Kovalchuk meeting in California, Lamoriello zings reporters

kovalchuk10.jpgIt wouldn’t be a complete day in the NHL off-season without some update on what’s going on with Ilya Kovalchuk. While we saw the rumors explode yesterday that Kovalchuk was headed to Los Angeles today to sign with the Kings, only to have them immediately shot down by mostly everyone, he is indeed in LA nonetheless. The LA Kings Insider Rich Hammond gives us the update with what could be looked into with Kovalchuk’s meeting with Kings GM Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles.

I noticed that Dean Lombardi didn’t repeat his very first comment, which was that Kovalchuk was visiting “just like any free agent would.” Well, I’ve been covering Lombardi’s transactions for four years, and this is the first I’ve heard of it. I know, for a fact, that Rob Scuderi didn’t come to L.A. when he signed last summer. So Kovalchuk’s mere presence here would suggest that there’s reason for mutual optimism between the Kings and Kovalchuk, given that they presumably seek to get a deal done, but it’s no slam dunk.

Optimism is a wonderful thing to have. I’m sure that Ilya doesn’t need to be sold on how wonderful southern California can be and the kind of city Los Angeles can be for a superstar that has great success there. Heck, just have him talk to Wayne Gretzky or Magic Johnson or Kobe Bryant. That’s not to say that Rob Scuderi and Ilya Kovalchuk are even on the same planet as far as being a hotly pursued free agent go, however. The one thing about Scuderi and Kovalchuk that you could argue is similar is that they both look like obvious fits for the Kings that need to be addressed.

As for the New Jersey Devils, you know the other team in pursuit of Kovalchuk, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello was asked for an update on how things are going in negotiations and came back with a classic zinger.

Nothing new on the Ilya Kovalchuk front.

“Everything is the same as it was the last three or four days,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “I don’t have anything to add to that.”

Lamoriello was asked if he is philosophically against signing a player to a contract 10 years or longer.

“I don’t think philosophically,” he responded.

I don’t think we can blame Lou for being a bit cranky with being asked about Kovalchuk so much, but if it’s going to lead to him landing a position as host of NHL celebrity roasts, I am all for it. That said, if Kovalchuk’s agent Jay Grossman and Kovalchuk himself are looking for a great day to make a news splash signing a contract, especially if it were to be with the Kings (Hollywood and all that), doing it on Wednesday would be ideal. There’s little to nothing sports-wise going on as Major League Baseball is on its All-Star break and the only thing attempting to hog the attention of sports fans will be the supremely lame ESPY Awards.  Do it Ilya, grab that spotlight by the ears and yank.

Scroll Down For:

    Flyers enter bye week with major goaltending questions

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08: Goalie Steve Mason #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on in the first period against the Edmonton Oilers at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    The Philadelphia Flyers went into their bye week with just three wins in their last 14 games.

    When they come out of it, they might also be out of a playoff spot.

    The Flyers don’t play again until Saturday against New Jersey. They’re only one point clear of Carolina for the second wild-card spot, and the Hurricanes are surging.

    “It’s definitely a tough stretch right now,” Flyers goalie Steve Mason said, per CSN Philly. “Not proud of the way things are going. Kind of have to step back here and get away for a few days, which will be good I think at this point in time. Just come back and reset.”

    Mason allowed five goals on just 17 shots in Sunday’s 5-0 loss to Washington. It was the second straight game he didn’t finish; he also got pulled Thursday against Vancouver.

    Looking ahead, if the Flyers don’t get better goaltending from one of Mason or Michal Neuvirth, they may have to consider recalling Anthony Stolarz from the AHL. Mason’s save percentage has fallen all the way to .897, and Neuvirth’s is even lower at .877.

    Stolarz, 22, only made two starts when he was up with the big club, but both were wins and one was a shutout. When he was reassigned to Lehigh Valley of the AHL, he left with a .938 save percentage.

    One even wonders if GM Ron Hextall might spend part of the bye week making calls to his counterparts around the league. Could the Blues or Stars be interested in Mason or Neuvirth?

    At the very least, it wouldn’t hurt for Hextall to find out, if he hasn’t already. Because at this point, it seems very unlikely that both Mason and Neuvirth will be back with the Flyers next year. Each is a pending unrestricted free agent, and Stolarz has made a pretty strong case to be up in the show.

    Related: Jake Allen knows he needs to be better

    Rangers lose Raanta, but get Zibanejad back from broken leg

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers celebrates his first period goal against the Detroit Red Wings and is joined by Chris Kreider #20 at Madison Square Garden on October 19, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Getty
    2 Comments

    Busy little Monday for the Rangers.

