Evgeni Malkin

Is Evgeni Malkin’s red-hot preseason a sign that he’ll be an elite player again?


While Alex Ovechkin edged him for the Hart Trophy in 2008-09, Evgeni Malkin certainly would have won an award for the best combined regular season and playoffs (if there was one). The Pittsburgh Penguins star won the Art Ross Trophy with a league-leading 113 points and then earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the team won the 2009 Stanley Cup.

At that time, a common joke was that Crosby “wasn’t even the best player on his own team” because of Malkin’s genius. Things just haven’t been the same for the slick Russian center since then, though. He scored “just” 77 points in 67 contests in 09-10 and then things really bottomed out in a 37-point, 43-game campaign in 10-11. Particularly harsh observers might say that last season was mercifully cut short by knee surgery.

It’s reasonable to worry that Malkin might not be able to bounce back from that injury right away; conventional sports wisdom dictates that athletes struggle in an initial season following similar procedures. Yet the dynamic forward seems invigorated by the involuntary rest he received beginning in February.

Malkin continued his impressive – if inconsequential – preseason by scoring a goal and two assists to help the Penguins earn a 4-1 win in an exhibition game against the Minnesota Wild today. The highlight of Malkin’s night might have been his between-the-legs pass to Pascal Dupuis, who made it 2-0 at the time.

So, the $8.7 million question is: will Malkin be a dominant force again when the games start to matter? There are a few reasons to believe the answer might be “Yes.”

  • His shooting percentage has been a bit below average the last two seasons. Malkin scored on 13.6, 17.3 and 12.1 percent of his shots in his dominant trio of opening campaigns, but connected on only 10.4 in 09-10 and a career-low 8.2 last season. Getting his normal (12.6 career average) amount of bounces could help Malkin fall in the 35-40 goal range – or better – if he stays healthy.
  • If you ask me, Malkin has missed having a decent sniper by his side in Petr Sykora. If Crosby remains injured, Malkin might line up with a legitimate finisher in James Neal, who should be able to take advantage of his sublime passes.
  • Again, merely being well-rested could make a dramatic difference. I get the feeling that Alex Ovechkin has pushed himself too far during the last two off-seasons by playing in summer hockey tournaments immediately following playoff exits. Malkin did the same in 2010, but his injury forced him to get extra R & R in 2011. That could provide subtle benefits for a player who probably doesn’t seem prone to being very open about health issues that bother him.

On the flip side, Malkin might not have stronger teammates next season and his knee could continue to be a problem.

Ultimately, it probably comes down to expectations. It might be too much to ask Malkin to flirt with that lofty 113-point peak – especially since Daniel Sedin was the only player to pass the century mark last season with 104 points – but Malkin should return to at least a point-per-game form if he’s close to 100 percent. For some, that might be enough of a reason to make the Penguins the odds-on favorites to win the Atlantic Divison and maybe even the Stanley Cup – even if his famous partner in crime’s concussion issues continue.

After missing on Ducks gig, Richardson lands with Hockey Canada

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Luke Richardson, the former player and bench boss that interviewed for Anaheim’s vacant head coaching gig this summer, has caught on with Hockey Canada as an assistant coach for the upcoming Deutschland Cup, per the Ottawa Sun.

Richardson, 47, is considered to be a quality NHL coach-in-waiting.

A veteran d-man with over 1,400 games played in Toronto, Edmonton, Philly, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Ottawa, he’s since enjoyed success as both an assistant coach with the Sens, and as their bench boss in AHL Binghamton.

In his first year with Bingo, Richardson led the club to a 44-21-1-7 record. He was named the AHL’s Eastern Conference all-star coach in his second year.

Richardson’s been praised for his work developing young prospects. Upon departing the Sens organization this summer — he asked GM Pierre Dorion to be considered for the head coaching gig in Ottawa, but was turned down — the club noted that 13 of Richardson’s players were recalled from Binghamton last season.

Earlier, Richardson received accolades for his work with the likes of Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Unsurprisingly, he’s been linked to a variety of NHL jobs.

Richardson was considered a frontrunner for the Sabres gig that eventually went to Dan Bylsma and, as mentioned above, was shortlisted and interviewed by Ducks GM Bob Murray to replace Bruce Boudreau (the job eventually went to Randy Carlyle).

“My confidence grew when I was with Binghamton and I have a plan about how to be successful in the NHL,” Richardson said, per the Sun. “But there are only 30 jobs and you’ve got to be patient.

“It’s unfortunate that if you do get a chance, it’s at somebody else’s expense, but I know that if I sign somewhere, I would immediately be on the clock, too.”

Taking a tourney gig with Hockey Canada has proven an effective way to break into — or, back into — NHL coaching. Guy Boucher led Canada at the 2014 and 2015 Spengler Cups, and subsequently scored the Sens gig this summer.

