‘His game has slipped’: Trotz explains Del Zotto healthy scratch

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Michael Del Zotto’s difficult season continued on Wednesday as he was made a healthy scratch for Nashville’s 2-0 loss in Vancouver.

Following the game, Preds head coach Barry Trotz was pretty straightforward as to why he banished Del Zotto to the press box.

“His game has slipped, and our coaching staff has talked to him about making solid decisions, solid plays and he has gotten away from that a little bit,” Trotz said, per The Tennessean. “We had some healthy people and we felt this would be a good time.”

The decision came just hours after Del Zotto played one of his worst games of the season in a 5-1 loss to Edmonton — he finished minus-3 in just over 15 minutes of ice time, and took a third-period interference penalty that essentially led to an Oilers goal (MDZ came out of the box just as Jordan Eberle scored to make it 4-1.)

Following the game, Trotz blasted the Preds for their inability to handle Edmonton’s forwards in the Nashville zone.

“They love to cycle, they love to move around, and we didn’t kill any cycles, we were mirroring people and we were light on the puck,” he said. “We had a lot of no-shows, guys that didn’t play to their capabilities, and that’s not good enough for us.”

While Trotz didn’t call out Del Zotto specifically, it’s telling that the ex-Rangers blueliner was parked the very next night.

Getting banished to the press box isn’t anything new for Del Zotto. Prior to getting dealt to Nashville, he was a frequent resident in New York head coach Alain Vigneault’s doghouse. Vigneault was highly critical of Del Zotto (see here and here) and made him a healthy scratch on a few occasions.

NHL on NBCSN: Rebuilding Kings attempt to play spoiler against Pens

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings.  Coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Penguins and Kings are heading in very different directions right now. Pittsburgh is chasing a Stanley Cup and Los Angeles is chasing the top pick in the NHL Draft.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Penguins are four points behind the Washington Capitals for first in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh has two games in hand.

On Monday, general manager Jim Rutherford made a couple of moves to improve his roster. He acquired Patrick Marleau from San Jose, and Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary from Buffalo. They also made a splash earlier in the month when they acquired Jason Zucker from Minnesota. So the team looks pretty different than it did at the beginning of February.

Sidney Crosby is the beneficiary of these trades. He’s now skating on a line with Sheary, who he played with during his first stint with the Pens, and Zucker.

Speaking of Crosby, he’s been unbelievable since returning to the lineup from a core muscle injury. The Pens captain has eight goals and 16 assists in the 16 games he’s played post-injury.

“He’s just such an impactful player,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We are a very different hockey team when he’s in our lineup. He’s been terrific. I think he’s getting better every game. I think his game is gaining more traction, and I think he loves playing this time of year.”

This will be the second game of a four-game road trip. The Pens got their trip starting with a disappointing loss in Washington on Sunday.

“It’s disappointing we didn’t get the result, but I thought we played a much better hockey game,” added Sullivan on Sunday. “It was a competitive game. They’re a good team. We’re a good team.”

As for the Kings, they didn’t really have much to play for between now and the end of the season. They’ll be reduced to playing spoiler between now and the end of the season.

GM Rob Blake managed to swing four trades over the the last few weeks. Here’s the moves they’ve made:

Traded Away: Jack Campbell (Toronto), Kyle Clifford (Toronto) Tyler Toffoli (Vancouver), Alec Martinez (Vegas) and Derek Forbort (Calgary).

Acquired: Trevor Moore (Toronto), 2020 third-round pick (Toronto), 2021 conditional third-round pick (Toronto), Tim Schaller (Vancouver), Tyler Madden (Vancouver), 2020 second-round pick (Vancouver), 2022 conditional fourth-round pick (Vancouver), 2020 second-round pick (Vegas), 2021 second-round pick (Vegas), and 2021 conditional fourth-round pick (Flames).

As you can see from the players and picks they acquired, they’re all about the long-term rebuild.

