Getty

Dallas shakes up defense (again), healthy scratches Hamhuis (again)

1 Comment

The winds of change continue to blow through the Stars’ blueline.

Veteran Dan Hamhuis, signed this summer to a two-year, $7.5 million deal, will be a healthy scratch for the second time this season when Dallas takes on St. Louis Monday evening, per the Morning-News.

Stephen Johns, who was sent to the minors last week and quickly recalled, will also be parked in the press box.

“There’s a couple things in play,” head coach Lindy Ruff explained (per the Morning-News’ Mike Heika). “We really feel we’re going to use eight defensemen. The other thing with Johns is if I play him tonight and play him tomorrow, that’s four games in five nights.

“So you pick which games you want to get him in. For [Patrik] Nemeth, he’s a big strong defenseman that we want to get back in the lineup.”

Nemeth hasn’t played since Nov. 21, when he received just under 16 minutes in a OT win over Minnesota.

As for Hamhuis, his demotion comes after receiving a season-low 16:06 in Friday’s 2-1 win over his former team, the Canucks. In that game, he was beaten by Vancouver forward Jason Megna for the only goal surrendered on the night.

Hamhuis, 33, has had a difficult time transitioning to his new team, but has still been a regular lineup presence. He and John Klingberg are tied for the team lead in games played by a defenseman, with 21.

As mentioned above, Ruff has already sat Hamhuis once this season — following a 4-1 loss to the Jets on Oct. 27 — and admitted it was a tough decision to make.

“I went and talked to him, and those aren’t easy conversations. Understandably, you’ve got an upset player,” Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “But it’s a strong message, and it’s a message that needs to be carried — it’s not good enough. I know it’s tough when you come from another team, but right now we’ve got to find less excuses and more reasons to win a game.”

Ruff has spent most of this season juggling defensemen in and out of the lineup. Nine different guys have suited up, including promising rookie Julius Honka, who made his NHL debut last week. Nemeth, Johns, Jamie Oleksiak and Esa Lindell have all platooned in and out, and that will likely continue as the Stars try to find the right mix with veteran Johnny Oduya (lower body) on IR, and out indefinitely.

In other Dallas lineup news, Jason Spezza could end up on the club’s fourth line tonight. But Ruff also suggested he could go back to the lines he used on the Stars’ last road trip… so, maybe not.

Hall of Fame defenseman Guy Lapointe fighting oral cancer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MONTREAL (AP) — Hall of Fame defenseman Guy Lapointe has oral cancer.

The Montreal Canadiens revealed the diagnosis Wednesday at the request of Lapointe and his family.

“Dr. Keith Richardson, the treating physician from the McGill University Health Centre, indicated that the cancer is located at the base of the tongue,” the team said in a statement. Lapointe will begin his treatments in the coming weeks. This form of cancer has a high cure rate.

Lapointe played most of his 16-year NHL career with his hometown Canadiens. He helped Montreal win six Stanley Cups before closing his career with stops in St. Louis and Boston. The defenseman also played for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.

Our Line Starts podcast: Montgomery’s firing; drafting the All-Decade Team

Leave a comment

Kathryn Tappen, Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp discuss the surprise firing of Stars coach Jim Montgomery. The guys also give their takes on Gary Bettman’s four-point plan to handle abuse. Pierre McGuire sits down with Sabres coach Ralph Krueger to talk about his time in Europe and his path from the Premier League back to the NHL. Plus, Jones and Sharp reveal their top defensemen and goalies of the decade. Do you agree with them?

Start-0:45 Intros
0:45-7:25 Reaction to Dallas firing Jim Montgomery
7:25-14:10 Gary Bettman and the NHL’s 4-point plan
14:10-32:50 Pierre interviews Sabres coach Ralph Krueger
36:05-End The guys begin to draft their All-Decade Team

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 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

The Buzzer: Avalanche keep rolling; Capitals clip Bruins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Three Stars

1. T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals.

With only one goal in his previous 10 games, Oshie scored two beautiful goals in the Capitals’ 3-2 win against the Bruins on Wednesday Night Hockey. The American forward recorded a power-play goal early in the second period to knot the score 1-1. Oshie rang a shot off the crossbar after a crafty deke and then found the loose puck behind Jaroslav Halak to pick up his 12th of the season. Then, Oshie scored the goal of the night when he avoided Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton and converted a breakaway opportunity to give Washington a 2-1 lead.

2. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche.

In his sixth game back since suffering a lower-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for 16 games, Rantanen notched two goals to help the Colorado Avalanche earn a 3-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Finnish forward tapped in a pretty pass from Nathan MacKinnon to extend the Avalanche advantage to 2-0 in the second period. In the third, Rantanen sealed the game after Nazem Kadri delivered a perfect pass. Colorado has kept pace in the competitive Central Division with Rantanen sidelined, but will now look to emerge as the class of the division with the return of its star forward.

3. Cayden Primeau, Montreal Canadiens.

The first NHL win for any goaltender is always a special moment. Primeau made 35 saves as the Montreal Canadiens skated to a 3-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators.  Primeau, 20, was the No. 199 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft and is the son of former NHL All-Star forward Keith Primeau. He was recalled from the Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate on Tuesday after Montreal placed Keith Kinkaid on waivers.

Highlights of the Night

Oshie performed a nifty deke around a Bruins defender, then converted a breakaway while drawing a penalty.

Carter Hart submitted another candidate for the save of the year with this impressive glove save.

Factoids

  • Carlson (33 GP) required the fewest games by a defenseman to record his 45th point of a season since Al MacInnis in 1990-91 (32 GP w/ CGY). [NHL PR]
  • Carlson’s five game-winning goals (33 GP) are one shy of the Capitals single-season franchise record by defensemen (Kevin Hatcher: 6 in 83 GP, 1992-93). [NHL PR]

  • Only four goaltenders in Canadiens history recorded their first NHL win at a younger age than Primeau. [NHL PR]

  • Primeau is the second goalie in as many seasons to record his first NHL win prior to his 21st birthday. The other: Carter Hart on Dec. 18, 2018 w/ PHI (20 years, 127 days). [NHL PR]
  • Rantanen has collected 20 points in 15 or fewer games for the second time in his career [NHL PR].

Scores

Capitals 3, Bruins 2

Canadiens 3, Senators 2 (OT)

Avalanche 3, Flyers 1

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Rantanen’s goals help Avalanche defeat Flyers, extend point streak

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mikko Rantanen scored twice and the Colorado Avalanche extended their point streak to eight games with a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Matt Calvert also scored, and Pavel Francouz made 32 saves in Colorado’s seventh win over the past eight games.

Claude Giroux scored the lone Flyers goal late in the third period and Carter Hart made 25 saves, but the Flyers fell in regulation for only the second time in the previous 10 outings (7-2-1).

Francouz provides boost between the pipes

With Avalanche starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer sidelined with a lower-body injury, Francouz made his fourth straight appearance and collected his eighth win of the season with a strong performance against the Flyers.

After a rocky showing against the Flames earlier this week which resulted in a 5-4 overtime loss, Francouz bounced back and was a steadying force in the crease. Claude Giroux ended Francouz’s shutout bid late in the third period, but the Czech goalie held off a late push from Philadelphia.

After a second-round defeat in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Avalanche have eyes on home-ice advantage in the 2020 postseason. If Francouz can provide consistent goaltending when called upon, they certainly have the star power up front to be a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.

Kadri acquisition paying early dividends

Colorado general manager Joe Sakic acquired Nazem Kadri this past summer to help the Avalanche become a deeper team with improved secondary scoring. With 21 points in 28 games this season, Kadri has added another element to Colorado’s dynamic offensive attack.

Early in the third period Wednesday, Kadri patiently waited behind the Flyers’ net until Rantanen skated into position to convert a one-timer to give Colorado a three-goal third-period lead.

The Avalanche’s top line is one of the most lethal trios in the NHL, but Colorado is that much more dangerous if Kadri continues to provide an extra boost.

Looking ahead for Flyers

The Flyers began a three-game road trip against Central Division opponents with a loss against the Avalanche, but cannot let one game ruin the momentum they have generated with strong play in recent weeks. The Flyers will travel to Minnesota and Winnipeg over the weekend and need to continue to secure points to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.