Author: James O'Brien

Islanders get Hamonic back against Sharks

The New York Islanders have been struggling to stop opposing teams from scoring, so tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks seems especially foreboding. At least they’ll be close to full strength on defense, however.

Travis Hamonic appears primed to return to the lineup in exchange for Brian Strait tonight, according to New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple.

Injuries have clouded how the new-look Islanders defense might look as the 2014-15 season goes on.

While the team is still working Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy into the mix (with quite a bit of success, of course), Lubomir Visnovsky has only played in four games while Hamonic’s been limited to six. Both blueliners figure to be key pieces to this defense.

Hamonic, 24, probably won’t average more than 25 minutes per night like he did last season thanks to his team’s improved talent in the top four, yet he’s still expected to be a key contributor.

Of course, some of the burden falls upon goalies Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, who aren’t off to great start so far with the Isles.

On paper, tonight’s game against the Sharks seems like it has the potential to be another track meet-type game, but the Islanders are better equipped if Saturday instead turns out to be a tighter contest thanks to Hamonic’s return.

Goalie nods: Anton Forsberg debuts for battered Blue Jackets

Ottawa Senators v Columbus Blue Jackets

News and notes from the crease …

Forsberg’s first

With Sergei Bobrovsky on the shelf, it looks like the Columbus Blue Jackets will give Anton Forsberg his first career NHL start tonight.

Here’s a quick Forsberg bio for those in the crowd wondering … “Anton who?”


Forsberg faces Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils in his debut.

Crawford’s back

The Chicago Blackhawks sent Scott Darling back to the minors (to the relief of Antti Raanta, who was likely sweating Darling’s strong work) as Corey Crawford appears ready to return. At the moment, it looks like James Reimer will be in net for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are wrapping up a back-to-back set.

Elsewhere …

Flyers at Panthers: Steve Mason strives for his first win of 2014-15 with Philly while Roberto Luongo’s in net for Florida.

Jets at Rangers: Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg and Henrik Lundqvist for New York.

Capitals at Lightning: Braden Holtby starts for Washington, Ben Bishop goes for Tampa Bay.

Coyotes at Hurricanes: Mike Smith tries to get it together with Arizona while Cam Ward continues Carolina’s quest for a win.

Senators at Bruins: Robin Lehner’s in for Ottawa, Tuukka Rask likely for Boston.

Sabres at Penguins: Jhonas Enroth gets thrown to the wolves by Buffalo while Marc-Andre Fleury is looking like a workhorse so far for Pittsburgh.

Stars at Wild: Dallas seems to be leaning toward Kari Lehtonen while Minnesota rolls with Darcy Kuemper.

Avalanche at Blues: Semyon Varlamov goes for Colorado while Brian Elliott hopes that his goalie mask protects him from the bug going around the St. Louis locker room.

Canucks at Oilers: Ryan Miller starts for Vancouver while Ben Scrivens continues to be the go-to guy for Edmonton.

Islanders at Sharks: Jaroslav Halak hopes to stop New York’s run of bad goaltending while Antti Niemi is in net for San Jose.

Video: Gordie Howe watches as Red Wings fans cheer him on

Gordie Howe, Gerry St. Germain

With his family by his side, Gordie Howe witnessed Friday’s outpouring of support from Detroit Red Wings fans. Murray Howe shared video of that moment:

In case you’re wondering, this is the presentation that the 86-year-old icon was watching:

It’s not the only time the hockey community expressed its support for “Mr. Hockey” this week, yet considering his impact on “Hockey Town,” that was probably an especially meaningful moment for one of the true icons of the sport.

Sharks send struggling sophomore Hertl to fourth line

San Jose Sharks v New Jersey Devils

It sounds like San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl will leave the nurturing cocoon that is the Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski line. In fact, there might be some chance that he’ll watch Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders* in street clothes.

In other words, Hertl’s been bumped down to the fourth line and may even be a healthy scratch tonight, according to’s Kevin Kurz.

Update: Kurz reports that doesn’t sound like Hertl will sit out tonight’s game.

Really, when you look at the numbers, it’s easy to see why.

After showing some of that rookie year promise in his first four games (two goals on just six shots), the 20-year-old hasn’t scored another goal. He only has one assist in his last eight games. Hertl’s possession stats are fine, yet he’s not a defensive dynamo at this point in his career, so such a prolonged slump does indeed call for action.

As Kurz would say, he’s riding the “struggle bus.”

Honestly, as electric as his Dustin Brown-abbreviated debut season was, those of us who’ve been around the Jonathan Cheechoo/Sergei Samsonov block wondered how much of Hertl’s brilliant work came down to lining up with Thornton.

Even if “Jumbo Joe” inflates his numbers, the Sharks still have plenty to gain in getting Hertl back on track. Maybe a demotion or even a night in the press box will do the still-promising young forward some good.

* – Airing on NBCSN, by the way.

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks, Islanders close out season series

Brent Burns, Jaroslav Halak
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the San Jose Sharks host the New York Islanders at the SAP Center at 10:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks enter November with a similar goal: avoid many of their pitfalls from October.

San Jose might be feeling a little better about things lately, as the Sharks just ended a three-game road trip with a 2-0-1 mark. That’s not to say that everything’s perfect (they’re still just 6-4-2 and two of those games went to shootouts), yet things look brighter than they did considering their recent four-game skid.

After starting the season with a four-game winning streak, the Islanders are stumbling lately. They’ve lost two games in a row by a combined score of 8-3 and have dropped four of six. They face a tough first half of November, too, as this is the second game of a five-game road trip against Western Conference teams.

Similar strengths and weaknesses

There are some interesting parallels between the two squads. Both boast offenses that can unleash torrents of shots, yet the Sharks and Islanders would likely acknowledge that they’ve been struggling to protect their own nets, as well.

In 10 games, the Islanders have allowed 36 goals while the Sharks ceded 34 in 12 contests. Some of the Isles struggles are on Jaroslav Halak and Chad Johnson, though: the Islanders are out-chancing opponents by more than three shots per game (32.8 vs. 29.6).

Islanders search for answers

One would think that offense wouldn’t the biggest concern for Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, yet it appears that he’s done some line juggling in preparation for tonight’s game.

Brock Nelson will play on the wing with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, Ryan Strome will center Anders Lee and Matt Martin while Cory Conacher gets knocked down to a grinding line, according to New York Newsday.

“We’ve given it 10 games; now we’re going to see what Brock can do up there,” Capuano said on Friday. “That’s also our first power-play unit, so it makes sense to try it five-on-five.”


Fans of explosive hockey might be disappointed to learn that the Sharks and Islanders will meet for the last time (barring a Stanley Cup Final series) in 2014-15 tonight. The Isles won the teams’ Oct. 16 meeting 4-3 via a shootout as John Tavares and Kyle Okposo dueled Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. That game came before both squads staggered through the rest of October, so it will be interesting to see if tonight’s action is any different.

There’s a pretty good chance it will be exciting, though.

Note: John Scott won’t be in the lineup tonight, so it sounds like there won’t be any attempted retribution for his hit on Mikhail Grabovski.