James O'Brien

Mike Johnston, Rick Tocchet, Jim Rutherford
AP

Latest Penguins drama: Is there a rift between Rutherford, Johnston?

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Plenty of negative headlines have been dismissed – sometimes even by icon Mario Lemieux – but it’s tough to shake the feeling that the Pittsburgh Penguins are swimming in drama this season.

The latest scuttlebutt comes from GM Jim Rutherford essentially telling DK Pittsburgh Sports’ Josh Yohe that he wants Mike Johnston to play young forward Daniel Sprong … but it seems to go deeper than that. Maybe.

Puck Daddy transcribed some of the juiciest bits (Yohe’s report requires a subscription), including this:

“I have been urging the coach to get him in there,” Rutherford told Yohe. “We need him in there so we can get a better look at him.”

To say the least, people are finding it awfully curious that Rutherford is discussing such differences of opinion with the media. Going further, “Rutherford throws Johnston under the bus” shows up in more than one spot.

As some onlookers note, it’s a stark contrast from the old regime of Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero.

Some are going as far as wondering if this ranks as something of an ultimatum, including TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Maybe this will be another thing that management denies, much like Lemieux’s alleged falling out with Sidney Crosby and members of the locker room being mad (or not) at each other.

We can’t be certain if there’s fire, but it’s increasingly difficult to ignore so much smoke.

Not as bad as it looked: Coach Q says Daley’s injury is not serious

Much like Kyle Turris‘ injury, it sure looked scary for Trevor Daley when he went down on a freak accident of a collision. Also much like Turris: it seems like Daley’s injury isn’t so bad.

Granted, he might not avoid missing a game like Turris remarkably did on Sunday.

CSNChicago.com reports that Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville considers Daley day-to-day with an upper-body injury not believed to be serious.

The Blackhawks play the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. It would be surprising if Daley can come back that soon … but stranger things have happened.

Couture is ‘dying to get back in’ for Sharks, may get his wish soon

Logan Couture
AP

Things haven’t been going very well for the Sharks lately (most obviously seen in a three-game losing streak), but they’ve at least had the excuse of playing without Logan Couture.

It turns out that he could be back as soon as Tuesday’s game against the Calgary Flames … at least if he gets his way.

“I’ve been dying to get back in for the last little while,” Couture said, according to CSNBayArea.com. “It’s not easy watching. It’s not easy just practicing. Today was a good day just to be out there with the guys on a regular line and feel like you’re part of the team again. I felt like myself finally.”

It’s easy to see why Couture is so anxious, especially since he’s needed about eight weeks to recovery from a fractured fibula that was originally expected to sideline him for four-to-six weeks.

While Couture’s comments indicate that he could play tomorrow, head coach Peter DeBoer didn’t give an official verdict.

The logic behind that approach is reasonable enough. After playing Calgary on Tuesday, the Sharks face Edmonton on Wednesday, so DeBoer may opt to give Couture one more day so he doesn’t jump right into a back-to-back set.

Yes, there’s now the Marc Edouard-Vlasic injury to worry about, but the Sharks must feel great about getting their young All-Star back.

Ducks beat Pens, generate rare winning streak

Mike Santorelli, John Gibson
AP
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Chris Stewart had the go-ahead goal in the second period, Corey Perry also scored and the Anaheim Ducks overcame a disallowed goal to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Sunday night.

John Gibson made 23 saves in his sixth straight start – a stretch that included shutouts against Vancouver and San Jose.

The Ducks are 10-5-2 after a 1-7-2 start. The three-time defending Pacific Division champions, coming off a 1-0 victory over the Sharks on Friday night, have won consecutive games for the first time since beating San Jose by the same score Nov. 7 for their fourth straight victory.

Olli Maatta scored for Pittsburgh and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots. The Penguins are 5-5-2 following a 9-1 stretch.

Evgeni Malkin nearly got the tying goal, but misfired on a backhander from the edge of the crease with 1:22 remaining after faking Gibson to the ice with Fleury pulled for an extra skater.

Stewart beat Fleury to the glove side with a one-timer at 15:49 of the second for a 2-1 lead after Nate Thompson set him up in the slot.

The Penguins, who had only one shot on net through the first 17 minutes of their 5-3 loss to the Kings on Saturday afternoon, opened the scoring at 3:02 of the first period with their second shot against the Ducks.

Maatta jumped on a loose puck in the high slot and beat Gibson to the stick side with a 30-foot wrist shot for his fourth goal of the season. It was his second in two games after missing the previous six with an upper-body injury.

The Ducks appeared to have tied it at 7:30 of the first on a shot by Rickard Rakell during a power play while Sergei Plotnikov was off for goalie interference. But Penguins coach Mike Johnston initiated a replay challenge, claiming the play was offside – and was proven to be right.

Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen failed to keep the puck in the zone along the right boards on an attempted clearing pass by Rob Scuderi, as Matt Cullen came out to check Vatanen at the blue line. The goal was disallowed, and the extra 22 seconds of elapsed time was put back on the scoreboard clock.

The Ducks eventually tied it 36 seconds into the second period, with the teams skating 4-on-4 as a result of coincidental roughing penalties to Malkin and Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler following the first-period horn.

Perry got the puck from Ryan Getzlaf in the slot and beat Fleury from short range. Perry has 10 goals this season, nine in the last 16 games since Getzlaf returned from an appendectomy that sidelined him for four games.

This was the 10th head-to-head showdown between Crosby and Perry, both of whom have been league MVP and scored 50 goals in a season. Crosby has six goals and seven assists in those games, Perry 11 goals and three assists, and the Penguins own a 7-3 advantage.

NOTES: Cullen is one of four players on the Penguins’ roster who used to play for the Ducks, including Chris Kunitz, Ben Lovejoy and Nick Bonino. Kunitz won a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007. . Ducks D Simon Despres, acquired last March in a trade that sent Lovejoy to Pittsburgh, missed his 24th straight game because of concussion symptoms that began when he was hit by Colorado’s Tyson Barrie on Oct. 16. Barrie received a three-game suspension. . Gibson, who was born in Pittsburgh, lost 6-4 in his only other start against the Penguins on Oct. 9, 2014, in the Steel City. Sidney Crosby had two goals in that game. . This was the fourth of 13 road games this season that Crosby, Malkin and Co. did not sell out, and the third in the Pacific time zone. The turnout of 15,836 was the smallest to see them play.

Another low blow: Drew Doughty ‘slashes’ J.T. Brown

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Another night, another stick where it absolutely should never be (especially if you’re the unlucky victim).

As you can see from the video – beginning with the Fox Sports local telecast for the Kings, quite obviously – Drew Doughty caught Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown below the belt during Sunday’s game.

Doughty received a “slashing” penalty for that infraction.

So, the questions must emerge: should any additional discipline come? Is there any reason Doughty deserves a lighter or heavier punishment than Brandon Prust received for his bit of business with Brad Marchand?

Enough questions. Here’s a request: let’s not make this a disturbing pattern.

Update: Maybe it’s just a game in which elite defensemen are behaving badly? Check out Victor Hedman‘s elbow on Kyle Clifford.

The Kings ended up winning the game 3-1.