There’s no way you can argue against Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin as two of the NHL’s biggest stars. But when the Russian countrymen face off against each other on Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET on NBC) it’ll be a tale of two guys who have seen their seasons go in different directions.
Alex Ovechkin: 46 GP – 19 goals, 17 assists – 2nd on Caps in points (Nicklas Backstrom)
Ovechkin and the Caps have had a disappointing season even though they sit atop the Southeast Division (tied with the Panthers in points, just three ahead of the Jets.) We’re used to seeing the Capitals turn things on and take over in the second half, but Ovechkin’s offensive struggles might make that difficult this time ’round.
Rather than helping his teammates raise their game, Ovechkin has slumped — especially with Backstrom out with a concussion. Normally he’s been on a line with Backstrom and Troy Brouwer but unlike Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh, Ovechkin hasn’t been able to elevate his linemate’s games.
Ovechkin is on a pace to score less than 40 goals this season while the Caps struggle through trying to stay on top of their division. To say it’s been frustrating for the former two-time MVP this season would be an understatement.
Evgeni Malkin: 40 GP – 25 goals, 30 assists – 1st in NHL in points, t-3rd in goals
Simply put, Malkin has been a monster in Pittsburgh. The Penguins are missing both Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal, yet haven’t missed a beat thanks to Malkin. He’s scoring tons of goals, setting up teammates for others, and looking like the guy who helped Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup in 2009.
Where Malkin has done things different than Ovechkin is in how he’s developed chemistry with linemate James Neal. Neal and Malkin have become a dominant one-two punch as Neal has scored 24 goals and the pair has combined for 98 points, making them one of the top scoring duos in the league and a huge reason why the Penguins have won five in a row.
The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.
Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.
While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics.
Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.
Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.
Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.
He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.
Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.
He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.
“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”
There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.
Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev
Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.
A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.
That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:
Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.
“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”
Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.
Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.
“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.
“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.
Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.
USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.
Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.