Martin Erat, Alex Goligoski, Jamie Langenbrunner

Martin Erat looks forward to healthier 2011-12 season

There are many wonders in the world of hockey. Off the top of my head, a few include:

  • Alex Ovechkin “only” scoring 32 goals despite playing 79 games during the 2010-11 season. (Don’t bet on that happening again until he’s in his 30’s.)
  • Quietly elite goalie Tomas Vokoun only receiving serious offers from two suitors.
  • Jose Theodore receiving a job as a No. 1 goalie and Ed Jovanovski signing a hefty four-year contract without the use of a time machine.

Those are some mind-melting thoughts, but they’re isolated to more recent times. One bewildering thought that always seems to work itself out – at least to some extent – is: “How are the Nashville Predators actually going to score goals?”

Slim pickings for offense

Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn lead the team in points with 50 and Shea Weber tied Patric Hornqvist for second place with 48 last season. Despite these piddling top-end numbers, the Predators scored 219 goals in 2010-11, more than nine other teams. That being said, the Predators might actually be less potent next season after losing playoff standout Joel Ward and two washed up scorers in Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont.

Perhaps Ryan Ellis can swoop in and create some offense from the blueline if he makes the big club out of training camp (or maybe the Predators’ Big Three will be so motivated by contract years that they just won’t allow any goals), but it’s likely that the team will need to scratch and claw for most of their points once again next season. That means the team might need even more from Martin Erat, a player who has produced a steady stream of seasons in the 50-point range. (Which might be more like 60-point seasons in a more wide-open system, but that’s pure conjecture.)

Could next season be a career year for Erat?

From a point per game perspective, the 2010-11 season was the second best of Erat’s nine-year NHL career. He scored 50 points in 64 games (.78 points per game), second only to his .84 rate in 06-07 (57 points in 68 games).

An optimistic Predators fan might hope he can keep up that pace and produce a career-best campaign in 2011-12 if he could manage to stay healthy. Back issues plagued the Czech-born winger last season, but Josh Cooper reports that Erat is feeling refreshed this summer.

“I took a little bit more time off, just to get healed and on the right track,” Erat said. “I’m feeling OK right now and feeling good. Excited for being healthy next season.”


So far this offseason, Erat said, he has mostly used lower-body weights in workouts and worked on his “explosiveness.” He also decided to work more on his midsection, in order to make sure the back issues don’t return.

“Right now it’s working for me,” Erat said.

Cooper points out that although Erat’s cap hit is a reasonable $4.5 million, the 2011-12 season marks a peak salary year of $6 million. For a budge-conscious team like Nashville, that means they’ll be expecting Erat’s best. Judging by their roster of gritty but not-so-creative offensive players, they’ll probably need his best, too.

Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Morris Lukowich #12 of the Winnipeg Jets alumni moves the puck in front Steve Staios #24 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or at 3 p.m. ET.

With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.

  • Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
  • The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game.’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
  • No doubt about it, the futures of both franchises will be on display, from Connor McDavid to Patrik Laine.
  • The league’s PR department tweeted out some silly facts: 425 lbs. of cheese curds “will top poutine” during the event and 2.5 kilometers (about 1.55 miles) of hot dogs and “smokies” will be consumed.

(Imagines one enormous cheese dog.)

Now that you have important food facts in mind, here are a few fun photos as promised.

Should be a great time.

Oh, and in case you missed it, here is a recap of Saturday’s wonderful alumni game:

Coyotes consider Mike Smith (lower body) week-to-week

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The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.

While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.

(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)

Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.

As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.

Report: Rangers expect Dan Girardi back on Sunday

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13:  Dan Girardi #5 of the New York Rangers in action in Game One of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers will have defenseman Dan Girardi back in the lineup against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, according to’s Dan Rosen.

If that holds true, Rosen reports that Girardi will replace Adam Clendening in the Rangers lineup.

The Rangers are 3-2-0 to start the season without Girardi, including a nice 4-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

For plenty of Rangers fans, this is great news, especially since New York could probably use some fresh legs on a back-to-back. He hasn’t played so far this season thanks to a groin injury.

More than a few people wonder if the former All-Star is actually a hindrance to his team, however, so expect some jokes here and there.

These two tweets from earlier this season do a decent job of summarizing the dichotomy:

/Awkward laugh

Panthers’ Harper made a childhood dream come true last night

SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 22: Shane Harper #38 celebrates his third period goal with Gregg McKegg #41 of the Florida Panthers against the Colorado Avalanche at the BB&T Center on October 22, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Avalanche 5-2. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

“Who is Shane Harper?”

Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.

Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:

Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.

So, who is Shane Harper?

For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.

His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.

You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone:

He was modest there, but acknowledged that even playing in the NHL was a dream come true, so scoring a goal must have been even better.