Antti Niemi, Jason Chimera

Sharks take slim Pacific lead with 3-2 win over Blue Jackets

All of a sudden, the San Jose Sharks might be the hottest team in the NHL. To underscore the up-and-down nature of the ultra-competitive Pacific Division, the Sharks opened up a slim lead over the Dallas Stars for the top spot thanks to a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

San Jose 3, Columbus 2

Antti Niemi might be the No. 1 reason for the Sharks’ resurgence. You might be aware that the goalie who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup last season was struggling mightily to start the season, but he’s now 8-0-1 in his last nine stars. (The Sharks themselves are 9-0-1, with Alex Stalock earning one of those wins).

Niemi stopped 42 of the Blue Jackets’ 44 shots as the Sharks recovered from a 2-0 first period deficit to win this game. Columbus scored both of those goals on the power play, including a tally with nine seconds left in the first frame.

The Sharks didn’t let that rocky start rattle them, though, as Kent Huskins and Kyle Wellwood tied it up in the second before Patrick Marleau scored the game winner in the third.

The best part for San Jose: they won the game with their 5-on-5 play, outscoring the Blue Jackets 3-0 in that category. With five wins in a row, the Sharks now lead the Stars by one point (66 to 65) although Dallas can re-establish that lead if they earn a point or more against Phoenix. (The Stars hold two games in hand over the Sharks at the moment.)

So the Sharks’ Pacific lead might not even last through tonight, but considering their struggles through the first half of this season, they’re probably glad to just be in the discussion.

Report: Islanders cut first-rounder Barzal from camp

Mathew Barzal
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It seems Mathew Barzal has played in his last game in a New York Islanders’ uniform for a little while.

Barzal took part in the Islanders’ preseason finale against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, but after that contest the Islanders decided to return him to WHL Seattle, per Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

He was taken with the 16th overall pick in 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That selection was well-traveled as it originally belonged to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but was involved in the David Perron trade and then moved to the Islanders as part of Edmonton’s deal to get Griffin Reinhart.

Barzal is noteworthy for his skill and speed, but he may have slipped in the draft due to a knee injury he sustained during the 2014-15 campaign.

The Islanders also reassigned Kirill Petrov, Kevin Czuczman, Scott Mayfield, and Adam Pelech to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Torres offered in-person hearing, potentially setting up long suspension

Torres hit

What will Raffi Torres get this time?

The 33-year-old forward that has become known primarily for his controversial hits has once again put himself in the sights of the NHL’s Department of Players Safety. They confirmed that he was offered an in-person hearing following his hit on Jakub Silfverberg Saturday night. He declined the opportunity to meet with them face-to-face, but the offer itself is an important detail because it gives the league the option to suspend him for more than five games.

It certainly seems like the stage is set for a lengthy suspension. While Torres is not considered a repeat offender as his last suspension came more than 18 months ago, the NHL still retains the right to consider his history when deciding on this matter.

Among other incidents, he was once was banned from 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa in 2012, although it was later reduced to 21 contests after an appeal. The NHL found that Torres was guilty of breaking three rules for that hit; namely interference, charging, and illegally hitting the head. The NHL is reviewing Torres’ latest incident for the same three violations.

You can see the hit below:

And here it is slowed down:

Torres got a match penalty and Silfverberg left the game. Fortunately, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said that Silfverberg could have returned, but was kept out for precautionary reasons.