Claude Giroux, Michael Raffl

TGIF: Five NHL games to watch this weekend


Saturday: Tampa Bay at Philadelphia (1 p.m. ET)

The resurgent Flyers have now won 10 straight at home, a streak that’s improved their record at Wells Fargo Center to 12-7-0. “I think they’re confident guys right now and they believe they can win,” head coach Craig Berube said after Philly’s latest conquest, 3-1 over the Habs on Wednesday. That being said, it’s still hard to feel 100-percent comfortable that the Flyers have finally figured it out. I’m not denying they’ve shown serious progress, but this team’s had a way of showing improvement, only to regress against better competition. Let’s see how they look later this month when they have to deal with this…


Saturday: Colorado at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET)

If the only thing that matters is the final score, the Wild have been flawless in their last four games, all of them wins. But PHT readers are smart enough to know that’s a simple-minded way of looking at things. Given this is a team that lost six straight prior to its current streak, the fact Minnesota has been outshot 110-57 in its last three games combined suggests there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The biggest difference in the Wild’s last four games has been the play of Niklas Backstrom and, on Tuesday in Los Angeles, Darcy Kuemper. Great goaltending gives you a chance every night. Average goaltending is only good enough when you control the puck, and that’s something the Wild still aren’t doing enough.

Saturday: Detroit at Los Angeles (10:30 p.m. ET)

A Stanley Cup Final preview, according to my pre-season prediction. Yeah, I’m not feeling so good about that Red Wings pick right now. Though it should be noted that I included the caveat that “Stephen Weiss can’t be a free-agent bust.” Does that get me off the hook? Whatever, I’m standing by my pick. Detroit’s better than its record; a 1-7 mark in the “gimmick” is a big reason the Wings are barely hanging on to a wild-card spot. Besides, one team out of two wouldn’t be so bad, and the Kings are very much in the Cup conversation. “We’re playing good,” says coach Darryl Sutter, with no regard for the English language. “We’ve played good for six or seven games.”

Saturday: Boston at San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET)

Without getting too technical, the Sharks have been kinda meh the last month or so. After starting the season 19-3-5, San Jose is just 9-8-1 in its last 18 games, with only five of those wins coming in regulation. Yeah, there have been some injuries, like the one to Logan Couture’s hand, but the Sharks are far from the only team that’s dealing with key absences. Meanwhile, the Bruins should be motivated for this one after dropping the first two of their three-game California trip, drawing some stern words from their coach.

Sunday: Philadelphia at NY Rangers (7 p.m. ET)

On NBCSN. Streaming live, too. Some of you may disagree, but as I wrote here, I really like the way the Rangers are playing lately. They hammered the Leafs, 7-1, on Saturday. The first few minutes of the third period they had against Columbus on Monday at MSG were absolutely dominant. And, of course, they beat the Blackhawks in Chicago two days later. If Henrik Lundqvist can play like the guy who earned that massive contract extension, they could go on a serious run before the Olympic break, with 10 of their 14 games at MSG and two at Yankee Stadium.

Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

Robin Lehner
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Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”

Welcome Ryan Johansen to the trade rumor mill

Ryan Johansen

Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.

This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.

More (transcribed from video):

“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’

“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”

The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.

It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.

Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.

All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.

‘John leaves a lasting mark’: NHL announces Collins’ departure as COO

John Collins
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One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.

John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.

More, from the League:

Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.

“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”

Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.

“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”

Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.

During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.

Jackets activate Dubinsky, Wennberg from IR

Andy Andreoff, Brandon Dubinsky
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Columbus will have some reinforcements up front when it takes on the Devils tomorrow in New Jersey.

Brandon Dubinsky, who’s missed the last six games with an elbow injury, and Alexander Wennberg — who’s also missed the last six games, but with a foot ailment — have both been activated from injured reserve, and should be available for selection on Wednesday.

It wasn’t all good news for the Jackets, though. Defenseman Cody Goloubef and right wing Rene Bourque were placed on IR.

The biggest return for Columbus is Dubinsky, who had four goals and 11 points in 16 games prior to getting hurt, while averaging nearly 19 minutes per night.

That said, getting Wennberg back is key as well; the former first-round pick has been plagued by injuries recently but showed well during his rookie campaign in ’14-15, with 20 points in 68 games.