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Kings bicker over who covers Erik Karlsson; We all win

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With Halloween approaching, hockey fans are already getting rare glimpses into the lighter side of NHL players. Still, it’s a special sensation when something whimsical actually happens during a game.

Such was the case in 3-on-3 overtime during the Los Angeles Kings’ eventual 3-2 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators last night.

Even if you (understandably) give a lot of credit to Anze Kopitar, the resurgence of Dustin Brown has been one of the least expected, under-the-radar stories of this early season. Perhaps some of what makes Brown effective is knowing his limitations, however, as even Erik Karlsson had a laugh when Brown told Drew Doughty that he wanted no part of Karlsson with all of that open nice:

The #Kings debating who will cover #ErikKarlsson in overtime is everything 😂😂

A post shared by TSN (@tsn_official) on

Tremendous. Since we’re on the subject of lighter moments, this Minnesota Wild fan possibly becoming a Vancouver Canucks fan should brighten your day:

That face is the understated, hockey version of “kid going nuts after getting a Nintendo 64.”

(Hold on, let me search for my childlike wonder for a second.)

Circling back, the first clip seems like a decent excuse to take a really quick look at how Karlsson and Brown are doing so far.

Erik eases back in, as much as Karlsson can ease back in

So far, it seems like Karlsson is still a special player, even with a chunk of his ankle bone missing (again, hockey players).

Through four games, it seems like business as mostly usual for the freakishly talented defenseman. Karlsson has six assists in those contests, with a healthy 13 shots on goal. The Swede averages just under three SOG per contest for his career, a big part – but not the only element – of why he tends to be such a possession monster.

While Guy Boucher is likely easing Karlsson back in (at least relatively speaking, as the Senators still need him badly), the clever coach might want to consider saving number 65’s energy for the playoffs. At least if this team has the breathing room for such luxuries.

In 2015-16, Karlsson approached Ryan Suter-like useage by averaging an absurd 28:58 TOI per game. Last season, Karlsson was down to 26:50, while he’s currently averaging 25:50. That really might not be such a bad bar to set for all of 2017-18.

Brown does it for Kings

Looking at Dustin Brown’s career stats, it’s almost as if the last lockout broke him. He scored 29 points in 46 games in 2012-13, and then his numbers stayed in that range even during full seasons.

So, cut to 2017-18 and Brown has five goals and 11 points in nine games, of course.

With a 14.3 shooting percentage, some of this is luck. He hasn’t been in the double digits in shooting percentage since that 2012-13 campaign, when he connected on 12.7 percent.

It’s not just his scoring and shooting luck that’s going up. Brown has 35 SOG in nine games, close to four per night. He only averaged 2.19 per contest last season. He’s generally been a player who fires the puck quite a bit, so while that number should slip, it might not go down as much as you might expect.

… At least, if he sticks with Kopitar. The Selke-level center isn’t just boosting Brown’s scoring opportunities through the roof, he’s also transforming Brown’s overall opportunities. Since 2013-14, Brown has clocked in at about 16 minutes of ice time per night. In 2017-18, he’s at 20:03.

Again, much like Kings trying to pass the Karlsson matchup torch around, it’s plain to see that Kopitar deserves an enormous chunk of the credit here. Still, with Jeff Carter on IR and the Kings still fairly challenged from a depth standpoint, Los Angeles is likely to give that top line every chance to keep things going, so the Brown rebound could be a real(-ish) thing.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Rick Nash scores twice as Rangers edge Sabres 4-3

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Prior to Tuesday’s win, New York Rangers forward Rick Nash had gone 12 games without a goal.

They had lost three straight and the man they needed to start scoring again simply couldn’t.

But on Tuesday in a 5-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Nash found his stride.

And on Thursday night he notched two more in a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on NBCSN.

Nash opened the scoring for the Rangers 1:24 into the game, taking advantage of a defensive mishap by Jake McCabe, who couldn’t handle a puck as the last man back and allowed Nash in on a breakaway.

The Sabres would respond by periods’ end, starting their first of three comebacks on the night.

Kyle Okposo brought the game to level terms with 1:19 remaining in the first period, completing a tic-tac-toe play on the power play.

The Sabres came into the game with the 31st ranking on the man-advantage, but managed to score twice with it in Thursday’s game.

The Rangers regained the lead through J.T. Miller in the second period.

New York just went through a power play without registering a shot on goal, but Miller was able to grab the puck at the right circle moments after the Sabres’ penalty had expired and rifled a wrist shot bar down behind Lehner at 8:26.

The Sabres engineered their second comeback of the game, tying it 2-2 the game later in the period from an unlikely source.

Justin Falk had gone 101 games without putting a puck in the back of the net. Not since March 6, 2015 had Falk seen his name in that category on the scoresheet.

