Author: Mike Halford

Cam Fowler
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Surging Ducks get key blueline piece back, as Fowler returns tonight

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Winners in 10 of their last 14, the Ducks will get a big boost on defense on Tuesday when they take on the Sharks.

Cam Fowler, who’s been out of the lineup since late December with a sprained knee, missed 13 games with the ailment but watched the club go 9-3-1 in his absence. His return comes just games after another key blueliner, Simon Despres, rejoined the Ducks after missing 42 contests with a concussion.

Fowler, 24, had 12 points in 34 games prior to getting hurt, averaging a healthy 22:38 TOI per night.

Needless to say, he was and is a big part of what Anaheim does on defense — and he lauded his blueline mates for stepping up while he was out.

“I think it’s shows the depth of our team, with the people that we’ve had step in and play really big minutes for us, especially the young guys,” Fowler said, per the L.A. Times. “You can’t really replace having your full six to seven D-corps back together and healthy. That’s something that goes a long way, especially heading down the stretch that we’re in now.”

The only defensive regular out of the mix for Anaheim right now is Clayton Stoner, who’s sidelined with a hip problem.

As such, it looks like the Ducks will roll with a defensive unit comprised of Fowler, Despres, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa and Josh Manson tonight against the Sharks. Korbinian Holzer would (presumably) be the No. 7 while Shea Theodore — the ’13 first-round pick that played very well with Fowler and Despres out — looks as though he’ll stay in AHL San Diego.

Datsyuk calls on Wings for more offense — ‘it would be a much easier game’

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The Red Wings are coming out of the All-Star break in pretty good shape, sitting tied with Tampa Bay on 58 points for second spot in the Atlantic Division.

Yet to hear Pavel Datsyuk explain it, the club could be making life easier on itself.

“More scoring,” Pavel Datsyuk said of what the Red Wings need moving forward, per the Detroit Free Press. “We haven’t scored enough. Every game is (close). We need more scoring, it would be a much easier game. Every game is a one-goal game.”

The Wings currently sit 20th in the NHL in goals per game, at 2.47. Individually, the club is being led in scoring by a 19-year-old rookie — freshman phenom Dylan Larkin — and the goalsoring has been supplied primarily by four individuals: Larkin, Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Justin Abdelkader.

(It’s been a tough slog for Datsyuk, who missed extended time to start the year with an ankle injury, and only has six goals in 34 games.)

All of this talk, inevitably, turns to goaltending.

In Detroit, the lack of offense has been masked by the terrific netminding of Petr Mrazek, who’s played his way into the Vezina conversation. Mrazek currently sits second in the NHL in save percentage, fourth in GAA and is coming off a January in which he went 7-1-1 with a .962 save percentage.

And in January, the Red Wings saw eight of their 11 games decided by one goal.

“In order to win in this league, most teams need elite goaltending,” head coach Jeff Blashill told the Free Press. “[Mrazek’s] given us elite goaltending, so that’s great.”

Related: Wings not willing to sacrifice defense to generate more offense

John Scott said ‘you can’t write this stuff,’ but John Scott kinda did

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NASHVILLE — Coming into the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, there was one central theme at play:

Nobody knew how this was going to play out.

Nobody knew how the league’s new initiative, a 3-on-3 mini-tournament, would go.

Nobody knew how a weekend without superstars like Alex Ovechkin and Jonathan Toews in attendance would go.

And nobody — nobody — knew how this John Scott thing would go.

Including the man himself.

“I never, in a million years, believed I would’ve been in an All-Star Game,” Scott said, after capturing the most improbable MVP award in the event’s history. “To have the fans get behind me like that, to score two goals in a game, you can’t put it into words.

“You can’t write this stuff. It’s unbelievable how it happened.”

Unbelievable, yes. The lead-up certainly was.

First, Scott had to endure an online ballot-stuffing initiative from fans that seemed interested in both laughing with him… and at him.

Once voted in, there were cries to get him out. He’d ruin the integrity of the contest. Five goals in 285 career games? Players of his ilk didn’t belong.

They called him a goon — and, as we learned this week, there’s hardly a term more derogatory in his lexicon — and said he’d be embarrassed. Worse, his kids might be.

Then he was sent packing from Arizona to Montreal in a trade that reeked like Limburger.

“Enforcers don’t get traded midseason when their team is winning,” Scott said in his explosive Players’ Tribune piece. “If you know the league, you know that it just doesn’t happen.”

But then, the tide turned. The NHL said he was welcome to participate in Nashville, even though he was plying his trade in the American League.

And not long after Scott literally wrote his own story in the Tribune, he took control of how others penned the narrative.

