Canucks defensive depth may be tested again with Dan Hamhuis banged up

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One of the lasting memories of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals is Dan Hamhuis’ huge hip check on Milan Lucic that sent Lucic going end over end in front of the bench. The hit led to a bit of a scuffle that saw David Krejci go off for cross checking Hamhuis for the hit. Hamhuis came out worse for the wear from it all though leaving the game with what Canucks coach Alain Vigneault kiddingly described as a “mid-body” injury.

After today’s media gather, Vigneault says that Hamhuis is day-to-day (aren’t we all?) with that mysterious “mid-body” injury leaving his starting spot in doubt for Saturday’s Game 2. Much like how things went in the regular season for Vancouver when it comes to defensive injuries, they’ll press on and use their depth to their advantage. With Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, and rookie Chris Tanev waiting in the wings for their shot to play in the finals Vigneault is comfortable with what he’s got.

“Right now we’ve got Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Chris Tanev that have played some big minutes with us this year and they have done a good job,” Vigneault said. “If we need somebody to play minutes, I’m confident that they’ll be able to step in and do a real good job for us.”

During the regular season the Canucks played a total of 13 defensemen thanks to various maladies that kept the Canucks shorthanded along the blue line at different times. The list of names is staggering. You’ve already seen guys like Hamhuis, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Aaron Rome start in this series and you’ve seen Alberts, Tanev, and Ballard in the playoffs. During the season they trotted out the likes of Lee Sweatt, Evan Oberg, Ryan Parent, and Yann Sauve to help patch holes in the defense. Many teams that have to go that deep into their minor league well crumble thanks to the lack of depth. Instead, Vancouver has stayed strong and flourished.

While Hamhuis is an important defensive cog in their lineup, if he has to come out each of Alberts, Ballard, and Tanev offer different things to their game. Alberts is a physical player and one who used to play for the Bruins. Ballard was a starter for most of the season before being edged out of the lineup in favor of Rome. Tanev is young but well liked by the Canucks although they’d likely rather not put him in the awkward spot of appearing in the finals. In the Stanley Cup finals veteran credibility is huge, especially to Alain Vigneault.

While Hamhuis’ game is steady, putting either Alberts or Ballard has its risks as they’re both penalty liabilities. There’s also the rust factor involved with guys who don’t see a lot of playing time and that’s something Boston would likely look to take advantage of. If it comes down to that and Hamhuis can’t go, Boston will certainly look to push the issue but if Vancouver doesn’t bend nor break, don’t be surprised… They’re pretty used to this by now.

Contenders should keep an eye on Jaroslav Halak

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Here’s a gut reaction regarding the 2017-18 season: there aren’t a ton of teams with unclear goalie situations, at least as far as who their top guy is.

Clear number ones

The Frederik AndersenJohn Gibson battle ended last summer. Promising backups like Cam Talbot, Scott Darling, and Antti Raanta got their shots or will be getting their chances to be No. 1 guys this year. Marc-Andre Fleury generously accepted becoming the face of the Vegas Golden Knights.

It doesn’t exactly make for a sellers’ market for the few teams who might want to part ways with goalies.

Petr Mrazek‘s mess with the Detroit Red Wings is the most pressing example, and considering the fact that he’s only 25, acquiring him could be a boon for another team, at least in a scenario (injuries and/or poor play) would call for such an acquisition.

What if the Red Wings would ask for too much? What if a team would, instead, like to monitor a diamond in the rough for the summer of 2018?

Halak could still be very viable

Jaroslav Halak should be on plenty of radars, especially if he gets his wish for a fresh start with the New York Islanders in 2017-18, as NHL.com’s Brian Compton reports.

“Obviously, last season was kind of a strange season, not only for me but for a lot of guys,” Halak said. “Now it’s a fresh start for everybody. But ultimately, it’s going to come down to our start too. Last season, we all know we had a bad start. We just need to make sure that we pick up points at the beginning of the season because that hurt us at the end.”

The Islanders have incentive to give Halak a chance, whether it would be to pump up his trade value or if Thomas Greiss struggles/gets hurt.

It would also be foolish to worry too much about Halak’s time in the AHL, especially considering how well he played for the Islanders late last season. Check out his split stats in March and April; Halak gave the Isles at least some hope to make an unlikely playoff push.

