Mike Halford

Mike Fisher

Preds put Fisher on IR after Hanzal hit, will miss next four games

The Nashville Predators will be without one of their top centers for the next while.

On Wednesday, the club put Mike Fisher on injured reserve in the wake of a heavy Martin Hanzal hit during last night’s win over the Coyotes.

Fisher, who sits tied for the third on the team with five goals, is a pretty key cog in the Preds’ operation. He plays nearly 19 minutes a night, leads the team in faceoff wins and has pretty solid possession metrics. He’s also one of head coach Peter Laviolette’s more trusted veterans, and serves as one of the club’s three alternate captains.

Injuries have been an issue lately, however.

Last year, Fisher missed over 20 games with a ruptured Achilles, then missed half of the opening playoff round against Chicago with a lower-body ailment.

With Fisher out the next four games — he’s set to be re-evaluated next week — the Preds will be pretty thin down the middle with Mike Ribeiro, Calle Jarnkrok and Paul Gaustad next up on the depth chart. Cody Hodgson could be moved to center as a stopgap solution, or Colton Sissons could get a bigger role.

On those Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins trade rumblings

Ralph Krueger, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Shawn Horcoff
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Yesterday, TSN’s Insider Trading panel broke word that Edmonton was exploring trade possibilities for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Today, the Oilers dealt with the fallout.

First, head coach Todd McLellan stood up for Nugent-Hopkins, less than 48 hours after indirectly calling him out for an underwhelming effort on the club’s recently completed road trip.

“I think he’s a real valuable player to our team,” McLellan said today, per the Oilers website. “He uses what he has, night in and night out. He had a tough trip.

“Nuge is also the guy that’s been moved around.  He’s lost his linemates. He’s been moved around to different power plays. Am I defending Nuge? Absolutely, because I believe in him one-hundred percent.”

Not long after, Eberle touched on the rumors regarding his future with the club:

At this stage, it’s worth bringing up the “soft skill” term that’s been making the rounds in conjunction with the Oilers and, specifically, Eberle and Nuge.

It’s been suggested new GM Peter Chiarelli wants to reshape the Oilers into a beefier and brawnier team, not unlike Stanley Cup-winning side he built in Boston. That idea was further pushed by McLellan following Monday’s listless 3-0 defeat in Toronto.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

You can probably see where this is going.

Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins are unlikely to ever be known as strong, powerful forwards. Part of that comes from DNA — Eberle’s 5-foot-11, 181 pounds while RNH is 6-foot, 189 — and part of that comes from the perception (fair or not) that both prefer to do their work from the perimeter.

But to focus on buzz terms like “soft skill” undermines several other, bigger issues with this team.

The defense is still poor. The goaltending hasn’t been good enough. There have been five different head coach in five years. Injuries have discombobulated the team at forward — tonight, the club will be without its entire second line as Connor McDavid, Nail Yakupov and Benoit Pouliot are out injured — and, as McLellan has stated on a number of occasions, this whole thing is still a work in progress.

So maybe “soft skill” isn’t the problem.

John Scott is currently leading the NHL All-Star vote

John Scott, Brandon Davidson
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In a move reminiscent to the “Vote For Rory” campaign of eight years ago, Arizona Coyotes forward John Scott — who has one assist in 38 minutes of ice time this year — is looking down at Alexander Ovechkin, Patrick Kane and Jaromir Jagr atop the NHL All-Star perch.

NHL ALL STAR

If you’re wondering how this happened, it all started on the Puck Daddy/Marek vs. Wyshynski podcast. Then Reddit got involved. Not long after, getting John Scott into the All-Star Game became the kind of viral sensation the Internet hasn’t seen since keyboard cat.

(Or the Australian party kid with the sunglasses.)

This year’s All-Star Game, of course, will feature a new 3-on-3 tournament consisting of 20-minute “mini” games, eschewing the previous format where nobody tried to get hurt over 60 minutes of 5-on-5.

When it comes to goalies, Bill Peters is the anti-Patrick Roy

Bill Peters
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Carolina’s goaltending has not been good this year.

