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

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?