Tonight's games: They can't all be gems

Not to be ungrateful, NHL, because you are giving fans 8 games tonight but … wow. There isn’t one game that jumps out at me as a barn burner. Really, I hate to say it, but the barn is frozen. Anyway, let’s take a look at tonight’s weak sauce slate of games.

Usually, I’ll choose the best game(s) of the night but … yuck. Let’s just go in order.

Toronto Maple Leafs (19-32-12, 50 pts) at Ottawa Senators (36-25-4, 76 pts) 7:00 PM ET

So Toronto is now the worst team in the Eastern Conference since the Hurricanes decided to start playing hockey again for whatever reason. Really, with Edmonton winning a game for once, things are looking really good for the draft lottery hopes of the … oh, right the Bruins have those picks. Oops.

New York Rangers (29-27-8, 66 pts) at Washington Capitals (43-13-8, 94 pts) 7:00 PM ET

I’m guessing it would be better for Marian Gaborik just to sit this one out; the Caps are an absolutely ridiculous 24-3-3 at home this season.

Carolina Hurricanes (26-30-7, 59 pts) at Florida Panthers (25-28-10, 60 pts) 7:00 PM ET

Look at you, Carolina! Now you can be at the Panthers’ level of being just bad enough to barely miss the playoffs.

Rest of the games after the jump

Atlanta Thrashers  (28-24-10, 66 pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning  (26-26-11, 63 pts) 7:30 PM ET

The Thrashers are, at this moment, the 8th seed in the East. I imagine the Lightning aren’t terribly thrilled with their 5 game losing streak right now, but at least they don’t have to pretend to watch Saw III anymore.

Anaheim Ducks (30-26-7, 67 pts) at Phoenix Coyotes (38-22-5, 81 pts) 8:00 PM ET

If the Coyotes want to make their feel-good story last more than one round of the playoffs, they’re going to need to hold onto the fourth seed. Twenty-three out of the team’s 38 wins have come in what you’d think would be a slightly depressing home arena.

St. Louis Blues (30-25-9, 69 pts) at Colorado Avalanche (36-22-6, 78 pts) 9:00 PM ET

The Blues are just strange because they’re much better on the road (18 wins) than at home (12 wins, more losses). After Craig “Ice Girls fan” Anderson was left off of Team USA, I think that the goofy but talented goalie deserves a playoff run as a consolation prize.

Montreal Canadiens (30-29-6, 66 pts) at Los Angeles Kings (38-21-4, 80 pts) 10:00 PM ET

Is it reasonable to say that the Pacific division is still the toughest division in the NHL? The Sharks are obviously dangerous, the Kings and Coyotes look like legit playoff teams and even though the Ducks/Stars seem a bit hapless they have the talent to upset anyone. The Kings could probably contend for a division title if they were in the Northwest.

Columbus Blue Jackets  (25-28-11, 61 pts) at San Jose Sharks (41-14-9, 91 pts) 10:30 PM ET

Obviously, the playoff seeding will probably change a lot in the next 18 or so games, but if I were San Jose (or any team) I’d much rather take my chances against the Nashville Predators than the Detroit Red Wings. As for Columbus, how’s that reactionary coach firing treating you?

Follow Pro Hockey Talk on Twitter

Scroll Down For:

    After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

    Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

    Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

    Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

    With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

    Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

    Report: Dwight King could be KHL-bound

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    Dwight King, the burly forward that won a pair of Stanley Cups in Los Angeles, may be on his way to Russia.

    Per News 1130 in Vancouver, King is set to sign in the KHL after failing to land a contract this summer. The 28-year-old finished last season in Montreal after spending the first seven years of his NHL career in Los Angeles.

    For a time, King was an effective skater for L.A. He posted a career-high 15 goals and 30 points during the ’13-14 campaign, and followed that up with a 13-goal, 26-point effort the year following. He also had a nice showing during the Kings’ 2014 Cup run, finishing with 11 points in 26 games.

    King’s biggest issue is his skating ability. At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, he was never the fleetest of foot, but had been working on his speed this offseason.

    More, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

    King is still looking for work after finishing the season in Montreal. There are a few Western Conference teams poking around.

    “I’m just looking for an opportunity at this point. I’m going to be on the ice more this year, doing a little more skills and skating. Any bit of improvement I can find.”

    King is going to try a couple new teachers, then decide which route to take. One also works with former teammate (and new Golden Knight) Brayden McNabb. King is quite the physical specimen, but will take a new approach. He regularly played at 230–231 pounds, but is going to go to 225–226. And he believes the Western Conference is better for him.

    News 1130 reported that Vancouver had shown “mild interest” in King, who just wrapped a three-year $5.85 million deal with a $1.95M cap hit.

    King appeared in 17 games for the Habs after being picked up at the deadline last season, scoring once. He went pointless in six playoff games.

    McLellan excited about addition of ‘utility player’ Strome

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    To hear Todd McLellan explain it, Ryan Strome could be wearing many hats next season.

    That’s what the Oilers head coach said on Wednesday of the former Isles forward, acquired earlier this summer in the Jordan Eberle trade. McLellan expressed excitement over Strome’s ability to play both center and wing.

    “He (Strome) is a utility player,” McLellan said, per the Sun. “He has the ability to play center and has in the past. He’s been able to win faceoffs and he’s comfortable on the wing. We have the luxury of moving players around, and as the fans here know, we like to do that.”

    That last sentence is clearly a reference to Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has flipped back and forth between playing as Edmonton’s No. 2 center and as a winger on the top line alongside Connor McDavid. The talented German’s had success at both, which is why Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is still unsure if Draisaitl is a center or a winger.

    More: Strome pumped at prospect of playing with Draisaitl, McDavid

    As for Strome, he certainly gives Edmonton some flexibility — on the ice, and on the books.

    With a $2.5 million cap hit (compared to Eberle’s $6M), he’s provided Chiarelli with more cap space to get the Draisaitl contract done. And there’s also the potential for him to be a real bargain. Remember, Strome is only two years removed from a sophomore campaign in which he scored 17 goals and 50 points in 81 contests. His subsequent two years with the Isles were a disappointment, but the talent is still there.

    The wildcard in all this is the fact that Strome’s heading into a contract year. He’ll be a restricted free agent next July, so the ’17-18 campaign will go a long way in determining his value… and, potentially, his future in Edmonton.

    McDavid disappointed at NHL decision to skip Olympics

    7 Comments

    TORONTO (AP) Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said he’s disappointed the NHL won’t be sending players to the Winter Olympic in South Korea.

    “It would have been a special group, and you’re just hopeful to be a part of it,” McDavid told reporters at a charity event Wednesday. “It’s disappointing, but that’s the way it is. You want to be able to represent your country on the highest stage, and the Olympics is obviously the highest stage possible.”

    McDavid’s comments came a day after Hockey Canada announced it was looking for non-NHL talent for Canada’s roster in Pyeongchang.

    Sean Burke, the team’s GM, said Tuesday the bulk of Canada’s team will come from players based in Europe.

    The NHL’s reasons not to participate in the upcoming Games include disagreements over costs as well as problems accommodating the Games during its regular season.

    When asked whether there was the possibility of getting permission from the Oilers to attend the Olympics, McDavid was non-committal.

    “I’m not too involved in all that stuff,” he said.

    The NHL Players Association has said the league’s decision is “short-sighted.”

    The NHL allowed its players to compete in every Olympics since 1998 Nagano Games, and Canada was won three of the last four gold medals.