Two familiar names are KHL-bound; Capitals ink interesting KHL forward

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The KHL’s 2018-19 season began this weekend (waves to Nail Yakupov), so it probably shouldn’t be too shocking to see some transactions that will ring a few bells. Let’s consider two now-former-NHL-players heading overseas, and the Capitals’ investment in bringing a KHL scorer to North America.

Alexei Emelin (pictured: bottom right)

The 32-year-old defenseman isn’t just signing in the KHL; it sounds like he’ll be there for more than just a one year “I can still play, take me back NHL!”-type deal. Instead, Avangard inked Emelin for three years.

Emelin spent the first six years of his NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens, appearing in 380 regular-season games and 29 playoff contests for the Habs. He was then scooped up by the Vegas Golden Knights during the expansion draft, only to be traded to the Nashville Predators. He appeared in 76 regular-season games with Nashville, and then also suited up for 10 playoff contests, averaging a miniscule 11:19 during the postseason run. He clearly struggled to crack a stout Predators defensive lineup after being fairly prominent during his last two seasons with Montreal.

The hard-hitting defenseman had his critics, and it’s easy to see why analytics-minded people would critique him.

While the modern game seems to be leaving Emelin behind, it’s almost a little surprising some “old-school” type didn’t scoop him up. Maybe the KHL deal, considering the term, was just far more lucrative?

Kris Versteeg (pictured: top)

Avangard also signed Kris Versteeg recently, in this case to a one-year contract (so maybe this one is a “please take me back, NHL!” deal).

That KHL team ultimately boasts quite a few familiar names. Along with Versteeg and Emelin, Avangard also currently employs Max Talbot and David Desharnais. A lot of the new guys from around the KHL are apparently performing well to start.

Last season wasn’t particularly impressive stuff from Versteeg (eight points in 24 games, mediocre possession stats), as the 32-year-old struggled in his second season with the Calgary Flames. You wonder if he might be able to find a gig somewhere around the NHL in 2019-20, though, as he isn’t that far removed from fairly solid supporting cast work.

Still, Versteeg enjoyed a solid run in the NHL if this is it for him at this level, and he can look back at memories of winning two Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sergei Shumakov (pictured: bottom left)

While those two veterans left the NHL for the KHL, the reverse happened as the Washington Capitals signed Shumakov, 25, to a one-year, two-way deal.

The undrafted forward tied for CSKA Moscow’s team lead in 2017-18 by scoring 40 points in 47 games, including 17 goals (those 40 points ranked him 18th in the KHL). He’s shown nifty hands at times, like here:

And here:

Russian Machine Never Breaks has all your Shumakov tattoo-related needs covered here.

Is he someone who can make a dent in the lineup, or possibly be even more than that? Considering that he signed a two-way deal, it’s possible that Shumakov could go either way. It sure seems like a low-risk addition for Washington, overall, though.

Apologies if that second Shumakov highlight got “The Offspring” in your head. That song is now in mine, too, if that’s any consolation.

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

Stars’ Stephen Johns activated after missing almost 22 months

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Dallas Stars activated Stephen Johns before their game Saturday night in Minnesota, clearing the way for the defenseman’s first game in almost 22 months.

Forward Radek Faksa was placed on injured reserve to make room for Johns on the active roster.

Johns has been out since late in the 2017-18 season because of post-traumatic headaches. The Stars have said the condition isn’t related to concussions.

The 27-year-old Johns hasn’t played since March 29, 2018, at the Wild. It was the last of a career-high 75 games in his third NHL season. Johns missed the last five games that year before sitting out all of last season as headaches persisted.

He played two games on a conditioning assignment with the Texas Stars of the AHL before rejoining Dallas on Thursday.

The return of Johns could coincide with the Stars’ first game without defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The 20-year-old standout left Thursday’s loss to Buffalo with an upper-body injury.

Johns made his debut for Dallas late in the 2014-15 season and played in all 13 of the team’s playoff games as a rookie. He has 13 goals, 15 assists and 306 blocked shots in 150 career regular-season games.

Panthers down another goalie, injured Driedger to miss weeks

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SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Florida goalie Chris Driedger will miss several weeks with what’s believed to be a groin injury, the latest health issue at that position for the Panthers.

The Panthers announced the diagnosis Saturday, calling it a lower-body injury.

Driedger was hurt midway through the first period of the Panthers’ 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. He is 5-2-0 in nine appearances for Florida this season, with a 2.48 GAA.

The Panthers have also been without goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for much of January while he recovers from an upper-body injury.

Florida begins a stretch of six consecutive road games Saturday in Detroit. That six-game run also includes the All-Star break and the Panthers’ bye week.

The Buzzer: Cirelli, Lightning cruise past Jets; Crosby tallies OT winner

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
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Three Stars

1) Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning

Cirelli recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Lightning steamrolled the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening. The 22-year-old scored twice in the opening period as the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Cirelli hammered a feed from Ondrej Palat 9:27 into the game and then converted a nifty forehand-backhand maneuver to close out the first 20 minutes. Cirelli would complete the hat trick midway through the third period.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin recorded two power-play assists to set up Pittsburgh’s two goals in its 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings. Sidney Crosby has received a lot of attention since returning from a 28-game absence earlier this week and added the game-winning goal Friday. However, it was Malkin who looked off the defender and delivered a perfect pass to set up the Penguins captain. Malkin has recorded 10 points in the previous six games.

3) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 26-year-old winger scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win. Cirelli and Kucherov alternated goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead, including three in the opening period. Kucherov buried two tap-in opportunities to record goals 21 and 22 on the season. The Russian winger has five goals in his previous three games and the Lightning improved to 12-2-0 in the previous 14 games.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to three games when he buried a pretty feed from Malkin to propel the Penguins in overtime.

Sam Steel fired the OT winner after Andrei Svechnikov‘s costly turnover.

Stats of the Night


Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Winnipeg Jets 1

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

Predators’ Arvidsson fined $2,000 under NHL diving policy

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment.

NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

League officials said Arvidsson received a warning following an incident Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh. His second citation occurred during an incident in the first period of a Jan. 7 game with Boston that resulted in coincidental minor penalties on Arvidsson and Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Fine proceeds go to the players’ emergency assistance fund.