“We’re at that phase now where the next layer has to step up and contribute,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “The players that have come up from Ontario have shown to this point that they’re ready to go and they understand the structure, that they’re competitive like we thought they’d be, and they’re excited to be here. They give us a little spark, a little jolt of enthusiasm, which we need at this time of year. For as much as they help us out, we’re excited as well. It’s a good mix right now. Something our team dearly needs.”

Nikolay Prokhorkin, Blake Lizotte, Austin Wagner, Mike Amadio, Sean Walker and Matt Roy have all gotten an opportunity to play some more over the course of the season thanks to this rebuild. Cal Petersen has also made four starts since Campbell was shipped to the Maple Leafs.

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp and NHL insider Bob McKenzie. Alex Faust and analyst Jim Fox will call the action at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

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.

Our Line Starts podcast: NHL Trade Deadline winners, losers; David Ayres’ wild night

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Liam McHugh, Scott Hartnell and Mike Johnson react to one of the busiest NHL trade deadlines ever and reveal which teams they now feel dramatically different about. Will Ilya Kovalchuk fit well in Washington? Were the Lightning smart to go all in? Which teams should have done more? The crew also takes a look back at David Ayres’ thrilling night and discusses the future of the EBUG. Plus, Mike Tirico sits down with Al Michaels to reflect on the “Miracle on Ice.”

0:00-1:25 Intros
1:25-6:00 Initial deadline reactions
6:00-16:00 Deadline winners/losers
16:00-24:15 David Ayres’ surreal night
24:15-48:40 Mike Tirico, Al Michaels reflect on “Miracle on Ice”
48:40-end Liam, Mike, Scott tell their Lake Placid stories

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ growing roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The new weekly podcast, which will publish Wednesdays, will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

Wednesday Night Hockey: Avs, Sabres took surprising deadline approaches

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Avalanche and Sabres were in very different positions heading into the trade deadline. Colorado was comfortably in a playoff spot, while the Sabres were far enough out of a postseason position that no one expected them to make a trade to bolster their team. But the NHL is an unpredictable place.

One of the first moves made on Monday morning was between Ottawa and Colorado. The Avs sent a 2021 draft pick to the Sens for Vladislav Namestnikov. That’s a solid, low-cost depth move by general manager Joe Sakic. The expectation was that the Avs would continue to swing a few deals throughout the day, but outside of a move for veteran goalie Michael Hutchinson, they didn’t do anything else.

Sakic’s team has been hit pretty hard by the injury bug. Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Colin Wilson, Matt Calvert and Philipp Grubauer are all sidelined right now. Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, all they can do is wait for these bodies to get healthy again.

Rantanen is arguably the most important player of the bunch. Since he went down to injury though, the Avs have found a way to win all three of their games. As difficult as it must be to not have him and other key players in their lineup right now, these guys should all come back fresh for a playoff push. They just have to find a way to survive without them in the present.

As for the Sabres, they surprised us on deadline day by giving up one of their 2021 draft picks for pending unrestricted free agent Wayne Simmonds. Even though their odds of participating in the playoffs were slim, general manager Jason Botterill wanted to give his team some kind of spark.

“I think we made Jason’s job a little bit more difficult, which is what our goal was,” forward Kyle Okposo said after Sunday’s win over Winnipeg. “We like the group that we have in here. I think we’ve shown some resilience that’s been missing in the past.”

Simmonds is nowhere close to being the player he was with the Philadelphia Flyers a few years ago. That’s why he fetched a fifth-rounder two years from now. But for a young Sabres team, adding a veteran like him could help them immediately and potentially heading into next year if the marriage between these two sides works.

The 31-year-old has eight goals and 24 points in 61 games with New Jersey this year and five of his eight goals have been scored on the man-advantage.

Botterill also acquired forward Dominik Kahun from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues. The 24-year-old is currently day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

The Sabres were six points out of a playoff spot on Monday. They’re now eight points behind Toronto for the third place in the Atlantic Division, but they have two games in hand. Keep in mind, they’d have to leap over the Leafs, Panthers and Canadiens to get the job done. That’s not an ideal situation to be in, but they’ll have to make the most of it.

