Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five

Is Joel Ward making a star turn or just another one-hit wonder?

Although Ryan Kesler was a force once again last night, Joel Ward was even better as he lead a 4-3 Nashville Predators win. The little-known Predators forward is making a name for himself in the 2011 playoffs, with a surge that seats him in a tie for second place in playoffs scoring with 12 points.

There are two basic ways someone can look at this situation.

One side will view this as Ward’s game rising to a whole new level. Sure, that three point game was his best, but he scored 9 points in Nashville’s previous 10 games too. That’s not exactly the sign of a guy who just had one good night.

On the other hand, it’s easy to ponder the possibility that he might be a one-hit wonder. Ward has seven goals in the playoffs after scoring just 10 in the entire 2010-11 regular season. It’s hard to avoid comparisons to Fernando Pisani, a player who earned a big raise with one great playoff run before fading back into irrelevance.

(For the record, I think Ward will be more useful than Pisani even if his scoring output is limited because he can contribute more defensively.)

Like much of the hockey world, I can only speculate on Ward’s future. With that in mind, I decided to ask two great Predators bloggers for their take on the following questions about Ward:

Q: Is Joel Ward’s red-hot run a sign of things to come or could he be a flash in the pan? Looking forward, what kind of impact will this run have on his contract negotiations? What price would you consider “too much” to wrap him up?

Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck had this response:

I think one of the worst mistakes a team can make is to radically change their appraisal of a player based on a playoff run. After all, as hot as Joel Ward is these days, he went scoreless over the last 7 games of the regular season, which were also important games that the Predators needed to win. That said, Ward is still an important player to the Preds, a steadying presence who can be used in almost any situation – besides being a stout penalty killer, he’s also been one of the Nashville’s top power play scorers (relative to his ice time) for the last three seasons. I’d hesitate to go much beyond the $2-2.5 million range in terms of annual salary on his next contract, though.

Buddy Oakes of Preds on the Glass doesn’t think Ward could produce this kind of offense with Nashville and expects similar contract demands.

I don’t see Ward’s increased scoring as a long-term trend that would be sustained throughout the regular season next year. If he were to sign with a team that placed him in a more offensive role, there could be some upside, but probably not if he decides to stay with the Predators and their defense-first system.

He is currently on the final year of a two-year contract that paid him $1.5 million per year. I think someone will be willing to pay him up to $2.5 million next year but I don’t think it would be the Predators. I think he likes it in Nashville and enjoys the Predators system so he may be willing to stay with the Preds for closer to $2 million.

So both Predators bloggers would be comfortable with a small raise, but Ward might be able to wrangle a little bit more out of a more short-sighted bidder. It’s unlikely that he would maintain this kind of scoring pace in the long haul – his 25 percent shooting percent is unsustainable – yet he could still be a valuable winger at a proper price.

It should be interesting to see how he plays with a bigger target on his back in Game 6 . His contract negotiations in July might be almost as interesting, though.

Stars place Lehtonen on IR, call up Campbell and Nemeth

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Kari Lehtonen will miss at least a few games with the upper-body injury he suffered the other night against Ottawa. The Dallas Stars announced today that they’ve placed the 32-year-old goalie on injured reserve, retroactive to Tuesday.

With Lehtonen out, Jack Campbell has been called up from AHL Texas to be Antti Niemi‘s backup. The Stars host Vancouver Friday, with a game at Minnesota Saturday.

Campbell, the 11th overall pick in the 2010 draft, has struggled in the AHL this season, going 3-3-0 with an .873 save percentage.

The Stars have also recalled defenseman Patrik Nemeth.

Related: Campbell credits ECHL stint for turning his game around

Gleason ends tryout with ‘Canes

Tim Gleason, David Desharnais
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Tim Gleason has likely played his last NHL game. The 32-year-old defenseman has informed the Carolina Hurricanes that he no longer wishes to continue his professional tryout.

“Tim informed us today he wasn’t going to continue to pursue his tryout,” said GM Ron Francis, per the club’s website. “He looked and felt good physically, but didn’t feel up to the grind of the NHL mentally.”

Gleason started last season with Carolina before he was traded to Washington in February.

In his career, he’s played 727 NHL games, plus 32 more in the playoffs.

Isles call Strome back up

Ryan Strome, Johnny Boychuk
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Ryan Strome has been called back to the New York Islanders, the club announced this morning.

The 22-year-old returns to the NHL after eight games with AHL Bridgeport Sound. He had been sent there three weeks ago, after a tough start to the season.

Strome had two goals and two assists during his stint with the Tigers.

The Isles’ next game is Friday at Florida.

McLellan on Oilers’ loss to ‘Canes: ‘That’s a really disappointing effort from our hockey club’

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With the addition of Connor McDavid, 2015-16 was supposed to be the year Edmonton showed significant progress on the ice.

We’re less than two months into the season, McDavid’s out because of a broken clavicle, and the so-called progress just hasn’t been there.

On Wednesday, the Oilers hit a new low, as they were handed their fifth loss in their last six games at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring in the first period, but Carolina answered with four unanswered goals by Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner and Andrej Nestrasil to win 4-1.

“We got outcompeted in the second period, badly,” Mark Letestu told the team’s website. “Whether it was little puck battles or even just executing on systems. It played right into their game. When you get behind a team like this that’s so dominant in the circle it’s tough to generate chances to come back. We didn’t deserve to win this one at all.”

As if things weren’t bad enough, the Oilers also lost Nail Yakupov to injury after a linesman (yes, a linesman) fell on top of him.

After the game, head coach Todd McLellan didn’t hold back:

Edmonton collected 14 points in the first 22 games of the 2014-15 season and after the same amount of games this year, they have just one more point.

They’re currently alone in last place.