Opening night roster choices in Vancouver, New Jersey, LA, and Philly cause a stir

With teams setting their final rosters for the start of the season, some of the teams with salary cap issues are making what appear to be curious moves but may ultimately prove to be nothing more than paper shuffling for the bookkeepers.

coryschneider1.jpgIn Vancouver, the Canucks recalled defenseman Lee Sweatt while sending goalie Cory Schneider and forwards Jeff Tambellini and Alexandre Bolduc to Manitoba in the AHL. In actuality, sending Schneider and keeping rookie Swedish goalie Eddie Lack on the roster helps give the Canucks a few more days to figure out their more-realistic salary cap situation since they won’t play their first game until Saturday.

While rookie Cody Hodgson is on the roster now, expect him to be headed to Manitoba by Saturday as well so the Canucks will have their actual game-ready crew set to go. It’s a fun dance to do when dealing with the cap.

In New Jersey, the Devils made a surprising move sending rookie defenseman Matt Taormina to Albany in the AHL while recalling rookie center Adam Henrique. Henrique didn’t play in any Devils preseason games and initially appeared to be an early cut in camp.

Instead, he’s back on the roster for the time being and making sure the Devils are $35,835 below the salary cap with Bryce Salvador and Anssi Salmela officially put on LTIR.You can get a pretty sweet car for that amount of money, but not another player as the Devils roster, as we talked about yesterday, is at 20 players.

Some Devils followers, like John Fischer of In Lou We Trust, braydenschenn3.jpggoalies.

As for the Los Angeles Kings, you might actually need a program on opening night to figure out who some of the players are. While the Kings didn’t have a lot of roster turnover to speak of in the off-season, training camp brought through a lot of new faces that will make their debuts with the team.

Among them, former first round pick centerman Brayden Schenn, defenseman Jake Muzzin, and forwards Kevin Westgarth, Andrei Loktionov, Trevor Lewis, and Kyle Clifford. If you’re a fan of the AHL Manchester Monarchs you’ll know a lot of those guys, but chances are the youth movement in Los Angeles will take you by surprise. The most surprising of this group are Muzzin and Clifford. Head coach Terry Murray will certainly have his options available to him to juggle things as the pressure to build off last year’s playoff appearance will certainly be high.

sergeibobrovsky1.jpgIn Philadelphia, Ian Laperriere’s potentially season-ending news about dealing with post-concussion syndrome is causing many hearts to sink, but through that a new name has emerged as a potential cult hero. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is already getting a lot of love from Philly fans for making the team in Michael Leighton’s absence. Given how tenuous the situation in goal can be in Philly, Bobrovsky could just end up being the starter at some point this season. Meanwhile, forward Andreas Nodl found himself being temporarily shuttled to Adirondack in the AHL while the Flyers get things better squared away concerning Laperriere and Leighton.

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    Coyotes win again, end Maple Leafs’ run at six games

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    Break up the Arizona Coyotes.

    After a downright depressing start to a season that opened with some hope, the Coyotes are at least gaining some self-respect, if not some respect around the NHL. That continued on Monday as the Coyotes extended their winning streak to three games.

    Remarkably, that 4-1 win came against the Toronto Maple Leafs, ending the Buds’ own run at six games.

    That 4-1 margin greatly exaggerates the difference between the two teams, however. This one came down to the wire, especially as a would be 2-2 goal was disallowed. The Coyotes added insurance goals late with two empty-netters.

    Instead of being lopsided, the game came down to players who were expected to be difference-makers actually making a difference.

    [During their darker days, this post explained that they seemed better than their record indicated]

    It hasn’t been the easiest start for hidden-gem-star Oliver Ekman-Larsson, so he must have been especially happy to score what eventually stood as the game-winner:

    Antti Raanta also had himself quite a game, stopping 27 out of 28 shots as his winning streak is also at three games. Injuries and other issues plagued him to start his debut season with Arizona, but now it looks a lot more like things are going as originally planned.

    Heading into a Canadian road trip that began with a 4-1 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg, this sure seemed like it would be a dreadful turn for the already-dreadful ‘Yotes. Instead, they’ve rattled off three straight wins: 5-4 at Montreal, 3-2 in OT at Ottawa, and now tonight’s victory in Toronto. You may note that two of those wins came in regulation, too.

