Jason Brough

AP

AV shares key to Rangers’ winning ways

Like most hockey coaches, Alain Vigneault believes that a good defense is the most important ingredient of a good offense.

The Rangers’ head coach shared his thoughts today on his team’s current form, and how everything starts with coming back hard to defend.

“I think the biggest thing about our game right now is we defend well, in the sense that all our forwards are coming back real hard to the house and real quickly, permitting us to outnumber the opposition,” said Vigneault. “And then when we get the puck, it’s just north-south real quick.

“To tell you the truth, it’s not a lot different than my first or second year, if you remember we were one of the better five-on-five offensive teams, even last year as far as scoring. But defensively last year, I don’t think we were as committed to coming back as quick as we possibly could, and getting on the other team and trying to take their skill and their speed and their quickness away.”

Related: The Rangers had a ‘puck-moving’ problem

Indeed, the Rangers (7-3-0) are off to a rollicking start. Their past two outings have seen them blast Tampa Bay, 6-1, and embarrass St. Louis, 5-0. After 10 games, they boast the NHL’s top offense, averaging four goals per game.

“That’s a hell of a team,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters Tuesday. “They gave us a hell of a lesson. They are playing great team hockey and they just exposed any weakness we had. They exposed it. They’ve done it to a few teams.”

Tonight, the Rangers host the Edmonton Oilers, who are off to a pretty good start themselves, thanks in large part to a former Blueshirts backup. Cam Talbot has started all 10 games for the Oilers, going 7-2-1 with a .932 save percentage.

Prior to getting traded to Edmonton, Talbot started 34 games for the Rangers in 2014-15, the season that saw Henrik Lundqvist miss 24 games after a puck hit him in the throat. 

“When Hank was out for close to two months, Cam came in and played extremely well,” said Vigneault. “I think that’s where he found the confidence in himself to know that he could be a No. 1. That summer at the draft, we gave him the opportunity.”

Isles need better effort after ‘easily our worst game of the year’

3 Comments

The New York Islanders will be back on their much-maligned home ice tonight, hoping to put Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Tampa Bay well behind them.

“It was easily our worst game of the year from a lot of different standpoints,” forward Andrew Ladd told Newsday. “You get ticked off at the way it went, a bit embarrassed by it and you just want to get the team trying to feel good about themselves again.”

The Philadelphia Flyers (5-5-1) are the opponents tonight. While it’s still very early in the season, this is a key divisional game for the Isles (4-6-0), who are already three points out of a wild-card spot and five points back of third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Tuesday’s defeat was as bad as the score made it sound. The Isles got into penalty trouble early and were outshot, 30-12, in the first two periods. Little more than halfway through the game, they were trailing 6-0.

It got so bad for the home side that the “Fire Cappy!” chants started, according to Newsday.

Of course, Jack Capuano has heard those chants before, and he’s still the head coach. The Isles’ new owners have expressed their “full confidence” in Capuano and GM Garth Snow, even if not all fans feel the same.

The Isles have two more home games after tonight’s: Saturday against Edmonton and Monday versus Vancouver. After that comes a very tough stretch, including one trip to Florida and another to California.

isles

Beleskey a scratch, Kuraly to make NHL debut for Bruins

Getty
4 Comments

The Boston Bruins will have another rookie in the lineup tonight in Tampa Bay, as winger Sean Kuraly is expected to make his NHL debut against the Lightning.

Kuraly will replace left winger Matt Beleskey on the much-maligned third line with Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes. Beleskey, Nash, and Hayes have all been held pointless so far this season.

The Bruins will also get winger David Pastrnak back from his suspension. Pastrnak will be reunited with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the top line.

The lines at the morning skate:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak
Spooner-Krejci-Czarnik
Kuraly-Nash-Hayes
Schaller-Moore-Acciari

Kuraly, 23, was originally drafted by San Jose in 2011. He was acquired by the Bruins last summer as part of the Martin Jones trade. This is Kuraly’s first professional season after four years at Miami (Ohio) University. Prior to gettihttps://twitter.com/HackswithHaggs/status/794227039788290048ng called up, he had one assist in eight games for AHL Providence.

The Bruins will have three other rookies in the lineup tonight: forwards Noel Acciari and Austin Czarnik, and defensemen Brandon Carlo. Two other rookies, d-man Rob O’Gara and forward Danton Heien, have played games for Boston but are currently in the AHL.

rooks

As for Beleskey, it’s not clear if he’s simply a healthy scratch or if he suffered an injury Tuesday in Florida, where he slid hard into the Bruins’ net on a back check:

The Bruins (5-4-0) have scored just nine goals in their last six games. They’ve won their last two thanks in large part to goalie Tuukka Rask.

Update:

Panthers could get Bjugstad and Jokinen back next week

AP

The Florida Panthers should be getting some reinforcements soon, with both Nick Bjugstad and Jussi Jokinen progressing towards a return to action.

Per the Miami Herald, Bjugstad (broken hand) and Jokinen (lower body) will not play tonight against the Devils or Saturday in Washington, but could be back for Monday’s home game against Tampa Bay.

The Panthers have been without Bjugstad all season, while Jokinen has only played four games.

It’s been a frustrating start for Gallant’s team, which has a losing record (4-5-1) after 10 games despite boasting solid possession numbers. On Tuesday, the Panthers outshot the Bruins, 34-26, but lost the game, 2-1.

“I’m not worried,” Gallant said yesterday. “I wish we were 7-1 but we’re 4-5-1. We work hard, we play hard. We’ll see what happens. I’m not going to come in here sulking already. It’s too early for that.”

The Panthers have also been without Jonathan Huberdeau to start the season, and that will be the case for a while longer. Huberdeau was expected to miss 3-4 months after he injured his leg in early October.

Pietrangelo’s status in question as struggling Blues head to Dallas

Getty

Alex Pietrangelo didn’t practice today, but he’s still expected to play tomorrow when his St. Louis Blues take on the Stars in Dallas.

Pietrangelo’s status was put into question after he got tangled up with J.T. Miller during last night’s 5-0 loss in New York.

Per Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch, head coach Ken Hitchcock said this afternoon that Pietrangelo looked fine to play, but added they’d reevaluate him in the morning before making a final decision.

If Pietrangelo can’t play, the Blues would likely need to recall a d-man, as Robert Bortuzzo is already out with a lower-body injury, leaving them with just six available blue-liners.

Update: The Blues put Bortuzzo on injured reserve this afternoon, and recalled d-man Brad Hunt from AHL Chicago.

Here’s how the Post-Dispatch described the play on which Pietrangelo got hurt:

Pietrangelo, coming from an angle, tried to cut off Miller’s path to the net and his left leg collided with the left leg of the Rangers’ forward. Pietrangelo’s skate also got held up by Allen’s pads, perhaps adding to the pain. He laid on the ice briefly, then after the period skated off gingerly, accompanied by trainer Ray Barile.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Pietrangelo, who was the last to leave the locker room after receiving treatment and walked to the team bus with a limp. 

Pietrangelo returned to the game for the start of the second period, but he was the last to come back to the ice. He finished the game but ended it with a season-low 21 minutes, 11 seconds of ice time.

The Blues (5-3-2) started the season with three straight wins, but have only managed two wins in their last seven. Their major issue has been scoring, and they have the NHL’s third-worst offense (2.2 goals per game) to prove it.

In fact, the Blues have scored just three goals in their last four games, and not even their penalty killing was good against the Rangers, who converted twice on the power play.