Matt Cullen

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Coyle, Niederreiter headline a disastrous Wild injury report

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Last night, Bruce Boudreau raved about how the Minnesota Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks despite dealing with serious injuries.

They might need to get used to that feeling.

The Wild shared an utterly disastrous injury report on Friday.

(Brace yourself, Wild fans.)

Good grief, that list is just … wow.

The Wild estimate that Nino Niederreiter will miss a minimum of three weeks. Charlie Coyle already underwent surgery, and Minnesota expects his window of recovery to be six-to-eight weeks. Marcus Foligno is ruled out for at least one week with a facial fracture.

Honestly, those Niederreiter and Foligno issues could be worse than those minimums make them seem, too.

This team is already dealing with Mikael Granlund‘s issues (probably a groin injury) and Zach Parise (he insists it’s not a back issue), which might sideline them for a while considering the murky nature of day-to-day updates.

At 1-1-1, the Wild are three games into a road-heavy start (three of five away from home), and then they’ll begin a six-game homestand on Oct. 24. The team already expects to be shorthanded on Saturday, their home-opener.

“What a great challenge,” Boudreau said on Thursday. “If we can come away from this in a good frame, that’s great. You have to accept challenges, and this is a real big challenge early on in the year.”

That Boudreau comment came yesterday; one can almost picture a profanity-laced, HBO 24/7-esque rant about this today, though.

Foligno and Coyle were two-thirds of a top line with Eric Staal, while Niederreiter joined Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker to form a nice second trio. The Wild are likely going to lean more on those guys, not to mention Joel Eriksson Ek, Tyler Ennis, and maybe even Matt Cullen.

If nothing else, Boudreau is the sort of coach who might be able to rally Minny through this challenging stretch. The Wild can also look to their Central Division rivals, the St. Louis Blues, for an example of a team fighting through a tough start.

But yeah, this is brutal stuff.

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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Hornqvist getting closer to return for Penguins

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a rough start to the 2017-18 season (probably an understatement, actually) as they head into Saturday night’s Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Nashville Predators.

They did get a little bit of positive news on Saturday morning when injured forward Patric Hornqvist was able to return to the ice and take part in the team’s morning skate. He is recovering from hand surgery that sidelined him for the entire preseason and the Penguins’ first two regular season games.

He still has not been cleared for contact and is not quite ready to return, but he said on Saturday that he is hoping to back in the lineup very soon.

“The first step was to get back on the ice with the players,” Hornqvist said via the Penguins’ website. “Hopefully Monday I can improve, Tuesday improve and hopefully I’m back pretty soon.”

Hornqvist was the Game 6 hero for the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final series when his goal with less than two minutes to play helped the team clinch its fifth Stanley Cup and second in a row.

His absence, as well as the offseason losses of Nick Bonino (who returns on Saturday night as a member of the Predators),  Matt Cullen and Chris Kunitz, has put a pretty significant dent in the Penguins’ forward depth. They have some young players down in the American Hockey League, Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese specifically, that could make an impact later this season and but will still probably need to address the third-and fourth-line center spots via trade.

After hosting Nashville on Saturday night the Penguins return to action on Wednesday night in Washington against the Capitals.

Penguins looking to bounce back from early season wake up call

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Two games into the season is hardly the time to panic, especially when the team in question is the Pittsburgh Penguins — a team that has won back-to-back Stanley Cups while overcoming quite a bit of adversity each time (a mid-season coaching change one year; a significant injury to one of their best players in the other).

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bit of an eye-opener when they open the season with back-to-back losses, giving up 15 goals in the process while getting completely annihilated on Thursday night in Chicago by a 10-1 margin.

Mike Sullivan called it a “wake-up call” on Friday in advance of their Stanley Cup Final rematch against Nashville on Saturday night and insisted that nobody is hitting the panic button.

Quite honestly, they shouldn’t be. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t reason for at least some mild concern with the way the team has looked through the first two games.

One of the more astonishing things about their Stanley Cup run a season ago is that they did it with what was a mostly patchwork defense that was without its best player in Kris Letang.

