Author: James O'Brien

Carolina Hurricanes v Pittsburgh Penguins

Shot in the arm? Penguins call up Megna


The Pittsburgh Penguins grabbed a point on Friday, but they admitted that they didn’t look very sharp against the New York Islanders. Perhaps calling up Jayson Megna might give them a boost in tonight’s rematch, then?

It’s unclear if another Penguins forward is sidelined (beyond Pascal Dupuis), as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dave Molinari notes. Even if everyone else is healthy, it might make sense to give Megna a look, as he’s been on a hot streak this month:

The 24-year-old appeared in 36 games with the Penguins last season, scoring five goals and nine points.

The Hockey News describes him as “an energy forward with a little upside,” which might be just what the Penguins need for a better showing tonight.

What, exactly, needs to change for Edmonton?

Dainius Zubrus, Viktor Fasth

It’s not even December and the Edmonton Oilers already find themselves in their second five-game losing streak.

For all the talk about the Oilers making improvements, David Perron seems to feel like it’s the same old song and dance, as the Canadian Press reports.

“Something has to change,” Perron said. “When you are making those mistakes, something needs to happen. They are the same mistakes we were doing last year. We keep talking about how much better we are this year, but for me it is the same record now that we had last year. It is not better.

“It is pretty frustrating.”

Taylor Hall backed up such sentiments, saying “It’s not fun to be on losing streaks” and “It’s a tough way to come to the rink.”

More on last night’s loss to the Devils here.

At this point, people are tired of the Oilers being tired of their lack of improvements, something Hall acknowledged during the offseason.

So, everyone’s frustrated and flabbergasted, but the question is: how do the Oilers improve their lot?

Let’s take a quick look at a few different components of Edmonton’s team to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Respectable possession stats

Maybe file this under “all the talk of the Oilers improving,” but the Oilers are ranked 12th in score-adjusted Fenwick, which obviously doesn’t scream “dominant” but it also doesn’t seem to indicate a team that’s 6-12-2.

One potential ray of hope: the Oilers’ PDO (a stat that can often indicate if a team is generally getting good or bad puck luck by adding its save percentage and shooting percentage) is 96.92, the second-worst mark in the NHL.

(Copper & Blue goes deeper here.)

Special teams

The Oilers are tied with the Colorado Avalanche for 25th in the NHL with a 13.4 percent success rate on the power play. They are tied with Colorado and the Nashville Predators with nine PP goals, the 24th-ranked total.

Edmonton has killed 80 percent of its penalties, good for 18th in the NHL. Allowing 11 power-play goals ties them with several teams for seventh in that penalty-killing stat.


Despite changing things up in net, the Oilers are still receiving poor goaltending.

Ben Scrivens is 4-8-1 with a .895 save percentage while Viktor Fasth is 2-4-1 with a .891 save percentage.

Perhaps their netminders get hung out to dry with sloppy play, but those numbers are still at the “bad backup” level. Worse yet: that PDO optimism might be somewhat dissolved if Edmonton simply can’t find respectable goaltending.


As much as people bash head coach Dallas Eakins – and the jury is certainly out on him – it’s difficult to tell how much of the Oilers’ issues are based on personnel and how much these problems come down to X’s and O’s.

Saying “make the power play and goalies better” is one thing, but pulling that off is another. Still, the one bit of hope is that the team is making strides at even strength.

That probably won’t be enough to silence critics … or make things any less frustrating for their players.

Ruff calls Stars’ struggles ‘the biggest test I’ve ever been through’

Lindy Ruff

The Dallas Stars were supposed to make a stand on Tuesday night. Instead, they fell flat on their faces once again, falling to 1-5-4 at home as the Carolina Hurricanes topped them 6-4.

To their credit, the Stars did a decent job not sounding like broken records to the Dallas Morning News, even if they understandably failed to provide an adequate solution to their problems.

One thing’s clear: head coach Lindy Ruff still supports beleaguered starting goalie Kari Lehtonen, even considering the workhorse Finn’s very disappointing start to 2014-15.

“He’s not going to like his game … I didn’t like his game,” Ruff said. “He’s been my guy and he’s going to continue to be my guy but he needs help. We can criticize those goals but we made some plays that we don’t need to make that hurt us.”

