Dustin Byfuglien

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 18:  Head coach of the Montreal Canadiens Claude Julien looks on during the NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre on February 18, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Getty

Jets top Canadiens in Julien’s debut

3 Comments

The second Claude Julien era in Montreal did not get off to a promising start on Saturday afternoon when the Canadiens dropped a 3-1 decision to the Winnipeg Jets.

It was a sluggish performance at times and that probably should have been expected given the circumstances. Along with playing their first game under a new coach, it was also the Canadiens’ first game coming off of their bye week, a situation that pretty much every team has struggled in this season.

Entering Saturday teams were only 3-9-2 in their first game after the bye. The Canadiens added another one to the loss column on Saturday even though they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead thanks to an Andrei Markov goal. That was pretty much the only highlight on the day for the Canadiens as they were unable to add to their lead and allowed Winnipeg to score three consecutive goals over the game’s final 36 minutes to take the win.

Joel Armia scored a beauty of a shorthanded goal to tie the game for the Jets at the 4:36 mark of the second period. The game remained tied until the 1:16 mark of the third period when Matthieu Perreault scored his fifth goal of the season to give the Jets the lead after an incredible individual effort from Dustin Byfuglien to fight through the Montreal defense and set up the goal.

Patrik Laine added an empty net goal, his 28th goal of the season, to put the game away later in the period.

With that goal and an assist on the Perrault goal Laine moved back into the NHL’s rookie lead for goals (28) and points (50) even though he has missed eight games this season.

He is on pace for 39 goals this season as an 18-year-old.

Dale Hawerchuk, Sidney Crosby and Steve Yzerman are the only three players in league history to score at least 39 goals as 18-year-olds in the NHL.

Montreal remains just four points ahead of the Ottawa Senators for the top spot in the Atlantic Division while the Senators (who have four games in hand on Montreal) could close that gap to two points on Saturday night if they can beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Canadiens have lost seven of their past eight games.

For the Jets, the win pulls them a little closer to a wild card spot in the Western Conference but they have already played three more games (at least) than every team they are competing with.

Pens recall pair of d-men, putting Schultz’s status into question (Updated)

schultz
5 Comments

The Pittsburgh Penguins — in the wake of Olli Maatta’s surgery — have recalled a pair of defensemen, Cameron Gaunce and Steve Oleksy, from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The fact two d-men were recalled also calls into question the status of Justin Schultz.

Schultz was forced to leave last night’s victory over Winnipeg after turning his back on Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who proceeded to drive Schultz into the glass from behind.

The way Schultz’s head hit the glass, there’s reason to wonder if he suffered a concussion on the play. The 26-year-old is enjoying a fine season with the Pens, with nine goals and 30 assists in 56 games.

Update:

The Pens are in Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets tonight.

Hard-luck Maatta out six weeks after hand surgery

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 16:  Olli Maatta #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates in Game Two of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center on April 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Getty
6 Comments

Another year, another significant injury for Olli Maatta.

On Friday, the Penguins announced that Maatta, who exited last night’s 4-3 OT win over Winnipeg with a hand injury, has undergone successful surgery and will miss the next six weeks as a result.

Maatta, 22, had enjoyed a reasonably healthy campaign up to this point. He’s appeared in 53 games — the only d-men to appear in more are Justin Schultz and Ian Cole — while averaging 18:13 TOI, with a goal and seven points.

The hand ailment is just the latest in what’s been a tough start to Maatta’s professional career. Over the last three year’s he’s had a cancerous tumor removed, major shoulder problems, a case of the mumps and lower-body issue that hampered him at the end of last season.

Maatta’s not the only Penguin on the limp right now, either. Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary are both sidelined, while Carl Hagelin remains out with a concussion. It’s also unclear what sort of shape Justin Schultz is in, after he was crunched by Dustin Byfuglien last night and exited the game.

As for Maatta, the six week timetable means he’s on target for a Mar. 31 return — which translates into as many as 20 games missed.

