Peter DeBoer

DeBoer makes his return to Florida

Last season, the Florida Panthers were the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Right behind them (or ahead of them, depending on your point of view), was the New Jersey Devils that were in the midst of their worst season in years. The link between the two teams goes much further than futility though—Devils head coach had an up-close-and-personal look at the Panthers last season. After all, he was their head coach.

Monday night’s game is more than just a regular game between two improving teams. For DeBoer, it’ll mark the first time he’s returned to South Beach since he was fired last April. He compares his return to that of a traded player.

“It’s a little strange coming back,” DeBoer said. “You kind of pour three years of your life into a job. To walk in through the visitors’ entrance I’m sure you go through the same emotions as a traded player. It’s a little strange but I’m excited. I feel good about where I’m at and I’m sure they feel good about where they’re at.”

Florida’s move to fire DeBoer has worked out nicely for both teams. The Panthers have been competing with the Capitals for the Southeast Division lead—not bad for a team that has had the 3rd pick in the last two drafts. New coach Kevin Dineen has the new Panthers building chemistry faster than anyone could have reasonably predicted and has fans dreaming of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.

In New Jersey, DeBoer has brought some stability to the coaching position that has more changes than most people’s fantasy teams. All fans have to do is think back 12 months ago to know how badly things can go for a new coach in New Jersey. John MacLean showed what NOT to do; now Pete DeBoer is showing how successful a Devils coach can be in his first few months. He must have taken a few notes from Jacques Lemaire.

Monday night’s game should be fun to watch—because DeBoer has already said that the game means more to him. It’s refreshing to hear a coach say something other than, “it’s just another game.” He wants to win because he wants to beat his old team. He wants to win because he wants to stay on a roll.

There’s a shocker: a coach just wants to win.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.