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp and NHL insider Bob McKenzie. John Forslund, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will have the call from Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo.

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.

Parise: ‘Games were hard to play’ while Wild talked trade

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — For the past week, Zach Parise was carrying some extra weight with him around the ice: The Minnesota Wild were actively talking about trading him.

Now that the deadline has passed, relieving Parise’s stress and ensuring he will complete an eighth season in his home state of Minnesota, the standout left wing can better focus on trying to help the Wild return to the playoffs. Beyond that, though, his future with the organization has become obviously uncertain.

”Those games were hard to play. You just don’t know. Once it gets brought up to you, in your mind you’re thinking, ‘Am I leaving tomorrow? What’s going on here?”’ Parise said Tuesday, before the Wild hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets. ”Now that that’s over, we can just worry about here and winning and getting ourselves into that wild-card spot.”

Wild general manager Bill Guerin, who’s in his first year running the team, took the uncommon tack of publicly acknowledging Monday after the deadline that he discussed a deal involving Parise.

Guerin didn’t identify the corresponding team, which The Athletic reported was the New York Islanders. Their general manager, Lou Lamoriello, declined to divulge specifics to reporters. ”I don’t know what the definition of close is. You always think there’s something that could potentially happen, but until it materializes you weren’t close,” said Lamoriello, who drafted Parise in 2003 when he was general manager of the New Jersey Devils.

The wrinkle with a potential deal involving Parise is that he has a no-movement clause in his contract, requiring him to approve any trade. More transparency, thus, is necessary from the front office regarding such discussions. Guerin approached him a week ago while the team was on the road, Parise said, with the possibility. Parise declined to confirm whether he told Guerin he’d waive the no-movement clause, but had he indicated disinterest the talks surely would’ve ended then.

That’s probably why Parise was choosing his words carefully as he took questions from reporters Tuesday, realizing that acknowledging a willingness to leave could make for an awkward stay for however much longer he’s with the Wild.

”I don’t know how close it got. I really don’t,” Parise said. ”I love it here. I always have. My goals here haven’t changed: It’s to help this team. I’m not disappointed by any means that I’m here. I really enjoy playing here.”

When Parise and his longtime pal, defenseman Ryan Suter, simultaneously signed identical 13-year, $98 million contracts with the Wild on July 4, 2012, the profile and expectations of this frequently middling franchise were instantly heightened.

The additions sparked fervor anew in an already fervent fan base and laid the foundation for a sellout streak that reached 230 straight games, until ending on Oct. 20 for the second home game of this season. The Wild made the playoffs in each of the first six seasons with the Parise-Suter duo, but that run ended in 2019, too. They’re below the cutoff again this year, too, in 11th place in the Western Conference and five points out of a spot. Since Parise and Suter arrived, the Wild have only won a playoff series twice and never advanced past the conference semifinals.

Parise again has the most goals for Minnesota (21) this season, the fifth time in eight he has led the Wild in scoring. He was one goal off the team lead in his second season (2013-14), too. That’s been part of the problem, though. Parise has long been a workmanlike scorer, excellent at rebounds and redirects while always willing to muscle his way into traffic against bigger defenders, but he’s not the type of player who can take over a game or consistently create chances for others. The salary cap space taken up by Parise and Suter has ultimately made it more difficult to build a contender around them.

The 35-year-old Parise, as he’s skating toward the end of his 15th season in the NHL, has not been shy about voicing his heightened urgency to win a Stanley Cup. Just because the Wild didn’t trade him this week doesn’t mean Guerin wouldn’t take another crack at it in the summer.

”There are certain moves that just require more time and a little more detail,” Guerin said, speaking generally about the seed-planting process that deadline-week discussions can initiate. ”Sometimes you want to get through a season with a player and revisit it. You’re not unhappy with him, but you could see the potential return you could get, so you revisit it. Like I said, we’ll handle that at the end of the season.”

As for any disappointment in not completing the deal?

”Not at all. I’m actually kind of excited to see what this group can do,” Guerin said. ”I’ve said all along that they’re getting an opportunity, a longer leash.”