2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two

Under Pressure: Brad Richards

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Chicago Blackhawks, we pick … Brad Richards

Brad Richards is probably used to pressure.

For years, he’s been making big money — stemming in part to his Conn Smythe run with the Tampa Bay Lightning — but largely because he’s often been one of the most prolific offensive players in the NHL. Either way, his consistently large checks (Cap Geek estimates his career earnings at $85.78 million) often meant that being a very good scorer, but rarely top-10, left people occasionally disappointed. If nothing else, he’s been in “prove it” mode, especially recently.

But in Chicago, he’ll face a different kind of pressure.

From “overpaid” to a bargain?

Following being bought out by the New York Rangers, the 34-year-old is now a low-risk, high-reward bargain at a $2 million cap hit. Any money-related questions will instead revolve around “can he make big money next summer?”

Instead, the bigger pressure will come from proving that he can cure what’s been ailing the Blackhawks in bad times and even some good times as well: not having a quality second-line center.

While there’s a chance that Teuvo Teravainen might grab the role he’s being groomedfor, the expectation is he’ll need to acclimate himself to the NHL game and should find himself in the AHL for at least portions of the 2014-15 season.

In other words, the Blackhawks would prefer that Richards can be their short-term second-line center. So what are the odds he pulls it off?

A lot rests on Coach Q

That’s a tough call. If you can set aside Richards’ rather disconcerting work in the last postseason or two, he at least put up the kind of boxcar numbers you hope for; he scored a very nice 20 goals and 51 points for the Rangers last season. Anything in the realm of that production would be great for Chicago, especially since a second-line gig could mean working with some combination of Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and so on.

Most signs point to Richards needing to be sheltered, though, which makes the argument that it’s imperative to put him with a guy who gets a lot of offensive zone starts in Kane (both were in the top five in easiest zone starts last season). While Richards’ possession stats look very good in the regular season — and glaringly worse in basically every measurable way during the postseason, for whatever reason — he also played what seemed like an offense-only role that might limit his versatility if his skills really are declining as much as it appeared at times during the Rangers’ deep run.

The burning question

It’s weird to imagine a guy taking a cut in salary as someone who might be a scapegoat, but Richards lands into a situation that could be lucrative … unless he just doesn’t “have it” anymore.

Basically, if he thrives, he can make a lot of money and maybe even win a second Stanley Cup. If he flounders, Richards could find himself as someone facing blame if Chicago gets eaten alive when he’s on the ice during the postseason.

With all that in mind, there’s a lot riding on the 2014-15 season for Richards, even if the potential spoils of victory would come in about a year or so.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Alligator on golf course scares the life out of Erik Karlsson

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–Sportsnet’s Gare Joyce put together a fantastic piece outlining trade deadline day from the perspective of a GM who is a buyer, a GM who is a seller, a professional and amateur scout, an agent and a lawyer. When a deal goes down, we just get to see the finished product, but clearly, there are a lot of moving parts behind the scenes. This is a great read. (Sportsnet)

–The Senators took on the Panthers in Florida on Sunday night. Ottawa arrived in the Sun Shine State on Saturday, which gave Erik Karlsson a chance to hit the links with Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik. While on the course, the group had an encounter with an alligator, and let’s just say it made Karlsson jump out of his socks. (Yahoo)

–Puck Junk takes a look at a new deck of cards that has animated photos of a few hockey hall of famers including Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe and many others. The photos were created by 10 different European artists and each picture is pretty interesting (some players even look evil). (Puck Junk)

–The Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars are headed in opposite directions and that was pretty obvious on Sunday, when the Bruins took down the Stars, 6-3. You can watch the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Former NHLer Rich Peverly was forced to retire from hockey after he went into cardiac arrest during a game, but he’s using his experience to educate others. He and his wife, Nathalie, have created Pevs Protects, which is a charity that aims to raise money to purchase automated external defibrillators and to teach people how to use them properly. “It’s been a healing process for our family. Especially for our kids, to look at something that was challenging for us to go through, but also to see what you can do to take a hard situation and make it a good one.” (NHL.com)

–Many would agree that the Arizona Coyotes did well in the Martin Hanzal trade, but Arizona Sports 98.7’s Craig Morgan argues that they should have received a young player that could step in and fill the void left by Hanzal’s departure.  “When a proven commodity like Hanzal walks out the door, you hope for a little more. You hope that long-promised future will finally get a little closer to the present.” (Arizona Sports 98.7)

–With Hanzal and Ben Bishop now off the market, The Score breaks down the top five remaining rental players available ahead of Wednesday’s deadline. As you’ve probably come to expect, Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk finds himself at the top of the list. (The Score)