Lightning Bruins Hockey

Discussing bigger leadership roles for Steven Stamkos, Erik Johnson

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While the New York Islanders bucked the trend a bit by handing the “C” to veteran defenseman Mark Streit, young players are receiving more and more leadership roles around the NHL. From Alex Ovechkin’s captaincy with the Washington Capitals to Sidney Crosby leading the Pittsburgh Penguins and on, graybeard captains are rapidly giving way to guys who might not even be able to grow a beard.

It almost seems like a No. 1 overall pick should receive at least an alternate captain’s “A” when they sign an entry-level contract. Here’s a look at two top picks who could see an increase in responsibilities in the near future.

Should Erik Johnson be Colorado’s next captain?

The Colorado Avalanche are at tough team to gauge. After a Cinderella run to the playoffs in 2009-10, the mostly young squad absolutely fell apart last season. Young players such as budding power forward Chris Stewart and offensive defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk were traded (as was goalie Craig Anderson) during that campaign, while scoring blueliner John-Michael Liles parted ways with the team during the off-season.

With all that change in mind, the team’s 2011-12 fortunes could rest on the shoulders of players they traded for: goalie Semyon Varlamov and defenseman Erik Johnson. Johnson was the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, in front of players such as Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Jordan Staal and Claude Giroux. While Johnson has shown flashes of the brilliance the St. Louis Blues were hoping for, he fizzled out badly in 10-11 before being traded to Colorado for Stewart and Shattenkirk.

No doubt about it, the Avs hope that Johnson not only bounces back from last season, but that he’ll put together the best season of his young career. Denver Post writer Mark Kiszla goes one step further, though: he thinks Colorado should make him their new captain after Adam Foote retired from the job.

Matt Duchene​ brings the dash and flash that sells tickets. Milan Hejduk​ has more gray in his beard, Paul Stastny​ flinches less than a rock.

But are any of these fine men really the answer at captain?

Johnson is the right choice. He represents where the Avs want to go. This is a team obviously trying to tell the league it’s tired of being a pushover. At 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, you don’t want to mess with Johnson at the blue line.

Personally, I’d go with Stastny, but Johnson would be a great representation of which forces will be most pivotal for Colorado next season.

Should Steven Stamkos wear the “A” in Tampa Bay?

Lightning head coach Guy Boucher made Stamkos an alternate captain during a preseason game, but it remains to be seen if the letter will stick. Then again, it might be right to think that it’s just a matter of time for the star sniper. Of course, it could be a while before he becomes more of a leader than current captain Vincent Lecavalier and invaluable winger Martin St. Louis, but he’s obviously a crucial cog in what should be a consistent contender.

“We know how he can play, and it’s not necessarily bringing a certain amount of points,” Lecavalier said. “It’s what he brings to the table. We know he’s going to bring more leadership this year. He deserves it.”

More than that, Boucher said, “He earned it.”


Stamkos seems like an easy choice for an alternate role, but what about Johnson’s possible quick turnaround as the Avalanche captain? Should it instead go to a veteran as a stopgap (Milan Hedjuk) or a player entering his prime like Stastny or Matt Duchene? Let us know in the comments.

Goalie nods: Dubnyk looks to turn tide for slumping Wild

WINNIPEG, MB - OCTOBER 25: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild blocks a shot on goal in second period action in an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on October 25, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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Devan Dubnyk will look to snap Minnesota’s three-game losing streak tonight and, at the same time, look to bump a slump of his own.

On a personal two-game losing streak — and having lost five of his last six — Dubnyk gets the call in Chicago when the Wild take on the ‘Hawks at the United Center.

After a banner ’14-15 campaign that culminated with a Vezina nomination, Dubnyk has failed to match those (admittedly high) standards this season. Though his record is OK — 11-7-2 — his GAA (2.55) and save percentage (.909) leave plenty to be desired. He’s also given up three or more goals in four of his last five starts, including four goals against both the Penguins and Bruins in mid-November.

For Chicago, Corey Crawford will get the start in goal.


Cory Schneider‘s in net for New Jersey as the Devils host the Avalanche. Colorado played last night — a 5-3 loss to the Isles, in which Semyon Varlamov allowed four goals on 27 shots — so it has yet to name a starter. Safe money’s on Reto Berra in the second of a back-to-back, though.

