Nino Niederreiter

Should he stay or should he go? Islanders forward Nino Niederreiter

As six NHL rookies near the nine game cut-off point from “burning” a year off their entry-level contracts, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of keeping each one at the NHL level vs. moving them down to the AHL. Sometimes the decision will already be made and we’ll just be sharing our two cents while in other instances the moves will come down to a near-coin toss. Either way, we hope you’re entertained and would love to hear your thoughts.

Next up: New York Islanders forward, Nino Niederreiter

The Basics

  • Niederreiter was drafted fifth overall in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Islanders
  • He’s a large, potential power forward standing at 6’2″ 205 pounds. He’s that big at 18 years-old.
  • He’ll play in his ninth game tonight against the Montreal Canadiens
  • Basic stats: One goal, one assists and a -2 rating in eight games.
  • Niederreiter is averaging 13:29 in ice time per game.
  • Niederreiter’s junior status belongs to the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL

What they’re saying about him

Islanders GM Garth Snow had a little bit to say about which way he’s leaning on whether or not to send Niederreiter back to the WHL. Perhaps playing poker is Snow’s strong suit.

“We haven’t made a final decision yet,” Snow said by telephone. “There are a lot of ingredients that go into making the decision: What’s in the best interest for the player, what’s in the best interest of the organization, how we feel about the organization we’d be sending him back to, and also the mental makeup of the player.”

James’ take:

This is another tough one.

For one thing, his name is awesome but can be used for and against him. On the plus side, Nino Niederreiter is just a cool and semi-hilarious sounding hockey name. At the same time, my inner pun lover also would love to write a horrible headline like “Islanders say ‘No’ to Nino.”

He’s the youngest player in the league playing for one of its biggest groups of young players. The thing is, that bunch is banged up, so he might get a decent chance to get some good reps. He’s also not a tiny player like Alexander Burmistrov; at 6’2″ and more than 200 lbs., he can take care of himself. Yet on the other hand, considering his average of 13:29 minutes per game, he’s not exactly getting a lot of ice time.

The one thing that stands out to me is that the Islanders shouldn’t have too many difficult contracts to deal with once Niederreiter’s deal expires after the 2012-13 season. For that practical reason and considering the fact that he has the size to play at the NHL level right now, I’ll lean toward yes. But if they keep him up with the big club, they really need to justify it by giving him more opportunities to grow.

James’ Verdict: A cautious yes, keep him up.

Joe’s take:

Niederreiter has done pretty well so far. His physicality is noticeable, he’s got some sweet skills and he’s broken through the scoring barrier already. You’d think that a team like the Islanders would be an ideal place for a young guy to break through and be able to make a name for himself right away in the NHL.

That said, the Islanders aren’t under pressure to keep him in the lineup and they’d ideally like to give him more time to develop on the ice. Playing 13 minutes a game and they’ve got an on-ice reminder of how it takes guys time to become big time players in the NHL in Josh Bailey. Bailey was rushed into action a couple seasons ago as a first rounder and just now is turning into the guy they need to be an offensive producer. Doing the same thing to Niederreiter isn’t necessary to do now that Bailey is producing and Niederreiter is playing third and fourth line minutes.

Joe’s verdict: Send him back to Portland to win a WHL title.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
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It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).