Yannick Weber

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Good and bad injury news heading into Capitals – Predators

After seeing Kyle Turrissuccessful debut during Saturday’s shootout win against the Penguins, the Predators likely daydreamed about how their center situation would look with Turris and Nick Bonino in the mix. They got their wish, but maybe weren’t specific enough.

The good news is that Bonino was activated off of IR. The bad news is that two players went on IR today, and both are expected to miss significant time: Scott Hartnell and Yannick Weber.

Hartnell’s absence complicates things, possibly prompting a different mix than what we might expect once the Predators get close to 100 percent (or if they do, some teams just don’t have that luck … ask the Boston Bruins).

Hartnell is expected to miss three-to-five weeks, while Weber is out two-to-four.

Both players seemingly got hurt during Saturday’s victory against the Pens.

If this is when Weber got hurt, then the Predators might be lucky that he’s only expected to miss a month, tops:

The indication is that Hartnell got hurt this way:

Not great, but maybe both situations could have been worse?

So far, Hartnell’s return to Nashville has been solid, if unspectacular. The 35-year-old remains feisty, and generated seven points in 16 games, production that goes from OK to very much welcome when you consider his bargain $1M price tag.

This Fansided post by George Matarangas outlines some options to replace Hartnell. Personally, Colton Sissons and Pontus Aberg stand out as the two best possibilities to move up.

The Predators continue to use Weber, 29, sparingly; one would assume that his loss will be felt, but might not sting too badly. For the second straight season, Weber is averaging a bit more than 11 minutes of ice time per night.

A huge addition for the Capitals

The biggest injury note for Tuesday’s Predators – Capitals game (which airs on NBCSN tonight) is actually from Washington’s side: it looks like Matt Niskanen is set to return from an upper-body injury.

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing in Washington, at times, as the team adjusts following a summer of difficult losses. One thing that got lost in the shuffle is that the team’s been insanely lucky with injuries during Presidents’ Trophy runs, while they lost a key guy like Niskanen for quite some time.

In his absence, quite a bit of the burden’s fallen on John Carlson.

While the plan appears to be to ease Niskanen in, we’ll see if the Capitals can fight the temptation to rely on the versatile defenseman sooner rather than later. Either way, this is a significant boost for the Caps, as Niskanen is often underrated when people discuss some of the league’s better blueliners.

Both the Preds and the Washington Capitals figure to get some key pieces back tonight as they face off on NBCSN, even if some pieces are missing.

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.

PHT Morning Skate: How does the Quick contract look six years later?

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Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been out with a concussion, skated at the Golden Knights’ practice facility on Wednesday. It sounds like he could be activated off injured reserve as soon as Friday. (sinbin.vegas)

–Isles owner John Ledecky went the extra mile to make a young fan have the time of his life at two home games. The fan got the VIP treatment simply because he went out to the city in his Islanders jersey. (silive.com)

–Puck Junk has a book review on “The O-Pee-Chee Hockey Card Story”. The company went from selling gum, to adding player cards in 1933-34. (puckjunk.com)

John Carlson was forced to take a faceoff during the overtime period of Monday’s game against Arizona. He didn’t win it (he looked awful doing it), but it didn’t come back to haunt his team. Now, the Capitals are thinking about making some changes to the way they approach 3-on-3 overtime. (NBC Sports Washington)

–Former Kings GM Dean Lombardi has been criticized for the contract he gave Jonathan Quick six years ago. But when you compare the deal to others around the league, you realize that it isn’t so bad. It’ll be interesting to see what it looks like as Quick gets older. (jewelsfromthecrown.com)

–Even though he isn’t lighting up the NHL, rookie Alex DeBrincat is focused on playing a complete game with the Blackhawks this season. He’s gotten some playing time with Jonathan Toews, which has also helped his development. “I think it’s good for me. I think learning when you don’t need to be breaking for, trying an offensive break and you’ve just got to play sound in the (defensive) zone,” DeBrincat said. “I think it’s definitely good for my development and learning where to be because he’s always talking and letting you know where to be.” (Sporting News)

