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Under Pressure: Nail Yakupov

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The Nail Yakupov headlines on PHT last season pretty much say it all:

Failing Nail? Oilers scratch Yakupov Saturday

Yakupov ‘not happy’ about being a healthy scratch

Yakupov will be a healthy scratch again Monday

Russian Olympic scout blasts Yakupov: ‘If he’s not going to change his game, he has no future’

Yakupov’s agent to meet with Oilers, ‘willing to make a move’

Yakupov: ‘It’s pretty cold on the bench’

Oilers to healthy scratch Yakupov… again

Eakins to Yakupov: ‘You’ve got to earn it’

So yeah, 2013-14 was not the greatest for Yak. Aside from the healthy scratches, trade rumors and acrimonious relationship with his head coach, Yakupov also missed 16 games to injury (concussion, ankle) and finished with the fourth-worst plus-minus rating in the league last year, at minus-33.

It’s almost hard to remember that, just two years ago, Yakupov was a tantalizing talent that tore up the Ontario Hockey League, scoring 170 points in 102 games over the course of two seasons with Sarnia. That paved the way for Edmonton to select him first overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which paved the way for an immediate jump to the NHL, where he actually fared quite well — remember that Yakupov led all rookies in goals during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, with 17, and finished fifth in Calder voting.

Which made last season all the more nightmarish.

Now — and this is weird to say about someone that doesn’t turn 21 until October — Yakupov is at something of a crossroads. Barring a piano falling on his head, everything that could’ve gone wrong last year did, which provides plenty of narratives as the Russian sniper heads into the final year of his entry-level deal. Is Yakupov a quality player that simply had a dreadful sophomore slump? Or is he a one-dimensional, offense-first guy that just doesn’t get it?

To that last point — maybe he does get it. Contract status and his future with the Oilers are on the line, and it’s something Yakupov recognizes. From the Edmonton Journal:

Yakupov spent the first part of the summer back home in Russia with his family and friends. While he was having a good time and training as much as possible, he recently returned to Edmonton to get ready for his third NHL season.

“It’s maybe a huge year for me,” he said. “I feel more comfortable to train here than at home, so that’s why I’m here.

“I’ll train with the Oilers prospects, and then the NHL players are going to come, and then I want to play in the three-on-three tournament. … I want to be here.”

It’s worth noting that pressure on Yakupov is coming from outside Edmonton as well. Ryan Murray, who the Oilers passed on at the ’12 draft, just turned in a banner year on the Columbus blueline. The decision was controversial at the time…

… and continues to be today, especially with how valuable talented young defensemen are. And how badly Edmonton could use one.

So, just to refresh what Yakupov’s up against: a contract year, coming off a horrible second season, under a head coach he didn’t see eye-to-eye with and in the growing shadow of Murray, the guy the Oilers could’ve had.

That’s pressure.

Ducks waive Garbutt, a regular lineup fixture

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03:  Ryan Garbutt #16 of the Anaheim Ducks skates with the puck ahead of Jarred Tinordi #28 of the Arizona Coyotes during the third period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on March 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Coyotes 5-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Bit of a surprising move out of Anaheim today — gritty forward Ryan Garbutt has been placed on waivers.

Garbutt, 31, had appeared in all 27 games for the Ducks this year, scoring two goals and three points while averaging 9:10 TOI per night. He was one of just 10 players on the roster to dress for every contest this season, though his minutes had decreased lately — he hasn’t cracked the 10-minute mark since Nov. 6, and received two of his lowest totals in recent games — 5:31 in a win over the Sharks on Nov. 26, and 5:50 in a win over Vancouver on Dec. 1.

Last year, Anaheim acquired Garbutt in a midseason deal from Chicago. He performed well for the Ducks, scoring five goals and eight points in 37 games, and scored a goal in the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

Garbutt is a polarizing player. Over a two-year span from 2014-15, he was one of the league’s most reckless players and found himself in a slew of disciplinary problems. He has gone a while without running afoul of the Department of Player Safety, though, so perhaps he heeded calls to change his game.

Parting with Garbutt could be part of the youth movement that’s at play in Anaheim. Ondrej Kase, a seventh-round draft pick in 2014, is just one of the rookie forwards who’ve played for the Ducks this season. Joseph Cramarossa is another. Nick Ritchie isn’t a rookie, but he’s still on his entry-level deal.

