Jason Brough

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The Kings are winless and injured, but at least they’ll get Pearson back tonight

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The Los Angeles Kings are hoping the return of Tanner Pearson from his suspension can help them to their first win of the season tonight in Minnesota.

“It gives us more speed in our first two lines, that’s for sure,” head coach Darryl Sutter said, per LA Kings Insider. “I think that we haven’t gotten much out of our left side, if you look at it, all of training camp. So that’ll help, for sure. Tanner’s a guy that you count on and trust, and the fact of the matter is he scored 15 goals last year. We’ve got a lot of guys that didn’t get many goals, so that’s a guy that can contribute, for sure, on the shooting and scoring part.”

Pearson was suspended for the first two games of the regular season, a 2-1 loss in San Jose and a 4-2 defeat at home to Philadelphia. The Kings were also without injured winger Marian Gaborik for those games, and they will be for a while longer. Ditto for goalie Jonathan Quick, who lasted just a period against the Sharks and could miss months with a reported groin injury.

And don’t forget the Kings lost Milan Lucic to free agency over the summer. He scored 20 goals for them last season, and no obvious replacement was brought in.

So some early adversity for the Kings, no doubt about that. They play the Wild tonight, then travel to Dallas for a game Thursday.

Getting Pearson back will be nice, but will it be enough?

Johnson earns second straight start for Flames, after Elliott struggles

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Glen Gulutzan knows a goaltending controversy when he sees one. The Flames’ new head coach was an assistant in Vancouver when John Tortorella started Eddie Lack over Roberto Luongo in the 2014 Heritage Classic. It was the “last straw” for Luongo, and a couple of days later came the trade to Florida.

So for Gulutzan, what’s happening in Calgary right now is far from a “goalie controversy.”

But at the very least, let’s call it an interesting development. Because Chad Johnson confirmed to reporters today that he’ll get the start Tuesday when the winless Flames host the Sabres. Brian Elliott started the first two games of the season and got shelled by the Oilers, allowing 10 goals on 55 shots (.818). Johnson then started Saturday night in Vancouver and was solid in a 2-1 shootout loss.

Both Elliott and Johnson are new to the Flames, and both of them are pending unrestricted free agents. So expect the Flames’ goaltending story to be front and center all season long, or at least until the situation stabilizes. Elliott was supposed to be the consistent starter they’ve so badly needed in Calgary; he wanted to be the “backbone of the team.” It’s still very early, but it hasn’t started out that way.

Related: Elliott gets off to tough start with Flames

Injury to Girardi means an opportunity for Rangers’ McIlrath

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One wonders if a few scouts might be in the building for tonight’s Rangers-Sharks game at Madison Square Garden.

That’s because Dylan McIlrath will be in the lineup for the Blueshirts, stepping in to replace injured Dan Girardi.

It’s been reported that the Rangers have explored trading the 24-year-old McIlrath. But with injuries to both Girardi and Kevin Klein, the team needs to keep McIlrath, at least for now. (All three of the aforementioned are right-shot defensemen.)

“I expect him to play well,” head coach Alain Vigneault said of McIlrath, per the New York Post. “He’s just coming in the lineup, and we need him to play to his strengths and give us a good game.”

McIlrath is expected to skate with Brady Skjei on the third pairing, with a top pair of Ryan McDonagh and Nick Holden, and a second of Marc Staal and Adam Clendening.

The Rangers have played reasonably well to start the season. They beat the Islanders in their opener, then fell on the road to Carton Hutton and the Blues, 3-2, despite outshooting them, 35-18.

McIlrath was a healthy scratch for both those games. McDonagh logged 30:08 of ice time against the Blues, as the Rangers were forced to play with just five defensemen for much of the game.

Related: Buchnevich out with back spasms

Coyotes assign Michalek to AHL

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The Arizona Coyotes announced today that veteran defenseman Zbynek Michalek has been assigned to AHL Tucson.

Michalek, 33, cleared waivers prior to the start of the season. He was scratched for the Coyotes’ season opener on Saturday, a 4-3 OT win over Philadelphia.

Michalek played 70 games for Arizona last season, but new additions Alex GoligoskiLuke Schenn, Jamie McBain and Jakob Chychrun all played Saturday, as did Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Connor Murphy.

Michalek is in the final year of his contract, which has a cap hit of $3.2 million.

The Coyotes’ next game is Tuesday in Ottawa, the first of a six-game trip. Injured defensemen Michael Stone and Kevin Connauton will reportedly accompany the team. With today’s assignment of Michalek, it’s likely that at least one of them is ready to go.

Two losses and the Blue Jackets get new lines

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Brandon Dubinsky is already minus-6, and Boone Jenner is minus-5.

And so, Dubinsky and Jenner aren’t on a line together anymore. To nobody’s surprise, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has scrambled his forward combinations, after his squad started the season with two straight losses at home to Boston and San Jose.

Based on Monday’s practice, the new first line in Columbus has Dubinsky centering Atkinson and Matt Calvert; the second line has Alexander Wennberg between Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno; and the third line has William Karlsson between Scott Hartnell and Josh Anderson.

As for Jenner, he’s been dropped all the way down to the fourth line, according to Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch:

It remains to be seen if today’s practice lines will stick, or if Tortorella is just experimenting. The Blue Jackets don’t play again until Friday when they host the Blackhawks. After that, it’s four road games in six nights, against tough competition in Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Anaheim.

For a team that started last season with eight straight losses, it’s a particularly daunting stretch.

To their credit, the Jackets nearly fought back to tie the Sharks on Saturday. But it wasn’t enough, and they lost, 3-2.

“That last half of the game there, I really thought we found ourselves,” Calvert said, per Today’s Slapshot. “We were figuring ourselves out offensively tonight, and we started to find an identity. Obviously, we have a few mistakes we could fix up, but we have a young group here and it’s going to be a process, but we have to take that and move forward.”

Related: Brad Marchand’s five-point night buries the Blue Jackets