If there’s anything Ken Hitchcock would know a thing or two about it’s how well defenseman are playing. He’s a tough defense-loving coach and after seeing three straight games of the Kings putting his Blues in a headlock, he’s got a good idea who is doing the most damage to his squad.
For Hitchcock, the guy that’s been best so far in the series is Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Hitchcock tells Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times Doughty compares very favorably with his own blue liner in Alex Pietrangelo in how they both handle the game.
“They can absorb a check and lug out the puck out themselves. You can’t find that very often. That’s what he [Doughty] does. You think you’ve got him. He pulls away on you. You think you’ve got him pinned on the boards; he pulls it off the boards and makes the play. Both guys are great at it.”
Doughty has been a physical as well as a play making force against St. Louis and one of many Kings who are making life miserable for the Blues. After scoring a goal and adding two assists in Game 3 it seems as if Doughty is only getting better as the series rolls along. With the Blues a game away from elimination, that doesn’t bode well at all for their future.
You couldn’t blame the Blues for freaking out a bit today when Jaden Schwartz left practice after an apparent hand injury, and didn’t return.
It was last October, of course, when Schwartz fractured his ankle during practice, an injury that required surgery and sidelined him for 49 games.
Thankfully for St. Louis, it won’t be deja vu.
From the Post-Dispatch:
Coach Ken Hitchcock said Schwartz was fine but would miss some practice.
“He’ll need a couple days off, but he’s a lot like Fabbri,” Hitchcock said. “He’s probably not going to skate this weekend in any of the games but he’ll be ready to go next weekend.
“He’s day to day. He’ll be fine.”
Signed to a five-year, $26.75 million extension this summer, Schwartz will be a big piece of the Blues moving forward.
He’s coming off a good playoff run — 14 points in 20 games — and the club is hopeful he can build on the goalscoring form shown in ’13-14 (25 tallies) and ’14-15 (a career-high 28).
Nikita Kucherov will not report to Tampa Bay Lightning training camp until he’s signed. The 23-year-old winger is not currently under contract, though as a restricted free agent he is partially under club control.
From the Tampa Bay Times, which confirmed through GM Steve Yzerman that Kucherov would not be reporting:
Kucherov, the team’s leading scorer last season, could warrant $6 million or more annually. And that makes it difficult for the Lightning, which has between $5-5.5 million of cap space remaining, per CapFriendly.com. It begs the question whether Tampa Bay may need to make another move to create room. With the season opening two weeks from today, no deal appears imminent.
Yzerman said earlier in the month that he can get Kucherov signed without making a trade, but as mentioned, no deal has been reached yet.
Kucherov is one of a handful of high-profile RFAs who remain unsigned as the regular season approaches. The others are Johnny Gaudreau, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Tobias Rieder, the latter of whom requested a trade yesterday.
Trouba has also requested a trade.
Related: Ristolainen, still without a contract, makes ‘good will’ gesture towards Sabres
This has been a forgettable month for the Stars.
To say the least.
Having already lost Tyler Seguin (heel), Cody Eakin (knee) and Ales Hemsky (groin) to injury — and Valeri Nichushkin to the KHL — Dallas could now be without versatile Swedish forward Mattias Janmark, who was spotted on crutches Thursday at the club’s practice facility.
Janmark missed Wednesday’s game against Colorado, and was held out of today’s training session.
After surprising onlookers by making the Stars out of camp last year — a “great story,” according to GM Jim Nill — Janmark, 23, went on to have a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.
He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.
If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it’s that Dallas has arguably the NHL’s deepest forward group. Even with Seguin, Eakin, Hemsky, Nichushkin and Janmark out of action, the Stars can still roll the likes of Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and Jiri Hudler, and still have one of the league’s premier point producers on defense in John Klingberg.
That said, the team really can’t afford any more guys getting hurt.
Rasmus Ristolainen doesn’t have a contract yet, and he’s not particularly close to getting one either.
But the Sabres defenseman, a restricted free agent, doesn’t want to burn any bridges, so he arrived at KeyBank Center on Thursday as a “good will” gesture, reports The Buffalo News. He’ll practice with his teammates, head coach Dan Bylsma confirmed.
“Everyone knows how dedicated he is to his training, and he wanted to continue to build on the gains he made this summer,” Ristolainen’s agent, Mike Liut, wrote in an email to the News. “In the end, this made sense to him, at least in the short term.”
The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Ristolainen had nine goals and 32 assists in 82 games for the Sabres last season.
“I still trust that we will make that contract happen,” Ristolainen told reporters a couple of weeks ago at the World Cup in Toronto, where he was representing Finland. “I like Buffalo. I want to be there as long as I can and I feel they feel the same way about me. I trust it’s going to be taken care of.”
Related: Rieder’s agent thinks trade from Coyotes is best for both parties