NHL Rink Wrap: Islanders limp to end of road trip

NHL Rink Wrap: Islanders limp to end of road trip;
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images
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Top players from Tuesday in the NHL

Jason Robertson, Stars

To understate things, it’s been a bumpy start for the Dallas Stars. It’s never great when your head coach gives the “Don’t panic!” speech.

But don’t assume Jason Robertson’s been a letdown. Instead, Robertson missed some time; Tuesday represented merely the eighth game of his 2021-22 NHL season. Robertson put up his best game of the year, scoring two goals and one assist.

With that, Robertson has nine points in eight games. Turns out, you tend to miss a player who at least temporarily added some drama to Kirill Kaprizov‘s Calder chase.

Trevor Zegras, Ducks

The Anaheim rookie continued his rookie season with his fifth and sixth goals of the season as the Ducks edged the Capitals 3-2 in overtime for the franchise’s 1,000th victory. Zegras ended things for the home side with the overtime winner and captain Ryan Getzlaf recorded his 1,000th NHL point in the win. Getzlaf is now the 39th player in league history to record 1,000 points with one franchise.

Highlights from NHL on Tuesday

Read up on Kevin Hayes paying tribute to his brother Jimmy in this post. Here’s the goal, Kevin Hayes’ first of the season (in his second game):

Here’s Getzlaf reaching the 1,000-point mark with this assist:

The Ducks’ hot start hasn’t just been about promising young players like Troy Terry. Getzlaf’s had a nice season so far, in his own right.

Early on, injury updates for Aleksander Barkov seem positive. We’ll see, though, after Scott Mayfield was ejected for this knee-to-knee hit on Barkov:

[UPDATE: Barkov won’t need surgery and is considered “week-to-week.”]

Tuesday’s NHL takeaways

Islanders’ merciless road trip comes to a merciful end

Any time you want to ask, “What’s wrong with Team X?,” take a look at Team X’s schedule. At least if that team’s struggles are unexpected. After doing so, you might get some added insight. Maybe they’ve played a bunch of back-to-backs. Perhaps their schedule is especially unkind.

People roll their eyes at such explanations. Yet, considering the parity of the NHL and the small margins between victory and defeat, those factors can add up.

Honestly, even if you’re still rolling your eyes … you kind of have to give the Islanders a little leeway, right? A 13-game road trip is believed to be the second-longest in NHL history; the Islanders’ previous franchise-high was a nine-game trek in 2016-17. (Despite a respectable 5-3-1 mark in that one, they missed the playoffs.)

Either this 13-game road trip especially wore on the Islanders lately, or they’ve simply played poorly. It’s likely a combination of those factors. After a rough 6-1 loss to the Panthers, the Islanders are on a four-game losing streak. During that time, they were outscored 19-4.

Losing is bad enough for a team that was one and two wins from Stanley Cup Final appearances the past two seasons. Getting scored on is even worse, and very Islanders-like. While losses like Monday’s defeat to the Lightning were exaggerated by empty-netters, it’s still been ugly.

So, the end of that 13-game road trip is a relief for the Islanders. That said, their upcoming schedule could still be a headache.

Ultimately, a 5-6-2 start is disappointing for the Islanders, but it could have been worse. Maybe they got some character-building and bonding out of the way early?

A rebound for Dubois, and Jets may just have Oilers’ number

The Oilers entered Tuesday’s game against the Jets as one of the top (and hottest) teams in the NHL. One game won’t change that. But Winnipeg once again got the best of Edmonton.

During that surprising sweep, the Jets often did just enough to beat Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Oilers. This one was different. After going up 1-0 in the first period, the Jets took off in the second, scoring three more times against the Oilers. That 4-0 lead teetered after Draisaitl and the Oilers’ power play made a push, but the Jets won.

Pierre-Luc Dubois scored one of those second-period goals, giving him nine already this season. Nine goals matches Pierre-Luc Dubois’ tough 2020-21 season split between the Jets and Blue Jackets (nine goals, 21 points in 46 games).

With that goal, Dubois continues to produce at a point-per-game pace (15 points in as many games). Considering that Dubois’ career-high is 61 points — and he’s otherwise peaked at 49 — this is quite the promising development. Expect his shooting percentage to sink, but this remains a positive development.

(It’s promising for his bank account, too. His $5M cap hit expires after this season, setting up Dubois for a nice raise, even as a pending RFA.)

Wednesday’s big story

Could Avalanche give change-averse Canucks a push?

Is it surprising or predictable that reports indicate that the Canucks aren’t expected to make big changes like firing Jim Benning?

In this post, PHT broke down the difficult situation at hand — including the mess Benning’s already made. That same post noted that many Canucks fans or media members took a “believe it when we see it” approach to any talk of Benning being out. They likely don’t feel great if they’re indeed right about this (assuming they want Benning out).