Stecher to make NHL debut for Canucks

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09: Troy Stecher #2 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the third period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.The Boston Terriers defeat North Dakota 5-3.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It didn’t take long for the injury bug to bite the Vancouver Canucks again. Head coach Willie Desjardins announced this morning that forwards Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett were expected to miss 7-10 days, each with undisclosed ailments, and that defenseman Chris Tanev was day-to-day after getting banged up Sunday in Anaheim.

Of the three injured players, Tanev has by far the biggest role. The 26-year-old typically logs 20 minutes on the top pairing with Alex Edler. Tonight against Ottawa, Tanev will be replaced by rookie Troy Stecher, who will be making his NHL debut.

Stecher, 22, signed with the Canucks in April after three years at the University of North Dakota. He had an impressive preseason but was sent down to AHL Utica to start the year.

“Playing with Edler, certainly he’s going to get some hard match-ups,” said Desjardins, who opted to keep his other two defensive pairings together. Vancouver’s second pairing is Ben Hutton with Erik Gudbranson, its third is Luca Sbisa with Philip Larsen.

Another former college star, Jayson Megna, will make his Canucks debut tonight, stepping in for Burrows on the fourth line.

As for Nikita Tryamkin, the big Russian d-man is expected to be a healthy scratch for the seventh time in seven games.

“He’s still on the program,” said Desjardins. “We’re still trying to get him to where we want him to be. He’s not quite there yet.”

Tryamkin, 22, has refused to accept an assignment to the AHL.

Investor offers to build Seattle arena without public financing


From King 5 News in Seattle:

Chris Hansen and his investment team on Tuesday offered to forgo public financing to build a new sports arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.

The group also said it would cover the current funding gap to build an overpass over Lander Street, a project long desired by freight and industrial interests concerned about congestion in around the Port of Seattle.

The proposal amounts to a stunning and swift turn in the nearly five-year debate over building a new arena and, ultimately, bringing a professional basketball and hockey team to the city.

Be sure to click on the story for all the details. These stories are rarely simple, and there’s still no guarantee that Hansen and his group will get permission to build their new arena.

But suffice to say, if a new arena does get built, Seattle will have a much better chance of landing an NHL franchise. Hansen has said he’s only interested in owning an NBA franchise, but back in 2014, billionaire Victor Coleman was reportedly working with Hansen to land an NHL tenant. It’s not clear if Coleman is still working with Hansen.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said that Seattle is not a consideration for relocation or expansion until there’s a suitable arena.


— Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle

— Pacific Northwest will ‘get serious consideration’ for expansion or relocation


Goalie nods: Subban to make second career start

Malcolm Subban

Plenty of noteworthy starts on a busy night — 11 games! — but let’s focus on the situation in Boston.

Yes, again.

Malcolm Subban will make his first start of the season and second of his NHL career when the Bruins host the Wild at TD Garden.

Guaranteed he’s hoping this one goes better than the last.

Subban lasted half a game in a loss to St. Louis last February, allowing three goals on just six shots before getting hooked. This test against Minnesota will be a tall one, especially given how Subban’s brief time in the AHL has gone — the former first-round pick is 0-3-1 with Providence this year, posting a 4.50 GAA and .846 save percentage.

As we wrote earlier, both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin are injured, meaning Subban’s goalie mate in the American League — Zane McIntyre — will serve as Boston’s backup.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk gets the start.


— Justin Peters will make his first start for the Coyotes, who are in New Jersey. The Devils will go with Cory Schiender, after he stopped 28 of 29 shots in a win over Minnesota on Saturday.

James Reimer gives Roberto Luongo a night off as the Panthers visit Pittsburgh. He’ll be up against Marc-Andre Fleury, who continues to shoulder a heavy load with Matt Murray (hand) still out.

— It’s Cam Ward versus Petr Mrazek as the ‘Canes visit Detroit.

— The Bolts will go with Ben Bishop (even though Andrei Vasilevskiy will get more starts) in Toronto. No word on a Leafs starter yet, but it’s expected Frederik Andersen will go. Mike Babcock fielded some questions about Andersen this morning, in case you missed it.

Anders Nilsson makes his first start of the season for the Sabres tonight. Philly has yet to announce who’s going.

— After getting parked for the first meeting against his old team, Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Flames in St. Louis. Carter Hutton gives Jake Allen the night off for the Blues.

— It’s Michael Hutchinson versus Antti Niemi as the Jets take on the Stars in the first of a home-and-home set.

— Ottawa will give Craig Anderson the nod in Vancouver. No word on a Canucks starter yet — Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom split back-to-back games in Anaheim and Los Angeles over the weekend, with Miller playing in Sunday’s loss to the Ducks.

Martin Jones is going for the Sharks tonight, as they host the Ducks. Anaheim has yet to announce a starter.

— The in-form Sergei Bobrovsky, fresh off Saturday’s shutout of Dallas, goes for the Blue Jackets in Los Angeles. Peter Budaj was first off at the Kings’ morning skate. He’s been getting the job done for L.A. thus far, with both Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff out with injury.