Trade would be best for both Islanders, Ho-Sang

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The old New York Islanders regime seemed to be beyond the point of no return with fledgling prospect Josh Ho-Sang, and it doesn’t sound like things are a whole lot better now that Lou Lamoriello is in charge.

In what’s becoming a stomach-churning tradition, Ho-Sang sounded off on his situation (in the AHL, and in his opinion, not even used all that much by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers) in a candid interview with Brett Cyrgalis of The New York Post.

Ho-Sang, 22, believes that management already had their minds made up about him, and also believes that he’s receiving mixed messages.

“They tell me they want me to be a top-six forward up there, but I’m not a top-six forward down here, so it’s confusing,” Ho-Sang said. “Sometimes, it’s like you’re sprinting with a rubber band on. You constantly have tension. You run until you’re exhausted and then the band is going to pull you back. If I was going to say anything, it would be just watch. I’m just pointing it out.”

(The full story is absolutely worth your time.)

Unfortunately, the AHL doesn’t share ice-time information, so you need to rely on firsthand accounts of whether Ho-Sang is really receiving proper opportunities or not. Isles Blog’s Rob Taub captured the dueling takes on his work in the AHL, noting that: on one hand, there are opportunities for Ho-Sang, yet:

Indeed, it’s puzzling that the Islanders organization wouldn’t have issues with 33-year-old Steve Bernier seemingly getting equal or better opportunities than a player 11 years younger.

To clarify, NHL teams face competing motivations when it comes to nursing prospects at lower levels, including the AHL.

While you want merit to be important and that team to be competitive, it’s also imperative that younger players receive opportunities to sink or swim, and to learn from mistakes. At minimum, teams need to optimize their assets, and “burying” Ho-Sang only tanks his already-declining trade value.

And let’s be honest. At this point, Ho-Sang’s aired his grievances in brutally honest ways a few times now. It’s true that such a strategy won’t really make friends in the front office – especially in the almost comically secretive world of hockey – it’s also plausible that Ho-Sang feels like he doesn’t have a lot of other choices.

It sure feels like bridges have already been burned, and neither side is doing a whole lot to rebuild. That’s unfortunate because, as incomplete as his game may be, Ho-Sang’s already shown plenty of flashes of brilliant skill, including at the NHL level.

Honestly, from the outside looking in, it would probably be wise for both sides to move on via trade, even if the Islanders likely would have received a much better return if they moved Ho-Sang … a few impasses ago.

For one thing, a trade would improve Ho-Sang’s morale, while opening up space for a player who has more of a clean slate with the franchise. There might be a temptation to roll your eyes at Ho-Sang’s predicament, but an unhappy player can be a catalyst for an unhappy locker room.

That eloquent rubber band metaphor was a not-so-subtle clue that Ho-Sang is truly languishing in the AHL, a notion backed up by mediocre numbers (zero goals, four assists in nine games, -8 rating) and tweets like these:

(His Twitter banner also reads: “Your love makes me strong; your hate makes me unstoppable.”)

While the Islanders have scored at a more respectable rate than many expected (a decent 30 goals in 10 games, a rate that ties them for 16th in the NHL), it’s easy to picture scenarios where Ho-Sang could give them a boost, even if his gambling style would drive Barry Trotz up the wall. A stronger team would likely aim to have Ho-Sang as its third-line winger instead of Leo Komarov, as much as Trotz and Lamoriello seem enamored with hits.

Again, we’ve likely passed the best-case scenario.

Yet, like Eric Duhatschek discussed in The Athletic (sub required), sometimes you don’t have to “win” a trade to improve chemistry and morale. Duhatschek discussed as much in remembering former GM Cliff Fletcher’s philosophies.

Mostly he made the trade to shake up his own team, which he felt needed a reminder that, in professional sport, change eventually follows if things start to sputter. In short, Fletcher wasn’t necessarily trying to “win” the trade, the way so many GMs nowadays feel they have to do.

He believed that change for the sake of change sometimes had a positive impact on the whole, because it stirred up the chemistry of a team that was running flat.

Have we reached that point where the Islanders should simply trade Ho-Sang for, well, another organization’s version of Ho-Sang?

His prodigious skill might make that a tough gamble to stomach, yet I’d say yes.

At worst, the Islanders just get a new coat of paint for an old problem. Ideally, though, Ho-Sang would receive a fresh start while the Isles might receive a player more likely to help them in the future.

A trade wouldn’t just be an act of mercy for Ho-Sang. Chances are, it would also be the best thing for both the team and the player.

In the meantime, we’ll reach for our popcorn, waiting for the next wave of drama from this combustible situation.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

“It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

“It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

“Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

“That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

“You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

UP NEXT

Capitals: At Vancouver on Tuesday night.

Devils: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.