That said, we’ve also seen ownership groups flip-flop abruptly. And we also don’t know if replacing Travis Green would count as a “drastic change.”

So, the Canucks are a developing story — each loss could bring more questions. Even by those standards, Canucks – Avalanche will be something for the NHL to watch on Wednesday. It’s a home game, and the Avalanche boast the sort of firepower to pull off a blowout. Fans tend to boo a lot during those. Sometimes they wear paper bags with sad faces. They might be inspired to chant for a firing or two.

Philadelphia Flyers v Vancouver Canucks
Wearing a Flyers jersey, but making the “right face.” (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tuesday’s NHL scores

Maple Leafs 3, Predators 0
Panthers 6, Islanders 1
Rangers 3, Canadiens 2
Flyers 2, Flames 1 (OT)
Sabres 2, Penguins 1
Coyotes 3, Blues 2
Sharks 4, Wild 1
Jets 5, Oilers 2
Stars 5, Red Wings 2
Hurricanes 4, Golden Knights 2
Ducks 3, Capitals 2 (OT)

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.

Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
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FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

“I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

“It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

“We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”

Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

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Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

“We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

“It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

NEW COACHES

The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

“Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

CAMP TRYOUTS

Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

“They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

EARLY START

Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

“We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

“I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”

Matthew Tkachuk, Panthers ready for 1st training camp together

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
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CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Aleksander Barkov was sound asleep at his home in Finland when the trade that brought Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers was finalized, which isn’t surprising considering it was around 4 a.m. in that part of the world.

He woke up and read texts from friends reacting to the deal.

And it wasn’t too long before he got a message from Tkachuk.

“The first message was `(expletive) right’ and how he was excited to come to Florida,” Barkov, the Panthers’ captain, said at Florida’s media day. “`Let’s take this next step, let’s be a winning team for many years to come.’ That’s who he is. He wants to win. He wants to bring that character to this organization. And I think he’s done some damage already.”

With that, Barkov was sold.

And after a few weeks of informally skating with one another, the Panthers start the process of officially seeing what they have in Tkachuk when the team’s training camp – the first under new coach Paul Maurice – opens.

“We’ve basically had everybody here for a few weeks,” Tkachuk said. “I feel like I’ve been in training camp for a couple of weeks. So today doesn’t feel that new to me. I’ve gotten to know everybody … so let’s get these games going. I’m sick and tired of just practicing and working. I want to start playing some games. I think everybody feels the same way.”

Maurice was hired over the summer as well, inheriting a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and went to the second round of the playoffs — the first series win for Florida since the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

He’s as eager as the players are for the first formal practice, calling it “our first Christmas.”

“The house is bought. Most of the boxes are unpacked,” Maurice said. “I’ve got two kids that kind of came with me; one’s in Coral Gables, one’s in Estero. Their places are unpacked. They’re out of our house. Once you get down here, for me, you spend most of your days at the rink. So, experiencing all of South Florida, we haven’t gotten to that yet.”

As part of the deal that went down on July 22, the 24-year-old Tkachuk signed a eight-year, $76 million contract. That’s not the only big cost that the Panthers had to agree to while executing the trade; they also sent Jonathan Huberdeau, the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a left wing who had career bests of 42 goals, 62 assists and 104 points last season.

“I wish all the best to Huby and Weegs,” Barkov said. “They’re great. Everyone loved them. Only good things to say about them. It happens, and for sure, it was best for the team and organization to do this. We move on, and we’ll get ready for a new season.”

BOBROVSKY’S SUMMER

Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is Russian, still makes his home in St. Petersburg, and went there for the bulk of his offseason.

He said it was not logistically difficult to travel there (or return to the U.S.) this summer, even as the war that started when Russia invaded Ukraine continues. Bobrovsky said last season that he was not trying to focus on anything but hockey, and when asked if it was difficult to be back in Russia as war continues he kept the same approach.

“I had a good summer,” Bobrovsky said. “I saw friends, I saw family. It’s all been fine. I don’t want to talk about what’s going on. I’m not involved in that stuff.”

CAMP ROSTER

Florida is opening camp with 56 players – 31 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goalies. That group includes brothers Eric Staal and Marc Staal; Marc Staal signed as a free agent in July; Eric Staal is with Florida on a tryout contract.

Coyotes sign Barrett Hayton right before training camp

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Coyotes signed forward Barrett Hayton to a two-year contract right before the start of training camp.

Terms of the deal were not released.

The 22-year-old Hayton was a restricted free agent and not initially listed on Arizona’s roster for camp.

Hayton had 10 goals and 14 assists in 60 games with the Coyotes last season, all career highs.

Arizona drafted the Peterborough, Ontario native with the fifth overall pick of the 2018 NHL draft. He has 13 goals and 18 assists in 94 career games with the Coyotes.