–There’s no doubt that fighting is down in hockey and there are numbers to prove it. Less than 30 percent of games since 2012 have had a fight, which is remarkably low compared to previous years. (CBS Sports)

–Local merchants in Carolina have come out with a bunch of new products that they’ll be selling at Hurricanes home games this season. One of the items available for purchase are Hurricanes scented candles. Some of the proposed scents that were rejected were pretty unique. For example, there was unscented vanilla, Swedish fish, Cam Ward‘s glove, and many others. (section328.com)

Nico Hischier has been solid during his rookie season, but the Devils can do more to help him succeed, according to allaboutthejersey.com. For starters, they can take him off the top line (for now) and give him a more defined role on the man-advantage. (allaboutthejersey.com)

–November is “Hockey Fights Cancer” month, and there’s no denying that people in and around the Penguins organization have been affected by the disease. Mario Lemieux, Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta, former head coach Bob Johnson and Ashley Barrasso (Tom’s daughter) all showed remarkable courage in their respective fights against cancer. (thesportsdaily.com)

–The Predators’ bottom pairing of Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin played a big role in the team’s two wins in California. The fourth line of Cody McLeod, Frederick Gaudreau and Austin Watson also put together a solid performance during the trip. (ontheforecheck.com)

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.

Lundqvist sharp, Rangers scrappy against Predators to end slump

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Is it melodramatic to say that the New York Rangers needed this one?

Whatever weight you put on it, the Rangers finally broke a troubling five-game losing streak, managing a 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. The Predators saw a streak end in their own right, as they had been on a 4-0-1 run.

MORE: Rangers are still in for a steep climb in the Metro

As much as this was a confidence-booster, it was sometimes a sleepy afternoon effort by the Rangers. After generating a 2-0 lead in the first period, New York snoozed at times, only firing six shots on goal on Juuse Saros during the final 40 minutes.

Whether it came down to sitting on a lead or the Predators pressing on the gas, Henrik Lundqvist had to be alert at times in stopping 23 of 25 shots. One of his best efforts came in snubbing Colton Sissons in close:

In winning his 407th career regular-season game, Lundqvist tied Glenn Hall for ninth all-time in NHL history.

The Rangers were opportunistic on Saturday, a positive sign for a team that hasn’t always been getting the bounces early in 2017-18.

Kevin Hayes exerted his will at times, assisting on the Rangers’ opening goal and powering past Matt Irwin for what would stand as the game-winner:

Impressive stuff by Hayes, even if it was almost an equally lousy showing by Irwin.

Ryan Ellis is clearly missed by Nashville, but moments like Irwin’s lapse and Alexei Emelin flailing badly on the opening goal make one wonder why, exactly, Samuel Girard isn’t getting more looks after some promising early showings. With Irwin and Yannick Weber logging less than 11 minutes on Saturday, both P.K. Subban (27:55) and Roman Josi (27:31) flirted with 28-minute workloads despite the contest ending in regulation.

The Predators likely cringed a little extra at the empty-net goal since it came via former Preds prospect Jimmy Vesey:

If the Rangers want to get back on track, they’ll need to win in a number of ways, even if they’re not always pretty ones like this one was.

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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Breaking down Stars’ bumpy start after ‘winning another offseason’

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New head coach, new starting goalie, same old problems?

The Dallas Stars distinguished themselves by making waves during the offseason – again – yet they find themselves in a 1-3-0 hole after falling 4-1 to the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

When it comes to righting the ship, there’s good news and bad news.

While Jamie Benn provides the expected “not good enough” to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, it’s not surprising that head coach Ken Hitchcock got to the heart of the matter: they’ve been making opposing goalies look like stars so far.

That could be read as “bad bounces” shorthand, and you know what? Hitchcock is correct.

Things that should change over time

With a 2.94 shooting percentage at 5-on-5, the Stars only have better shooting luck so far than the remarkably unlucky Montreal Canadiens.

