DETROIT, MI - MARCH 20: Lee Stempniak #22 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates after scoring a second period goal during the game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on March 20, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan.

PHT Morning Skate: Stempniak, Miller adjusting to new teams


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Recently acquired forward Lee Stempniak admitted that his new role on the Pittsbugh Penguins’ top line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz has been a big adjustment, but coach Dan Bylsma is happy with what Stempniak has already brought to the table. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Meanwhile, Ryan Miller is adapting to life with the St. Louis Blues. He admitted that shifting from Buffalo to St. Louis has taken some getting used to and the process isn’t over yet despite his post-trade success. (Canadian Press)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday night’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The Edmonton Oilers’ problems are mounting and that’s partially because top forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle have declined in the second half of the season. (Edmonton Journal)

Mikhail Grabovski practiced with the Washington Capitals on Monday, but he still doesn’t have much strength in his injured ankle. (Washington Times)

Gustav Olofsson has agreed to terms with the Minnesota Wild. The 19-year-old defenseman was taken with the 46th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. (Star Tribune)

Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards said the weird thing about playing in Philadelphia is how much the Flyers have changed since he was traded. At this point he thinks he knows more players with the Anaheim Ducks than he does on the team that drafted him in 2003. (LA Kings Insider)

Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd hadn’t missed a game since the franchise relocated from Atlanta until Monday’s game against Dallas. He was absent so that he could be with his wife for the birth of their daughter. (Winnipeg Sun)

Highlights from Montreal’s 2-1 win over Boston:

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado