Author: James O'Brien

Winnipeg Jets vs Edmonton Oilers

‘On fire’ Perreault won’t play for Jets; Kane takes his spot


Considering all the talk about a Dan Carcillo cross-check breaking his arm, it’s not a surprise that red-hot Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault is out on Sunday and won’t play until at least after the All-Star break.

(The team is only labeling it an upper-body injury at this point. As usual with NHL injuries, it may be some time before we know the extent of his issues. It might not be a break after all, however.)

That doesn’t change the fact that it stings, though, as Blake Wheeler notes to the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe.

“It hurts,” Wheeler said. “He’s a guy that is the definition of on-fire right now. He’s played awesome for us.”

Indeed, that’s a tough loss with how legitimate Winnipeg has been looking lately.

On the bright side, Evander Kane has been on a nice run of his own, and he looks to slide into Perreault’s spot alongside Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik.

Still, there’s only so much you can sugarcoat losing a player who scored nine points in five games before being injured on Friday, especially if Kane struggles to find chemistry alongside linemates who may be better on paper.

That’s a bummer, but the league’s contenders learn to roll with injury punches. If the Jets want to gain that distinction, they’ll have to do it too … starting with tonight’s game against the struggling Arizona Coyotes.

Rangers’ Vigneault calls for more from McDonagh-Girardi

Washington Capitals v New York Rangers

The New York Rangers face an interesting test in the Pittsburgh Penguins on NBC this afternoon, and it sounds like head coach Alain Vigneault will be especially interested to track the progress of key defensive pairing Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi.

Vigneault called out McDonagh and Girardi in regard to their play in Friday’s 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, as the Bergen Record’s Andrew Gross reports.

“They turned the puck over way too many times to what they’ve accustomed us to,” Vigneault said. “We need a better game from those two.”

(For what it’s worth, things didn’t look so great from the duo from a “fancy stats” perspective.)

As hot as the Rangers have been lately, the Penguins could really expose defensive deficiencies, so expect that duo to be challenged today.


In other Rangers news, J.T. Miller returns to the lineup to replace Tanner Glass. While some would like to see more of Miller in general, the young forward’s supporters would at least probably like to know that Vigneault has some positive words for him.

That said, the coach also said he wants to see him make “higher percentage plays” with the puck, so it’s a work in progress.

Report: Bruins’ Soderberg won’t face discipline for hit on Blue Jackets’ Calvert

Matt Calvert, Dennis Seidenberg

Boston Bruins forward Carl Soderberg won’t face a fine or suspension for his check on Matt Calvert of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports.

The hit occurred during the second period of the Blue Jackets’ eventual 3-1 win against the Bruins on Saturday:

The check didn’t draw a penalty, yet Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards wasn’t happy about it, deeming the blow a “shot right to the head.”

Calvert (pictured) bounced back from that hit to score the game-winner and an empty-net goal in the third period. Here’s a video of the clincher:

Calvert, 25, has dealt with some injury issues this season (basically fitting in with the rest of the Blue Jackets), so we’ll keep an eye out to see if anything lingers from the hit.

NHL on NBC: Rangers try to gain on Penguins in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

NBC continues its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center at 12:30 pm ET today. In addition to NBC, you can also watch the game online.

There has already been some hockey on NBC this season, but the Sunday docket really begins in earnest today as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New York Rangers.

It should be an intriguing one to kick things off, too.

The Penguins and Rangers are vying for the Metropolitan Division crown along with the New York Islanders (currently on top) and the Washington Capitals. While Pittsburgh currently holds a four-point edge on New York, the Rangers have a game in hand, so the gap could narrow or widen depending upon how Sunday afternoon’s contest shakes out.

The Rangers aren’t just the hotter of the two teams, they’re flat-out one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

They’ve won 14 of their last 17 games while being strong against the Penguins (2-0-1 this season) and really cleaning up against the division in general (12-3-1 vs. Metro teams).

After a tough first month, Henrik Lundqvist has been the clearest driving force of this turnaround, as he’s resumed his annual Vezina-caliber work. The Rangers boast a nice array of offensive pieces, with Rick Nash’s strong season and Martin St. Louis’ steady production standing out. (Though Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan are key contributors in their own right.)

The Penguins haven’t been so strong against the Metro, going 6-7-3 in the division so far this season. They’ll bring an interesting look into this game, as Sidney Crosby hopes to continue building chemistry with David Perron. It’s interesting to note that Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are currently tied for the team lead with 50 points.

It all shapes up to be a test for two teams who hope to be key figures in their division and in the Eastern Conference in general.

Kessel: Leafs ‘can’t go through stretches like this’

Phil Kessel; Peter Horachek

The San Jose Sharks handed the Toronto Maple Leafs their third straight loss and fifth consecutive road defeat on Thursday night. It wasn’t pretty as San Jose generated a 3-1 edge and fired 42 shots on goal to Toronto’s 25.

Honestly, the Maple Leafs’ recent numbers are ugly any way you slice it.

  • They have just three wins since Dec. 18 (3-11-0).
  • Toronto has lost six of seven since 2015 rolled around.
  • The Buds have only won once in four games under interim head coach Peter Horachek.
  • Their offense has really gone dry, scoring a single goal in a three-game road trip through California (the tab in those three losses: nine goals for opponents, one for Toronto).

Is it luck?

There was some positive buzz surrounding the Maple Leafs when Horachek first took over. From a big picture standpoint, some of that may stand, at least for those who cringed at Randy Carlyle’s system.

Losing games tends to sour such optimism, however, as Phil Kessel noted to TSN.

“In this league you can’t go through stretches like this,” Kessel said. “Obviously it’s disappointing here. I think we’re playing decent hockey, but we’re just not winning any games.”

It’s bad enough that Kessel is throwing around terms like “slay the dragon.”

Pattern continues

The team is generally saying all the right things, yet as much as they talk about gripping sticks too tightly and needing more bounces, Toronto may just lack the makeup to get things done.

In the last three games, they’ve generated 25, 28 and 19 shots on goal. It’s no secret that they allow more pucks on their net than they, averaging 29 shots on goal per night while giving up 33.5.

To little surprise, this slump is being met with harsh criticism in the media … criticism that’s increasingly difficult to dismiss:

Are the Maple Leafs suffering from bad luck or are they just plain bad? That may be a matter of debate, but the bottom line is that Toronto is quickly fading from the East playoff bubble picture.

With six of their next eight games on the road, this rough stretch may very well continue, too.