The Wednesday Wake-Up Call is where we pick a struggling player and kindly ask him to SNAP OUT OF IT ALREADY. COME ON. YOU’RE BETTER THAN THIS!
Lubomir Visnovsky, D, Anaheim Ducks
Key stats: 1G-3A-4PTS in 14 GP, minus-7
Cap hit: $5.6 million annually
Last season, Lubomir Visnovsky led all NHL defensemen in scoring with 68 points. His 31 powerplay points were more than Ryan Kesler, Jarome Iginla and Henrik Zetterberg. He was one of four defensemen named to an NHL All-Star Team (Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom and Shea Weber were the others). He finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting and tied for 23rd in Hart Trophy voting (with Chris Pronger.)
So needless to say, Visnovsky was a fairly elite player last year.
But this season? Not so much. His chemistry with blueline partner Toni Lydman has seemingly evaporated and they’ve been replaced as Anaheim’s top pairing by Cam Fowler and Francois Beauchemin. Visnovsky’s been accused of puckhandling too much, failing to defend the blue line and making plays that aren’t there.
Anaheim has yet to achieve that goal. Losers of five straight and eight of their last nine, the Ducks have been waiting for weeks for Visnovsky to break out — but it’s simply not happening. He’s gone seven straight games without registering a point and had unusually low ice times against Nashville (17:11) and Detroit (20:03). This from a guy that averaged 24:17 a night last year, 13th among all defensemen.
So wake up, Lubomir Visnovsky. Your team needs you.
Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues
Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.
OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.
It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.
Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.
In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.
It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.
The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?
“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”
Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.
The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.
Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.
With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.
They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.