Cleary

Cleary ‘welcome’ to attend Detroit camp on a PTO

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In 2005, Dan Cleary showed up at Red Wings training camp on a tryout basis, and won himself a contract.

Eight years later, he’s hoping to do the same.

The 34-year-old veteran forward sounds as though he’ll attend Red Wings camp in Traverse City, Mi., on a professional try out basis, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Wings GM Ken Holland told the paper Cleary was “welcome” at camp after spending the summer mulling over options — including overtures from other clubs.

Here’s more, from the Free Press:

The Wings offered him a deal before free agency began in July, but Cleary ended up hitting the market and was pursued by the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who even had their captain, Sidney Crosby, call as a pitchman, as well as Anaheim and Philadelphia.

Cleary ultimately decided he wants to stay in Detroit, and the Wings do want him back.

The holdup, of course, is Detroit’s logjam at forward, with 16 skaters under contract and plans to only carry 14 on the active roster (this also doesn’t count Damien Brunner, the 27-year-old Swiss forward that had 26 points in 44 games last year and is also still without a deal.)

Cleary could find his way into action if Darren Helm’s back doesn’t improve — he’s still not able to skate pain-free — and Mikael Samuelsson can’t overcome the injuries that plagued him throughout last season.

There’s also the case of Jordin Tootoo, who fell out of Mike Babcock’s favor last season and was routinely made a healthy scratch. Detroit reportedly tried to move Tootoo this summer.

Slumping Caps need to turn possession into goals

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn (55) knocks the puck away as Washington Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson (90) looks for a shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
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The Washington Capitals definitely haven’t lacked for shots in their last three games.

But they have lacked goals, which is why they lost all three — 4-2 to Toronto (35 shots), 3-0 to the Islanders (38 shots), and 2-1 in a shootout to Tampa Bay (35 shots).

And so the Caps have been left searching for solutions.

 

“I think we need to be a little more gritty, go in front of the net instead of all three guys trying to cycle the puck all the time,” veteran center Nicklas Backstrom said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I mean, we need a least one guy in front of the net. Shots, rebounds—that’s the kind of goals that goes in these days. We have to be able to go in front of the net and go to the dirty areas and create second chances.”

He may be right.

Or, maybe it’s just been bad luck.

Either way, the Capitals have once again been a dominant five-on-five possession team this season, with a score-adjusted Corsi that ranks second to only Boston. But a quarter of the way through the schedule, they only have the NHL’s 19th-best offense (2.52 goals per game).

Last season, when they romped to the Presidents’ Trophy, the offense ranked second (3.02).

It hasn’t helped that Washington’s power play hasn’t been near as dangerous, with only 11 goals through 23 games. Last season, the PP had 19 goals by the 23-game mark. 

Individually, the laggards include Evgeny Kuznetsov, with just three goals; Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, and Justin Williams, with only two each; and John Carlson, with none.

For the record, Alex Ovechkin has 12, so it’s not on him.

Thanks to solid team defense and goaltending, the Caps have still managed a pretty impressive record (13-7-3).

But in case you haven’t noticed, the Metropolitan Division is starting to emerge as the new power grouping in the NHL, with the Columbus Blue Jackets suddenly a threat to take one of the three automatic playoff spots.

division

The Capitals host Jack Eichel and the Sabres tonight. A loss to Buffalo, combined with a Boston win over Florida, and the Caps would actually find themselves outside the playoff picture.

True, Washington would still hold games in hand on most of its competition, so it’s no time to panic.

But it’s a wake-up call all the same. There’s a lot more competition in the Eastern Conference these days. Nothing is guaranteed.

 

Welcome Ryan Spooner to the trade rumor mill

Boston Bruins v Winnipeg Jets
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Ryan Spooner, the 24-year-old Boston forward that scored a career-high 49 points last season, is reportedly on the trade block.

On Saturday Night, Sportsnet’s Hockey Night panel reported that Spooner has been made available, and mentioned Vancouver as a potential landing spot. The move would make sense — Vancouver GM Jim Benning was part of the Bruins front office that drafted Spooner 45th overall in 2010 — and Spooner would fill a need for the Canucks, a team that has been looking to add goalscoring.

