Stars healthy scratch first-rounder Nichushkin


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.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?