Big news out of New York today prior to the Penguins taking on the Rangers at MSG — Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang was paired with Brooks Orpik during the morning skate and practiced with the first power play unit, fueling speculation that he’ll return to the lineup this evening.
Letang hasn’t played since Nov. 26, when he received a concussion after being hit in the head by Montreal’s Max Pacioretty. All told, he’s missed Pittsburgh’s last 21 games and there’s been a dramatic difference in play without him — the Pens were 14-6-4 prior to Letang getting hurt and just 10-11-0 since, not surprising given Letang was a Norris Trophy candidate through the early part of the season (he still leads all Penguins defensemen in scoring.)
Should Letang return to the lineup, it’ll be a huge boost not only to Pittsburgh’s on-ice product but also the club’s overall health. Yes, two of the Penguins’ top three centers are still on injured reserve (Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal) but for a team that’s lost over 200 man games to injury this year, having only two stars on IR isn’t too shabby. The Pens have recently welcomed backed Tyler Kennedy, James Neal and Dustin Jeffrey from their respective injuries and expect Arron Asham to return from illness soon.
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?”