New Columbus coach thinks he can turn things around for Steve Mason, Nikita Filatov

scottarnielcoach.jpgThe Columbus Blue Jackets are hoping for an improved output in 2010-11 after a horrific 09-10 campaign, even though they haven’t added much in terms of talent. The Blue Jackets are pinning their hopes on the internal improvement that could come from adding new head coach Scott Arniel.

The question is, can Arniel save the day for his hockey team, much like his predecessor Ken Hitchcock helped thwart a shoplifter?

NHL.com caught up with Arniel today, asking him if he could improve the productivity of two talented but troubled players: goalie Steve Mason and prospect Nikita Filatov.

While Arniel “isn’t making any promises,” he did notice a few signs of possible improvement from Calder winner and Vezina candidate turned below average second year netminder Steve Mason.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is he’s taken on his conditioning, taking it to another level, and he’s worked hard this summer,” Arniel told NHL.com. “He spent time with goalie coach Dave Rook in London (Ont.) and he got in here early and looked good. I think after that success in his first year, he got very busy in the offseason and probably didn’t delegate the right amount of time to his training and it might have affected him early on in the season with the injuries. But he recognized that and it’s one area he’s looking after.

“I’ve told the guys that they need to control what they can control and to me that’s being in tip-top shape and working your butt off. From everything I’ve heard and seen so far, Steve has done just that.”

Thumbnail image for Steve Mason.jpgAs the NHL.com story pointed out, Mason’s issue might have been the fact that the league exploited his weak glove after gaining more video-based knowledge as the young goalie made more appearances. While some might wonder if Mason’s biggest issue is talent, Filatov’s problem might be between his ears. While positive actions will matter a lot more than optimistic words, Arniel also had some nice things to say about the talented Russian.

“Nikita has to come in here and earn a spot on our hockey team,” Arniel said. “There were some ruffled feathers last year by his departure to go back to Russia, and it certainly didn’t work out the way he had hoped. He didn’t have the success he thought he was going to have and I think he got humbled a little bit by it. I’ve had a really good talk with him and he wants to play here, he wants to make this work for him. He knows that if he doesn’t make the hockey team that he’ll go to Springfield (in the American Hockey League). We can use his offense if he comes in and buys in to what everyone else is doing.”

Then again, it’s not like the new coach is going to trash high-end prospects, especially in early September. It might not mean anything concrete, but the mere possibility that the team might have some much-needed stability should hearten Blue Jackets fans.

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    WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 3

    Washington Capitals left wing Andre Burakovsky (65) fires a shot past Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) during the second period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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    There’s only one game on the docket tonight, but it’s a marquee matchup.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals split their games in DC and now switch to Pittsburgh for Game 3. We’ve seen great work from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom and maybe especially Braden Holtby so far … not to mention a considerable cast of supporting characters.

    Which team will take a 2-1 lead in this captivating series?

    We’ll find out on NBCSN. You can stream the game live via the link below as well:

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are Game 5 start times for all four series this coming weekend

    St. Louis Blues defenseman Colton Parayko (55) and Dallas Stars left wing Patrick Sharp (10) tangle during the second period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    When it comes to arranging your life for maximum playoff viewership, it’s never too early to plan.

    The weekend may seem like a distant cry from this Monday evening, but imagine all the bruising hits, circus saves and beautiful goals you’ll get to see and share a hearty smile.

    Here’s the full rundown for when each Game 5 will start … with the Nashville Predators – San Jose Sharks series needing at least one Preds win to drop the “if necessary” disclaimer (via the NHL):

    · The start time for Game 5 of the Second Round series between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues has been set for 1 p.m. ET/Noon CT on Saturday, May 7, in Dallas. The game will be broadcast exclusively on NBC in the U.S. In Canada, the game will be on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.

    · The start time for Game 5 of the Second Round series between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins has been set for 7:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 7, in Washington. The game will be broadcast exclusively on NBC in the U.S. In Canada, the game will be on CBC and TVA Sports.

    · The start time for Game 5 of the Second Round series between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators, if necessary, has been set for 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT/7 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 7, in San Jose. The game would be televised exclusively on NBCSN in the U.S. In Canada, the game would be on CBC and TVA Sports.

    · The start time for Game 5 of the Second Round series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders has been set for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 8, in Tampa Bay. The game will be broadcast exclusively on NBC in the U.S. In Canada, the game will be on Sportsnet and TVA Sports.

    After ‘rough year,’ Kronwall seeking options for ailing knee

    Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) is tripped up by Detroit Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall (55), of Sweden, during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Detroit. The Red Wings defeated the Jets 3-2. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
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    Coming off one of the worst seasons in an otherwise solid — and lengthy — career, Detroit d-man Niklas Kronwall is already looking to ensure the knee issues that plagued him won’t continue on into 2016-17.

    Kronwall is “getting opinions” about how to fix the knee, Wings GM Ken Holland told the Detroit Free Press. The injury limited the Swedish rearguard to just 64 games played — and those 64 games were largely played with Kronwall not close to 100 percent.

    More, from the Free Press:

    At 35, Kronwall is showing the wear and tear of being, at his best, a hard-hitting workhorse defenseman. Productionwise, he had the lowest numbers of his career since 2006-07, scoring just three goals and finishing with just 26 points in 64 games. (Even during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he had five goals and 29 points in 48 games.) His minus-21 was eye-popping.

    “It’s been a rough year in a lot of ways,” Kronwall said. “Definitely, a summer of good training is the first thing that you need, and the rest of it will play out as you go along.”

    The Wings will be hopeful Kronwall can return to form.

    He’s still got plenty of time left on his current deal — three more years, at a $4.75M cap hit — and is still considered a key part to the Red Wings defense, which wasn’t great this year and doesn’t project to be a heckua lot better next year.

    If Kronwall can’t get back to form, it could push Holland even harder to make a trade to beef up the blueline.

    Halak practices fully, hoping to be back soon

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    Jaroslav Halak took a major step in his return from a groin injury on Monday, participating in a full practice with his Islander teammates ahead of tomorrow’s Game 3 against the Lightning.

    “He’s progressing,” head coach Jack Capuano said, per the Isles’ website. “I don’t know how far or where he is or when he could play, but I know that having him on the ice going through a full practice, but again it’s about conditioning and timing with goaltenders and their movement, but he’s progressing and it’s great to see.

    “I don’t have a timetable yet though.”

    Halak hasn’t played in nearly two months — he suffered his groin injury on Mar. 8. His initial timetable for return was 6-8 weeks, and Tuesday will mark his eighth week out of action.

    It seems highly unlikely Halak will be an option — at least in terms of starting — anytime soon. He told the Isles’ site the lengthy layoff means it now feels “like the beginning of the season for me,” and Thomas Greiss has performed well through the playoffs thus far, posting a .937 save percentage and 2.06 GAA.

    If anything, Halak’s goal could be to get in good enough shape to serve as Greiss’ backup at some point. J.F. Berube has filled that role during the postseason, but has yet to see any action.

    Prior to getting hurt, Halak was New York’s No. 1 netminder and played reasonably well, posting a .919 save percentage and 2.30 GAA in 36 starts.