Depending on whom you ask, St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is either a stride behind, a stride ahead or just-plain-equal to semi-famous Los Angeles Kings blueliner Drew Doughty. In fact, he might have enjoyed a demonstratively better 2011-12 season. Wherever you stand there, the Kings will get the upper hand in that battle in Game 2 because Pietrangelo won’t even be on the ice according to Dennis Bernstein.
In fact, Bernstein reports that it “may be longer than a one-game absence.”
The talented, under-the-radar defenseman didn’t leave Game 1 right away after taking a controversial boarding hit from Kings winger Dwight King but eventually missed the rest of the contest. St. Louis was upset that King didn’t receive a double-minor or even a major penalty for that hit, but either way, the Blues fell to the Kings (and King) in Game 1.
The Blues are a team that’s very familiar with fighting through key injuries – particularly “upper body ones” as we’ve seen with Andy McDonald and David Perron in particular – but Pietrangelo joins David Backes as the most “indispensable” players on a deep roster. Beating the too-good-to-be-an-eight-seed Kings was already a tough task, yet doing it without a borderline Norris-worthy defenseman will be that much tougher.
Ken Hitchcock’s Jack Adams credentials will be put to the test once again – starting tonight at 9 pm ET on CNBC.
While much has been written about the Boston Bruins’ depleted defense, there’s also a good amount of intrigue about the forward group, which will look dramatically different tonight compared to last year’s season opener.
Here are the Bruins’ expected lines versus the Jets:
Brad Marchand–Patrice Bergeron–Loui Eriksson
Matt Beleskey–David Krejci–David Pastrnak
Jimmy Hayes–Ryan Spooner–Brett Connolly
Chris Kelly–Joonas Kemppainen–Zac Rinaldo
The line most under the microscope may be that second one. In today’s Boston Globe, there’s a lengthy story on Krejci. The 29-year-old center with the big contract only played 47 games last season due to injuries. He finished with just 31 points.
So, where is Krejci’s game now?
Then there’s free-agent addition Matt Beleskey, a.k.a. Milan Lucic‘s replacement. Prior to scoring 22 times last year for the Ducks, the 27-year-old Beleskey had never tallied more than 11 goals in a season.
So, is Beleskey a legitimate top-six forward?
On the other wing, it’s David Pastrnak, the 19-year-old who, somewhat surprisingly, emerged as one of the top rookies in the league last year.
So, can Pastrnak take another step forward?
“It’s been a good three plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually, as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,” said coach Claude Julien. “We’re pleased with it. We’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too.”
Last night in Los Angeles, Kings forward Milan Lucic received a match penalty after skating the entire width of the ice to give San Jose’s Logan Couture a two-hand shove to the face.
Lucic didn’t hurt Couture, who had caught Lucic with an open-ice hit that Lucic didn’t like. Couture’s smiling, mocking face was good evidence that the Sharks’ forward was going to be OK.
This morning, Lucic was still in disbelief that he was penalized so harshly.
“I didn’t cross any line,” Lucic said, per Rich Hammond of the O.C. Register. “Believe me, if my intentions were to hurt him, I would have hurt him.”
While Lucic knew he deserved a penalty, he said after the game that he didn’t “know why it was called a match penalty.” His coach, Darryl Sutter, agreed, calling it “a borderline even roughing penalty.”
And though former NHL referee Kerry Fraser believes a match penalty was indeed warranted, Lucic said this morning that he hasn’t heard from the NHL about any possible supplemental discipline.
Nor for that matter has Dustin Brown, after his high hit on Couture in the first period.
In conclusion, it’s good to have hockey back.
Related: Sutter says Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks