KreiderMiller

Will New York’s youth movement be put on hold?

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When most people think of key members of the New York Rangers, names like Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh come to mind.

But what about the likes of Chris Kreider, Dylan McIlrath, JT Miller and Brady Skjei?

Those four are New York’s first-round picks from 2009-12, and widely considered to be cornerstones of the club’s future. Kreider (23 games last year) and Miller (26) have made their marks at the NHL level — Kreider more so, thanks to his stellar 2011-12 playoff run — while McIlrath seems close to making his NHL debut, and Skjei isn’t far away.

“I think I have a legitimate shot,” McIlrath said at July’s prospect camp.

Another prospect is former Habs second-rounder Danny Kristo, acquired in a July trade for Christian Thomas. He’s got “a good chance to fill” the roster holes left by the injured Callahan and Carl Hagelin, according to director of player personnel Gordie Clark.

But will it all pan out?

Under former head coach John Tortorella, it was difficult for those youngsters to get into games (“there are just too many mistakes,” he lamented back in April.) Kreider was a non-factor in 2013 after his postseason breakthrough, and Miller was used sporadically.

Under Vigneault, that might not change.

The new Rangers boss isn’t known as someone that likes youngsters learning on the job. His time in Vancouver was marked by a preference for safe, responsible veterans over talented-but-inexperienced kids.

Cody Hodgson, Michael Grabner and Jordan Schroeder all had issues getting ice time, though those decisions were often made in part by the club’s depth.

In New York, the situation could be similar.

Since hiring Vigneault, the Rangers signed a pair of veteran presences at forward, Dominic Moore and Benoit Pouliot, and added defensive depth in Justin Falk, Danny Syvret and Aaron Johnson.

Considering the Rangers didn’t lose much from last year’s team — the most notable departures were Steve Eminger, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern and trade deadline pickup Ryane Clowe — it’ll be tough for New York’s kiddie corps to get in the mix.

Especially if they don’t adhere to Vigneault’s preferred style of play.

“I like my teams to play the right way, which is if you have room to make a play, make a play,” he said upon taking the Rangers job. “If you have space and time to carry the puck, carry the puck. If the other team has the gap on you or they’re playing you tight, then sometimes you have to make the high-percentage play and chip those pucks in.

“I really believe in playing the right way both offensively and defensively.”

Ducks likely to recall Khudobin after Gibson injury

Chicago Blackhawks' Richard Panik (14), of Slovakia, collides with Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Chicago. Anaheim won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.

The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).

The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.

Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:

The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”

Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.