Jason Brough

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets

With Byfuglien signed, what is Trouba’s future in Winnipeg?

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Congratulations to Jacob Trouba, who’s taken over from Dustin Byfuglien as Winnipeg’s most popular unsigned defenseman who may or may not be traded.

Trouba, 21, is a pending restricted free agent. And with Byfuglien locked up for another five years, now he’s the one being forced to answer the media’s questions.

“It’s definitely something new for me,” Trouba told the Winnipeg Free Press. “I haven’t really been around that. But it’s one of those things you can’t really control, so why worry about it?”

He didn’t offer much beyond that.

It’s not just Byfuglien’s big, new contract that has people wondering about Trouba’s future in Winnipeg. Tyler Myers is signed through 2018-19. All three are right shots.

Perhaps the most popular trade rumor involving Trouba has centered around Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, also a right shot.

But with the Lightning reportedly in the market for a d-man of Trouba’s ilk, Jonathan Drouin‘s name has also come up.

And that’s only two options. If the Jets do end up making Trouba available, there would be no shortage of suitors. The Boston Bruins would no doubt be interested. The Vancouver Canucks, too. Both those teams are desperate for a young, right-shot d-man.

That’s not to say the Jets can’t re-sign Trouba, but unless they could get him to accept a bridge deal (a la Ryan Murray, also a 2012 draft pick), they’d have a fair bit of cap space tied up on one side of the blue line, which may not be ideal for a team with weaknesses elsewhere.

Blackhawks waive Scuderi; will Bowman try to add a d-man?

Chicago Blackhawks Rob Scuderi takes a shot on goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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Just two months after he was acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh, Rob Scuderi has been put on waivers by the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 37-year-old defenseman has played 17 games for the defending champs, registering no points with a minus-6 rating. He’s only averaged 11:06 of ice time and has been a healthy scratch the past two games.

Scuderi is also signed through next season for a cap hit (for the ‘Hawks) of $2.25 million. No word yet what the Blackhawks intend to do with him should he clear waivers.

In last night’s 7-2 win over Toronto, the Blackhawks’ six d-men were Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Michal Rozsival, Viktor Svedberg, and Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Erik Gustafsson was the other healthy scratch.

With Scuderi on waivers, speculation can only increase that GM Stan Bowman will try to add a defenseman prior to the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

In a possibly related story, head coach Joel Quenneville has not been very happy with all the shots his team has been surrendering of late. It was 44 the other night against Anaheim, then 37 against Toronto.

“Our defensive zone coverage, too much time, too many shots and too much possession against us,” Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “That’s something we have to rectify and improve upon.”

That’s not all on the defense, of course — but some of it is.

Related: Oduya signs with the Stars — two years, $7.5 million

With games against the Stars and Kings, Blues to find out ‘if we’ve improved enough’

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
AP

The St. Louis Blues are 2-for-2 with winger Jaden Schwartz back in the lineup.

That’s no coincidence, according to coach Ken Hitchcock.

“By putting Schwartz in there, it allows us to spread the minutes out even more,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch. “We’re able to have a higher level of energy because of it and we’re able to have a higher level of energy later in the game because of it. To be effective the way we play, we’ve got to increase the volume in the offensive zone, and by having a high level of energy, we’re able to increase the volume. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting better at it.”

On Friday, the Blues beat the Panthers, 5-3, in Schwartz’s first game back from a fractured ankle. They beat the Lightning, 2-1, two days later.

Though Hitchcock would still like to see his team spend more time in the attacking zone — St. Louis has not eclipsed the 30-shot mark once in its last seven games — he’s “really looking forward” to this week’s home games against division leaders Dallas (tonight on NBCSN) and Los Angeles (Thursday) to find out “if we’ve improved enough.”

The Stars and Kings, after all, are the caliber of teams the Blues will need to defeat if they’re to make a deep playoff run. Dallas could even be a first-round opponent.

You can bet GM Doug Armstrong will be watching closely as well. The trade deadline is Feb. 29, less than two weeks away, and there’s reason to believe he could be active.

The Wild had ‘fun‘ last night, and it showed

Minnesota Wild interim coach John Torchetti is seen during first period NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, Canada, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Zach Parise pounced on a Vancouver turnover and ripped it high over the shoulder of Jacob Markstrom.

Then came the emphatic celebration. Parise punched the air before skating over to give Ryan Suter a big hug.

The Wild, as they took a 1-0 lead over the Canucks, were finally feeling good again.

“Right from the start of the game, there was a lot of energy,” Parise said. “To get started in the right direction, to get rewarded for hard work, we were excited, we were happy for each other. We were cheering each other on. It made the game fun. I know winning is fun, but throughout the game we had a lot of excitement.”

Indeed, John Torchetti’s first game as Minnesota’s interim head coach could not have gone much better. The Wild dominated the Canucks for much of the night, outshooting them 36-24 and, most importantly, outscoring them, 5-2.

“I just had a lot of fun,” said Torchetti, the Boston native who took over the Wild bench after Mike Yeo was fired this weekend.

He was asked about that word — fun.

“The game is fun,” he said. “I’ve always had fun. I might not look it on the bench, but I’m having fun. For players, working hard together – and it’s you against them – so it’s your team executing your team philosophy against the opponent. So let’s have fun doing what we do best.”

Granted, it was only one win, and the opponent was far from invincible. But Calgary and Edmonton aren’t invincible either, and the Wild play them next. Repeat Monday’s performance Wednesday and Thursday and it’s right back into the playoff picture.

“Just the feeling we had, the way we worked in the first period, we just weren’t going to be denied, no matter what happened,” said goalie Devan Dubnyk. “We played fast, and I think that’s what we got away from the last little while. You see what we can do when we do play like that.”

After ‘adversity’ in January, the Dallas Stars are back on track

Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) celebrates scoring a goal with teammate left wing Jamie Benn (14) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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Safe to say the Dallas Stars are out of their little funk.

Following a 1-5-2 stretch to kick off January, the Stars have gone 7-2-0 in their last nine and, in the process, regained top spot in the Central Division from the Chicago Blackhawks.

On Saturday, Dallas hosted the NHL-leading Washington Capitals and hung on to beat them, 4-3.

“I thought tonight we played as close to sixty minutes as you can play. Take the three goals away, which obviously we don’t want,” coach Lindy Ruff told the Stars’ website. “But structurally we didn’t do anything crazy, not even in the third period.”

To be sure, there remain questions about this Stars squad. Defensively, they rank 18th in the NHL. So, even with the league’s top offense, are they built for success in the playoffs? And in the shorter term, if defense is a concern, should GM Jim Nill try to address it ahead of the Feb. 29 trade deadline? (There’s no shortage of speculation that the Stars are in the market for a shutdown blue-liner.)

That said, the Stars have passed their “first true test of adversity this year,” and that’s a good sign with the postseason just a couple of months away now.

Dallas begins a three-game road trip tonight in Nashville.

“We’re right back on the road here against three more good teams,” said captain Jamie Benn. “We’ve just got to find a way to keep this going.”