Justin Falk

Self-described bubble player Justin Falk: “I need a season here”


It’s been a tough road to the NHL for Justin Falk. The 24-year-old was drafted 110th overall in 2007 and has spent most of his pro career in the AHL with the Houston Aeros.

In 2011-12, things started looking up for the big defenseman. He played 47 games for the Minnesota Wild, scoring once and adding eight assists while killing penalties and providing a physical presence on the blue line.

In July, Falk was rewarded with a one-year, $825,000 contract extension. It was a one-way deal, the first he’s received from the organization.

Now, just as he was emerging as an NHL regular, he finds himself in the midst of a lockout that’s threatening the entire 2012-13 season.

And he’s worried about it.

“I need a season here,” he told the StarTribune. “It’s a tough situation. We stand together as a union, but there’s such a variety of players — guys on the bubble with one-year contracts that need games to play in this league.

“I want this to be a start of a career in the National Hockey League. It’s hard not to worry this could do a lot of damage in my career. I need to keep progressing because there’s always someone knocking on the door.”

Falk isn’t fabulously wealthy. He’s maybe earned $1 million as a pro, not including taxes and agent fees.

All of which is to ask, if the split between the owners and players is going to get to 50/50 eventually, how much do you think he cares if it gets there next season (and he loses a few bucks to escrow) or if it takes a few years?

Does he care enough to jeopardize his career?

Related: Players need to ask themselves: Is it worth it?

Bruins’ second line officially goes under the microscope

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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 MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
Chris KellyJoonas KemppainenZac 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.”

Lucic: If I wanted to hurt Couture, ‘I would have hurt him’


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