The Rangers offense this year hasn’t been something to really write home about. They’ve had fits of poor scoring, Marian Gaborik has struggled to seize the day as the team’s best goal scorer, and they’ve got a host of key missing pieces to their lineup. They’re still doing well in winning despite all of that and things may just be getting better sooner.
Vinny Prospal has missed the entire season to this point with a right knee injury but now he’s finally healthy and has been cleared to play. Thursday against the Devils figures to be his first game back and for the Rangers, they’re hoping his return can provide the spark that Gaborik has been missing all season long. Brandon Dubinsky and Erik Christensen are also very close to rejoining the Rangers lineup as well. All of a sudden the Rangers don’t look so thin anymore.
Gaborik’s goal problems this year have been apparent as through 38 games he’s got just 16 goals scored. After scoring 42 goals last year to lead the team in scoring, getting that same 86-point production this year would do the Rangers a lot of good. Instead, Gaborik is second on the team in goals and points to injured forward Brandon Dubinsky. No offense to Dubinsky who is having a fine season, but Gaborik is supposed to be an elite goal scorer and capable of leading a team.
If Prospal’s return can spark Gaborik it’ll make a world of difference in how the Rangers positioning for the playoffs can get hashed out. There’s no real pressure on Prospal upon returning since the team is saddled with injuries to Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan as well but what he can do to help Gaborik could be huge.
Paul Bissonnette to get chance to back up lacrosse boast
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Paul Bissonnette will have a chance to back up his lacrosse boast.
Two days after tweeting that he could make a National Lacrosse League team without having ever played a game, the former NHL player signed a professional tryout Friday with the Vancouver Warriors.
”Bissonnette will be given every opportunity to make the Vancouver Warriors,” Warriors coach Chris Gill said. ”Paul talks a pretty big game. Let’s see if he can back it up and be a part of our team.”
The 34-year-old Bissonnette, now the radio color commentator for the Arizona Coyotes, played 202 NHL games with Pittsburgh and Arizona. He had seven goals, 15 assists and 340 penalty minutes in his six NHL seasons.
He’s gained notoriety more for his outspoken and often humorous tweets commenting on hockey and others sports.
Bissonnette will join the Warriors for their final week of training camp at Rogers Arena on Nov. 22 and 23.
The Buzzer: Bruins end slump; Blackwood baffles Penguins
If the Devils are going to dig themselves out of the big hole they made to start 2019-20, it’s highly likely that Blackwood will be the goalie who helps them do it.
Lately, the 22-year-old has been rotating nice wins (.968 save percentage or higher in three victories) with tough losses (.889 or lower in three defeats). Friday represented one of the nicest wins yet, as he stopped 38 out of 39 of the Penguins’ shots to help the Devils steal a 2-1 decision.
Natural Stat Trick places the Penguins’ expected goals at 3.55, and their high-danger chances at 14 at all strengths, so Blackwood was the clear difference-maker in that narrow triumph.
The Habs got revenge on the scoreboard after Alex Ovechkin landed that devastating hit on Jonathan Drouin, and Tatar was a big catalyst for that rally.
Yes, his goal was an empty-netter, but Tatar already had a top-three-worthy night when he piled up three assists. If you’d prefer his linemate Phillip Danault (1G, 2A, nothing on that ENG), that’s fine, too. Being boiling up some righteous indignation, the plus side of Drouin getting shaken up might be that Claude Julien went back to Tatar, Danault, and Brendan Gallagher as a line ever so briefly. Via Natural Stat Trick, they generated two five-on-five goals for in just 42 seconds of TOI together. Piping-hot take: maybe keep them with each other a little bit longer?
Overall, Tatar was an absurd possession beast on Friday, generating a ridiculous 80% Fenwick Four. By any measure, he was spectacular, and there’s a compelling case for Tatar being placed above Blackwood as the top star of the night.
Attempting to defense the Bruins’ top line must be agonizing, as Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak just bring so many strengths to the table. It might be especially frustrating to try to contain Marchand, though.
Not only will he trash talk you (and back it up), but he’s also very smart and elusive, finding openings even when there’s just a bit of space to work with. Marchand played a big role in Boston ending its winning streak, and also extending Toronto’s torment, by scoring two goals, including the game-winner.
But, yeah, that troll game is also there.
Brad Marchand wins Player of the Game honors, and shows off the trophy to the Toronto crowd before leaving the ice. pic.twitter.com/QiaZpnmJKn
Zach Werenski had been off to a bit of a slow start scoring-wise for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, but the 22-year-old is gaining some serious steam lately. Werenski scored the overtime game-winner for Columbus on Friday, extending his goal streak to three games (three goals, one assist).
Via NHL PR: Zdeno Chara became the fourth defenseman in NHL history aged 42 or older to generate a three-game point streak. Chris Chelios has done it twice, and holds the best run with a four-game tear. The other two (Doug Harvey, Tim Horton) make it quite the list.
Another aging defenseman stat from NHL PR: Shea Weber became the third active NHL defenseman to generate at least a five-game point streak at age 34 or older. Chara did it in 2011-12, while Mark Giordano has two streaks of seven games. Weber also scored his 209th goal, placing him 18th all-time among NHL defensemen, via Sportsnet.
Saucy one from Sportsnet: the Maple Leafs and Oilers have the same point percentage (.531) in 64 games since Jan. 1, and Edmonton actually has one more win (30 to 29).
Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin received a painful reminder that you need to keep your head on a swivel when Ovechkin’s on the ice, as the Capitals winger leveled Drouin with a huge hit on Friday.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Drouin was shaken up almost as much by the second impact:
Sometimes big hits like that light a fire under teams. Maybe Ovechkin was hoping it would do so for Washington, but instead Montreal might channeled that anger into getting even on the scoreboard, as they rattled off a 4-0 lead in response, and ended up winning 5-2.
On Thursday, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Samuel Poulin did his best to try and recreate the finishing portion of that goal in a QMJHL game when he scored on an absolutely bonkers play late in his team’s 6-1 win.
As if the finish wasn’t enough, how about the move in the slot to get around the defender?
Poulin, a forward for the Sherbrooke Phoenix, scored the goal late in the third period of their win over the Cape Breton Eagles. It was Poulin’s 16th goal of the season.
The Penguins selected him in the first round (No. 21 overall) of the 2019 NHL draft as part of a promising draft class that also included Nathan Legare. Those two have been a much-needed boost to a farm system that has been depleted a bit due to trades in recent years to keep the current Stanley Cup window open.