Ryan Dadoun

Drouin admits he may have been wrong, out to prove himself to teammates

11 Comments

What if Jonathan Drouin playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning right now is more than just a marriage of convenience until he can be dealt this summer? What if, even after demanding a trade and temporarily being suspended in the AHL when he refused to play for a stretch prior to the trade deadline, Drouin’s relationship with the Lightning can still be repaired?

After all that regular season drama, Drouin is back with the Lightning and playing a significant role in the absence of Steven Stamkos. While that’s happening, Drouin seems both open and interested in improving his relationship with the team, as he told NHL.com:

“I have a lot of stuff to prove to myself but to the staff and the team here,” Drouin said. “Some things I did maybe [were] not [in] the right, but it’s up to me to prove that and be sure I have their back and playing the right way.”

Can this be salvaged?

“Yeah, definitely,” Drouin said. “It’s hard to say right now. I’m putting that stuff aside. I don’t even want to talk about it. Right now I’m just focusing on my play, helping this team, and I’m sure everything’s going to figure itself out at one point.”

That’s part of a much longer piece that goes into the improvements Drouin has shown since being called up and provides more history and context about his situation, which is worth reading. But to focus in on that one section, as implausible at it seems that Drouin would remain with Tampa Bay after everything’s that has happened, in a way it’s very realistic.

This is a business that sometimes sees restricted free agents sign with another club only to have their contract match and other young players hold out to the point of missing part of training camp or even some regular season games as a negotiating tactic. While neither of those scenarios are the same as what Drouin did, at the end of the day franchises will act in their best interests and if the Lightning feel that they’re best served by keeping Drouin rather than trading him then they will be open to that.

The bigger question is if Drouin changes his mind about his trade demand. If he feels like he’s at a point where he’s earned a bigger role with the team, maybe he will.

This is all speculation and at the very least both sides are expected to get along for this playoff run, so we really won’t know what the future holds until after that’s over. As long as we’re discussing a what if scenario though, here’s one other wrinkle: If Stamkos’ injury is what’s contributing to Drouin’s current role, then consider that Stamkos still hasn’t signed a new contract. That doesn’t mean he won’t re-sign with Tampa Bay, but there certainly are a lot of variables at play with the Lightning.

And keep in mind, the story has already changed dramatically. As recently as late February, it looked like the ship had sailed on Drouin’s return to the Lightning.

If Seguin returns, Nichushkin could sit

Dallas Stars right wing Valeri Nichushkin (43) of Russia controls the puck in the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, in Dallas. The Stars won 5-1. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo
2 Comments

Valeri Nichushkin might not be in the lineup for Game 2 on Saturday, and that says more about the Dallas Stars’ depth than the 21-year-old forward’s play.

After a commanding 4-0 victory over Minnesota Thursday night, the Stars might get Tyler Seguin back on Saturday. That’s not confirmed, but after missing roughly a month because of a cut to his Achilles, he feels “pretty ready,” per Mark Stepneski of the Stars’ official website. Obviously if he comes in, someone needs to be pulled.

Nichushkin is very highly regarded, but for all his potential, he hasn’t broken out yet. He finished the regular season with nine goals and 29 points in 79 contests. Still, to have a player of his caliber in reverse would be a luxury.

As Heika noted in the Dallas Morning News:

Look, Minnesota is struggling right now. … But the thing is Faksa has been playing this way for 20 games. Same with Hemsky. Roussel and Eaves and Sceviour and Vernon Fiddler and Mattias Janmark help give Dallas maybe the best forward depth in the NHL.

And that’s to say nothing of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp.

Dallas still has its question marks. For example, it remains to be seen if its goaltending will hold up over the course of the playoffs and in that regard, Game 1 against Minnesota minus Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek wasn’t a particularly good test. But there’s a reason why the Stars finished with the top record in the Western Conference.

Rangers lose Girardi for Game 2

10 Comments

The New York Rangers’ practice on Friday brought some good and bad news.

On the positive side, goalie Henrik Lundqvist was on the ice, which keeps the door open to him returning on Saturday. They will be missing defenseman Dan Girardi though.

The Rangers ruled Girardi out for that contest after he missed Friday’s practice. As is to be expected of a playoff issue, most of the details haven’t been revealed. When asked if it was an upper or lower-body injury, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said, “It’s the whole thing,” per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.

Girardi missed the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, but logged 17:17 minutes in Game 1.

His absence raises the possibility of 23-year-old blueliner Dylan McIlrath playing in his first postseason contest. He had four points and 64 penalty minutes in 34 contests in the regular season.

Related: Already? Penguins might get Malkin back Saturday

Tarasenko the scout? He pushed the Blues about Panarin

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo
8 Comments

If only the St. Louis Blues had listened.

“(Vladimir Tarasenko) told us the day he got here about (Artemi) Panarin,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. “At least once a month. … We all look a little dumb right now.”

Tarasenko made the leap from SKA St. Petersburg to the St. Louis Blues in 2013. At the time Panarin was already established in the KHL, but he hadn’t broken out offensively yet. He had 18 points in 43 KHL contests in 2012-13 compared to 26 goals and 54 points in 54 games in 2014-15. Then the Chicago Blackhawks signed him.

Given how well that’s worked out for the Blackhawks, the Blues obviously wish they would have followed Tarasenko’s recommendation.

“Instead of paying him $8 million we should have hired him as a scout,” Hitchcock joked, per CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.

Of course, St. Louis still managed to silence Chicago in Game 1, but the Blackhawks are far from done. The defending Stanley Cup champions will have an opportunity to even the series on Friday before they head to Chicago.

Already? Penguins might get Malkin back Saturday

13 Comments

Just a day after the possibility of him returning before the end of the first round was discussed, it now looks like Evgeni Malkin (upper body) might play in Game 2 on Saturday.

Malkin not only took part in Friday’s practice, but he skated on a line with Conor Sheary Bryan Rust and the top power-play unit during drills. Afterwards he described himself as a game-time decision, per NHL.com’s Wes Crosby.

If the Penguins forward does return on Saturday it will be just five weeks into his original six-to-eight week timetable. Of course, it’s worth emphasizing that nothing is set in stone, especially in the playoffs.

Either way, the fact that Malkin returning on Saturday even seems to be a possibility is a great sign for the Penguins. They already claimed an early lead in the series with a 5-2 victory on Wednesday. Getting Malkin back now would put further pressure on the New York Rangers.

Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) took part in Friday’s practice as well and continues to make progress. He’s also a possibility to return on Saturday.