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Nugent-Hopkins’ injury: blessing in disguise for Oilers

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In the short term, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being sidelined for five-to-six weeks with cracked ribs is awful news for the Edmonton Oilers, especially since the initial outlook was more positive.

Let’s be honest, though: only the most delusional Oilers observers really give them much of hope of salvaging the 2017-18 season. They’re basically in “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” territory by just about every measure.

So, allow me to be optimistic about the bigger picture while burying the current: RNH’s injury could be a blessing in disguise, at least if the Oilers receive the bat signal about their lost season.

This would be how it could be beneficial.

The Oilers probably won’t be able to bungle an RNH trade

Look, it’s plausible that Nugent-Hopkins could be part of a trade that helps the Oilers at some point. They can’t totally disregard that notion, not when they’ve made some cap mistakes and the solid center carries a $6 million cap hit.

That said, does anyone trust GM Peter Chiarelli with an RNH trade at this point? (We might need to hide your car keys if you do.)

It almost feels like every day or so is another slap in the face for Chiarelli, as Mathew Barzal tears it up for the Islanders and Taylor Hall is enjoying an All-Star season for the Devils. RNH being out might just save the Oilers from themselves, especially if Edmonton sees front office changes this summer. Might as well hit the “pause” button on trading actual core pieces after losing that game over and over, right?

Inflate Ryan Strome?

OK, this category might give the Oilers too much credit, but maybe they’d consider it.

It seems like Ryan Strome might be the beneficiary of RNH’s lost opportunities, particularly on the power play. As a pending RFA, there’s concern that this might actually hurt Edmonton.

What if the Oilers do a “pump and dump” with Strome, instead, driving up his value and then trading him to a contender? If Strome went on a hot streak, maybe a team would want him as a rental considering his cheap $2.5 million cap hit would be even cheaper at the deadline (he’s already down to about $1M according to Cap Friendly).

Get the memo: you’re a seller

Maybe RNH’s injury stands as that final push for the Oilers to sell at the trade deadline.

Chiarelli’s track record of player for player trades is … not great. That said, he’s done OK with smaller deals, buying low on the likes of Cam Talbot.

The Strome example might be too outside of the box, but moving an affordable, productive player like Patrick Maroon is very conceivable. Mark Letestu is another expiring contract that might bring at least moderate interest from around the NHL.

***

As bad as things are for the Oilers, they don’t necessarily need to panic and blow everything up. If this eliminates the chance of RNH being moved, it might not be such a bad thing, as the franchise might as well get its ducks in a row before they make that decision.

In the meantime, they can undergo less of a rebuild and more of a spring cleaning.

With the right moves on the peripheral, they might just be glad that RNH is still around. By not dodging an injury, the Oilers may have just dodged another bullet.

After all, they keep shooting themselves in the foot.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Banged up Blue Jackets add Jussi Jokinen off waivers

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are dealing with a number of injuries up front with Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and rookie Sonny Milano all currently sidelined for at least a few more weeks due to injury.

Atkinson is on long-term injured reserve due to a foot injury, while Dubinsky is out due to an orbital bone fracture.

The team also announced on Wednesday that Milano will now be sidelined for 4-to-6 weeks due to an oblique tear.

All of that has put a pretty significant dent in their depth and no doubt played a role in their recent slump that has seen them go 3-6-0 over their past nine games, a stretch that has seen them score just 18 goals (only two per game).

They attempted to address that in some way on Wednesday when they announced that they have claimed veteran forward Jussi Jokinen off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings.

“Jussi Jokinen is a player we know very well. He can line up at center or either wing, is good in the faceoff circle and can play on the power play and kill penalties,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement released by the team.

“He has been a very good player in the National Hockey League for many years and we believe he will add great experience and versatility to our lineup.”

It’s been a difficult season for Jokinen as he now joins his third team of the season. He started the season with the Edmonton Oilers after signing a one-year, $1.1 million contract in free agency. But after just 14 games and zero goals with the team he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Mike Cammalleri. He played 18 games with the Kings, scoring one goal and adding four assists, before being placed on waivers.

Jokinen has been an underrated player for much of his career and had always been good for around 15 goals and 50 points over 82 games. Now that he is in his age 34 season that production has obviously declined.

But with the injury situation up front with Atkinson, Dubinsky and now Milano all sidelined the Blue Jackets were in desperate need of adding some additional depth. Given the low cost it is worth a shot to see if Jokinen can still provide something.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Skate blade grazes Milan Lucic’s neck in scary incident

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It was a tough night for gruesome injuries on Saturday.

If Phillip Danault‘s puck to the head of a slap shot from Zdeno Chara wasn’t enough, Edmonton Oilers forward Milan Lucic came within millimeters of his life being in severe jeopardy.

