Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals

Penguins GM Rutherford wanted to ‘change the mix’ with Neal trade


Jim Rutherford is beginning to put his stamp on the Pittsburgh Penguins as the new general manager. He started that by trading James Neal to the Nashville Predators for winger Patric Hornqvist and center Nick Spaling.

It was the biggest trade made during the actual draft, following a flurry of activity, particularly from the Vancouver Canucks earlier in the day.

“I think we were just trying to change the mix of our team a little bit and get a little different type player,” Rutherford told reporters in Philadelphia.

“Hornqvist plays with an edge, goes to the net, works the corners. We like his all-around play.”

A talented forward who has proven to be a scorer in the NHL – he put up a career-high 40 goals only two years ago – Neal has also dealt with injuries on numerous occasions, including concussions, and has run afoul of the league’s player safety department and, as a result, has received supplemental discipline.

His most recent transgression: kneeing Boston Bruins agitator Brad Marchand in the head in December, resulting in a five-game ban.

Rutherford was asked about whether the suspensions played a part in why Neal was traded.

“Everything comes into play when we’re looking at possibly moving a player,” he said.

Meanwhile, the other team is this trade, the Predators, not only land the scoring forward it coveted, but could be taking a shot at landing a center when free agency officially opens up.

That could certainly spark speculation the Predators could be eying pending unrestricted free agent Paul Stastny, who has confirmed he will test the market. Nashville’s club doesn’t appear to be alone in that pursuit.

On Thursday, there was a report from TSN’s Pierre LeBrun that as many as 15 teams had interest in the 28-year-old Stastny.

Stay tuned.

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.