Max Pacioretty injured

Pacioretty faces Chara for the first time tonight

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Zdeno Chara has already faced the Montreal Canadiens since his controversial hit on Max Pacioretty last March. The big Boston defenseman helped the Bruins to a seven-game victory over the Habs in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

But Chara still hasn’t faced Pacioretty on the ice. Until tonight at the TD Garden.

While Chara isn’t making a big deal out of it – “I’m excited to play the game” – it’s always a story when two players who were involved in a contentious incident meet for the first time.

Boston coach Claude Julien was saying all the right things prior to tonight’s contest.

“I can tell you one thing we’re happy about honestly, and it would be for anybody else, is that [Pacioretty] is healthy. As a player in the league, you don’t want to see somebody end his career on an unfortunate accident. But what you want to see is a player to come back and be healthy. As far as that’s concerned, he’s healthy, we’ve turned the page and now it’s time to move on,” said Julien, as reported by the Boston Herald.

At any rate, you have to think Pacioretty will be more focused on continuing his recent run of play than taking any sort of revenge on Chara (which would be a tough thing to do anyway). The 22-year-old Montreal forward leads his team in scoring with nine points, including two goals and an assistant in the Habs’ vital 5-1 win over the Flyers last night at the Bell Centre.

The Canadiens aren’t out of the woods yet though. They’re still last in the Northeast with a 2-5-2 record. And with back-to-back games against their biggest rivals (the two teams meet again in Montreal on Saturday), there’s the potential for things to take a serious turn for the worse. Which is to say, the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn might not be the final move GM Pierre Gauthier makes. Head coach Jacques Martin is the likeliest next casualty.

The Bruins, meanwhile, have their own problems. The defending champions are off to a slow start. Some would say it’s a predictably slow start after a short summer of celebrating. But their 3-5-0 record gives them just as many points as the Habs.

‘We are who we are’ — Stars stay committed to ‘high-octane’ hockey

Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) celebrates scoring a goal with teammate left wing Jamie Benn (14) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The Dallas Stars had the best offense in the NHL last season, but only the 19th-best goals-against. It was a combination that made them arguably the most exciting team to watch, but also one that ended with a second-round defeat to the St. Louis Blues.

In the Stars’ four losses to the Blues, they surrendered 20 goals combined. When it was over, much of the blame was assigned to their two goalies, and by extension to their general manager.

Just don’t expect the Stars to dramatically change their ways in 2016-17. They are who they are, and they don’t want to be anything else.

“Everybody is raving about Team North America (at the World Cup), and that’s the way we play hockey,” GM Jim Nill said, per the Dallas Morning News. “We are who we are, and we don’t want to get away from that. We’re a high-end, high-octane type of team. That’s how we’re built.”

That being said, head coach Lindy Ruff is still aiming “to take 10 percent off that goals against,” which would put the Stars’ goals-against around No. 10 in the league.

After all, even the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins, not exactly known for playing lock-it-down hockey, found a way to put up good defensive numbers on their way to winning it all.

“As I’ve said to them all along, I know our team is going to score goals,” said the winning head coach, Mike Sullivan. “In order to win championships, you got to keep it out of your net. You have to become a team that is stingy defensively. Everybody has to buy in to that idea for us to get to where we want to go. To their credit, they did, down to a man.”

Related: Team North America was fun

Campbell seems a perfect fit in return to Blackhawks

MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 05:  Brian Campbell #51 of the Florida Panthers skates the puck in his one thousandth NHL career match against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on April 5, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Florida Panthers defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) Brian Campbell‘s 3-year-old daughter had soccer on Saturday morning, so his family skipped the Blackhawks’ scrimmage at the United Center. The grinning defenseman said he wasn’t sure if her team was playing games yet, but she had to be there.

No big deal. Campbell will get plenty of opportunities for family time this year.

