After a rookie season that saw him score 52 points and earn a Calder Trophy nomination, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was used to things going his way.
This season, he’s figuring out how to deal with the opposite.
The Oilers forward hasn’t scored once through 12 games this season, extending his goalless drought to 23 consecutive games.
“I want to help out the team at both ends of the ice and right now, I’m not offensively,” Nugent-Hopkins told the Edmonton Journal following Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to Dallas. “I’ll keep working on it but I don’t want to get frustrated.
“I don’t want to let it get the best of me.”
Nugent-Hopkins isn’t unaccustomed to goalless droughts. He had a 12-game streak during his rookie campaign and finished the year by failing to find the back of the net in 11 straight — yet still finished the season with 18 goals in 62 games, fourth among all rookies.
Oilers head coach Ralph Kruger tried to kickstart Nuge on Tuesday night by reuniting him on the “Kid Line” with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The trio finished with 18 shots on goal, with Hall scoring Edmonton’s lone marker.
Nugent-Hopkins saw it as a step in the right direction.
“We have to find a way,” he explained. “As I said before, it can get frustrating if you let it. I thought all the lines did a great job of getting pucks to the net.”
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