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Ducks struggle to find answers (again)

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As a rollercoaster season continues for the Anaheim Ducks, they head into Wednesday’s action in an uncomfortable position: out of the playoffs.

Can they eventually earn a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs? It’s certainly possible, as they’re not far out. Interestingly, there’s quite a wide variety of odds when you look at prognostications from various sites.

The Ducks are in the thick of wild-card races, even as they take an eight-game losing streak into Wednesday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators. Landing a top-three spot in the Pacific seems extremely unlikely, so these bubble races are what to watch:

Still, if the Ducks grind their way to a spot in the postseason, do they have much of a chance to make a dent?

You’d expect some glum comments for a team struggling to score while mired in an eight-game skid, and that’s exactly what Ryan Getzlaf and others gave to Eric Stephens of The Athletic.

“I don’t know what else we can shake up,” Getzlaf said. “We’ve changed lines. We’ve changed defense. Everything. But we’re in this situation.”

Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle acknowledged that “frustration has been developing,” as it turns out that you can only ask for some much from a goalie in 2018-19, even one as dominant as John Gibson.

If this all sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because PHT’s covered the ups and (far too many) downs of this Ducks season so far.

  • Back in mid-November, PHT brought up the painful (but necessary) discussion about possibly firing Randy Carlyle, which wouldn’t be a first for Ducks GM Bob Murray. Obviously, Carlyle has persisted … but so have virtually all of the Ducks’ problems.
  • In early December, it seemed like Murray’s patience might pay off, as Anaheim went on a hot streak. You might be shocked to realize that Gibson had a ton to do with it.
  • To be fair to Carlyle, injuries have been a real issue for the Ducks over the last two-plus seasons. Some of that boils down to bad luck, yet it’s fair to wonder if Murray’s patience is backfiring there, too. While Anaheim’s done a marvelous job landing quality supporting cast members despite being a contender (and thus lacking many prime draft picks) for quite some time, this is still a team that lives and dies by its big names. Unfortunately, those big-name players are getting on the older side, and many of them play physical styles that age especially poorly in today’s NHL. At least they’re expected to get Rickard Rakell back on Wednesday.
  • As Adam discussed in the latest edition of PHT’s Power Rankings, reality is really striking the Ducks now.

When is it time to admit that your team might only be capable of diminishing returns, and perhaps it would be best to make changes?

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.

Trocheck hasn’t missed a beat for Panthers

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Vincent Trocheck wasn’t even supposed to be playing for the Florida Panthers this soon, let alone seemingly jumping right back to full-strength, as if his ankle was never fractured.

Heading into Friday, the Panthers were on a seven-game losing streak, facing a weekend that sure looked like it would set the stage for one or two additional losses.

Instead, the Panthers now have back-to-back wins, and they’ve done so against two legitimate NHL contenders.

On Friday, the Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1. Trocheck assisted on Mike Matheson‘s game-winning goal, posted highly impressive possession stats, three shots on goal, and seven (!) hits.

That would have already been a highly impressive effort for a player coming off a pretty traumatic injury, but Trocheck was arguably even better during Saturday’s 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators.

While his fancy stats were a little choppier, Trocheck showed up on the scoreboard even more, generating a goal and an assist. He looked awfully spry on that goal, by the way:

That breakaway score ended up being the game-winner, actually.

After generating three points in his two games back, Trocheck now has 17 points in 20 games this season.

Now, the Panthers points as a team? They’re now at 46 points in 47 games played, leaving them at least 12 points behind the Penguins (who have 58 points, and could add more against the Golden Knights during a Saturday game that’s in progress). To put things mildly, the odds are stacked high against the Panthers for a credible push toward a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Then again, the odds were also against Trocheck returning as soon as mid-January, and he’s instead making a big impact for Florida.

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.

Ref pushing Blues’ Barbashev gives us some comic relief

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In these trying times, sometimes you just need to see a zany mishap where a hockey player loses a skate blade, and hilarity ensues.

OK, that might be highly specific, but such bits of bad luck usually do provide some real comedy. Even by those standards, this was some good stuff, as Blues forward Ivan Barbashev got a boost from an on-ice official, and it was quite a boost down the ice.

You can watch that moment in the video above this post’s headline, and likely have a nice chuckle.

The Blues ended up beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Saturday, so Barbashev & Co. can share a bigger laugh after the game.

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Speaking of comic relief and needing a push, enjoy the Zamboni from Saturday’s Oilers game:

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.

Bruins’ Rask helped off ice after huge collision

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Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask needed help off of the ice – and took quite a while to leave the ice – after a frightening collision with New York Rangers forward Filip Chytil.

Moments after this post went up on Saturday, the Bruins provided an unsettling – if, sadly, not surprising – update that Rask suffered a concussion and will not return to the game.

You can see the collision (and get an idea of how long it took Rask to leave the ice) in the video above this post’s headline.

This is the Bruins’ final game before the All-Star break, and they won’t play again until they host the Winnipeg Jets in Boston on Jan. 29, so at least there isn’t much pressure for Rask to rush back to action too soon.

Rask began the game tied with Tiny Thompson at 252 wins, the most in Bruins’ franchise history.

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.

Erik Karlsson misses Sharks game on Saturday

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Considering how much Erik Karlsson has been heating up along with the San Jose Sharks lately, it would have been fun to see him skate against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that once tried to acquire him.

That’s not happening on Saturday, as Karlsson was a late scratch for the game.

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz reports that Karlsson was “limping noticeably” and favoring his left side following the Sharks’ 6-3 loss to the Coyotes on Wednesday. Kurz also reports that Karlsson hasn’t participated in practice or pregame skates for about a week.

Paul Gackle of the Mercury News points out that Karlsson was held out for most of the third period of Tuesday’s 5-2 win against the Penguins for “precautionary reasons,” yet Sharks coach Peter DeBoer indicated that the 28-year-old was expected to play on Saturday. Instead, Karlsson must have determined that he wasn’t good to go after skating a bit during warm-ups.

Saturday’s game against the Lightning marks the second of a four-game road trip. The Sharks are set to play against the Panthers in Florida on Monday (Jan. 21) and the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday (Jan. 22), then they’ll be off for the All-Star break.

Karlsson was one of the Sharks’ three selections to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, but we’ll see if what seems like a lower-body injury ends up sidelining him from the event. Either way, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Swede miss at least one of the Sharks’ remaining two games before the break, considering that it’s a back-to-back set.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is also out with an injury, so the Sharks are limping – can Sharks limp? – a bit into that run of off time.

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.