Sami Salo

Salo to return tomorrow for Canucks


Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo is expected to return to the line-up tomorrow against the Oilers following a six-game absence that saw the Canucks go 3-2-1 and uncharacteristically struggle on the power play.

Salo has been out with a concussion since being clipped by Boston’s Marchand on Jan. 7. The Boston forward earned a five-game suspension for the hit.

Without Salo, Vancouver’s formidable first-unit power play – typically comprised of Salo and Alex Edler on the points with the Sedins and Ryan Kesler up front – scored just once in 21 tries. Alex Burrows tried to fill in on the left point, with little success.

Far from just a power-play specialist, Salo was even compared to one of the all-time greats by Canucks forward Chris Higgins.

“The little things [Nicklas] Lidstrom does that makes him so effective, Sami does all those things just as well as Lidstrom does,” Higgins said, as reported by The Province. “Sami never makes many thunderous bodychecks because his gap is so good he forces the guys he’s defending against to get rid of the puck before they want to.

“He almost never makes a mistake, it’s pretty impressive. He’s one of the best defensemen in the league.”

You’ll excuse Higgins for getting a little carried away while pumping a teammate’s tires, but Salo’s health will be a significant determining factor in whether the Canucks make another deep playoff run.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.