After two-game losing streak, Washington makes moves

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While back-to-back losses in Edmonton and Vancouver aren’t cause for full-scale panic, the Washington Capitals made some rather small-yet-curious moves prior to tonight’s game against Anaheim:

John Erskine will draw in and make his season debut after undergoing shoulder surgery. The rugged defenseman will be a welcome addition to a team that allowed a season-high seven goals to the Canucks on Saturday.

“We’ve been waiting awhile to get him back,” Caps head coach Bruce Boudreau told the Washington Post. “Hopefully there’s not too much rust on him; I’m sure there’s gonna be some but hopefully it’s not too much.”

— To make room for Erskine, Sean Collins was returned to Hershey of the AHL. Collins pretty much sealed his fate against Vancouver by going minus-2 in just over nine minutes of ice time.

Rookie F Cody Eakin was called up from Hershey and should make his NHL debut against the Ducks after Jeff Halpern skated with the healthy scratches this morning. Halpern only played 11:59 against Vancouver and was bad in the faceoff circle (1-for-5, 16.7 percent), though Boudreau was quick to explain this isn’t him sending a message.

“I don’t like using the word ‘messages’. It’s just we’ve got 13 forwards right now and wanted to take a look at Cody and it’s the way it worked out,” Boudreau told the Washington Examiner. “Every report we’ve gotten is that [Eakin] has played really, really well down in Hershey. He’s a guy that we really wanted to take a look at. So we thought Hershey only had one game this week and this was a good opportunity for us to take a look at him.”

— Sounds like Mike Knuble’s demotion to the fourth line will extend to tonight’s affair. Knuble has made it clear he’s not happy with the move, probably because his production has been pretty solid thus far. The 39-year-old winger has 2G-4A-6PTS in nine games and is a plus-2, but will be playing alongside a couple of greenhorns in Eakin, 20, and Mathieu Perreault, 24.

These are all small moves, sure, but their timing is the thing. Washington lost two straight after winning seven to start the year and you get the feeling that pissed a few people off. The Caps (Boudreau especially) appear to be all business this year, something Knuble explained to Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington:

“We knew coming in it would be a more competitive season. Maybe seasons before you could rest on your laurels, but that’s not good enough. That’s the way this coach works.”

Report: Rangers to hire Lindy Ruff as an assistant coach

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More coaching news on Saturday.

Lindy Ruff’s time with the Dallas Stars ended in April following a disappointing regular season, but it appears he’s found another coaching gig in the NHL.

It is, however, a different role than what he’s been used to for the past 20 years.

Per Larry Brooks of the New York Post, a deal has not been done yet, however, Ruff will join the Rangers as an assistant coach on Alain Vigneault’s staff. He’ll reportedly replace Jeff Beukeboom and will be in charge of New York’s defense.

Ruff certainly brings experience, with 1,165 games coached in the NHL. He’s been a head coach since 1997 when he joined the Buffalo Sabres, and hasn’t been an assistant since a four-year tenure with the Florida Panthers from 1993 to 1997.

The Rangers’ defense has undergone notable changes this offseason, with Dan Girardi getting bought out of his six-year, $33 million contract. With about $20 million now in cap space, New York may not be done making moves to their blue line this offseason.

The Rangers made a blockbuster trade with the Coyotes on Friday, sending Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes in exchange for the seventh overall pick and 21-year-old defenseman Anthony DeAngelo.

Vegas parlays second-round pick into prospect forward Keegan Kolesar

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The Vegas Golden Knights had a surplus of draft picks in the opening two rounds this weekend, and they used one of those to make a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.

The Golden Knights sent the 45th overall pick in this year’s draft to Columbus in exchange for 20-year-old prospect forward Keegan Kolesar, who has spent the last four years with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.

In each of the last two years, Kolesar has put up good numbers, scoring a junior career high of 30 goals and 61 points in 64 games in 2015-16. He had 60 points this past season, but played in 10 fewer games due to a sports hernia surgery, so he was on pace to far exceed his totals from the previous campaign.

He was most impressive for the Thunderbirds in the 2017 WHL playoffs. In 19 games, he scored 12 goals and 31 points. Great production for that time of year. But in addition to those numbers, what may be most intriguing to Vegas is that Kolesar brings tremendous size down the right wing. Standing 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds, his physical play for the Thunderbirds was lauded during their postseason run, which resulted in a Memorial Cup berth.

“Keegan is one of the most important guys to our success,” Thunderbirds coach Steve Konowalchuk told the Columbus Dispatch. “He could easily have been a co-MVP of the playoffs. Not only does he produce a ton of points, but his physical play has had a huge impact on every playoff series.”

Having turned 20 in April, Kolesar will be eligible to play in the AHL or NHL next season, per the Golden Knights.

Kings sign Andreoff to two-year extension

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The L.A. Kings have brought back pending restricted free agent forward Andy Andreoff.

The Kings announced Saturday that they have re-signed Andreoff to a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $677,500.

He appeared in only 36 games last season, spending time on injured reserve, adding two assists. The previous year, however, he played in 60 games for L.A., scoring eight goals with 10 points.

At 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Andreoff is known more for his physical style and checking abilities than offensive production, with 146 penalty minutes combined over the last two seasons.

Stars hope they got a second-round steal in Robertson

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CHICAGO — His stats jump right off the page.

On a Kingston Frontenacs squad that really struggled to score, Jason Robertson had 42 goals as a 17-year-old. Nobody else on his team had more than 26 goals.

For that reason, the Dallas Stars are hoping they got a steal in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft. Robertson, a winger, went 39th overall Saturday at United Center. A lot of scouts had him pegged as a first-rounder.

So why didn’t he go earlier?

Probably his skating.

“Everyone needs to work on stuff,” Robertson said. “Obviously, for me, I need to work on that. It’s something I’m always going to keep working on.”

But skating didn’t stop Robertson (6-2, 192) from shooting up the prospect rankings in 2016-17. At the midpoint of the season, NHL Central Scouting had him as the 34th-best North American skater. By season’s end, he was 14th.

“I think a lot of it came from confidence,” he said. “I gained more confidence in my game, my skating, my shot. Once I did that in the second half of the year, I really took off.”

He sure did, with 30 of his 42 goals coming in the final 40 games of the regular season. He then added five goals and 13 assists in 11 playoff games.

Robertson was born in Los Angeles, where his dad and grandpa were Kings season-ticket holders. He started playing hockey in L.A., then moved to Detroit when he was 10.