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Erik Karlsson doesn’t seem too concerned with current goal drought

Entering the All-Star break with 39 points in his first 47 games this season, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson is once again one of the NHL’s top scoring defensemen (currently second behind only Brent Burns).

Seeing him at the top of the defensemen leaderboard once again, and seeing him on track to record another 65-point season, might make it a little surprising to learn that it has been 20 games, dating all the way back to Dec. 7, since he last scored a goal. That makes this the second longest goal-scoring drought of his career following a 29-game drought that took place in the middle of his rookie season when he was still only 19 years old.

That slump currently has him on pace for one of the lowest goal totals (12) of his career after scoring at least 16 in four of the past five, including a couple of 20-goal campaigns.

On Saturday, Karlsson talked about his recent slump (via the Ottawa Citizen) and how it does not really concern him at the moment because the team is continuing to win  hockey games.

“I’ve been around long enough to know things like this are going to happen,” Karlsson said. “I haven’t been needing to score that many goals in order for us to win. At the end of the day, that’s the thing you can’t take away from it. Still trying out there, but we’ve been playing good hockey. Guys have been stepping up. We’ve been getting a lot of creativity and goal scoring from different guys. Obviously that’s huge for us.”

The Senators have continued to win, owning a 10-6-4 record during his drought to help the team remain in the top three of the Atlantic Division while still having multiple games in hand on the teams that are chasing them for a playoff spot (along with a pretty decent cushion in terms of points).

But Karlsson is also right when he says “things like this are going to happen.”

While 20 games without a goal might be one of the longer droughts of his career, he has gone at least 10 games without a goal in every season of his career with the lone exception being the aforementioned 2012-13 season that was shortened by the NHL lockout and an injury. Seven previous times he went more than 14 games in a row without goal, including two different stretches (14 and 18 games) last season when he put together one of the the most dominant offensive seasons in the history of the league for a defenseman. Even the best forwards in the NHL only score in 30 to 40 percent of their games. The only two players in the NHL that have scored at least one goal in more than 40 percent of their games since the start of the 2015-16 season are Alex Ovechkin (46 percent) and Sidney Crosby (41 percent). When even the best forwards are only scoring a goal in a third of their games that leaves a lot of open space for extend goal-less streaks.

What separates the elite players like Karlsson from everybody else is their ability to not only score goals in bunches during the hot streaks that can carry a team, but to also impact play when they are not putting the puck in the net. Even without a goal in 20 games Karlsson still has 12 helpers during that stretch and remains not only the second leading scoring defenseman in hockey, but is also still the leading scorer on the Senators.

He is still the player that drives their offense.

If his past goal droughts are any indication he is going to bust out of this one soon, and when he does, he is probably going to have a surge that helps balance it out. Following his 14-game drought last season he went for five goals in the next five games and then scored two goals in three games following the 18-game drought. He scored five goals in seven games following a 15-game drought in 2014-15.

Trouble for Ducks: Lindholm and Vatanen need major shoulder surgeries, will miss months

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Not a great week for the Anaheim Ducks.

After being eliminated in Game 6 of the Western Conference final — the toughest loss of Ryan Kesler’s career, apparently — the Ducks broke more bad news on Friday as GM Bob Murray announced d-men Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen both require torn labrum surgery, and will be out an awfully long time.

The timeline on Lindholm is 4-5 months, while Vatanen’s recovery will extend beyond that because his injury was more serious.

Looking at the calendar, four months would run Lindholm up to the end of September, meaning he’d miss a good chunk of the preseason. If it’s five months, he could miss the first three weeks of the regular season.

Murray didn’t even put a timetable on Vatanen, only saying it would be longer.

This adds to what was already going to be a pretty stressful summer in Anaheim. As we wrote earlier, Murray has some big decisions on his hands.

Vatanen and Lindholm are huge parts of the team. Both averaged over 21 minutes per night this season, and both broke the 20-point plateau. They’re also locked in long term — Lindholm at $5.2 million annually through 2022, Vatanen at $4.8M through 2020.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen for the expansion draft, the defense will definitely be worth watching. Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. There are already reports that extension negotiations are going well but, after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

Add it all up, and the Ducks will certainly be worth watching this offseason.

In a surprise, Blues name Steve Ott assistant coach

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Pretty wild last few days for St. Louis on the coaching front.

After gutting Mike Yeo’s staff of four assistants, then hiring hiring Darryl Sydor, the Blues went totally off the grid on Friday by announcing longtime NHLer Steve Ott would become Yeo’s new assistant.

“Steve was a competitor on the ice as a player and I expect him to bring that energy in this role,” Yeo said in a release. “He was highly respected as a player and a person among his teammates and I believe he will be a huge asset to our staff.”

The decision caught many off guard given Ott, 34, has no prior coaching experience and was playing as recently as last month, suiting up for Montreal in its opening-round playoff loss to the Rangers.

Ott is familiar with the Blues organization, having played there for three seasons.

“I am very proud of my playing career and will devote the same work ethic to my coaching career,” said Ott. “The Blues organization is very special to me and my family and I’m excited to take the next step in my hockey career with this franchise.”

Blues GM Doug Armstrong signed Ott to a three-year deal. It’s fitting that Armstrong was the one to engineer this move, as he’s been behind unorthodox coaching moves in the past. Last summer, he defied convention by hiring Yeo as Ken Hitchcock’s assistant, with the understanding that Yeo would inherit the head man position next season.

It didn’t go exactly to plan. Armstrong fired Hitchcock in February, accelerating Yeo’s ascension.

Kesler calls Game 6 loss to Nashville the ‘toughest’ of his career

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Ryan Kesler has lost some big games in his career.

He was on the United States team that lost to Canada in the gold-medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

He was on the Vancouver Canucks team that lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

But apparently neither of those losses were as bad as the one his Anaheim Ducks experienced on Monday.

“This was the toughest loss of my career,” Kesler said of losing Game 6 of the Western Conference Final to Nashville. “This stings. It still stings. We left everything out there.”

Kesler had a particularly tough game, finishing minus-4 in the 6-3 loss. In the series, he only had one assist, failing to score on any of his 19 shots.

At 32 years old, Kesler is running out of time to win his first Stanley Cup.

And perhaps that’s why this latest loss was especially tough for him. The Ducks had a great chance to eliminate the Predators once Ryan Johansen was lost for the series, and then they would’ve faced either Pittsburgh minus Kris Letang or the underdog Ottawa Senators.

That’s gonna sting every time.

Related: Johansen wishes he was there to shake Kesler’s hand after Predators won

Fisher returns to Preds practice, but still not cleared

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Given the injuries Nashville’s sustained at center this postseason, Mike Fisher‘s presence at today’s practice was a welcome sight — regardless of his availability for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“I feel pretty good,” Fisher told NHL.com after practicing for the first time since May 18. “I skated a few days here. Still not cleared, but it felt good to get out there with the guys.”

Fisher was knocked out of the Western Conference Final in Game 4, after taking a Josh Manson knee to the head. That, combined with the loss of Ryan Johansen to season-ending thigh surgery, whittled Nashville’s center depth down to Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissions, Vern Fiddler and Frederick Gaudreau.

Even though Fisher is pointless through 14 playoff games, his return would still be massive. In addition to serving as team captain, he was averaging just under 17 minutes per night prior to getting hurt, while winning 52 percent of his faceoffs.

He said his undisclosed injury feels “a lot better than it was a few days ago,” adding that his goal is to return for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.

Fisher took minimal contact at today’s skate, and worked on a line with James Neal and Harry Zolnierczyk.