Get your game notes: Wild at Blackhawks

4 Comments

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Minnesota Wild starting at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• Losers of three straight in regulation (all away games), the Blackhawks return home tonight seeking to avoid their second four-game losing streak of the season (0-2-2 from Jan. 22-28). Only three teams in NHL history have had losing streaks of four or more games after March 1 and gone on to win the Stanley Cup: the 1936 Red Wings (0-4-0), the 1986 Canadiens (0-6-0) and the 2011 Bruins (0-2-2).

• The Wild are 3-1-0 vs. the Blackhawks this season. In their only trip to the United Center this season, on Oct. 26, Minnesota defeated Chicago 5-3, thanks in large part to two goals by winger Jason Pominville. Since 2000-01 (the season the Wild entered the NHL), they have the league’s fifth-best regular-season road record against Chicago (13-10-1, .563 points%). Minimum: 10 games played…

Team | Road record at CHI, 2000-present | Points%
1. Detroit, 20-11-7, .618
2. Vancouver, 12-7-5, .604
3. Anaheim, 14-9-3, .596
4. Phoenix, 10-6-7, .587
5. Minnesota, 13-10-1, .563

• The Blackhawks will be without both captain Jonathan Toews (upper body) and winger Patrick Kane (leg) for the rest of the regular season. Tonight’s game will mark only the second time since the stars entered the NHL (2007-08) that they will both be out of the Hawks’ lineup. They were rested in the final game of the 2012-13 season, a 3-1 loss at St. Louis.

• Wild winger Zach Parise needs one point to reach 500 for his NHL career (240 goals, 259 assists). He has been on a tear lately, with four goals in his last three games and five in his last five, for a team-high 28 goals in 61 games this season. The Wild are 18-3-2 when he scores a goal.

• Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa needs nine points in Chicago’s final six games to become the 80th player in NHL history (and seventh active) to register 1,000 points. Of his 461 career goals, 29 are shorthanded, tied for the most among active players (Rangers’ Martin St. Louis).

• Wild captain Mikko Koivu enters tonight’s game on a season-long, six-game point streak (two goals, seven assists) which included three multi-point games (all wins). The Wild are 79-17-9 when their all-time leading scorer (447 points) registers two or more points.

• The Blackhawks rank second in the NHL in goals (243) and goals/game (3.20), trailing Anaheim (245 goals, 3.22 goals/game) in both. Their leading goal-getter, winger Patrick Sharp (31 goals, T-11th in the NHL) has recorded career-highs in assists (42), points (73, T-9th in the NHL) and shots on goal (294, 2nd in the NHL). Since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the Hawks are 25-2-3 when Sharp scores.

• Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is 4-0-2 with a 2.16 GAA, .909 save% and one shutout since his acquisition from Edmonton on Mar. 4. However, the “Madhouse on Madison” has been a house of horrors for the 33-year-old Russian netminder since the 2007-08 season. In six starts (all with Phoenix), he is 0-5-1, with a 4.23 GAA and .865 save%. Prior to that, he had won his two starts, with Anaheim.

• Wild head coach Mike Yeo, the youngest bench boss in the NHL (40 years old), picked up career win number 100 vs. Los Angeles on Monday. It took Yeo 206 games to become the second coach in franchise history to reach the milestone. The first, Jacques Lemaire (who won 293 games for Minnesota from 2000-2009), needed 262 games to pick up his first 100 wins with the Wild.

After tough year in Florida, Smith ready to reunite with ‘players-first’ Gallant

Getty
Leave a comment

For Reilly Smith, the anticipation of playing for Las Vegas next season goes beyond playing for the league’s newest team.

It’s also about playing for his old coach, Gerard Gallant.

“I think he kind of embodies the motto that it’s a players-first league and everything kind of revolves around that,” Smith said, per the Golden Knights website. “I know particularly last year in the Florida Panthers organization, there was a lot of change and things going on and I know one of the main messages that he always put forth was that whatever goes on outside, make sure you guys are a tight-knit group inside and play for each other.

“That was one thing that he definitely tried to convey to the team and try to get us to rally behind.”

Smith’s time in Florida was a two-part tale.

After coming over from Boston as part of the Jimmy Hayes swap — Marc Savard’s contract was also shipped to Florida — Smith had a terrific ’15-16 campaign under Gallant, posting career highs in goals (25) while helping the Panthers qualify for the playoffs.

In the postseason, he was a consistent scoring threat, finishing the series with four goals and eight points in six games.

Year two wasn’t nearly as successful.

Gallant was fired early on — controversially so — and Smith’s production dropped off. He ended with just 15 goals and 37 points, disappointing figures that were exacerbated by the big five-year, $25 million extension he signed in the offseason.

Reading between the lines, fair to suggest Smith struggled with the coaching change from Gallant to Tom Rowe. Things came to a head in early March, when Rowe called out Smith following a loss to Dallas.

On the Stars’ first goal, Smith seemed to lose his man in front of the net. Rowe was asked about it, and responded.

“We went over that exact play in team meeting and we haven’t learned our lesson yet,” he said. “That is the problem.”

Rowe wasn’t done there. Later, he was asked about Dallas’ winning goal, which may have been deflected in off a skate. The criticism went back to Smith.

“I don’t know,” said Rowe. “All I know is Reilly Smith was blowing the zone doing exactly what he is not supposed to be doing.”

Smith will certainly be a guy to watch this season. He’s still only 26 years old, looking for a bounce back, and noted that Gallant gave him the opportunity to play a larger role than he had with the Bruins (and, prior to that, the Stars).

One wonders if that’ll happen again, this time in Vegas.