But he shed that monkey off his back on a point shot low along the ice that beat Lundqvist through the five-hole with 2:50 remaining in the frame.

Nash scored his second at the 6:49 mark of the third period, following by Buffalo’s third successful comeback attempt at 14:59 when Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot found its way through a crowd and behind Lundqvist for a 3-3 tie.

Pavel Buchnevich scored the winner 1:03 later, finishing off a nice feed from Mika Zibanejad for his 12th and the Rangers second straight win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins vs Los Angeles Kings

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Sabres vs. Rangers; Penguins vs. Kings]

Los Angeles Kings

Adrian KempeAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonTrevor LewisTyler Toffoli

Alex IafalloNick ShoreMarian Gaborik

Kyle Clifford — Michael Amadio — Jonny Brodzinski

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinAlec Martinez

Kevin Gravel — Christian Folin

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

Eric Lindros’ famed No. 88 retired in Philadelphia

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No. 88 has always hung from the rafters in the minds of Philadelphia Flyers fans.

The organization seemed to revere it as well. No one but Eric Lindros has ever worn the number.

And on Thursday night in the City of Brotherly Love, those fans could finally see it with their own eyes.

The Big E’s famous No. 88 in Flyers orange and black was retired at Wells Fargo Center, raised to hang next to the names of Bernie Parent, Mark Howe, Barry Ashbee, Bill Barber and Bobby Clarke.

“Without any doubt, this is the highest honor the organization can bestow on one of its members,” said Flyers president Paul Holmgren, who addressed the packed house. “Take a look at the rafters, only five players out of 600 to have ever worn the orange and black, and now that number will be six.

“When we raise your number in a few moments, know you’re back where you belong, and this time, it’s forever.”

Moments earlier, Lindros stood at center ice, waving at the standing ovation that engulfed the arena that encircled him.

“Wow. Haha. This is crazy,” Lindros said, peering out into the sea of orange and black as he followed Holmgren at the center-ice podium. 

“It’s no secret that when I left Philadelphia, it was under less than ideal circumstances,” Lindros said, crediting Holmgren and his wife Kina with helping him move.

Lindros sat out the entire 2000-01 season due to a contract dispute with Clarke and the organization.

Lindros was crushed by Scott Stevens in the playoffs in the previous season and was only cleared to play the following December. The Flyers had offered, and Lindros refused a two-way qualifying offer. Lindros, instead, wanted to be traded, with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs the preferred destination after his once-strong relationship with Clarke had deteriorated. Clarke refused to trade him at first, but finally did so in the following offseason, not to Toronto, but to the New York Rangers in the summer of 2001.

“Both, in their own ways, have taught me to move on, put in the past any differences of opinion, any hard feelings,” Lindros said. “It was time to remember the great moments I experienced here in Philadelphia, the friendships I’ve built in this great city and the respect I have for the fans of this team.”

Lindros was a member of the ‘Legion of Doom,’ a line that consisted of John LeClair and Mikael Renberg that dominated opponents and altered the game of hockey in the 1990s. Lindros acknowledged several people, including former general manager Russ Farwell, who brought Lindros, Mark Recchi and Rob Brind’Amour into the team and drafted Mikael Renberg.

Lindros also thanked Clarke, and said LeClair should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Lindros was one of the most physically gifted and dominating players to ever play in the NHL, a man who towered over most, skated better than most and score better than most.

Lindros won the Hart Trophy during the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. He played 486 games in Flyers threads, scoring 290 goals and amassing 659 points.

In 2016, Lindros was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Roberto Luongo could return to practice soon

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The mandatory off week for the Florida Panthers appears to have done wonders for injured goaltender Roberto Luongo.

The Panthers No. 1 netminder has “turned a corner” as he continues to rehab a lower-body injury, Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said on Thursday.

The Panthers practiced for the first time since their mandatory break on Thursday, and although Luongo is still on pace for a return early next month, the news was good to hear for a team nine points adrift of the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I think he’s turned a corner a little bit,” Boughner told reporters after the team’s practice. “He’s showing some good improvement here in the last few days. We’re excited to hopefully get him back out on the ice during a practice at some upcoming point.”

Luongo hasn’t played since Dec. 4, when he was injured in a 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.

The news of Luongo’s pending return was probably a little music to the ears of James Reimer.

Reimer has started Florida’s past 16 games, posting an 8-6-2 record with .924 save percentage during that span, but ran into the break losing four of his previous five starts.

Still, Reimer has performed admirably in Luongo’s absence, as he bounced back from an unfavorable start to the season that saw Luongo regain the starter’s reins.

The Panthers will have five games in-hand on Pittsburgh Penguins, who entered Thursday occupying the final spot. They play the Los Angeles Kings live on NBCSN at 10 p.m. ET.

The Panthers return to action on Friday when they host the visiting Vegas Golden Knights.

Reimer is expected to start No. 17.