Matt Duchene wants John Tavares money for his second contract

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Matt Duchene will probably be compared to John Tavares for the rest of his NHL career.

That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to year-by-year draft debates. While the New York Islanders took Tavares with the first pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Duchene shot up the ranks to become the third pick – and second forward/center – to be chosen when Colorado nabbed him.

From that day forward, Duchene and Tavares will be linked like Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin and many other draft day pairings. (I’m guess that no one will waste much time with the Alexandre Daigle-Chris Pronger debate, though.)

Two very different centers with remarkably similar results

If there’s one thing that distinguishes Duchene – at least in my mind – it’s his blazing speed. Those dynamic wheels were on display during the 2011 NHL All-Star Game when Nicklas Lidstrom fed him with a beautiful lead pass as Duchene scored a downright pretty breakaway goal.

On the other hand, Tavares is known for producing impressive offense despite a lack of high-end skating ability. He has a knack for finding ways to score goals with his high hockey IQ, great hands and overall imagination.

Despite key distinctions, the two forwards produce remarkably similar results. Duchene has a slight edge in overall points (51 goals, 122 points) while Tavares scored a couple extra goals (53 goals, 121 points). With those nearly identical numbers in mind, Duchene wants other figures to be in line: their second contract salaries. That would mean something in the range of Tavares’ six-year, $33 million deal.

Duchene told The Denver Post that he isn’t worried about the situation, though.

“If I take care of business, that’s a reward. That’s not something that you aim for. It’s not a destination. It’s a byproduct,” he said matter of factly.

(snip)

“J.T. and I are pretty close. I didn’t talk to J.T. about it, but I talked to our agent, Pat Brisson, about it, and we weren’t sure what was going to happen right after he signed, whether it was going to be potentially something for me, but I didn’t really care either way,” Duchene said. “I love playing the game and the money is obviously nice, but I’ve never let that be a distraction for me. Not once. I’m not worried about it whatsoever.”

The Tavares contract might be a lofty comparison, but it could be worse

For those who believe that Duchene doesn’t have the same high-end potential as Tavares, $5.5 million per year might seem like a scary figure. To some extent, it is.

That being said, the Avalanche would be better off if Brisson and Duchene use Tavares as a comparable rather than one of Duchene’s teammates. If the Duchene camp takes the approach that Drew Doughty’s did with Anze Kopitar in regards to Paul Stastny’s $6.6 million per year rate, then cash-conscious Colorado could have reason for concern.

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Interestingly enough, both the Avalanche and Islanders have reason to believe that 2011-12 will be far different than cellar-dwelling seasons in 10-11. Colorado might want to follow the Isles’ lead in wrapping up their budding star center, although the Avs’ situation isn’t as simple because of certain commitments.

Either way, Duchene will get his numbers – both in points and salary – so the big question for each concern is “How much?”

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Alex Burrows fined $5,000 for roughing

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Alex Burrows won’t be on Dylan DeMelo‘s Christmas card list this year.

Not after Burrows swiped DeMelo in the face with the butt-end of his stick on Saturday night.

Burrows got slapped with a $5,000 fine for roughing on Sunday night, the maximum permissible under the CBA. The money is one thing, but Burrows and the Senators have bigger issues at the moment.

It didn’t help the little incident happened in the third period and the game all but over for the Senators. Here’s the slow-mo shot of the infraction:

DeMelo suffered a scratch cornea and narrowly missed a major eye injury, according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. 

DeMelo was in the lineup for the Sharks on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

Burrows’ $5,000 goes to the player’s Emergency Assistance Fund.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Is it a slump or is regression setting in for the Winnipeg Jets?

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Might regression be hitting the Winnipeg Jets at the moment?

It’s a question Jets fans are asking themselves after a three-game road trip that produced just a single point and a goose egg in the win column.

It’s the first time the Jets have lost three straight all season. In year’s past, this wouldn’t have come as much surprise, but the Jets have thrown the status quo out the window this season and have sung a different tune.

The analytics would suggest the Jets were due for a fall back to earth.

For most of the season, they’ve been near the bottom of the league in terms of Corsi, with only recently climbing up that ladder with a help of a very lopsided game against the Ottawa Senators.

Regression in goal is also starting to happen, and a lot of Winnipeg’s early-season success had to do with how well Connor Hellebuyck had been playing.

Hellebuyck has been sensational most of the season and his 15-3-4  record supports that. But his save percentage has been trending in the wrong direction lately. In five of his past six starts, Hellebuyck has only achieved a .900 save percentage or better once, and that came in that 5-0 shutout against the Senators.

Nov. 27 vs MIN: .895
Nov. 29 vs COL: .885
Dec. 1 vs VGK: .871
Dec. 3 vs. OTT: 1.000
Dec. 5 vs DET: .844
Dec. 9 vs TBL: .857

The Jets give up a lot of shots, so the odds that Hellebuyck’s early season numbers would survive throughout the year were low.

The sky is by no means falling in Winnipeg. The Jets showed they can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best on Saturday. Overtime has just been the bane of their existence this season with a 0-5 record in free hockey.

The Jets touched the summit of the Western Conference last week, a pipe dream around these parts in recent times. They also possess two of the league’s top point-producers (Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler) and one of the league’s top goal scorers (Patrik Laine), not to mention having a rookie just outside top 10 in rookie scoring (Kyle Connor).

Prior to the road trip, Winnipeg’s power play had scored eight times in 19 attempts.

The Jets have also been largely healthy. Defenseman Toby Enstrom is the midst of an eight-week spell in the press box — and there’s a pending diagnosis coming for Dustin Byfuglien after he left Saturday’s game in Tampa Bay with a lower-body injury — but the Jets gotten by relatively unscathed thus far and managed well when Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry missed several games.

The Jets have made too many strides this season to regress too far away from where they are right now. Asking a team to go from outside the playoff line to tops in the division might be asking a tad too much. But with that said, the Jets are simply a good team these days and stacked with high-level talent.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Calgary Hitmen fans make 24K stuffed animals fly during Teddy Bear Toss (Video)

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Congratulations, Vladislav Yeryomenko, you were this year’s Teddy Bear Toss goal scorer for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

Yeryomenko’s goal at 9:36 of the first period during their game Sunday vs. the Moose Jaw Warriors was the sign for Hitmen fans to launch their teddy bears inside the Saddledome. Boy, it sure did rain plenty of fur.

Here’s what it looked like:

And here’s a fan’s eye view:

After a clean up delay of approximately 40 minutes , the game resumed but the Hitmen would fall to the Warriors 6-3. The counting, as you would imagine, took some time, but when they were finished it was announced that an astounding 24,605 stuffed animals were collected, which will go to 60 local charities.

“It’s an unforgettable moment,” Yeryomenko said via the Hitmen website. “It’s possible it can only happen once in your life and it happened to me. I enjoyed the moment of it all.”

There were 23,924 stuffed animals tossed during last year’s game, and the Hitmen hold the record of 28,815 bears, which was set in 2015.

The Hitmen have been holding this event since 1995 and are their fans are the true leaders in tossing those bears. Including this Sunday’s total, the team has collected 347,948 stuffed animals for local charities. Just last weekend the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears held their Toss event and fans there set a team record with an impressive 25,017 stuffed animals hitting the ice.

This once again proves that the Teddy Bear Toss is the greatest promotion in all of sports.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.