Cam Tucker

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alexander Radulov #47 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Getty

Trotz: Habs inking Radulov was ‘maybe the best signing of the year’

3 Comments

Barry Trotz is certainly familiar with the development of Alexander Radulov.

The two worked together in Nashville when Radulov was just starting out in the NHL, showing all the signs of a young, talented breakout player for the Predators.

But there were rocky moments in the working relationship, most notably during the 2012 post-season when Trotz benched Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn in the midst of a series for breaking curfew. To make a long story short, Radulov signed with CSKA Moscow in the KHL the following season.

Related: Trotz: Radulov ‘knows he has to change in a lot of aspects, on ice, off ice’

That was a long time ago. The two have since gone their separate ways.

Trotz is coaching the Washington Capitals, who most recently shut out the L.A. Kings on Sunday and should be a strong contender for the Stanley Cup a few months from now. Radulov signed a one-year, $5.75 million deal last summer with Montreal, where he is enjoying an impressive comeback season.

Radulov has been worth the money — and worth any risk that may have accompanied the deal. He entered today’s game versus Edmonton with 13 goals and 41 points in 51 games. Versus the Oilers, he was held off the score sheet, as the Habs lost 1-0 in the shootout.

And yeah, Trotz has taken notice of Radulov’s resurgence in the NHL. He recalled to reporters following Saturday’s game between the Capitals and Habs how he expressed his praise to Montreal GM Marc Bergevin for the signing.

“I think he understands the whole game … that most young guys, when they’re the best players on the ice, maybe don’t understand all the stuff that goes on,” said Trotz of Radulov.

“He’s a dynamic player. He’s been a great signing for the Canadiens. I was telling (Bergevin) that’s a great signing. That’s … maybe the best signing of the year.”

Now, what will his next contract look like?

With his 31st birthday coming up in July, term should be the most intriguing element of any new deal. But, based on comments from his agent earlier this season, Radulov can see his relationship with the Habs lasting beyond just one season.

Sebastian Aho is quietly putting together a strong rookie season in Carolina

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03:  Sebastian Aho #20 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 3, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Hurricanes 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty

When it comes to the Calder Trophy for the league’s outstanding rookie, three players — Mitch Marner, Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews — have separated themselves from the pack.

You can throw in some dark horse possibilities for a late-season charge like William Nylander and Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski, who is not only having a productive first year but he also averages more than 21 minutes of ice time per game.

And then there is Sebastian Aho.

Selected in the second round, 35th overall, of the 2015 draft, Aho seems to have quietly moved into fifth in rookie scoring with 31 points in 51 games, and third in goal scoring among rookies with 16 goals. Only Matthews and Laine, tied with each other at 23 goals, have more.

It’s easy to suggest that based on the market Aho plays in and the fact he’s not a top-five pick — or not even a first-round pick — he might not garner the same attention or hype that others in his freshman class will get. But after a slow start — at least in terms of individual goal totals, going his first 13 games without scoring — the 19-year-old Finnish forward has lived up to the potential that Hurricanes management saw in him when they penciled him into the lineup for this season.

He’s been Carolina’s most productive player over the last two months, with a team-best 13 goals and 20 points since the beginning of December.

“I think the one guy that has really come on is Sebastian Aho,” said Hurricanes GM Ron Francis. “He’s really starting to find his stride in the league, he’s extremely competitive, extremely smart and extremely talented. I think it’s a real bright future for our organization with a player like that.”

One of his most recent accomplishments was a hat trick against Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Bigger picture: Aho is part of a Hurricanes team that has a substantial amount of promising young talent and is among the better teams when it comes to puck possession. A difficult start may have set Carolina back early in the season, but the Hurricanes have fought their way back into the playoff fight, now four points back of Philly for a wild card spot, and with two games in hand.

Aho may be a very, very long shot for rookie of the year.

But after a slow start for the team and individual, the Hurricanes now have a 31.1 per cent chance of making the playoffs, and Aho has been a major reason why they’re in contention.

‘You feel like you almost break your leg’ — Leafs’ Rielly tweaked injured ankle vs. Bruins

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 06: Morgan Rielly #44 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 6, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 4-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty

Fresh off a thrilling victory on Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs will look to make it back-to-back wins when they face the New York Islanders on Monday.

The Maple Leafs hope to have Morgan Rielly in the lineup.

