SheaWeber

Weber having ‘best season as a pro,’ says Trotz

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The Nashville Predators are going to miss the playoffs for the second straight year, but their captain’s never played better.

That’s what head coach Barry Trotz said this week, claiming that Shea Weber is in the midst of his best season since breaking into the NHL nine years ago.

“He’s not getting the accolades across the league that he would if we were a little higher in the standings, but it’s by far his best season in terms of production,” Trotz said, per The Tennessean. “And we’re basically breaking in five defensemen, maybe four … and he’s having a terrific season.

“So to me, he’s having by far his best season as a Predator, as a pro.”

Statistically speaking, Weber’s been very Weber-like this season. His 18 goals are five off his career-best 23 and his 46 points are seven off his career high of 53. He’s playing a ton of minutes, which is nothing new — though it’s worth mentioning he’s averaging a career-high 27:56 TOI per game, in large part because of all the new blueliners Trotz referenced.

The bigger narrative, it seems, is pushing Weber’s Norris Trophy candidacy.

After finishing as the runner up to Nicklas Lidstrom in 2011 and Erik Karlsson in 2012, Weber plummeted to eighth in voting last year, failing to get a single first-place ballot. At times, it seems like Weber’s play is taken for granted (because he’s so consistently good) and often overlooked because of the market he plays in.

There might be something to it.

Though he undoubtedly has many years left in his career to win one, the fact Weber — who turns 29 in August — hasn’t won a Norris yet is kind of surprising; especially since three of the last four winners (Karlsson, P.K. Subban, Duncan Keith) were all 26 or younger.

Of course, the age thing doesn’t mean all that much.

Lidstrom and Scott Niedermayer didn’t win their first Norris Trophies ’til they were 30; Zdeno Chara was 31 and, perhaps most famously, Hockey Hall of Famer Al MacInnis won his first and only Norris when he was 35 years old.

Whatever the case, Trotz wants it to be known Weber should be in consideration for this year’s Norris.

“If you were doing a coaching poll, I know he’d be in the top three,” Trotz said. “He has been an absolute beast this year in terms of the way he’s played. On and off the ice, he’s taken a leadership role. He’s been a difference maker.

“He can play in every situation you want to throw at him, and he’s having a great season.”

Wild didn’t just get Hanzal — they kept him away from the rest of the West

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Martin Hanzal #11 of the Arizona Coyotes during the NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Gila River Arena on November 25, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks 4-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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In acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday, Minnesota built itself a formidable quartet of centers — Hanzal, Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Erik Haula — but also did something else in the process.

It didn’t let Hanzal go to a competitor.

This, perhaps, is equally important to what the 30-year-old brings to the team. Hanzal’s big, he’s physical, he’s got sound defensive awareness and good offensive instincts — the kind of attributes you want heading into the playoffs.

And the kind you don’t want your rivals acquiring.

In Sunday’s trade call, GM Chuck Fletcher acknowledged as much when asked if he made trades with other teams in mind. In the case of Hanzal, the question was asked specifically about Chicago — a team that had been occasionally linked to the ex-Coyotes center, and one with a history of swinging for the fences at the deadline.

“Obviously everyone knows Chicago has won three Stanley Cups over the last six or so years,” Fletcher said, per the Star-Tribune. “Clearly in the West they’re always the team you have to go through and you have to beat to get anywhere you want to go to.”

To be fair, Fletcher — like his counterpart in Chicago, Stan Bowman — also has a long history of wheeling at the deadline. The Hanzal trade didn’t come out of the blue. This marks the fifth consecutive year the Wild have gone out and acquired a forward, acquisitions which have ranged from minor pickups (David Jones, Chris Stewart) to prominent ones (Jason Pominville).

In each instance, Fletcher’s goal was to make the team better. But this year, things were a little different. Whereas acquisitions likes Jones and Stewart were designed specifically to impact the Wild and only the Wild, yesterday’s trade took something significant off the table for other teams.

Fletcher realized the Western Conference is wide open and that Hanzal, arguably the most impact player available, would be a difference maker.

And not just in Minnesota. The reverberations of this trade will be felt.

“Of all the guys with expiring contracts, we thought he, at forward, would have the biggest impact on any roster,” Fletcher explained. “So certainly our goal was to have him play for us, and also to keep him away from other teams in the West.”

After perfect road trip, Panthers drop third straight at home

Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris (7) celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) There’s a reason Craig Anderson is often at his best when he faces his former team.

Kyle Turris scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period and Anderson stopped 37 shots to lift the Ottawa Senators over the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Sunday night.

Anderson played for the Panthers from 2006-09 and is 14-7-2 against them.

“This has always been kind of home for me. It’s a little more emotional for me when I play here,” he said. “You seem to get up for those types of games when you have friends and family in the stands.”

Anderson was coming off a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

“You just have to get back on that horse and start riding it again,” he said. “If you have a bad memory I think it works to your benefit.”

Zack Smith scored an early short-handed goal for the Senators, who have won four of six. Erik Karlsson had two assists.

Anderson was out from Dec. 7 until Feb. 11, a span of 26 games.

