Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson, top, looks up at the replay screen as Darryl Boyce sits on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadain Press, Darryl Dyck)
Pleasant sight for the Bolts this week, as captain Steve Stamkos returned to the ice.
Stamkos, who has been out since undergoing major knee surgery in mid-November, took to the ice ahead of the team skate this morning, per the Times. He did stickhandling, shooting and fired some one-timers with assistant coach Brad Lauer but, according to GM Steve Yzerman, there’s still no set date for Stamkos’ return.
The 27-year-old was initially put on a 4-6 month timetable. If Stamkos’ recovery is closer to the four month estimate, there’s a chance he returns this season. If it’s closer to six, he could be done for the year.
Tampa Bay has struggled without Stamkos in the lineup, going just 16-18-7 since he got hurt. The team has experience a bit of an upswing lately, however, and head into tonight’s action just six points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
BROSSARD, Quebec (AP) The Montreal Canadiens skated hard, battled and worked, and that’s just how new coach Claude Julien wants the practices to be.
Julien finally got to put the Canadiens through a full workout with no distractions on Monday. It was aimed mostly at convincing his struggling team that tighter defense will lead to more scoring chances on attack.
“He wanted it to be 40 minutes of high pace, high intensity, so when it comes to game time it’s second nature,” said defenseman Jeff Petry.
Julien, who replaced Michel Therrien last week, will be seeking his first victory since returning to Montreal when the Canadiens face the Rangers in New York on Tuesday night.
His debut saw the club fall 3-1 at home to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.
He had only one practice with the team before his first game and it was something of a circus, with fans jammed into the viewing areas at the team’s suburban training center and two all-sports TV stations covering the event live.
Another practice Sunday at the Bell Centre was a promotional event in front of 10,000 shrieking kids.
It added to the challenge for Julien to put into effect the changes he hopes will snap the Canadiens out of a 1-6-1 slump in which they have scored only 10 goals, four of them by captain Max Pacioretty and another two from his linemate Alexander Radulov.
Julien wants his team to spend less time in its own zone and more time harrying opposition goaltenders. That starts with getting the puck more quickly on defense and holding onto it longer in the opponent’s end.
“What we want to try to do, and what we did today, is to try to be better defensively for goals against and chances against,” he said. “But more than that, if we’re better defensively we can (get) the puck quickly.
“I want us to play with the puck, not without it. I’m looking for puck possession time. It’s not necessarily about analytics, it’s that if we have the puck more, our chances are much better of winning.”
It’s a formula that worked for most of the 10 seasons Julien spent with the Boston Bruins before he was replaced by Bruce Cassidy two weeks ago.
Boston won a Stanley Cup and reached another final during his time there, although they fell short of the playoffs the past two seasons.
The Canadiens started the season 13-1-1 and maintained a decent record despite a run of injuries through December and January, but they’ve hit a wall of late.
That prompted general manager Marc Bergevin to fire fifth-year coach Therrien and bring in Julien, whose first NHL coaching job was with the Canadiens from 2003 to 2006.
There is much that needs fixing. The Canadiens have got no goals and not even many scoring chances or sustained offensive zone pressure from their second, third or fourth lines in the past eight games.
They’ve also been lax defensively and at times had spotty goaltending, although Carey Price was sharp against the Jets.
“We’ve got enough skill here, (the offense) will come back,” said Julien. “I’m not worried about it.
“We have enough players on this team that can score goals, but we’ve got to start in the right place and that’s when we get the puck back quickly. It remains to be seen, but that’s my belief.”
What he hasn’t had enough time for yet is to work on line combinations.
“I know he’s a very talented player; my job is to make him better,” Julien said of Galchenyuk. “Now I want to work with him on the little aspects of the game that will make him even better.”
The slump has narrowed the Canadiens’ lead in the Atlantic Division to only two points ahead of Ottawa, which has two games in hand.
“It’s what happens when you don’t win games,” said Gallagher. “Everyone else in the league seems to be winning except for us and they’re gaining ground.
“If we get back to playing winning hockey, playing our style and doing all the little things Claude and his staff are trying to get across, then we’ll be where we want to be.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs will once again be without prized rookie Mitch Marner on Tuesday night when they take on the Winnipeg Jets.
The officially placed him on injured reserve Tuesday morning retroactive to Feb. 15. He suffered an upper body injury that night against the Columbus Blue Jackets when he took an awkward fall into the boards and has not played since.
With Marner placed on IR, the Maple Leafs made a corresponding roster move to recall forward Frederik Gauthier from the the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
Gauthier, a first-round draft pick (No. 21 overall) by the Maple Leafs in 2013, has spent most of this season with the Marlies where he has one goal and five assists in 26 games. He has also played 18 games for the big club, scoring two goals and an assist. He last played for the Maple Leafs on Jan. 31. He was skating on the team’s fourth line between Matt Martin and Nikita Soshnikov at the morning skate.
With 48 points in 56 games Marner is still the second leading scorer on the Maple Leafs, just one point behind No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews. Even though he is out tonight he will still be eligible to return on Thursday night when the team takes on the New York Rangers. Toronto has briefly fallen out of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference, sitting one point behind both the Florida Panthers (third spot in Atlantic Division) and Boston Bruins (second wild card spot).
NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.
Like most teams, the Blackhawks found out just how tough it was to win your first game back from the bye week, as they dropped a 3-1 decision to Edmonton on Saturday.
But they were able to put that loss behind them the following night by taking down an improved Sabres team, 5-1.
Coming into tonight’s game, Chicago trails Minnesota by seven points in the race for top spot in the Central Division (the Wild have a game in hand). So this is obviously a crucial matchup for both teams.
“They’ve had an amazing run. Give them credit,” ‘Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said of the Wild, per the Chicago Tribune. “I know we played pretty well last time and we’re going to have to be even better going into this game. … Hopefully we can try to close the gap.”
Toews has finally found his offensive game, as he’s recorded 15 points in his last 11 contests, which puts him at 37 points in 50 games.
Including that win in Minnesota, Chicago has rattled off six consecutive victories away from the United Center, but the Wild are no slouches at home.
Tonight’s game will be the seventh of an eight-game homestand that has seen them go 4-1-1 so far. As was mentioned before, the OT defeat came to the ‘Hawks, while their only loss in regulation was a 1-0 decision against Anaheim.
One of the reasons the Wild have been able to maintain their strong play is because of their ability to get offensive production from multiple lines. But of all the lines they’ve assembled, none has been better than the trio of Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund, who have combined for 43 goals, 110 points and a plus-84 rating since being put together on Nov. 25.
“We feed off each other pretty well,” Zucker said, per the StarTribune. “And I think we make sure we hold each other accountable when we have a bad shift, a bad play or a bad game. Whatever it is, we make sure we know what we did wrong, and we fix it.”
This should be a good one!