Penguins top jets in chaotic, brutally physical game

PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 16:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Kris Letang #58 after getting an assist to give Crosby his 1000th career point in the first period during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at PPG PAINTS Arena on February 16, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Getty
7 Comments

Probably the wildest game of the NHL schedule on Thursday took place in Pittsburgh where the Penguins were 4-3 winners over the Winnipeg Jets in what turned out to be a brutally physical and deliriously entertaining game.

Sidney Crosby recorded three points, including his 1,000th career point in the NHL, as well as the winning goal in overtime, to help lead the Penguins to what could end up being a costly win.

A few things that stood out in all of the madness.

— The Penguins ended up losing two defensemen during the game when Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta both left in the second period to injuries.

Schultz exited when he was hit from behind by Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and hit his head into the glass.

Maatta had to exit the game following a big open ice hit from Adam Lowry (watch it here).

With Schultz and Maatta out, the Penguins (who were already playing without Carl Hagelin, Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust at forward) had to play the final half of the game with only four defensemen. It clearly started to wear on them a bit as the Jets rallied from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 lead in the third period.

— Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, who scored a goal and assisted on Crosby’s winning goal thanks to an incredible individual effort, added to the physicality on more than one occasion, and especially in the third period when he rocked Blake Wheeler with this high hit in the slot in front of the Jets’ net.

Malkin ended up receiving a minor for interference and a minor for roughing as a result of that sequence. Given that he appeared to leave his feet prior to contact, and that it was a high hit, you can be certain the NHL’s department of player safety is going to be taking an extra look at that play.

Wheeler briefly exited to the Jets’ locker room but returned to the game later in the third period.

— With the NHL trade deadline less than two weeks away there was a belief that this could have been Marc-Andre Fleury‘s final start in Pittsburgh as a member of the Penguins. If it was, he went out in style playing a vintage Fleury game that included some highlight reel saves, a terrible goal against, poke checks, and a season-high 44 saves.

— After Fleury gave up a horrendous goal to Byfuglien to allow the Jets to take a 3-2 lead, erasing what had been a two-goal deficit, Crosby drew a penalty in the offensive zone to set up a Phil Kessel power play goal to send the game to overtime. The overtime period was nearly five full minutes of back-and-forth hockey that featured Fleury making a huge save on a breakaway, the Jets having a couple more near misses, and then Crosby eventually scoring the winner on this tap-in in front.

— With his three points, Crosby is now up to 64 points on the season and — for the time being — regained the lead in the NHL scoring race.

The Penguins are back in action on Friday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a huge game in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins lead the Blue Jackets by two points in the standings for the No. 2 spot.

Coach Mike Sullivan had no update on the status of Schultz or Maatta for that game.

Jets lose another d-man — Enstrom out 2-3 weeks after surgery

CALGARY, AB - MARCH 16: Toby Enstrom #39 of the Winnipeg Jets in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 16, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Winnipeg’s blueline was dealt another blow on Thursday, as the club announced Tobias Enstrom would miss the next 2-3 weeks following surgery to correct a lower-body injury.

Enstrom played just 1:22 in a loss to Tampa Bay over the weekend, then missed Tuesday’s 5-2 win against Dallas.

The 32-year-old plays a big role for the Jets — averaging 22:19 TOI through 55 games this year — so the loss will hurt. And it hurts even more given the club won’t have rearguard Tyler Myers for the foreseeable future. Myers, who hasn’t played since Nov. 11, is out 6-8 weeks after also undergoing surgery for a lower-body ailment.

With those two out, Jets head coach Paul Maurice iced a defense of Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Paul Postma, Ben Chiarot and Mark Stuart in the win over the Stars. Byfuglien and Trouba were the heavy lifters — receiving 24:21 and 26:01 of ice time, respectively — and there’s a good chance that trend will continue with Enstrom on the shelf.

If Enstrom is out two weeks, that puts his return at March 2 — meaning he’d miss the next five games. If the recovery goes three weeks, Enstrom could miss as many as nine games.

Winnipeg heads into tonight’s action sitting five points back of Calgary for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.