    Honestly, you can pull things back and realize that the Coyotes have been scrappy in a month of November that seemed fated to doom them.

    (If this team was still the Phoenix Coyotes instead of the Arizona Coyotes, you’d probably see a lot of “rising from the ashes”-type headlines. But alas.)

    They began the month winning one and losing one. Starting on Nov. 6, they went on a stretch where they played seven of eight games on the road (a stretch that ended today in Toronto). They lost the first five games of that run, but they managed to get “loser points” in two of those defeats.

    Despite a tough schedule on paper, and after going a ludicrous 1-11-1 in October, the Coyotes are now 4-4-2 in November, with seven road games versus three home tilts. Maybe they were inspired by a traveling band of fans?

    Now, none of that makes you think that this team is going to set the world on fire. Instead, it indicates that there’s some fight left in this squad, and maybe a nod to Rick Tocchet keeping spirits reasonably high even as things looked especially grim.

    With Raanta seemingly healthy, “OEL” back on his game, and Clayton Keller continuing to tear the league up as a rookie (two more assists tonight), the Coyotes might be building some confidence, even if they can’t go too far with that at 5-15-3.

    Still, they need only to look at the team they narrowly defeated in Toronto and realize that, with the right players and decision-makers, a quick turnaround is actually quite plausible.

    For now, they’ll settle for a resoundingly successful road trip.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Gaudreau, Monahan, Flames too much for Capitals

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    When you talk about the best lines in the NHL, don’t sleep on the trio Johnny Gaudreau is leading for the Calgary Flames.

    With his 10th goal of the season coming early in a Flames – Washington Capitals game that is ongoing, Gaudreau collected his 30th point of 2017-18. As of this writing, only two other players have hit that mark so far: Steven Stamkos (35 points) and Nikita Kucherov (33), the headliners of a Tampa Bay Lightning trio that’s grabbing a lot of, well, headlines.

    Here’s the goal Gaudreau scored against the Caps, keeping in mind that he has plenty of time to add to his lofty totals:

    To an extent, it feels like Gaudreau’s fantastic work has been sneaking under the radar, at least compared to the likes of Stamkos – Kucherov. Then again, maybe some of it has to do with the fact that his hot streak is at least somewhat concentrated in the last few weeks?

    Gaudreau, no doubt, is the catalyst. His playmaking ability is often spellbinding, and he’s well beyond questions about being a flash in the pan at this point in his career. The 24-year-old came into tonight’s game with 233 points in 251 career regular-season games; he’s scored more than the likes of Joe Pavelski and Evgeni Malkin since becoming a full-time player in 2014-15, according to Hockey Reference. (He ranks 12th overall during that span.)

    His linemates deserve some of the spotlight, too.

    There remains a debate about how much Sean Monahan can accomplish without Gaudreau, yet the counterpoint would be to wonder if it’s really that wise to mess with such a good thing. Such an argument is especially tough to make on the heels of his first career hat trick:

    While Gaudreau has eight goals and 10 assists for a whopping 18 points (and possibly counting) during a 10-game point streak, Monahan collected his 21st point of this season on the primary assist. He added a helper to that hat trick the other night, so even if he’s stopped for the rest of Monday, Monahan has five points in two games. He also generated a six-game point streak (three goals, five assists) from Oct. 27 – Nov. 9.

    When people haven’t been discussing Monahan’s dependence upon Gaudreau, they’ve wondered who might be the right winger for that dynamic duo.

    Micheal Ferland might spell the end of that debate.

    The big 25-year-old currently has 12 points in 18 games, but he’s really been revving up his production as of late. The Flyers snapped his five-game goal streak on Nov. 18, yet he extended his point streak to six contests with an assist (5G, 3A).

    Logically, Ferland makes some sense for Gaudreau – Monahan. Neither of those forwards bring a lot of beef to the table, and Ferland has also shown some signs that he possesses the ability to finish the chances they can set up. As fun as it is to watch Jaromir Jagr with those two, Ferland might end up being the best fit for them since Jiri Hudler’s better Flames days.

    (Ferland didn’t get an assist on Gaudreau’s goal, so he’ll need to generate some offense as this game goes along to keep his impressive streak going.)

    ***

    Stamkos, Kucherov, and Vladislav Namestnikov probably carry the championship belts as the best scoring line in hockey, at least right now. One of the delightful things about this relatively high-scoring start to the season is that there are plenty of contenders for that imaginary title, and Gaudreau’s group shouldn’t be shortchanged in such debates.

    Update: Monahan added a goal of his own (the eventual game-winner, with a primary assist by Gaudreau) as the Flames ran away with this one by a score of 4-1. Matthew Tkachuk made his presence felt as well with two assists.

    About the only bummer was that Ferland’s point streak ended.

    So, Gaudreau finishes the night with 31 points on the season, including 19 during this 10-game streak. Monahan now has 22 points (with six in the last two contests).

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Sebastian Aho has found his scoring touch again

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    There was a time just over a week ago that people were hitting the panic button on second-year Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho.

    Many of these people fell into two groups:

    Group No. 1 consisted of Hurricanes fans desperate for their young budding star to get going and rekindle the scoring touch he possessed last season

    Group No. 2 was made up of Aho’s fantasy league owners, thousands across North America, who were growing impatient with the 20-year-old’s unproductive start to the season.

    And then there was Aho himself, but he chose to stay positive despite the drought.

    “I think I’ve played better and better every day, and I think the goals are coming,” Aho told The News & Observer in Raleigh at the beginning of November. “I just need to stay positive. Just relax my game. Obviously, work hard, but still when I get the chances just relax.”

    The above concerns of all parties involved were genuine, of course, Hurricanes management, too, were likely chomping at the bit as they awaited the Finn’s scoring touch around the net.

    Perhaps Aho just doesn’t like running with the big pack out of the gate. Slow and steady, as the old saying goes. Despite the lack of pucks behind goalies, Aho has been a strong possession player this season and his expected goal numbers are equally as good.

    Aho also has his brief history in pro hockey on his side.

    Indeed, Aho’s rookie season didn’t start much different. Last season, it took the Finn 13 games to score his first NHL goal, but he managed to finish the season with 24, an impressive number from a new commodity.

    He was only off that pace by two games this season.

    It took him 15 games (over four-and-a-half hours of ice time) to register his name and number in the goal section of the scoresheet.

    It was just a matter of time, and now, he just can’t help himself.

    Aho has been on a tear since that Nov. 13 coming out party where he scored his first marker and added two helpers in a dominant 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars.

    After adding another goal and another apple on Sunday, Aho now has 13 of his 17 points this season in his past 10 games. He’s also the proud owner of a four-game goal-scoring run.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Flyers’ Radko Gudas disagrees with 10-game suspension

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    Radko Gudas is just like you and I in the sense that he also expected a big suspension for slashing Mathieu Perreault of the Winnipeg Jets in the back of the neck. He was a right as the NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday that he will sit for 10 games and be docked $408,536.60.

    While the Philadelphia Flyers defenseman knew a suspension was coming, he didn’t think it would be as many as 10 games.

    “I was surprised. I did not expect that, no,” Gudas said on Monday via Flyers TV.

    All of Gudas’ previous encounters with the DoPS involved bad hits, usually to an opponents’ head. This was the first time he’ll sit due to bad stick work.

    [Radko Gudas suspended 10 games]

    “Before, I never used my stick in any way like that,” he said. “It was unfortunate.”

    Despite the ugliness of the slash, Perreault was fine and hasn’t missed any games for the Winnipeg Jets. He was well-aware of Gudas’ rap sheet and while he said the defenseman apologized, he was weary at the thought it wasn’t intentional.

    [Perreault bemoans ‘stupid’ slash]

    “He apologized in the penalty box, but when you look at the replay, it looks like he did it on purpose,” Perreault said last week. “It wasn’t an accident. He’s been known for doing stuff like that, so I certainly don’t appreciate it. I’m sure the league will take care of it.”

    Gudas won’t be able to return to the Flyers’ lineup until Dec. 12 and it doesn’t look like he’s going to appeal. It will be interesting to see what happens the next time he runs afoul of the NHL rulebook given this latest suspension.

    “I don’t agree with it, but I accept their decision,” Gudas said. “There’s not much else I can say.”

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.