It’s early, but the U.S. has put together a sniper-filled line for Sochi.
Monday’s practice was highlighted by the Phil Kessel-James van Riemsdyk-Joe Pavelski trio, featuring three of the NHL’s top 20 goalscorers this season.
Kessel, second in the league with 31 tallies, looks as though he’ll retain his Toronto running mate van Riemsdyk for the Olympic tourney. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise — as we saw with Canada, teams are looking to utilize the chemistry built between teammates during the regular season (Sidney Crosby-Chris Kunitz, Jonathan Toews-Patrick Sharp and Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry were all paired at today’s Canadian skate.)
The interesting wrinkle in Sochi, though, will be Pavelski. The San Jose center is currently enjoying one of the best goalscoring campaigns of his career, with 29, putting him tied for fourth in the league with Getzlaf and just two back of Kessel as the top American scorer.
Amazingly, this means that van Riemsdyk — who has a career-high 24 goals already this season — is the lowest scorer on his line.
The other American forward lines were equally compelling. In keeping with the teammates theme, St. Louis forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie skated with team captain Zach Parise; Ryan Kesler centered Dustin Brown and Patrick Kane; Paul Stastny was between Max Pacioretty and Ryan Callahan while Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler were the extras.
FYI: Brown and Kesler are less than a month removed from fighting each other…
UPDATE: The defensive pairings, per Sports Illustrated, are Cam Fowler-Ryan Suter, Ryan McDonagh-John Carlson, Kevin Shattenkirk-Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik-Justin Faulk.
Zach Parise on Sunday scored his 300th career NHL goal, a milestone that puts him in rare company.
Parise got the Wild on the board early in the second period versus the New York Islanders, becoming only the third Minnesota-born player to reach 300 career NHL goals.
As per the Wild, Parise joins Dave Christian, who scored 340 goals and 773 points in 1,009 career games, and defenseman Phil Housley, who scored 338 goals and 1,232 points in 1,495 games.
Parise added goal No. 301 of his career later in the second period.
There was no miracle comeback this time for the Winnipeg Jets. No heroics from highly touted rookie Patrik Laine.
Puck drop at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field was delayed due to glare from the sun. When the game did begin, the Jets couldn’t get anything going, falling behind in the second period against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers leave Winnipeg with a 3-0 victory.
It started with Mark Letestu opening the scoring with a short-handed goal after a mistake from Dustin Byfuglien at the Edmonton blue line.
The Oilers continued to ruin the party with a goal from Darnell Nurse — in the box when Letestu scored — just 1:46 later. And Zack Kassian made it that much more difficult for the Jets to come back with another second-period goal for Edmonton. Three goals in just about eight minutes and it was game over.
The Jets’ record falls to 2-3 — a slow start that puts them at the bottom of a very difficult Central Division.
And their schedule likely won’t do them any favors, either, with home-and-home sets against Dallas and Washington, not to mention some back-to-back games on the road.
Meanwhile, the Oilers have had a completely different start to their season.
A week ago, head coach Todd McLellan blistered his team for a brutal performance on home ice against the Buffalo Sabres. Goalie Cam Talbot wasn’t good at all, allowing a goal from center ice.
A distant memory, it seems. Talbot stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shut out Sunday.
The message from that effort versus Buffalo — the lone blemish on Edmonton’s schedule so far — seems to have been received from the Oilers.
They went on to beat Carolina and St. Louis, and then they took control of Sunday’s contest in the middle period and didn’t give Winnipeg anything from there.
With a power play in the second period, the Winnipeg Jets had a good opportunity to take the lead on home ice in the Heritage Classic.
But instead, it was the Edmonton Oilers cashing in.
Mark Letestu opened the scoring with a short-handed goal, beating Connor Hellebuyck on the glove side on a breakaway after Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien whiffed on the puck at the blue line.
Letestu took advntage. That’s his second goal of the season, both coming on the penalty kill.
The Oilers were able to further silence the crowd in Winnipeg, as Darnell Nurse, right out of the penalty box, buried a Connor McDavid pass just 1:46 after Letestu’s goal.
Sam Reinhart has two assists through four games this season, and Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has made a move with the hope of getting the 20-year-old forward going offensively.
As per John Vogl of the Buffalo News on Sunday, Reinhart has been moved to the middle between Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons, while Matt Moulson was moved to the top line with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo.
Reinhart, a 23-goal scorer from last season, had two assists through the first two games, but has been kept off the score sheet in Buffalo’s last two contests.
Outside of that six-goal outburst versus Edmonton last weekend, scoring has been an issue for the Sabres early in the season. So adjustments to the forward combinations is to be expected.
“Sam needs to get a little bit more feet moving, a little bit more speed to his game,” said Bylsma, as per the Buffalo News.
“He’s made some great plays for us early on – power play and five-on-five for the Okposo goal – but we need to get more out of Sam, moving his feet more, playing a little bit faster, a little bit quicker and providing a little bit more offense for our team.”
The Sabres, without two key forwards in Jack Eichel and Evander Kane with long-term injuries, which would help explain the team’s early offensive issues, conclude a four-game road trip Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Sabres also called up forward Hudson Fasching and defenseman Casey Nelson from Rochester in the AHL.