Jason Brough

AP

With Tanev back, Canucks return Stecher to AHL

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Troy Stecher impressed a lot of people in his three-game stint with the Vancouver Canucks.

But that stint is over now. The 22-year-old rookie defenseman has been sent back to the AHL, as Chris Tanev is expected to return from injury tonight in Montreal.

Stecher was sent down for the following reasons, in no particular order:

1. Nikita Tryamkin has yet to play a second this season, but has so far refused an AHL assignment. Of the Canucks’ eight defensemen, not counting Stecher, Tryamkin is the only one who does not require waivers.

2. The Canucks are apparently unwilling to expose Alex Biega to waivers, in part because they believe they may need him in June to expose in the expansion draft. Biega has only played one game this season, and he did that as a forward.

3. The Canucks remain committed to Phillip Larsen, the right-shot d-man they acquired from Edmonton to run their power play. Problem is, Vancouver’s power play ranks 26th in the NHL, and Larsen’s a team-worst minus-7.

True, there’s something to be said for protecting assets, especially after the Canucks were so roundly criticized for losing Frank Corrado on waivers last year. But the decision to send Stecher down is one that will rankle many of the team’s increasingly frustrated fans.

After all, the Canucks entered the year with one “vision,” and that was to win hockey games. And in three games, the general consensus was that Stecher played well enough to merit more time in the NHL.

In fact, Stecher’s performance the past three games was about the only positive for the Canucks (4-4-1), who’ve dropped five straight and have the NHL’s worst offense.

Tonight’s game in Montreal is the first of six straight on the road for Vancouver. Stops in Ottawa, Toronto, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Detroit will follow.

Healthy scratch sends Hamhuis a ‘strong message’

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Last Thursday in Winnipeg, Dan Hamhuis took 27 shifts and finished second among all Dallas Stars with 22:36 of ice time in a 4-1 loss to the Jets.

The next game, the veteran defenseman was a healthy scratch.

It was the first time since Hamhuis was a rookie that he sat when he could’ve played, and it didn’t exactly work out great for the Stars, who lost 4-0 in Minnesota on Saturday.

But it did send a message to Hamhuis — you’d better play well, because the Stars have eight defensemen, and that means two have to sit each game.

“I went and talked to him, and those aren’t easy conversations. Understandably, you’ve got an upset player,” head coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “But it’s a strong message, and it’s a message that needs to be carried — it’s not good enough. I know it’s tough when you come from another team, but right now we’ve got to find less excuses and more reasons to win a game.”

Hamhuis was back in the lineup Tuesday in Columbus, where the Stars played well for most of the 60 minutes but ultimately couldn’t protect a 2-1 lead. The Blue Jackets tied it up with 16 seconds left in regulation, then won it 46 seconds into overtime.

Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth were the healthy scratches last night, while Hamhuis logged 19:46 and had four shots on goal. The OT loss dropped the Stars’ record to a disappointing 3-4-2.

Only two d-men have played all nine games for Dallas: John Klingberg and Johnny Oduya.

And per Cap Friendly, only two are waiver-exempt: Stephen Johns and Esa Lindell.

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Related: Why the Canucks didn’t re-sign Hamhuis

Help on the way: Bruins get Pastrnak back, while Backes getting closer

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The Boston Bruins will get David Pastrnak back from suspension tomorrow in Tampa Bay. Because of that, they announced this morning that forward Danton Heinen has been assigned to AHL Providence.

Heinen, a 21-year-old rookie, played seven games for the B’s, failing to register a point while skating mostly with center David Krejci.

Indeed, scoring has been an issue for the Bruins (4-4-0), who now have the 26th-ranked offense in the NHL. The B’s have won their last two thanks to the return of Tuukka Rask, but nine games into the season they only have four players with two or more goals: Brad Marchand (5), Pastrnak (4), Dominic Moore (3), and David Backes (2). Six others have one, the rest none, for a total of just 20 goals.

Backes has missed the last four games due to elbow surgery. He won’t play tomorrow in Tampa Bay, but the 32-year-old was back skating today in Boston, suggesting a return Saturday at home to the Rangers may be in the cards.

Tomorrow against the Lightning, Pastrnak could be reunited with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the top line, with Krejci centering a second line between Austin Czarnik and Ryan Spooner.

However they line up, the Bruins could really use some scoring beyond their few contributors to date. Wingers Matt Beleskey and Kevin Hayes have each been held pointless in their first nine games. Those two have mostly been centered by newcomer Riley Nash, who’s also been held pointless.

