Jason Brough

Kings believe there’s ‘still some upside’ in Luke Schenn

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Luke Schenn is only 26 years old, but it feels like he’s been in the NHL for a long time.

The fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, he was once touted as a future captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s since been traded twice. First to Philadelphia, for James van Riemsdyk. Yesterday, to Los Angeles, for considerably less.

Unlike the expectations Schenn carried in Toronto and Philadelphia, for now, all the Kings want from their new right-shot defenseman is to fill the hole that Matt Greene‘s season-ending injury left.

“He’s very familiar with Drew Doughty and some of our players here, and it’s a chance for him to just come in and be himself, you know, and not have to worry about being a top pick and all of the expectations and everything else,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi said Wednesday. “He kind of reminds me where Matt Greene was when we first got Greener, and these guys are important guys in the mix.”

Schenn is a pending unrestricted free agent who didn’t have a future in Philadelphia. The Flyers have a promising crop of young defenseman. Some have already arrived, others will be coming soon.

“Luke understood where we were as a franchise,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall told CSN Philly. “And that we had numbers. He was a UFA and probably sensed something was coming. He was excited to go to L.A. and a top team … he knew half a dozen players from L.A.”

Schenn has already played 523 games in the NHL, and that’s a pretty good sample size to determine a player’s worth.

Still, Lombardi sees untapped potential.

“You’re dealing with a 26-year-old,” Lombardi said. “I think there’s still some upside in this kid.”

Evander Kane prepares for ‘hostile’ return to Winnipeg

Anaheim Ducks v Winnipeg Jets - Game Three
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They chanted “Silver Medal!” at Ryan Miller, “Crosby’s better!” at Alex Ovechkin, and “Let’s Go Blue Jays!” at the Toronto Maple Leafs.

You can only imagine what Winnipeg Jets fans might come up with for Evander Kane.

Perhaps something about a wet track suit?

That actually might be the best-case scenario for Kane, given he’s the subject of a sex-offense investigation by Buffalo police.

“It can be hostile,” Kane told the Buffalo News. “They’ve got some passionate fans there. I guess that’s the way to put it — passionate.”

Sunday’s Sabres-Jets game at MTS Centre will be the first time Kane has played in Winnipeg since he was traded to Buffalo in February. The 24-year-old winger later admitted that he’d “asked for a trade every offseason” he was there.

From the Buffalo News:

The Sabres’ top left winger has publicly embraced living in Buffalo, but he’s been quiet since Buffalo police began a sexual-assault investigation Dec. 27. It is ongoing and will likely be a talking point in Winnipeg.

All Kane can talk about at the moment is his game. It mirrors the Sabres’ game: lots of shots and no goals. Kane has no points in the last five games, remaining stuck on eight goals and five assists in 30 outings.

The Sabres have lost five straight games in regulation. They play Friday in Chicago before flying to frigid Winnipeg.

Stars facing ‘first true test of adversity’

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The Dallas Stars played “stupid hockey” Tuesday in New York. That’s how captain Jamie Benn described the 6-2 loss to the Rangers, one that saw Benn and Tyler Seguin stapled to the bench for much of the third period.

Tuesday was also the third time in the Stars’ last five games that they’ve surrendered six goals. They lost 6-5 to the Islanders on Sunday. They dropped a 6-3 decision to Columbus last Tuesday.

Feeling the need to make some changes, Stars coach Lindy Ruff split up Benn and Seguin in yesterday’s practice. Benn was with Jason Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin; Seguin was centering Mattias Janmark and Patrick Sharp.

We’ll see if those changes make any difference tonight at home versus Winnipeg.

While the Stars remain comfortably in a playoff spot, the last few weeks have seen them experience their first bit of adversity this season. Offensively, they remain tops in the NHL. Defensively, however, they’ve dropped all the way to 17th, with a 2.64 goals-against average.

“Having the start that we did is definitely beneficial to not having to stare at the standings every single day, but we know we don’t have that big of a gap between any of the teams, really. It’s such a close division,” Seguin told ESPN.com earlier this week.

“But we have a lot more confident and mature group in here than we have had in the past when it comes to hockey and when it comes to not being on too much of an emotional roller coaster and staying patient in games and finding ways to win games. This is our first true test of adversity this year.”

Related: Are the Stars contenders or pretenders?

After trading Johansen, now it’s the Blue Jackets who get to worry about center depth

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One trade and so much has changed for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Whereas before everyone wondered about their blue line, now Seth Jones is there, with young Zach Werenski on the way as well. That could be a pretty good defense soon. Like, really good.

But what about center depth? Without Ryan Johansen, now the Blue Jackets will be hearing the same question the Predators used to get all the time. Do you have an elite center? Or, at the very least, do you have a player that could one day become an elite center?

“We have Boone Jenner on the wing who has played center all his life,” Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told reporters this morning. “He can move into the center position. We have other options, too.”

Like 21-year-old Alexander Wennberg. Unlike Johansen, Wennberg has drawn high praise from coach John Tortorella.

“He’s been probably one of our best play-makers,” Tortorella said of the 14th overall pick in 2013. “For such a young man, I just love his poise, and that’s what you need.”

All that being said, neither Jenner, 22, nor Wennberg are projected to be elite centers, the kind that Stanley Cup-winning teams almost always have, the kind the Predators hope they’ve finally got in Johansen.

“We’ll look at our depth chart a little differently today and moving forward,” conceded Kekalainen. “We have our scouting meetings next week in Florida. We’ll be looking at all our options.”

Don’t forget, if the draft lottery were held today, the Blue Jackets would have a 20 percent chance of winning, which would give them the right to select Auston Matthews.

And wouldn’t that be something.

Blues blow another lead, struggling to ‘close teams out’

WINNIPEG, MB - OCTOBER 18:  Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues calls a timeout in third-period action of an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on October 18, 2013 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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The Blues blew another lead last night in Denver, falling 4-3 in overtime to an Avs side that had trailed 3-1 early in the second period.

It was 3-2 until Nathan MacKinnon tied it with 89 seconds remaining in regulation.

“We made two critical errors on the tying goal,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch. “We gave it away in the offensive zone, and then we iced the puck, gave them a second chance when we didn’t have to.”

The newspaper points out that it was “the fourth time in the past nine games that the Blues had relinquished a lead of two goals or greater.” Tuesday at home, the Blues blew a 2-0 lead to Ottawa and lost 3-2 in overtime.

St. Louis now has just one win its last six outings. Its only victory came in overtime against Nashville. And guess what? In that one, the Blues led the Preds, 3-1, late in the third.

“We’ve got to find ways to close teams out,” said forward Troy Brouwer. “It’s been way too many times this season.”