After four games, one shot on goal, zero points and a minus-1 rating, Valeri Nichushkin has been made a healthy scratch by the Dallas Stars.
Nichushkin, 18, was Dallas’ first-round pick (10th overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and viewed as one of the most NHL-ready prospects in his class, thanks to his size (6-foot-4, 202 pounds) and the fact he’d played against men in the KHL prior to coming to North America.
But after four games, things have changed.
The Stars are giving Nichushkin a chance to “take a breath,” according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. The Russian rookie has been given pretty solid minutes thus far — he’s averaging 14:37 per game — and now it appears it might’ve been a case of too much, too soon as the club will insert a more veteran presence, 24-year-old Lane MacDermind, in Nichushkin’s place.
News of Nichushkin’s scratch comes at the same time fellow Russian prospect Nail Yakupov returns to the Edmonton lineup after being held out of the past two games. While their situations hardly mirror each other — Yakupov is two years older, played junior hockey in Canada and has nearly 50 more games of NHL experience and — it’s likely both will be tied to the same narrative.
In a less ballyhooed storyline, Nichushkin will miss his opportunity for tonight’s showdown with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, the first overall pick at the ’13 draft. MacKinnon and Nichushkin are just two of seven players from this year’s draft currently playing in the NHL, along with Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan and Rasmus Ristolainen.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.
Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.
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“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”
Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.
Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.
DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.
Blashill says DeKeyser has a bruise, not a break. Will know more tomorrow, but probably day-to-day
The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.
But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.