Mike Halford

Florida Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson (44) gets up from the ice after being pushed in the second period during a preseason NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
AP

Gudbranson sent back to Florida amid concussion concern

4 Comments

A rough stretch here for defensemen on playoff-bound teams.

You can add Florida’s Erik Gudbranson to a list that, after last night’s action, now includes the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh and the Isles’ Calvin de Haan — after taking a high hit from Toronto’s Colin Greening on Monday, the Panthers sent Gudbranson back to Florida on Tuesday for further evaluation.

Gudbranson averages over 20 minutes a night and, at 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, is Florida’s most physically imposing defenseman. He leads the club’s blueliners in hits, with 150, and is fourth on the team in fighting majors.

He’s also the second Panthers d-man to be sidelined with concussion issues.

Captain Willie Mitchell hasn’t played since mid-January while dealing with post-concussion symptoms, and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to return to the club this season.

Related: Panthers’ Mitchell believes the NHL is ‘slipping’ on player safety

Rangers bring up Skjei in wake of McDonagh injury

skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 23, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Rangers 5-2.
Getty Images
2 Comments

There was a dark cloud over the Rangers’ win against Columbus on Monday — even though the Blueshirts clinched their sixth straight playoff appearance with the victory, celebrations were somewhat muted in the wake of captain Ryan McDonagh‘s apparent hand injury.

On Tuesday, New York made a corresponding roster move to replace him.

Brady Skjei — who, like McDonagh, is a left-handed shot — has been recalled from AHL Hartford. The move is interesting, because the Rangers already had a healthy d-man waiting in the wings: Dylan McIlrath, who’s been looking to get back into the lineup since suffering a knee injury in early March.

But it’s quite possible Skjei could draw in ahead of McIlrath.

The Rangers’ first-round pick (28th overall) in 2012, Skjei has performed well for Hartford this year, scoring four goals and 28 points in 68 games. He also showed well in a brief four-game cameo for New York earlier this season, playing a career-high 22:17 against the Devils on Feb. 23.

The Blueshirts play again tonight, then Thursday in a tilt against the Isles (who are limping on defense right now as well). It’ll be interesting to see how head coach Alain Vigneault decides to deploy his defensemen, as — in the wake of the McDonagh injury — the team has four right-handed shots (McIlrath, Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein) compared to three lefties (Skjei, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle).

With injuries piling up on D, Isles recall Mayfield

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28:  Scott Mayfield #42 of the New York Islanders skates against the Washington Capitals at the Barclays Center on September 28, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Capitals defeated the Islanders 3-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Roughly 12 hours after losing the services of Calvin de Haan, the Islanders made a move to replace him by recalling Scott Mayfield from AHL Bridgeport, the club announced on Tuesday.

Mayfield, the 34th overall pick in 2011, has spent most of this year with the Sound Tigers, but did appear in three games for New York back in January/February.

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, the 23-year-old will be an upgrade on de Haan in terms of size — but it’ll be a tall task for Mayfield to replace everything else de Haan brought to the table.

De Haan, knocked out of Monday’s win over the Bolts after taking a Nikita Kucherov shot to the knee, averages just under 21 minutes a night and leads the team in blocked shots this year, with 189.

He’s not the only missing piece on defense.

The Isles, of course, are also without the services of d-man Travis Hamonic, who’s out for the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury.

Its unclear when — or, if — Hamonic will return, which is especially troubling.

Hamonic, a steadying presence on the blueline, missed all of last year’s opening-round playoff loss to the Caps with a knee injury (grade-3 MCL tear). Without him, the defense was thinned out and the Isles ultimately bowed out in seven games.

The 25-year-old, who has been in the news quite a bit this season because of his earlier trade request, was averaging a career-high 24:04 TOI per night and tied a career-best in goals, with five.

There is a potential silver lining for New York’s blueline, however.

Adam Pelech, originally thought to be lost for the year after his thoracic outlet syndrome diagnosis, will return to action with Bridgeport this weekend, and could be available for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Sharks give Norris love to Burns, ‘one of the best defensemen in the league right now’

Brent Burns
6 Comments

As the regular season winds down, awards chatter heats up — and no trophy has garnered more debate this season than the Norris, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman.

