The stage is set for tonight’s Oilers-Panthers game at BB&T.
Yes, it seems weird hyping a Monday nighter between Florida and Edmonton, hardly the fiercest of rivals, but this one is different — today, the Panthers ruled out star defenseman Aaron Ekblad for another two games, as he continues to deal with the ramifications from a hit from Edmonton forward Matt Hendricks.
Hendricks, of course, is eligible to return tonight… from his three-game suspension for boarding Ekblad.
It’ll be interesting to see how Florida handles the situation. The club is in a bit of a funk, having followed up its impressive 12-game winning streak with a three-game losing skid, during which it’s only managed to score three goals.
There’s a chance head coach Gerard Gallant — who, as the above video shows, was livid with Hendricks’ hit — instructs his players to focus on the game, the two points at stake, and all those other terrific cliches.
But it’s hard to see the Panthers not engaging the Oilers and/or Hendricks at some point.
Shawn Thornton is confirmed to be playing tonight, per play-by-play man Steve Goldstein. He leads the team in fights this year, with four, trailed by fellow forwards Derek McKenzie and Alex Petrovic.
Petrovic, it should be noted, is one of two Panthers that fought Hendricks in game Ekblad got hurt. Logan Shaw was the other.
Islanders forward Mikhail Grabovski has avoided supplementary discipline for his hit on Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin on Sunday — per an NHL spokesman, no disciplinary hearing has been scheduled.
Grabovski was tossed in the first period of the Canucks’ eventual 2-1 shootout win for boarding Sedin from behind. Sedin appeared to be in serious discomfort, and was treated by trainers both on the ice and bench before exiting the game for good.
Vancouver players weren’t happy with Grabovski’s actions.
“It was a pretty dirty play,” Ryan Miller said, per The Province.
Sedin wouldn’t say what kind of injury he sustained, only saying “I couldn’t go (back in) and it was impossible and it doesn’t happen very often — it’s not a good feeling.”
It’s unclear what his availability will be for the remainder of Vancouver’s current road trip. Yesterday’s tilt was game three of six, with contests still to come against the Rangers, Bruins and Penguins.
John Scott didn’t play in his first game with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, but that didn’t keep reporters from asking him the question on everybody’s mind — will he participate in this month’s All-Star Game in Nashville?
“I wish a had the answer,” Scott said, per the club. “I haven’t really heard anything from the league, so I don’t know what the position is or kind of where anybody stands right now.
“It’s kind of up in the air.”
After fans voted him in as one of the four captains for this year’s ASG (while a member of the Coyotes), Scott was involved in a three-way trade last week that saw him go from Arizona to Montreal — and, shortly after acquiring him, the Habs sent Scott to the minors.
Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, that move is going to keep Scott from participating in Nashville.
For now, though, there’s been no official word from the NHL, and the Habs have reportedly been mum on what the plan is for Scott. While it seems unlikely he’ll be up with the parent club anytime soon, stranger things have happened — like John Scott getting voted into the All-Star Game in the first place, for example.
Related: Coyotes GM ‘dumbfounded’ at suggestions he traded John Scott to keep him from All-Star Game
Not your typical sleepy Sunday matinee in Brooklyn, as the Canucks and Isles got some bad blood going early in today’s game at Barclays.
With less than two minutes to go in the opening frame, New York forward Mikhail Grabovski was given a five-minue major and game misconduct for boarding Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin:
There didn’t seem to be much debate about the call, as Grabovski got Sedin in the numbers, with a cross-check, while Sedin was in a fairly vulnerable position. Sedin was shaken up on the play and didn’t skate for the remainder of the period, but was treated by trainers on the bench, as opposed to going to the dressing room.
There was some rough stuff right at the end of the first period, as well. Isles captain John Tavares got into it with Canucks rookie Jared McCann, then Alex Biega and Ryan Strome looked as though they’d fight, only for officials to intervene.
*Update: Sedin won’t be returning to this one.
Vancouver will welcome back two familiar faces on Sunday.
D-man Luca Sbisa, who’s been out since Dec. 3 with a hand injury, draws into the lineup when the Canucks take on the Islanders in a matinee at Barclays, the club announced. Winger Jannik Hansen, who’s been playing on the top line with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, will play for the first time since Jan. 6.
Sbisa has been out for 19 straight games. He, along with Dan Hamhuis (facial injury) have been shelved for well over a month, meaning the Canucks have put together a patchwork defense that, on Friday in Carolina, was comprised of Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Matt Bartkowski, Taylor Fedun, Alex Biega and Ben Hutton.
When healthy, Sbisa was a regular fixture in Vancouver’s top six, though his penchant for erratic play and questionable decision making made him a whipping boy for fans and media alike. He had four points in 18 games this season, but was one of the club’s most physical players (31 hits).
As for Hansen, his presence will be big. His 12 goals and 22 points through the first 41 games of the season made him one of the club’s most productive scorers. He’s on pace to challenge his career-high of 39 points, set during the ’11-12 campaign.