The 37-year-old Campbell is back in Chicago after spending the last five seasons in Florida, leaving some money on the table for a one-year deal and a second stint with the Blackhawks. His wife, Lauren, is from the region, and the couple and their two young daughters make their offseason home in the area.

“It’s just great to wake up every morning and I know the area and my wife’s extremely happy and the kids with school and everything just being ready to go,” he said.

The move was a no-brainer for Chicago, which lost Johnny Oduya during free agency last July and missed his veteran presence at times last season. With Campbell in the fold, the Blackhawks appear to be in great shape with their blue liners, with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook leading a deep group of defensemen.

Campbell, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup in 2010, had six goals and 25 assists in 82 games with the Panthers last season. He led NHL defensemen with a plus-31 plus-minus rating.

“Just such a real smart player,” said Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen, who also coached Campbell for three seasons in Florida. “I think his patience is a real key for us. He makes really quality plays. He’s been around for a while and he loves the game. He can skate all night.”

The Blackhawks love mobile defensemen who can help on the offensive side, and Campbell seems like a perfect fit for what they try to do. He assisted on Richard Panik‘s first goal of Saturday’s scrimmage, the centerpiece of the team’s annual training camp festival, and carried the puck all the way up the ice during another impressive sequence.

Chicago is missing several players at the moment due to the World Cup of Hockey, but Campbell has made a smooth return to the Blackhawks so far.

“There’s a few things system-wise that’s going to be different, I’m sure. It’s kind of tough to get into that right now,” said Campbell, who played in every regular-season game while he was with the Panthers. “But not much has changed. There’s a lot of the same staff, which is great, and the organization just keeps getting better every day.”

Campbell, a native of Strathroy, Ontario, played with a couple of current Blackhawks during his first stint with the team, and he already has made an impression on his new teammates.

“Skating with him and seeing him out in these scrimmages, his poise with the puck and his play recognition and how he moves the puck up the ice and gets it away from us,” goaltender Scott Darling said, “we’re really happy to have him.”

Campbell, a four-time All-Star, broke into the NHL with Buffalo in 1999. He won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2012 after collecting four goals and 49 assists in 82 games with Florida, becoming the first defenseman since Red Kelly in 1954 to win the award.

Coming off perhaps his best season – Campbell’s plus-minus rating was a career best – he doesn’t appear to be worried about duplicating his form from a year ago.

“For me this year, it’s just work hard and produce and help out,” he said. “I expect a lot out of myself. I just want to be a good puck mover for this team, play well defensively. Those are the things I kind of did last year. Points will come, I’m not worried about that aspect of the game. Just trying to win hockey games and help these young kids.”

Related: The Blackhawks are ‘very high’ on Michal Kempny

 

Embroiled in contract dispute, Rieder won’t attend Coyotes camp

New York Islanders v Arizona Coyotes
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Still-unsigned RFA Tobias Rieder is currently loving life as a member of Team Europe’s surprising World Cup entry.

His life with the Arizona Coyotes is less idyllic, though.

Over the weekend, Rieder’s agent told the Arizona Republic his client won’t attend Coyotes training camp after the World Cup is over, the latest move in what’s been a contentious negotiation that’s lasted the entire offseason.

“We’ve made them a fair offer at two years at $2.5 million a year, and they’re unwilling to do it,” Darren Ferris explained. “Tobi brings a lot of intangibles to that team. I know he’s a fan favorite.

“He loves Arizona, but it’s disappointing that they’re unwilling to compensate this kid fairly.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka called the decision ‘disappointing,’ saying that he wouldn’t comment on negotiation specifics publicly.

(Of course, Chayka did tell the Republic the Coyotes made “some real considerable long-term offers that are right on par with the longest offers we’ve ever made in this organization.” Which would classify as a negotiating specific, no?)

According to an earlier Arizona Sports report, Rieder was seeking a two-year, $5.5 million deal, one that carries a $2.75M average annual cap hit. That would be a sizeable raise from the $925,000 he made on his now expired entry-level deal.

