James O'Brien

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)

Enstrom leaves Jets, heads to Sweden for family reasons


Toby Enstrom is headed to Sweden for family reasons, and the Winnipeg Jets don’t know when he’ll return.

Paul Maurice told the team website that they hope he’ll be back soon, yet there’s no clear timetable for when the 32-year-old defenseman will suit up again.

With that big contract extension for Dustin Byfuglien and the drama between the organization and Jacob Trouba (which roped in Tyler Myers), it’s easy for a blueliner like Enstrom to get lost in the shuffle. Especially since he’s struggled with injuries in the past.

Still, this a guy who authored two 50-plus point seasons and averages more than 20 minutes of every night for his entire career, including 22:23 per night in 2016-17. Only Byfuglien and Trouba average more, with Byfuglien being the only skater who logged more minutes overall.

“Toby is a big part of this defence,” Ben Chiarot said. “He’s a leader on the team, he’s a big minute guy for us on the back end. It’s a big hole, but everyone will pick up the slack and try to pick those minutes up.”

With little surprise, the team delivered a message of “family’s first” in support of Enstrom’s decision to fly home. It presents another challenge for a team that was already dealing with adversity, though.

With Toews questionable for Friday, a reminder of Chicago’s shaky depth

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 14:  Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville look on during a penalty call at Bridgestone Arena on October 14, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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Considering their spot atop the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks haven’t hit the wall like many pundits predicted they would … at least, yet.

Some might wonder if the cracks are forming with a two-game losing streak and, with Jonathan Toews‘ upper-body injury in mind, how vulnerable this group could be to injuries to top players.

Toews is considered day-to-day and questionable for Friday’s game at Anaheim (and one would assume, also in doubt for at least Saturday’s contest in Los Angeles).

Take a gander at what Chicago’s lines looked like without Toews on Thursday, via CSN Chicago’s Tracy Myers:

Ryan HartmanVince HinostrozaMarian Hossa (Or “Triple-H” as Myers masterfully notes)
Artemi PanarinArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane
Dennis RasmussenMarcus KrugerJordin Tootoo
Tyler MotteNick SchmaltzRichard Panik


Yes, you could probably place the Kane line as the actual top line – not that it really matters when you’re just listing them – but either way, you can understand the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus describing Toews as the Blackhawks’ most “irreplaceable player” whether you quibble or not.

Toews was skating most often with Hinostroza and Hossa before getting hurt on Wednesday, tying the room together like a Lebowski rug.

It’s worth noting that “Captain Serious” isn’t outright ruled out of tomorrow’s game against the Ducks, even if it seems logical that he’d at least miss one of a back-to-back set against two California teams that can be punishing at times. His potential absence brings up interesting questions nonetheless.

The good and the bad

From one perspective, the initial reaction is to wonder if issues are starting to surface. The Blackhawks aren’t the possession demon they once were, so you wonder if winter is merely coming for Chicago.

On the other hand, the “Circus Trip” will conclude on Saturday. After that, they’ll play six of their next seven at home and just four away games in 14 games from Nov. 29 – Dec. 27.

Overall, then, it seems like Toews’ injury situation in general: we still need to wait and see what happens.

Kings win fourth in a row as Kopitar returns

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11:  Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders skates against Alec Martinez #27 of the Los Angeles Kings during their game at the Barclays Center on February 11, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) Dwight King scored twice in a 20-second span late in the third period, Peter Budaj stopped 22 shots and the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Islanders 4-2 on Wednesday night for their fourth consecutive win.

Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez also scored to help the Kings win their fifth straight at home.

Anders Lee scored twice and Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves for the Islanders, who dropped to 1-5-1 on the road this season.

King deflected in Derek Forbort‘s long slap shot for the go-ahead goal with 2:28 remaining, seconds after a power play expired. He made it 3-1 just 20 seconds later, and Muzzin added an empty-netter.

Lee tied it 4:27 into the third period. He was somehow able to collect and backhand in the rebound of Travis Hamonic‘s missed shot while tangled up with Kings defenseman Matt Greene.