If you talk to enough pundits, you’ll come to the conclusion this year’s hardware will go to one of two guys: Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, or Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty.

But from the Bay Area, a third suitor is getting a push from his teammates — Brent Burns.

“He’s an animal,” James Reimer said of Burns, per the San Jose Mercury News. “He’s arguably one of the best defensemen in the league right now and probably not getting the recognition he deserves.”

Burns, who represented San Jose at this year’s All-Star Game, is enjoying a quality campaign. He sits second among all blueliners in scoring, with 74 points — only Karlsson has more, with 79 — and his eye-popping 344 shots on goal are something of an anomaly from a defenseman, as only three in NHL history have fired that many in a single season:

Dustin Byfuglien, Ray Bourque, and Bobby Orr.

Despite that, most concede that Burns is unlikely to bring home the Norris this year. Part of that could do with his, ahem, occasionally reckless style of play, which often leads to turnovers.

The other part could be his history. Despite being a good, quality rearguard for quite some time, Burns has never finished higher than 12th in Norris voting.

It’s something his head coach, Peter DeBoer, can’t make sense of.

“I can’t understand why he’s not in those conversations more for (the Norris Trophy),” DeBoer explained. “He’s a version of (Nashville’s Shea) Weber and Doughty.

“He plays well in both ends for us, plays against other team’s best lines. They’re big guys a lot of nights, and he brings a physical element too, which some of those guys don’t. For me, he should be in that conversation all day long, and I don’t understand why I don’t hear his name more.”

 

Rangers beat Jackets, clinch sixth straight playoff berth

New York Rangers' Derek Stepan, left, is congratulated on his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets by teammates Marc Staal, center, and Dan Girardi during the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. The Rangers beat the Blue Jackets 4-2. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
AP
3 Comments

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan each scored their 20th goals and had an assist, and the New York Rangers hung on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 Monday night to earn a sixth-consecutive playoff berth.

Dan Boyle and Mats Zuccarello also scored for the Rangers, who snapped a three-game skid and moved three points behind second-place Pittsburgh. They remain two points ahead of the fourth-place Islanders in the Metropolitan Division.

The Rangers clinched playing down a defenseman most of the way. Captain Ryan McDonagh was injured blocking a shot early in the first period and left the game.

Henrik Lundqvist made 27 stops for his 34th win.

Nick Foligno scored twice for Columbus, which pulled within one with 9:15 remaining before conceding an empty-net goal.

The Blue Jackets were again without former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovksy, who was a healthy scratch by coach John Tortorella in favor of impressive rookie Joonas Korpisalo. The 21-year-old made 26 saves.

The Rangers finally got off to a good start, scoring the first two goals of the game. On the attack with speed, Kreider took a drop pass from Stepan – who picked up his 300th career point – in traffic and fired a low shot that Korpisalo couldn’t control. Sliding on his knees and with Dalton Prout on his back, Kreider was able to get the rebound and score on the backhand at 6:17 of the first period.

Early in the second, Columbus had trouble clearing its own zone. The puck came to Boyle and he glided to the net before sneaking a shot under Korpisalo at 5:28 0.

Foligno cut the lead to one at 14:41, deflecting David Savard‘s shot in front of Lundqvist for his first goal in 16 games.

Four minutes later, Kreider forced a turnover to create an odd-man break and found Zuccarello, who scored from the slot for his career-high 26th goal to make it 3-1.

Columbus made it interesting late in the third period when Foligno scored his 11th on a nice individual effort around Kevin Klein before tucking the puck behind Lundqvist with 9:15 remaining.

Zuccarello was sent off for high-sticking Foligno with 2:03 remaining, but Stepan scored into an empty net with 1:11 left to end the Blue Jackets’ comeback bid.

NOTES: The Rangers host Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and then play the visiting Islanders and Detroit to finish the season. … Tortorella also scratched 15-year veteran Scott Hartnell for the third time this season. Hartnell has one goal and is a minus 10 in his last 13 games. … New York swept the four-game season series. … Blue Jackets C Gregory Campbell played his 800th career game. … Lundqvist earned his fourth assist of the season on Kreider’s goal to tie his season high. He has 21 career assists. … Columbus D Cody Goloubef left the game in the first period with an oblique injury.