Get your game notes: Caps at Devils

4 Comments

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the New Jersey Devils hosting the Washington Capitals starting at 7 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

—- Washington has lost four straight (0-2-2) for the fourth time this season; New Jersey has earned a point in five straight games (2-0-3 record) but has lost three of its last four (all shootout losses). The Devils are in danger of missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since they went five straight without an appearance (1982-87). The Capitals’ consecutive playoff streak is also in jeopardy, having last missed the playoffs in 2006-07 (6 straight seasons).

—- The Devils have six games remaining and a chance at a 7-0-1 finish if they can run the table. Twenty-six years ago, the 1987-88 Devils – led by goalie Sean Burke – mounted a 7-0-1 season-ending charge to grab the final Patrick Division playoff spot on the season’s final day, the team’s first playoff berth in New Jersey. The Devils went on to win two playoff rounds, falling one victory short of the Stanley Cup Final.

—- Jaromir Jagr leads the Devils in points (64) this season followed by Patrik Elias (51 pts.) – the two are the only Devils with 50+ points this season (Travis Zajac & Adam Henrique – 43 pts. each are next). Washington is even more top-heavy – Nicklas Backstrom leads in points (73) with Alex Ovechkin right behind him in scoring (72 pts.). Joel Ward is next on the team with 43 points.

—- Three of New Jersey’s last four games have ended in shootout losses (vs. PHX, at NYI, at BUF – with a win over FLA between the Islanders & Sabres game), dropping the Devils to 0-11 in shootouts this season, and to a league-record 15 straight SO losses dating to last March 15. New Jersey’s skaters are a combined 3-for-39 on shootout attempts. Since the NHL instituted shootouts in 2005-06, only three teams have completed a season without winning one, none with more than five losses.

—- If games ended in ties – shootouts removed from the standings equation – New Jersey currently would be tied with Columbus, at 80 points, for the East’s second Wild Card, 1 pt. behind Detroit.

—- Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the last tie game in the NHL (April 4, 2004) – Carolina tied at Florida, 6-6. The Flyers and the Islanders also tied 3-3 earlier in the day.

—- Ovechkin (48 goals) and teammate Troy Brouwer (23 goals) lead the league in goal differential among a team’s first- and second-highest goal-scorer, +25, a difference of 10 more compared to the next-largest margin – Montreal’s Max Pacioretty (35) & Tomas Plekanec (20), +15.

—- Ovechkin’s -36 rating is the worst in the league; Alexander Edler (VAN) & Nail Yakupov (EDM) have the second-worst at -33. Ovechkin can become the first player ever to lead the league in goals and come in last in plus-minus.

—- New Jersey is 14-9-4 vs. the Metropolitan Div. this season while Washington is 10-14-3 in the division.

—- The Capitals rank first in the league in power-play percentage (23.7%), while the Devils rank first in penalty-kill percentage (86.9%). New Jersey has killed off 12 of 13 power plays in its last four games; Washington is 2/12 on the power play in its last three games including going 0/5 in its last game.

Busy Blackhawks bring back Pokka, reportedly let Rasmussen walk

Getty
1 Comment

A busy off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks continued with some smaller moves that may still surprise some.

The eyebrow-raiser, at least in some quarters, came when the Blackhawks decided not to hand Dennis Rasmussen a qualifying offer, thus allowing the 26-year-old forward to hit free agency. That news comes from The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

Rasmussen played in 68 games last season (along with three playoff contests), receiving almost 12 minutes of ice time per night. Both were examples of him seeing more of a role in his second year with Chicago.

Still, he didn’t put up big numbers at either the AHL or NHL level, so apparently the Blackhawks decided to spring him free. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports that the team might have soured on Rasmussen after he rejected an offer for a contract extension back in March.

Powers also notes that Ville Pokka was signed to a one-year deal, opening the door for him to possibly make Chicago’s roster.

