Ottawa Senators v New York Islanders

Karlsson shines, Vokoun flops as Sens and Caps move in opposite directions


The hockey world can debate the merits of blowing the Washington Capitals up, but the team probably feels like Wile E. Coyote after a typical failed detonation right now.

The Capitals had their chances, but the Ottawa Senators took advantage of some great work by Erik Karlsson and another lousy outing by Tomas Vokoun to take a 4-0 lead that made life rather glum for Alex Ovechkin-less Washington. Vokoun was pulled for the second consecutive game and while Michal Neuvirth looked good and Washington saved some face (the final score ended up 5-2), it’s hard to find many positives for the decrepit D.C. denizens.

While Dale Hunter spoke of the need to “cover up” for Vokoun, the Senators are rejoicing in Karlsson’s explosive offensive season. The splendid sophomore Swede scored three points including two assists, setting a new franchise mark with 47 on the season. His 60 points leads NHL defensemen by a huge margin and Karlsson’s been particularly hot lately, with a dizzying five goals and seven assists in his last five contests.

Karlsson likely has a lot to learn in his own end, but his offensive production might just make him the new Mike Green (without all the baggage of blame, at least right now).

Standings update

This marks Ottawa’s fourth win in a row, placing them comfortably in seventh place in the East with 72 points. In fact, they’re currently tied with the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins with those 72 points and are only two points behind the New Jersey Devils for the fourth seed.

Of course, they’ve played five more games than Boston (62 GP to 57) and three more than New Jersey – so they appear larger in those squads’ rear-view mirrors than they actually are – but Ottawa is making some serious noise either way.

Washington, meanwhile, is uttering a mere whimper. They’ve lost three games in a row and now find themselves two points behind the Winnipeg Jets (65 to 63) for ninth place, although they do have two games in hand. They also trail the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs by two points but don’t have those games in hand, so this was yet another missed opportunity for Washington.

Here are highlights of the contest:

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Stepan to miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs

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Derek Stepan is out 4-6 weeks with broken ribs, the New York Rangers announced today.

Stepan was hurt Friday on a controversial hit by Boston’s Matt Beleskey. The Bruins’ forward did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check, despite admitting it was “maybe…a little bit late.”

At any rate it’s a big loss for the Rangers, who suddenly find themselves on a three-game losing streak. Considering the timeline, New York could be without one of its top centers for 12-18 games, give or take.

The Rangers host Carolina tonight.

Related: Yep, Alain Vigneault went there — ‘I remember Aaron Rome in this building’

Price to miss minimum six weeks, so no Winter Classic for him

Carey Price,
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Carey Price will miss a minimum of six weeks with a lower-body injury, the Montreal Canadiens announced today.

That means Price will miss the Winter Classic against the Bruins on New Year’s Day. The 30-year-old goalie has only appeared in 12 games this season.

On the bright side, the reigning Hart Trophy winner will not require surgery. And considering the Habs have already built up a 13-point playoff cushion in the standings, well, if something like this were going to happen during the season, now is as good a time as any.

Related: The latest on Price’s injury

Report: Jets offered Byfuglien for Hamonic, Isles said no

Dustin Byfuglien

If Travis Hamonic could choose one team to be traded to, he’d probably choose Winnipeg. The 25-year-old Islanders defenseman wants to be closer to his family, and his family is from Manitoba. Hamonic already owns a condo in Winnipeg.

So far, though, the Jets and Islanders haven’t been able to work out a deal. The Jets have three right-shot defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, and Tyler Myers who could, theoretically, be swapped for Hamonic, also a right shot.

“I think the Islanders were offered Byfuglien and they said no,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said this morning on Sportsnet 960 (audio), per Today’s Slapshot. “And I understand why, because Byfuglien’s got no term left.

“I think they’d love to have Trouba, but the Jets aren’t really there to do it. Myers, if it’s happened – I can’t say for sure it has or hasn’t – I’m not sure that’s the deal either team really wants to make, to be perfectly honest.”

Byfuglien is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s expected to cash in big-time on his next deal. The 30-year-old may not be the most disciplined player, but at his best, he’s an absolute force on the back end.

That the Isles reportedly said no to Byfuglien shouldn’t really come as a surprise, given his contract uncertainty. However, it does make one wonder about his future in Winnipeg. Remember that the salary cap is not expected to go up by much, and the Jets have another pending UFA in captain Andrew Ladd, plus a couple of key RFAs in Trouba and Mark Scheifele.

While it’s never easy to tell what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is thinking, the big question with Byfuglien and the Jets may end up being when, not if, they part ways. Will it be after the season or before the Feb. 29 trade deadline?

Preds still haven’t found their scoring touch

Mike Fisher

The Nashville Predators got off to a relatively good start this season, but something seems to have happened to their offense over the last six games.

Prior to Nov. 20, the Preds had only been shut out once in their first 17 games. Since then, they’ve been blanked three times and have just six goals in their last six contests.

If you remove Mike Fisher from the equation, the numbers are even more dreadful.

Fisher’s scored three of those six goals, while Filip Forsberg, Shea Weber, James Neal and Mike Ribeiro have none.

After Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Buffalo , here’s what coach Peter Laviolette told the Tennessean: “I thought we could’ve had more gas, to be honest with you. The energy just wasn’t there; maybe the second period had something to do with that or the road trip, which was a long trip. I’m not making any excuses, but I think when we play at a higher tempo that’s when we’re at our best, and we had more to push in that area tonight.”

The first game back home after a long road trip is typically a difficult one for most teams, so we’ll see how the Predators respond on Tuesday night when they host Arizona.