Spooner found the back of the net 13 times last year, largely playing on Boston’s third line next to Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey.

He’s struggled to find similar form this year, though, which could be why his name is being bandied about. There have also been questions about his ability to fit within Claude Julien’s system.

From CSNNE:

Spooner has been pushed into playing left wing for the bulk of the season rather than his natural, preferred center position, and he’s been dropped to the fourth line by Claude Julien over the last few weeks. At times he’s also been pulled from the Bruins power play where he racked up six goals and 17 points working off the half-wall last season.  

Julien talked about the former second round pick in frank terms after this week’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes, which featured a Spooner snipe to the top corner during a successful shootout for the Black and Gold. 

“I think at times that [David Krejci] line goes quiet, other times it’s better. We’ve tried different guys on the left side right now and one [Spooner] might give them speed but doesn’t win as many battles,” said Julien of his search for stability at left wing alongside Krejci and David Backes. “The other way [with Tim Schaller] guys are a little harder right now, and they spend more time in the O-zone. So we’re really trying hard to find the right balance there.”

Per sources of CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty, potential landing spots for Spooner include Carolina, San Jose and Brooklyn.

He’s in the last of a two-year, $1.9 million deal with a $950,000 cap hit, so he would be affordable — that said, Spooner is a pending RFA that will need a new deal for next season, something any potential acquiring team will have to take into consideration.

Limping Sabres could give Burgdoerfer, 27, his NHL debut

BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 26: Fans of the Buffalo Sabres pose for the camera as they cheer during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center on November 26, 2014 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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After losing the services of Dmitry Kulikov (back), Zach Bogosian (knee), Josh Gorges (broken foot) and Taylor Fedun (undisclosed), Buffalo was in desperate need of depth on the back end.

So, on Monday, the club set about fixing that by recalling Erik Burgdoerfer from AHL Rochester.

Burgdoerfer, 27, is a pretty good story. Undrafted out of R.P.I, he spent parts of five seasons in the East Coast league before becoming an AHL regular in ’14. He spent two years in Hershey before catching on with the Sabres this past July, signing a one-year, two-way deal and then starting the season with the Amerks.

Through 22 games this year, Burgdoerfer has seven points and 24 PIM.

Buffalo takes on the Caps tonight and while Burgdoerfer’s debut could be a neat narrative, it doesn’t take the sting away from another injury wave that’s swept over the club. The Sabres project to roll a six-man defensive unit of Burgdoerfer, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake McCabe, Brendan Guhle, Cody Franson and Justin Falk tonight, which is pretty thin.

And this is a Sabres club, don’t forget, that’s already lost forwards Jack Eichel and Evander Kane for significant lengths of time this season.

Surging Flames putting early struggles behind them

Calgary Flames' Sean Monahan, right, celebrates with Johnny Gaudreau after a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period of an NHL game in Calgary, Alberta, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Back in October, they had a new coach, a new system, and a new goalie that wasn’t stopping the puck.

But it’s a different story today for the Calgary Flames. They’re one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and they just blasted the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 8-3.

Of course, the big story yesterday was that Johnny Gaudreau was back. He returned from injury ahead of schedule, then scored just 2:09 into last night’s game.

But the Flames were already on a roll without Johnny Hockey, thanks in large part to the goalie who was supposed to be the backup, Chad Johnson, and also to a system that seems to have become more comfortable to play.

“It’s just experience,” said Johnson, per the Flames’ website. “New group. New systems. I said from Day One we were going to have some struggles the first month.”

   Read more: The Flames are still learning their new system, and it shows

Credit to new coach Glen Gulutzan for getting his charges to believe. They started 5-9-1 in their first 15. They’re now 13-13-2, just barely out of a playoff spot after three straight home wins.

“You don’t get too many games in the NHL where you can breathe,” Gulutzan told reporters after last night’s blowout victory. “When it was 6-1 at the end of the second when you’re like, ‘OK. As long as we play good and solid … we can breathe a little bit.’ It was nice. I thought eight-different goal scorers is good for the whole morale. Good for the whole group.”