Lightning injury news: Simon Gagne’s status still unclear, Steve Downie should play tonight

For the second year in a row, a seemingly shrewd forward pickup seems like it’s backfiring for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Last season, free agent acquisition Alex Tanguay floundered in Florida, scoring four less points (37) in a 80-game 2009-10 campaign than he had in a 50 games in 08-09. This time around, another French Canadian addition is struggling, as Simon Gagne cannot seem to find his feet after being traded from the Philadelphia Flyers.

First, he was snake-bitten; he managed exactly zero points in six games with a pitiful -8 rating even as the Lightning started the season with a quick-strike offense. Now he cannot even get back on the ice as the oft-injured forward is dealing with “mysterious” neck problems, according to Joe Smith of Tampa Bay.com.

The news seems pretty cloudy at this point, although the good news is that the injury doesn’t appear to be related to the concussion problems that plagued Gagne throughout his career.

Gagne, who has missed the last seven games while on injured reserve, said he’s feeling better, but is “still not quite where I want to be.” Gagne has seen several doctors, including local neurologist Ed Grant, and said the good news was that tests appeared to show there isn’t anything wrong with his brain, nor are their symptoms stemming from his last concussion a few years ago. But the hardest part is that he can’t pinpoint the exact injury he suffered when he got hit hard into the boards against the Islanders Oct. 21.

“We’re still not quite sure what’s going on,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to be really careful.  We want to make sure we know what we’re dealing with.”

Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said the next step is a nerve conduction test today to make sure the nerve patterns are properly coming out of the neck. Mulligan said an MRI of Gagne’s cervical spine showed some fluid in the back of his neck, but they believe that’s from an old injury while Gagne was with Philadelphia, and not a cause for his current symptoms.

For now, Gagne has been riding the stationary bike and getting treatment, hoping to find an answer. He said his neck is still stiff, and Mulligan said there is some vision issues related to Gagne’s focus when he’s moving his head from one position to another.

It’s a real shame, too, because Gagne is an explosive player when healthy. He’s in a contract year, so the injury must bother him quite a bit to keep him off the ice.

So, the bad news is that Gagne is on the shelf indefinitely. The good news is that Steve Downie – a player whose tendency to deliver dirty hits overshadows his considerable grit and offensive talent – will fight through back problems to stay in the Lightning lineup.

He’s a valuable energy/toughness element in the Steve Stamkos-Martin St. Louis line, so Tampa Bay won’t feel too bad that he insists on playing through the pain.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.