Let’s take a look at today’s six game slate. All games are Eastern (ET).
St. Louis @ Columbus
With an outstanding 9-1-2 record, the Blues are considered by many to be the surprise team (in a good way, at least) in the NHL. This month will be a real test for them, though, beginning with a tough match in Columbus. The Blue Jackets won seven of their last 10 games, so it won’t be an easy Central Division confrontation.
Boston @ Pittsburgh
Both teams have the same amount of points … only the Penguins played (and lost) four more games. Each team also has a goalie who is pushing the established No. 1, as Tim Thomas and Brent Johnson are in the process of usurping Tuukka Rask and Marc-Andre Fleury. This should be an interesting game to watch regardless of which two goalies appear between the pipes.
Buffalo @ New Jersey
The team tied for second worst in the NHL (the Sabres) play against the league’s worst (the Devils). It seems quite likely that it will be a battle of backups, too, as Jhonas Enroth and Johan Hedberg are probably going to play in this one. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff will hit the 1,000 mark for games coached with this one.
Toronto @ Florida
The Maple Leafs are on a six-game losing streak, but they might solve it by beating the last team they have a win against: the Panthers. Florida’s low stance in the East (tied for second-to-last with 10 points) is a little misleading since they’ve played in only 12 games, tied with St. Louis for the least in the NHL.
Phoenix @ Chicago
One three-game losing streak will come to an end tonight: either the Coyotes’ overall skid or the Blackhawks’ three game skid at home. Chicago seems like they might be losing their edge at the United Center, going 4-6 overall after earning 29 wins in 41 regular season games there in 2009-10.
NY Islanders @ Anaheim
These two teams are on wildly different paths right now. After starting the season on a hot streak, the Islanders are on a troubling seven-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Ducks began the season as one of the league’s worst teams, but look like they’re working things out with a four-game winning streak. Jonas Hiller faced 41 shots against the San Jose Sharks last night, so it will be interesting to see if Anaheim will give him another start or allow him to catch his breath tonight.
The National Hockey League has suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw for three preseason games for boarding defenseman Connor Hobbs of the Washington Capitals in an exhibition game Tuesday.
Shaw was given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play, as he slammed Hobbs “through the numbers, with speed” from behind into the end glass, as per Thursday’s video from the NHL outlining the suspension.
From the video: “It is important to note that Hobbs is never eligible to be checked by Shaw on this play. From the moment Shaw arrives at the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Hobbs’ numbers. Hobbs makes no sudden movement just prior to contact that turns this hit from a legal hit into an illegal one.
“The onus is on Shaw to ensure that he can deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force, or avoid this hit completely. Instead, he hits forcefully through Hobbs from behind, driving him dangerously into the glass.”
In a bid to land a gritty forward to their lineup, the Habs acquired Shaw from the Blackhawks, who had been dealing with a cap crunch, during the NHL Draft. He later signed a six-year contract extension with Montreal.
Clarke MacArthur suffered yet another concussion after being hit by Patrick Sieloff during a scrimmage over the weekend, but the veteran Ottawa Senators forward doesn’t plan on retiring.
Last season, the 31-year-old MacArthur played in only four games for the Senators due to concussions. According to the Ottawa Sun, he suffered four concussions in an 18th-month span.
Despite this latest concussion, MacArthur is still, at least publicly, planning to work toward a return to game action, saying in a post on Instagram that he was “encouraged” by how his body has reacted following this most recent incident.
“First off, I want to thank the team and its fans for all the support after the unfortunate incident on Sunday. To me, it was simply a hockey play that ended in a hit causing me to suffer a concussion, a play that could happen at any point,” MacArthur wrote on his social media page.
“We have been encouraged by how my body had reacted in the days since the injury and the team has been great to give me all the time I need to rest and recover. I will continue to consult with doctors and my entire support group, but I felt it important to let everyone know that my intentions are to work towards returning to the ice soon.”
Senators focus on MacArthur’s safety
You couldn’t blame the Blues for freaking out a bit today when Jaden Schwartz left practice after an apparent hand injury, and didn’t return.
It was last October, of course, when Schwartz fractured his ankle during practice, an injury that required surgery and sidelined him for 49 games.
Thankfully for St. Louis, it won’t be deja vu.
From the Post-Dispatch:
Coach Ken Hitchcock said Schwartz was fine but would miss some practice.
“He’ll need a couple days off, but he’s a lot like Fabbri,” Hitchcock said. “He’s probably not going to skate this weekend in any of the games but he’ll be ready to go next weekend.
“He’s day to day. He’ll be fine.”
Signed to a five-year, $26.75 million extension this summer, Schwartz will be a big piece of the Blues moving forward.
He’s coming off a good playoff run — 14 points in 20 games — and the club is hopeful he can build on the goalscoring form shown in ’13-14 (25 tallies) and ’14-15 (a career-high 28).
Nikita Kucherov will not report to Tampa Bay Lightning training camp until he’s signed. The 23-year-old winger is not currently under contract, though as a restricted free agent he is partially under club control.
From the Tampa Bay Times, which confirmed through GM Steve Yzerman that Kucherov would not be reporting:
Kucherov, the team’s leading scorer last season, could warrant $6 million or more annually. And that makes it difficult for the Lightning, which has between $5-5.5 million of cap space remaining, per CapFriendly.com. It begs the question whether Tampa Bay may need to make another move to create room. With the season opening two weeks from today, no deal appears imminent.
Yzerman said earlier in the month that he can get Kucherov signed without making a trade, but as mentioned, no deal has been reached yet.
Kucherov is one of a handful of high-profile RFAs who remain unsigned as the regular season approaches. The others are Johnny Gaudreau, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Tobias Rieder, the latter of whom requested a trade yesterday.
Trouba has also requested a trade.
Related: Ristolainen, still without a contract, makes ‘good will’ gesture towards Sabres