    First, the club announced forward Marek Hrivik cleared waivers and was sent to AHL Hartford — paving the way for Mika Zibanejad to return from his broken leg — then announced goalie Antti Raanta would miss the next 7-10 days with the lower-body injury suffered against Montreal over the weekend.

    Plenty to unpack here.

    Let’s begin with Zibanejad, acquired this offseason in the Derick Brassard trade. The 23-year-old suffered his broken leg back on Nov. 20 and has missed the last 26 games as a result — so, needless to say, New York is glad to have him back. He’d been producing very well at the time of his injury, with five goals and 15 points in his first 19 games as a Blueshirt.

    But for all the excitement about his return, enthusiasm has to be dampened a bit by the Raanta injury.

    Arguably the best backup in the NHL this season, Raanta’s gone 10-4-0 with a 2.23 GAA and .923 save percentage. He’s done a terrific job of spelling Henrik Lundqvist when called upon, and even had a brief stint of starts in late December before King Henrik resumed No. 1 duties.

    With Raanta sidelined until the All-Star break, the Rangers have recalled Magnus Hellberg from the AHL.

    Staal-Lindholm-McGinn line doing the business in Carolina

    DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 21:  Brock McGinn #23 of the Carolina Hurricanes awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on October 21, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Hurricanes defeated the Avalanche 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Getty
    1 Comment

    Bill Peters has found something in the Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm and Brock McGinn trio.

    The line, formed just a short while ago, erupted for 10 points in Saturday’s 7-4 win over the Isles. McGinn went on to capture third star of the week honors and, together, the unit has been a major reason Carolina’s knocking on the door of a playoff spot.

    “They’re doing it playing against everybody’s best at home,” Peters said of the Staal-Lindholm-McGinn line, per the New York Daily News. “They’re taking on tough matchups each and every shift and more often than not, they win it.”

    Given that Staal, the club’s top defensive center, anchors the line, Peters often uses it against the opposition’s top group. So full credit has to go to Lindholm and McGinn, especially given their relative inexperience — both are just 22 years old and, coming into this season, McGinn had all of 21 games of NHL experience.

    He’s a pretty good story, to say the least. The youngest of the McGinn brothers — Jamie currently plays for Arizona, Tye is with the Lightning organization — Brock was the 47th overall pick in 2012, and has steadily progressed from a good scorer in junior, to a good scorer at the AHL level, to a good scorer at the NHL level.

    McGinn now has 12 points in 27 games with the ‘Canes this season.

    “Our scouts stepped up and took [McGinn] in the second round. He’s a little under-sized and he’s maybe not the fastest guy, but he’s got a lot of hockey player in him,” Peters explained, per the ‘Canes website. “He’s a very courageous kid, a very intelligent player, a lot of old school in him. He’s starting to play with way more pace now, which is a huge credit to him.”

    As mentioned above, the ‘Canes are in a great spot right now. They head into today’s action just one point back of Philly for the final wild card spot in the East, but with three games in hand.

    Carolina could vault the Flyers with a result against Columbus on Tuesday. It would be another big step in trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

    More good times in Washington, as Backstrom named first star of the week

    Nicklas Backstrom
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    The Caps have won nine in a row and catapulted to top spot in the NHL with 63 points, one ahead of second-place Columbus.

    Suffice to say, folks are feelin’ fine in D.C.

    Those good vibes continued on Monday, as center Nicklas Backstrom was named the NHL’s first star of the week.

    More:

    Backstrom led the League in assists and points with 3-7—10 in four contests as the Capitals won all four games to extend their overall winning streak to nine contests and propel Washington to the top of the NHL standings (29-9-5, 63 points).

    Backstrom registered multiple points in all four games starting with one goal and one assist in a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 9. On Jan. 11, he recorded one goal and three assists in a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, followed by one goal and one assist in a 6-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 13. Backstrom finished the week by notching two assists in a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 15.

    In his 10th season, all with the Capitals, the 29-year-old Galve, Sweden native leads the Capitals and is tied for 10th in League scoring with 42 points (12-30—42 in 43 GP).

    Backstrom, of course, wasn’t the only big story in Washington last week. Captain Alex Ovechkin scored his 1,000th career point on Wednesday, becoming the first player in franchise history to hit that mark.

    The only negative thing coming out of D.C. is that John Carlson, who leads all Caps d-men in scoring, is out for today’s game versus Pittsburgh. Carlson’s absence will be brief, though, as head coach Barry Trotz expects him back in the lineup later this week.