Detroit Red Wings v Phoenix Coyotes - Game Four

‘Yotes GM happy Ekman-Larsson chose AHL over Europe: “He’s been excellent”

After his breakout 2011-12 campaign, Oliver Ekman-Larsson probably could’ve landed a lockout gig in his native Sweden, or another strong European league.

Instead, he agreed to join AHL Portland at Phoenix’s request.

The Coyotes’ brass is sure happy he did.

Ekman-Larsson has been stellar in the American league, scoring nine points in nine games — even though he missed three weeks with a sliced finger.

“It’s been really good,” GM Don Maloney said of OEL’s time in Portland. “He’s been really good and the reason for that is just his attitude. He wants to be there. He wants to improve. He’s working hard.”

Ekman-Larsson is the cornerstone of Portland’s young, gifted blueline. Others include:

— Brandon Gormley, the 13th overall pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

— David Rundblad, the 17th overall pick at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (acquired in the Kyle Turris trade.)

— Michael Stone, a third-round pick from 2008 that debuted with the ‘Yotes last season (and played in two playoff games.)

— Chris Summers, a first-round pick from 2006 who’s currently serving as Portland’s alternate captain.

The Pirates blueline also has youngsters Maxim Goncharov and Mathieu Brodeur in the mix — all told, the oldest defenseman on the team is 25.

So, no shortage of talent on defense…but with that said, Maloney recognizes Ekman-Larsson is the guy most (if not all) are focused on.

“I’ve actually seen a lot of [AHL] games in the fall, and there are players down there that have been in the NHL that have it in cruise control a bit,” Maloney said. “In OEL’s case, that’s not him.

“He’s out there to help that team win and so other than the injury, he’s been excellent and it’s been good for his continual maturation.”

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
AP Photo
Leave a comment

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.