2010 NHL free agency: Kings sign Alexei Ponikarovsky

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alexeiponikarovsky.jpgWhile this off-season has been mostly a let down for the Los Angeles Kings coming up short in efforts to land Dan Hamhuis, Paul Martin and most famously Ilya Kovalchuk, they’ve finally landed a scoring forward to help out. The Kings announced today that they’ve signed Ukrainian power forward Alexei Ponikarovsky to a one-year contract. Terms of the deal are not immediately known. We’ll update this post later on when they become available.

(Update: TSN’s Darren Dreger reports it’s a $3 million deal with a $200,000 signing bonus.)

Ponikarovsky is a big boy a 6’4″ 229 pounds as well as a slick skater. Unfortunately for Penguins fans, when Ponikarovsky was acquired by them last season, he didn’t make much use of his body offensively and soured his free agent value scoring just two goals and nine points with the Penguins in 16 games. In the playoffs he wasn’t much better scoring just one goal and earning five points.

In his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ponikarovsky was a steady 20-goal guy and able to notch anywhere between 30-40 assists per season. He’ll be counted on to be the Kings’ second line winger behind Ryan Smyth and while he’ll essentially be the ideal replacement for losing Alex Frolov, his goal scoring ability and touch is a bit behind what Frolov could do, although Ponikarovsky’s ability to set players up is much better. The Kings will be counting heavily upon Ponikarovsky to help keep scoring levels up for the blossoming team but one of his underrated qualities is his ability to defend better, something Alexander Frolov struggled mightily with and something that seemed to frustrate Kings coach Terry Murray.

Don’t look now, but the Red Wings have won five straight

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 21: Gustav Nyquist #14 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates his third period goal with teammates while playing the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena on October 21, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 5-3. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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A 26th straight playoff appearance? It seemed, when this season began, that not many were giving the Detroit Red Wings much of a chance to accomplish the feat.

Time will tell.

Despite their doubters, the Red Wings have now won five straight games, following a pretty uninspiring start with back-to-back losses in Florida to begin the season.

Their latest win came Tuesday, as the Red Wings beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2. (For Carolina, that wraps up a six-game road trip to begin the season.)

Dylan Larkin, who had 23 goals as a rookie in 2015-16, finally got his first two goals of this season, scoring twice against the Hurricanes.

So far, 11 players on their roster have scored, with Darren Helm leading the way. Nineteen of 20 players have also recorded at least a single point. As a team, they’ve been able to extend leads against the opposition over the course of this streak, which is a welcomed change for coach Jeff Blashill.

“I said that to the coaching staff after the game,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “That’s the biggest difference – we score the fourth goal this year. So now you’ve got a two-goal cushion and if something goes the wrong way, you’re still fine.

“It’s a huge difference.”

A big help has been the play of their goalies — Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek.

As per stats.hockeyanalysis.com, the Red Wings currently have the second best save percentage (95.95) at five-on-five through six games, not to mention the 10th best shooting percentage (9.86).

Howard, who was part of trade speculation last season, has allowed only a single goal on 63 shots.

So far, so good for the Red Wings.

Not many seemed optimistic about this team as the season approached.

Sure, the Red Wings had made 25 consecutive playoff appearances, but they also entered this season with an older Henrik Zetterberg, and the health of Niklas Kronwall (click here) and Jonathan Ericsson (click here) in question.

They are also without Pavel Datsyuk, who returned to Russia. But the Red Wings tried to make up for that loss by signing Frans Nielsen.

Pundits and prognosticators, including the overwhelming majority at PHT, said the Red Wings’ playoff streak would be snapped this season.

A winning streak this early might not be enough to make doubters think twice.

PHT Morning Skate: Pittsburgh zoo has some fun with their penguin exhibit


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Ben Bishop has an uncertain future with Tamp Bay, but he’s OK with that. (ESPN)

–Four things you didn’t know about the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2016. (HHOF.com)

–How hard is it to coach a young roster? Coyotes coach Dave Tippett tackles that in a Q & A with NHL.com.

–Watch the highlights from last night’s wild game between the Flyers and Sabres. (Top)

–After a couple of tough seasons, the Avalanche are showing some promise. (Sportsnet)

–The Pittsburgh zoo had a little bit of fun with their penguin exhibit:

–That’s an interesting gift to give a former player:

Sharks finally solve Gibson in OT to defeat rival Ducks

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Talk about perfect timing.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored his first goal of the season on Tuesday, doing so in overtime to lift the San Jose Sharks past the goaltending of John Gibson in a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Facing off against their California rivals for the first time this season, the Sharks dominated puck possession and on the shot clock. Had it not been for the play of Gibson, this one could’ve been a lopsided win for San Jose.

Gibson replaced Jonathan Bernier to begin the second period. Bernier left the game with an upper-body injury.

In relief, Gibson made 24 saves on 25 shots. Vlasic was the only San Jose player to get the puck past him, but not before the Ducks managed to steal a single point.

The Ducks recorded the single point, but did so faced with a short-handed lineup as the game continued. Not only did Bernier leave the game, but so, too, did Ryan Getzlaf, who didn’t play a shift in the third period.

He left with an upper-body injury, as per the Ducks, who at the time listed his return as questionable.

Elliott backstops Flames to victory in his return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

So, it seems Jake Allen was onto something.

The St. Louis Blues goalie noted a few days ago that Calgary Flames fans shouldn’t be worried about Brian Elliott despite his early-season struggles.

Well, Elliott has since put together strong performances in back-to-back games against Central Division opponents from Chicago and then St. Louis.

After earning a shootout win over the Blackhawks on Monday, Elliott was put back in the Calgary net to finish off the back-to-back road set.

Facing his former team, Elliott made 23 saves on 24 shots and the Flames recorded a 4-1 victory. It was a special return to St. Louis for Elliott, who spent five seasons with the Blues.

“I saw that on the schedule from a while ago in the summer,” Elliott told NHL.com. “You want to come back here. I had so much fun playing in front of these fans in this building and wanted to do it again even though it was another team. The guys did a heck of a job in front of me to get that win for me.”

Not a bad trip for the Flames, with a maximum four points against two teams considered to be contenders in the Western Conference.

“I thought we were good in front of him, too,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan told the Calgary Herald. “I thought we kept a lot of the stuff to the outside, but he made some big saves, especially at the end, when we knew their push was coming.

“I thought that was when he was his best. And that’s what you need — we put ourselves in position to win and then he carried us through.”