Daymond Langkow

Daymond Langkow passes Coyotes’ physical; Can he give them much-needed help at center?

For most of this off-season, the Phoenix Coyotes have avoided taking big risks. The one gamble they made was handing defenseman Keith Yandle a big contract, but that seems like the smart move considering the fact that he’s in his prime years and the team’s defense would crumble without him. They avoided a bigger dice roll by letting Ilya Bryzgalov walk rather than giving him an enormous contract, although some might say that relying on Mike Smith is the biggest risk of them all.

Coyotes GM Don Maloney seemed like he was going to play it safe all summer long, but then he traded cheap winger Lee Stempniak for an expensive, risky old center in Daymond Langkow. Joe rightly pointed out that the Coyotes will attempt to fill a void at center with Langkow, but the returning Coyotes center (he was traded from Phoenix in 2004) remains a big “if” coming off a serious neck injury.

Today provided some positive news on that front, as the team confirmed that Langkow passed his physical and is “fully cleared to play and participate in all club activities.”

So now that his arrival is all but confirmed, the $4.5 million question is whether or not he’ll be able to help them out. Maloney thinks that Langkow is the perfect fit as a two-way center, even if the aging pivot won’t win fans over with flashy play.

Many thought he would never play again, and even Langkow had his doubts after his 376-day rehab had more than its share of setbacks. But Langkow returned for the final four regular season games last year. And the video of his landmark return against St. Louis on April 1 told Maloney what he need to know.

“I ended up watching all of his shifts those last four games,” Maloney said. “And when he got cross-checked in the middle of the second period (by Blues defenseman Barret Jackman) and got back up, it was pretty good indication he would be fine.”

Langkow is the kind of player Maloney and coach Dave Tippett covet; hard-working leaders who let their play on the ice do the talking.


“Daymond symbolizes what we’re all about in Phoenix,” he said. “There’s not a lot of flash and dash, not a lot of high-end speed. But he’s a very good player on both sides of the puck, he takes care of his own end and has enough creative ability to thrive with skilled players.

“When we add him down the middle to guys like (Martin) Hanzal and (Boyd) Gordon and, at some point,  Turris, it makes us look much more formidable as a team. He’s never going to win a public-speaking contest, but he’s very well respected and that goes a long way with us.”

At first, the monetary difference made the trade a little shaky; the Coyotes took on $2.6 million more in cap space after dealing Stempniak ($1.9 million) for Langkow ($4.5 million). Yet when you consider the fact that the Coyotes aren’t that much above the salary cap floor at just under $51 million, it gets a slight bit easier to stomach.

The Coyotes wanted to open up playing time for their young wingers while solidifying their shaky situation at center now that Eric Belanger and Vernon Fiddler are no longer in the fold. I’m not completely certain that Langkow has the health (or even enough gas left in the tank) to make that trade seem brilliant, but at least they did something to try to improve in a serious area of need.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.