Friday’s media availability at Bridgestone was a masterclass in public relations, in that it wasn’t a masterclass at all. None of it felt calculated, or planned — Scott was genuine, earnest, honest and funny, and it was all on display, in front of a massive media contingent that got to hear all the complexities stashed in his 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame.

He said he hated that people saw him as “an animal,” instead of “a family guy that’s worked his way up.”

He said he’d stay up nights worrying about his next fight.

He acknowledged the enforcer role he’s filled for the last eight years is going the way of the dodo. Yet he remained steadfast in his support of the tough guy, the grinder, the guy that’s willing to stick up for his teammates.

After winning the MVP, he re-iterated as much.

“You just work with what you have,” he explained. “I was given a few tools — my size, my strength, and I’ve worked on those. I worked my tail off throughout my career. I’ve been cut many times, sent down, this and that.

“If you’re a grinder or a fighter or a checker, go with it. Things will work out.”

Things certainly worked out this weekend.

One of the points Scott re-iterated throughout this event was that, y’know, he could actually play hockey — and on Sunday, it certainly looked that way, bagging a pair of goals while taking regular shifts against the best players on the planet.

And with that, the narrative around John Scott shifted once again.

He’s now forever immortalized among the elite, joining a list of All-Star MVPs that includes the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux. His helmet is off to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Endorsement deals are starting to come in.

For a guy that claimed you can’t write stuff like this, John Scott sure did a good job of telling his own story.

Scott named MVP as Pacific edges Atlantic 1-0 in ASG finale

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NASHVILLE — Remember how everyone thought a 3-on-3 All-Star Game would result in ridiculous goal totals, and shellshocked netminders curled into the fetal position?

Things didn’t go exactly to plan.

In a tightly-contested finale, the Pacific Division captured the first-ever NHL All-Star 3-on-3 tournament with a narrow 1-0 win over the Atlantic — a game in which defense and goaltending both outshone the offense.

Corey Perry‘s marker early in the second period proved the eventual game-winner, on assists from Daniel Sedin and Brent Burns.

And that was it for the offense.

The first period was a legitimate goalie duel, with Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Quick matching each other save-for-save. Luongo finished with 12 saves on 12 shots — Quick 10 on 10 — but it was Luongo that stole the show with an acrobatic, sprawling denial of Drew Doughty.

The second period didn’t have as many shots — both teams seemed to take a more vested interest in defensive positioning and limiting chances on goal — but still featured some strong netminding, especially from Anaheim’s John Gibson, who stopped all seven shots faced.

With just over a minute to go, the Atlantic pulled its goalie for an extra attacker, but to no avail. All that was left was for the Pacific to collect their $1M winners’ check, and for the All-Star MVP to be named.

Fittingly, it went to the guy that really won the entire weekend:

John Scott.

More: Heeeere’s Johnny! Scott puts on a show, scores twice as Pacific upsets Central

Notes…

There was an All-Star Game rarity with just under three minutes left — Perry looked to have scored his second goal of the contest, only to have it reversed on review when officials judged that Taylor Hall interfered with Ben Bishop… San Jose captain Joe Pavelski led all skaters with five shots on goal.

 

Heeeere’s Johnny! Scott puts on show, scores twice as Pacific upsets Central

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NASHVILLE — This is a Johnny Cash city, to be sure.

But on Sunday, for a few hours anyway, it was about Johnny Scott.

In a performance that set social media ablaze, Scott — originally voted into this All-Star weekend as a gag — scored a pair of goals, flattened Patrick Kane, “fought” Kane and completely endeared himself to the Bridgestone faithful, helping his Pacific Division teammates to a 9-6 win over the Central.

Scott scored the first of his goals 47 seconds into the game, then potted his second at 3:27 of the second period. That represents nearly half of his career goal total — five — which took him 285 regular season contests accumulating.

Clearly, the guy should be playing more 3-on-3.

Scott was the star of the show in the second of two semifinal matchups on Sunday, but he wasn’t the only star. Ducks goalie John Gibson came up with two highlight-reel plays — one on a stretch pass to set up Daniel Sedin for a goal, the second on a terrific splits-save on Tyler Seguin — while Taylor Hall and Brent Burns each finished with three points.

Fans in attendance appreciated Scott’s theatrics, even if it was at the expense of their Predators.

Nashville had four players on the Central Division roster — James Neal, Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Pekka Rinne — and the crowd was clearly pulling for them to advance to the final.

While it wasn’t to be, fans had to be pleased at how the Preds quartet did, especially Neal (who finished with two goals) and Weber (who finished with a pair of assists).

Overall, the Pacific’s victory had to be considered an upset. Many saw the Central’s roster as the strongest among the four teams, and there was some thought the strong Nashville influence would result in some extra “juice.”

But it wasn’t to be. Not on Sunday, when the John Scott show was in full effect.