“There are some guys that aren’t where they should be production-wise,” said head coach Claude Julien, per CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty. “You hope it’s gonna come and they get their game where it should be.”

The return of Backes could help in one of two ways. First, he could play right wing with Krejci. Or two, he could center Beleskey and Hayes.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, he can’t do both.

As for Heinen?

“We saw some spurts of [creativity and offense] during the regular season, but in his case he probably needs to go down there, get better, get more confident and get stronger,” said Julien, per CSN New England. “We talked to him about that as far as getting better, but we’re certainly not unhappy with him. I thought he had a great camp and he’s going to be a great player for the future, whether it’s shortly or a little later. I think he has all the potential to be a good player in this league.”

A lesson learned: Habs vow to ignore the hype

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The Montreal Canadiens set a franchise record a year ago, starting the season with nine straight wins. They lost their 10th in Vancouver, which was no big deal. But the game after that, Carey Price got hurt, which was a huge deal. He got hurt again a month later, and that was it for the season.

The Habs would eventually collapse, finishing 38-38-6 and out of the playoffs.

Which is to say, a great start is good, but it’s all about how you finish.

“I think everything that we learned last year, everything that we went through, it’s given us a good understanding,” forward Brendan Gallagher said, per NHL.com. “I think last year everyone was saying so many good things about us, I think we started to believe it a little bit too much.”

The Canadiens, of course, are off to another torrid start, and it seems like nothing can go wrong. They’re 8-0-1 heading into tonight’s home game against Vancouver, the very same side that stopped their streak last year.

Though adversity may not come tonight against the Canucks, who’ve dropped five straight and have the NHL’s worst offense, it will come at some point this season, and the Habs will be tested in their pressure-packed market.

How they handle that adversity may very well determine the future of both head coach Michel Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin, the latter of whom acquired Shea Weber to not only play great hockey but also for “his attitude, his behavior, the little details that show he’s a real leader.”

So far, so good. But the season is still very young, just ask the Habs.

Related: In talking about Weber, Bergevin said plenty about Subban

In other news, the Canadiens sent 18-year-old defenseman Mikhail Sergachev back to his junior team yesterday. With Zach Redmond already sidelined with a broken foot, the club has been left with just six healthy defensemen on the roster, i.e. the bare minimum.

That’s led to speculation that Bergevin may be looking to add a top-4 d-man. Which sounds like a tough task at this point in the season, when all 30 teams are still technically in the playoff race. But perhaps Bergevin has had something in his back pocket all along, just in case Sergachev wasn’t NHL-ready.

We’ll have to wait and see on that.

Related: Habs send Sergachev back to junior

 

Nobody’s riding in ‘on a white horse’ to rescue the Kings

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The Los Angeles Kings are in a very tough spot. They haven’t scored a goal in their last three games, and their backup-to-the-backup goalie, Peter Budaj, started to show cracks Tuesday night in a 4-0 loss to Anaheim.

While there’s some reason to believe the scoring will come around (the Kings registered 89 shots in their last three games combined, and they still have Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty), there really isn’t an obvious solution to the goaltending problem.

Already up against the cap, the Kings simply can’t afford to take on a big contract, because Jonathan Quick is expected to return later this season.

So to all those fans screaming about Jaroslav Halak, perhaps GM Dean Lombardi can find a way, but don’t count on it, because Halak is signed through next season for a cap hit of $4.5 million.

“There’s nobody coming in on a white horse to play goal for us or score goals or to come up from [the AHL],” head coach Darryl Sutter said last night, per LA Kings Insider. “This is our team. I’ve said it early, meaning two or three games ago, and I’ll say it again. Our responsibility is not to use the injuries as an excuse. The responsibility is to try and stay in the race.”

Budaj was replaced last night by the once highly touted Jack Campbell. The Kings got Campbell in June, sending defenseman Nick Ebert to Dallas in return. Campbell, 24, split last season between the AHL and ECHL, and now he could be in line for an NHL start Thursday when the defending champs from Pittsburgh pay a visit.

Sutter didn’t say who would get the nod against the Penguins, but he clearly wasn’t very happy with Budaj’s performance.

“He wasn’t very good,” he said. “I mean, did you look at the shots and scoring chances? He wasn’t very good. That’s clear. I don’t pull goalies very often, but they’re expected to make some saves.”

Campbell has only made one NHL start in his career, all the way back on Oct. 20, 2013, when he allowed six goals on 47 shots in a 6-3 Dallas loss to Anaheim.