Mike Condon, back in the No. 1 role with the injured Carey Price out six weeks, goes for Montreal against Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky starts for the Blue Jackets.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Craig Anderson as Ottawa invades Philly. Anderson, now the full-fledged No. 1 with Andrew Hammond (concussion) out, went 6-2-2 in November with a .925 save percentage.

Linus Ullmark goes for Buffalo in Detroit, while the Wings counter with Petr Mrazek.

Mike Smith‘s back in goal for the Coyotes after Anders Lindback started on Saturday. The Preds are likely to go with Pekka Rinne.

— Good matchup in St. Louis tonight, as veteran Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo goes up against one of the best young ‘tenders in the game in Jake Allen.

— The Flames are going back to the Karri Ramo well tonight when they host Dallas. With Kari Lehtonen still hurt, Antti Niemi looks likely for the Stars.

— No confirmations out of Los Angeles yet, but Jacob Markstrom is likely for the Canucks while Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings.

— No confirmations out of San Jose-Pittsburgh, either. But since neither team played last night, it’s likely both No. 1s, Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Jones, will be in net.

More injury trouble for the Rangers — Klein out 2-3 weeks

Kevin Klein, Gustav Nyquist

As if losing Derek Stepan wasn’t going to be hard enough, the New York Rangers will also be without defenseman Kevin Klein for the next little while.

Klein has a “strained oblique,” the club announced today. The 30-year-old suffered the injury early in yesterday’s 4-3 win over Carolina. He’ll be out 2-3 weeks.

Klein, a right shot, has spent time paired with Marc Staal, Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh this season. The way Dan Girardi and Dan Boyle have struggled (see: here and here) on the right side, you could make the argument that Klein was the last defenseman they could afford to lose. (You may not win the argument, but you could sure make it.)

With Klein out, Dylan McIlrath will get back into the lineup tomorrow in Brooklyn.

Currently, the Rangers have just six healthy defenseman on their roster.

Kane, Holtby, Duchene named NHL’s three stars for November

Patrick Kane

A winger, a goalie and a center were the NHL’s three stars for October.

And now a winger, a goalie and a center are the NHL’s three stars for November, too.

On Tuesday, the league announced that Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Washington’s Braden Holtby and Colorado’s Matt Duchene were the first, second and third stars for the month, this after naming Dallas’ Jamie Benn, Montreal’s Carey Price and Boston’s David Krejci as the three stars last month.


Kane led the NHL with 15 assists and 23 points, registering at least one point in all 13 November games to guide the Blackhawks (13-8-3, 29 points) to a 7-3-3 month and third place in the Central Division.

Holtby went 9-2-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and one shutout to pace the NHL in wins and backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to a 9-3-1 month and second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Duchene paced the NHL with 11 goals and ranked second with 20 points in 14 games to power the Avalanche (9-14-1, 19 points) to a 6-8-0 November. In doing so, he became the first Avalanche player to score 11 or more goals in one calendar month since February 2003 (Milan Hejduk: 12).

Kane, of course, is also currently riding a 19-game point streak, the longest by an American-born player in NHL history and the longest by any player since Sidney Crosby had a point in 25 straight games during the ’10-11 campaign.

Kane will look to extend his streak tonight, when the ‘Hawks take on the Wild (NBCSN, 8 p.m. ET).

Strome, Marner highlight Team Canada’s World Junior roster

Connor McDavid
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Hockey Canada announced its roster for the World Junior selection camp on Tuesday and, unsurprisingly, the list is filled with first-round picks.

Chief among them? Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner, taken third and fourth overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Strome, property of the Arizona Coyotes and Marner, property of the Maple Leafs, are just two of nine first-rounders from this June’s draft heading to camp; the roster also includes five first-rounders from the ’14 draft.

Thirty players in total were invited. That means there’ll be some stiff competition for roster spots, though not in goal, where only Calgary and New Jersey prospects Mason McDonald and Mackenzie Blackwood will attend.

The full list of invitees:



As for the fate of two WJC-eligible NHLers — Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann — Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski said his organization is holding out hope both will be available for selection.