyers (20)
24. Florida Panthers (17)
25. Nashville Predators (21)
26. Tampa Bay Lightning (30)
27. Buffalo Sabres (19)
28. Winnipeg Jets (24)
29. Arizona Coyotes (28)
30. Colorado Avalanche (29
Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed Monday’s 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay with a stomach virus, but said he’ll be ready to go tonight against San Jose…Cody Eakin had a Gordie Howe hat trick in the Stars 7-6 win over the Rangers Tuesday night in his first game against the Rangers since earning a four-game suspension for bowling over Henrik Lundqvist Dec. 15…Wayne Simmonds of the Flyers recently announced his engagement and the Flyers are hoping that will spark them. After all, they won eight in a row after Claude Giroux announced his engagement Nov. 30…The Panthers are 9-8-7 since Tom Rowe took over behind the bench for a points percentage of .521, which is just slightly worse than the 11-10-1 record and .523 points percentage Gerard Gallant had as coach…The Predators are one of only two teams that are out of the playoffs despite having a positive goal differential. The other is Carolina…The Lightning hopes to have defenseman Victor Hedman back against the Sharks tomorrow night. He’s missed the past two games with an illness…First, the Sabres couldn’t score. Now they don’t know what to do when they score. In eight of their past 10 games they’ve scored first, but have won only three of those games…In what can only been seen as a desperation move, the Jets will give Ondrej Pavelec his first start of this season tonight against Arizona…The Coyotes, who play in Winnipeg tonight, are tied for last in the league in road wins this season with Vancouver. They have five each…It’s not easy to be this bad in today’s parity-driven NHL, but the Avs are finding a way to do it.
With Morgan Rielly sidelined, another one of Toronto's top defensemen comes to the fore. Can Gardiner continue to play strong with a bigger burden on him?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been remarkably healthy this season – must be all that kid blood – but when Morgan Rielly went down with a leg injury early against Buffalo, the squad was put to the test. As the remaining left-shooting D-men, Jake Gardiner and Matt Hunwick were tasked the most. And Gardiner, who came into the NHL as a bit of a wild horse on the back end, proved why he is being trusted more this season.
“He was huge,” said center Auston Matthews. “Going down to five ‘D,’ he came up big. That was really positive for us, being able to shut them down and come out with a win.”
Gardiner ended up playing 29:24, the most any Maple Leaf has played in a game this season. And they seemed like hard minutes; Toronto had to come back from a 2-0 deficit, then defend right to the final buzzer as the Sabres unsuccessfully (but gamely) attempted to tie a 4-3 game. But for Gardiner, making simple plays and letting the forwards push the pace was the key: in the end, Toronto dominated possession 60-40.
“I don’t feel terribly tired,” he said afterwards. “It depends on the game – you play 29 minutes but it’s all in the offensive zone, but another game it’s all in the defensive zone, so it just depends.”
The evolution of Gardiner has been interesting to witness. He’s the best possession player on the team this year and has been one of the best for the past few seasons. He’s a little more responsible with the puck now and is on pace to smash his previous season high for points (his record is 31 and right now he’s at 22 with half a season to go), while playing the same amount of minutes he has been for the past couple years.
“My stats are better than they usually are, offensively,” Gardiner said. “But more importantly, I feel like I’m a more all-around player, playing against tougher competition at times. My goal was to be more consistent and I think I’ve done that.”
Gardiner was a hot-shot prospect back in his Minnesota high school days, playing for the Minnetonka Skippers. High school games in the state run 17-minute periods and teams aren’t very deep, which means top players get a lot more ice time than they would elsewhere. I asked Gardiner if the Buffalo game reminded him of his time with the Skippers and he had a laugh.
“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “I played over half the game back in the day, for sure.”
Rielly is now listed as day-to-day and will miss Toronto’s game against the New York Rangers on Thursday. Given how much offense the Rangers can put up, this will be another good challenge for Gardiner, even though he won’t have to play as many minutes. Some folks have questioned whether or not Rielly is a No. 1 defenseman and while I feel he has the skills and just need a little more help (his partner is Nikita Zaitsev, an NHL rookie, albeit a good one), it certainly wouldn’t hurt the Leafs to have Gardiner evolve even further when it comes to defensive play. The spotlight will be on Gardiner for the short term, so let’s see what he can do.