Simply put, the Stars failed in Dallas once again, something Jason Spezza described as “the story of our season so far.”

Defending Big D backs up the feeling that this is a team searching aimlessly for answers:

Everything that had gone wrong in the past six weeks continued to go wrong, and not only did the Stars not show any progress but continued to regress and with each goal scored against — looked more and more out of sync, out of sorts and exactly like a hockey team that has no idea how to fix what is wrong.

It’s a situation that’s leaving Ruff dumbfounded, which is saying something since he’s currently in his 17th NHL season as a head coach.

“This is the biggest test I’ve ever been through.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone through anything like this in the home building,” Ruff told the DMN. “We drew up a little bit of a different game plan. I thought if I got Eakin, Seguin and Benn out against some certain individuals that we could get them on the board and get them going.  You get one thing going and another goes sideways. We’ve had great games here where we just couldn’t get that big save to win the game. You also need one less big mistake at certain times.”

It might seem melodramatic to argue that the Stars are running out of time to get things together, but considering how competitive the Central Division and Western Conference is shaping up to be, it certainly feels like the clock is ticking.

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers host Flyers on Rivalry Night

Zack Stortini, Tanner Glass

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the New York Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Madison Square Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The last time the Philadelphia Flyers faced the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, New York knocked them out of the playoffs with a 2-1 win in Game 7 of a first-round series. Considering the Rangers’ long run to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, it’s easy for some to forget how close they were to falling to Philly … but the Flyers probably haven’t forgotten.

Both proud franchises are stumbling a bit coming into “Rivalry Night.”

The Rangers are technically ahead of the Flyers in standings points (18 to 16), yet they’ve required two more games to get there; ultimately they’re both in the same spot.

The Rangers are on a three-game losing streak, including Monday’s 5-1 loss to former captain Ryan Callahan and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most troubling is that New York only has one win in its last six games.

Things might not seem as dire for Philly – its current slump was preceded by three straight wins – yet the bottom line is that both teams have a lot of work to do at this point in the 2014-15 campaign.

In and out of the lineups

Wednesday serves to be a challenge for red-hot Flyers forward Brayden Schenn. He has three goals and seven points in the last five games, and with Claude Giroux on the shelf, Schenn is getting a shot at first-line duty between R.J. Umberger and Jakub Voracek.

Voracek’s been outrageous so far this season, with 26 points in 16 games. That ties him for the NHL scoring lead with Sidney Crosby, who has played in one extra contest this season.

There’s a chance that Andrew MacDonald and Luke Schenn may return to the mix for Philly tonight, although head coach Craig Berube seems to be betting against that.

With Henrik Lundqvist struggling mightily, perhaps Cam Talbot can right the ship much like he did early last season? He’s getting his first start in six games tonight.


Will either team start to get it together tonight? Maybe, maybe not … but it could be an especially hostile edition of “Rivalry Night.”

Parise, Suter expect Wild’s father-son trip to be emotional

Detroit Red Wings v Minnesota Wild

Normally, father-son road trips are a great time for NHL players to bond with their dads. With Bob Suter’s passing and J.P. Parise’ health fading, it could be a difficult time for Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

“It’s going to be hard,” Suter said. “It was something he had looked forward to. We had talked about it. We went to Florida in the middle of August on vacation, and we talked a lot about this trip.”

Suter, 29, deserves a lot of credit for rejecting head coach Mike Yeo’s offer to cancel the trip in respect for what the two prominent Wild players are going through.

Then again, when you consider the memory he shared about his father’s fish-out-of-water presence during a previous trip, it’s easy to see why he wants his teammates to enjoy similar experiences.

“We would have so many stories in the summertime after these trips,” Suter said, laughing. “My dad would wear his work boots to the team meals and everyone was just like, ‘Who is this guy?’ He would drink his soup out of the bowl to finish it and everybody would just be staring.

“He just did these funny little things that a guy from east-side Madison would do. He wasn’t used to the nice hotels and things like that.”

That’s tremendous.

Parise, 30, admitted that it will be sad to be without his dad, but he’ll spend that time with Ryan Suter. The bond the two share is a big reason why they both signed in Minnesota in the first place, so it sounds like it will help them get through what could be a bittersweet road trip.

For more, check out the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s great piece on the sad situation.