Brandon Pirri #37 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates up the ice against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on December 21, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
(December 20, 2011 - Source: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America)

Blackhawks prospects prepare for fierce training camp battles

6 Comments

The Chicago Blackhawks are a team known for their depth, but salary cap considerations led to them trading Daniel Carcillo, Michael Frolik, and Dave Bolland since they captured the Stanley Cup. That’s created some opening in Chicago for young forwards and there’s several players that will be vying for those open spots.

One of the prominent ones is 22-year-old Brandon Pirri, who scored 22 goals and a league-leading 75 points in 76 games with the AHL Rockford IceHogs last season.

He only has seven games worth of NHL experience, but the lockout might have worked in his favor because it gave him a chance to play with and against people that would have normally been in the top league.

“It was big to see the way (the NHL players) take things day-to-day at the rink and away from the rink,” said Brandon Pirri, according to CSN Chicago. “It’s where I want to be, so I try taking stuff away from it but also doing what makes me comfortable at the rink. It was fun, but there’s a healthy competition.”

“These guys take care of you, they make sure you’re ready to play at all times,” Jimmy Hayes said, echoing Pirri’s comments about the benefit of locked-out NHLers spending some time in the minors. “They’re always looking out for me and making me feel like a part of the team no matter (if I’m playing in the NHL or AHL).

“It was great to see a lot of those players like (Nick) Leddy and (Marcus) Kruger who’ve got full years under their belt, so it was good to see how to prepare and and learn from them.”

Hayes is another serious contender to win a bottom-six job with Chicago after scoring 25 goals and 45 points in 67 AHL contests last season. He also has six goals and seven assists in 41 career NHL games.

Chicago will be entering the 2013-14 campaign with the same core that just won them the Stanley Cup, but how guys like Pirri and Hayes handle themselves next season could be the difference when a team’s third and fourth lines become critical in the playoffs.

Kassian has ‘no hard feelings’ towards Canadiens

Edmonton Oilers v Tampa Bay Lightning
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Zack Kassian never played a regular season game for the Montreal Canadiens. But unless he is held out of Edmonton’s lineup on Saturday, he’ll face his old team as a member of the Oilers.

The Habs acquired Kassian from the Canucks in the summer, after the 25-year-old forward essentially wore out his welcome in Vancouver under the team’s new management. However, an October car accident that Kassian was involved in set forward a number of events that appears to have ultimately changed Kassian’s life for the better.

He told reporters that car accident might’ve been the best thing to happen to his career.

After the accident, he was placed in Stage 2 of the Substance Abuse program and suspended without pay. He was reinstated in December and immediately waived by the Canadiens. A couple of weeks later, he was traded to Edmonton.

And, after opening up about his struggles with alcoholism, he’s since been recalled to the NHL, appearing in eight games for the Oilers, scoring twice and adding four points.

“I’m not looking for any redemption,” said Kassian, as per Sportsnet.

“Me, I got an opportunity to play for the Edmonton Oilers and I’m very thankful for that. I’m not mad at Montreal by any means. If anything I’m mad at myself for screwing up that opportunity. I’m just looking to move forward. Obviously it will feel nice if I get a goal [Saturday] or even better if we get a win but there’s definitely no hard feelings.”

Video: It took only 4:33 of the first period for Hurricanes to build 3-0 lead on Jets

Leave a comment

The Carolina Hurricanes got off to a spectacular start on Friday. Conversely, their opponent, the Winnipeg Jets, got off to a horrendous start.

Before Friday’s game was even five minutes old, the Hurricanes had built a three-goal lead. Phillip Di Giuseppe opened the scoring at 1:43 of the first period. By the 4:33 mark, when Jordan Staal scored, Carolina was up three, forcing a goalie change for the Jets.

Connor Hellebuyck was pulled after allowing three goals on six shots.

Update: It’s 4-0 Hurricanes . . . 10:04 into the game. Yup. Could be a long one tonight in Winnipeg.

Scrivens and slumping Habs face daunting task against McDavid and suddenly high-flying Oilers

506090854
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Connor McDavid is kind of good.

In the two games since his return to the Edmonton Oilers, he’s kind of — just kind of — had an impact. Five points in two games — that counts as an impact, right? Oh, and did you see this goal in his return earlier this week?

Since McDavid’s highly anticipated return Tuesday against Columbus, the Oilers have outscored the opposition 12-3 in two games. Small sample size? Yes. Against teams currently not in playoff positions? Yes.

But that’s still very impressive and with him in the lineup, there appears to be a sense of optimism in Edmonton.

Enter the free-falling Montreal Canadiens. Enter goalie Ben Scrivens, who only made his debut for the Habs at the end of December and will face his old team, the Oilers, on Saturday.

In four games with the Habs, Scrivens has been scored on 15 times.

The Habs, without Carey Price, have been in a tumble down the Eastern Conference standings for a long time now. And, really, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

Now, the Habs and Scrivens are tasked with facing McDavid and the suddenly high-flying Oilers.

And Canadiens fans probably aren’t the cheeriest right now, as their team has gone from on the verge of NHL history in October to becoming an afterthought in the playoff picture in February.

In each of their last seven games, the Habs have failed to score more than two goals in regulation. So it would seem that if Montreal is to get a win, Scrivens will need to be as close to perfect as possible.

No pressure.

“Unfortunately, it seems like my whole career has been playing behind teams that don’t have that confidence, except for my time in L.A.,” Scrivens told reporters.

“It’s a challenge as a goalie but all you can do is worry about your job. I can’t go out there and start trying to break pucks out and do anything I’m not supposed to be doing. My job is to try and stop pucks and try and stop as many as I can.”

With the way McDavid and the Oilers have been scoring since the break and his return, it appears that will be a monumental task for Scrivens.

And with the Habs in a 1-8-1 slide in the past 10 games, the timing probably couldn’t get any worse.

 

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.