Sidney Crosby’s return to action has been pretty impressive. Understatement of the day, we know, but with eight points in his first four games he’s gotten right back into the saddle of being the best scorers in the league. The spark he’s brought to guys like Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, and Jordan Staal has been noticeable as well.
The Penguins have cruised along but now they’ll get perhaps their biggest test since Crosby’s return tonight in their divisional rivals the New York Rangers (7:30 p.m. ET). The Rangers have won 9 of their last 11 games including two in a row. Keying the Rangers attack is offseason acquisition Brad Richards. Richards has 16 points in 20 games this season and is paying off immediate dividends for the Blueshirts. Marian Gaborik and his 10 goals are doing their part as well to give New York a useful offense.
Where this game could be decided depends on how Dan Girardi can do in containing Crosby. Girardi has been earning the hardest minutes in New York and he’s consistently being lined up against the opponents’ best players. If Girardi wants to help improve his write-in candidacy for the All-Star Game, holding Crosby in check would go a long way towards that.
Of course, scoring might be at a premium as it is with Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury expected to go head-to-head in goal. Lundqvist is again proving why he’s the best goalie to hit New York since Mike Richter while Fleury is showing that all the superstars in Pittsburgh aren’t just big scoring forwards.
If there’s one side story to keep an eye on it’s how the Pens handle the tenacity of the Rangers’ forecheck led by pesky Sean Avery. Avery since coming back to New York has reveled in his role as a pressure checking forward and eliminating a lot of the silly antics. The feisty Penguins should provide him with enough sandpaper to potentially spark fury through the game.
Looks as though slumping Dallas winger Valeri Nichushkin could be a healthy scratch tonight when the Stars host the Oilers at American Airlines.
Per the Morning-News, Nichushkin — who barely played in the second and third periods of Saturday’s 6-3 loss to Colorado — is likely to be replaced by Colton Sceviour in the lineup.
Stars head coach Lindy Ruff was fuming after the Avs defeat, calling it “embarrassing, worse than disappointing.” It didn’t take a genius to realize one of the players in his doghouse was Nichushkin, who had just 2:02 of ice time in the second period and 3:24 in the third.
Yesterday, Ruff dropped Nichushkin to the fourth line in practice.
“I’ve been trying to help him by shifting him around,” the head coach explained. “He had some struggles early in camp on right wing, so I put him on left, and he doesn’t seem real comfortable at left right now.
“His game, everything has got to get a little bit quicker.”
The 10th overall pick in 2013, Nichushkin has struggled to build on the form shown in his rookie campaign, when he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 contests.
He missed nearly all of last season with a linger hip ailment and has been a virtual non-factor through the first two games this year.
When the Los Angeles Kings announced they’d settled with Mike Richards, it didn’t take long for the accusations of salary-cap circumvention to materialize.
And though NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was adamant that the settlement was “far from” circumvention, apparently not everyone agrees with the league in that regard.
“Privately, other teams are screaming bloody murder and are threatening to make an issue about it at December’s Board of Governors’ meeting,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports.
Friedman goes into more detail in his story, so click the link to read more.
But remember how we wrote that the issue in this case was precedent, and that the “NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door”?
Well, one agent posed a good question to Friedman: “What’s to stop other teams from trying this?”