Author: James O'Brien

Linda Blair

PHT Morning Skate: Is an ‘exorcism’ needed in Edmonton?


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In light of Taylor Hall’s injury and Andrew Ference’s suspension, the Hockey News’ Adam Proteau wonders if the Edmonton Oilers need an “exorcism.” A little late for the Halloween themes, eh? (THN)’s Kevin Weekes probably knows a thing or two about goalie masks considering his career as a backup netminder, yet he exceeded expectations with this robust history of mask art. (

Grant Fuhr sympathizes with Martin Brodeur, whose ego is taking a hit considering his inability to find a gig. (AP)

Hungry for some hockey X’s and O’s? Evan Sporer provides an in-depth breakdown of how New York Islanders dynamic duo John Tavares and Kyle Okposo keep opponents off balance with faceoff strategies. (SBNation)

Every now and then, a team loses goalies in quick succession, forcing a bizarre backup situation. The Anaheim Ducks encountered such a problem this weekend, ushering in the welcome sight of Dwayne Roloson back in goalie pads:

Bruins confirm Julien’s extension

Claude Julien, Peter Chiarelli
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The Boston Bruins confirmed that they’ve signed head coach Claude Julien to a contract extension. While reports indicated that it’s a three-year deal, Boston merely deems it a “multi-year contract.”

(The NHL: where teams are needlessly opaque about more than just injuries.)

It’s easy to forget the sorry state the Bruins were in before Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli turned things around. This is Julien’s eighth season behind the bench in Boston.

Perhaps the worst criticism you can lob at Julien is that he seemingly butts heads with the occasional finesse player. Forgive the potential oversimplification, but some might argue that he was at least part of the reason that the team eventually traded the likes of Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin.

Even if that’s true, the Bruins should gladly take the limited “bad” with the abundant good; Chiarelli guided the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup win in decades during that exciting 2011 playoff run and helped them get to the final round in 2013.

They’ve now made the playoffs seven seasons in a row and won four division titles under Julien’s watch, so Boston’s enjoyed consistent success along with those especially high moments.

The 2014-15 season may very well provide his biggest test as a coach in some time, too. With Zdeno Chara out and other injuries/free agent losses threatening the team’s ability to dominate, Julien is tasked with getting the most out of the talent available.

Luckily, he’s shown a knack for doing just that.

Oilers’ Hall out 2-4 weeks with MCL sprain

Carolina Hurricanes v Edmonton Oilers
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The Edmonton Oilers announced that Taylor Hall will miss two-to-four weeks with an MCL sprain.

This backs up an earlier report that Hall, 22, would be out longer than day-to-day but isn’t dealing with a long-term issue.

Considering how frightening his crash into the Vancouver Canucks’ net was on Saturday night, missing a few weeks certainly isn’t the worst-case scenario:

Edmonton already seemed likely to hit some highs and lows in November, but with Hall out possibly the entire month, it could be a rough time for a team that’s battling to move away from “cellar dweller” status.

Hall has been his usually productive self in 2014-15, scoring six goals and 10 points in 11 games while sending 36 shots on goal.

Oilers fans are uncomfortably familiar with the downsides of his all-out style. He’s never topped the career-high 75 games he played last season, as he was limited to 65 in 2010-11 and 61 in 2011-12 (he played all but three games in the lockout-abbreviated 2013-14 season, though).

The only minor silver lining for Edmonton is that the Oilers are fairly deep at wing. Early on, it looks like Nail Yakupov might get a big opportunity, but David Perron, Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell rank among the players who could conceivably handle a promotion for at least a short amount of time.

Goalie nods: Cam Ward, Hurricanes boldly go for two wins in a row

New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes

News and notes from the crease …

Cam and Carolina try to build something

The Carolina Hurricanes won their first game of the season last night, everybody. /sets off fireworks

Maybe the most promising sign was the beleaguered goalie Cam Ward registered a shutout. With Anton Khudobin off to a pretty lousy start (after basically stealing the starting gig in 2013-14), Ward could improve his chances of being the unquestioned No. 1 with another strong performance tonight.

That’s not to say that he has an easy task at hand. The Hurricanes face a Los Angeles Kings team that’s angry (three-game losing streak) and is expected to get Anze Kopitar back. The expectation is that Jonathan Quick will be in net for Los Angeles.

Elsewhere …

Red Wings at Sabres: Jimmy Howard will be in net for Detroit against Michal Neuvirth and the Buffalo Sabres.

Coyotes at Capitals: A battle of the backups as Devan Dubnyk’s in for Phoenix while Justin Peters minds the Washington net.

Flames at Canadiens: Jonas Hiller attempts to strengthen his grip on the Flames’ top spot while Carey Price goes for Montreal.

Ducks at Avalanche: It at least looks like John Gibson gets a third start in four games for Anaheim against Colorado’s workhorse Semyon Varlamov.

The late games are quite a toss-up right now, be warned.

Jets at Blackhawks: With back-to-back games for both teams, this is a tough one as nothing’s been confirmed. It looks like Michael Hutchinson for Winnipeg and Corey Crawford for Chicago.

Predators at Canucks: These haven’t been confirmed either, yet it would make sense if Pekka Rinne played for Nashville while Eddie Lack spells Ryan Miller for Vancouver.

Franzen returns, moved to Detroit’s second line tonight

Detroit Red Wings v Toronto Maple Leafs

The Detroit Red Wings received some good news as they ready to face the bumbling Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

The good news: Johan Franzen is set to return, according to the Detroit News.

Almost as good news: Sliding “The Mule” in the lineup won’t kick out any part of a top Red Wings line that has been pretty hot lately.

Rather than dislodging one of Justin Abdelkader, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg from a trio that’s been very productive lately, Franzen will be part of a second line that includes Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm, the Detroit News reports.

Then again, “The Mule” hopes he doesn’t mess that up, either.

“They have tons of speed, so they can help me with that,” Franzen joked to the Detroit News. “I just hope Nyquist stays hot. I hope I’m not going to cool him off.”

Franzen, 34, scored two goals in the Oct. 17 contest in which he got injured, so he’s coming off a two-goal game much like Nyquist.

As much as top players have come through for Detroit, Franzen’s struggled with injuries and up-and-down play lately. The Red Wings could be that much more dangerous if he can stay healthy and approach his prime form.