Jason Brough

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 8: Willie Mitchell #33 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck behind the Calgary Flames net during first period action at the BB&T Center on November 8, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. The Flames defeated the Panthers 6-4. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Panthers put Mitchell on IR, but getting Ekblad back

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) Willie Mitchell has been shut down for the foreseeable future by the Florida Panthers, a move that could give their captain an extended rest to recover from some nagging injuries.

Mitchell was placed on injured reserve Friday. He’ll miss Florida’s games Friday against Stanley Cup champion Chicago and Saturday against Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay.

After that, Florida’s last game before the All-Star break is Tuesday against Toronto. The Panthers’ first game back from the break is Feb. 2, so Mitchell could conceivably get two full weeks off for rest and miss only three games.

“I don’t think it’s serious,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said.

Gallant said Mitchell has been “limping around” for a couple weeks with various issues. Mitchell played in all 46 of Florida’s games this season going into Friday, with one goal and six assists on the season.

“Willie’s got a great stick,” Panthers All-Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad, a mentee of Mitchell’s, said Friday. “He’s unbelievable penalty-killing, 5-on-5 defensively he’s unbelievable. He still has a pretty good shot, getting it through on the point. There’s a lot missed from him. He’s a leadership guy. He’s our captain. He kind of lights the way. Obviously we’ll be missing that.”

The Panthers are getting Ekblad back in the lineup for Friday’s game against Chicago, after he missed the last four games while recovering from a concussion. Florida was 0-3-1 with Ekblad out of the lineup.

“Everyone’s a little banged up,” Ekblad said. “We’ve got warriors in this room who are willing to push through anything.”

Malkin credits Sullivan for Penguins turnaround: ‘I believe that we will make the playoffs’

Pittsburgh Penguins' Mike Sullivan gives instructions to Sidney Crosby (87) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. The Maple Leafs won 3-2 in a shootout.  (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP
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The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t immediately set the world on fire when head coach Mike Johnston was relieved of his duties. In fact, they lost their first four under the new guy, Mike Sullivan.

But according to star center Evgeni Malkin, it’s all starting to come together now. The Pens are 7-3-4 in their last 14, and they’re getting closer to climbing into a playoff position.

“Now we are starting to believe that we can win every game,” Malkin told the Penguins’ website. “We have a great team. We started playing better. I believe that we will make the playoffs.”

About Sullivan, Malkin said: “He came to the team and brought more energy and emotion.”

For instance, Malkin credited his coach for last night’s 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Flyers: “We were down 2-0 and he came to the locker room and pressured us here, showed emotion and we brought emotion to the game.”

It certainly hasn’t hurt that Sidney Crosby has picked up his scoring pace. The captain had just 19 points before the coaching change. He’s up to 39 now. In January alone, he has 12 points in nine games.

In terms of puck possession, the Penguins as a team have been excellent under Sullivan. Here’s where they rank since he took over:

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In the 28 games under Johnston, they ranked 20th.

“We changed the coach,” said Malkin. “It takes time to change the system.”

The Pens host the Canucks Saturday afternoon, then they’re at Washington on Sunday afternoon (on NBC).

Torts gets banged up at practice; Bobrovsky has MRI; Forsberg recalled on emergency basis; the Blue Jackets, man

Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella gives instructions during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets’ season was summed up rather well during this morning’s outdoor practice across the street from Nationwide Arena.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Coach John Tortorella suffered back and possible hip injuries in a nasty fall after he collided with Blue Jackets forward Rene Bourque during practice. Tortorella was attended to by the Blue Jackets training staff and left practice early, skating off under his own power to a smattering of applause by fans who were watching.

Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said Tortorella’s back “locked up.” He was seen by club doctors, but is expected to travel with the club to Boston today in advance of Saturday’s game against the Bruins in TD Garden.

Bourque said he “hit a rut” before colliding with his coach.

Meanwhile, there was no update on goalie Sergei Bobrovksy, other than he had an MRI this morning. Last night, the 27-year-old had to leave halfway through the Jackets’ 4-2 loss to Calgary. The club would only say that he suffered a lower-body injury.

Bobrovsky has a history of groin injuries. In fact, he’d only just returned from one that caused him to miss 17 games.

This morning, the Blue Jackets announced that goalie Anton Forsberg had been recalled on an emergency basis from AHL Lake Erie.

Update:

Bobrovsky has been “sidelined indefinitely” with a groin strain.

Wings not willing to sacrifice defense to generate more offense

during the NHL game at Gila River Arena on January 14, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.
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The Detroit Red Wings play a lot of close games.

Fortunately for them, they win a lot of close games, too.

In fact, no team has played more one-goal games than the Wings have this season (30), and no team has won more (18).

The Wings have even gained points in a bunch of one-goal losses; eight times they’ve lost in overtime and the shootout. That means, of their 30 one-goal games, they’ve only lost four of them in regulation.

This, by the way, is how a team with a negative goal differential (minus-6) can find itself in a playoff position. Detroit is 5-11 in games decided by two or more goals.

Knowing how slim the margin of error has been for the Wings in most of their victories, it’s understandable that their head coach, Jeff Blashill, has been somewhat loath to give his players more offensive freedom — despite an offense that ranks 22nd in the league.

“We’ve talked lots about trying to add reward without added risk,” Blashill told MLive. “Certainly we could create a situation where we probably could generate some more, but we’d give up a lot more and it’s almost impossible to win in this league that way.”

What Blashill was willing to do after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Blues was shuffle his lines. Tonight in Buffalo, Dylan Larkin is expected to skate with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader on one top line, while Pavel Datsyuk, Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist will be a trio on the other.

“Pav likes playing with Helmer; Helmer does a lot of the work in terms of getting the puck,” Blashill told reporters. “Larkin, Z and Abby had great success through lots of the year.”

The Wings have scored just 12 goals in their last seven games. Yet thanks in large part to goalie Petr Mrazek, they’ve managed to go 4-2-1 over that stretch.

All four wins were by one goal.

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Krejci activated, expected back tonight versus Vancouver

David Krejci, Mike Smith
AP

The Boston Bruins have activated center David Krejci ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver. In a corresponding move, the B’s have assigned forward Frank Vatrano to AHL Providence.

Krejci hasn’t played since Dec. 27 when he suffered an upper-body injury against Ottawa. The B’s went 5-4-1 in his absence. They enter tonight’s contest having won three in a row.

Though officially considered a game-time decision, Krejci is expected to center a second line of Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson, with Ryan Spooner dropping down to play between Joonas Kemppainen and Jimmy Hayes.

Spooner, who in the past has drawn the ire of Claude Julien, received some high praise today from his coach.

“Ryan has taken some huge strides here in this time where David Krejci’s been out,” said Julien. “You hope it makes our team better and that’s what we talked about, taking advantage of the opportunity and make yourself a better player.”

The Canucks, meanwhile, will be icing an even younger lineup than the young one they iced Tuesday at the Rangers. With Jake Virtanen, 19, and Mike Zalewski, 23, coming in to replace Brandon Prust and Adam Cracknell, Vancouver will have seven forwards under the age of 25.