Garbutt is in the last of a three-year, $5.4 million deal with a $1.8M average annual cap hit. Given his experience and style of play, it’s possible he could be scooped off waivers.

NHL won’t reconsider Golden Knights name, logo in wake of trademark issue

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 22:  Vegas Golden Knights apparel is displayed after being announced as the name for the Las Vegas NHL franchise at T-Mobile Arena on November 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The team will begin play in the 2017-18 season.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night, we passed along news that the Vegas Golden Knights trademark had been denied by the U.S. government, based on a “likelihood of confusion” with the NCAA’s College of St. Rose Golden Knights.

Today, the NHL has responded with a statement from deputy commissioner Bill Daly:

“We are currently reviewing the Trademark Office’s letter and will prepare a detailed response demonstrating why we continue strongly to believe the Vegas Golden Knights mark should be registered in co-existence with the college registration, just as a number of other nicknames currently co-exist in professional and college sports (particularly where there is no overlap as to the sport for which the nickname is being used).

“That response is not due until June 7, 2017.

“We consider this a routine matter and it is not our intention to reconsider the name or logo of this franchise. We fully intend to proceed as originally planned, relying on our common law trademark rights as well as our state trademark registrations while we work through the process of addressing the question raised in the federal applications.”

Shortly after last night’s news broke, Sports Illustrated received this statement from the Las Vegas group:

The timing of a potential resolution will be something to monitor. As mentioned above, the NHL has until June 7 to challenge the trademark denial — and the Vegas expansion draft is set for June 18-20.

Related: There also might be some issues involving the Army

The Lightning are getting healthier and ‘starting to figure things out’

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brian Boyle (11) celebrates his shootout goal against the Washington Capitals during an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t played since Sunday, so they should be well-rested for tonight’s encounter with the Vancouver Canucks at Amalie Arena.

This is another important game for the Bolts, who’ve won just once in their last six. A Stanley Cup contender in the eyes of many, Tampa Bay (14-11-2) is currently two points out of a playoff spot.

While Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan remain out with injuries, the Lightning are expected to get a couple of key players back when defenseman Jason Garrison and forward Jonathan Drouin return against Vancouver.

The Bolts already feel like they’ve turned the corner, after beating Washington in a shootout Saturday and earning a point Sunday in Carolina.

“When you go through those streaks, it’s kind of like you’re going into games just waiting for something bad to happen,” forward Alex Killorn told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think we’ve kind of gotten over that. You’ve got to be the instigator, got to be the aggressor and take over games.”

There’s definitely the potential for the Lightning to take over tonight’s game. The banged-up Canucks will enter without their two top defenseman, Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, and one of their best forwards, Jannik Hansen, among other injuries.

Saturday brings a much tougher test when the Pittsburgh Penguins pay a visit.

But tonight’s focus is the Canucks. The Lightning could really use the two points. They should get them. They just need to play like they can.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to get back on track,” Killorn said. “We’re starting to figure things out.”

Scheifele back for Jets, who look to continue points streak

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)
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Oh, those streaky Jets.

After a horrific mid-November run — which included a five-game losing streak where they were outscored 20-9 — the Jets have turned things around, going 4-1-1 in their last six while securing points in three straight.

Tonight, things get even better, as leading scorer Mark Scheifele returns from a brief time on the shelf as Winnipeg hosts the Rangers at MTS.

Scheifele, 23, hasn’t played since a 6-3 loss to Edmonton on Dec. 1. His absence was a big one — in addition to the offensive production (26 points in 26 games), Scheifele averaged over 20 minutes per night and led the team in faceoffs taken.

He’d also developed terrific chemistry with rookie sniper Patrik Laine.

To their credit, the Jets did really well without Scheifele in the lineup. They beat the Blues 3-2 in OT on Saturday, then followed that up with a 2-1 win in Chicago on Sunday. Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout loss against Detroit was a setback, but the club still managed to secure at least a point, which pushed them into the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

Tonight, Scheifele projects to center a top line between Drew Stafford and Blake Wheeler. Laine will play on a second line with Nikolaj Ehlers and Bryan Little.