Video: Stewart fights Nolan, shushes Staples Center crowd

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One of the few Blues highlights from today’s season-ending loss in Los Angeles was a spirited scrap between Chris Stewart and Kings rookie Brandon Jordan Nolan.

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Few notes:

— It seemed Nolan bit off more than he could chew with Stewart, even though Nolan’s been a fairly active pugilist over the last two years. Stewart goes 6-foot-2, 225-pounds and dropped the mitts six times this season.

— Regardless, the fight gave the Kings a spark. Dustin Brown scored the game-winning goal about five minutes later.

— Stewart got roundly razzed on Twitter for the shhh routine. “Chris Stewart tried the [Max] Talbot ‘shush’? Down 3-0?” wrote Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That should be an automatic one-game suspension.”

— That said, Stewart was one of the few Blues that improved as this series went along. After being a healthy scratch in Game 2, Stewart responded with a pair of goals in Game 3 and finished today with four hits, almost 14 minutes of ice time and the decisive win over Nolan.

— It won’t make up for his poor regular season, but it does send Stewart into the summer on a high. That’s important, because he’s a restricted free agent on July 1, along with fellow forwards TJ Oshie and David Perron.

Note: As you can see from the strikethrough, I mixed up Jordan Nolan with his older brother, Brandon. Apologies for the error — not my finest hour.

Ken Hitchcock returns to coaching, replaces McLellan in Edmonton

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Ken Hitchcock’s retirement lasted a whole 221 days.

On Tuesday morning, the Edmonton Oilers announced what we’d all been waiting for: that head coach Todd McLellan had been fired. What we didn’t expect to hear was the 66-year-old Edmonton native getting back behind the bench to replace him.

McLellan’s days were numbered in Edmonton. After making the playoffs in 2017, we all expected that that was the beginning of the Oilers taking steps to being a respectable team again. Well, last season they crashed back back down and returned to having an early offseason.

In parts of four seasons in Edmonton, McLellan led the team to a 123-119-24 record. There was only so much Connor McDavid could do.

Saddled with some bad contracts (Milan Lucic, Kris Russell) and a few bad trades later (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle), general manager Peter Chiarelli was unable to build a support system around McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. It’s resulted in a 9-10-1 Oilers team that is heading for another summer of hoping to win yet another lottery.

There’s no light at the end of the tunnel right now for the Oilers and it’s going to take some serious re-shaping to turn things around. But will Chiarelli be the one in charge of that?

As for Hitchcock, whose status will be evaluated at the end of the season, he announced in April that he would be retiring after a season back with the Dallas Stars and has been a consultant with the team since. While the NHL’s third-winningest head coach has been able to find success from a number of stops in his career, it’s hard to imagine him pulling a miracle in Alberta and steadying what looks to be a sinking ship.

MORE: How much longer can Oilers go on like this?

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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.

Blues GM on team’s core group: ‘They have to get us out of this’

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Craig Berube has been through this before. Three games into the 2013-14 NHL season he replaced Peter Laviolette in Philadelphia. He may have been fired 18 months later, but immediately he helped turn around the Flyers’ season and led them to a playoff berth.

The mandate is the same now in St. Louis where Berube, who had been an associate coach with the Blues since last season, takes over a team that’s once again underachieving and in next-to-last place in the Western Conference with a 7-9-3 record. A look at the various statistical categories and you’ll see that they’re middle of the road. Nothing great, nothing terrible — they just… are. And that’s why Yeo is out of a job. He couldn’t take a roster that was upgraded over the summer and bring them to a level beyond mediocre.

Four months after being fired by the Minnesota Wild in 2016, Yeo was hired as the successor to Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis. That plan was sped up after Hitchcock’s firing in Feb., 2017 and the Blues went 22-8-2 down the stretch and eventually were dumped out of the playoffs by the conference champion Nashville Predators in the second round.

What helped that revival was balanced scoring and Jake Allen posting a .941 even strength save percentage in his final 24 starts that regular season. But that number wasn’t sustainable and since the end of the 2016-17 season Allen has a .914 ESSV% in 73 appearances. 

[Blues fire Yeo, name Berube interim head coach]

This season it’s not just on Allen. The possession numbers could be better. Vladimir Tarasenko is shooting 4.26 percent at 5-on-5. David Perron is goalless in November. Patrick Maroon is goalless all season. We’re still waiting on rookies Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas to make an impact.

Ryan O’Reilly’s back must be hurting from carrying the team through 19 games.

Good goaltending can mask many things, and it will also make you wonder if allowing Carter Hutton to walk was the best idea. It should also up the pressure on GM Doug Armstrong, who’s now hired another coach to try and fix a mess. (At least he lottery protected that 2019 first that went to the Sabres in the O’Reilly trade.)

When Armstrong met the media on Tuesday, he honed in on his team’s core group, and was fed up with how their output.

“We’re not good enough,” he said. “As a general manager, the wins and losses fall on hockey operations and as the president of hockey operations and the general manager of the team there’s things that need to be addressed. We’ve stayed patient with the core group of players and that patience now is at its thinnest point.”

The head coach is gone. The boss, for now, remains. There won’t be a handful of trades coming to re-shape the roster. Armstrong is putting this season directly on his top players.

“The core group’s equity that built up is gone,” he said. “We transferred into a different group. That group isn’t three people; that group’s eight or nine people in my opinion. They have to get us out of this.”

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If Berube’s not the answer long-term, then who do the Blues turn to? The obvious candidate is Joel Quenneville, who’s clearly been enjoying his unemployment.

