The Olympics have seen some stellar line combinations, and the American trio of Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski, and James van Riemsdyk ranks among the best.
If not the best.
The trio has a combined 15 points in three games and Kessel leads the Olympic scoring race with seven points — but it’s the “new” guy on the line, Pavelski, that’s perhaps the most crucial element. Kessel and van Riemsdyk have a natural chemistry given they’re linemates in Toronto, so the San Jose center deserves credit for adapting to their style of play and taking a page from the book of Tyler Bozak — Kessel and JVR’s usual center with the Leafs.
“It’s nice coming in, knowing that him and JVR play together, and knowing what type of player Bozak is,” Pavelski said following Sunday’s 5-1 win over Slovenia. “It’s easy for me to come in and fill that role, read off them.”
So, what makes this trio so special? Versatility and sniping ability, for the most part.
Kessel is one of the best goal scorers in the game and remarkably quick, while van Riemdsyk is a big-bodied net presence that’s netted a career-high 24 goals already this season. Pavelski’s no slouch either when it comes to putting pucks in the net — he sits tied for fourth in the NHL in goals, with 29 — but in Sochi, he’s been more of a playmaker and racked up a team-high four assists (a lead he shares with van Riemdsyk.)
“Phil’s got that speed, and JVR you know he likes to be around the net,” Pavelski explained. “[I’m] filling in where I can, and we’ve had some success.”
While the Americans have received good contribution from a number of forwards, it’s clear the Kessel-Pavelski-van Riemdsyk line is driving the bus offensively. Head coach Dan Bylsma has juggled other combinations throughout the tournament but kept that red-hot trio intact throughout, a sign that it’ll be heavily counted upon as the tournament moves to the playoff stage.
Some good news/bad news for the Rangers.
Exactly one week after suffering a concussion against the Philadelphia Flyers, defenseman Ryan McDonagh returned to the ice with his teammates this morning.
The Rangers captain was wearing a non-contract jersey, but “looked good” according to coach Alain Vigneault.
McDonagh was hurt after taking a punch to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds (above).
The 26-year-old has missed each of his team’s last three games since suffering the injury.
McDonagh hasn’t been cleared for contact, but that could happen in the next few days according to Vigneault.
The news wasn’t as good for forward Rick Nash, who’s been dealing with a bone bruise in his leg.
Nash has missed each of New York last eight game’s and Vigneault admitted that he’s no longer considered day-to-day.
He’ll miss at least another week.
What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.
The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.
It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.
Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.
He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).
That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.
Some Twitter reaction to the goal:
The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.
It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).
He’s considered day-to-day at this point.
Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.
“You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.
“From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”
After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd still doesn’t have a contract for next season and with the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, something’s gonna have to give.
According to TSN’s Gary Lawless, the Winnipeg Jets will make one last push to sign the forward before making him available on the trade market.
Ladd doesn’t want to leave and the team wants to keep him, but after Dustin Byfgulien got an extension earlier this month, there may not be enough money to go around.
At one point, the Jets reportedly made Ladd a six-year offer worth $6 million per year, which he obviously didn’t accept.
Can they top that? Time will tell.
Waiting to trade Ladd is probably the smartest decision.
Keeping the captain around would be great, but if the two sides can’t agree to a new contract, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Ladd’s services.
Lawless mentions the Penguins, Panthers and Blackhawks as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old.
The Kings have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ladd.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks.