It’s not every day that an NHL team can call upon a guy who makes $4.25 million as a seventh defenseman. That’s the life of Keith Ballard as a member of the Vancouver Canucks, though. In an injury and turnover-plagued 2010-11 season, he just cannot seem to earn head coach Alain Vigneault’s trust.
That being said, the Canucks keep suffering from losses on their blueline. Dan Hamhuis went down with what an unknown injury early in the series while Aaron Rome won’t play another game in the Stanley Cup finals thanks to his late hit on Nathan Horton.
Those two conundrums finally open the door for Ballard to make his way back into the lineup again, an opportunity he hopes to capitalize upon in Game 4 tonight. Ballard seems like he’s getting used to the roller coaster ride of getting minutes in big playoff games one night and sitting in the press box on other ones. He discussed the experience while fellow defenseman Kevin Bieksa spoke about what Ballard brings to the table.
“I think it’s a situation quite a few of us have been in, especially during this playoff run,” Ballard said of playing nearly as much as he’s been watching. “One of the things you can control is the attitude around the guys, how hard you work. You have to be able to be there to support your teammates.”
While Ballard never said he was definitely playing, Kevin Bieksa discussed what to expect with Ballard as his defensive partner Wednesday night.
“He’s a very good player. He’s helped us all year,” Bieksa said. “He’s a great skater and moves the puck well. He’s one of the best shot blockers in the League. He’s been known to throw a hip into a few guys. We just need him to play his game and not do anything special.”
Bieksa’s second-to-last sentence is one many of us will focus on: “He’s been known to throw a hip into a few guys.” His most recent epic hip check happened during the San Jose Sharks series when Ballard nailed Tyler McGinn with a brutal one that might just be the best hit of this year’s playoffs.
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Will we see another big hip check from Ballard tonight or will he be the kind of error-prone player who regularly finds himself in Vigneault’s doghouse? Perhaps he’ll be both? We’ll find out tonight (on Versus at 8 p.m. ET).
What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.
It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.
Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.
He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).
That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.
Some Twitter reaction to the goal:
The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.
It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).
He’s considered day-to-day at this point.
Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.
“You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.
“From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”
After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd still doesn’t have a contract for next season and with the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, something’s gonna have to give.
According to TSN’s Gary Lawless, the Winnipeg Jets will make one last push to sign the forward before making him available on the trade market.
Ladd doesn’t want to leave and the team wants to keep him, but after Dustin Byfgulien got an extension earlier this month, there may not be enough money to go around.
At one point, the Jets reportedly made Ladd a six-year offer worth $6 million per year, which he obviously didn’t accept.
Can they top that? Time will tell.
Waiting to trade Ladd is probably the smartest decision.
Keeping the captain around would be great, but if the two sides can’t agree to a new contract, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Ladd’s services.
Lawless mentions the Penguins, Panthers and Blackhawks as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old.
The Kings have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ladd.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks.
Michal Neuvirth will make his first start of the month in Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
The 27-year-old missed five games with a lower-body injury. He was activated off the injured list earlier this week and served as Steve Mason‘s backup in Thursday’s game against Buffalo.
Neuvirth has an 11-6-2 record with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage in 2015-16.
He’s put up some solid numbers against the Devils in his career. Neuvirth has a 5-2-4 record with 2.03 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage in games against New Jersey.
Steve Mason, who’s coming off a 41-save performance in a win over Buffalo, hasn’t been as good against Saturday’s opponent.
Mason is 0-7-0 lifetime against the Devils.
Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m. ET.