Get your game notes: Lightning at Hurricanes

1 Comment

Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Carolina Hurricanes hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

TOP STORYLINES

• TB’s All-Stars were Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, and Jonathan Drouin (rookie selection).

• Stamkos had 2G, 1A for Team Foligno on Sunday.

• Johnson did not participate in either Saturday or Sunday’s activities due to a lower body injury.

• Drouin won the fastest skater competition as a member of Team Foligno, with a time of 13.103 seconds.

• CAR’s only All-Star was Justin Faulk.

• Faulk had 2 assists in the win for Team Toews.

TAMPA BAY FIRST-HALF REVIEW

• TB begins play after the All-Star Break as the Atlantic Division leader, the top team in the East, and the NHL’s highest scoring team (3.21 goals/gm).

• The Lightning enter on a 3-game win streak, and are 6-3-0 overall in January.

• Last Game: TB def. VAN 4-1 last Tuesday. This marked the Lightning’s 8th straight home victory.

• With 64 points, the Bolts are off to the best 48-game start in the 22-season history of the franchise.

• TB trails league-leading ANA (68 pts) by 4 points; the Lightning have never won the President’s Trophy.

CAROLINA FIRST-HALF REVIEW

• The Hurricanes enter in last place in the Metropolitan Division (37 pts). Only BUF (31 pts) and EDM (33 pts) have fewer points in the NHL this season (AZ also has 37 pts).

• However, the Canes’ play has improved in 2015. CAR enters on a 2-game win streak, and the team has a 6-2-1 record overall in January.

• Last game: CAR def. TOR 4-1 last Monday.

• The win vs. TOR capped off a 2-0-0 Ontario road trip (also beat OTT 3-2) – the first time CAR has won back-to-back road games this season.

• TB injury woes: The Lightning have injuries to key players currently, especially on the blue line…

• D Matt Carle (torn abdominal muscles) had surgery last week and was expected to miss 6-8 weeks.

• Carle leads the team in blocked shots (74) and ranks 3rd in TOI/G (20:34) in 46 games this season.

• D Radko Gudas (knee) was expected to miss 4 months at the time of his arthroscopic knee surgery at the beginning of January.

• Despite playing in just 31 games, Gudas leads TB in hits (115), and is 2nd in blocked shots (63).

• F Tyler Johnson (lower-body) did not participate in the skills competition or the All-Star Game, and though he practiced Monday, is still considered day-to-day.

• Johnson leads TB in assists (31) and points (48) and is 2nd in the NHL with a +26 rating this season.

TAMPA BAY TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Steven Stamkos had an assist in TB’s most recent game – a 4-1 win vs. VAN last Tuesday.

• With 26 goals this season, Stamkos trails league-leaders Tyler Seguin and Rick Nash (28 goals) by just two. Alex Ovechkin is 3rd in the NHL with 27 goals this season.

• The Lightning captain is a two-time winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy (NHL leading goal-scorer); he captured the title in 2010 (tied w/ Sidney Crosby) and in 2012 by himself.

• Career vs. CAR: 24 points (12G-12A) in 31 career games.

• Ryan Callahan, who signed a 6-year/$34.8 million contract extension with TB this summer through 2019-20, is on pace for a career season points-wise with 35 points in 43 games played so far.

• Callahan set his career-high with 54 points (29G-25A) in 2011-12 with the New York Rangers.

• He has 5 points (3G-2A) in his last 6 games.

• Alex Killorn scored twice against VAN for the first 2-goal game of his career.

• Nikita Kucherov is t-2nd on the team in goals (17), but he has gone 9 straight games without a goal (0G-6A).

• Kucherov leads the NHL with a +28 rating this season.

• Ben Bishop has started all 3 games during the Lightning’s win streak (3-0-0 record, 1.62 GAA, .951 SV%), and he ranks t-4th in the NHL with 24 wins this season. He has great numbers all-time vs. the Hurricanes…

• Career vs. CAR: 5-0-0 record, 1.19 GAA, .967 SV%, 2 SO.

