Tag: preseason

Minnesota Wild v Los Angeles Kings

Kopitar scores three; preseason hat tricks count, right?

People will argue the importance of a preseason game. Some say it’s important to win, some think it’s important for prospect development, and others will say that it’s all about developing chemistry. No matter which side of the debate you find yourself arguing: it’s better to win 6-0 than it is to lose by the same score.

In his first game against the Avalanche since he broke his ankle last March, Anze Kopitar netted a preseason hat trick while leading the Kings’ six goal explosion. He scored a pair of goals against new Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov in the second period before capping his night (and the Kings scoring) halfway through the third period. The victory lifted the Kings preseason record to 2-1-2, while the loss dropped the Avs to 1-3-0 this preseason.

By all measures, the game was an abject disaster for the Avalanche. They couldn’t get a puck past Jonathan Quick in 27 shots and Varlamov looked shaky in giving up the six spot—and still looking for his first win in an Avs jersey. For a team that looks like it could struggle this season, Varlamov will be asked to steal his fair share of games if the Avalanche want to be competitive this season. Hopefully for fans in Colorado, he’s getting these performances out of his system before the regular season starts.

Likewise, it’ll be imperative for Kopitar to thrive if the Kings want to succeed this season. The Slovenian playmaker was asked if he was thinking about last year’s injury when he took the ice against the same team:

“No. I was probably thinking about it a little more in the last game at Staples (Center), because it happened there. That was the only one. No, definitely not. It was a non-factor. I’m past that, obviously. I’ve got to look forward. What happened, happened, and I’m all healed up now and that’s the most important thing.’’

Last season, Kopitar scored 25 goals and 73 points in 75 regular season games. He’ll be asked to produce at the same point-per-game pace if the Kings want to take the next step from playoff contender to Stanley Cup contender. Wednesday night showed that he’s having no issues with his hands as he continues to recover from last year’s gruesome injury.

The Avalanche will get a chance to redeem themselves in a rematch on Saturday night in Las Vegas. They might want to put a body on that Kopitar guy.

Former Rocket Richard Trophy winner Jonathan Cheechoo put on waivers

Minnesota Wild v St. Louis Blues
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After a two week stint showing his skills to the St. Louis coaching staff, Jonathan Cheechoo was waived by the Blues for the purpose of sending him to the AHL affiliate in Peoria. The news doesn’t come as a huge surprise for fans or those around the organization, yet it’s still shocking to be reminded of the fall from grace for the former San Jose Sharks’ sniper. Only five short years ago he was setting the Sharks’ franchise record with 56 goals in a single season.

Now, the Blues are the fourth organization in fourteen months that have chosen to leave Cheechoo off of their active NHL roster. Jeremy Rutherford from the St. Louis Post Dispatch explains how it went down for Cheechoo and what the move means for the Blues:

“Cheechoo, 31, who led the NHL in goals with 56 in 2005-06 with San Jose, had a quick start to training camp. But he didn’t score in the exhibition games and he appeared a step slow on the scoring opportunities that he did have. Still, Cheechoo is expected to give the Rivermen some veteran skill and provide the Blues with some much-needed offensive depth this season.”

The move to an AHL leadership may be the role Cheechoo is made for at this point in his career. His career has been in a downward spiral since the magical 2005-06 season. He still managed 60 goals in 145 games over the next two seasons, but that was as good as it was going to get. Since being traded to the Senators as part of the Dany Heatley deal, he’s been waived by the Sens, subsequently bought-out at the end of the season, released by the Stars after a short professional tryout, returned to the Sharks organization for an AHL season, and finally signed a two-way contract with the Blues this offseason.

How the mighty have fallen.

You have to give it up to Cheechoo for accepting this new role at this point in his career. After signing a $15 million contract in 2006, props to a man who’s willing to take the buses and play for an AHL salary. In the grand scheme of things, it’s great to pull in six-figures to play a game for a living—but there’s no question that it must be a different world for the former all-star.

The Blues expect Cheechoo to go down to the AHL and help provide veteran leadership for the prospects to hope to make the NHL one day. The invaluable experience he brings to the team, can only help the younger players who are looking to fulfill their potential with the Blues organization. If he can build on the 47 points he scored for the AHL’s Worcester Sharks in 55 games last season, he may even find himself as a midseason call-up this season.

Regardless, he brings much more to the table than your average AHLer. He may not have the 56-goal-scoring hands anymore, but he has more “experiences” to share than just about anyone in the league.

Oilers Sam Gagner escapes serious injury

Edmonton Oilers v Philadelphia Flyers

It could have been worse for Oilers forward Sam Gagner. It certainly looked bad at the time. Gagner crashed into the end boards during the second period of the Oilers’ 2-1 victory over the Flames on Saturday night. He lay sprawling on the ice in the aftermath of the hit—it could have been any number of ailments from the dangerous collision that were the problem. Was it his head that hit the end boards?  Was it an ankle or upper body injury when he collided awkwardly?  Luckily for the Oilers and Gagner, it looked much worse than it actually was.

The Edmonton Journal had the story and followed up with the Oilers’ coaching staff:

“At the time, it looked like Gagner may have also hit his head on the boards because he was down for a couple of minutes as trainer T.D. Forss came out to see him, but the Oilers dismissed that.

“He’s out day-to-day. ‘Just precautionary,’ said Oilers head coach Tom Renney, when asked if Gagner, who played 2-1/2 minutes in the second period, could have returned as the Oilers beat the Flames 2-1. He wasn’t scheduled to play Sunday in Calgary anyway.”

Later we found out that he had actually injured his ankle blocking a shot earlier in the game.

Since the same two teams are playing tonight, the Oilers coaching staff had already decided that Gagner would be a healthy scratch while they looked at other players. The last thing a player needs in the preseason is a game against a bitter rival when he’s not quite right. It’s surely a welcomed rest for a player who isn’t fighting for a spot on the team.

The sixth overall pick in the 2007 is in the final year of the two-year deal he signed with the Oilers in 2010. Like any other pending restricted free agent, he wants to put his best foot forward from the start of the season as he looks to continue to fulfill the potential he showed with the London Knights in his draft year. At 22 years old, Gagner still has plenty of room to develop on a team that is already stocked with young forwards. He’s scored 40+ points in each of his first four season in the league—but many around the team think Gagner is capable of more than the 15 goals and 27 assists he put up last season.

Staying healthy would be a step in the right direction. He’s missed 14 games in each of the last two seasons; a preseason injury wouldn’t be the start he’s looking for this year. With players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky, and possibly Ryan Nugent-Hopkins around nowadays, the Oilers aren’t depending on him to carry the team offensively this season. Still, if they want to be more successful in the standings, the scoring depth that Gagner could provide would go a long way towards helping the Oilers climb out of the basement.