Mike Halford

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Ekman-Larsson ‘should be a Norris Trophy candidate every year,’ says Bylsma


Having only coached in Buffalo and Pittsburgh during his seven-year career, Dan Bylsma hasn’t seen much of Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But what he has seen, he likes.

Quite a bit.

From the Buffalo News:

Bylsma had high praise for Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, calling the 24-year-old Swede the most underrated blueliner in the NHL.

“He should be a Norris Trophy candidate every year,” Bylsma said. “He’s an elite player who may not get the accolades from where he plays and from playing out in the West but he’s a dangerous player.

“One we don’t see much, but one we have to be aware of.”

Ekman-Larsson — who, it should be mentioned, has never finished higher than seventh in Norris voting — is having another really solid campaign in the desert, with six goals and 17 points through 25 games.

Should he maintain this pace, he’d break his career high of 44 points, and be within spitting distance of his eye-popping 23 goals from last season (he, along with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, broke Nicklas Lidstrom’s record for goals in a season by a Swedish blueliner).

And just in case you thought Bylsma might’ve been blowing smoke in advance of tonight’s game against OEL and the Coyotes, do consider what Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported earlier this season:

One scout for a Western Conference-based team says the 24-year-old is now playing at a “Norris Trophy level.”

“He needs a better team around him, an elite partner and more attention,” said the scout. “This guy is great.”

Related: Ekman-Larsson is disappointed, frustrated and feels unwelcome by Glendale City Council

Torts hopes ‘something happens’ for Foligno after snapping 20-game goalless drought

Nick Foligno

Perhaps no player embodies Columbus’ struggles this season more than Nick Foligno.

Foligno, who parlayed last year’s career-high 31 goals into a pricey extension and the club’s captaincy, has just two through 24 games this season, with the second coming in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Montreal — snapping an ugly 20-game goalless drought in the process.

Now, head coach John Tortorealla hopes that goal will turn Foligno’s season in another direction.

(Which is sort of the same hope Torts has for the entire team.)

“You hope something happens for Nick after he scores a goal,” Tortorella said, per NHL.com. “It comes from within the players. They score a goal, it tends to relax them.

“This happens to a lot of teams. It’s a tough league to score in so you hope they feel good about themselves and make some plays and it goes in the other direction for them as far as confidence-wise.”

Even though some looked at Foligno’s ’14-15 output and screamed “CONTRACT YEAR,” it’s still stunning to see how much his goalscoring has fallen off this season, as his GPG average has gone from 0.39 to 0.08. That puts him on pace for around 6-7 goals, which is basically the same number he scored during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign (six, in 45 games).

Of course, the captain isn’t the only one struggling to score goals.

Brandon Saad hasn’t found the back of the net in seven games. Brandon Dubinsky hasn’t scored in his last five. Matt Calvert, who notched a career-best 13 times last year, has one goal in his last 13 games.

And it doesn’t promise to get any easier for Columbus tonight, either. The Jackets are taking on the Panthers, who’ve won four straight and allowed just five goals over that span.

Wounded Wings: Pulkkinen (dislocated shoulder), Miller (broken jaw) out six weeks

Teemu Pulkkinen

The good news for Detroit from Thursday night was that it scored a decisive 5-1 win over the Coyotes.

The bad news… came out this morning.

The Red Wings have lost the services of forwards Drew Miller and Teemu Pulkkinen for six weeks, GM Ken Holland announced on Friday (per MLive). Miller will undergo surgery to fix his broken jaw — which occurred on a hit from Arizona d-man Klas Dahlbeck — while Pulkkinen is out with a separated shoulder courtesy a hit from Martin Hanzal.

The losses will hurt Detroit. Pulkkinen currently sits sixth on the team in scoring, with six goals and 11 points through 24 games, averaging just over 12 minutes per night.

Miller has done little offensively this year — just a goal and an assist — but provided minutes as a penalty killer and bottom-six checking forward. He was also a pretty regular lineup fixture:

At the moment, it doesn’t sound like Detroit will make any immediate recalls from Grand Rapids:

After Saturday’s game against Nashville, the Wings play in Washington on Tuesday, at home against the Habs on Thursday then at New Jersey next Friday.


Tarasenko ‘really happy’ about new-look line with Stastny, Lehtera

Vladimir Tarasenko
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The Blues have done some lineup shuffling in advance of tonight’s game against the Isles, and the biggest changes are at the top.

Star sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, fifth in the league with 14 goals, will play alongside center Paul Stastny and a new left winger — Jori Lehtera, who normally plays in the middle.

“For me, I’m really happy to play with both Stastny and Lehtera,” Tarasenko said, per NHL.com’s Lou Korac. “First of all, they have really good personality. They’re really good friends of mine. It’ll be a little bit different to see (Lehtera) on the wing, but he’s played there before.”

Tarasenko referred to Stastny as an “elite” center and also praised Lehtera’s passing ability, which suggests the Russian is excited about having two table-setters out on the ice with him.

The Blues could use a vintage Tarasenko performance tonight. The offense sputtered in a 3-1 home loss to Florida on Tuesday, which is party why head coach Ken Hitchcock shuffled his lines.

Hitchcock noted that one of the units he put together in the Florida game — David Backes, Alex Steen and Troy Brouwer — played well together, and will likely stick tonight as well.

‘Canes retain Gleason in coaching role

Tim Gleason, David Desharnais

Tim Gleason’s playing days might be over, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be far removed from the NHL.

On Thursday, Gleason — who recently ended his professional tryout with Carolina — was at Hurricanes practice, working in an “unofficial” coaching capacity alongside Bill Peters.

From the News & Observer:

Gleason, whose professional tryout with the Canes ended last week, will fill a role still to be determined, Canes coach Bill Peters said.

Peters said would “help us out in some different areas and work with our young D-men a little bit.”

Gleason, 32, spent parts of eight seasons with the Canes.

Gleason was part of the ‘Canes team that advanced to the 2009 Eastern Conference Final, and appeared in over 700 games during his 12-year career.