The Los Angeles Kings boast some impressive features going into 2011-12. They have a great goalie duo, with a productive and growing starter in Jonathan Quick and a backup who makes scouts drool in Jonathan Bernier. After years of asking a lot from Anze Kopitar, the team will ease his burden with the addition of Mike Richards (and there could be a nice trickle down effect for Jarret Stoll, who slides into a more appropriate third line center role). From Drew Doughty to Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi, the Kings rock a hockey nerd’s dream of a defense and have the head coach to make it all work.
Yup, the Kings look like serious contenders on paper. There’s only one position that troubles many observers: the wings.
The team traded away Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds in the off-season. With the free agent addition of Simon Gagne, the Kings’ top-six wingers look like: Gagne, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner and Justin Williams.
That’s a compelling group, but the problem is that both Gagne and Williams have a long history of injury issues in their careers. Penner lost favor with a lot of Kings fans in his struggles after a splashy trade deadline move, but if nothing else, he was supposed to join Brown as the healthy ones. After all, Penner has only missed four games in the last five seasons.
It’s listed as a lower-body injury, with no clear indication of how severe it might be. Penner scored just six points in 19 regular season games and two points in six playoff games while drawing the ire of Kings fans. I have a strange feeling that he could make a more positive impact this season – at least on offense – because he’s in a contract year. (The Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup the last year he was fighting for a new deal, for one thing.)
We’ll keep you updated about Penner’s injury situation, though.
If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.
Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).
Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:
1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP
Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:
Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.
Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings
As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.
For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.
They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.
The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.
On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.
It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.
This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.
That’s impressive stuff.
This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:
The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.