Jason Brough

Gerbe out 4-6 weeks with lower-body injury

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Nathan Gerbe will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury, the Carolina Hurricanes announced today.

Gerbe suffered the injury Sunday against Los Angeles when Kings forward Kyle Clifford caught the diminutive winger with a big hit in the corner.

Clifford did not receive any supplemental discipline for the check.

Gerbe, 28, has one goal and two assists in 20 games.

Questions remain about this Blackhawks team

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been down this road before.

In 2010-11, after being forced to shed some key pieces of their Stanley Cup-winning roster, they got off to a tepid start and barely made the playoffs.

This year, it’s shaping up to be a similar story, though the ending has yet to be written. Maybe they miss the playoffs, a la the Kings last year. Maybe they make them and win the Cup again. At this point, both options remain very much on the table.

So far, though, the ‘Hawks have simply been a mediocre team. Far from terrible, but not great either. They’re 11-8-2 after 21 games. They’re 13th in goals for — and that’s with the NHL’s leading scorer, Patrick Kane — and they’re 15th in goals against.

“We can be better,” GM Stan Bowman told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The issues?

Forwards: Kane’s line has been the only one that’s really scoring. He’s got 32 points; Artemi Panarin has 21; Artem Anisimov has 15. The next leading scorer after that is a defenseman, Brent Seabrook.

Which is to say, the Blackhawks could use more from Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Teuvo Teravainen, and they could use way more from everyone else up front.

Defense: Johnny Oduya‘s replacement still remains TBD. Trevor Daley hasn’t looked like the answer. And while Trevor van Riemsdyk has made a decent case, it’s more than fair to wonder if the 24-year-old is ready for a top-4 role in the playoffs.

It’s easy to yes, he’s ready, and assume all will be well. But that sort of diminishes how important Oduya was last spring. There’s a reason the Stars were so happy to get him.

The fact is, van Riemsdyk has never played a vital role on the game’s biggest stage. That’s the big unknown for him.

“I think he should be progressing as we go along here,” coach Joel Quenneville said of TVR, per the Sun-Times “But the fact that we’re comfortable with him against anybody in any situation is a big step and it’s a good accomplishment.”

Perhaps by the time the postseason rolls around, van Riemsdyk will have progressed to the point where he can provide what Oduya provided. But if not him, who? There just aren’t a ton of options in the organization.

As for the goaltending, well, let’s not waste too much time thinking about that. Has Corey Crawford had his struggles? Yup. He’s had a really tough November. But unless he gets injured, there’s very little chance Scott Darling will become the starter. So why bother thinking too much about it?

The ‘Hawks play in San Jose on Wednesday. The game can be seen on NBCSN.

A ‘pretty reliable player,’ Ferraro should have good opportunity in Boston

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Bruins head coach Claude Julien used an interesting word to describe Landon Ferraro:

“Reliable.”

Now, that may not be the greatest compliment you can give a hockey player, but coming from Julien, it’s not nothing.

The Bruins nabbed Ferraro off waivers from Detroit this weekend. The 24-year-old forward will join a team that’s had all sorts of trouble keeping the puck out of its own net.

“I haven’t seen him a ton,” Julien conceded Monday, per the Boston Herald. “But even watching him this morning, you can tell he’s a good skater, a strong skater. From what I’ve been told he’s a pretty reliable player.”

Julien could use some more dependability, especially in the bottom half of the lineup. Last week, he called out his fourth line for its poor defensive play.

“They need to have a better balance,” he said. “With the fourth line the first thing is not to get scored on.”

Ferraro will be a game-time decision tonight in Toronto.

Roy: ‘We’re not happy to be dead-last in the NHL’

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Patrick Roy tried to stay positive today. Oh, did he ever try.

The Avalanche head coach talked about how his team “played really well” in winning the first three games of its current seven-game trip.

He also felt the Avs played a “good game” against Pittsburgh. “We just came up short,” he said of the 4-3 defeat.

Roy even found a way to spin Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Capitals, saying “there’s not that many teams that are going to win games in Washington, I can tell you that.”

Still, even Roy had to concede that not everything has been hunky-dory this year:

“We’re not happy to be dead-last in the NHL.”

Which is understandable.

Unless you’re the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres.

To be fair, the Avs aren’t actually “dead-last” in the league. They’re tied for last with Edmonton. And both the Avs and the Oilers have a better points percentage than Columbus.

So hey, it could always be worse.

Colorado wraps up its seven-game journey tonight in Winnipeg.

“If we could go home with a 4-3 record (on the trip), it’d be something good for us,” said Roy.

Related: Roy doesn’t he’s wrong to be so optimistic about the Avs

On the importance of an active defense

John Carlson, Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin, Jason Demers
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The next time you hear somebody complain about the Norris Trophy going to high-scoring defensemen like Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban, feel free to refer them to Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden.

Reirden was hired in the summer of 2014 to help turn Washington’s blue line into an attacking force.

Per CSN Washington, here’s how Reirden sees it:

“If you’re (an opposing) defenseman, because the game is so fast, if they’re seeing four players come at them instead of three, it causes them to defend differently. You might back up a step to assess and now all of a sudden Nick Backstrom gets an extra second when he enters the zone because of the appearance of four guys on the attack.”

Even Karl Alzner, the prototypical stay-at-home blue-liner, knows that defensemen can’t solely worry about their own end. Not in a league where scoring has become so difficult. The more passing options, the better.

“You need to have the attack from all five guys,” said Alzner. “You can’t just let your forwards do it.”

Meanwhile, in Nashville, here’s what Predators coach Peter Laviolette said the other day:

“Anytime your defensemen can activate in the offensive zone on cycles and down the wall or down the middle, in zone plays, it presents a different set of challenges. The coverage becomes less simple. It creates more holes not only for them but for others.”

Look, nobody’s saying that defensemen don’t have to play defense. They obviously have to play defense. That’s why teams with two-way forces like Drew Doughty and Zdeno Chara have won Stanley Cups. The fact Doughty has yet to win the Norris is unfortunate, because he’s a far better player now than he was in 2009-10 when he racked up a career-best 59 points.

So no, points aren’t everything.

But remember, this was the goal that won the Cup last year:

If Duncan Keith doesn’t jump into the attack and provide a passing option, Patrick Kane probably just throws it down into the corner, lest he turn it over at the blue line.

Keith was the Blackhawks’ most important player in the playoffs. He was the undisputed pick for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

“The teams with the best records are the ones with defensemen getting up in the play and contributing to the offense,” Alzner said.

Related: Nobody’s got a better blue line than Nashville