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PHT Morning Skate: ‘Negative experience’ with Vegas helped Shipachyov appreciate KHL days

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–Team USA announced that their men’s and women’s hockey team rosters will be unveiled on New Year’s Day. (NBC Sports)

–Former Olympic rivals Julie Chu (Team USA) and Carolina Ouellette (Canada) welcomed a baby last Sunday. (NBC Sports)

–For the first time ever, the IIHF will be compensating teams that will be sending players to the Olympics. The teams will get roughly $8,000 per player that participates in the tournament. (eurohockeyclubs.com)

–Former NHL defenseman Darius Kasparitis played for Russia on the international stage, but he’s going to represent Lithuania at the upcoming World Hockey Championship Division I Group B tournament next spring. (IIHF.hockey)

Jonathan Drouin and his former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, finally settled a dispute over a $212,500 performance bonus. Drouin needed to hit 0.73 points-per-game last season to get the money, and he did. But the Lightning contended that it was actually 0.726 points-per-game. In the end, they had to pay him most of the money. (Sportsnet)

–Since being put back on the first line, Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich has been playing some great hockey. There’s no doubt that the chemistry between Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider is alive and well. (blueshirtbanter.com)

–The Ottawa Senators were able to land Matt Duchene in a three-way deal with Nashville and Colorado last week. Duchene is the biggest name involved in the trade, but it sure seems like the Preds are the team that improved the most. (Sporting News)

–The pairing of Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton don’t come to mind when thinking of the top defense duos in the NHL, but their numbers show that they’ve been remarkably good together. Incredibly enough, Tanev and Hutton have been on the ice for just four even-strength goals against. (vancourier.com)

–The New Jersey Devils thought so highly of Pavel Zacha that they made him the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. But sixth-rounder from 2016 Jesper Bratt has been the better of the two players this season. Somehow, they need to get Zacha playing like Bratt. (allaboutthejersey.com)

–Former Vegas Golden Knight Vadim Shipachyov signed a new contract with SKA Saint Petersburg last week. In a Q & A with the team’s website, Shipachyov admitted that his negative experience in the NHL helped him appreciate what he had in Russia. (SKA.ru)

–Here’s an incredibly sad story. Arianna Dougan, who was a young girl that had a special connection with the Blues and Vladimir Tarasenko, passed away at the age of 11. As you’d imagine, the news shook up the team. “The world is a sadder place without Ari, but we’re thankful to have gotten to know her and to have given her a distraction from her battle with cancer, if only for a few days,” the Blues wrote on their website. “Her road trip was supposed to create lasting memories for her, but it ended up meaning the world to us.” (NHL.com/Blues)

–Sorry for ending today’s Skate with another sad story, but we have to mention the passing of former Providence College hockey player Drew Brown, who had a courageous battle with cancer. He was just 25 years old.  “Drew touched everyone with whom he came into contact with his energy, his smile and his big heart,” said head coach Nate Leaman. “Drew was a thoughtful, soft-spoken teammate who would do anything for his team. Drew showed amazing courage in his battle with cancer. Our Friar family will miss him dearly. With the support of one another, we will find strength to honor Drew.” (Friars.com)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Sharks’ Meier fined, not suspended, for elbowing Del Zotto

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier has been fined for elbowing Vancouver defenseman Michael Del Zotto.

The NHL announced Sunday that Meier will be fined $2,403.67 for the infraction. The play occurred late in the third period of San Jose’s 5-0 win over the Canucks on Saturday night. Meier was assessed a major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct.

More AP NHL: apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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Note: You can see the infraction in the video above this post’s headline.

How many goals will Nikita Kucherov score this season?

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The Tampa Bay Lightning continued to roll on Thursday night with a dominating 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Leading the way was Nikita Kucherov with another three-point effort including his league-leading 16th goal of the season. He enters play on Friday with a three-goal lead over Alex Ovechkin for the top spot in the NHL and is of to one of the best starts to a season (at least as far as goal-scoring is concerned) in recent league history.

After scoring a career-high 40 goals a year ago (in only 74 games) he looks like he is destined to shatter that number this season, barring injury.

So what is his ceiling or goals this season? 45? 50? Maybe even 60?

Keep in mind this is an era where the 50-goal scorer is nearly extinct. Over the past 10 seasons only nine different players have scored at least 50 goals in a season. Only three have hit that mark since the start of the 2011-12 season. But we also haven’t really seen a player storm out of the gates quite like this. Not even Alex Ovechkin, the greatest goal scorer of this generation and one of the best to ever play in the NHL, has started a season with this many goals this far in.

According to the Hockey-Reference database, Kucherov is just the 20th player since the start of the 1987-88 season to score at least 16 goals in his team’s first 17 games of a season.

He is just the fourth player to do it since 1996. Two of the other three were Daniel Alfredsson and Simon Gagne during the 2005-06 season, the one year in the past two decades when goal-scoring across the league saw a significant spike, and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Alex Steen.

The rest of the players all did it during the run-and-gun late 1980s and early 1990s.

When looking at the list of previous players to score 16 goals in his team’s first 17 games all but one went on to score at least 30 goals. The one player that didn’t was Chris Kontos, finishing the 1992-93 season with 27.

Steen was the only other player on the list to not score at least 40, having scored 33 goals in 68 games.

That would have been a 39-goal pace over 82 games.

Twelve of them went on to score at least 50 goals, including some video game type numbers from the likes of Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, Steve Yzerman and Bernie Nicholls in the late 80s and early 90s.

What stands out the most about Kucherov’s start, aside from the fact he is doing it in 2017-18 when players simply do not score goals like this, is the fact that he has one of the lowest shooting percentages (23.8) out of that group during the opening 17-game stretch. That number is a bit of a spike from his career average (15 percent) but it is still 17th in the league right now. So it’s not like it is all a luck driven run of success.

