Getty

NHL on NBCSN: Lightning look to keep rolling against first-place Wild

1 Comment

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Minnesota Wild are coming off an overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, but they’re still in a good spot when it comes to maintaining the lead in the Central Division. The Wild enter tonight’s game with a five-point advantage over the ‘Hawks and they still own two games in hand.

The Wild have been one of the top teams all season, and they’ve been especially dominant against teams in the East and specifically the Atlantic Division. Minnesota has 13 wins in 19 games against the Eastern Conference and they’re an incredible 9-1 against the Atlantic.

Like every team, the schedule has been tough for the Wild recently. They just came back from a Western Canadian road trip that saw them win in Edmonton, lose in Calgary, win in Vancouver and win in Winnipeg. After the game against the Jets on Tuesday, they flew back home right away and were forced to play the next night against Chicago, which is why Bruce Boudreau gave his team a day off yesterday.

The Wild have received countless stellar performances from Devan Dubnyk throughout the season, but their ability to generate offense throughout their lineup has also been really impressive. In Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg, they were led by Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville (he had four points in that one). On Wednesday, it was Erik Haula who scored a late goal to send the game to overtime after Jared Spurgeon and Zach Parise had already scored.

It’s nearly impossible for the opposition to figure out which line will be rolling on a night-to-night basis because each one can contribute. It’ll be up to the Tampa Bay Lightning to figure out who to stop in tonight’s game.

Even though the Bolts are in a three-way tie in the basement of the Eastern Conference, they have to be feeling better about their game. For the first time since mid-December, the Bolts have won back-to-back games, which is an encouraging sign for their playoff hopes.

“What’s the cliche? Every game is a playoff game,” head coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times after Tuesday’s win over the Kings. “We’ve got to keep building each game and I truly believe we have. And I truly believe now guys are getting rewarded.”

The Lightning are a manageable six points behind Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the East and they even have two games in hand on the Bruins. The problem, is that they have to leap over six other teams to get there.

Tonight’s game won’t be an easy one, as the Wild have been the most consistent team in the league in 2016-17. To make matters worse, the Lightning aren’t even sure they’ll have center Tyler Johnson in their lineup. He missed Thursday’s practice because of an undisclosed injury. If he can’t go, it’ll make the task that much more difficult.

Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

Getty
1 Comment

It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

And now he’s out again.

Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

“We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

Stars’ Janmark won’t play this season, and there’s a ‘question mark’ about next year

Getty
Leave a comment

In a season filled with injuries, one of the biggest Dallas suffered this season was Mattias Janmark‘s knee issue.

The 24-year-old Swede has missed the entire season thus far, but recently resumed skating and practicing with the club. That said, Janmark confirmed he won’t play this year — meaning he’ll miss the entire 82-game campaign.

And what’s more, he might miss games next season as well.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” GM Jim Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.

Losing his services was a big blow for Dallas. After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Janmark’s contract situation complicates things. He’s a pending RFA, currently in the last of a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an $733,750 cap hit. The Stars would (presumably) like to keep him, but the uncertainty regarding his health might made negotiations difficult.

Fehr injures hand, spotted in cast following Leafs debut

Getty
Leave a comment

Eric Fehr finally played his first game as a Maple Leaf on Wednesday night, suiting up for the first time since being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

It didn’t go especially well.

Fehr, who logged 10:44 TOI in a 5-2 win over Columbus, suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot in the third period and was seen afterward wearing a cast, per TSN.

According to the Toronto Sun, the 31-year-old forward confirmed he spent the night in hospital.

While a break or fracture might rule him out for the remainder of the season, it’s worth noting Fehr won’t be done entirely in Toronto. He’s in the second of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit. Prior to joining the Leafs he appeared in 52 games for the Pens, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.

He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.

Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He is a good PK contributor, and can play both center and wing. Those were some of the attributes the Leafs were hoping Fehr could bring down the stretch and, should they make it, into the postseason.

He’s back: With 10 games left, Isles recall Halak

Getty
4 Comments

The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.

Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.

It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.

With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.

Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.

As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.