Author: James O'Brien

Winnipeg Jets' goalie Ondrej Pavelec, of Czech Republic, stands in front of his goal before playing an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, British Columbia on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

Ondrej chases Ondrej: Jets’ Pavelec gets the hook

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It turns out Jonathan Drouin isn’t the only Tampa Bay Lightning forward having a field day against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

After Drouin and Steven Stamkos combined for two goals, Ondrej Palat and Vladislav Namestnikov added two, chasing Ondrej Pavelec at the end of the second period.

(Yes, Ondrej-on-Ondrej jokes were made.)

Here’s Palat’s goal:

This goal was originally credited to Palat, but will instead be credited to Namestnikov, putting a damper on some jokes.

(Click here for the other two goals, including Drouin’s first NHL mark.)

One can quibble amount which goals were Pavelec’s fault and which could be attributed to Winnipeg’s defense, but the bottom line is that he allowed four of them on 18 shots. Let’s be frank: Pavelec hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt in net..

The Jets turn to Michael Hutchinson for the rest of the game. Some might argue that, as unproven as Hutchinson is, it maybe should be that way for the rest of 2014-15.

Update: Hutchinson kept Tampa Bay from inflating the score, but the Lightning ended up winning 4-2.

Report: Hamonic might miss Isles’ Saturday game

New York Islanders v New York Rangers
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When Lubomir Visnovsky made his 2014-15 season debut on Thursday, it seemed like we’d finally get a look at the New York Islanders’ much-improved defense corps. It appears that won’t last long, as New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple reports that Travis Hamonic (pictured) is unlikely to play against the Dallas Stars on Saturday because of an upper-body injury.

Hamonic, 24, played through the issue yesterday, according to Staple. It doesn’t sound like the issue will be a long-term worry for the Islanders.

While that news isn’t ideal, Staple also reports that speedy winger Michael Grabner may resume skating next week. The 27-year-old underwent hernia surgery and is currently on IR.

Video: Drouin scores first NHL goal, shows early chemistry with Stamkos

J.T. Brown, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Drouin

The Good: Jonathan Drouin is fitting in nicely with Steven Stamkos on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mega Powers line.*

The Bad: Another Lightning player might be injured, as J.T. Brown left the ice following a hard hit by Winnipeg Jets tough guy Chris Thorburn. Update: Brown and Brett Connolly ended up missing the rest of the game and are doubtful for Saturday.

It’s a bit early to assume that Brown will join Victor Hedman and Ryan Callahan on the Lightning’s growing injury list, so let’s focus upon the positive for a bit instead.

As it turns out, Drouin to Stamkos is looking awfully positive:

Yep, that was pretty.

Drouin, 19, now has an assist in two straight games (and counting).

Update: He added his first career NHL goal, too, so now he has three points in his first three games (and possibly counting):

In other words, even with injuries piling up, it’s still difficult to avoid visions of great things for the Lightning franchise. Winning tonight’s game 4-2 didn’t hurt matters, either.

* – Consider this a placeholder nickname, as the combo might just stick … at least if Jon Cooper is smart.

Columbus activates Milano from IR, gets McElhinney back

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ comeback win against the San Jose Sharks already heightened moods. Now it looks like the team is getting a little healthier, even if it’s not on the level to dramatically improve their outlook in the short-term.

For one thing, the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports that Curtis McElhinney joined his teammates on Friday after dealing with head and/or neck issues. Sergei Bobrovsky is still expected to start against the Anaheim Ducks tonight, though.

Secondly, the team announced that 2014 first-rounder Sonny Milano was activated off of non-roster IR and sent to the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. The 16th pick of this year’s draft suffered facial fractures back in September.

Again, this is good news for a prospect and a backup, so the Blue Jackets still have some ways to go before they’re at full strength. Even so, these are a couple of nice breaks for Columbus.

Struggling Sharks bump Pavelski down to third line

San Jose Sharks v New York Rangers

After three straight regulation losses, it seems like the San Jose Sharks might be facing another crisis of confidence (though not quite at the level of this offseason’s borderline meltdown). Perhaps a notable lineup change might help the Sharks find some stability? reports that the Sharks will bump Joe Pavelski down to the third line against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. Here’s how San Jose’s top nine forwards are expected to look:

Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – James Sheppard

Matt Nieto – Joe Thornton – Tomas Hertl

Tommy Wingels – Pavelski – Chris Tierney

If one thing stands out about this alteration, it’s that it gives the Sharks better depth. Wingels has been drawing strong reviews as a depth winger even before his two-goal performance against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014-15 opener, but skating with a center like Pavelski could make him that much more effective.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan explained that this move is more about improving defense than creating more scoring chances.

“We’re kind of going in waves where we have a line or two that’s responsible and then one that falls off, and it varies,” McLellan said to “It’s not just the top lines or the third or fourth lines. It varies. We’re trying to find some balance defensively.

“I think offensively we’ve been fine. I’m not too concerned about creating chances or anything like that. It’s the play in our zone, and it comes from a variety of different areas. It’s not just one thing.”

Of course, the biggest defensive improvements would theoretically come from improving the defense, yet the Sharks don’t enjoy the same array of options among their blueline corps.

If nothing else, Saturday’s game against Buffalo could provide a confidence boost. The first real test for such a tweak – assuming this even sticks – would come against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)