You can see it in the numbers. The ‘Canes have the NHL’s second-worst save percentage (.886) despite giving up the fewest shots (25.3).

You can see it in the club’s record (8-12-4).

You can see it in the standings (tied for last in the Eastern Conference).

Where you won’t see it, though, is from the head coach.

Bill Peters isn’t calling out either Cam Ward or Eddie Lack for their sub-par efforts, even though he’s had enough chances to do so.

He didn’t do it following Monday’s loss to the Rangers, in which Ward allowed this crucial (and, ugly) Chris Kreider tally:

Ward’s stick-smashing response was telling. That was a bad goal, costly, and one that can’t go in.

Yet when asked after the game, this happened. From the News & Observer:

Peters refused to pin the loss on Ward. He felt there were more culprits than his goaltender.

“We didn’t have enough guys going and we weren’t good enough in a lot of areas,” Peters said. “Just too many mistakes. We were hit and miss, hot and cold throughout the game.”

After Tuesday’s practice, Peters was again asked about his goaltending — this time, how he’d rate it through the first quarter of the season.

Again, Peters punted.

You can watch the video here but, essentially, he answered by saying the goaltending is “like our team,” then transitioned to how the ‘Canes need to improve their special teams and quality of offensive chances.

Peters then finished by saying “we can be better in all areas.”

So, artful dodging.

This positioning is pretty noteworthy because, as statistics suggest, Carolina should be better than it is. The ‘Canes don’t give up many shots, but they take plenty — 30.7 per game, seventh in the NHL — and, this week, GM Ron Francis admitted that’s all adding up to some serious frustration.

“The two big areas that are working against each other is that at one end we’re struggling to score goals — our shooting percentage is down — and at the other end, we’re struggling to make key stops at the key time with our save percentage,” he told ESPN. “So, you put that together and it adds up to more losses than wins, even in games when you feel you were the better team.

“That part has been frustrating.”

The fact Peters hasn’t come out and said “OK FINE, WE NEED A SAVE,” is interesting, especially given what’s going on with a struggling club in the opposite conference.

In Colorado, head coach Patrick Roy’s had no problem calling out his goalie, Semyon Varlamov.

He did it last week after a loss to Ottawa, and he did it again after Monday’s loss in Brooklyn.

In other areas, though, Roy has been far less critical.

Despite an ugly 10-14-1 record, the rest of the Avalanche haven’t been subjected to the same type of criticism — heck, we’ve covered the “Patrick Roy is unfailingly optimistic” thing on a couple of occasions (like here and here, for example). Even though Colorado’s shot and possession metrics aren’t good, and the special teams aren’t either, goaltending is what gets the brunt of the critiques.

Now, there are some serious differences between Carolina and Colorado. Varlamov’s a big-money, long-term contract who Roy constantly refers to as “our guy,” whereas Ward could be gone after this season (Lack, meanwhile, gets a bit of a pass, given he’s only been a ‘Cane for a couple of months.)

There’s also the dynamic from Roy’s Hall of Fame playing career. It’s fair to suggest he intrinsically values high-caliber netminding, perhaps more than others, and that his standard is naturally higher because of it.

But hey, Peters probably wants some good goaltending too.

Gudas to have hearing for Zibanejad headshot (Video)

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Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas will have a disciplinary hearing today for a hit to the head of Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad last night, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced.

The incident occurred early in the third period of Philly’s 4-2 win. Gudas wasn’t penalized on the play, but Zibanejad exited and was held out for the remainder of the contest for precautionary reasons.

Following the game, Sens head coach Dave Cameron expressed his displeasure with the hit:

“What do I think about it? It’s a five-minute major,” Cameron continued, per the Ottawa Sun. “It’s right to the head.

“Do I think (it should be reviewed)? For sure, isn’t that what the league is about today, with no headshots?”

Gudas has a history with the Department of Player Safety. Last year, he avoided suspension but was giving a warning for a hit on Scottie Upshall.