Nightly recap – Saturday, October 30th

It’s the busiest night of the year. I look at it as the NHLs way of preparing for Halloween since everyone wears masks all the time anyway. Anyhow, lots of action to cover so here we go.

NY Rangers 2 – Toronto 0

The Leafs offense continues to sputter, meanwhile Henrik Lundqvist gets the benefit of a 36-save shutout for his efforts. Brian Boyle had a goal and Ryan Callahan scored on a penalty shot for New York. Toronto had plenty of shots, just no luck getting one by Lundqvist.

Florida 3 – Montreal 1

Tomas Vokoun spoiled the comeback of Habs defenseman Andrei Markov by making 40 stops in the win for Florida. Vokoun out-dueled Carey Price to earn the win. Shawn Matthias had a goal and an assist for Florida in the win. Markov played 23:03 and registered five shots on goal for Montreal in his first game back since injuring his knee last season.

Boston 4 – Ottawa 0

Tim Thomas continues to be the man in Boston. Another shutout for the goalie leads to his goals against average falling to an unreal 0.50 this season. Thomas stopped 29 shots in the win and is turning heads all over the league with his play. Meanwhile, Milan Lucic scored his fourth goal of the year and rookies Jordan Caron and Tyler Seguin each scored their third in the win.

Philadelphia 6 – NY Islanders 1

An all-around ugly game for the Islanders ends up being a destructive effort out of the Flyers in a 6-1 romp. Chris Pronger had two goals for Philly, while Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves in the win. Things got a bit ugly in the third period as the teams exchanged scrums, questionable hits, and fights leading to two game misconducts, and 61 penalty minutes. 114 penalty minutes in all and three players were kicked out of the game in all as Trent Hunter, Trevor Gillies and Daniel Briere all had their nights end early. Expect there to be repercussions for Briere’s cross check.

Pittsburgh 3 – Carolina 0

Brent Johnson continues to make life hard on opponents as well as Marc-Andre Fleury after pitching a 33-save shutout. Pascal Dupuis did the heavy lifting for the offense scoring twice while Max Talbot scored as well. Getting the offense going was important for Pittsburgh as they were without Evgeni Malkin.

Detroit 5 – Nashville 2

No Jimmy Howard, no problem for the Red Wings as they’ve got Pavel Datsyuk around to make up the difference. Datsyuk had two goals and an assist while Chris Osgood stopped 23 shots en route to the victory. Nick Lidstrom and Ruslan Salei added two assists each for Detroit while Joel Ward and Kevin Klein had a goal each for the Predators.

St. Louis 4 – Atlanta 3 (F/SO)

Jay McClement ruined the comeback game for Ondrej Pavelec. With Pavelec playing his first game since passing out on the ice opening night, McClement made sure to make the night more memorable for himself netting a hat trick. Pavelec had a solid outing nonetheless stopping 32 shots in the shootout loss. Jaroslav Halak saw his shutout streak end at 160:13 in the first period when Rich Peverley scored.  Halak made 25 saves in the win.

Chicago 3 – Minnesota 1

Troy Brouwer and Duncan Keith each had a goal and an assist in the game while Marty Turco stopped 25 shots in the win. Marek Zidlicky scored Minnesota’s lone goal, meanwhile Niklas Backstrom saved 29 shots in the loss.

Dallas 4 – Buffalo 0

Another stinker of a game for the Sabres, this time on the road in Dallas. Andrew Raycroft stopped 34 shots earning the shutout. Brad Richards lead the offense with two assists while four different Stars players chipped in goals. Things are going the wrong way for Buffalo who might be in need of a shake up. Patrick Lalime did save 37 shots in the loss.

Colorado 5 – Columbus 1

Chris Stewart’s hot season continues as the young power forward had his ninth goal of the year and added an assist in Colorado’s romp over the Blue Jackets. Paul Stastny also had a goal and an assist while Peter Budaj saved 33 shots in the win. Derick Brassard had Columbus’ lone goal in an otherwise sorry effort for the team.

Tampa Bay 3 – Phoenix 0

Perhaps there’s something to the Tampa Bay Lightning after all. Dan Ellis stopped 23 shots in earning the shutout. Meanwhile, Steven Stamkos scored his ninth goal of the season in helping to lead the Lightning to victory in front of an announced crowd of just over 8,000 fans in Arizona. Coyotes captain Shane Doan picked up an instigator penalty for starting a fight with defenseman Pavel Kubina after Kubina was busted for a kneeing penalty.

Washington 7 – Calgary 2

What started off well for Calgary being up 2-1 after the first period, ended horribly after giving up six goals in the second period including two quick ones to Alexander Ovechkin and an own goal courtesy of Cory Sarich. David Steckel also had a penalty shot goal after being hauled down on a breakaway by Mark Giordano. The Flames have now allowed six-plus goals in back-to-back games.

Los Angeles 3 – New Jersey 1

Another offensively challenging game for the Devils, only this time Martin Brodeur couldn’t save them. Meanwhile, Jon Quick was stellar in stopping 39 shots in the win for L.A. Justin Williams, Michal Handzus, and Jarret Stoll all scored for the Kings while rookie defenseman Matt Taormina scored his third goal of the season for New Jersey. As for Ilya Kovalchuk, he was booed every time he touched the puck and held without a point. You win this round, Los Angeles.

