Mike Halford

Nicklas Backstrom

Trotz: Backstrom in ‘same mold as a Bergeron,’ should get All-Star, Selke consideration

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Barry Trotz has proven to be one of the NHL’s best coaches and now, he’s emerging as one of the league’s best lobbyists as well.

Specifically when it comes to pumping the tires of Nicklas Backstrom.

“He’s in that same mold as a [Patrice] Bergeron,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “They’re complete players, they’re fantastic on the draws, in every situation, on both sides of the puck and when the game is on the line.

“That is, to me, why he should be either getting some all-star recognition or at least some Selke recognition for sure. He’s a fantastic player.”

Backstrom is having a terrific year for the NHL-leading Caps, sitting first on the team in scoring (31 points in 30 games) while averaging 19:30 TOI per night. That continues with the standard of consistent productivity he’s set throughout his career — Backstrom has been virtually a point-a-game player throughout his nine years in the league, with 603 points in 607 contests.

But for Trotz, Backstrom’s value is more than just about scoring.

And that could be part of the reason for lobbying.

For as good as the Swedish center is, hardware isn’t exactly stuffing his shelves. The closest he’s ever come to winning a major NHL award was finishing second to Patrick Kane in the 2008 Calder voting; Backstrom’s never finished higher than 10th in Selke voting and never higher than fourth for a spot on an NHL All-Star Team.

Bergeron, meanwhile, has thrice been named the league’s best defensive forward.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Washington’s success this year plays into Backstrom’s favor. These are no longer your high-scoring, firewagon Caps — heading into the Christmas break, they sit first in the NHL in goals allowed, with 71.

One has to wonder if that defensive prowess will change perceptions about Backstrom, especially come awards season.

Rangers send Hellberg, Summers back to AHL

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20:  Magnus Hellberg #45 of the New York Rangers tends net against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on December 20, 2015 in New York City. The Capitals defeated the Rangers 7-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Magnus Hellberg and Chris Summers are on their way back to Wolf Pack.

On Wednesday, New York announced that Hellberg and Summers have been re-assigned to AHL Hartford, after both made their Blueshirts debuts over the last week.

Summers, a defenseman acquired along with Keith Yandle from Arizona, averaged 15:23 over three games with the Rangers, registering four penalty minutes.

Hellberg, acquired from Nashville during the summer, played 20 minutes in relief of Henrik Lundqvist during Sunday’s ugly 7-3 loss to Washington. The Swedish ‘tender made four saves on six shots.

Right now, it’s unclear what this means for the status of injured backup goalie Antti Raanta, or defenseman Kevin Klein.

Raanta has been out since getting hit in the mask with a shot against Minnesota last week, while Klein has been out since late November with an oblique injury.

After ugly outing against Canucks, Bolts lament woeful power play

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 13:  Head Coach Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks on against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Five of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 13, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning had 10 power play opportunities against Vancouver on Tuesday night.

Ten!

Yet they only managed to score once — wasting five man advantages in the third period alone — and, when all was said and done, found themselves with the league’s seventh-worst PP, at 16.8 percent.

“It’s obviously not good enough,” Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said, per the club’s website. “It’s not where it needs to be.

“I mean, 1-for-10 is not even close to where it needs to be.”

The Lightning’s inability to score with the man advantage has been a problem all year long. The team opened the year 1-for-15 and, in the month of November, went six-for-41 (14.6 percent).

The worst part about last night’s effort is that it came at a time where things looked to be coming around.

On Sunday, the Bolts scored two power play goals against Ottawa, and enjoyed a nice streak in early December where they had PPGs in four of their first five games.

Failing to convert against a tired Vancouver team at the end of a six-game trip left the Lightning in a foul mood.

“It’s tough,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “[Special teams] are costing us games this year, so we have to take responsibility as players.

“There are no excuses.”

‘Hawks praise TVR’s ‘mind for the game’

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 26:  Trevor van Riemsdyk #57 of the Chicago Blackhawks waits for a face-off against the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center on October 26, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Ducks 1-0 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (AP) Trevor van Riemsdyk was a big surprise last season. He made the Chicago Blackhawks out of training camp, got hurt and then returned in time to help his team win the Stanley Cup.