Along with a spike in shooting percentage Kucherov is also generating shots on goal at what would be a career-high rate, averaging 3.94 per game.

If he maintains a 23 percent shooting percentage the rest of the way he would score an additional 58 goals on top of what he has already scored. That is … probably not realistic, but is it entirely impossible? Over the past 10 years there have been four players (Brad Boyes, Loui Eriksson, Jason Spezza, Mark Scheifele) that have recorded at least 150 shots on goal in a season and finished with a shooting percentage higher than 23 percent.

At some point though that shooting percentage is going to drop down because, well, almost nobody is superhuman enough in today’s NHL to score that many goals with that sort of shot volume.

If he maintains a similar shot volume right over the remaining 65 games and simply shot at his normal career average (15 percent) that would still give him another 40 goals on top of what he has already scored this season. That would give him 57 goals, which would be the highest total in the NHL since Steven Stamkos scored 60 during the 2011-12 season.

If he only shot at 10 percent over the next 65 games (keep in mind the only time Kucherov shot lower than 14 percent in a season was his rookie season when he only appeared in 52 games) that would still be an additional 25 goals and give him 42 on the season. That total would have placed him second in the NHL a season ago, only two behind Sidney Crosby.

In other words, what we are looking at here with Kucherov this season is the potential for what could be one of the best goal-scoring seasons in recent NHL history.

Whether or not he can remain that sort of absurd pace over the next few months remains to be seen, but even if we see a slight regression he should still be in the driver’s seat to win his first goal-scoring crown, assuming he is able to stay healthy.

The Lightning look like the best team in the NHL right now and with Kucherov and Stamkos racking up points the way they are they have the two best offensive players in the league at the moment as well.

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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.

The Buzzer: Zucker tricks Habs; Lightning remain unstoppable

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Players of the Night: Devan Dubnyk and Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

The Wild pair were the main cogs in Minnesota’s 3-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens. Dubnyk did his job between the pipes stopping all 41 shots he faced for his 25th career shutout. Zucker, meanwhile, netted all three goals for his first career hat trick. Zucker has now scored the Wild’s last five goals.

Highlight of the Night:

Welcome back to the goal scoring column, Brian Boyle.

MISC:

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl once again teamed up to break another team’s spirits in overtime. Edmonton has now won back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Jaromir Jagr scored his first goal with the Calgary Flames and Johnny Gaudreau chipped in three points during a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Carter Hutton made 27 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped both Arizona shootout attempts during a 3-2 St. Louis Blues victory. Alex Pietrangelo scored his seventh goal of the season. The Blues have won 12 straight over the Coyotes.

• The Coyotes have not won in regulation in 18 games this season. Per the NHL, they’re one loss shy of tying the 1999 Calgary Flames’ dubious record.

• The Philadelphia Flyers got goals from Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier while Brian Elliott made 38 saves during a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Giroux and Voracek each added a pair of assists.

• Chicago has not beaten the Flyers in the regular season in Philly in 14 meetings, dating back to Nov. 9, 1996.

Jakob Silfverberg scored twice 35 seconds apart early in the third period to power the Anaheim Ducks past the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. Rickard Rakell handed out three assists.

Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos scored in a span of 2:02 in the first period to power their way to a 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings. Kucherov and Stamkos combined for five points, with Kucherov potting his league-leading 16th goal of the season.

• Congrats to Oscar Fantenberg for scoring his first NHL goal.

• The Tampa power play is just unfair:

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Edmonton 3, New Jersey 2 (OT)
Philadelphia 3, Chicago 1
Minnesota 3, Montreal 0
St. Louis 3, Arizona 2 (SO)
Calgary 6, Detroit 3
Anaheim 4, Vancouver 1
Tampa Bay 5, Los Angeles 2

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy

The Buzzer: Wheeler helps Jets; Keller keeps scoring

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Player of the Night: Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets beat the Dallas Stars for the second time in less than a week with a 4-1 win on Monday. The captain was involved in all four goals with four primary assists, two of which came on tallies from Mark Scheifele. Wheeler is now third in the NHL with 21 points.

Highlight of the Night:

The rock-paper-scissors battle between Scheifele and Tyler Seguin continued:

MISC:

Patrik Laine has goals in three straight games since he talked about his confidence issues.

Well done by Trevor Strader on Hockey Fights Cancer night in Dallas.

John Carlson’s second career overtime goal helped give the Washington Capitals a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes:

Clayton Keller scored his NHL rookie-leading 11th goal of the year for the Coyotes.

Alex Ovechkin netted his 216th career power play goal. He’s now one behind Jaromir Jagr and Mike Gartner for 10th all-time:

Mika Zibanejad handed out three assists as the New York Rangers fought back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-3. All three of Zibanejad’s helpers came on the power play, where the Rangers scored on three of their five chances.

• Five different goal scorers powered the Boston Bruins a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. Jordan Szwarz recorded two assists, his first NHL points since March 26, 2015.

Mitch Marner scored the only goal in the shootout as the Toronto Maple Leafs prevented a Vegas Golden Knights comeback with a 4-3 victory. Nazem Kadri scored a pair of goals in the opening period.

Tomas Tatar‘s goal with 1:14 remaining snapped a 2-2 tie and helped the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The goal was Tatar’s 200th career point.

Chris Tanev is going to want to forget this one, thanks to Anthony Mantha:

Daniel Sedin‘s goal was the 992nd point of his career.

Factoid of the Night:

Scores:
Toronto 4, Vegas 3 (SO)
New York Rangers 5, Columbus 3
Washington 3, Arizona 2 (OT)
Boston 5, Minnesota 3
Winnipeg 4, Dallas 1
Detroit 3, Vancouver 2

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.