These developments aren’t likely to add to what’s already been a frustrating off-season for Joel Quenneville in particular, but this still lines up with a pattern of changes. In the latest edition of “30 Thoughts,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shares some details of Coach Q’s irritation:

21. Joel Quenneville was at the draft Saturday after not appearing on Friday. He stormed out of a coach’s meeting — in full view of reporters — as news broke of the Chicago trades. It would have been very tough for him to lose Hjalmarsson, one of the NHL’s underappreciated great players.

Quenneville’s cage was already rattled by the firing of assistant Mike Kitchen, so here’s hoping he at least signed off on these latest moves.

Report: Red Wings grant Coyotes permission to interview Todd Nelson

Getty
1 Comment

There’s some activity as far as the Arizona Coyotes’ coaching situation goes, and soon there may be some answers.

As noted during the weekend, the Coyotes were interested in speaking with Todd Nelson, who most recently coached the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate) to a Calder Cup victory. The Red Wings granted Arizona permission to interview Nelson, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James.

(Red Wings fans are greeting this news with despair.)

It’s not the only noteworthy development, either, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the Coyotes parted ways with associate coach Jim Playfair today. (The Coyotes confirmed the news moments after this post went up.)

This is a time of change for this organization, and some are bristling at the way they’re handling things. Still, there’s also an argument that the team is ultimately making wise choices, and Nelson could end up being a big part of that.

Assuming they convince him to come on board, of course.

Gryba sticks with Edmonton on two-year, $1.8 million deal

Getty
Leave a comment

After spending the last two seasons with the Oilers, Eric Gryba has signed on for two more.

Gryba, the veteran blueliner that was set to go unrestricted on Saturday, has signed a two-year, $1.8 million extension with Edmonton, per TSN. The deal comes after the 29-year-old appeared in 40 games for the Oilers last year, and three during the club’s playoff run.

Gryba is the second UFA blueliner Edmonton has re-upped with, having previously inked Kris Russell to a four-year, $16 million pact. It’s the byproduct of available cap space GM Peter Chiarelli created by shipping out Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

It’s likely Gryba will continue to play his existing role in Edmonton — a physical, hard-nosed depth defenseman that won’t play every night, but can jump into the lineup in case of injury or when the Oilers face a particular matchup.

This move also gives the Oilers seven defensemen under contract for next season: Gryba, Russell, Andrej Sekera (who could miss extensive time with a torn ACL), Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning and Darnell Nurse.

So, perhaps Chiarelli isn’t done signing blueliners.

 

 

Report: Kings in contact with Joe Thornton

Getty
7 Comments

Yesterday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported 12 teams were in contact with San Jose’s Joe Thorton who, on Saturday, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Now, it’s been revealed that one of those teams is also one of San Jose’s biggest rivals — the Los Angeles Kings.

Per LA Kings Insider, the Kings have “been in contact” with Thornton, who just wrapped the last of a three-year, $20.25 million deal with a $6.75M average annual cap hit.

More:

On top of Thornton’s abilities are his relationships with key figures in Los Angeles’ front office. He played with Kings General Manager Rob Blake in San Jose, while Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Development Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager when he played in Boston.

On top of these relationships, Thornton also remains very close with Glen Murray, a figure in Los Angeles’ player development, and I’m told the two, who played together with the Bruins for three and a half seasons, regularly communicate.

LeBrun reported that staying with the Sharks remains Thornton’s No. 1 option, but it’s pretty clear interest in him is sky-high — and coming from a number of different places.

Los Angeles has been making moves to clear cap space, recently buying out the remainder of defenseman Matt Greene’s contract. The Kings also lost blueliner Brayden McNabb to Vegas at the expansion draft.

What happens with Marian Gaborik‘s $4.875M cap hit remains to be seen. The veteran winger underwent an offseason procedure for a “chronic” knee issue and, depending on his recovery, could open the year on long-term injured reserve.

Thornton would give L.A. a formidable one-two punch at center along with Anze Kopitar (and a truly formidable 1-2-3 punch with Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for that matter). It’s also worth noting that as he’s gotten longer in the tooth, Thornton has successfully platooned as a winger — most notably during San Jose’s Stanley Cup run in 2016.