Under Pressure: Turris, MacArthur & Ryan

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With the off-season departure of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, the Ottawa Senators top line heading into the 2014-15 season will feature Kyle Turris between Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan.

The team’s best line during the 2013-14 season, the trio now has the pressure of getting it done against other team’s top checking units and shutdown defensive pairings.

With Turris leading the way netting 26 goals last season, the trio scored nearly 32 percent of the Senators goals in 2013-14.

“I think we learned a lot from last year,” Turris told NHL.com this week. “I think the previous two years before that was kind of a step forward, and I think last year was a step back. We really got to evaluate everything and it was a great lesson because we learned a lot, we took a lot out of it.”

MacArthur, who scored a career-high 24 goals and 55 points in 79 games last season while riding shotgun with Turris, signed a new five-year, $23 million contract extension on Thursday and is looking forward to a second season playing alongside Turris.

“I think Turris would click with anyone, if they want to say I’m the guy who’s good with him I’ll take it,” MacArthur told the Sens website. “He does everything well. He’s a centreman with great speed, he’s got a great shot, he sees the ice.

“As far as making things easy out there, we obviously have to keep working at it, there’s things we want to improve for sure, but he’s got a good attitude and he’s a player willing to listen to other people’s ideas.”

MacArthur, who spent three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining the Senators, knows about playing under pressure.

“I think when I was in Toronto I came off of a million dollar contract and ended up taking two years at $6.5 million and that was big money for me at the time and you feel a little bit of the pressure. Just because I got a five-year deal doesn’t mean I have to change a whole lot. I want to play the same game.

“As far as what I need to do on the ice, I want to do similar to last year — obviously we want a better result — but for myself I want to try and bring a similar game every night.”

Behind the MacArthur-Turris-Ryan combo is a line likely to feature Milan Michalek, Mika Zibanejad and newcomer Alex Chiasson. Zibanejad and Chiasson have a combined 42 career NHL goals.

The Michalek-Zibanejad-Chiasson trio along with Colin Greening, David Legwand, Mark Stone, Erik Condra, Zack Smith and Chris Neil will all have to pick up the slack as Ottawa looks to return to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

The Senators finished just five points back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot last season with a 37-31-14 record.

The lack of goal-scoring prowess behind the first line also puts pressure on the Turris combo. Ottawa finished 11th in the NHL in goals for last season.

Ryan, 27, who scored 23 goals and 48 points in 70 games will be expected to have a bigger contribution. His first season in Ottawa was a career-worst for the forward, who averaged over 30 goals a season while with the Anaheim Ducks.

It helps that the New Jersey native is a pending unrestricted free agent and has the added motivation of playing for a contract.

MacArthur admitted he’d be having a conversation with Ryan about re-signing long term in Ottawa.

“He’s a player you want on your team,” said MacArthur. “If I can nudge him towards staying I’m definitely going to try to. He’s definitely a complement to our team.”

Murray doesn’t believe contract talks will begin until next month.

“We’ve talked to Bobby at length through his agents,” he told the Sens website. “I believe it will take until he comes to Ottawa for training camp to continue the discussions. He’s one of the next guys we’re definitely going to try to keep here.”

According to Turris, the team needs to get back to the mindset of two seasons ago, where the injury-plagued Senators surprised many by qualifying for the playoffs.

“We need to bring back that consistency and kind of getting back to our pesky ways that we were before,” Turris said. “There are lots of things that we’ve taken into account that we’re going to work on moving forward. We’ll make those corrections and be back to where we want to be this year.”

It’ll have to be a big season for Turris and Co. or else Ottawa will once again be sitting on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Robin Lehner

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.