Jason Brough

Pre-game reading: On Patrick Sharp’s scary concussion experience

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— Up top, does Artemi Panarin ever score an ugly goal? Another beauty one-timer last night in San Jose, albeit in a losing effort.

Patrick Sharp on his latest concussion: “Most injuries you can circle a date, but the injury I suffered was a day-to-day thing I thought I had experienced in the past, but never quite like this. … The type of injury that I had, you hear some scary stories from around the league. … I’m thankful I was able to come out of it and feel healthy and strong.” (Dallas Morning News)

— Following the unveiling of the Vegas Golden Knights, the Hockey News takes a look at the top 10 expansion logos of the modern NHL era. The winner? The Vegas Golden Knights, apparently. (Hockey News)

Martin Hanzal is a very important part of the Arizona Coyotes, both as a player and rode model for the team’s many youngsters. But the big center is also a pending UFA who’s had his name bandied about in trade rumors. So his situation is definitely worth monitoring. The Coyotes are already seven points out of a playoff spot. If they don’t re-sign him, you have to think they’ll trade him before March 1. (Arizona Republic)

— What’s it like to be the first NHL goalie from Denmark? The story of Frederik Andersen, who’s rebounded nicely after a tough start for his new team in Toronto. (Canadian Press)

Matthew Benning has some solid NHL bloodlines. His father, Brian, played over 500 games in the league as a defenseman. His uncle, Jim, was an NHL d-man too, and is currently the GM of the Vancouver Canucks. Now it’s Matthews’ turn to play — and play pretty well, apparently — as a rookie defenseman for the Edmonton Oilers. The 22-year-old was originally drafted by the Boston Bruins, but opted not to sign with them, due in part to all the young d-men in their system. (Edmonton Journal)

— TSN’s stats guy, Travis Yost, asks the question: Why has Joe Thornton stopped shooting the puck? To which we’d like to know: When did he ever start? (TSN)

Tweet of the Day

OK, fine, that was an old tweet, but Hutton signed a contract extension today, so you know he’s gonna bust out some moves.

Enjoy the games!

Horvat making big strides for Vancouver

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 01:  Bo Horvat #53 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates his goal to tie the score 1-1 against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center on April 1, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At the 2013 NHL draft, the Vancouver Canucks sent one of the best goalies in the world, Cory Schneider, to New Jersey for the right to select Bo Horvat ninth overall.

Suffice to say, it was a big price for the Canucks to pay. Schneider has been excellent for the Devils, and there have certainly been days when Vancouver could’ve used him.

But more and more these days, Horvat is making Canucks fans feel better about that trade. The 21-year-old center had a goal and two assists in last night’s win over the Coyotes. With the three points, he found himself tied with Daniel Sedin for the most on the Canucks (13).

Among NHL centers, Horvat is right there in the company of some pretty good ones:

horvat

It’s not just his points either. In Horvat, the Canucks see a two-way center with the potential to dominate at both ends of the ice.

“To me, Bo should be able to play against the other team’s top center,” said Canucks coach Willie Desjardins, per the Vancouver Sun. “He’s big and strong and he’s good on draws, but to do that, he’s got to be a little better defensively. That’s a role I see him playing. And a lot of times, the other team’s top lines aren’t great defensively and that’s where he can score, too. I see him able to do both.”

The coach is right that Horvat still has things to learn defensively. He got a crash course last season when Brandon Sutter got hurt, and it was a real struggle at times. Horvat finished with a minus-30 rating, almost the lowest in the league.

But at the same time, Horvat showed flashes of brilliance offensively, his bursts of speed proving a handful for defensemen in one-on-one situations.

And to think, skating was once considered his major weakness. Not anymore.

Read more: Canucks lock up Ben Hutton for two more years

To be sure, Horvat still has a ways to go if he’s ever going to legitimately replace Henrik Sedin on the Canucks’ first line. He is not yet an elite puck distributor, and that’s another thing he’ll have to work on. More passes like the one he made last night to Sven Baertschi and he might really turn into something:

Sorry about the jinx, Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, right, deflects a shot by Minnesota Wild's Charlie Coyle during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild won 3-1. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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Ah, the classic PHT jinx. We write a glowing post about some team or another, and they respond by completely falling apart.

