James O'Brien

Calgary Flames' Jiri Hudler, from Finland, signs jerseys in the dressing room as team members show up for season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. Flames ended the season 27th in the NHL standings.  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)

Latest road bump in Hudler’s contract year: lower-body injury

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To put things mildly, this hasn’t been a strong contract year for Calgary Flames forward Jiri Hudler.

Here’s a quick way to tell that things aren’t going well for a hockey player: when there’s a story that boils down to “Well, at least he has a sense of humor about things.”

Saturday presented another wrinkle to his struggles, as his participation was limited thanks to a lower-body injury.

Perhaps this seemingly lingering issue may be part of the problem for the veteran winger?

Sometimes a little time off can do a slumping player some good, so we’ll see if he sits for a while. There still seems to be some optimism there.

People are really sticking it to 19-year-old Jake Virtanen for WJC flubs

Screen of Vancouver Province

Most people make mistakes at age 19. Few see their errors get the full-page newspaper treatment.

That’s what happened to Vancouver Canucks prospect Jake Virtanen on Sunday, as he was clearly scapegoated for Canada’s 6-5 loss to Finland in the 2016 World Juniors.

PHT’s Jason Brough ranked among those who shared this shot from the Vancouver Province:

That’s easily the harshest treatment, but shortly after taking some bad penalties that put Canada in a bad position, he seemed to be the talk of the town on Twitter:

This just in: the World Juniors tournament is kind of a big deal in Canada.

Virtanen (who, it feels worth repeating, is just 19) does indeed seem slated to return to the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks are standing up for the young player.

As painful as this can be, perhaps it will be a learning experience for the prospect, at least in the long run?

Huet treatment? Blackhawks loan Rundblad to Swiss league

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One

In a move that evokes memories of Cristobal Huet being shipped off many moons ago, the Chicago Blackhawks loaned defenseman David Rundblad to the Swiss National League’s ZSC Lions.

This comes after the Blackhawks initially waived and demoted the blueliner.

While there’s a Huet connection in NHL team (Blackhawks) sending an ill-fitting player to Switzerland, the big difference is that this doesn’t appear to provide Chicago with any extra cap relief.


Jonathan Drouin’s agent goes public with trade request from Lightning

Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin‘s agent Allan Walsh basically threw down the trade demand gauntlet on the Tampa Bay Lightning today.

It appears that Drouin’s latest demotion to the AHL is merely the last straw for the third overall pick of 2013 NHL Draft, as his stop-and-go development continues to be bumpy this season.

Walsh released a statement in which he revealed that a trade request was made to the Lightning in November, but it was kept private until this became an “untenable situation.”

This tweet from the Tampa Bay Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson seemed to provide some foreshadowing:

… And apparently the Lightning explaining the demotion as a matter of getting ice time after an injury did little to sway Drouin.

So, pessimistic Lightning fans may worry that the Lightning may lose a top overall pick (Steven Stamkos, via free agency) and another high-end prospect (Drouin, via trade) in what’s becoming an incredibly messy follow-up to a promising 2015 Stanley Cup Final run.

It’s tough not to wonder if some will at least partially blame Jon Cooper for his relationship with a couple of stars, considering his harsh criticisms of Drouin’s defensive work.

As far as the more immediate future goes:

Even if the Lightning were open with trading a promising (if struggling?) prospect, this becoming public knowledge doesn’t exactly put GM Steve Yzerman in a position of strength.

/starts popping popcorn

Habs confirm Weise’s injury from Winter Classic, estimate 2-3 week absence

Dale Weise,

The Montreal Canadiens confirmed Saturday’s report that Dale Weise will miss about 5-10 games with an upper body injury suffered during the 2016 Winter Classic.

Granted, they used slightly different terms, putting his absence at two-to-three weeks rather than estimating games, but it’s ultimately the same basic outlook.

In case you missed it, Weise was injured by a cross-check via Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins:

Weise has been playing out of his mind so far this season, so this stings, especially for a Canadiens team that finally looked alive after a troubling end to 2015.