Hockey’s often a family affair for kids growing up in North America. If a family had a set of brothers of any number that were into the sport, the chances were pretty good all of them were going to play it together as kids. Look at the Staal family and the four brothers there who all play professional hockey (three in the NHL, one in the AHL).
A funny thing happened this offseason, however, as the Philadelphia Flyers acquired a pair of players with brothers who have already made a name for themselves with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Flyers acquired Brayden Schenn, brother of Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn, when they sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles. The Flyers also signed former Islanders draft pick defenseman Blake Kessel, brother of Phil Kessel, to an entry level deal during rookie camp.
It only makes sense then that the two teams will face each other tonight in Toronto and that both sets of brothers would be on the roster ready to go to play against each other.
While we know plenty about Phil Kessel and Luke Schenn, their younger brothers come with a bit of the unknown behind their games. Brayden Schenn is one of the top prospects in hockey and the L.A. Kings giving him to Philly in exchange for Mike Richards showed how badly they wanted Richards on their team. Schenn was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Kings and has been slowly crafting his game in junior hockey the last two seasons. He’s expected to land a spot on the Flyers as their starting third line center out of camp.
Blake Kessel is even more unknown than Brayden Schenn and, much like the Schenns, is a defenseman compared to his brother as a forward. Kessel was a late draft pick by the Islanders but never signed a deal with the team after playing for three years at the University of New Hampshire and became a free agent. At UNH Kessel was an offensive defenseman who peaked in his second season with the Wildcats scoring ten goals and adding 28 assists in 38 games. A point per game player is someone worth taking a peek at and that’s what the Flyers are doing with him. He’s expected to play in the AHL for Adirondack this year.
The chances we”ll see these sets of brothers both pair up and face each other in the regular season are slim as it’s highly unlikely that Blake Kessel can win a spot in Philly, but throwing in the brotherly part of the game between the Flyers and Leafs helps make this once brutal rivalry a bit more fun. Add in the fact that brothers will always get up for a game against each other to try and one-up one another and you’ve got a lot of talented guys eager to go all out. Tonight should provide a bit of fun all around for these guys.
The tough times just got tougher for Sam Bennett.
Bennett, the fourth overall pick in 2014, will be a healthy scratch tonight when the Flames host the Preds at the Saddledome, head coach Glen Gulutzan announced.
The 20-year-old is in the midst of an awful slump. Bennett hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 27 and is pointless in his last 10 games — not the kind of production the team was anticipating, especially after he scored 18 goals and 36 points in his rookie campaign last season.
“It’s frustrating when you’re not producing,” Bennett said earlier this week, per the Calgary Sun. “I want to contribute offensively. But just playing the right way is my main focus. Hopefully, I keep getting chances and eventually one has gotta go in.”
Micheal Ferland will move into the lineup to replace Bennett, and veteran Matt Stajan will be bumped up to the third-line center spot as a result.
Given his pedigree and draft position, expectations for Bennett are pretty high. Calgary anticipated he’d be part of the young, talented forward group that carries the load offensively, alongside the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.
And to be fair, Bennett did have a decent start to the year, with 12 points through his first 24 games.
But it’s been tough sledding ever since.
Darryl Sutter wants more from his “top guys.”
In the wake of last night’s 3-2 loss to the Sharks, the Kings’ head coach was no doubt referring to the likes of Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, each of whom has just four goals this season.
Though Gaborik did manage to score last night, Kopitar didn’t. The captain has just one goal in his last 16 games. And for $10 million a season, it’s not enough to be good defensively.
“You need those top guys to make a difference,” said Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “You’re going to be in one-goal games, lots of ‘em. How many have we had this year? I mean, how many times? I bet I’ve already pulled the goalie more times ever than I have ever, so that means you’re one goal down. It means that you need your top guys to make a difference there.”
Jeff Carter (23 goals) and Tanner Pearson (14) are the only Kings with double-digit goal totals this season. And with no Tyler Toffoli, it’s even more important that Kopitar and Gaborik start chipping in more regularly.
Gaborik’s produced lately, with three goals in his last six games. That needs to continue, and Kopitar needs to find his scoring touch.
The Kings (22-19-4) kick off a five-game road trip Saturday in Brooklyn. After 45 games, they’re barely hanging on to a wild-card spot, with Vancouver, Nashville, Dallas, and Winnipeg all within striking distance.
It’s worth noting that only four teams have fewer regulation victories than the Kings have (12). If not for their 9-1 record in overtime, they might really be in trouble.
Seth Griffith is on waivers again.
The 24-year-old forward has only managed five assists in 21 games for the Florida Panthers since being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs had claimed Griffith off waivers from Boston at the beginning of the season.
A prolific scorer at the AHL level (he had 77 points in 57 games for Providence last season), Griffith has just six goals and 10 assists in 58 career NHL games.
Griffith has been a healthy scratch the past three games for the Panthers.
Aleksander Barkov was only supposed to miss 2-3 weeks with a then-undisclosed injury.
That timeline was provided almost three weeks ago, and Barkov still isn’t back playing for the Florida Panthers.
Today, interim coach Tom Rowe provided an update, and it wasn’t good news. Rowe told reporters on a conference call that there’s no timeline for Barkov’s return. He then dropped an even bigger bomb, admitting there’s concern that both Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau could have season-ending injuries.
The Panthers are still hopeful that Huberdeau will be back by early March. The 23-year-old hasn’t played at all this season after suffering a skate laceration in the preseason. His original timeline was 3-4 months.
The Panthers’ frustrating season continued last night in Edmonton, where they lost 4-3 in overtime on a Connor McDavid goal with 2.6 seconds remaining. Though they’re only one point back of a playoff spot, the closest two teams they’re chasing, Toronto and Ottawa, each have five games in hand.
It’s estimated that Florida (20-18-9) will need to go in the neighborhood of 20-10-5 down the stretch in order to make the playoffs. And that will obviously be a lot tougher to accomplish without two of the team’s best forwards — if, indeed, Barkov and Huberdeau are sidelined for much, or even all, of the remaining schedule.