<span class="vcard">Mike Halford</span>

Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators - Game Four

Pens to keep eight d-men — will Gonchar be one?

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After last year’s defensive nightmare — in which injuries forced them to play some regular-season games with five d-men, and use Taylor Chorney in the playoffs — the Penguins are taking a proactive approach this season, and will carry eight defensemen.

All of which, you’d think, plays into Sergei Gonchar’s favor. It’s even easier to think that after hearing what Pens GM Jim Rutherford said on the eve of training camp.

“We want to start with eight defensemen just based on the competition we have going here,” Rutherfor explained, per the Tribune-Review. “Each individual will take care of (himself) based on how they play. Certainly, (Sergei) Gonchar will be a guy that everybody will be watching. He’s had a very good career.

“We’ll see how much he has left and can he keep the tempo, but he’s a smart player. I think he can contribute to our team. Now we just have to watch these games, but having eight defensemen in the early going makes some sense, and then we’ll see how that plays out.”

Gonchar, 41, is at Pittsburgh camp on a PTO after a disappointing ’14-15 campaign — he appeared in just three games for Dallas before getting shipped to Montreal, where he appeared in 45 contests, but none during the Habs’ playoff run.

Despite some modest offensive output with the Habs — 13 points — Gonchar looked slow and unable to keep pace, which is fairly normal for a guy that’s played 1,300 games over a 20-year career.

But how does that play into the Pittsburgh situation?

Per the Trib, it’s safe to project Olli Maatta, Kris Letang, Ian Cole, Derrick Pouliot, Ben Lovejoy, Brian Dumoulin and Rob Scuderi as the first seven d-men. After that, Gonchar is (presumably) up against Adam Clendening and Tim Erixon for the No. 8 spot, both of whom are virtual greenhorns in comparison.

Clendening has 21 games of NHL experience, Erixon 93. So it could very well come down to whether Rutherford wants a veteran presence on defense, or some young legs.

It should be noted, however, that both Clendening and Erixon would need to pass through waivers to get to Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. That could also play into Rutherford’s decision.

Rangers invite ex-Isles draftee Kabanov to camp

2010 NHL Draft Portraits
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The New York Rangers have an intriguing name on their training camp roster — Kirill Kabanov.

Kabanov, who the Isles took 65th overall at the 2010 draft, is attending Blueshirts camp on a PTO after spending last year with Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League, where he scored 29 points in 43 games.

Prior to his time in Sweden, Kabanov was something an enigmatic figure.

A talented junior player that bolted Russia to sign in the Quebec league, Kabanov ran afoul of a few teams — QMJHL Moncton, the Russian national U-18 squad — before eventually settling in with Shawinigan in 2011, then signing his ELC with the Isles.

Kabanov briefly played for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport from ’12-14 before getting waived last July, and landing in Sweden.

While he’s been a bit of a headache throughout his career, Kabanov has talent — he was considered a potential first-round pick in 2010 before falling into the third — and only turned 23 this summer.

The Rangers are hoping he’s found some maturity, yet still has enough youth and potential to possibly turn into an NHLer.

 

To the Max: Habs name Pacioretty captain

Colorado Avalanche  v Montreal Canadiens
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The Montreal Canadiens are captain-less no more.

On Friday, the club named winger Max Pacioretty the 29th captain in franchise history, filling the void after playing the ’14-15 campaign with four alternates.

Pacioretty, 26, inherits the role from Brian Gionta, who wore the “C” for four years before signing in Buffalo last summer. Like Gionta, Pacioretty is American, making him the third U.S.-born captain in Canadiens’ history (Chris Chelios is the other).

That Montreal chose Pacioretty as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The Habs confirmed the decision was made by a team-wide vote, and Pacioretty is highly regarded within the room, having won the Masterton trophy in 2012 after recovering a fractured vertebra on a hit from Boston’s Zdeno Chara.

He’s also led the team in goals in each of the last four seasons.

As for alternate captains, Montreal will haTve four of them this year — Andrei Markov, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban and Brendan Gallagher.

Markov, Plekanec and Subban all retain their “A’s” from last season. 

‘Hawks draw heavy criticism for Kane press conference

Patrick Kane, John McDonough
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During Thursday’s press conference — in which Patrick Kane made his first public remarks following sexual assault allegations — Blackhawks team president John McDonough insisted he was “anything but tone deaf.”

Many disagreed.

Vehemently.

McDonough and the Blackhawks organization came under heavy criticism for how they handled today’s presser, in which none of the four speakers — Kane, McDonough, GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville — answered questions about the situation, saying they would only respond to hockey-related queries.

And that’s what they did.

Despite a number of Kane-related questions from the gathered media, all replies were variations of “we have the utmost respect for the legal process,” and “we have no comment at this time.”

What really drew the public’s ire, though, wasn’t necessarily the ducking of questions — it was the statements that followed Kane’s portion of the presser. McDonough began with a lengthy offseason recap, followed by an outline of the team’s goals for the upcoming campaign.

He, Bowman and Quenneville also expressed their excitement about being back on the University of Notre Dame campus, and getting to see the Fighting Irish take on Georgia Tech in football this weekend.

Hence the accusations of tone deafness.

A gathering of some responses, via social media:

Following the initial four speakers, three of Kane’s teammates — Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and captain Jonathan Toews — met with the media and, similarly, dodged most Kane-related queries.

There was a telling moment, however, when the three were asked if Kane remained a leader on the team:

Related: Patrick Kane claims he’s ‘done nothing wrong’

Good to go(al): Bishop healthy, Gudlevskis likely to return for Bolts’ preseason

Ben Bishop

Finally, some good news in goal for Tampa Bay.

On Thursday, GM Steve Yzerman announced that No. 1 netminder Ben Bishop (torn groin) would be ready to go for the start of training camp, while potential backup Kristers Gudlevskis only suffered a minor arm injury last week, and should be available for preseason games.

Those were very welcome developments.

Tampa Bay’s had issues in the blue paint this offseason — Bishop was dealing with the groin tear suffered during the Cup Final and his projected backup, Andrei Vasilevskiy, was lost for 2-3 months due to a blood clotting issue.

Not long after Vasilevskiy went down, Gudlevskis suffered an injury during the club’s preseason rookie tournament. It was cause for concern, especially since the Lightning’s other primary option in goal right now is veteran Ray Emery, who’s attending camp on a PTO.