Mike Halford

Jackets’ Prout to have hearing for Kucherov sucker punch (Video)

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Columbus d-man Dalton Prout will have a disciplinary hearing for his sucker punch that knocked Bolts forward Nikita Kucherov out of Sunday’s game, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety has announced.

The incident, which occurred midway through the second period of Tampa Bay’s eventual 4-0 win, earned Prout a two-minute roughing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct.

Kucherov left the game immediately, and didn’t return. There’s been no update on his condition, but it’s worth noting he was recently shook up after taking a high hit from Bruins d-man John-Michael Liles.

Liles wasn’t suspended or fined for his actions.

Surging Flyers lose Neuvirth (illness), so Mason starts again

Not an ideal situation at play for the Flyers on Saturday.

Having jumped back into playoff contention with an 8-2-1 run over their last 11, the Flyers probably would’ve started Michal Neuvirth today after Steve Mason played well in last night’s 3-1 win over Tampa Bay.

Problem is, Neuvirth’s come down with a stomach virus.

As such, Philly’s all but forced to start Mason on Saturday in Florida. Anthony Stolarz has been recalled on an emergency basis from AHL Lehigh Valley, but there’s no chance head coach Dave Hakstol goes with Stolarz in such an important game.

Should the Flyers win tonight and the Red Wings lose in regulation to the Rangers, the two teams would be tied on 77 points for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Mason has been solid in his last three outings, going a perfect 3-0-0 with a .946 save percentage, 1.00 GAA and one shutout.

Jack be quick: Eichel scores with one second left in OT as Sabres beat ‘Canes

Jack Eichel, Marcus Foligno, Rasmus Ristolainen
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They’re already calling it the signature moment of Jack Eichel‘s first NHL campaign.

And, to be honest, it’s a hard claim to argue against.

Eichel, the second overall pick at last year’s draft, continued his terrific rookie season on Saturday afternoon, scoring with one second left in overtime to give Buffalo a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The goal was Eichel’s second of the game and 22nd of the season. That moved him into sole possession of second place among freshman goalscorers, trailing only Chicago’s Artemi Panarin (who has 25).

Some Eichel factoids to throw your way:

It’s also probably worth noting that Eichel is the only rookie forward in the NHL this season to average more than 19 minutes per game. Really speaks to the trust level head coach Dan Bylsma has in Eichel — in all situations.

 

After 40-game absence, Smith back for Coyotes tonight

Mike Smith
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Arizona will have a familiar face — or mask, as it was — in goal tonight as Mike Smith returns from a 40-game absence to take on the Oilers in Edmonton.

Smith has been out of the lineup since early December following core muscle surgery. That left starting duties to the club’s backup, Anders Lindback, and rookie AHL call-up Louis Domingue — but when Lindback tore his Achilles during pregame stretching in mid-February, the goalie duties were left to Domingue and another AHL recall, Niklas Treutle, who was tending net in the German League last season.

Needless to say, it’s been a tough campaign for Coyotes goalies.

“I just want to play and feel healthy and help the team try to succeed,” Smiths said, per the Coyotes’ Twitter. “It’s tough watching from the sidelines.”

Smith, who’s had his struggles in Arizona, was off to an erratic start before getting hurt. He sandwiched a very good November — going 6-2-0 with a .918 save percentage — between below-average efforts in October and December.

It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in his comeback attempt. Arizona’s lineup is thinned out at the moment, and one thing that won’t help Smith’s cause is the injury to star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’s unlikely to play for the third straight game tonight.

‘No one has really done this in the NHL’: Ott back at Blues practice after major hamstrings injury

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Given the severity of the above crash, it’s not surprising St. Louis forward Steve Ott suffered a pretty severe injury.

But now, we’re finding how just how truly severe it was.

“No one has really done this in the NHL,” Ott said following Blues practice on Friday, his first since rehabbing from a surgery in which his torn hamstrings were re-attached. “I guess we’re writing the paper for it all.

“I feel sorry for the poor bastard that does it again. Because you know what? Whoever does this, they’re going to be in one, for the amount of rehab and work we put in to get me ready, to be ready before playoff time.”

Ott tore both his hamstrings in that horrific crash, and the injury was so significant some wondered if it might effectively end his playing career.

“To have something repaired the way they pulled your hamstring back up, re-attached it and then sitting on your butt for the first six weeks, not be able to do anything to let it heal, then the amount of rehab to get it going… it’s an up early, leave late kind-of-thing,” he explained. “But all of us would do it. You want to play in the League, and for myself, I think I’ve got a lot left in me and I’m starting to feel good.”

The 33-year-old had appeared in 21 games for the Blues this season before getting hurt, registering two assists while playing just under 11 minutes per night. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but Ott’s value comes with his distinctive style of play — gritty, agitating, physical — three traits that will come in handy during the playoffs.

Still, there’s no exact timetable for when he’ll be back. Ott was hesitant to put a specific date on a return, but there was some suggestion he could draw back in after St. Louis’ current five-game road swing, which begins tonight in Dallas.