Jason Brough

One bad game and the line blender comes out in Chicago


To nobody’s surprise, Coach Q flipped on the line blender this morning at Blackhawks practice, the day after a disappointing 5-2 loss to St. Louis at United Center.

Per Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, when the ‘Hawks take on the Predators tomorrow in Nashville, you can expect to see Artemi Panarin bumped up to Jonathan Toews‘ line, with Tyler Motte coming up to fill Panarin’s spot with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov.

Marian Hossa did not practice today, but is still expected to play against the Preds. It remains to be seen where he’ll skate, if it’s with Toews and Motte, or if he’ll take Motte’s spot on the third line. (Toews and Motte were flanked by Richard Panik at practice, so Hossa to the third line is a decent bet.)

Suffice to say, it was not a good start to the season for the Blackhawks, who lost the special teams battle with the Blues and were also outplayed at even strength. Chicago’s fourth line, comprised of Vince Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz, and Jordin Tootoo only received limited ice time, but when they did get out there the puck was almost exclusively in Chicago’s end. (Tootoo, who logged just 4:26 last night, could see his spot taken by Dennis Rasmussen against the Preds.)

Granted, it’s only been one game, but this was the worry for the Blackhawks. That they would have trouble replacing the likes of Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Ladd. That their bottom six, comprised mostly of youngsters, would be a weakness.

Four Blackhawks made their NHL debuts last night, two of them forwards (Motte and Schmaltz) and two on defense (Gustav Forsling and Michal Kempny). Forwards Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman barely have any NHL experience either.

“There’s definitely some learning going on,” head coach Joel Quenneville conceded after the loss, per AP.

“We didn’t do a whole lot of what we wanted to. Just our energy, speed and work ethic wasn’t quite there,” Toews said, per CSN Chicago. “So we have to regroup, try to come with that energy in the next one and obviously play a little bit smarter too. … As a group, we weren’t good enough tonight.”

Okposo (knee) out for season opener, but could play Sunday in Sabres’ second game


BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Aside from missing top-line center Jack Eichel, the Buffalo Sabres will open the season without their two top offseason additions, forward Kyle Okposo and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

Coach Dan Bylsma provided the update Thursday, before Buffalo hosts Montreal.

Okposo is still nursing a sore knee after being hit by a puck in practice. Bylsma said there’s a good chance he could play at Edmonton on Sunday, when the Sabres open a four-game road trip.

Kulikov is scratched after hurting his back during a preseason game two weeks ago.

Buffalo signed Okposo to a six-year contract in free agency and acquired Kulikov in a trade with Florida in June.

As for Eichel , Bylsma said the second-year star will miss “weeks and not days” after spraining his ankle in practice Wednesday.

Related: Eichel expected to miss at least a month with a high-ankle sprain

Hellebuyck gets the start in Jets’ season opener


It will be Connor Hellebuyck who gets the first crack in goal for the Winnipeg Jets. The 23-year-old will get the start tonight at home against Carolina, with Michael Hutchinson backing him up.

The Jets, of course, waived veteran Ondrej Pavelec earlier in the week and sent him to the minors, leaving Hellebuyck, 23, and Hutchinson, 26, to compete for the starting job.

“Two good young goalies here that have both had blocks of time where they look like they have the ability to become number-one guys,” said head coach Paul Maurice, per Global News. “And they need that opportunity to show it and they’ll get it here with the two of them.”

Hellebuyck is the favorite to emerge as starter. He’s been considered Winnipeg’s goalie of the future since becoming a star with UMass-Lowell, making a Frozen Four appearance in his freshman year (2012-13). He turned pro in 2014-15 and continued to put up solid numbers in the AHL. Last season, he made his NHL debut on Nov. 27 and finished with a .918 save percentage in 26 appearances for the Jets.

Though Hellebuyck was decent, the Jets, on the whole, did not get good goaltending last season. Hutchinson’s save percentage was .907, Pavelec’s was just .904.

Granted, that wasn’t all on the goalies; some of the responsibility has to be shared by the skaters in front of them. But if the Jets are going to make the playoffs, unless they plan to score like the Dallas Stars, that save percentage has to improve one way or the other.

The Penguins are no longer for sale

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are no longer for sale.

“We did look at a bunch of different things; one of them included the outright sale of the franchise. We’re not looking at that right now,” club CEO David Morehouse told KDKA Morning News in Pittsburgh. “We couldn’t be luckier to have owners like this in Pittsburgh.”

The Pens are co-owned by billionaire Ron Burkle and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.

It was first reported in June of last year that some or all of the team may be for sale. The asking price was later pegged at around $750 million.

Then in January came another report, this one saying that Lemieux was “miffed” at Burkle for “messing up the sale of” the franchise. (That report was quickly shot down in a joint statement.)

At the time, the Penguins did not look like a team that was going to win the Stanley Cup. They had recently fired their coach, Mike Johnston, and there had even been a report that Lemieux and Sidney Crosby were on the outs. (That report was also shot down.)

The Pens would, of course, go on to hoist the Cup in June, taking out the San Jose Sharks in six games.

Tough debuts for Elliott and Andersen, two goalies who were supposed to fix things


Six goals on just 27 shots was the final tally for Brian Elliott.

He allowed three of the first five Calgary shots to get past him.

And the sixth goal, by Edmonton rookie Jesse Puljujarvi, was a particularly bad one.

For Elliott, it was not the Flames debut he was hoping for. The Oilers would go on to win, 7-4, thanks to an empty netter by Jordan Eberle.

“It’s kind of one of those things — what could go wrong did go wrong,” Elliott said, per the Calgary Herald. “That’s not the way you want to start the season. New team, new coaches, doesn’t matter. You don’t want to start a new season like that. The good thing is we get these guys back at home (Friday). We’ll get back to the drawing board and we’ll get a win at home.”

The Flames get a rematch with the Oilers on Friday in Calgary, then it’s off to Vancouver for another game Saturday. Elliott will likely start one of those, with new backup Chad Johnson getting the other.

Elliott wasn’t the only goalie last night to struggle in his debut for a Canadian team. Toronto’s Frederik Andersen allowed five goals on 30 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to Ottawa.

“[Andersen] was not good enough, but he’d be the first one to tell you that,” Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said, per TSN.ca. “Thing about goaltending is, they pick you up lots of nights and some nights you’ve got to pick them up, that’s the way it is. That might be the most comfortable position on our team if you’re me. So I’m not going to spend any time worrying about that.”

Andersen signed a five-year, $25 million extension upon being traded to Toronto from Anaheim, so there’s no going back for the Leafs.

Elliott, meanwhile, remains a pending unrestricted free agent, though there has been talk of an extension.