CAROLINA TEAM/PLAYER NOTES

• Jordan Staal missed the first 35 games of CAR’s season (fractured fibula). The team’s offense — and overall record — has been much improved with him in the lineup this season.

• Jordan had 2 assists in the win vs. TOR, and he has 6 points (1G-5A) in 10 games overall since his return.

• Eric Staal has benefitted from Jordan’s return – he has 8 goals in the 11 games since Jordan returned on Dec. 29 (8G-1A). The two have been playing on the top line together.

• Eric had 2 goals – both assisted by his brother Jordan – in the game vs. TOR.

• Career vs. TB: 67 points (31G-36A) in 63 career games. The 31 goals are his most vs. any NHL opponent.

• Khudobin stealing the show: While veteran Cam Ward has started 31 of the team’s 46 games this season, Anton Khudobin is the hot goalie for Carolina of late.

• Ward has won just 3 of his past 14 starts (3-9-2 record, 2.42 GAA, .910 SV%) dating back to Dec. 7.

The Buzzer: Stars Wars Storm Surge; Bob beats Blue Jackets

Getty Images
1 Comment

Three Stars

1. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes

Heading into Saturday, Aho only scored in one goal (a goal and an assist) in his past five contests. He made up for that dry spell in a big way against the Wild, generating a hat trick plus two assists.

His third goal was an empty-netter, but Aho’s first tally ended up being the game-winner. Aho was really clicking with Teuvo Teravainen, who finished the night with three assists.

Aho now has 27 points through his first 30 games in 2019-20.

2. Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning made life miserable for the Sharks on Saturday, feasting by way of a 7-1 score.

Killorn was a big part of that, generating a goal and three assists for four points. Killorn now has three goals and three assists for six points during a three-game streak, giving Killorn 22 points in 25 games in 2019-20.

As effective as Killorn has been over the years, his career-high is 47 points. Chances are, he’s going to slow down (example a 15.7 shooting percentage so far this season, against a 10.5 career average), but if reasonably healthy, Killorn should blow that previous number out of the water.

There were other Lightning players who played really well, as you’d expect from a blowout. Steven Stamkos ranked among those who collected three points, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 37 saves to exaggerate the distance between the two teams.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Really, you can take your pick between Malkin and Jake Guentzel, as they both enjoyed one-goal, two-assist nights on Saturday, and they both clearly play off each other quite well. As much as Guentzel has been conjoined to Sidney Crosby during his young (and underappreciated) career, it seems like he can click with Malkin, too. Obviously, it’s not difficult to transition from one “NHL 100” player to another who should have made the “NHL 100,” yet … we’ve seen wingers who cannot find chemistry with one or more of Malkin and Crosby. So credit to Guentzel for being deadly with both, and likely making life a little easier for each of them.

Malkin now has a fantastic 26 points in just 19 games, and may very well have his biggest year in a while if he can stay healthy — an uncomfortably familiar phrase for the Penguins for quite some time. (Heck, even spanning back to Mario Lemieux.)

Guentzel now has 31 points in 30 games, and a solid chance to exceed last season’s excellent career-high of 76 points.

Highlight of the Night

Uh, you think the Kings were expecting Johnny Gaudreau to pass when he did? (Don’t lie.) This is just a tremendous combination of speed, skill, and vision as he set up Sean Monahan:

Star Wars Storm Surge

Yay or nay on the Star Wars-themed Storm Surge from the Hurricanes? I’d say solid enough, although it lacked a Bunch of Baby Yoda so … maybe not ideal.

Factoids

  • The Blue Jackets spoiled Sergei Bobrovsky‘s shutout bid a bit more than halfway through the third period. Still, Bob had a strong night with 33 saves. Hot take: Columbus is still probably relieved to not be spending to the tune of Bob’s $10M AAV, considering how infrequently Bob has looked this good.
  • NHL PR notes that the Avalanche extended a point streak to 14 games, while they also gave the Bruins their first regulation loss at home this season.
  • Brady Tkachuk received a fine from the Department of Player Safety for cross-checking Scott Laughton. More on that wild game here.
  • A bit esoteric, but interesting, from NHL PR: Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid are the fifth pair to generate at least 300 points each in 320 games or fewer. They’re the first pairing to pull that off since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

Scores

PHI 4 – OTT 3
VAN 6 – BUF 5 (OT)
COL 4 – BOS 1
PIT 5 – DET 3
TBL 7 – SJS 1
FLA 4 – CBJ 1
CAR 6 – MIN 2
TOR 5 – STL 2
NSH 6 – NJD 4
DAL 3 – NYI 1
CGY 4 – LAK 3

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

P.K. Subban gets a warm tribute during his return to Nashville

Getty Images
2 Comments

It would have been silly for Nashville Predators fans to boo P.K. Subban during his return to “Smashville.”

Subban didn’t choose to be traded from Montreal to Nashville, and he didn’t elect to be sent from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils, either.

Sports fans aren’t always so rational, though. Really, it makes sense: spending so much money, time, and emotional energy on a game isn’t exactly the most rational thing to do. So there was some concern about how Subban would be received, especially since he’s already booed in an honestly uncomfortably large number of NHL arenas already.

Subban and others can breathe a sigh of relief, though, as while not everyone greeted Subban with open arms in as literal a way as Roman Josi did with their hug on Saturday, the team gave Subban a fantastic welcome back tribute video:

Not only does that video include some of Subban’s great moments during his three seasons with the Predators (that Stanley Cup Final appearance, a Norris Trophy win), it also captures some of the off-the-ice qualities that make Subban so fun and entertaining (and make people sometimes get perplexingly, maybe troublingly mad about him). He got up and decided to sing some Johnny Cash upon arriving in Nashville, was a fantastic charitable presence, and was a lot of fun.

(No Listerine was spilled in the making of the ad, but you can’t have it all.)

Anyway, good on the Predators and their fans for welcoming P.K. back.

As a reminder, Montreal Canadiens fans greeted him with love upon his return, too:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Avs’ rising star Cale Makar shaken by hit from Bruins’ Marchand

11 Comments

The Colorado Avalanche have done a masterful job, for the most part, when it comes to rolling with injury-related punches to key players such as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. They have to hope that Saturday didn’t send another such haymaker their way.

Rising star defenseman Cale Makar (who just fell under a point per game on Saturday with 28 in 29 contests) was clearly shaken up by a hard hit by Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

It didn’t seem like a heinous hit by Marchand, although there are some who wonder if it was a bit high.

Either way, Makar’s reaction is troubling. You can see him shake his head multiple times following the hit, which gives the impression that he could have suffered a concussion. That doesn’t guarantee that Makar did, but it’s a situation to watch — and one the Avalanche should absolutely be careful about.

The Avalanche ended up beating the Bruins 4-1 on Saturday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Laila Anderson, bone marrow donor attend Blues game

1 Comment

If it got a “little dusty” at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday, that’s understandable, because the continued story of Laila Anderson meeting Kenton Felmlee, her bone marrow donor, is sure to make most get a case of heightened allergies.

(Is that a leak from the ceiling? /Sobs)

Anyway, Felmlee was Anderson’s guest during Saturday’s Toronto Maple Leafs – St. Louis Blues game, giving the two another chance to bond, and beyond that, for Anderson to thank Felmlee for helping her in her battle with the rare immune disease HLH.

It’s great stuff, even if the actual Blues game isn’t going so great for St. Louis.

This longer clip from their first meeting earlier this week is worth watching, unless you don’t want people to see you openly weeping’n’stuff:

(Personally, I’d say it’s worth it.)

MORE ON LAILA ANDERSON AND THE BLUES:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.