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Stuck between a rock and a hard place, ‘Canes send Murphy to minors

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Ryan Murphy, Carolina’s first-round pick (12th overall) at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has 11 points in 39 games this year and is averaging over 18 minutes a night.

Yet on Friday, the club sent him down to AHL Charlotte.

Why?

Well, it’s all to do with the NHL’s complex, sometimes confusing rules governing roster moves in and around the Olympic break. Here’s the Charlotte Checkers’ website with a detailed explanation:

Waiver rules are still in play, which only makes it realistic for players still on their entry-level deals to come to Charlotte. That’s a group of only three players, one of whom, Justin Faulk, is actually going to the Olympics. Meanwhile, at this point in time, center Elias Lindholm and defenseman Ryan Murphy do appear to be eligible to play in the AHL during the Olympic break due to a combination of factors including days spent on the NHL roster this season and how often they have played in the NHL during the last few weeks.

In Murphy’s case, the Hurricanes would essentially have to make that decision, in the form of an official assignment to Charlotte, by this Friday, Jan. 24, at 5 p.m. He would also have to stay with the Checkers until the beginning of the Olympic break, meaning seven NHL games missed. If he’s not with Charlotte by the deadline, he could still play in the AHL during the two-week period before the break begins but not during the break itself.

So in short, the ‘Canes were forced to decide between between 1) having Murphy available for the next seven games, then have him inactive for the duration of the Olympic break — or, 2) lose his services for the next seven games, but ensure he’d be playing right through ’til the end of February.

Ergo, rock and a hard place.

Lindholm, though, isn’t subjected to the same rules because he hasn’t been on the ‘Canes roster as much as Murphy this year (he was injured, and loaned to Team Sweden for the World Juniors). Therefore, Lindholm could play with the ‘Canes until the Olympic break and still be eligible to play in the AHL during the break.

So yeah, a bit confusing.

Whatever the case, it’s interesting to see Carolina make the decision it did. Even though Murphy’s been a healthy scratch the last two games — which the ‘Canes have both won — he’s still a fairly key contributor, and had a plus-6 rating through five games in January.

Murphy will now miss Carolina’s game against Ottawa on Saturday, Monday versus Columbus, Tuesday in Montreal, Friday versus St. Louis, Feb. 4 versus Winnipeg, Feb. 7 versus Florida and Feb. 8 against Montreal.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’