Colorado Avalanche v Columbus Blue Jackets

Kristian Huselius hurt again, this time out 4-6 months with torn pectoral muscle

Just when it looked like Kristian Huselius was going to overcome the ankle and hip injuries that caused him to miss 43 games last season, word out of Columbus is that he’s torn his pectoral muscle. This morning the Post-Dispatch put together an article explaining the importance of return this season; this afternoon it was announced that it will take 4-6 months to recover from this most recent injury. When it rains, it pours.

The details were delivered straight from Jackets’ GM Scott Howson’s twitter account:

“Tough news on Kristian Huselius. Out 4-6 months with torn pec muscle. Surgery tomorrow morning by our team doctor – Larry Watson.”

There’s no question the Jackets could have used the 32-year-old Swede in a top 6 role this season. The Jeff Carter acquisition has made plenty of headlines, but with Jakub Voracek headed to Philadelphia in the same trade the Blue Jackets still needed Huselius to make a full recovery. This morning, RJ Umberger and Huselius were penciled into left wing roles on the top 6 going into training camp. Now? Well, it didn’t take long for the speculation to begin.

“I would expect the Jackets to put Huselius on long term IR as soon as possible, freeing up salary to allow them to look for a free agent who could be plugged into a playmaking role in the top six. Options might include a 1 year deal for a veteran like Brendan Morrison, Cory Stillman, or Sergei Samsonov, or potentially making a trade.

On the other hand, this could also open up some options for players like Ryan Johansen, Derick Brassard, and Cam Atkinson.”

The news of Huselius’ most recent injury is the first bad news in an otherwise productive offseason for the Blue Jackets. They were able to acquire the top line center they’ve been looking for since the day they drafted Rick Nash. They traded for James Wisniewski’s negotiating rights, then successfully signed him to a long-term deal to help anchor their defensive corps. They re-signed defensive stalwart Marc Methot and acquired the productive (if not oft-injured) Radek Martinek in free agency. The organization had made the commitment to spend money and put a winner on the ice this season; yet injuries are one of those things that can’t be controlled. Even though GM Howson said they were done acquiring players in the offseason, he may take a look at the bargain basement deals available on the market for a short-term solution.

More likely, it will be time for young prospects to start fulfilling the potential they had when they were top 10 draft picks for the Columbus over the years. Ryan Johansen continued to progress with the Portland Winterhawks last season at center, while Derick Brassard will attempt to navigate an entire 82-game season without getting injured. If one of the young centers is the answer, they’ll have to learn a new position at the same time.

Obviously, the entire situation is less than ideal. But if they can get through the first few months of the season without falling too far behind in the standings, Huselius will be a great mid-season addition for a team that would welcome his creativity.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.