Patrik Elias doesn’t want to be Devils captain; Is it time for Zach Parise?

We’ve discussed some of the vacant captaincies around the NHL and while there are six teams without a captain, the New Jersey Devils available “C” was one situation that seemed automatic to make a pick on. The most veteran player left in New Jersey was Patrik Elias having been a Devil since 1996 and winning two Stanley Cups with the team.

Unfortunately for the Devils, Elias doesn’t appear to be as keen on being the team’s captain as some would hope to be.

Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice talked to Elias about the available position as the team’s visible leader and he’s less than enthralled with the idea of once again being the Devils captain and that might have a bit to do with the past.

“I don’t need a letter to know what I’m supposed to do,” he said this morning during a break from his training camp physical. “I had the C. I didn’t like the situation the way it was handled when it was taken away. I don’t want to be put in that position again. I think I can help all the young guys and be a leader no matter what. It won’t matter to me.”

Elias was named Devils’ captain before the 2006-07 season by then head coach Claude Julien. He was stripped of the C by Brent Sutter at the start of the 2007 training camp. Sutter told the media about it before discussing it with Elias.

While Elias has worn the “A” ever since then, the idea of being captain again is one that he hasn’t been comfortable with. Who can blame him after what happened under Sutter. So if not Elias… Then who?

In our look at open captain positions around the league, our suggestion was for Zach Parise to get the call as the Devils captain. Of course, the problem there is that he’s signed up for one more year in New Jersey and could hit unrestricted free agency in July. If you think that’s not a situation that’s hanging around in the mind of the Devils, Elias made it clear when asked if Parise should be the guy to be named captain.

When I asked Elias if he thinks Parise will be given the C, he replied,“Hopefully. Then again, you don’t want to have a captain for one year.”

Here’s to hoping Devils fans won’t have a hard time sleeping for the rest of the season thinking about that one.

If it’s not going to be Elias and if it’s too tenuous of a situation to give the “C” to Parise… Then who? The choices there are slim.

If you want to stick with a lifetime Devils player, then perhaps Travis Zajac is your guy. If you want to go with a guy who was a captain with another team, Ilya Kovalchuk is going to be with the Devils for a little while longer. If you’re looking for a dark horse candidate, then how about Anton Volchenkov who’s as much of a leader on defense as anyone on the team.

Of course, there’s also the possibility the Devils could end up being “that team” and going without a captain for the season or, more confusingly so, go with a captaincy that changes from month to month. What’s the fun in that though? No matter how the Devils choose to handle it, there’s going to be some manner of controversy beneath the surface. If it’s Parise, the pressure to get him signed to a long-term deal mounts. If it’s someone aside from Parise, the questions about whether he bolts in the offseason are there unless he gets a deal done.

Maybe Elias might want to take the captaincy just to keep the drama from blowing up in Newark.

The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

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Players of the Night:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

Comeback of the Night:

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night:

Granlund and Dumba:

Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

Red Wings 3, Devils 0

Wild 3, Senators 1

Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning end three-game skid with 2-0 win over Blackhawks

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Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.

It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.

The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.

But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.

For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.

The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap. 

Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.

The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.

The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.

Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.

It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.

The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.

Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.

The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.

For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

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The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row after Stephane Fiset (9) and Patrick Roy (11).

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

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How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.