GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 31: Goaltender Carter Hutton #30 of the Nashville Predators in action during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on October 31, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Predators 5-4 in an overtime shoot out. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Struggling goalie Hutton takes blame as Trotz calls out defense


Few teams rely on their starting goaltender more than the Nashville Predators with Pekka Rinne. Now that he’s out with a hip injury, they’ve turned to 27-year-old Carter Hutton, who had just one game worth of NHL experience going into this season.

The results haven’t been pretty. Hutton has a 3.53 GAA and .887 save percentage in nine games this season. Things have gone particularly bad lately, with Hutton getting yanked midway through the first period of Friday’s contest and then allowing five goals on Sunday.

Of course, Hutton didn’t come into the season anticipating that Rinne would suffer a major injury within the first month. He likes the opportunity, but admitted that it’s “a bit overwhelming.” He’s also quick to accept the blame for the goals he’s let in, but Predators coach Barry Trotz doesn’t think Hutton is solely responsible.

“He has gone through having a couple of rough patches in game,” coach Barry Trotz told the Tennessean, “but one of the things people have to understand is the goaltender is the last line of defense.”

Unfortunately for the Predators, Hutton and their defense haven’t been the team’s only problems lately. They have also been shutout of back-to-back contests.

Rinne isn’t expected to return any time soon, so Nashville will probably use Hutton again on Tuesday when they face the New York Islanders.

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’

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Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead


Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.