We normally put up our previews earlier in the day, but this Monday’s been jam packed with hockey fun (you’re going to have to click on “older posts” to see the first entry of the day). Let’s take a look at today’s sparse schedule of three games now that the dust cleared … a bit. All starts times are Eastern (ET).
Philadelphia @ Columbus
The Blue Jackets have been an absolute disaster at home this season, losing two out of their three games in Columbus by a combined score of 11-4 (they did beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-1, though, so I guess you could call it 12-7). Perhaps they can build some momentum after a road win against the Chicago Blackhawks, though.
Meanwhile, the Flyers recently ended a three-game winning streak by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 to salvage a five-game home stand (2-3-0 in those games). Perhaps Scott Hartnell shedding his horrible locks for a great cause will galvanize his teammates?
Phoenix @ Montreal
The Canadiens haven’t lost to the Coyotes since December 9, 1998, according to Stats Inc. The Habs also are playing better hockey lately while Phoenix is struggling a bit (although the Yotes haven’t played in very many games so far this season). About the only trend that favors Dave Tippett and Co. is the fact that Carey Price has been more effective on the road than at home.
Los Angeles @ Minnesota
One thing’s just about certain in this game: Drew Doughty won’t suit up for the Los Angeles Kings. Another young L.A. skater might miss this game as well, as this Associated Press preview indicates that Wayne Simmonds might be out for tonight’s bout with the Wild as well.
The third-year winger intentionally hit Colorado defenseman T.J. Galiardi in the groin area with the end of his stick in Saturday night’s 6-4 win against the Avalanche. Simmonds received a five-minute major penalty and a 10-minute game misconduct. The NHL is reviewing the play to determine a suspension.
Now that’s not very neighborly.
The Kings have won three of the last four games between the two teams, but with the possible losses for Los Angeles and the game taking place in Minnesota (the Kings’ only two defeats came on the road), this one can go either way.
Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.
Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.
(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)
While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.
Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:
The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”
Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.
This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.
More (transcribed from video):
“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’
“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”
The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.
It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.
Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.
All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.
One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.
John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.
More, from the League:
Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.
“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”
Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.
“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”
Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.
During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.
Columbus will have some reinforcements up front when it takes on the Devils tomorrow in New Jersey.
Brandon Dubinsky, who’s missed the last six games with an elbow injury, and Alexander Wennberg — who’s also missed the last six games, but with a foot ailment — have both been activated from injured reserve, and should be available for selection on Wednesday.
It wasn’t all good news for the Jackets, though. Defenseman Cody Goloubef and right wing Rene Bourque were placed on IR.
The biggest return for Columbus is Dubinsky, who had four goals and 11 points in 16 games prior to getting hurt, while averaging nearly 19 minutes per night.
That said, getting Wennberg back is key as well; the former first-round pick has been plagued by injuries recently but showed well during his rookie campaign in ’14-15, with 20 points in 68 games.