Jason Brough

Johan Franzen

Gonchar joins Penguins as defensemen development coach

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed Sergei Gonchar!

To coach their defensemen.

According to a club press release, Gonchar will “work with Pittsburgh’s defensemen at the NHL level and throughout the Penguins’ system. He will also scout European tournaments on behalf of the team.”

Gonchar, 41, had a preseason tryout with the Penguins, but failed to make the team as a player.

Derrick Pouliot is the top-rated defensive prospect in the organization. The 21-year-old is currently in the AHL.

Pouliot was the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, the same year the Pens selected Olli Maatta.

Brian Dumoulin, 24 and Adam Clendening, 23, are two other young d-men in Pittsburgh.

Sprong gets vote of confidence from Rutherford, likely to stick with Pens

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It sounds like the youngest player in the NHL will remain in the NHL past his nine-game audition.

“If you’re asking me today, it looks that way,” Penguins GM Rutherford told the Tribune-Review when asked if Daniel Sprong had done enough to stick with the team.

The alternative is to send the 18-year-old back to junior, which would delay the start of his entry-level contract.

Sprong has one goal in six games. He’s averaged 10:13 in ice time and has 11 shots.

“We’re just looking at what’s best for the team and what’s best for him,” Rutherford said. “I believe he can help our team.”

Related: Canes face tough call on Hanifin, as do other teams with their rookies

Isles’ attendance once again under the microscope

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The New York Islanders won again last night at Barclays Center, improving their record to 6-2-1 with a 4-0 victory over Calgary.

Too bad only 11,582 fans were on hand to see it.

In fact, after six home games in the Isles’ new Brooklyn digs, average attendance is just 12,298, the lowest in the NHL.

Barclays Center’s capacity is 15,795 for hockey. The arena was originally built for basketball, as evidenced by its odd configuration and limited-view seats for Islander games.

Isles beat writer Arthur Staple (Newsday) had a few tweets on the subject this morning:

To be sure, the Isles would’ve preferred to stay in Uniondale. The move to Brooklyn came after a long, unsuccessful effort to build a new arena in Nassau County. In 2012, the club signed an “ironclad,” 25-year lease to play at Barclays.

Of course, that “ironclad” lease hasn’t stopped speculation that the Isles may not be long for Brooklyn, and that they may one day return to their original home. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has tried to quell that speculation, but the unfavorable Barclays Center reviews haven’t helped.

The Isles’ next home game is Thursday versus Carolina.

Kane admits he ‘asked for a trade every offseason in Winnipeg’

Winnipeg Jets v Pittsburgh Penguins
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Remember all the times Evander Kane was asked if he was happy being a Winnipeg Jet and he never really answered the question?

That’s because he wasn’t happy being a Winnipeg Jet.

“Yeah, I asked for a trade every offseason in Winnipeg,” Kane told The Hockey News. 

From a THN blog post:

Despite both Kane and the Jets insisting there had been no trade requests in the off-season, Kane claims he asked for a trade as early as the summer of 2012 when he was coming off a 30-goal season. He asked again in the summer of 2013 and ’14, a request that was finally granted when he was dealt to the Sabres last February in a blockbuster trade that saw Zach Bogosian join him in Buffalo in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, two prospects and a first-round draft pick.

The Winnipeg Free Press has more details from the interview, in which Kane says race plays a role in how he’s perceived.

Kane is currently out 4-6 weeks with an MCL injury, but should be ready in time for the Sabres’ game in Winnipeg on Jan. 10.

Don’t expect him to receive a warm welcome from the Jets’ faithful.

Gudbranson has been ‘outstanding’ for Panthers, says Gallant

Erik Gudbranson, Sidney Crosby
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With 253 games of NHL experience, it’s easy to forget that Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson is still only 23 years old.

The third overall pick of the 2010 draft — right after Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, and right before Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter — Gudbranson has taken a while to find his footing in the NHL.

Par for the course for a defenseman.

But Florida coach Gerard Gallant — who’s paired Gudbranson with veteran Willie Mitchell in a shutdown role — definitely likes what he’s been seeing this season.

“I think Gudbranson has been outstanding this year, really has played well,” Gallant told the Miami Herald. “I think he has been great, is happy with his role playing against the best players. He’s a fifth-year player. You look at him as a veteran player who is playing very well.”

Gubranson is a pending restricted free agent. He signed a two-year, $5 million extension in the summer of 2014.

The Panthers will need him — along with Aaron Ekblad, Dmitry Kulikov, and Alex Petrovic — to keep getting even better, as both Mitchell, 38, and Brian Campbell, 36, are nearing the ends of their careers.

Related: Gudbranson could be captain of the Panthers one day