Every once in a while, there’s a startling amount of symmetry between the NHL and the NBA. Maybe it’s because the two sports share the same basic workload (an 82-game regular season schedule, for one thing), but it still doesn’t change the fact that there are some interesting similarities.
During free agency, LeBron James took his time to make his choice (er, “The Decision”) to play with the Miami Heat while it seemed like it took all summer for Ilya Kovalchuk to become a member of the New Jersey Devils. Tonight might have been the best example of such symmetry, though, as Dany Heatley and James both went through similar experiences being heckled by fans who once embraced them.
The results will share that symmetry, as both of the two star players’ teams earned lopsided victories. While James made a more tangible impact by scoring 38 points, both Heatley and James made a difference in games that brought boisterous crowds to a hushed, stunned silence.
San Jose 4, Ottawa 0
Heatley earned an assist and drew two hooking penalties that ended up being San Jose’s first two goals (the team went 2 for 2 on the man advantage in this game), but he was far from the only Shark who stood out in this game.
Logan Couture scored twice while Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun provided those power-play goals. Antti Niemi looked like the goalie who helped Chicago win a Stanley Cup in this high pressure game, stopping 28 shots for crowd deflating shutout.
Pascal Leclaire was probably the brightest star in a dismal night for the Senators, helping Ottawa at least remain competitive by making 29 out of 33 saves.
They might have been bitter homecoming experiences, but Heatley and LeBron ended up being some of the only people leaving their returns with a smile on their faces.
The last time Anton Rodin got into the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup, he sat on the bench the entire game.
Today, the Canucks announced that the 26-year-old winger has re-aggravated the same knee injury he suffered a year ago while playing in Sweden, and now he needs to rest.
“Our Canucks medical team and Anton have determined it is in his best interest to undergo a period of rest, followed by rehab, until his knee strength and function return,” said GM Jim Benning in a release. “Anton will undergo an MRI and orthopedic consult this week.”
In the same release, Benning confirmed that Rodin fell on his knee Jan. 6 against the Flames at Rogers Arena. It was the very next night in Calgary that he didn’t play a single shift, as the Canucks only had five healthy defensemen and were forced to dress 13 forwards.
“Rodin wasn’t 100 percent and once it gets past 10 minutes, it’s hard to get him in and once you do, it’s not fair to play him,” explained head coach Willie Desjardins, per The Province.
It’s a disappointing turn of events for Rodin, who waited a long time to make his NHL debut. He’s only been able to skate in three games for the Canucks, and his ice time was limited in all three.
Rodin started the season on injured reserve after re-aggravating his knee in the preseason.
Related: Anton Rodin is looking to make the leap
Having already lost Kris Letang to a knee injury and Brian Dumoulin to a broken jaw, the Pens received more tough news in the health department on Tuesday — in the form of veteran forward Matt Cullen.
Cullen was hurt after taking a shot to the foot in last night’s wild 8-7 win over Washington and will miss the next 3-4 weeks, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan announced.
Cullen, 40, is one of the NHL’s oldest skaters but has been remarkably durable since joining Pittsburgh. In fact, he hasn’t missed a single game — he played in all 82 last season, then all 24 en route to the Stanley Cup, and is one of just seven Penguins to appear in all 43 games this year.
The cagey vet has been steady in terms of production as well. He has eight goals and 17 points thus far, which had him on pace to match last year’s impressive effort (16 goals, 32 points).
It’s a tough break for the Pens, but there is a silver lining. Shortly after announcing Cullen’s injury, Sullivan said Dumoulin would travel for an upcoming road swing through Montreal and Carolina.
Expect a more composed Jamie Benn when the Dallas Stars take on the Rangers tonight in New York.
At the very least, don’t expect another stick-breaking rampage like we saw yesterday in Buffalo.
“I have to do a better job with body language and my play on the ice,” Benn said, per the Dallas Morning News.
He also said of his recent play, “I wish I could say how I really feel, but it’s probably not good for TV.”
The Stars’ captain is understandably frustrated. His team is four points back of a wild-card spot, and his production, with 10 goals in 41 games, is down significantly compared to last season when he finished with 40 goals in 82 games and his team won the Central Division.
Tonight, it doesn’t get any easier. The Stars will take on a Rangers team that will have Mika Zibenajad in their lineup for the first time since Nov. 20. Meanwhile, the rest of the Blueshirts have had two days to recuperate after their 5-4 loss in Montreal on Saturday.
It’s estimated the Stars will need to go around 21-11-5 in their remaining 37 games to make the playoffs. So regardless of their frustrations, they’d best get on a roll soon. A better performance from their captain would be a good start.
With P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Petter Granberg all out with their respective injuries, the Nashville Predators are a little thin on the blueline.
So on Tuesday, they set about adding some depth.
Brad Hunt, the 28-year-old offensive defenseman, has been claimed off waivers from St. Louis, per TSN. Hunt has spent most of this year with the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Chicago but, in limited time with the big club, has shown pretty well.
The Bemidji State product has five points in nine games for the Blues, while averaging 13:36 TOI per night. He was widely praised for his passing ability, and how quickly he helped the Blues transition from defense to offense.
“[Hunt] just moves the puck,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcok said earlier this year, per the Post-Dispatch. “He gets himself out of trouble, he gets the team out of trouble. He’s a smart player.”
That offensive output is what Hunt’s known for — a consistently productive AHLer, Hunt recently made his fourth career All-Star Game on the strength of 29 points in 23 games for the Wolves.