For now, according to Mark Masters of TSN, it looks like Rielly is expected to play in Brooklyn despite dealing with the affects of a high-ankle sprain that forced the 22-year-old defenseman from the lineup for six games last month.

Rielly was hurt again during last night’s game in Boston, briefly leaving for the locker room before eventually returning.

“His conditioning is good,” said coach Mike Babcock. “He tweaked his ankle and that’s going to happen probably for the next — those high ankle sprains, you’re going to tweak it over and over again.

“I’ve had them before. You feel like you almost break your leg. That’s how bad it hurts and yet he seemed to be OK. He’s going to have to push through of them but obviously he’s an important guy for us.”

Rielly finished last night’s game with just over 22 minutes of ice time.

Meanwhile, defenseman Frank Corrado, who has played only twice for the Maple Leafs this season, has cleared waivers and is now headed to the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, the organization announced Sunday.

Mrazek was magnificent, as Red Wings shut out the Predators

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 21: Petr Mrazek #34 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on in the first period while playing the Nashville Predators at Joe Louis Arena on October 21, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty
5 Comments

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Petr Mrazek was ready for everything the Nashville Predators threw at him Saturday night – and they had plenty to offer.

Mrazek made 42 saves, Mike Green scored in the first period and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Predators 1-0 on Saturday night.

“I thought right from the onset, I looked at Petr and thought, `That’s the Petr I know,”‘ Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said. “When he’s got tons of confidence, he looks big in the net. I thought he was excellent tonight right from the get-go.”

Pekka Rinne made 18 saves for Nashville, which has lost two of three.

“A lot of quality looks tonight and a lot of good chances for us,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “We have to give their goalie some credit, he played well. We had a lot of looks and opportunities. I thought both of the goalies played well. Pekka played well, too.”

Mrazek is 5-0-0 in his career against Nashville. He made nine saves in the first, 16 in the second and 17 in the third to record his first shutout of the season and 10th of his career. He has been the goaltender of record in both of Detroit’s wins over the Predators this season. The first came in Detroit on Oct. 21, when several Predators could not finish the game due to a bout of food poisoning.

Late in the third, Mrazek stopped five Nashville shots in the span of 1:10. His best save of the sequence came on Roman Josi‘s slap shot from the point with Colin Wilson parked just outside of Mrazek’s crease with 2:02 remaining.

Green scored with 1:30 left in the opening period. From below the goal line to the left of the Nashville net, Henrik Zetterberg sent a pass to Green in the high slot, and he beat Rinne from there with a wrist shot high to the glove side.

Zetterberg, along with linemates Gustav Nyquist and Anthony Mantha, cycled the puck in the Nashville zone prior to Green’s goal.

“Z did a good job of just spotting it to an area,” Green said. “But it started with all three of them putting pressure on the D men and turning pucks over and it causes confusion and we get opportunities.”

Zetterberg extended his points streak to three games. He has five points over those three games.

Green’s goal came less than two minutes after Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson hit the crossbar with a backhand from 12 feet away from the Detroit net.

The Lightning didn’t ‘wilt’ against the Ducks

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal against Detroit Red Wings during a game at the Amalie Arena on October 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Getty

The Bolts didn’t make it easy on themselves Saturday.

Sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, a shocking position for this club to find itself in after back-to-back lengthy playoff runs, the Lightning had a lead on the Anaheim Ducks only to give it up before finally prevailing for a 3-2 shootout victory.

Brian Boyle scored the winning goal in the four-round shootout.

Following a loss to the Senators earlier this week, Lightning coach Jon Cooper spoke at length about the state his players might be in, calling their struggles “uncharted territory” and that when a team so accustomed to success now struggles to win games, it can be a test.

Needing wins to remain in the 2017 playoff picture, Tampa Bay held a distinct edge in play versus the Ducks, and that includes after giving up the tying goal from Ryan Getzlaf in the third period.

It’s a win. It’s something perhaps the Lightning can build off, if they are to climb the standings and back into the playoff race.

“What I didn’t like is the fact we gave up the lead,” said Cooper, per the Tampa Bay Times.

“But the big thing for us, maybe in recent games we may have wilted then. But we kept creating chances. We went into overtime and I don’t think we gave up a shot (the Lightning didn’t). That was the difference tonight. Even when adversity struck, they said, ‘Okay, enough.'”