Overall, they were not a great defensive team during the 2016-17 season. They finished 17th in the league in goals against during the regular season, gave up more shots than your typical Stanley Cup winner does, and more often than not found themselves getting outshot and outchanced in the playoffs. What got them through it was two outstanding goaltending performances from Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury, as well as the fact they had the best, and deepest group of forwards in the NHL that could pounce on any chance the opposition gave them and bury it in the back of the net.

The results were there in the short-term, but it was never a long-term recipe for success. The goaltending was always the key because without that level of play in the early rounds from Fleury they probably don’t get out of the first or second round. Once that goaltending performance dropped off a little, the flaws on defense were going to be exposed.

A lot of those flaws on defense still showed up through the first two games (even with the return of Letang) and the goaltending has not been able to bail them out so far.

Murray hasn’t quite gotten to his game yet, while new backup Antti Niemi fell on his face (literally and figuratively) in his debut with the team.

The question is whether or not they can remedy those flaws with the current roster.

The offseason saw the team lose forwards Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen and Chris Kunitz, while Patric Hornqvist has yet to play due to an injury. Losing Bonino and Cullen was a pretty big blow to their center depth (that they still have not really replaced) and with Hornqvist out of the lineup they are basically skating a couple of fourth lines when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are not on the ice and the defense still has its share of question marks, with the only change coming in the form of swapping out Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey for Matt Hunwick.

They are still likely to swing a trade at some point to improve that center depth, and it seems logical to think that prized prospect Daniel Sprong might get the Jake Guentzel treatment this season and be a mid-season call-up after getting his feet wet in the American Hockey League.

That, along with the return of Hornqvist will certainly help fix those problems up front.

The problems on the back-end, however, might be a little more difficult to fix. Letang, when healthy, is a superstar and Justin Schultz has become the player everyone thought he could be in Edmonton. But beyond that it is still a group that has some question marks. It’s been said about that group a lot over the past two years, and they’ve always found a way to overcome it and succeed, but the roster around them does not seem to be quite as strong on paper at the moment.

Penguins, Rangers, Capitals headline PHT’s mighty Metro Division preview

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The Metropolitan Division hasn’t just produced the last two Stanley Cup winners (Pittsburgh Penguins) and last two Presidents’ Trophy winners (Washington Capitals).

It’s also a division that runs deep. The Columbus Blue Jackets took the league by storm in 2016-17, and while Sergei Bobrovsky might not be sensational again, many still believe they’re legit. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders still boast significant strengths, while the Carolina Hurricanes are dark horse candidates once more.

Even the New Jersey Devils keep adding promising talent.

Let’s preview what might once again be the best division in the NHL.

Also, check out these other previews: Atlantic Division, Central Division, PHT’s picks and predictions.

Carolina Hurricanes

Poll/looking to make the leap

Columbus Blue Jackets

Poll/looking to make the leap

New Jersey Devils

Poll/looking to make the leap

New York Islanders

Poll/looking to make the leap

New York Rangers

Poll/looking to make the leap

Philadelphia Flyers

Poll/looking to make the leap

Pittsburgh Penguins

Poll/looking to make the leap

Something noteworthy from today:

Washington Capitals

Poll/looking to make the leap

Canadiens place Peter Holland on waivers

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After signing a two-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens over the summer, Peter Holland finds himself on the waiver wire just before the start of the regular season, a sign that he will not be on the team’s opening night roster as its fourth-line center.

The first year of Holland’s contract is a two-way deal, so this was always a possibility, but he will have to clear waivers before he can report to Laval of the American Hockey League.

It is a little surprising, though, given that Holland was having a strong preseason for the Canadiens.

He spent the 2016-17 season split between the Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs, scoring five goals and recorded 12 total points in 48 games.

The question now is whether or not he will make it through waivers or if somebody else will claim him. Holland might be an intriguing option for a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins that is still looking for some center depth after losing Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen over the summer in free agency. They have not really replaced either player at this point.

Along with Holland, the Canadiens also placed forward Daniel Carr on waivers.