Lee added his third goal of the season with 1:52 left to make it 4-2, but the Islanders failed in their attempt to string together consecutive wins away from Barclays Center for the first time this season.

Martinez put the Kings ahead 15:34 into the first period with his fourth goal of the season, taking advantage of Trevor Lewis‘ screen in front to beat Halak with a shot from the blue line.

Kings defensemen have seven goals during their winning streak, including Martinez scoring the opener against New Jersey last Saturday.

Muzzin and Anze Kopitar, who returned to action after missing five games with a hand/wrist injury, had assists on the play.

The Islanders could not carry over the momentum from their first road win of the season Tuesday at Anaheim, despite two power-play opportunities in the first 11 minutes. New York had just one shot with the man advantage and seven total in the opening period, half the number needed to decide their 14-round shootout against the Ducks the previous night.

The Kings’ penalty kill has been especially sharp of late, allowing just one goal in 16 opportunities over its last five games.

The second period was a sleepy affair, with no goals, no penalties and the teams combining for 13 shots. There was drama in the closing 30 seconds as the puck took a strange bounce off the wall, leaving Halak out of position, but Kyle Clifford lost his footing in front of the crease and could not take advantage.

NOTES: The Islanders scratched G Thomas Greiss, RW Cal Clutterbuck and D Scott Mayfield. Clutterbuck, who sustained an upper-body injury against the Ducks, went through pregame warmups before being held out. … The Kings scratched LW Teddy Purcell and D Tom Gilbert.


Islanders: Friday at San Jose.

Kings: Saturday night at home against Chicago.

Sharks slip by Blackhawks, who lost Toews to injury

The Chicago Blackhawks fought diligently but couldn’t recover from the San Jose Sharks’ early lead on Wednesday. They’re more concerned about Jonathan Toews‘ recovery at this point, though.

Their captain left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return to the Sharks’ eventual 2-1 win against the Blackhawks.

The severity of that injury is currently unknown, but it compounds a tough couple of evenings for Chicago; the Blackhawks failed in this comeback bid and also fell to the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 5-0 on Monday.

Goals like Joel Ward‘s 2-0 tally and this “Circus Trip” likely leaves some players and fans feeling a little weary:

About the only plus for the Blackhawks is that they’re almost finished with this tough stretch.

On the other end of the ice, the San Jose Sharks now enjoy two straight wins after dropping three games in a row. Much like their opponents, they were stumbling a bit on the road, but now they’ve won the first two contests in a five-game homestand.

Martin Jones is also looking pretty sharp once again. After shutting out the New Jersey Devils on Monday, Jones stopped 33 out of 34 shots on goal to edge a mostly game Corey Crawford.

As much as this defeat stings for Chicago, the Blackhawks will likely see Toews’ injury update as the more crucial outcome of the night.

McDavid, Lucic keep hot streak going for Oilers’ offense

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 23:  Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck around Fedor Tyutin #51 of the Colorado Avalanche during the first period at Pepsi Center on November 23, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Early on as the Edmonton Oilers were succeeding, the feeling was still that they were arguably overly reliant on Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot.

As the Oilers heat up once more, there’s no denying that McDavid is the major catalyst. The frightening thing for opponents is that other players are stepping up as well.

Just consider the variety of forwards who chipped in to Edmonton’s 6-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday:

McDavid: goal, two assists
Milan Lucic: goal, three assists
Leon Draisaitl: goal, assist
Jordan Eberle: two goals
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: goal
Patrick Maroon: assist

Seeing Lucic generate four points is big considering his hefty contract, yet the Oilers must be just as heartened to see Draisaitl get it going.

The 21-year-old is now on a five-game point streak with four goals and four assists. (McDavid has five goals and three assists during his own three-game point streak).

Tonight’s win gives Edmonton three straight victories, and they’ve been lopsided; they’ve outscored their opponents 16-5 during this stretch. Maybe the Oilers really are out of their funk after dropping eight of 10 games.