You knew things were going along a little too smoothly to start the year for the L.A. Kings. The team’s been playing great, they’ve been winning lots of games, and they’ve been able to stay healthy. Saturday night saw defenseman Willie Mitchell leave the game against Nashville early with an upper body injury. Yesterday, the Kings said that Mitchell didn’t have a break or fracture in his arm but as it turns out, he did have a break in his wrist. Before you jump to conclusions, the Kings weren’t messing with everyone because they were surprised by it too.
Mitchell underwent X-rays after the game and no breaks or fractures were found. But the fracture was detected during an MRI on Monday.
Apparently there’s nothing modern medical science can’t do.Mitchell will be out of action for 4-6 weeks because of the broken wrist. Unfortunately for the Kings, injuries and Willie Mitchell go together like peanut butter and jelly.
The bad news didn’t end there for the Kings today, however, as the team also announced that forward Alexei Ponikarovsky will be out for four weeks with a broken finger. Like Mitchell, Ponikarovsky suffered the injury against Nashville. While Ponikarovsky’s contributions to the team’s success aren’t immediately noticeable in the stat sheets, he’s been working a solid defensive player on the third line with Wayne Simmonds and Michal Handzus. Ponikarovsky is meant to be more of a scorer, but if he’s playing well regardless of his scoring, the Kings will take it, especially when their top two lines are having no problems putting the puck in the net.
With these two players out for a month or more, the real test for how the Kings can handle adversity begins. Losing a key shutdown defenseman and a contributing forward will be interesting to see how L.A. fares without them. They haven’t had an real bumps in the road to this point, and if the Kings are to be a Stanley Cup contender this year, how they deal with this will show how seriously we can take them.
Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks
If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.
Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).
Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:
1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP
Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:
Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.
Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings
As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.
For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.
They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.
The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.
On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.
It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.
This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.
That’s impressive stuff.
This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:
The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.