“Andy is an outstanding No. 1 goalie,” Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. “We missed him for a long time. You saw what a difference his experience made tonight.”

Jonathan Marchessault scored for Florida, and James Reimer made 31 saves. The Panthers have lost three straight after sweeping a five-game road trip, and dropped their last four home games overall.

The Panthers, fifth in the Atlantic Division, trail the second-place Senators by six points and missed a chance to gain ground.

“This was a four-point game right here,” Marchessault said.

Turris put Ottawa ahead when his wrist shot went over Reimer’s glove at 9:58 of the second for his 21st goal of the season.

“We’re right in the race with Ottawa right now,” Florida center Aleksander Barkov said. “We need to win these close games. We played well but that’s not enough.”

The Senators took a 1-0 lead on the short-handed goal by Smith. Reimer blocked a shot from Karlsson, but Smith grabbed the rebound and poked in the puck at 6:28 of the first. Smith has 12 career short-handed goals.

“It was just a great play off the pass. It was right on my stick,” Smith said. “It was nice to get one short-handed and get a little momentum.”

Marchessault tied it on his power-play goal with 2:47 left in the first. He took a feed from Jonathan Huberdeau in the left circle and put the puck high into the net.

 

NHL on NBCSN: Wild and Kings square off after making big trades on Sunday

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 15:  Martin Hanzal #11 of the Arizona Coyotes gets set to take a faceoff against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Coyotes defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in an overtime shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Los Angeles Kings at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Wild and Kings didn’t play on Sunday, but that didn’t stop them from stealing the show, as both teams made major trades.

The Kings acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a modest package. The timing of the deal appeared to be a little odd because starter Jonathan Quick made his long-awaited return from injury on Saturday afternoon and he picked up a shutout in the process.

But during a conference call on Sunday, Kings GM Dean Lombardi admitted that there are a “number of concerns” regarding Quick’s ability to handle a heavy workload.

“You’re never sure how well a guy who’s been out this long — is he going to have his ‘A’ game, so to speak, or not? These type of injuries, which are fairly serious, the history of comebacks can go either way,” Lombardi said of Quick.

Los Angeles could still use another guy to put the puck in the net, but they’ll have to hope that the acquisition of Bishop will give them a shot in the arm (they could sure use one).

If the playoffs started today, the Kings wouldn’t be participating in them. They currently sit three points back of the St. Louis Blues for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Both teams have played the same number of games, but the Blues also have one more regulation/overtime win.

On a positive note, the schedule sets up nicely for Los Angeles. They’ll play back-to-back road games in Minnesota tonight and in Calgary tomorrow, but they’ll follow that up with seven straight home games from Mar. 2-16.

Minutes after the Kings made the first splash of the day, the Wild felt the need to increase their depth by adding forwards Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from Arizona.

Minnesota paid a hefty price of three draft picks, including a first rounder in 2017 to get their hands on Hanzal and White, but the top team in the West now boasts a one-two-three punch of Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu and Hanzal down the middle.

According to GM Chuck Fletcher, both players will suit up in tonight’s game.

After dropping a pair of home games to Chicago this month, the Wild have a one-point lead over the Blackhawks for the Central Division lead, but Minnesota has three games in hand.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Wild come out of the gate tonight, as this will be their first game back from their bye week.

Report: Sens add forward Chris DiDomenico from Swiss League

LONDON,ON - SEPTEMBER 14:  Chris DiDomenico #49 of the Chicago Black Hawks skates with the puck in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the NHL Rookie Tournament on September 14,2010 at the John Labatt Centre in London,Ontario. The Hawks defeated the Penguins 9-5. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators haven’t made a trade yet, but they have reportedly added some forward depth.

According to reports out of Switzerland, Chris DiDomenico will be leaving the Swiss League’s SCL Tigers to join the Sens immediately. The Swiss team’s president says DiDomenico’s new contract is a one-way deal for this season and a two-way deal for next year.

DiDomenico was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

After stints in both the AHL and ECHL, he moved to Italian side Asiago HC in 2012. He spent  two seasons with them before joining the Tigers.

The 28-year-old has 10 goals and 28 assists in 48 games in Switzerland’s top division this season.

The move was an inconvenience for the Tigers, but they didn’t want to hold him back from making the leap to the NHL.

“From a sports point of view, the timing of this decision is highly unfavorable. For the SCL Tigers, the most important stage of the season is the (playoffs),” said the release. “Chris DiDomenico has nevertheless insisted on contract resolution to pursue his dream of the NHL.

“The board of directors of SCL Tigers therefore felt compelled to release Chris DiDomenico.”

Those who follow the World Junior Hockey Championships will remember DiDomenico from Team Canada’s 2008 roster, which won gold in the Czech Republic. He had two goals and five assists during the tournament.

It’s no secret that the Senators have been looking for forward depth for a while, but with the potential cost of a trade being so high, it looks like they’ve gone the Euro route in stead.

The acquisition of DiDomenico doesn’t mean Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion won’t acquire an NHL forward between now and Wednesday’s deadline, but maybe they aren’t as desperate as before.