Pre-game reading: Retirement has been an adjustment for Jackman

— Up top, the St. Louis Blues’ youth hockey program has been an unexpected gateway to the NHL, with five players selected in the first round of the 2015 draft — Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Luke Kunin, and Trent Frederic.

— Former Blues defenseman Barret Jackman is retired now, and it hasn’t been the easiest adjustment for the 35-year-old veteran of over 800 NHL games. “It’s tough to get motivation to do anything,” he says. “There’s days when all I want to do is just go home and sleep and have no motivation. I end up sitting there, surfing the internet and doing needless things around the house just to occupy my time and wait until 3:30 to pick up the kids. But there’s other days where I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to get something accomplished today.'” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

— The Carolina Hurricanes were on a nice run for a while there. At one point in January, they even came close to moving into a playoff spot. But they’ve since fallen apart, with just three wins in their last 12 games. The News & Observer delves into what went wrong, and what comes next for a ‘Canes team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009. (News & Observer)

— If the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs, they’ll become the first team since the 2007-08 Flyers to make the cut one year after finishing dead last. That Philly team, featuring then-youngsters Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, where it lost to the Penguins in five games. (Toronto Star)

— According to the Tennessean’s Adam Vingan, the Nashville Predators may be in the market for a top-six winger. Vingan notes that the Preds have been “circling through left wings on captain Mike Fisher‘s line,” and that could be a hole they try to plug with a rental before March 1. (The Tennessean)

— Bob McKenzie would like to have a “rational” discussion about hits to the head. He’s not sure if that’s possible, but he’s going to try anyway. In the process, he illustrates why Jacob Trouba’s hit on Mark Stone was different that Evgeni Malkin’s on Blake Wheeler. (TSN)

Enjoy the games!

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    Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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    Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

    And now it’s happening.

    Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

    Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

    As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

    LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

    Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

    Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

     

     

    Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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    Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

    Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

    In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

    You can watch the full ruling below:

    Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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    Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

    Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

    Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

    Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

    As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.

    Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

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    The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

    The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

    Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

    “Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

    The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

    Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.