Kris Versteeg

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PHT Morning Skate: Blues season-ticket holder suits up as emergency goalie

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• A big blow for the Vancouver Canucks, as Bo Horvat will miss up to six weeks because of a lower-body injury. (Canucks Army)

• The Penguins called up Frank Corrado from the minors because they were forced to put Justin Schultz on IR. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

• Dave Lozo argues that the NHL needs a “super team” like the NBA has with the Golden State Warriors. With John Tavares, Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson about to hit free agency over the next couple of years, it’s entirely possible that those three can join forces. (Vice)

• The Tampa Bay Lightning have been really good this season, but are they even better than we realize? (TSN.ca)

J.T. Brown, Alex Ovechkin, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin are all proof that the NHL is definitely political. (Sporting News)

Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are huge reasons for Winnipeg’s strong start to the 2017-18 season. (NHL.com)

• From top to bottom, things are pretty tight in the Metropolitan Division. Believe it or not, there’s only 11 points separating first and last place. (elitesportsny.com)

• The Calgary Flames definitely miss Kris Versteeg on and off the ice. Whether it’s the things he does during games or his ability to be the team deejay in the locker room, they can’t wait for him to be back. (Calgary Herald)

• The Hockey News compares Capitals forward Tom Wilson to a bully in 1980’s teen movies. (The Hockey News)

• Many expect the Sabres to trade pending free agent Evander Kane, but what would Buffalo’s salary cap situation look like if they signed him to an extension? Diebytheblade.com has the answer.

• Things have been rocky for Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith lately. Not only did he finish minus-4 in a game earlier this week, he’s also failed to score in 42 consecutive games. (Chicago Sun-Times)

• Devils blue liner Steve Santini had been struggling this season, but the acquisition of Sami Vatanen has allowed him to slide into a more comfortable spot on the depth chart. (NJDab.com)

• Here’s an awesome story about a Blues season-ticket holder that became the team’s emergency goalie last night. (The Score)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Do it, Flames: Put Jagr with Gaudreau, Monahan

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After an agonizing wait, the Calgary Flames bit the bullet and signed Jaromir Jagr.

To little surprise, skipping the preseason and not having an answer about the future has made for a bit of a stilted integration for the 45-year-old, who is still something of a possession monster when the puck gets on his stick.

Jagr finally collected his first point (an assist) with the Flames on Saturday, during their 5-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks. It came, fittingly, on the power play.

If assisting on a Johnny Gaudreau goal wasn’t enticing enough, take a look at the Flames’ offensive lines on Tuesday, a tempting tease with their next game coming Thursday:

Circumstance could play a role in Jagr getting at least a look with Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. As Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg noted, Kris Versteeg wasn’t around, so Glen Gulutzan might have been adjusting to Versteeg – Sam Bennett – Jagr not being an option.

(Micheal Ferland also has been a little banged up lately, although you can see that he at least suited up.)

Still, it’s fun to cross one’s fingers and hope that Jagr gets an extended look with the dynamic duo, especially since he enjoyed so much success in a similar situation with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau during his time with the Florida Panthers.

So far, the Flames have already experimented with Jagr in such a situation. From an even-strength perspective, he’s spent about two-thirds of his time with Bennett/Versteeg and one-third with Gaudreau/Monahan, according to Natural Stat Trick’s numbers.

Flames Nation’s Ari Yanover provides a fascinating perspective: maybe the experimenting should continue, with Jagr being used in a variety of attacking zone situations.

Perhaps the focus is a little less on “who should Jagr be playing with” and more on “whoever is getting the most offensive zone starts, that’s Jagr’s line”. And typically, it’s Gaudreau’s line getting the offensive zone starts. So maybe, once Jagr is ready, that should be his line after all. We know he has it in him – not just because he’s, well, Jaromir Jagr, but also because that’s exactly what he was doing in Florida half a year ago.

Interesting.

Selfishly, as fans of the aging wonder, many of us simply want more Jagr.

Being selective with how he’s deployed might just be the ticket for the Flames. It’s sensible that Jagr’s getting 13 minutes of ice time per game (with almost exactly three of them coming on the power play), especially as he eases in. Greedily, we still want more, but it’s up to Calgary to decide if that’s actually the best way to optimize what they have.

As the season goes along, it will be fun to see how Jagr is used. There aren’t many weapons like him in the NHL, and that’s assuming that he can still get it done.

(So far, the answer seems to be “mostly yes.”)

For another look at how Jagr could fit into the Flames’ lines, check out this bit from before the season.

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.

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Blood feud between Doughty, Tkachuk overshadows Jagr’s Flames debut

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BREAKING: Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings really, really don’t like Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.

As great of a story as Jaromir Jagr’s Calgary Flames debut was, the building blood feud between Doughty and Tkachuk (or, really, Los Angeles vs. Tkachuk) provided the greatest fireworks.