But Quenneville won’t come cheap and is still under contract to the Blackhawks through the end of the 2019-20 season. The Blues would need to seek permission from Chicago to go about hiring him and then they’d have to work out a big money contract. Would owner Tom Stillman be open to ponying up the cash for a fix?

Hey, Todd McLellan’s available now and comes with a cheaper price tag.

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Here’s a fun fact: Since Armstrong took over from Larry Pleau in 2010 the Blues are tied with the Boston Bruins for the third-most regular season wins (365). That’s pretty good considering the Central Division can tout two Stanley Cup champions, two Presidents’ Trophy winning teams and three Western Conference playoff titles over that span.

Of course, during that same period the Blues have only advanced out of the second round once.

Digging deeper into the NHL’s records and you’ll find that Armstrong’s Dallas Stars teams had the fourth-most regular season wins during his 2,118 days as the team’s GM. The end result? One second round appearance, 2002, during the year he took over the gig midseason.

Davis Payne, Hitchcock and now Yeo have taken the fall for their underperforming teams. How much longer does the architect get to keep building them?

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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.

NHL On NBCSN: Points starting to come for Sharks’ Erik Karlsson

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers at 10 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Offensively, things are going pretty good for the San Jose Sharks. Their 68 goals through 21 games has them near the top of the NHL.

Of those 68 goals, only six have come from their blue line with Erik Karlsson joining the “goals scored” club on Saturday night against St. Louis. The blast came on his 62nd shot of the season, which, along with his 95 percent PDO, shows that the opportunities have been there — it’s just that the puck hasn’t been going in for him.

“I’ve been feeling good all year, it just hasn’t worked out on the scoresheet,” Karlsson said after Saturday’s victory. “But sometimes that’s the way it is. I don’t think I’m doing anything different now. As a team, we’re progressing, and we’re playing better hockey at times. That includes me, and everyone in here.”

We know the kind of offense the Sharks can provide, especially from a back end that also features Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The September acquisition of Karlsson, who scored nine goals and recorded 62 points last season with Ottawa, only bolstered that as well as a power play that can easily break the 20 percent mark (19.7 percent success rate this season).

[How much longer can Oilers go on like this?]

But it hasn’t been an easy plug-and-play for Karlsson and the Sharks through a quarter of the season. Finding himself partnered mainly with Vlasic and Brenden Dillon, Karlsson’s impact on the offense is still a work-in-progress. 

“[H]e’s been playing some real good hockey, and I think he’s been really solid for us lately,” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. “For me, the offense is a bonus. We know it’s going to be there and the numbers are going to be there at the end of the year because they have to be based on what he’s doing, but he’s been real solid all over the ice for us lately.”

DeBoer’s right. Karlsson, per Natural Stat Trick, is currently tied for the NHL lead among defensemen in individual shot attempts (120), top five in possession (59.92 Corsi percentage), top-10 in high-danger chances for (85), and top-10 in Corsi for relative percentage (5.61), which means the shot differential of shots directed at the opposing team’s net per 60 minutes when he’s on the ice. He’s currently on a three-game point streak with a goal and four assists.

So it’s not as if we’re seeing a different Karlsson now that he’s wearing teal instead of red and black. Through 21 games the bounces haven’t been going his way. But considering his body of evidence, sooner or later his impact will be felt in San Jose.

Randy Hahn (play-by-play) and Bret Hedican (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Oilers-Sharks from SAP Center in San Jose.

MORE: Ken Hitchcock returns to coaching, replaces McLellan in Edmonton

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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Crosby closer to return; Heiskanen’s usage

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and Rochester Americans will be taking part in a unique home-and-home series. The teams will host Nickelodeon nights on Dec. 26 (in Cleveland) and March 22 (in Rochester) and they’ll wear Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Foot Clan jerseys. [Amerks]

• “Mike Yeo had to go. This isn’t a free pass for him. But the core players on the St. Louis Blues have now been passengers on two ships that hit the iceberg.” [Post-Dispatch]

• The slow start by the Pittsburgh Penguins is as ugly as it looks. [Pensburgh]

• While Sidney Crosby is progressing towards a return to the Penguins’ lineup, Matt Cullen is now out “long-term,” according to Mike Sullivan. [Tribune-Review]

• A few days after Willie O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, his old team, the San Diego Gulls, honored him with throwback jerseys and a bobblehead. [Color of Hockey]

Mike Hoffman on returning to Ottawa Monday night: “It almost doesn’t feel like a road game. I spent a good chunk of my career here. I have a lot of good memories in this building. These are the fun games I look forward to, coming back to the place where you started.” [Ottawa Citizen]

• Another season of the Edmonton Oilers showcasing just how top heavy they are. [TSN]

• It’s time for Todd McLellan to go in Edmonton. [Edmonton Journal]

• Have you seen the pads Scott Darling will wear when the Carolina Hurricanes don the Hartford Whalers throwbacks? Beauty.

Brian’s Custom Sports

• The Sergei Bobrovsky / Artemi Panarin storyline continues to hover over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Will it turn out to be a distraction? [Sportsnet]

• The Dallas Stars’ usage of rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen has been interesting and really makes most of his skillset. [Dallas Morning News]

• The Detroit Red Wings will be without Darren Helm for 6-8 weeks after the forward suffered a shoulder injury. [NHL.com]

• It’s time for the Anaheim Ducks to realize exactly what they are. [Anaheim Calling]

• Expand the NHL playoff format? No thanks. [Spector’s Hockey]

• How the NBA can be a blueprint for making hockey fun again. [Courier Post]

• A look at some of the most surprising developments so far of the 2018-19 NHL season. [Yardbarker]

• The soon-to-be 32nd NHL city has a rich history with the sport already. [Seattle Times]

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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.