Talk about the charmed-life. Jeff Skinner has been living the dream from the moment he was selected 7th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes last June. Some would tell you it started before that when he was piling up the goals in Kitchener for his junior club. After all, it’s hard to argue with 50 goals in only 64 games. But from the moment that he scored the game-winning shootout goal in his second ever NHL game – in Europe no less – it looked like the 2010-11 season was going to be one of those years for Skinner. Nine months later he had an all-star appearance, a 30-goal season, and a Calder Trophy under his belt. Some guys would be satisfied with that kind of season.
So how would a guy like Skinner follow-up his fantastic freshman season without falling into the pitfall of the sophomore slump? How about a chance to experience playoff hockey? Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News Observer caught up with Skinner at the team’s informal workouts at RBC Center:
“As for expectations this season, Skinner isn’t setting any numbers for himself. You won’t hear him talking about trying to score, say, 40 goals. That, he said, might only sidetrack from what he really wants to do: make it to the playoffs and experience that for the first time.
“‘Obviously we missed by one (victory) last year,” [Skinner] said. ‘That’s not a good feeling and I think everyone will use that as motivation. We’ll come back and hopefully be in the mix this year.’”
For the record, an answer that reflects team goals over individual goals is going to go a long way towards endearing himself towards fans (like he needs any help in that department). But still, the Carolina Hurricanes (and Dallas Stars) have had the entire season to think about how things could have been different if they pulled out a win in their final games of the season. Even though the Canes would have faced the daunting task of facing the Capitals in the first-round, youngsters like Skinner, Jaime McBain, and Brandon Sutter could have used the experience as a step in the maturation process. Everyone agrees that NHL players take it to another level when the playoffs start—there’s no substitute for young players than to get a taste of the playoff intensity for themselves.
This season, most experts expect the Hurricanes to finish in the middle of the pack in both the Southeast Division, as well as the Eastern Conference. Teams like the Maple Leafs, Devils, and Jets will all be in the same boat—trying to get back into the playoffs after missing out in April last season. Of that group, only the Hurricanes had a playoff spot within their grasp before watching it slip away against the Lightning in the final game of the season. That’s the bad news.
The good news? Only the Hurricanes have that extreme disappointment that will help fuel the fire this season.
Antti Niemi made 31 saves in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and 30 of them were pretty standard.
The one that wasn’t came in the third period when he lost his glove during a scramble around the net and still managed to instinctively make a save on the puck. With his bare hand.
Niemi said after the game, via the Tribune Review, that he thought the referees would stop the play after his glove came off, and when they didn’t “I just kept playing.”
You can watch the play by clicking here.
Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.
The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and National Hockey League unveiled the 2018 All-Star Game logo Friday.
Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.
His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.
It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.
He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.
His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.
“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”
The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.
On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.
The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.
“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.
“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”
Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.
When the Chicago Blackhawks announced their roster moves yesterday, John Mitchell was among the cuts.
His professional tryout with the Blackhawks had come to an end, as it did for veterans Mark Stuart and Drew Miller.
It can be an uphill battle to make an NHL roster for veterans on professional tryouts. But for Mitchell, he quickly received another opportunity to attend a camp and try to land a spot, signing a PTO with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Mitchell, 32, has appeared in 548 NHL regular season games with 70 goals and 177 points.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are still without forward and restricted free agent Josh Anderson, as the two sides are stuck in a contract impasse right now. It was reported on Thursday that his representatives have been in contact with Hockey Canada about the 2018 Olympics.