Ducks GM Bob Murray puts blame for team’s lousy start on players, not coach Randy Carlyle

Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray can often be outspoken with the media. It’s great for generating headlines and juicy stories considering the fact that general managers usually speak as if they’re reading off of cliche-laden cue cards, but you wonder if the team might benefit from him staying out of the papers.

Regardless, Murray provided some rather interesting comments to Eric Stephens of the OC Register. In a nutshell, the occasionally fiery front office man exonerated Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle while throwing the roster he constructed under the bus.

Of course, this is usually the time when I point how the dreaded “vote of confidence” is usually a kiss of death for head coaches, but let’s at least give the Ducks GM the benefit of the doubt and take a look at his revealing statements.

“I’ve got total faith in Randy,” Murray said. “He’s won a Stanley Cup. That’s not an issue here. It’s up to the players. Enough excuses. Talking about coaches and things gives them an excuse when they have no excuses in my eye.”

In fact, Murray went as far as to say that the team might make a major change via a trade or other transaction.

Murray was also quite clear that he isn’t averse to making a major personnel shake-up if the Ducks don’t start winning soon as he pointed to an upcoming stretch where they play three straight at home and five of the next six at Honda Center.

In other words, the thought breaking off one part of the young core of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan in order to bring in a major piece and shake a team out of its slumber may be entertained.

“Fair question,” he said. “Eventually, that’s going to have to be in front of this group if they don’t get their act together. It’s going to be right in front of them. If they don’t know that then, well, I feel sorry for them.”

Murray might be talking tough about getting rid of Getzlaf, Perry or Ryan but here’s the bottom line: the trio might be flawed in some areas, but they are the strength of this team along with goalie Jonas Hiller.

The Ducks simply need to surround them with quality role players, a depth scorer or two and (the hardest part) a defense that can help clean up their messes (especially on the penalty kill). Anaheim allows a league-high 38.8 shots per game, a startling number that is three shots worse than the second worst team in the NHL (Atlanta at 35.6). You cannot blame effort or preparedness alone for those kind of numbers; it’s clear that the Ducks are just a mess in their own zone.

That’s the kind of thing that falls to the coach and general manager most of all, not subjective concepts such as effort or elbow grease. Perhaps you could question the decision to make Getzlaf their captain – yes, he’s their best player, but he’s not always the kind of guy that sets a good example with his penchant take bad penalties and turn the puck over – but that also is as much about front office decision as it is about the character of guys on the roster.

The Ducks lost three of their lost four games and their 4-7-1 record parks them deep in the Western Conference cellar. It’s early in the season, but they need to make good on their four game homestand. The problem is that each of those four contests are tough; they already suffered a 5-2 loss to San Jose and host resurgent Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and pesky old Nashville. Losing all four of those games is not outside the realm of possibility.

If they fall apart during that stretch, the Quest to Find Who is Truly to Blame will progress from “dreaded vote of confidence” to “heads begin to roll.” I can’t help but guess that the team’s talented young trio enjoys better job security than their addled head coach as well as the general manager who wasn’t the boss until the team started missing the playoffs.

Either way, it could get ugly in Anaheim before things get better.

Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

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The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: More offside drama had Sabres coach Phil Housley up in arms

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Just hours after the NHL admitted to an offside challenge error, there was another controversy during the Sabres-Canucks game on Friday.

Vancouver appeared to take the lead on a Daniel Sedin goal. However, Buffalo coach Phil Housley challenged the play for offside, after replays showed Jake Virtanen may not have had complete control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line.

The following challenge resulted in a brutally long review. For Buffalo, it was also unsuccessful as, surprisingly, officials deemed Virtanen did have control of the puck as he entered the zone. The goal counted, Vancouver took the lead.

Housley was not happy about it.

Not only was the challenge unsuccessful, but the Sabres were penalized for delay of game as a result.

From the NHL:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, “a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered ‘off-side,’ provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.”

Therefore the original call stands – good goal Vancouver Canucks.

It took 4:27 to come to a decision, too.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Devils place goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey Devils placed goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday night in a 5-4 overtime victory at Ottawa.

Schneider left after the second period. Keith Kinkaid replaced him and stopped all nine shots he faced to earn the victory.

With Schneider sidelined, Kinkaid was expected to start Friday night at home against San Jose.

The Devils recalled goalie Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

The Devils catch a scheduling break with a week off until their next game Oct. 27, the first day Schneider is eligible to return.

Schneider is 4-1-0 in six games this season with a 3.30 goals-against average.

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Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings finally settle on one-year deal

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The contract stalemate between the Detroit Red Wings and Andreas Athanasiou is finally over.

On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the two sides struck a deal that will see the 23-year-old forward back in the lineup, at least for this season. It’s a one-year deal worth $1.387 million.

Due to Detroit’s tight salary cap situation, the deal has not been officially registered with the NHL because general manager Ken Holland needs to free up space in order to fit Athanasiou’s contract.

Athanasiou, who was a restricted free agent this summer, was seeking a two-year deal worth around $2.5 million per season. The Red Wings, meanwhile, were holding firm on a one- or two-year deal carrying a $1.9 million AAV. As the stalemate dragged on, he began practicing with Swiss side HC Lugano, but did not sign a contract. He had until Dec. 1 to make an NHL return in order to be eligible to play this season. The KHL card was played, but as Torey Krug showed, that move is always a clear bluff.

The one-year pact is essentially a “show-me” deal for Athanasiou, who scored 18 goals and recorded 29 points last season. He finished second on the Red Wings in even strength goals (17) in 2016-17 and tallied a pair of overtime winners. A good year and with some salary off the books next summer, he can cash in with a longer-term contract. He’ll once again be an RFA next summer, so Detroit will control his rights, but he’ll have arbitration rights.

According to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, along with the contract Athanasiou has been promised a minutes bump from the 13:27 he played last season, as well as regular time on both special teams units.

Detroit is off to a 4-3-0 start and averaging 3.14 goals per game. Once Athanasiou arrives from Switzerland and gets up to speed — possibly with an AHL conditioning stint — his presence will certainly be a boost to the Red Wings’ lineup.

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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.: