Islanders make Mark Streit the NHL’s first Swiss-born captain


Going into the 2010-11 season, Mark Streit ranked as a significantly underrated offensive defensemen and arguably the top reason why the New York Islanders might have been feeling optimistic. His prodigious skills and hockey IQ were on display during the 2010 Olympics, when he stood out alongside goalie Jonas Hiller on an over-matched Swiss squad that gave the U.S. and Canadian teams some serious headaches.

Of course, things fell apart when a preseason shoulder injury ended that 10-11 campaign. Combined with Kyle Okposo being sidelined for a big chunk of the season, it seemed like the Isles were doomed from the start.

Heading into this summer, the Islanders faced a touch decision: who should become the team’s next captain now that Doug Weight retired? Some people argued for 2009 first overall pick John Tavares while others championed Okposo. Yet if the Islanders decided to break with the recent trends of naming a young face of the franchise and instead opt for a veteran, then Streit would be the obvious choice.

Arthur Staples reports that the Islanders decided to go with Streit, which makes him the NHL’s first Swiss-born player to become a captain. The Islanders confirmed the news moments ago.

After scoring a career-high 62 points in his last season with the Montreal Canadiens in 07-08, many believed that the Islanders might get burned by signing Streit after a breakout year. While Streit hasn’t matched that lofty point total in Long Island, he was outstanding in his two seasons with the Islanders, scoring 56 points in 08-09 and 49 in 09-10. The 33-year-old blueliner fought his way to the NHL, premiering with the Habs during the 05-06 season at age 28.

In my opinion, the Islanders really couldn’t go wrong with either Streit, Okposo or Tavares. It might indeed be wiser to go with a veteran presence, especially since the team can transition the “C” to Okposo or Tavares once Streit retires, leaves for a different squad or fades from relevance. Streit only has two years remaining on his current deal, so it’s possible that the team might move on to a new leader after the 2012-13 season.

Either way, it’s a great reward for a player who paid his dues. The Islanders are among a handful of “wildcard” teams who could be playoff contenders as easily as they could have lousy seasons, so the onus will be on Streit & Co. to get the job done.

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist
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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.