Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Coyotes defensive surplus may be a blessing


One big reason for that is the play of the Coyotes defense and they’re not lacking in quality along the blue line throughout the organization.

Taking a look at their top performers last year, the two who stand out most are 26-year-old Keith Yandle and 21-year-old phenom Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Yandle led the team in points with 30 while Larsson played the most minutes and still finished just six points back of Yandle.

It’s not just the offensive ability of their top defensemen that get it done, however. Larsson’s minutes played show he was more than that, but guys like Rostislav Klesla and Zbynek Michalek helped pick up the defensive side of things while Derek Morris, David Schlemko, and Michael Stone rounded things out.

Those guys were good for steady play, but there’s help waiting in the wings for a shot to prove themselves.

David Rundblad (he of the new two-year deal and 2009 first-round pick of the Blues ) and 2010 first-round pick Brandon Gormley had big seasons in AHL Portland last season. Rundblad was the top defensive point man with 39 while Gormley put up 29 of his own in his first professional season.

When you throw 2011 first-round pick Connor Murphy into the mix (he’ll make his pro debut this season), you’ve got a lot of potential and guys itching to make the NHL right away. It’s a good problem for coach Dave Tippett and GM Don Maloney to have.

When you consider the Coyotes needs up front for scoring forwards, you can’t help but think there’s a trade to be made here some day. For now, they’ll be eager to see what the competition for starting spots turns out to be when camp opens in September.

Alexei Emelin was ejected for this hit on Matt Calvert

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Alexei Emelin has been in and out of the Montreal Canadiens lineup, but this wasn’t the way they wanted him to keep his legs fresh.

The hard-hitting defenseman received a game misconduct and five-minute major penalty for a late hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on Tuesday.

So far, it sounds like Calvert may be OK.

You can see video of that hit above, as well as a GIF of the infraction via My Regular Face.

Many believe that Emelin should not have been ejected.

Injuries continue to dog Lupul as Leafs place him on IR

Joffrey Lupul
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Injuries have been a regular problem for Joffrey Lupul for much of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing in 2015-16.

The team placed him on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 28, calling up Rich Clune in the process.

This IR stint means that Lupul will miss at least three games for Toronto.

From the sound of things, it’s a nagging issue, as NHL.com notes.

“He’s been having the same problem here for a bit,” Mike Babcock told media members on Sunday. “He doesn’t seem to be getting the power back that they thought, so we’re just trying to monitor it the best we can.”

Leafs Nation points out that Lupul has missed about one-third of Toronto’s contests since suffering a separated shoulder in April 2012.

At 32, there’s still time for Lupul to fight through this, although injuries generally accumulate with age.

WATCH LIVE: Wild at Blackhawks; Penguins at Sharks

Scott Darling, Charlie Coyle
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Will Ryan Suter say something foolish during tonight’s game? Is Brent Burns‘ beard so long that it’s finally starting to scrape the ice?

We’ll find out the answer to those questions and more during Tuesday’s NBCSN doubleheader.

Need to follow the two games online? Never fear.

Game 1: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks


Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks


Bolland back in, Bjugstad out with injury for Panthers

Evgeny Medvedev, Nick Bjugstad
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Message sent or not via healthy scratches or not, Dave Bolland returns to the Florida Panthers mix on Tuesday.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, it’s maybe not under the most ideal circumstances, as part of the explanation for his return is Nick Bjugstad‘s absence.

The Miami Herald’s George Richards reports that Bjugstad is out tonight against the St. Louis Blues with an upper-body injury that he suffered during a Monday practice.

In fact, as you can see in the tweet above, the young forward was sent home because of the injury.

This forces some shuffling, with Vincent Trocheck moving up to the second line while Bolland centers the third combo as usual.

The Panthers are currently on a two-game winning streak and visit St. Louis as the second date in a five-game road trip.

This is also the early part of a span in which they play nine of 10 games on the road (counting Sunday’s away win), so a prolonged absence from Bjugstad could sting that much more.