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.

Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 09:  James Reimer #34 of the Florida Panthers makes a save during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at BB&T Center on February 9, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.

Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.

First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:

Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:

Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.

Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 11:  Connor Murphy #5 (second from left) of the Arizona Coyotes celebrates with Alexander Burmistrov #91, Shane Doan #19 and Christian Dvorak #18 after Murphy scored the game winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 11, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.

He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.

Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:

Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.

February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games

He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.

Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:

Randy Carlyle’s mood? Probably not too chipper right now.

Brooks Laich wants another crack at NHL (with or without Leafs)

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 29:  Brooks Laich #23 of the Toronto Maple Leafs waits for a puck drop against the Tampa Bay Lightning during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 29, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  The Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Brooks Laich wants another shot at playing in the NHL. As he told The Atlantic TO (sub required), if that means being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs, then so be it.

“You don’t win a Stanley Cup playing in the American Hockey League,” Laich said. “If the Leafs don’t have a plan for me with them, I would like to pursue a Stanley Cup somewhere else.”

Interesting.

Laich’s biased take: he has plenty more to give at the highest level.

Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.

But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.

Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).

Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.

So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.

Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.

And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.

Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Nikita Zadorov #16 of the Colorado Avalanche congratulates Matt Duchene #9 after his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center on December 14, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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As if the Colorado Avalanche needed another miserable element to 2016-17: Nikita Zadorov suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice that Erik Johnson returned.

Zadorov injured his ankle after being tangled up with Mikko Rantanen during a Monday practice, according to the Denver Post.

Update: The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports that it’s a fractured ankle. Yikes.

Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.

He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.

At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.