Jason Brough

Pens recall pair of d-men, putting Schultz’s status into question (Updated)

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The Pittsburgh Penguins — in the wake of Olli Maatta’s surgery — have recalled a pair of defensemen, Cameron Gaunce and Steve Oleksy, from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The fact two d-men were recalled also calls into question the status of Justin Schultz.

Schultz was forced to leave last night’s victory over Winnipeg after turning his back on Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who proceeded to drive Schultz into the glass from behind.

The way Schultz’s head hit the glass, there’s reason to wonder if he suffered a concussion on the play. The 26-year-old is enjoying a fine season with the Pens, with nine goals and 30 assists in 56 games.

Update:

The Pens are in Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets tonight.

Pre-game reading: Manning hopes feud with McDavid is over now

— Up top, Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning took on a pretty tough customer last night in Edmonton, dropping the gloves with Oilers forward Patrick Maroon.

— Manning hopes that by fighting Maroon, it’s officially the end of his feud with Connor McDavid: “Even their guys, Patrick said ‘good job’ afterward. We would do the same thing if one our superstars got hurt. I understand it.” Maroon did, indeed, give Manning credit for answering the bell, telling reporters: “He did a really good job and it’s something we’re going to drop now. We’re going to move forward here, and we’re not going to hear about it anymore.”  (CSN Philly)

— There were quite a few interested observers at last night’s Sabres-Avalanche game in Buffalo. According to the Denver Post, a “total of 24 scouts representing 17 NHL teams were assigned seats in the press box.” The Avalanche will definitely be sellers at the deadline, and the Sabres could be too depending how they fare in their next five games leading up to March 1. (Denver Post)

— According to Sportnet’s Doug MacLean, Antoine Vermette‘s 10-game suspension for physical abuse of an official will be reduced to five games. No reason for the reduction is provided by MacLean, but Vermette is expected to appeal the ban to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. (Sportsnet)

— The NHL’s Rangers and the NBA’s Knicks are both owned by the same guy, but boy are they different franchises, as the New York Times notes: “The most common explanation for how these teams share the same address but reside on different planets is that their embattled owner, James L. Dolan, attracted by the pizazz and celebrity culture of the N.B.A., has meddled in the affairs of the Knicks, with lousy results. By generally leaving Rangers executives alone, Dolan has allowed them to do their jobs well.” (New York Times)

— Last night in St. Louis, Jake Allen‘s mask fell off and the referee didn’t notice. So the Blues’ goalie actually stood in there and made a save, staring down Vancouver’s Jayson Megna without any facial protection. Afterwards, Allen’s coach, Mike Yeo, had this to say: “It’s pretty scary when the guy is coming down and he’s ready to shoot. In that area, where he was getting the puck, more often than not, they’re shooting high, so that was a little bit scary for sure. He stood in there. He’s crazy.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Enjoy the games!

Marner day-to-day after crashing into boards Wednesday

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Toronto rookie Mitch Marner is day-to-day with an apparent shoulder injury after being forced to leave Wednesday’s loss in Columbus.

From the Canadian Press:

Leafs head coach Mike Babcock says he doesn’t know if the star rookie will be able to play Saturday against Ottawa.

The 19-year-old winger missed practice on Friday morning.

Marner crashed into the boards late in the second period of the 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets. He tried to stay in the game, but eventually departed for the dressing room early in the third.

Marner has a team-high 48 points in 56 games. The Leafs, currently clinging to the second wild-card spot in the East, certainly won’t want to lose the 19-year-old for long.

If Marner can’t go tomorrow, expect Nikita Soshnikov to take his spot in the lineup.

Frustration reaching peak levels for Stars and their coach

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The Dallas Stars are one frustrated hockey team.

Last night’s 3-1 loss to the Wild was just their latest setback. Afterwards, the comments were telling.

“I don’t know if I have ever been through a stretch like this,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said, per the Dallas Morning News. “That first period was puck possession, and we did a good job in all areas, and we come away with nothing again. The bounces aren’t going our way.”

“I’m kind of at a loss for words right now,” forward Patrick Eaves told reporters. “I thought we’ve been playing some pretty good hockey and not getting results. It’s just the way it’s going, but we’ll work our way out of it.”

The Wild opened the scoring with just one second left in the first period on a power-play goal by Ryan Suter. The Stars had dominated early on, but couldn’t beat Minnesota’s backup, Darcy Kuemper.

Dallas has now dropped six of its last seven and sits seven points back of Calgary for the second wild-card spot. With the March 1 trade deadline looming, it appears GM Jim Nill will be a seller. Eaves and Patrick Sharp are both pending UFAs who could be auctioned off.

It has been an extremely disappointing season for the Stars, last year’s Central Division champs. There was frustration even before the games started, with Valeri Nichushkin bolting for the KHL. Then came all the injuries, and the goaltending never improved either.

For Nill, it’s going to be a challenging offseason. He has to fix the goaltending somehow, but first he has to decide if Lindy Ruff is the right coach.

How quickly things can change in the NHL. Ruff was a Jack Adams finalist in 2016. Now he’s on an expiring contract, with no guarantee of a job next season.

Sutter pins loss to Coyotes on Budaj

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Peter Budaj has been a great story for the Los Angeles Kings. The 34-year-old goalie wasn’t even supposed to be in the NHL this season, until an injury to Jonathan Quick forced him into action. Budaj has 26 victories, tied for seventh most in the league with Henrik Lundqvist.

All that being said, Budaj has struggled in his last four outings, surrendering 16 goals in all. Last night, his coach called a spade a spade after a 5-3 loss to Arizona in which the Kings outshot the Coyotes 44-22.

“I don’t think our goaltending was very good tonight,” said Darryl Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “Big saves and bad goals are the difference in most hockey games now.”

Sutter added, “I’m sure [Budaj] would like to have three of the four goals back.”

The fifth Coyotes goal was scored into an empty net, sealing the loss for the Kings, who remained one point back of Calgary for the second wild-card spot.

Quick, meanwhile, is not expected to return until early March, so it’ll be up to Budaj to carry the mail until then.

L.A.’s other goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, is 2-7-1 with an .879 save percentage and hasn’t made a start in almost a month.

The Kings’ next game is Saturday at home to Florida.