Mike Halford

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates after the puck during the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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Werenski named November’s rookie of the month

Columbus knew it had a special talent in d-man Zach Werenski and, accordingly, had high expectations of him coming into this season.

Werenski hasn’t just met those expectations through the first two months of his NHL career. It’s fair to say he’s exceeded them.

From the league:

Werenski, who led rookie blueliners and shared third place among all first-year players with 3-7—10 in 14 games, has been named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for November.

Werenski edged Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (7-2-0, 2.02 GAA, .929 SV%, 1 SO), Toronto Maple Leafs center Mitchell Marner (6-7—13 in 14 GP), Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine (7-4—11 in 16 GP), Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (3-7—10 in 14 GP) and New York Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei (0-9—9 in 15 GP) for the honor.

Werenski, the eighth overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, registered at least one point in eight of his 14 appearances, including a pair of two-assist efforts to open the month (Nov. 1 vs. DAL and Nov. 4 vs. MTL). He also scored the overtime winner Nov. 9 vs. ANA, becoming the first rookie defenseman in franchise history to achieve the feat.

This is shaping up to be a potentially historic rookie class. Two other prized freshmen — Toronto’s William Nylander and Auston Matthews — are very much in the Calder Trophy mix, while the likes of Jimmy Vesey, Travis Konecny, Sebastian Aho, Brayden Point and Matthew Tkachuk are also having impressive seasons as well.

More good news for Jets, as Perreault returns from 14-game absence

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 09:  Mathieu Perreault #85 of the Winnipeg Jets in action during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Jets defeated the Coyotes 6-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Maybe Brough should jinx the Jets more often.

After a hideous five-game losing streak in which they were outscored 20-6 and out-shot 156-112, things have started to go in a better direction.

Tonight, the club will welcome Mathieu Perreault back, after Perreault missed the last 14 games with an upper-body injury suffered in early November.

Perreault will skate as a fourth-line winger against the Oilers this evening, illustrating the depth Winnipeg now has up front. Perreault’s scored 40-plus points in each of the last three years, and finished tied with Mark Scheifele for third in assists (32) in ’15-16.

Perreault’s return isn’t the only thing trending in the right direction.

Winnipeg has won two straight, which included Connor Hellebuyck’s terrific 42-save shutout over the Preds on Sunday. And in Tuesday’s win over the Devils, the Jets welcomed Bryan Little back into the lineup, after Little was knocked out of action in the first game of the season.

The veteran center logged more than 20 minutes against New Jersey, just to give an idea of how big a role he plays for the Jets.

 

 

 

Vesey expected to draw boos in Buffalo tonight, but Sabres have no ‘ill feelings’

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Jimmy Vesey #26 of the New York Rangers waits for the faceoff against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on October 6, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jimmy Vesey could’ve been a Buffalo Sabre. But ultimately, he chose not to be.

That fact — granted, one lacking a significant amount of detail — is the big reason why Vesey will be met with jeers tonight when he and the New York Rangers take on the Sabres in Buffalo.

Fans at KeyBank will boo, which is to be expected. GM Tim Murray acquired Vesey’s negotiating rights from Nashville in June, hoping to use a near two-month window to try and convince Vesey to sign with his club. But Vesey, fresh off a Hobey Baker win at Harvard, opted instead to test unrestricted free agency rather than ink in Buffalo, and joined the Blueshirts.

For all the angst Sabres supporters might have over what transpired, those within the organization insist there’s no hard feelings.

“I’m not really sure why,” Eichel told the Buffalo News, when asked about the prospect of fans booing Vesey. “He was a free agent. It’s his own decision to make a decision where he wants to play. If any of us were in his situation I’m sure a lot would go into a decision like that. Obviously would have loved to have him in Buffalo but he made a decision and obviously he’s happy with that one.

“Can’t blame a guy for that.”

Buffalo head coach Dan Bylsma pretty much said the same. While he admitted he’d “like to have ill feelings about Jimmy and the situation,” he went on to say he couldn’t. Vesey exercised a practice afforded to him within the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement and, regardless of thoughts and feelings and opinions on the matter, he did play by the rules.

So far, things have worked out pretty well in New York. Vesey has eight goals and 14 points through 24 games, averaging 14:29 TOI while showing an ability to play up and down the lineup (tonight, he projects to skate alongside Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash).

Thursday won’t be the only time Vesey’s going to get razzed, though.

In just over two weeks, the Rangers play their first game of the year in Nashville.

Despite all the healthy scratches, Blues ‘have a lot of confidence’ in Yakupov

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 13: Nail Yakupov #64 of the St. Louis Blues skates during warm ups prior to a game against the Minnesota Wild on October 13, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Nail Yakupov has been in the press box for seven of St. Louis’ last 12 games, and that’s expected to become eight in 13 when the Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.

That stat might have some wondering: Does GM Doug Armstrong regret acquiring Yakupov from Edmonton?

The answer: No. Not yet, anyway.

“I have a lot of confidence in Yak that he’s going to keep his nose to the grindstone and when he gets his opportunity, he’s just got to make the most of it,” Armstrong said, per the Post-Dispatch. “We look at it from how our team is doing, not how each individual player is doing, and our team is doing well. He’s part of our team.”

When in the lineup, Yakupov’s been fairly productive this season. He has two goals and five points through 16 games — averaging just a shade over 10 minutes per night — and there have been zero complaints about his effort, energy and attitude in the room.

In fact, everybody in St. Louis seems to be saying variations of the same thing. Yak’s a good guy, works hard, good player, etc. etc. It’s just really tough to crack the lineup right now (which is fair, given the Blues are No. 2 in the Western Conference standings and No. 4 in the league overall).

Armstrong also noted the club had no regrets about getting Yakupov out of Edmonton, noting the low price point (a third-round pick) and calling it a “worthwhile gamble.”

One has to think Armstrong made the Yakupov move in the event one of his core forwards gets hurt. Jaden Schwartz, Alex Steen and Patrik Berglund have all had injury problems over the last couple of years.

Anderson takes leave of absence from Sens as wife battles cancer

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 18: Craig Anderson #41 of the Ottawa Senators makes a save against the Arizona Coyotes during an NHL game at Canadian Tire Centre on October 18, 2016 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)
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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson has taken a leave of absence from the team as his wife battles a rare form of throat cancer.

The Senators announced the news on Twitter and said Anderson isn’t expected to be available for Ottawa’s game Thursday against visiting Philadelphia.

Nicholle Anderson has been diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a cancer that starts in the upper part of the throat behind the nose and near the base of skull.

She is undergoing treatment at the Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Mike Condon and the recently recalled Andrew Hammond will take on the goaltending duties in Anderson’s absence. Anderson is 12-5-1 with a 2.20 goals-against average this season.