At 32, Halak doesn’t boast the same dreamy potential of Mrazek, yet he’s only a year older than Greiss.

The price could be right

With a nice .917 career save percentage and some playoff heroics in his past, Halak is the sort of goalie a team could call upon if their top guy falters or gets hurt. If a move were to happen around the trade deadline, his $4.5 million cap hit would be less of a problem.

On the other hand, if a team needed Halak earlier, the Islanders could conceivably retain some of his salary, especially if it allowed them to add a piece that might improve their team in other areas (and maybe help keep John Tavares happy?).

The goalie market could be interesting in the summer of 2018 if Mrazek and even Craig Anderson join the UFA ranks. Halak stands as a sneaky-interesting prospect then, but possibly sooner, for a team that might want to spend less (in assets via a trade or in actual money in free agency).

Predators tab Roman Josi as new captain, call him ‘our Roger Federer’

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The Nashville Predators boasted some appealing options to take the torch from Mike Fisher as captain, but really there was only one obvious name: Roman Josi.

Josi officially became the team’s eighth captain on Tuesday. Ryan Ellis appears to be second-in-command as “associate” captain, while they seem interested in spreading the leadership wealth around otherwise:

As captain, Josi will see an increased role on the Predators leadership team, which will also see some new appointments. Defenseman Ryan Ellis has been named as the team’s associate captain, while Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm will all serve as alternate captains. In addition, Pekka Rinne, P.K. Subban and Nick Bonino have all taken positions within the leadership group.

If that’s not a sign that the team is taking this seriously – kind of amusingly so – consider that Ellis and Josi “interviewed” for the position and Peter Laviolette evoked military structures in discussing the decision, as sports teams love to do.

Josi seemed flattered when GM David Poile described him as “our Roger Federer,” a fellow Swiss sports star.

At face value, that’s great, especially since it breaks through the near-corporate-speak that saddles announcements like these.

That said, it’s funny to compare the leader in a team sport to a tennis player, among the most individualistic athletes in all of sport. There aren’t many moments of teamwork beyond doubles and rare events like the Davis Cup.

Overall, it’s another strong decision by the Predators. It’s merely fun to tease them a bit about the cornier aspects.

Awful injury news for Blues’ Bouwmeester, Sanford

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Hockey’s training camps and exhibition games share a lot of similarities, big-picture wise, with other sports.

As much as they’re all about evaluating players trying to make rosters and rule tweaks heading into each season, the “winners” of a pre-season may just be the teams that make it out without any significant injuries. The St. Louis Blues aren’t one of those winners.

The team announced unsettling injury updates for defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and forward Zach Sanford on Tuesday.

Sanford is expected to miss five-to-six months after undergoing shoulder surgery. That virtually wipes out an important season for a guy who was still trying to stake his claim to a full-time roster spot.

Bouwmeester’s situation is probably more troubling, potentially, as he’s already a key defenseman for the Blues (averaging more than 22 minutes last season, which was a slight decrease from recent work). The team announced that Bouwmeester suffered a fractured ankle and will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

As tormenting as day-to-day updates can be, “check back in three weeks” makes for even greater anxiety.

It does open up some opportunities for other players in the Blues organization, for whatever that’s worth.

This news comes shortly after the Ottawa Senators announced that Colin White will miss multiple weeks with a broken wrist.

You almost wonder if we’ll start to see fewer practice updates like these:

Senators’ prospect Colin White out 6-8 weeks with broken wrist

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Bad news for the Ottawa Senators today.

The club announced Tuesday that prospect center Colin White is out six to eight weeks with a broken left wrist.

The Senators selected White 21st overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. After two years at Boston College, he signed his entry-level deal in April and appeared in two regular season games for Ottawa. He also appeared in a Stanley Cup playoff game, though he only saw 2:39 of ice time.

That’s certainly disappointing for White, who could’ve had a shot to make the big club out of training camp. One of the question marks for Ottawa had been the status of fellow center Derick Brassard, who had offseason shoulder surgery with a recovery timeline of four to five months.

“I come here and worry about myself, do the right things on and off the ice, take care of my body. If I’m playing well and taking care of my game, I’ll fight for a spot,” White told the Ottawa Citizen prior to training camp.