The Nashville Predators were among the worst teams offensively last season, which encouraged them to sign Viktor Stalberg to a four-year, $12 million deal over the summer. Stalberg had 23 points in 47 games last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, but he might have done better if he wasn’t limited to an average of 14:07 minutes per game.
The thought was that his playing time would increase when he moved from one of the deepest teams in the NHL to a Predators squad with an anemic offense. Instead, Stalberg’s ice time has actually gone down significantly this season — and that was before he was made a healthy scratch on Thursday. Consequently, he has no points in six games.
To be clear, it’s not because the Predators’ offense has been any better in 2013-14 — so far they’re actually averaging fewer goals per game — although their defense and the now injured goaltender Pekka Rinne have guided them to a 6-4-1 start.
Still, Predators coach Barry Trotz feels that limiting Stalberg’s playing time right now will help him in the long run, according to the Tennessean. Especially after Stalberg started the season on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, Trotz is taking it slow as the 27-year-old forward gets used to his new team and system.
“It is never fun watching,” Stalberg said. “It is embarrassing, too; I have to be better. It is up to me to make a difference out there, so I will do everything I can once I get back in and try to get it going.”
The Nashville Predators will face the St. Louis Blues tonight.
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.
Read more about his rise here.
In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).
Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.
See it for yourself:
Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.
He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.
Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.
Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:
No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.
The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?
He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.
Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.
The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.
He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.
With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.
Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?
Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: