Washington Capitals v Nashville Predators

Looking to make the leap: Evgeny Kuznetsov


Despite being just 22 years old, it feels like people have been waiting for Evgeny Kuznetsov to make “the leap” for quite some time … only that leap was once just jumping from the KHL to the NHL.

He did that in abbreviated fashion last season, scoring three goals and nine points in 17 games while showing flashes of the first-round brilliance prospect-minded people have been touting for some time.

With Mikhail Grabovski headed to Long Island, new Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said that he’ll probably open up competition for second and third-line center spots between Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky. One would think Kuznetsov has a strong chance of at least grabbing that third-line job, yet that might come down to how well he meshes with Trotz and how much his game has progressed over the summer.

Former Capitals coach Adam Oates cautioned himself against the “wow factor” with Kuznetsov, which is an understandable fear when you consider the kind of game-breaking ability he showed, especially on this memorable assist against the Vancouver Canucks:

Even among NHL head coaches, Trotz is noted for favoring stability over sizzle. With that in mind, this sobering analysis from Japers Rink might prompt some to worry if the new Caps coach can overlook Kuznetsov’s defensive lapses:

Yes, it’s a small sample and he was new to NHL hockey, but Kuznetsov’s possession numbers were horrible. Only Tyson Strachan, Julien Brouillette, and Aaron Volpatti had worse Corsi percentages (add Patrick Wey to the Fenwick list). Even acknowledging that the season in which he joined the Caps was a complete cluster, and that he played with grinders as much as he played with skill guys, every player that skated 32 minutes or more with Kuznetsov had better numbers without Kuznetsov, usually by a lot (and it’s not because skating with Kuznetsov meant taking tougher defensive assignments).

In other words, there might be some “high-risk, high-reward” elements to the younger player’s game at this stage … which might only make him more interesting to watch during the 2014-15 season.

Video: Pekka Rinne’s zero-margin-of-error stick save

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Sometimes, the Nashville Predators were unlucky in November. Sometimes they were just bad.

Either way, they’re likely glad to step into December, and they’ve already gotten a big bounce. Watch how close this near-goal was into crossing the red line before Pekka Rinne barely stopped it with a well-placed goalie stick.

You can also see it up close via this GIF:

Here’s the NHL Situation Room Blog explanation for it remaining a no-goal:

At 13:06 of the first period in the Coyotes/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a video review to further examine a play from 11:57. Video review confirmed the call on the ice that the puck did not cross the Nashville goal line. No goal Coyotes.

Alexei Emelin was ejected for this hit on Matt Calvert

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Alexei Emelin has been in and out of the Montreal Canadiens lineup, but this wasn’t the way they wanted him to keep his legs fresh.

The hard-hitting defenseman received a game misconduct and five-minute major penalty for a late hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on Tuesday.

So far, it sounds like Calvert may be OK.

You can see video of that hit above, as well as a GIF of the infraction via My Regular Face.

Many believe that Emelin should not have been ejected.

Injuries continue to dog Lupul as Leafs place him on IR

Joffrey Lupul
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Injuries have been a regular problem for Joffrey Lupul for much of his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing in 2015-16.

The team placed him on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 28, calling up Rich Clune in the process.

This IR stint means that Lupul will miss at least three games for Toronto.

From the sound of things, it’s a nagging issue, as NHL.com notes.

“He’s been having the same problem here for a bit,” Mike Babcock told media members on Sunday. “He doesn’t seem to be getting the power back that they thought, so we’re just trying to monitor it the best we can.”

Leafs Nation points out that Lupul has missed about one-third of Toronto’s contests since suffering a separated shoulder in April 2012.

At 32, there’s still time for Lupul to fight through this, although injuries generally accumulate with age.

WATCH LIVE: Wild at Blackhawks; Penguins at Sharks

Scott Darling, Charlie Coyle
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Will Ryan Suter say something foolish during tonight’s game? Is Brent Burns‘ beard so long that it’s finally starting to scrape the ice?

We’ll find out the answer to those questions and more during Tuesday’s NBCSN doubleheader.

Need to follow the two games online? Never fear.

Game 1: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks


Game 2: Pittsburgh Penguins at San Jose Sharks