Two days after a 5-1 defeat in their season opener against Florida, the ‘Canes are shuffling the deck.
That was the word out of Carolina on Monday as head coach Kirk Muller altered his lines in advance of Tuesday’s home opener against Tampa Bay.
Drayson Bowman was moved from the fourth to first line — skating with Eric Staal and Alex Semin — and Jeff Skinner was dropped from the second line (with Jordan Staal and Zac Dalpe) to the third (with Jussi Jokinen and Pat Dwyer.)
Muller insisted the changes weren’t made “in a panic way,” but Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News and Observer reports that Skinner might have been put on notice.
If there was any message being sent with the changes, it appeared to be with Skinner, who was inconsistent in his play in the opener and took a hooking penalty in the offensive zone that resulted in a 5-on-3 power-play score for Florida.
Muller and Skinner had a fairly lengthy chat on the ice after Monday’s practice.
Muller also loaded up his top power play unit after the ‘Canes went 0-for-6 with the man advantage against the Panthers. The Staals, Semin, Skinner and Joni Pitkanen were put together in what looks like — on paper, anyway — a pretty formidable offensive group.
“We thought we’d throw the five big guys out there together,” Muller said. “We’ll see how good they do together. Once we get rolling you’re not going to see a lot of changes the way it is now.
“But it’s the games where you have to tweak things until you feel comfortable.”
In other notes, Cam Ward will get the start in goal on Tuesday and Dalpe (illness) might not be available. If Dalpe can’t go, it looks like Jiri Tlusty and Chad LaRose will play on the wings next to Jordan Staal.
The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.
On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.
It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.
That’s impressive stuff.
This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:
The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.
Read more about his rise here.
In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).
Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.
See it for yourself:
Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.
He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.
Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.
Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:
No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.
The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?
He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.
Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.