Yeo: Wild ‘certainly loaded up’ top PP unit

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When it comes to discussing his top-heavy power play, Wild head coach Mike Yeo isn’t beating around the bush.

“I think that we certainly loaded up that top unit,” Yeo told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “That’s a very talented group.”

The Wild opened camp with Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley up front, joined by Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville on the points (the latter having played that role during his time in Buffalo.)

It’s a skillful quintet, to say the least.

Heatley’s a former 50-goal man, Parise’s a former 40-goal man, Suter finished sixth among all NHL d-men in power play assists last year, Koivu led the Wild in PP assists in 2008-09 and Pominville led the Sabres in PP assists in 2007-08.

If it sounds like the Wild are putting an extra emphasis on the man advantage this year, well, that’s because they are.

Minnesota operated at a 17.9 percent clip last season — 16th in the league — and that number was a disappointment considering the club added two key fixtures in the offseason in Suter and Parise.

Suter led the Wild in power play time on ice per game average (3:46) and Parise was third, with 3:25.

To pick things up, the club promoted Andrew Brunnette to a power-play consultant role in August.

[Brunette’s] an invaluable resource,” Yeo explained. “Our power play had the opportunity to be a lot better last year than it was.

“We were sixth in the league in total power-play shots on goal. That tells you we’re just not doing enough to score goals.”

Brunette is highly qualified for the PP gig. He was already working in Minnesota’s hockey ops department and is  barely removed from playing (was with Chicago in 2011-12).

He also made his mark during his playing career as a PP specialist.

Brunette scored 114 power play goals during his career and was a deft setup man as well, tying Joe Sakic for Colorado’s team-lead in power play assists in 2006-07, with 27.

With all these changes in place, Yeo figures the Wild are ready to become a great PP team.

“I think we’re ready to take a step,” he explained. “Let’s improve on top of that, let’s be one of the elite teams in the league. If you can do that, then that would be a huge contributing factor to the success of the team.”

Sharks sign ‘smooth, puck-moving’ Union College d-man Nick DeSimone

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The San Jose Sharks have waded into the college free agent waters.

On Thursday, the Sharks signed 22-year-old defenseman Nick DeSimone to a two-year entry-level deal. He also inked an AHL amateur tryout deal and will report to the San Jose Barracuda for the duration of the 2016-17 season, the club announced.

“Nick is a smooth, puck-moving defenseman with good size who uses his speed in both ends of the ice,” said Sharks GM Doug Wilson in a statement.

“His two-way play has taken a step forward in each of his three collegiate seasons, and we thank Union Head Coach Rick Bennett for helping develop a solid player both on and off the ice. We look forward to adding him to our group of defensemen.”

DeSimone recently completed his junior season at Union College. He scored nine goals and 19 points (both single season college career highs for him) in 38 games.

Earlier today, Spencer Foo announced he will forego his senior season at Union College in order to sign an NHL deal this summer.

Report: Red Wings rookie Mantha suffers broken finger, likely done for the season

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It looks like Anthony Mantha‘s rookie season could be over.

Mantha dressed for the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, but was involved in a fight with Tampa Bay Lightning’s Luke Witkowski and is now done for the night after just 1:09 of ice time.

Per Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press, quoting general manager Ken Holland, Mantha suffered a fractured finger and is believed to be done for the remainder of the regular season.

After tonight, Detroit has five games left on its schedule, after failing to extend its impressive streak of consecutive playoff appearances.

Mantha had 17 goals and 36 points in 59 games this season prior to Thursday.

Video: Weise records Gordie Howe hat trick after spirited scrap with Hamonic

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Thursday’s game between the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers wasn’t even nine minutes old by the time Dale Weise had recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Already with the opening goal and an assist on Radko Gudas‘ goal, giving Philly a 3-0 lead, Weise dropped the gloves with Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic for a spirited fight off a faceoff.

Wayne Simmonds also recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick later in the first period, following his fight with Anders Lee.

Not many, if any, positives for the Islanders after a disastrous start. Needing a win to close the gap on the Boston Bruins in the wild card race, New York fell behind 5-0 by the time the first period was over.

There is perhaps even more bad news for the Islanders: Hamonic wasn’t on the bench to begin the second period.

The Islanders have since provided an update: Hamonic will not return to this game due to an upper-body injury.

 

 

The Islanders are off to a disastrous start in Philly, Flyers chase Greiss

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Talk about the worst possible start for the New York Islanders.

Trailing the Boston Bruins by four points for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders lived through a nightmare to begin Thursday’s game, falling behind the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 4-0 — before the midway point of the first period.

Dale Weise started the scoring at 4:30 of the first period. By the 9:19 mark, the Flyers opened up a four-goal lead and had already chased Islanders starting goalieThomas Greiss, who allowed three goals on eight shots.

Jaroslav Halak was brought into the game and promptly surrendered a goal to Jordan Weal.

It continued to get worse for the Islanders, who finished the first period trailing by five goals. Shots? They were 19-10 in favor of Philly. Yup. It was bad.

With Josh Ho-Sang in the box serving a double-minor for high sticking, Wayne Simmonds gave Philly a 5-0 lead with his 30th goal of the year.

Shaping up to be a long night for the Islanders.