Lucic appeared to fall in the neutral zone and when he did, he took Vegas Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek with him.

In the video below — and in a very serious event that wasn’t all that noticeable during the broadcast — Nosek’s skate grazed Lucic’s neck.

Lucic tweeted a picture of the cut following the Oilers 3-2 overtime win over the Golden Knights. As you can see, s some stitches were required to repair the wound.

In the tweet, he said, “Close call… but ok,” along with the hashtag. “#skategrazedjugular.”

Close call, indeed.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Barzal raises bar; McDavid’s happy birthday

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Players of the Night: 

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders: Where do we begin? Barzal made some history on Saturday, recording two goals and three assists for his second five-point outing of the season.

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin had two goals and two assists as the Penguins downed the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Saturday. It’s the second time in as many games that Malkin has scored twice, and he’s been a big part of the Penguins winning their past three games, with five goals and eight points in the span.

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers: Couturier scored a pair of goals for the third straight game and added an assist for good measure as the Flyers won their fourth straight and 12th in their past 17.

Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks: Donskoi scored two goals and one assist on Saturday, with his all-around effort on his second goal (see in the highlights below) earning him a mention among the day’s best.

Highlights of the Night: 

It doesn’t get much filthier than this. Mathew Barzal is something else:

Devan Dubnyk channeling Johnny Bower:

Donskoi made the save, then scored the goal that sent Sharks – Coyotes to OT:

Factoids of the Night: 

Nice way for Connor McDavid to celebrate his 21st birthday.

Meanwhile, Joe Thornton hits a mark McDavid hopes to match some day:

MISC:

Some heartwarming stuff.

Scores: 

Islanders 7, Rangers 2
Penguins 1, Red Wings 1
Wild 4, Jets 1
Bruins 4, Canadiens 3 (SO)
Flyers 5, Devils 3
Avalanche 4, Stars 1
Oilers 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
Ducks 4, Kings 2
Sharks 6, Coyotes 5 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal makes some history with another 5-point game

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The New York Islanders got a much-needed win on Saturday afternoon when they absolutely crushed their cross-town rivals 7-2. It was a completely one-sided game that saw Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist have to come on in relief and try to give his teammates a pep talk before entering the game.

(It did not work.)

The star of the game for the Islanders was rookie forward Mathew Barzal as he finished with a pair of goals and three assists in the win.

It was the second time this season that Barzal, a rookie, has recorded at least five points in a game.

That is kind of a big deal for a lot of reasons. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

— For one, Barzal is the only player in the NHL this season that has at least two five point games. The rest of the NHL has combined for seven as Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Hartman, Patrick Kane, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin, and Thomas Vanek all have one each.

— He is only the 13th player since 2005-06 to have multiple five-point games in a season. Only Evgeni Malkin (four in 2011-12), Sidney Crosby (three in 2009-10) and Alex Ovechkin (three in 2007-08) have had more than two since then.

— Then we start to get into the fact he is still a rookie. The only other Islanders rookie to record a pair of five-point games in a season was Bryan Trottier during the 1975-76 season.

— Impressive. Even more impressive is the fact that in NHL history there have only been 73 five-point games from rookies. The only rookies to have one since 1993 are Barzal, Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, John Tavares, Alexandre Picard, Evgnei Malkin, Dan Hamhuis, and Ilya Kovalchuk.

— The list of rookies to have more than one is even shorter. It is made up of Barzal, Trottier, Peter Stastny, Anton Stastny, Marian Stastny, Cy Denney, and Joe Malone. That is it. Malone and Denney’s seasons came in the NHL’s first season in 1917-18. Malone is the only one that had more than two (he recorded three). So, basically, two guys that played when the NHL was first created, the Stastny family, and two Islanders.

The Islanders are in a tough spot this season. Their recent slump has put them on the playoff bubble and their two leading scorers, John Tavare and Josh Bailey, are both unrestricted free agents after this season. No matter what happens the rest of the way or with Tavares and Bailey in the summer the one bright spot they will definitely be able to take out of this season is the development of Barzal. He looks like he is becoming a star. He might already be one.

After Saturday’s performance his 44 points are tops among all NHL rookies, putting him four points ahead of Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser. Barzal and Boeser are the only two rookies with at least 34 points on the season. It is pretty much a two-man race for the Calder Trophy right now.

Just a reminder: The Islanders acquired Barzal with a 2015 first-round draft pick that they acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart, to this point, has two points in 39 NHL games and is no longer a member of the Oilers’ organization (he is now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights organization. He currently plays in the American Hockey League).

What a trade for Islanders general manager Garth Snow.

(Historical data via NHL.com stats database)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.