You could argue that Anze Kopitar missing the final days of last season and the playoffs is what did in their chances of going deep into the postseason. Kopitar’s ankle injury was an unfortunate break for a team on the brink of breaking out, but as he’s shown already this season, it’s not affecting his play.
Kings coach Terry Murray says that Kopitar is playing great and showing no ill effects from his ankle injury. With three goals and an assist in the Kings’ first two games in Europe, Kopitar is showing that those who thought he would be a dark horse pick for the Art Ross Trophy might have something to crow about.
Helping Kopitar break out are his linemates. While he was expected to have Justin Williams on his right side all along, having Simon Gagne to his left is a surprise and one that’s working out well so far. When Dustin Penner returns from his injury, Murray will have some choices to make with his lines and whether or not he’ll put Penner back with Kopitar or slide him in next to Mike Richards instead. Having those kinds of choices make being a coach a little easier.
If Kopitar can keep this brand of elite level play up he won’t just be in the running for the Art Ross, he could wind up in the Hart Trophy discussion as well.
The Vancouver Canucks have called up defenseman Jordan Subban from the AHL.
Subban, the youngest brother of Nashville’s P.K. Subban, has nine goals and 13 assists in 34 games for the Utica Comets this season. The 21-year-old is not very big, and he’s had to work on his defensive play, but as his statistics suggest, he does have good offensive abilities.
It remains to be seen if Subban will actually play for the Canucks, who host Florida tomorrow and then hit the road for a three-game road trip starting Sunday in Chicago. Vancouver also announced today that d-man Andrey Pedan has been reassigned to the AHL. Pedan’s 30-days waivers exemption was set to expire today; hence, that move.
Subban is unlikely to get into the lineup unless Troy Stecher is unable to play. Stecher has reportedly been battling the flu and only logged 11:50 of ice time in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Nashville.
The Canucks have three defensemen on injured reserve: Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton, and Philip Larsen.
Related: Jordan Subban has ‘a great opportunity’ to prove himself to Canucks
The tough times just got tougher for Sam Bennett.
Bennett, the fourth overall pick in 2014, will be a healthy scratch tonight when the Flames host the Preds at the Saddledome, head coach Glen Gulutzan announced.
The 20-year-old is in the midst of an awful slump. Bennett hasn’t scored a goal since Dec. 27 and is pointless in his last 10 games — not the kind of production the team was anticipating, especially after he scored 18 goals and 36 points in his rookie campaign last season.
“It’s frustrating when you’re not producing,” Bennett said earlier this week, per the Calgary Sun. “I want to contribute offensively. But just playing the right way is my main focus. Hopefully, I keep getting chances and eventually one has gotta go in.”
Micheal Ferland will move into the lineup to replace Bennett, and veteran Matt Stajan will be bumped up to the third-line center spot as a result.
Given his pedigree and draft position, expectations for Bennett are pretty high. Calgary anticipated he’d be part of the young, talented forward group that carries the load offensively, alongside the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk.
And to be fair, Bennett did have a decent start to the year, with 12 points through his first 24 games.
But it’s been tough sledding ever since.
Darryl Sutter wants more from his “top guys.”
In the wake of last night’s 3-2 loss to the Sharks, the Kings’ head coach was no doubt referring to the likes of Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, each of whom has just four goals this season.
Though Gaborik did manage to score last night, Kopitar didn’t. The captain has just one goal in his last 16 games. And for $10 million a season, it’s not enough to be good defensively.
“You need those top guys to make a difference,” said Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “You’re going to be in one-goal games, lots of ‘em. How many have we had this year? I mean, how many times? I bet I’ve already pulled the goalie more times ever than I have ever, so that means you’re one goal down. It means that you need your top guys to make a difference there.”
Jeff Carter (23 goals) and Tanner Pearson (14) are the only Kings with double-digit goal totals this season. And with no Tyler Toffoli, it’s even more important that Kopitar and Gaborik start chipping in more regularly.
Gaborik’s produced lately, with three goals in his last six games. That needs to continue, and Kopitar needs to find his scoring touch.
The Kings (22-19-4) kick off a five-game road trip Saturday in Brooklyn. After 45 games, they’re barely hanging on to a wild-card spot, with Vancouver, Nashville, Dallas, and Winnipeg all within striking distance.
It’s worth noting that only four teams have fewer regulation victories than the Kings have (12). If not for their 9-1 record in overtime, they might really be in trouble.
Seth Griffith is on waivers again.
The 24-year-old forward has only managed five assists in 21 games for the Florida Panthers since being claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs had claimed Griffith off waivers from Boston at the beginning of the season.
A prolific scorer at the AHL level (he had 77 points in 57 games for Providence last season), Griffith has just six goals and 10 assists in 58 career NHL games.
Griffith has been a healthy scratch the past three games for the Panthers.