Mike Halford

Drouin trade request ‘surprising,’ says Cooper (Updated: Drouin speaks, sorta)

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Jonathan Drouin’s trade request out of Tampa Bay has caught many off guard.

Including his head coach.

“All that stuff is kind of surprising, to be honest,” Jon Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “You never want to be in a situation where somebody wants out. This is probably not the first player that’s ever asked for it.

“But it’s too bad. It’s another situation you wouldn’t see this coming.”

That Cooper’s calling this “surprising” — at least he’s calling it that publicly, anyway — is a bit surprising itself.

Why?

Because many assume Drouin’s disenchantment with his role in Tampa Bay is partly due to Cooper’s actions.

It landed on the radar during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Drouin, coming off a rookie campaign in which he scored 32 points in 70 games, was a bit player in the Lightning’s run through the postseason.

He appeared in just six games — none in the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers — and was a virtual non-factor in the Final, appearing in just three of six contests while averaging less than 10 minutes per night.

And Cooper didn’t mince words about why the highly-talented offensive player was out.

“There is more than one net in a rink,” was the now-infamous remark about not playing Drouin. “There’s two. You have to be able to play in front of both.”

Drouin admitted he was frustrated with not drawing in. Cooper, meanwhile, gave the likes of Brenden Morrow, Cedric Paquette and J.T. Brown more significant postseason roles — which led to some second-guessing, especially in the Chicago series when the Bolts’ offense dried up, and scored just twice over the final three games.

Given that Drouin’s agent (Allan Walsh) said their camp’s trade request began all the way back in November, it’s fair to deduce hard feelings from the playoffs lingered over to this year.

Yet it’s also fair to suggest that Cooper genuinely wasn’t aware of the player’s disappointment.

At 20, Drouin wasn’t going to march up to his coach and demand he draw into the Stanley Cup Final — he wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of expressing his desire to get in.

“You can’t be in a bad mood,” Drouin said on Cup Final media day. “When guys are scratched you can see in their faces that they’re not happy, but there’s two teams left, so I’m happy and smiling.

“It’s my job to come here and be happy and help my team.”

Update: Drouin met with media in AHL Syracuse on Tuesday morning, in what was described as a “brief and seemingly painful media session.”He punted on answering any queries related to the trade request or his relationship with the Lightning, responding “yes and no,” when asked if this was a difficult situation for him.

“You obviously want to be up there,” he said. “But right now it’s not my decision. I’m happy to be part of the Syracuse Crunch right now and that’s all I can worry about.”

Related: Laugh about it later? Lightning players react to Drouin’s trade request

Goalie nods: After getting hooked versus Calgary, Varlamov back in for Avs

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov makes a glove save against the Anaheim Ducks during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Tonight, Semyon Varlamov will get a chance to make amends for Saturday’s rough outing against the Flames when the Avs host Calgary at Pepsi.

Though according to head coach Patrick Roy, Varlamov’s outing wasn’t even really that bad.

“Varly played well,” Roy said, per the Denver Post. “He didn’t play as well against Toronto (Dec. 21), but he was really good in the other games. If not for him against Chicago in the second period, we could have been three or four goals behind.

“Even in the (Calgary) game, I thought he was not responsible for goals. We just had a hard time (picking) up guys in front of the net. They were perfect tips, under the bar, post and in. He certainly wasn’t responsible for that game.”

Varlamov was been a big part of Colorado’s December resurgence, so it’s not overly surprising Roy wants to get him back in for a key Western Conference clash with the Kings. Roy also added he didn’t want to use AHL netminder Calvin Pickard — up with the parent club due to Reto Berra‘s injury — for the remainder of the Avs’ current homestand.

For the Kings, looks as though Jhonas Enroth will get the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

— Good matchup in New Jersey, where Petr Mrazek — who looks to have taken over the No. 1 gig in Detroit — goes up against Devils workhorse Cory Schneider.

— Battle of the backups in St. Louis: Andrew Hammond goes for the Sens, Brian Elliott for the Blues.

Eddie Lack has been in good form for Carolina lately, but it’ll be Cam Ward that gets the start in Edmonton (in his home province of Alberta). The Oilers are countering with Cam Talbot.

Louis Domingue goes for Arizona tonight in Vancouver. With Ryan Miller still on IR, Jacob Markstrom is the presumed starter for the Canucks.

