Jason Brough

Pre-game reading: On Peter Budaj, who’s been a great story for the Kings

3 Comments

— Up top, Eric Staal reflects on his first year in Minnesota, which has gone rather well we’d say. The Wild committed just $10.5 million over three years to Staal. Quite the bargain for GM Chuck Fletcher.

— An excellent read on Peter Budaj, the 34-year-old netminder with the $600,000 contract who’s been so good for the Kings in the wake of Jonathan Quick‘s injury. “When you look at where I was at the beginning of the year, or maybe two years ago, not many people would give me this kind of a chance to become anybody. Nobody, I think, in the hockey world would believe that I’d be here. Not even me.”  (Sports Illustrated)

— The Winnipeg Jets have an interesting decision to make about Bryan Little. The 29-year-old center is eligible to sign a contract extension this summer, and he’d apparently love to do just that. But GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to be careful not to overpay. Though Little is an under-rated player, he’s already got 646 NHL games under his belt, and he’s getting to the point in his career where many players start to decline. (TSN)

— With all we’re learning about the long-term effects of concussions, it can be pretty darn scary to get one these days. Take it from Devils defenseman John Moore, who had to be stretchered off the ice on New Year’s Eve after getting hit from behind by Washington’s Tom Wilson. “For about a week, I really wasn’t myself at all,” Moore said. “I couldn’t remember things, I was angry all the time, and anxious. I know I wasn’t easy to be around, just not myself. It was scary, really scary.” The good news? Moore is hoping to return to New Jersey’s lineup soon, possibly even Sunday against San Jose. (Yahoo Sports)

Frederik Andersen plays a lot of games for the Maple Leafs, and he faces a lot of shots. In fact, as noted by Jonas Siegel of the Canadian Press: “The 27-year-old is on pace to face 2,173 shots in his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, in what would be the 15th highest total ever. Only 31 times in league history has a goaltender faced even 2,100 shots in a single season — Pekka Rinne and Cam Ward the last to do so five years ago.” Andersen stopped 38 of 40 shots in Thursday’s 2-1 OT loss to St. Louis. Though he didn’t get the win, it was a solid performance after four straight tough outings. (Canadian Press)

— Speaking of busy goalies, here’s an interview with Bruins starter Tuukka Rask, who had the following to say about the new, slimmer pants that all NHL netminders must wear now: “The way they feel, it will increase scoring, for sure.” Not all goalies feel the same way, but Rask believes the pants are “so much slimmer from your hips and thighs that some pucks that would normally hit your pants will go right through.” (ESPN)

Enjoy the games!

Detroit’s Ericsson to have season-ending wrist surgery

4 Comments

Jonathan Ericsson‘s season is over. The Red Wings defenseman will have surgery next week to fix his fractured wrist. The recovery time will be 12 weeks, GM Ken Holland told MLive’s Brendan Savage.

Ericsson suffered the injury last night when he was hit into the boards by Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom.

The Wings and Capitals were tied 1-1 when Ericsson went down near the end of the first period. With Backstrom in the penalty box for boarding, Detroit scored on the power play, but ended up losing, 6-3.

Ericsson, obviously, did not return to the game.

“You’re missing Jonathan Ericsson,” head coach Jeff Blashill said afterwards, per the Detroit Free Press. “People don’t have enough respect for what 6-foot-5, and good skating, or 6-foot-6, whatever he is, and good skating can do for you. When you are playing against big, physical men, you need guys that can go against them and handle them as he can.”

A shutdown defenseman, Ericsson will finish his year with one goal and eight assists in 51 games. The 32-year-old is signed for three more seasons at a cap hit of $4.25 million.

Sabres GM not actively shopping Evander Kane

Getty
3 Comments

Tim Murray likes what Evander Kane has done this season, and he isn’t about to trade him for peanuts.

But at the same time, the Buffalo Sabres would like to upgrade their defense, and Kane — who’s only signed through next season — is an obvious candidate to be moved by the general manager.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Murray told WGR 550 radio when asked if Kane could get traded ahead of the March 1 deadline.

“Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”

But?

“I’m not pursuing a trade with him,” Murray insisted. “I haven’t made a call, with regards to him, to other teams. I’m a big fan of his game. He plays in our top six. He plays a hard, gritty, heavy game — with speed. And that’s a rare, rare combination.”

Murray then repeated that he’s not shopping the player; nor is he quietly telling the media that Kane is available.

“He’s the type of guy I think we need, if we want to be competitive every night and be a playoff team,” said Murray.

The Sabres weren’t very competitive last night, falling 5-2 to the Ducks while getting outshot 44-26.

On top of that, they lost defenseman Cody Franson for at least the next two games. Buffalo plays at Toronto tomorrow and hosts Vancouver Sunday.

“Franson blocked a shot in his foot and more evaluation for today,” coach Dan Bylsma said, per The Buffalo News. “He is not going to be playing tomorrow or Sunday.”

