First-place ‘Hawks ‘loved’ Circus Trip, says Quenneville


On Saturday, Chicago finished its annual “Circus Trip” — a two-week stretch when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus overtake the United Center — in style, beating Phoenix 5-2 to close with a sparkling 6-1-0 record.

On Sunday, ‘Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville said the 13-day, seven-city tour was better than he could’ve imagined.

“We loved the trip,” Quenneville told the Chicago Herald. “We loved the consistency, the contribution we were getting across the board.

“The consistency is what we’re appreciating, and the energy and the enthusiasm in the locker room and on the bench is as good as we’ve seen here, so it’s been very positive.”

Some takeaways from the Circus Trip:

— Chicago improved to an NHL-best 11-3-1 away from home.

— The 6-1-0 finish was the club’s best in 10 years.

— After starting the trip with a 5-1 loss in Denver, the ‘Hawks rattled off six straight wins Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Dallas and Phoenix, outscoring those opponents 22-10.

— Duncan Keith caught fire, scoring at a career-best pace while earning NHL Third Star of the Week honors.

— After the loss to Colorado, Corey Crawford stopped 110 of 116 shots (.948 save percentage) while Antti Raanta stepped in stopped 51 of 55 shots (.927 save percentage), earning his first NHL win.

— Heading into Monday night’s action, Chicago sits atop the league with a 20-4-4 record and 44 points, three clear of second-place San Jose (the Sharks do have two games in hand.)

All in all, pretty good trip. Just ask Q.

“We like our team, and it’s been a very positive start to our season and great road trip,” he said. “We’re very happy in all aspects of our team game, and we can touch on everything.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning

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Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Lightning’s first fight this season: Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo

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Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.

Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.

It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.

Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.

Oilers GM doesn’t want to force a trade for the sake of a trade

Peter Chiarelli

It must be a helpless feeling to sit idly by while your team continues to flail, but such emotions are what opposing GMs love to prey on.

Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t been around through much of the suffering for this hapless franchise, yet that doesn’t mean he’s immune to the calls for improvement. To his credit, he’s not buckling under that pressure.

You can see and hear his full comments below:

If you don’t feel like playing the video, the message is simple enough.

Chiarelli isn’t happy with Edmonton’s record – he hasn’t “seen progression” in ways that he was expecting, but again … he doesn’t want to force moves.

Long story short, he can “sleep at night,” even if he’s disappointed.

Is he right to take a relaxed approach, though? Maybe it’s time to blow up a part of what isn’t working? Have some fun armchair GM’ing on this one.

Slump busters: Simmonds, Couturier end long scoring droughts in win over Rangers


It’s been a good few days to be a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, as their team delivered not once, but twice during Thanksgiving weekend.

The Flyers picked up a 3-2 OT win over the Predators on Friday before shutting out the New York Rangers, 3-0, on Saturday.

It was a good afternoon for three players in particular.

Both Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier ended long scoring slumps.

Simmonds’ two goals were his first in seven games, while Couturier scored for the first time in his last 13 contests.

Goaltender Steve Mason also had a solid outing against the Rangers.

The 27-year-old turned aside all 24 shots he faced including this great save on Dominic Moore:

The Flyers lost defenseman Nick Schultz to an upper-body injury in the first period after he took a big hit from Dylan McIlrath.

Luke Schenn defended his fallen teammate by dropping the gloves with McIlrath, which didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.

The Rangers are now on a season-high three-game losing streak. Their lack of effort has to be concerning for their head coach Alain Vigneault.

The Flyers outshot the Rangers 30-14 over the final 40 minutes.