That’s the news out of Florida on Wednesday, and it’s no small news — Versteeg has been medically cleared to return to game action for the first time since tearing his ACL in March.
Recovering from major knee surgery in six months? Pretty impressive. How did he manage to pull it off?
“I’ve talked to a lot of guys who have had it done like [Tomas] Kopecky and [Scottie] Upshall, you just trust their opinion, more so you got to trust your doctor, trust your surgeon what he did to you is going to make you better first, and understand that and go through your physical therapy,’’ Versteeg told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “The staff here in Florida did a tremendous job with me the first two months, then I went home [to Lethrbridge] and worked with a guy named Tim back home and my own trainer and they got me to where I am today.”
Versteeg, 27, tore up his knee during a game against Tampa Bay on Mar. 12 and underwent surgery shortly thereafter. While some thought he wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season, Versteeg — third on the Panthers in scoring (54 points) during the 2011-12 campaign — trained extensively over the summer to get healthy.
Now he figures to be a big part of a young Florida team looking to make amends for last year’s disastrous 30th-place finish.
“It’s definitely a lot of commitment,” Versteeg said. “I’m excited to what I can do this year.’’
Versteeg will make his preseason debut on Thursday in Tampa Bay.
A lack of quality goaltending was one of the reasons the Edmonton Oilers missed the playoffs last season. Cam Talbot, who was an integral part of Edmonton’s run to the playoffs in 2017, saw his numbers slip in a big way in 2017-18. Now, it’s another goalie that has the Oilers back in the playoff hunt.
Many hockey fans were left scratching their heads when Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli signed Mikko Koskinen to a one-year, $2.5 million contract. The move was a little random considering Koskinen hadn’t suited up in the NHL since the 2010-11 season. The 30-year-old had spent the previous five seasons in the KHL.
Talbot opened the year as the starter and Koskinen didn’t make his first appearance of the season until the nine-game mark, but things have changed. Not only is Koskinen coming off 24-save shutout over the rival Flames on Sunday, but he’s also been victorious in four of his last five and he has just one regulation loss since Nov. 20 (seven games).
Not only did Koskinen put an end to Calgary’s five-game winning streak on Sunday, he also helped extend his team’s streak to three games. So all this means is that the Oilers are just a single point behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and they’re also one point away from the San Jose Sharks, who are in third in the Pacific Division. The Oilers have played two fewer games than Vegas and one less than San Jose.
He now owns a 9-3-1 record with a 2.06 goals-against-average and a .929 save percentage. He’s been totally unbeatable at home, as he’s a perfect 6-0 with an 0.91 goals-against-average and a .970 save percentage. That’s unreal. His numbers on the road are a little less flattering, but he’s done enough to go 3-3 away from Rogers Arena.
Mikko Koskinen is the first goalie to start his #Oilers career at 6-0-0 at home since Bill Ranford in 1988.
If we take a deeper look at his numbers, only Pekka Rinne and Jaroslav Halak have better save percentages and only Rinne has a better goals-against-average. Of course, the small sample size is important to keep in mind, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Finn has played really, really, really well.
As good as Koskinen’s been, the Oilers will probably need Talbot at some point in the near future. Over the last five seasons, Koskinen has played more than 41 games just once. He’s currently on pace to play in 38 games, but you’d have to imagine that he’ll keep getting starts if he stays hot. Anyway, a wall will be probably be hit at some point.
But right now, Oilers fans aren’t worried about walls, they’re just glad to be back in the playoff hunt.
His special Sunday really highlighted the gap between the Canucks wunderkind and everyone else. Pettersson scored the game-winning goal to go with four assists for a five-point performance. The kid is special, and you really don’t need the “for a rookie” caveat.
Normally, it might be best to lean away from placing two teammates in the top three, but sometimes you just have to acknowledge the truth. These two forwards are a blast to watch. The Boeser + Pettersson combo doesn’t merely make the Canucks palatable. If you’re not ready to go, they can absolutely dominate, stealing games for Vancouver in the process.
Boeser collected a hat trick as the Canucks bombarded the Blues by a 6-1 score:
This is a tough call, as Morrissey’s teammate Mark Scheifele and Ducks forward Ondrej Kase also deserve serious consideration with their own three-point Sundays.
Morrissey gets the nod because his goal was a game-winner (Scheifele had three assists, while Kase’s goal and two assists lacked the GWG). Granted, it was the GWG in a lopsided game but … hey, we’re splitting hairs, here.
There were some nice goalie performances, yet with Mikko Koskinen being the only guy getting a shutout – and a light one, needings 24 saves – let’s hand the bronze to a skater.
Morrissey celebrated his first game in a week by collecting those three points as the Jets routed the Flyers. Along with the goal and two assists, Morrissey managed a +2 rating, three SOG, and one blocked shot.
Admittedly, it’s strange to use the word “harmonious” to describe a hockey play, especially when Brad Marchand is involved. Such a description comes to mind here, though, as Marchand, David Krejci, and Torey Krug combine for an absolutely beautiful overtime game-winner:
While it doesn’t match the sheer beauty of that Krug tally, Connor McDavid scored the only goal of Edmonton’s 1-0 win against Calgary on another nice bit of puck movement:
Sunday featured at least a couple throwback “pad-stacking” saves, including this one by John Gibson:
Much to the Edmonton Oilers’ chagrin, Milan Lucic isn’t the all-encompassing threat he once was. To be more precise, he’s not exactly the type who will score enough to justify his $6 million cap hit very often these days.
Lucic is still an enormous human, however, and sometimes you get a taste of what made him such a menacing presence in the past. Sunday stood as one of those examples, as Lucic delivered a thunderous check on Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic, then went toe-to-toe with Anthony Peluso in what seemed like a pretty even fight.
(You can watch it all in the video above.)
If you’re around an old-school type, you’ll probably overhear something about how this fight somehow propels the Oilers to victory rather than Ken Hitchcock’s patented “Connor McDavid scores the only goal” formula. Lucic kindly obliged following his first scrap of 2018-19:
"It's what Hitch says, playing for each other rather than with each other & doing all the little things that matter." Lucic on the #Oilers building their identity over recent 7-2-1 stretch pic.twitter.com/17gj1PHAnm
Either way, the Oilers snagged a 1-0 win against the Flames, and Lucic looked like a beast, at least for that stretch. It hasn’t always been pretty, yet Edmonton will take it, especially when “it” qualifies as a win against their nearby rivals.