Per that same report, the Coyotes were offering “somewhere between $2 million and $2.3 million per year on a two-year deal.”

Rieder, who turned 23 in January, would seem to have reasonably good value. He’s coming off a career year with personal bests in goals (14) and assists (23), and is a very quick skater that can play up and down the lineup.

There have been rumblings of a potential KHL move, though Ferris said Rieder’s No. 1 goal is to stick in the NHL. The next big date for the Rieder situation is Dec. 1 — if RFAs are still unsigned by then, they’re ineligible to play for the remainder of the NHL campaign.

Four teams that would make sense for Jacob Trouba

SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 27:  Jacob Trouba #8 of the Winnipeg Jets in action against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on March 27, 2014 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The big NHL news over the weekend came when the agent for Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba announced on Saturday night that his client, still unsigned as a restricted free agent, is requesting a trade from the team so he can put himself into a better position to fully develop as a player.

The Jets responded by saying that they are working to resolve the matter but are going to operate with the team’s best long-term interests in mind, and that they still view Trouba as a long-term piece of their team. As we have seen over the past year, trade requests don’t always turn into a trade, even in situations where the player-team relationship seemed beyond repair as was the case with Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But if the Jets do end up making a trade, Trouba should be an attractive player to several teams around the NHL. He is still only 22 years old, is years away from unrestricted free agency, is already a very good player, and has the right handed shot teams covet on the blue line. Players that fit that description do not come available very often.

Let’s take a look at four potential spots that could make the most sense for Trouba.

The Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks would be an interesting spot because it’s not like they need an upgrade on their blue line, because it’s already a pretty good group. But this is still a destination that would make some sense. Here’s why: The word out of Winnipeg over the weekend is that the Jets’ asking price for Trouba is going to be a comparable defenseman to Trouba that also happens to be a left-handed shot. Part of the reason Trouba is requesting a trade is that he is right-handed and the Jets already have a couple of right-handed shots on their roster. The Ducks have that exact defenseman in Hampus Lindholm. And it just so happens that, he too, is still an unsigned restricted free agent.

Boston Bruins: Now we start getting into the teams that really do need somebody like Trouba. Once one of the top defensive teams in the NHL, the Bruins’ defense has now become their weakest link because of the talent they have lost (Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton) and the players that have gotten older and are simply no longer the players they were in recent years (Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg before he was bought out this summer and became a free agent). Making matters worse is the Bruins really haven’t done anything to address this is a meaningful way over the past two years and coach Claude Julien’s approach to fixing it seems to simply be “play better.” You know what helps teams play better? Having better players, and Trouba would absolutely be a fit here.

New York Rangers:  Another team whose defense taken several steps backwards over the past two years has, especially when you compare it to the unit that was on the ice in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Anton Stralman is gone, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are getting older and slowing down, and this past summer they lost the one puck-moving presence they had on their blue line when Keith Yandle went to the Florida Panthers. The obstacles for the Rangers when it would come to completing a deal like this would be finding the assets to make the deal, because they have already traded a ton of draft picks and prospects in recent years, and salary cap space. The Rangers do have a young left-handed defenseman in Brady Skjei, but he is not at Trouba’s level, even though both are 22.

Colorado Avalanche: After a couple of disappointing seasons the Colorado Avalanche are now entering the post-Patrick Roy era. They still have a promising group of young forwards that should be the foundation of a playoff team, but they still have some major question marks and holes on their defense. Until those get addressed it is going to continue to be a struggle for the team to return to the postseason. The downside here for Trouba would be that, like the Jets, the Avalanche do have a couple of right-shot defensemen on their team (Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson), and they do have a ton of money invested in them. If Trouba’s goal is to go to a team that doesn’t have a surplus of right-shot blue liners so he can get a bigger role this might be a problem. But there is also an argument to be made that Trouba is already better than both of Colorado’s guys, and at the very least, better than Johnson.