Subban ‘can’t really envision’ Habs without Markov

Getty
2 Comments

The Montreal Canadiens’ defense looks a lot different than it did two years ago.

For the second offseason in a row, the Canadiens have walked away from a seemingly important puck-moving defenseman. Last summer, they traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, and yesterday they announced that they were parting ways with Andrei Markov.

Markov and Subban played a lot of minutes together during their time time in Montreal. The two even became good friends (Subban attended Markov’s wedding earlier this month).

Needless to say, when Subban found out that Markov wasn’t going to be returning to the Canadiens, he was pretty surprised.

“I can’t really envision the Montreal Canadiens without Andrei Markov on the blue line. That’s No. 1. Even before I played for the team, I watched him play for the team and be their best defenseman,” The Preds defenseman told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu. “Even while I was there, I still thought he was our best defenseman, even though a lot of people thought because of what I got paid it was me. You can’t really put a price tag on how he plays because he’s so smart, the way he sees the ice.”

With those two players no longer on the team, it’ll be interesting to see who moves the puck for the Habs. Shea Weber is still playing at a high level, but carrying the puck up the ice isn’t his strongest attribute.

GM Marc Bergevin added Mark Streit, Karl Alzner and David Schlemko this offseason, but none of those guys can do the things Markov is capable of doing when it comes to moving the puck efficiently.

Is there another move on the horizon?

Well, Montreal has a huge hole on the left side of their defense and they have over $8 million in cap space. Maybe there is something brewing.

Related:

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

Habs president pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

Habs sign Streit–is he Markov’s replacement?

PHT Morning Skate: Golden Knights prospects try to guess popular ’90s songs

Golden Knights on Twitter
5 Comments

–The Vegas Golden Knights added a number of quality prospects this offseason, but their knowledge of (questionable) ’90s songs is underwhelming. They had a hard time differentiating between Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Nick Suzuki is the prospect pictured at the top of the page. (Sportsnet)

–The Hockey News continues their “2020 Vision” preview. This time, they analyze what the Columbus Blue Jackets will look like in three years from now. That top pairing of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones is gonna be pretty tough to play against, but goaltending is clearly a question mark. (The Hockey News)

–If you’re not following Canucks defenseman Michael Del Zotto on Instagram, you’re missing out. His page is pretty interesting. There’s a picture of him filming a movie, another photo of him holding a baby lion and he has an action shot of him DJing an event. (NHL.com/Canucks)

–The Score is revisiting a number of key moments from the 1992-93 season, including Teemu Selanne’s incredible rookie numbers. James Bisson writes: “The electrifying winger known as the Finnish Flash put together the most incredible rookie season in NHL history, racking up 76 goals and 132 points to establish a pair of records that haven’t been challenged since. In fact, no first-year player has even come within 20 goals of Selanne’s mark – making it one of the most incontestable records in league annals.” (The Score)

Johnny Gaudreau is giving back to the community that helped him develop into the hockey player he has become today. Later today, he’ll be hosting a golf tournament to raise money for the Gloucester Catholic School in Jersey. “We made it possible for Johnny and his family to come to Gloucester Catholic and they wanted to give something back so we decided to have this golf tournament and all proceeds go to Gloucester Catholic financial aid/scholarship fund. Last year was the first year and it was very successful. Last year we cleared $55,000 and we hope to do better this year through sponsors and participants.” (Courier-Post)

Patrick Marleau may have spent many years in San Jose, but now that he signed with the Maple Leafs, it’s time for him and his family to move on. Here they are in Maple Leafs jerseys (his wife admitted she shed a tear when they got dressed up in Toronto blue):

Fisher also contacted by Canada for Olympics along with Doan, Iginla

Getty
3 Comments

Add Mike Fisher to the list of veteran free agents who’ve at least been contacted to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Hockey Canada VP of hockey operations Scott Salmond revealed as much to TSN 1040 on Thursday while also noting their interest in Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla.

“As Hockey Canada we have tremendous respect for all of those players,” Salmond said. “There’s no question that their leadership and their experience could be invaluable to our team.”

(Read more about Canada contacting Doan and Iginla specifically in this post.)

Fisher, 37, shares certain similarities with Doan and Iginla. All three players have captained NHL teams, each brings a mixture of scoring ability and grit to the table, and they all obviously have plenty of experience.

Pending talks with Nashville

On the other hand, there are a few potential differences that make Fisher’s case interesting.

For one thing, Fisher hasn’t decided – or hasn’t shared his decision – regarding a return to the Nashville Predators just yet. That choice is expected to come sometime next week.

The thing is, Fisher at least has some say in that matter, as he might make the choice not to come back. In the cases of Doan and Iginla, they might struggle to find suitors in free agency (or at least find suitors willing to give them the specific deals they seek).

A first for Fisher?

While that might hurt Canada’s chances, there’s another wrinkle: Fisher hasn’t really gotten “the call” quite like Doan or Iginla have. Fisher hasn’t ever suited up for Canada in the Olympics and, according to Hockey Reference, hasn’t suited up for Canada since the 2009 World Championships.

Perhaps that rare opportunity might trump playing another season in the NHL? A few weeks of international hockey wouldn’t represent the same wear-and-tear as playing through an 82-game season.

(There’s also at least the concept of playing in the Olympics and then trying to find a deal with the Predators, however unlikely that might be.)

While Doan and especially Iginla stand as bigger names, you could make a very reasonable argument that Fisher actually has more left in the tank. He’s also a center, which Canada might deem a lacking position heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics.

For all we know, none of these three forwards will bite at the opportunity. This seems like one of those creative ideas that might not work out.

It’s easy to see why Canada’s reps would at least get the conversation going, and Fisher might just be the best target to aim for.