Sidney Crosby

Crosby will make trip with Penguins on season opening road trip, but don’t get your hopes up

The good news is that Sidney Crosby is slated to join his team as they travel to Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary for the first three games of the 2011-12 season. The bad news is that it’s still extremely doubtful that he’ll play in any of the opening three games. That’s not really bad news—that’s more likely to fall under the “expected” news column.

Penguins head coach Dan Byslma told Alan Robinson of The Canadian Press that the team expects their captain to accompany the team to Vancouver to start the season.

“We’ll be starting with everybody going on the trip that’s part of our group that’s with us at that time. Unless their rehab needs to be at a facility that’s not part of the trip, they’ll be going on the trip with us. So I anticipate that to be the case for Sid.”

Even with the necessarily disclaimers, people are going to get excited that Crosby may appear during the first trip of the season. Don’t bet on it. Remember, the Pittsburgh captain has just started skating and still hasn’t been cleared for contact as of yet. The next step in the recovery process will be to show doctors and the training staff that he can go through multiple workouts without suffering any setbacks or feeling the side-effects from January’s concussion.

Crosby also admitted that even without the contact, he’s still understands that it’s going to take even more time before he gets back to the way he was feeling before the injury last season. He doesn’t sound like he expects to be at that point when the season opens next week:

“Everything seems to be coming slowly, but I think that each day all of that gets better and better. It’s tough. I’m kind of going based on December of last year and how I felt. I’m not going to get to that level this week.

“It’s just a matter of being realistic with how much you want to improve every day, but also paying attention to everything that’s important — so that transition is as smooth as possible.”

On the ice, the Penguins will depend on the players they still have on the roster to get the season started on the right foot. Evgeni Malkin is showing signs that he’s fully recovered from the season-ending knee injury he suffered last season. Behind Malkin, Jordan Staal would realistically be the #2 center on just about any team not named the Penguins. One of the big differences is that the depth on the team will suffer until Crosby makes a return and everyone can slide back into their normal roles.

Of course, the biggest difference is that they’re losing arguably the best player in the NHL. (Easy Caps fans, I said “arguably”)

Whether he plays sometime in October or has to continue to wait for the symptoms to subside, the good news is that Crosby hasn’t suffered any setbacks throughout training camp. In a recovery process that has seen its share of problems and uncertainty, no news is good news. Now, the only question is when he’ll be able to travel with the team and actually play with them as well.

Flyers staff give Gudas a talking to as questionable hits pile up

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1The list of questionable Radko Gudas hits — some of which he’s been suspended for and others he has escaped discipline — has grown again, prompting Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol to apparently have a chat with the 25-year-old defenseman.

There was no hearing for Gudas from his latest infraction, a major penalty for charging called against him for a hit on Buffalo Sabres rookie Daniel Catenacci on Thursday.

Catenacci has since been put on injured reserve, after he went through concussion protocol, as per John Vogl of the Buffalo News.

The NHL didn’t hand out supplemental discipline in this case, but the Flyers brass held a meeting of their own with Gudas, because hits like this could end costing Philadelphia results and precious points in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Flyers are four points out of a playoff spot.

“There’s a big picture to all of it in terms of our main concern,” Hakstol told CSN Philadelphia. “Our main goal right now is to do all the little things necessary to win hockey games.

“In keeping with that, how individually does everybody do their part to help us win games. That’s the basis of my conversation with Radko.”

In December, Gudas was suspended three games for a head shot on Mika Zibanejad. Earlier this month, he was given a major penalty and game misconduct for clipping in a game against the Habs, but escaped discipline for that, as well.

Gudas, who didn’t want to comment on the hit on Catenacci, also spoke with Flyers GM Ron Hextall about this latest incident.

Asked about that conversation, Gudas told reporters, “Just making sure I pay attention and not get suspended again and make a good hockey play or make a good hit.”

After 11-game absence, Savard (oblique) back for Columbus

David Savard
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These are pretty decent times for the Blue Jackets.

The team is 7-3-2 in its last 12, recently re-upped with Ryan Murray on a two-year deal and, on Friday, announced that blueliner David Savard has been activated from IR after missing the last 11 games to an oblique strain.

Savard, 25, was a pretty integral part of John Tortorella’s defense when healthy. He averaged over 24 minutes per night and had 15 points through 39 games prior to being sidelined by the ailment.

He’ll presumably draw back into the lineup when the Jackets take on Ottawa on Saturday. No word yet on a corresponding roster move.

Who’s got the best/worst combined special teams?

The Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, (8), of Russia, leaps in the air in celebration after scoring his 500th career NHL goal during the second period of a hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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Recently, the Washington Capitals went five whole games without scoring a power-play goal.

It was a real nightmare for those guys.

Despite the fact Washington went 3-1-1 over those five games, one headline called it a “troubling power-play drought” — which tells you how few “troubling” things the Caps have had to deal with this season.

Overall, special teams have been a boon for Washington, which ranks first on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill.

Compare that to, say, Calgary, which ranks 29th and 29th, respectively. Now that’s troubling.

Anyway, here’s how all 30 teams rank when their special teams are combined:

Rankings

Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between good special teams and winning hockey games.

In the left column, 12 of the 15 teams are currently in a playoff spot. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal are the exceptions.

On the right, only four teams — Colorado, Detroit, Nashville and the Rangers — are in a playoff spot.

John Scott to return to Habs’ AHL team this weekend

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John Scott’s had enough time off following his All-Star Game MVP award.

Now, he wants to get back to work.

Scott, who made major headlines at the end of January thanks to his unforgettable All-Star performance in Nashville, will return to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s this weekend, as the IceCaps play a pair of games against the Toronto Marlies.

“It’ll be nice to [be] back playing hockey and doing my thing. I’m actually really excited for it,” Scott said, per ESPN. “This has been the longest break I’ve had, ever. But I play like 7-8 minutes, I won’t be too out of shape, I’ll be able to keep up.”

Scott, 33, hasn’t played since his Pacific Division team won the annual ASG 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 31. Following that whirlwind weekend, the Montreal organization allowed him to take a leave to be with his wife, Danielle, who gave birth to twin girls on Feb. 5.

Scott only appeared in four games for St. John’s prior to the All-Star Game, going pointless with six penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.

Related:

The John Scott story, coming to a theater near you?

Therrien on Habs recalling Scott: ‘You never know’