The hope is that Franson is only out a short while, as he’s one of the Sabres’ pending unrestricted free agents who could get cashed in at the deadline. Contenders are always on the lookout for depth on defense, as evidenced last year by trades involving Roman PolakJohn-Michael Liles, Kris Russell, Justin Schultz, and Jakub Kindl.

As for Kane, even if he doesn’t get dealt at the deadline, he could still get moved this summer. On July 1, the 25-year-old winger will be able to sign a contract extension — and if a team is going to trade for him, it will surely want to keep him for more than a year.

Or, he could re-sign in Buffalo. It all depends if he wants to stay. And if he does, how badly do the Sabres want to keep him?

Kane has 16 goals and 10 assists in 43 games this season.

Related: About those Evander Kane trade rumors…

Cassidy putting his ‘imprint’ on the B’s, wants them taking chances

AP
9 Comments

Bruce Cassidy wants the Boston Bruins to go for it.

Take a risk to make a play.

Throw caution to the wind.

And if that doesn’t sound like Claude Julien, well, that’s probably the point.

“I’d rather see – we’re going to err on the side of hopefully aggression, playing on our toes early on here and then, you know, we’re going to have to dial it back in,” Cassidy told reporters after last night’s 6-3 win over the Sharks, his first game as interim coach.

“The day will come when we pay the price for that aggression and we’ll see from there when we find that happy medium. Tonight it worked out for us. I liked that our D were up and assertive in the neutral zone, killing plays, and trying to make quick-ups. Some nights it’s going to bite you so you have to find that balance, but we do want to play this way. We’ve said that for the last two days. We want to play on our toes and be a little more assertive in our overall game and see where it goes.”

It’s all part of Cassidy’s opportunity to put his “imprint” on the Bruins. That was the word GM Don Sweeney used Tuesday after firing Julien, who’d been on the job since 2007.

For all that Julien accomplished during his Boston tenure, including a Stanley Cup victory in 2011, he did have his share of critics. Mostly, they said he was too conservative, too defensive-minded, too unforgiving of mistakes that led to goals against — especially if the mistakes were made by youngsters.

Granted, it’s hard to argue with the success Julien enjoyed, and he’ll surely have job offers to consider very soon. But Sweeney did concede there were some philosophical differences between management and head coach. Enter Cassidy, with his philosophy of, “Everybody in the room is capable of scoring goals.”

Last night, the biggest goal the Bruins scored may have been by the fourth line.

To set the scene, it was the second period and the Sharks had made it 3-2.

Naturally, TD Garden was getting a bit nervous.

The Bruins made it 5-2 a few minutes later, on a terrific power-play goal by David Pastrnak, and they cruised to victory from there.

OK, so it was only one game. But the two points did put the B’s back into a playoff spot, displacing the slumping Flyers in the process.

The Bruins host Vancouver Saturday and Montreal Sunday. Win those and they can enter their bye week feeling pretty good about themselves, with a tough trip to California looming right after the break.

Torts: There was ‘zero emotion’ in Jackets’ loss to Canucks

AP
3 Comments

The Columbus Blue Jackets are now 7-9-1 since winning 16 games in a row. They had one of their worst losses of the season last night, falling 3-0 at home to a Vancouver team that entered on a four-game losing streak.

“There was zero emotion within the game, and for what reason I don’t know,” head coach John Tortorella said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “Nothing happens right if you don’t play with emotion. We’ve got to get that figured out.”

The Jackets were playing the first of a seven-game home stand. As such, they were hoping to get off to a fast, energetic start in their own rink.

“We need to reinvent ourselves and get the chip back on our shoulder,” Tortorella had said before the game. “It’s our home building. I think we have to get some consistency, how we start the game first of all, and make sure (Nationwide Arena) is a tough place to play.”

Tortorella did like the first three shifts his team played, “but then we — why? I don’t know — but we just…we didn’t play well.”

Credit to the Canucks, whose best player was goalie Ryan Miller. Vancouver also won the special-teams battle, scoring once on the power play — on a classic Sedins passing play, finished off by Loui Eriksson — then getting another pretty goal from Jayson Megna, who beat Sergei Bobrovksy just as a Columbus penalty was expiring.

Speaking of Bobrovsky, he was not the reason the Jackets lost. But it’s worth noting that his save percentage is a woeful .896 in 11 starts since the winning streak ended. He said at the All-Star Game that he was feeling “really good right now“; however, one wonders if fatigue has begun to set in.

Bobrovsky has started 43 games this season, the seventh-most in the NHL. Other busy goalies around the league have also been struggling, including Carey Price, Tuukka Rask, Martin Jones, and Frederik Andersen.

The Jackets’ next game is Saturday against Detroit. And if last night was a wake-up call, expect a much better, more energetic performance versus the Red Wings.

If, on the other hand, Columbus comes out flat again, expect a very unhappy coach.