 

Tough blow for Isles as Boychuk (upper body) out 4-6 weeks

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It didn’t look good when Johnny Boychuk went flying into the end boards after missing a hit on Jack Eichel last week.

And now doctors have confirmed — it wasn’t good.

Boychuk will miss the next 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury, the Islanders announced on Monday. It’s a pretty significant blow, as Boychuk averages the third-most minutes on the team and — at the time of his injury — was the Isles’ leading d-man scorer, with three goals and 14 points in 38 games.

The 32-year-old won’t require surgery to fix the ailment. That’s a positive.

The negative?

New York hasn’t exactly been a defensive fortress lately, partly due to an injury to starting netminder Jaroslav Halak.

While the Isles are 4-2 in their last six, they’ve also given up 19 goals over that span, including 10 in the last two games to Pittsburgh and Dallas (the Pens and Stars games were the first two Boychuk missed to his injury, not coincidentally.)

Looking at New York’s schedule, it’s safe to assume Boychuk misses the club’s eight remaining games in January, while his status for the first half of February — the Isles play eight more games between Feb. 2-15 — remains up in the air.

When Boychuk got hurt, the Isles recalled Adam Pelech as a defensive reinforcement. He acquitted himself reasonably well in Sunday’s win over Dallas, finishing plus-2 in just over 16 minutes of ice time.

The timing of Boychuk’s injury will almost certainly play into Travis Hamonic‘s immediate future in New York. The defenseman, who has requested a trade, now seems destined to stay with the Islanders and is prepared to take on an increased role in Boychuk’s absence.

Ducks’ Gibson named December’s rookie of the month

Mike Santorelli, John Gibson
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Anaheim goalie John Gibson has been named the NHL’s rookie of the month for December, the league announced on Monday.

More:

[Gibson] went 5-3-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and three shutouts in 10 appearances.

Gibson, a second-round selection (39th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, shared the League lead in shutouts with Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (13 GP). He recorded two of his three blank sheets with consecutive 1-0 victories to close the month, snapping the Calgary Flames’ franchise-record 11-game home winning streak with a 14-save performance Dec. 29 and ending the calendar year with a 21-save game against the Edmonton Oilers Dec. 31.

Gibson, who has appeared in 41 career NHL games, owns an 8-4-2 record with a 1.63 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and four shutouts in 15 outings this season. He paces all goaltenders in goals-against average, ranks fourth in save percentage and is tied for third in shutouts.

Other rooks in the running included Chicago’s Artemi Panarin (four goals, 11 points in 15 games), Buffalo’s Jack Eichel (three goals, 11 points in 14 games), Tampa Bay’s Jonathan Marchessault (five goals, nine points, 13 games) and Philly’s Shayne Gostisbehere (three goals, nine points in 12 games).

With the win, Gibson joins Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin as rookie of the month winners this season.

Slumping Sabres keep getting hammered by injuries

Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, Nicolas Deslauriers
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More tough news on the injury front Monday in Buffalo.

Per head coach Dan Bylsma, Nicolas Deslauriers will miss the next 3-5 weeks with a foot injury while Tyler Ennis — who hasn’t played since Dec. 30 — is also week-to-week with his respective ailment.

This puts Ennis and Deslauriers on the shelf next to three players on IR — Robin Lehner, Cody McCormick, Mark Pysyk — and comes at a horrible time for the Sabres, who have lost four straight to fall to 29th overall in the NHL.

Only the Columbus Blue Jackets have fewer points.

To give an idea of how banged-up the Sabres have been this season, consider:

— Only seven players have appeared in all 39 games thus far.

Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane, the two key pieces acquired in last year’s blockbuster trade with Winnipeg, have combined to miss 27 tilts.

— Lehner, acquired at the draft to be the club’s No. 1 goalie, has played just once.

Ennis, the team’s leading scorer last year, has only appeared in 23 of 39 games and has been something of a disappointment, at least production-wise.

Buffalo was probably counting on much more than the three goals and 11 points he’s netted thus far though, in his defense, the campaign has been pretty start-stop, start-stop with all his health concerns.

As for Deslauriers, his absence will hurt even though his role isn’t huge. The feisty forward has three goals and seven points in 38 games, leading all Sabres with 102 hits.