The Ottawa Senators’ 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night came with a price.
After the game coach Guy Boucher confirmed that veteran forward Bobby Ryan broke his right index finger during the game and is expected to miss at least the next month.
Ryan has yet to score a goal for the Senators in eight games this season but has recorded five assists.
He fought through an injury plagued season in 2016-17 that ended with one of the worst individual stat lines of his career. He was able to salvage the season however with a tremendous postseason performance that saw him finish with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 19 games as the Senators went all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals where they would lose in double overtime.
The Senators are off to a great start this season earning at least a point in seven of their first eight games (4-1-3).
Now they need to start working on another major area of concern — their backup goalie.
The Penguins had to know Antti Niemi was never going to step into Pittsburgh and replace what Marc-Andre Fleury gave them on the ice, but they had to be expecting a little more than what they have received thus far.
After giving up seven goals in the Penguins’ 7-1 loss in Tampa Bay on Saturday night, Niemi has now given up 16 goals in 128 minutes of hockey this season. His save percentage is a brutal .797.
In games Niemi starts the Penguins are 0-3 and have been outscored 22-6, losing games by margins of 10-1 and 7-1.
In the games he hasn’t started they are 5-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 24-17.
It would be unfair to put all of the blame on Niemi, because even with regular starter Matt Murray in net they have also had stretches where they have struggled defensively and not quite played at the level they showed the past two seasons.
Niemi has also made all of his starts in the second half of back-to-back situations against teams that were not only rested the night before, but also teams that should be among the best in the league this season (the Chicago Blackhawks, two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning).
But none of that can excuse the way Niemi himself has played thus far, either. At some point you need your goalie to make a save no matter who your team is playing or what is happening around him. His rebound control has been shaky, he looks uncomfortable when he is making saves and it is not like he is coming off of a great performance a year ago. In 42 appearances with the Dallas Stars he finished with an .892 save percentage, one of the worst marks in the league, and was at .905 the year before. He is 34 years old and has not performed at a better than league average level (or even at a league average level) in several years.
It has to be an area of concern for the Penguins because if Murray has a flaw early in his young career it is that he has missed some time due to injury. In the past they have had Fleury there to step in. They do not have that luxury now.
Niemi is only signed for one year at $700,000 so it is not like they have a huge investment in him.
If they decide to go in another direction already (they will probably give Niemi a little bit of a longer leash, I am sure) they have Tristan Jarry in the American Hockey League, or perhaps explore a trade if they are uncomfortable with such a young duo and inexperienced backup behind Murray.
Either way, it is really difficult to see them sticking around with this sort of performance from their backup for much longer.
The Washington Capitals, fresh off of a 4-3 overtime win on Friday night thanks to Alex Ovechkin‘s NHL record 20th overtime goal, return home on Saturday night to host the Florida Panthers.
After winning their first two games of the season the Capitals have stumbled a little bit over the past couple of weeks winning just two of their past six games. They are looking to win consecutive games for the first time since those back-to-back wins to open the season.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off of a 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night that cost them goaltender Roberto Luongo who was placed on injured reserve on Saturday afternoon.
You can catch all of the action on NBCSN. Game time is 7:30 p.m. ET.
It was simply a matter of when, and not if the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to swing a trade in an effort to improve their center depth.
On Saturday, they finally completed such a deal.
The move accomplishes something for both teams.
For the Red Wings, it helps them clear some necessary cap space following the new one-year deal for Andreas Athanasiou while the Penguins get some much needed center depth.
After losing Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen over the summer in free agency the Penguins did not make any corresponding moves to fill those spots. They opened the season with Greg McKegg and Carter Rowney occupying those spots. While they have done a solid job so far there was obviously still some room for improvement.
The question is whether or not Sheahan can help provide that.
Sheahan, 25, has had some reasonable success in the NHL scoring 27 goals between the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
Since then, however, he has been mired in one of the most unbelievable goal scoring droughts in recent memory, scoring just two goals (both in the final game of the 2016-17 season) in his past 88 games. He has a shooting percentage of just 1.7 percent.
One way to look at it if you are the Penguins: He has to be due to bust out of that drought at some point because players that have shown the ability to score close to 15 goals in the NHL don’t typically lose that when they are still 25 years old. Perhaps a fresh start, in a new situation with better teammates around him can help him along. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened in recent years with the Penguins (looking at you, Justin Schultz).
As for Wilson, he has appeared in 108 NHL games with the Penguins scoring 13 goals to go with 19 assists. He scored goals in 20 playoff games during the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run a year ago. Given the Penguins’ depth on the wings, as well as the potential for a mid-season callup for Daniel Sprong there just was not much room for him in Pittsburgh.