Since last week’s homage to the Winnipeg Jets, the Jets have:

— Lost 5-2 in Philadelphia, where Connor Hellebuyck allowed four goals on just 21 shots
— Lost 4-1 in Boston, where the Jets managed just 12 shots against 38 for the Bruins
— Lost 3-1 in Carolina, where the Jets were outshot 40-29
— Lost 3-1 in Minnesota, where they were held to 16 shots against 26 for the Wild

Add it up, and ever since we sang their praises, the Jets have been outscored 15-5 and outshot 126-89. And just to throw some advanced stats into the mix, when it comes to score-adjusted Corsi, no team in the NHL has been worse than Winnipeg in its last four games (41.3).

At the very least, there were signs of improvement against the Wild.

“It was the way the game went,” head coach Paul Maurice told reporters after the loss. “We tipped their second goal in and it was a perfect tip and we were about an inch shy on everything we did. The margin for error was real small. It’s going to look like that for us right now. We’ve got to be prepared to play those type of (tight) games and get comfortable in them.”

To be fair to the Jets, they still have a long list of injured players, including veterans Tyler Myers and Bryan Little. They’ve also played a lot of games in a short time — last night’s was their 12th in 21 days.

But there’s no rest for the weary. A big Central Division clash awaits Friday in Nashville, where the Predators (9-7-3) are starting to gain some momentum after a slow start.

In the last week alone, the Jets (9-11-2) have slid right out of a playoff spot. They’re now one point back of the Preds for the final wild-card spot, with Nashville holding three games in hand.

Mike Smith had an ‘awful’ night for the Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (41) gets pulled in favor of goalie Louis Domingue (35) as left wing Jamie McGinn (88) watches during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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Mike Smith made only his fifth start of the season last night for the Arizona Coyotes, and things did not go well.

The Coyotes lost, 4-1, to the visitors from Vancouver. Afterwards, Smith delivered a frank assessment of his performance.

“It was awful,” he told reporters. “It was sleeping right from the first goal, and right through on. It was not even close. We did a lot of good things, I thought, in front of me and didn’t get rewarded for it tonight. But a lot of that comes solely on my shoulders tonight.”

The first goal Smith surrendered came off a careless turnover by Oliver Ekman-Larsson, pounced on by Bo Horvat, who quickly fed Sven Baertschi for the tap-in:

“Instead of making a big save there, you let one in that you were sleeping on a little bit,” said Smith. “From there on in, it was obvious that I wasn’t feeling it tonight. It’s no excuse. You have to get the job done.”

The Coyotes ended up outshooting the Canucks, 36-27, but the real difference was goaltending. In Vancouver’s net was Ryan Miller, who turned in his finest performance of the month and was named the game’s third star.

As for Smith, well, this was the fourth and final goal he allowed, right before he got the hook:

With the loss, the 34-year-old Smith fell to 2-1-1 with a .904 save percentage.

The Coyotes host Connor McDavid and the Oilers tomorrow. Louis Domingue is the other Arizona goalie. He’s 4-8-0 with the same .904 save percentage as Smith’s.

Pick your poison, Dave Tippett.

Related: For better or worse, the Coyotes are ‘married’ to Smith

Kevan Miller a game-time decision for Chara-less Bruins

MONTREAL, QC - MAY 12: Kevan Miller #86 of the Boston Bruins shoots the puck against the Montreal Canadiens in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on May 12, 2014 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins will be without Zdeno Chara tonight in Ottawa, but they could get Kevan Miller back.

Head coach Claude Julien said this morning that Miller will be a game-time decision. The 29-year-old defenseman has yet to make his 2016-17 debut. He had hand surgery on Oct. 11, two days before the Bruins opened their season.

If Miller does play, it will likely mean another game in the press box for Colin Miller. The 24-year-old has been a healthy scratch the past four games. He has one goal and one assist in 15 games, with a minus-6 rating.

As for Kevan Miller, tonight could mark his first game for the Bruins since signing a four-year, $10 million extension. Last season, the 29-year-old set career highs in NHL games played (71), goals (5), assists (13), and average ice time (19:04).

It was not all roses for the undrafted University of Vermont product. That Miller had to play such a large role became emblematic of the Bruins’ issues on the right side of their defense, and he heard it from the fans at times. In the end, among Boston d-men, only Chara and Torey Krug logged more ice time than Miller.

This season, the surprising play of rookie Brandon Carlo has alleviated some of the concerns about the right side. But Carlo will be tested tonight without Chara as his partner. The 19-year-old will likely skate with veteran John-Michael Liles, while Krug is expected to pair with Adam McQuaid, and Joe Morrow will be with one of the Millers, probably Kevan.