Jason Brough

Arizona Coyotes' Mike Smith (41) makes a save on a shot by Philadelphia Flyers' Wayne Simmonds (17) as Coyotes' Zbynek Michalek (4), of the Czech Republic, defends on the play during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
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Coyotes assign Michalek to AHL

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

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets stops a shot from David Schlemko #5 of the San Jose Sharks during the first period on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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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

A final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, and the Wings need to be better

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 27:  Fans watch the pre game show prior to Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on April 27, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Granted, they were against two tough opponents, but the first two games of the season did little to arrest the pessimism surrounding the Red Wings.

Tonight in Detroit, the Wings will play their final home opener at Joe Louis Arena, and they’ll do it coming off back-to-back losses in Florida.

“We don’t worry about external expectations, our expectations are extremely high,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive. “Right now, we haven’t lived up to those expectations in two games. But the good thing is we get to work on Monday morning and get ready for Monday night.”

The Wings lost 6-4 in Tampa Bay on Thursday and 4-1 in Sunrise two days later. Combined, they were outshot 74-54 by the Lightning and Panthers. They host undefeated Ottawa tonight.

“It’s early in the year and we’re trying to do the right thing but we’re not really connected right now,” veteran forward Henrik Zetterberg told reporters Saturday.

The Red Wings have not missed the playoffs since 1990, but it would not be a huge surprise if that streak ended in 2016-17. Detroit has some promising, young forwards and a good, young goalie in Petr Mrazek, but its core is aging and increasingly broken down, and Pavel Datsyuk isn’t a part of it anymore.

The Wings will move into a new arena next year, after a great run at The Joe that included four Stanley Cup-winning seasons. Their final regular-season game at the old rink is set for Apr. 9 against New Jersey. Don’t stop believing, Wings fans, but remains to be seen if there will be playoff hockey after that.

A frustrating start for the ‘Canes, who’ve already blown a pair of 3-goal leads

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 13: Carolina Hurricanes players and coaches watch during a challenge of the third-period tying goal by the Winnipeg Jets during NHL action on October 22, 2016 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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A three-goal lead in today’s NHL should not be overcome. Any team that gets one should be able to keep it.

Amazingly, the Carolina Hurricanes have already blown two of them. Amazingly, because they’ve only played two games!

Thursday in Winnipeg, a 4-1 lead ended in a 5-4 overtime loss. Saturday in Vancouver, it was a 3-0 lead that ended in a 4-3 OT defeat.

“We’ve let two points slip now,” said forward Jordan Staal, per the club’s website. “It’s a matter of learning from it. We’ve got to find ways to win. We’ve done some good things throughout these two games, but we haven’t finished strong. We have to find a way to do that.”

The ‘Canes entered the season as a playoff dark horse. Which wasn’t necessarily wrong, because there’s a lot to like about this young team.

But with a young team, there are going to be mistakes.

“I felt like we had the game under control,” goalie Eddie Lack said after the Vancouver defeat. “We played a good team game, but individual mistakes, giving the puck away, and I should have had the first one.”

Goaltending, of course, was an issue for the ‘Canes last season. Yet after finishing with the league’s second-lowest team save percentage (.902), they brought back the same tandem of Lack with Cam Ward, the latter signing a two-year extension to remain with the only NHL team he’s ever played for.

Against the Jets, Ward allowed five goals on just 26 shots. Which wasn’t very promising.

The ‘Canes play the third game of their six-game, season-opening road trip on Tuesday in Edmonton. After that, it’s visits to Calgary, Philadelphia, and Detroit, before finally playing a home game on Oct. 28 against the Rangers.

The Flames are still learning their new system, and it shows

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 15: TJ Brodie #7 of the Calgary Flames plays the puck after being checked to the ice against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period of their NHL game at Rogers Arena on October 15, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)
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The Calgary Flames are already in a hole. They’ve played three games and only managed to get a point. Not the best start for a team that’s aiming to get back into the playoffs.

But if you ask them, not a massive surprise, either.

Following Saturday’s 2-1 shootout defeat in Vancouver, the Flames’ new head coach, Glen Gulutzan, talked about the challenges his squad was facing.

“We’re learning a lot of new things,” said Gulutzan. “We’re doing a lot of things different. You have to believe in it, right? You have to believe and go through the process of it. For us, that’s real important. We’re starting new. We don’t have the luxury of three or four training camps under our belts.”

Gulutzan, of course, replaced Bob Hartley after last season’s 12th-place finish in the Western Conference. The GM, Brad Treliving, didn’t like the “style” the Flames played under Hartley; hence, all the “new things” the players are trying to learn under Gulutzan.

“I think that people that know hockey know there is an adjustment period with a new coach and with new systems,” goalie Chad Johnson said, per the Calgary Herald. “We all want to come out right away and be as strong as the Chicago Blackhawks and the L.A. Kings. But they’ve been together for five or six years with the same coach and the same systems. There’s an adjustment period, especially for this group. Everybody has to be patient.”

Prior to the loss in Vancouver, the Flames had dropped a pair in regulation to the Oilers, getting outscored by a combined 12-7. It’s still very early, but there’s a hint of a potential goaltending controversy. Brian Elliott, the starter, was ventilated in the two games against Edmonton, while Johnson played well against the Canucks.

Gulutzan wouldn’t say who would start when the Flames host Buffalo Tuesday night. But against the injury-riddled Sabres, it’s a good opportunity for his team to notch its first win.

Another loss, on the other hand, and the hole only gets deeper.