You could argue that Tkachuk got the upper hand, although that might come down to how much weight you place on the havoc he helped create. Either way, the Flames were able to snag a dramatic 4-3 overtime win after Sean Monahan scored the clincher.

Tkachuk scored two goals and came close to notching the clincher in regulation after he exited the penalty box, but it was the jawing he did with Doughty in the penalty box that captivated. (Or, in the case of the Kings, enraged.)

It was so entertaining, it’s worth putting up GIFs from multiple angles.

And:

Allow me to suggest a theme song for the occasion.

As a reminder, this disdain goes back to 2016-17, Tkachuk’s bombastic, impressive, and abrasive rookie season.

Back in March, Tkachuk received a two-game suspension for a hit on Doughty. Not long after, Tkachuk seemed to get one over on Doughty as the Kings sought revenge. At the bottom of this post, witness Mike Milbury criticizing the response while Tkachuk threw his body around:

Now, cut to this game.

Tkachuk likely already frustrated the Kings by opening the scoring with a power-play goal, but sending the game to overtime was only part of the late-game carnage. Check the video above this post’s headline for a taste of the bad blood between the two teams.

Again, it’s not just Doughty vs. Tkachuk … but that growing animosity certainly feels like a catalyst between these two teams.

The bile may only build further if these two franchises continue to vie for positioning – or just a single playoff spot – in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This marks a third straight win for the Flames while the Kings suffered their first loss.

The only bummer is that this is the last time in this calendar year for these two teams to clash; their next game comes in Calgary on Jan. 4.

A quick look at Jagr’s debut

As anticipated, Jaromir Jagr debuted on a line with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg.

Jagr was unable to generate a point while finishing with a -1 rating. He received 13:38 of ice time, with 2:23 coming on the power play. He didn’t fire a shot on goal, but that might not be a big deal; Jagr’s greatest strengths may come down to keeping the puck in the attacking zone and dishing to teammates, wherever the Flames ultimately decide to use him.

The best grade for Jagr is probably an “Incomplete” after one game.

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.

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Jaromir Jagr set to make Flames debut vs. Kings

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Jaromir Jagr’s 24th season in the National Hockey League will begin Wednesday night when the Calgary Flames visit the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

After Wednesday’s morning skate, Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan confirmed that the 45-year-old Jagr would debut with his new team one week after inking a one-year deal.

“He’s practiced on that line. He’s been here a week, so there’s no need to make it any bigger than it is,” Gulutzan said. “We had those chats already. Now they’ve just got to go out and play. Jags had been in on all the meetings and knows the systems; ust make sure he gets the right amount of minutes and see how it goes with the chemistry.”

Gulutzan added that Jagr will skate on a line with Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg. (Jagr had 441 NHL games under his belt and won two Stanley Cups by the time Bennett was born in June 1996.)

In just a short time as a Flame Jagr has already made an impression with fans. During the first intermission of Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, he surprised the Calgary-based Travelling Jagrs.

Despite his age, Jagr has shown he can still be a productive player in this league. Playing all 82 games last season, he posted 16 goals and 46 points while skating 17 minutes a night. As Kent Wilson of The Athletic showed last week, his output was that of a top-liner.

It’s a one-year, $1 million deal, so it’s a good risk to take for general manager Brad Treliving. While Jagr will hit more milestones this season if he’s healthy and producing, he’ll also be a valuable asset to Calgary’s younger players with the education he can provide them.

“It might be different but I always want to perform on a high level,” Jagr said Wednesday. “But it’s not about me, it’s about the team and my teammates. I want to help them. I don’t want to be there just to be there. I want to make them better.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Jaromir Jagr’s Flames debut will have to wait another day

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Calgary Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said on Friday that it will be entirely up to Jaromir Jagr to decide when he is ready to make his debut for the team.

It seems he is not quite ready as Gulutzan confirmed on Saturday morning that Jagr will not be in the lineup when the team plays its home opener against the Winnipeg Jets.

Gulutzan announced on Saturday morning that Jagr will not play on Saturday night and that Curtis Lazar will join the lineup, playing alongside Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg.

Jagr, who turns 46 later this season, remained unsigned as a free agent until the week before the start of the regular season until finally signing a one-year, $1 million deal with the Flames.

Jagr played in all 82 games for the Panthers last season, finishing with 16 goals and 30 assists. While his production was still good enough for a top-six player in the NHL he did show some signs significantly slowing down and wasn’t always as dominant as he was even in recent seasons. But he can still work on the power play and he can still be impossible to get the puck away from. It probably would serve him — and the Flames — well to pace him a bit this season, limiting his regular season minutes and perhaps even giving him some strategic nights off to save him for the playoffs. Whether or not Jagr would be open to that is another question entirely.

The Flames lost their season opener on Thursday night, 3-0, to the Edmonton Oilers. The Jets are looking to rebound following a 7-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.