For coach Joel Quenneville, what van Riemsdyk is doing so far this year just feels like an extension of a solid start to his NHL career.

“Getting him back here, playing in some important shifts and the minutes has been growing as well,” Quenneville said. “But I think his mind for the game is what we appreciate.”

The emergence of the 24-year-old van Riemsdyk is a big reason why Chicago is once again among the top teams in the Western Conference at the NHL’s Christmas break after a so-so start to the season.

The Blackhawks (20-12-4) had won three in a row and seven of nine before Tuesday’s 4-0 loss at league-leading Dallas. Van Riemsdyk had a rough night with a minus-three rating against the high-scoring Stars, but he leads Chicago with 72 blocked shots and is fifth on the team with an average ice time of 20 1/2 minutes.

“I think there is a lot more comfort there,” van Riemsdyk said. “You feel more confident in the things you’re doing. Obviously, it comes from just getting that experience. Just feeling more comfortable with who you’re playing with or getting that confidence from the coaching staff.”

Chicago’s defensive depth was a concern coming into the season after Johnny Oduya left in free agency for a $7.5 million, two-year deal with Dallas. Then Duncan Keith, a two-time Norris Trophy winner, had right knee surgery on Oct. 20.

Keith’s injury could have turned into a huge problem for the Blackhawks, who play in one of the league’s toughest divisions and could ill afford to lose much ground. But van Riemsdyk took on additional ice time in Keith’s absence, and Chicago went 5-4-1 without its star defenseman.

“When Duncs went down, it’s obviously tough to see,” van Riemsdyk said. “But yeah, there’s a few more minutes now to be had since he logged so many and I didn’t know if I was going to be the guy to play those, but I was looking forward to the chance if they did give it to me. Yeah, those games were great for the experience.”

Now he plays alongside Keith on the same defensive pairing.

“It’s awesome,” van Riemsdyk said. “He’s just a great defenseman. I think he pushes you in the right way and gets the best out of you.”

Van Riemsdyk joined Chicago in March 2014 after playing college hockey for New Hampshire. His older brother, James, a forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs, also played for the Wildcats, and his younger brother, Brendan, has committed to the program.

Trevor van Riemdsyk said their father, Frans, played hockey in high school, and then at the club level in college. The three brothers tried several different sports while growing up in New Jersey, but each of them took to hockey right away.

“Some pretty good genes in that family,” New Hampshire coach Dick Umile said.

James van Riemsdyk was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft and made his NHL debut with Philadelphia two years later. He has been a key confidante and sounding board for Trevor in his transition to the league.

“It’s huge. I think without him I don’t think I’d be anywhere near here,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “He just kind of shows you the way.”

His older brother was of particular help after Trevor had surgeries on his left knee and right wrist last season. James helped talk him through the process of coming back from the injuries, and Trevor returned to the ice for the last four games of the Stanley Cup final against Tampa Bay.

Van Riemsdyk gave Quenneville some valuable minutes against the Lightning, setting the stage for his progress this season.

“Positionally aware, got a good stick, anticipates both sides, both ways,” Quenneville said. “I like the fact that he wants the puck, definitely, but his positioning is probably what gets him into position to block shots, and a good stick.”

Coyotes sign Quebec League scoring sensation Garland

BLAINVILLE-BOISBRIAND, QC - NOVEMBER 25:  Conor Garland #8 of the Moncton Wildcats reacts during the QMJHL game against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada at the Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau on November 25, 2015 in Blainville-Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada.  The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defeated the Moncton Wildcats 6-5.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Arizona has signed Conor Garland, it’s fifth-round pick in 2015, to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Garland, 19, has spent this year tearing apart the Quebec League. The Moncton forward has a staggering 21 goals and 80 points through just 33 games and is a whopping 22 points clear of the No. 2 scorer in the league, Sherbrook’s Guillaume Gauthier.

(Yes you read that right. Garland has 80 points in 33 games.)

A Massachusetts native, Garland is small — 5-foot-8, 163 pounds — but has an incredibly high skill level.

Last season, he set Moncton’s franchise record with 129 points in 67 games, then added another 25 in 16 playoff games.