It’s also worth noting that they haven’t really been able to fully deploy their new weapons. Ben Bishop dealt with a freak injury when his goalie mask didn’t provide enough protection, while Martin Hanzal‘s off to a rough start thanks to health and possibly supplemental discipline for that hit on Yannick Weber.

(Granted, if the Stars didn’t realize that Hanzal’s had a maddening history of injuries, that’s also on them.)

The Stars can’t blame a faulty power play for their troubles, however. They’ve converted on 33.3 percent of their opportunities (4 for 12), tying the Toronto Maple Leafs for the most efficient unit.

To some extent, that scoring issue is likely to work itself out.

Chance to mix things up

Still, one cannot help but wonder if Hitchcock might want to spread the wealth as far as linemates go.

So far, Alex Radulov is spending almost every minute on a top-heavy line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. That’s fun for fantasy hockey nerds, but if the Stars are struggling to score at even-strength, maybe they need to move one or more of those big names around?

These are the Stars’ lines if Hanzal plays, via Left Wing Lock:

Benn – Seguin – Radulov

Remi ElieJason SpezzaBrett Ritchie

Mattias Janmark – Hanzal – Devin Shore

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaTyler Pitlick

One option that stands out is that the Stars have some room to maneuver with as far as centers go. Faksa could conceivably be an option on the third line, possibly allowing Spezza to go to a wing. Failing that, Ritchie might be an option on the top trio if Hitchcock wanted to experiment with pairings in Spezza – Radulov and Benn – Seguin.

None of this needs to happen ASAP, and perhaps the current alignments are the best ones.

The positive side of early-season uncertainty is getting the opportunity to experiment, though.

The road ahead

“Inconsistent” might be a word that gets thrown around in part because of a schedule with some ups and downs.

The Stars play three of four and four of their next six games at home, so that’s an opportunity to get things on track (so far they’ve played two games at home and two on the road).

They’ll need to brace themselves, as they’ll begin a five-game road trip on Oct. 24.

***

The Stars have tied their opponents in shots on goal once and won the shots battle three times this season. On two occasions, they generated a significant differential. There are plenty of signs that this team is experiencing bad luck and should start to see things go their way.

(Tyler Seguin leads the NHL with 29 SOG, but only has two goals so far. As just one example.)

There’s a fine line between things working out over time and “making your own bounces,” so Hitchcock should use these early challenges as learning opportunities.

Even for himself.

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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Lightning’s Koekkoek, Predators’ Girard shine on night of firsts

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Maybe Thursday will see other patterns form, but one theme is young NHL defensemen scoring their first goals, and in many ways helping their teams secure wins.

Samuel Girard, 19, is already distinguishing himself with a Nashville Predators team suffering from some problematic injuries on defense. (That situation might get worse if Yannick Weber misses extended time thanks to this hit by Dallas Stars center Martin Hanzal.)

Girard already had an assist in his debut, but Thursday was a real treat as his family was on hand; Girard scored the game-tying goal and picked up a primary helper on the game-winner as the Predators beat the Dallas Stars 4-1.

P.K. Subban looked almost as excited as Girard on that goal:

Girard isn’t a slam-dunk for “best night for a defenseman who scored his first goal,” though.

Tampa Bay Lightning blueliner Slater Koekkoek didn’t just score the first goal of his NHL career, he actually scored two. This was the second, which ended up being the game-winner as the Bolts edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4:

Koekkoek, 23, had gone 42 regular-season games (and 10 playoff contests) without scoring that first tally, so this burst stands as a positive sign for Tampa Bay.

Finally, Ian McCoshen factored into the Florida Panthers’ 5-2 win against the St. Louis Blues with his first-ever NHL goal. McCoshen, 22, got to this spot in his sixth contest at the NHL level:

Yep, this has been a pretty good night of firsts for NHL blueliners. If there are any more of note, this post will be updated.

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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