San Jose 5 – Anaheim 2

Another bad night for the Ducks as backup goalie Curtis McElhinney had his hands full in dealing with a Sharks team that was too fast for Anaheim’s defense. To make matters worse, the Ducks couldn’t even win the battles with their fists. Five different Sharks players, including Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau scored goals while Antero Niittymaki held strong in goal to hold things down in net stopping 22 shots. For Anaheim, it’s another bad game for them, one that makes you think their season is going to be a consistent roller coaster of mayhem all year.

Huge step? Doctors may find a way to identify CTE in living NHL players

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Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper and TSN’s Rick Westhead pass along what could be a breakthrough Boston University study  – or at least the early stages of a breakthrough – in how concussions/CTE are handled in sports.

The key: after only being able to study brains of deceased athletes, there’s a chance that living athletes with CTE might eventually be identified.

On face value, that’s great news for player health. Hockey, like other contact sports such as football, is no stranger to careers and lives being derailed by brain injuries.

Of course, the NHL and NHLPA would need to cooperate to make the most of potential progress. If you’ve watched hockey long enough, particularly postseason hockey, you know that certain protocols can stand as great concepts met with hesitant execution.

Westhead expounds on such thoughts, and some of his findings aren’t very pretty.

The league is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit regarding concussions, and its actions have been elusive enough that politicians have gone as far as to accuse Gary Bettman and the NHL of being “delusional” about the issue.

Don’t just put this on the league, though.

Players might be hesitant to take such tests if it means that they’ll miss playing time (or even see their careers end). It brings back memories of Peyton Manning willfully sandbagging his baseline concussion test. For better or worse, these guys want to play.

Not great, yet you can also understand the human element.

Of course, it’s crucial to realize that potential breakthroughs from this study could take quite some time to trickle into functional practices, even if leagues and players end up being more willing to comply than expected.

Overall, this is promising news. Hopefully such changes could help athletes during their careers and into retirement.

Sprong continues to impress, just not enough to make Penguins (yet)

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The Pittsburgh Penguins frequently give prospect Daniel Sprong rave reviews, yet it seems like they believe that he still needs some seasoning before making a dent at the NHL level.

Sprong and fellow intriguing forward Zach Aston-Reese headlined a group of 21 players the Penguins demoted to the AHL on Tuesday.

Here is the full list:

Forwards Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Thomas Di Pauli, Adam Johnson, Sam Miletic, Dominik Simon, Colin Smith, Daniel Sprong, Christian Thomas, Freddie Tiffels and Garrett Wilson; defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Frank Corrado, Kevin Czuczman, Ethan Prow, Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi and Zach Trotman; and goalies Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry have all been returned to WBS.

Sprong, 20, was the 46th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s been generating solid numbers at the OHL, so it will be interesting to see how he converts that to AHL work. Sprong played 18 regular-season games for the Penguins back in 2015-16, notching two goals.

Sprong discussed that experience with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this summer.

“I played [in the NHL] at 18 for a reason,” Sprong said. “With the shoulder surgery last year, that was kind of a setback. But I’m excited for this year and hopefully I can start the season here.”

That won’t happen, but perhaps we’ll see Sprong in 2018-19 … or maybe sooner?

Aston-Reese, 23, already showed some promise in that regard; he scored eight games in a 10-game audition at the AHL level in 2016-17.

These moves narrow the Penguins’ training camp roster down to 26 players. They have until Oct. 3 to settle on 23.

Penguins, Kings among teams with notable waiver moves

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If an NHL team wants to add a big winger with two Stanley Cup rings,* they merely need to make a waiver claim.

TVA’s Renaud Lavoie tweeted out Tuesday’s list of waived players, with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins making some of the most interesting moves.

In the case of the Kings, they waived Jordan Nolan and former Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff. Here’s the full list, via Lavoie:

There are some bullet points that can sell Nolan, but the 28-year-old’s production was quite limited at the NHL level. Nolan’s never scored 10 goals in a single season; in fact, he’s only reached 10 points once in his career (six goals and four assists in 64 regular-season contests back in 2013-14).

Overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team targeted Nolan as a depth guy, even if his ceiling is limited.

While the Penguins’ entries seem notable for sheer volume as much as anything else, Frank Corrado is another name that stands out.

Corrado was often the catalyst for debates about his playing time (or lack thereof) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t seem like the defenseman is having much success catching on with the Penguins, either.

Zatkoff, meanwhile, fits in with quite a few other names on this list: possibly prominent in the AHL, only likely to get the occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, at this point.

* – Yes, it’s OK to think of Jaromir Jagr before that sentence ends.

Red Wings are ‘excited’ about Michael Rasmussen’s offensive upside

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The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but there appears to be something good that came from that.

Instead of drafting in the back half of the first round, the Wings were able to get a top 10 selection in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. With the ninth overall pick, they chose power forward Michael Rasmussen.

Rasmussen is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. NHLers of that size are a rare breed. Add the fact that he’s gifted offensively, and it looks like the Red Wings may have a gem coming through the pipeline.

In his first three career preseason games, the 18-year-old has already picked up two goals. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

“I’m excited about him as a prospect,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive.com. “He’s big, he’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he’s got good offensive sense.”

With all big forwards, a lot of their success will be determined by their skating ability. In today’s NHL, it’s pretty clear that you need to be able to move if you’re going to have a long and productive career. But according to Blashill, skating isn’t a big issue with Rasmussen.

“I think he skates well. People have questioned that, but I don’t see that at all. I think he covers lots of ground in a hurry. I think he needs to move his feet a little bit more at times in the D-zone, but overall I’ve been happy with his play.”

No matter what he does between now and the end of training camp, it sounds like Rasmussen will be heading back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to improve his numbers from last year (32 goals, 55 points in 50 games).