Author: James O'Brien

San Jose Sharks v New York Rangers

Struggling Sharks bump Pavelski down to third line

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.)

Blues recall Jaskin, place Stastny on IR

Phoenix Coyotes v St. Louis Blues

After adding Paul Stastny to what was already a deep group this past offseason, the St. Louis Blues built up some hype as a team that might turn the corner. Now they’re off to a 2-3-1 start and just placed Stastny on IR.

Placing Stastny on injured reserve (with what is believed to be a shoulder injury) opens up room to recall Dmitrij Jaskin (pictured*) from the AHL.

The Blues selected Jaskin, 21, in the second round (41st overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft. He has 20 games of NHL experience overall, with 18 of them coming last season (one goal and one assist). He’s been productive with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves so far in 2014-15, scoring four points in as many games.

It’s unclear if Jaskin will get much of a chance to make an impact with the Blues, who hope to get on track starting with tomorrow’s challenge against the Chicago Blackhawks. To put things mildly, Ken Hitchcock isn’t very happy with his team’s recent play.

Stastny, 28, is considered “week-to-week.” He scored four points in his first four games with the Blues before suffering this injury.

* – Amusingly enough, Jaskin was wearing Stastny’s No. 26 last season.

‘Resilient’ Blue Jackets leave Sharks worried about defense

Columbus Blue Jackets v San Jose Sharks

While the Columbus Blue Jackets revel in seeing signs of last year’s rising squad in a 5-4 comeback win, that same game left the San Jose Sharks worrying about their defense.

“There were a lot of things that happened in this game that remind me of what this team is,” Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards said, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline. “Last year, our identity was that of a resilient team. And this, tonight, was a resilient win.”

The Blue Jackets found themselves down 2-0 and 4-3 during a wild game, yet they clawed back both times. Columbus can thank Scott Hartnell and his career-high four assists for much of that success, with his “kick-pass” ranking as maybe the key highlight:

All four of Hartnell’s helpers were considered primary assists, including the Mark Letestu game-winner, which came with less than 30 seconds remaining:

As’s Kevin Kurz notes, the Sharks are developing a disturbing pattern of poor finishes and blown leads:

The Sharks have scored first in six of eight games, and hold a 10-1 advantage in the first period overall, best in the league. In the third period, however, they have been outscored 12-6.

These defensive issues haven’t gone unnoticed by head coach Todd McLellan:

The question remains: how much can the Sharks expect to improve on defense? While Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart were getting long in the tooth, the franchise let both of them go and didn’t really improve on the blueline (beyond moving Brent Burns back into that group). While Marc-Edouard Vlasic and others have some talent, it’s unclear if San Jose boasts the defensive depth to stick with the best.

Whatever the case may be, the Sharks must play better with leads or a season that started with promise could end in a grim way.

/Checks for broken record.

Here are full highlights of the game:

Red-hot Quick sets new Kings’ franchise shutout record

St Louis Blues v Los Angeles Kings

If the two Stanley Cup rings weren’t enough, Jonathan Quick continues to make an indelible mark as the most important goalie in Los Angeles Kings history by setting individual records as well. The latest one to fall was the franchise shutouts mark, as he stopped all 29 Buffalo Sabres shots for the 33rd shutout of his career.

(Los Angeles beat Buffalo 2-0.)

The 28-year-old previously tied Rogie Vachon’s mark at 32 with his 43-save shutout of the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 16. Quick managed to rack up goose eggs at a faster pace than Vachon, to boot:

Quick: 33 shutouts in 341 games played
Vachon: 32 shutouts in 389 games with the Kings

Quick also beefed up his franchise-record win total to 180 tonight, putting him nine ahead of Vachon.

While it’s fair to say that Quick has benefited from playing on the best teams the franchise has ever trotted out,* it looks like his name will only loom larger over this team’s records as time goes on.

Looking beyond the team, Quick has been one of the hottest goalies in the NHL after a tough start to the season. In his past four starts, Quick generated four wins, two shutouts and stopped 143 out of 145 shots.

* – Apologies to the likes of Marcel Dionne, Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille.

Wild’s Kuemper generates third shutout in fourth start of 2014-15

Darcy Kuemper

The Minnesota Wild went through protracted negotiations with Darcy Kuemper this offseason. If the beginning of his 2014-15 campaign is any indication, maybe the Wild should have pushed for a long-term deal.

Kuemper, 24, stopped all 26 of the Arizona Coyotes shots on Thursday to guide Minnesota to a 2-0 win. He now has three shutouts in just four starts and has stopped 96 of the 98 shots he’s faced so far in 2014-15.

This hot start produces quite the ridiculous stat line: 3-1-0, .980 save percentage and a .50 GAA.

Of course, there are some catches. He’s only faced 30 shots once (his second shutout of the Colorado Avalanche) and his three wins came against ailing Arizona and the Avs. He fell to the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 17, although Corey Perry scored one of those tallies, so it’s not that much of a downer.

Here’s a fun fact from the NHL that does a great job of showing how rare Kuemper’s accomplishment is while also warning against getting too excited about small sample size successes:

Pascal Leclaire hasn’t seen NHL action since the 2010-11 season, but he did make an estimated $13.5 million before things dried up.