Ryan Murray

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Surging Blue Jackets finally getting some help

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The Columbus Blue Jackets have been one of the NHL’s hottest teams over the past month-and-a-half, riding a 12-2-4 run over their past 18 games. They have the league’s third-best record (behind only St. Louis and Pittsburgh) during that stretch and have played their way back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, entering play on Wednesday in a tie with the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card spot.

What makes this run even more impressive is the team has been absolutely ravaged by injuries during that stretch.

The list of injuries includes…

  • Forward Cam Atkinson, a 40-goal scorer a year ago, has missed the past 12 games.
  • Forward Josh Anderson and defenseman Ryan Murray have not played since Dec. 14 (15 games).
  • Rookie defenseman Andre Peeke has not played since Dec. 17.
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had 12 goals in his first 36 games, has missed the past 11 games.
  • Alexandre Texier, a rookie forward the team had high hopes for at the start, has missed the past seven games.
  • Starting goalie Joonas Korpisalo has missed the past eight games.

On Wednesday the Blue Jackets finally got some good news on the injury front when the team announced that Atkinson and Peeke have been activated from injured reserve (Peeke has since been assigned to the AHL).

Atkinson is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday for a huge game against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are just two points ahead of the Blue Jackets in the standings.

The Atkinson is significant because he is such a huge part of the Blue Jackets’ offense and has been one of the most underrated goal scorers in the entire league the past few seasons. Over the previous three seasons he scored 100 goals in 227 games, a rate that averages out to 36 goals per 82 games. That production is down a little so far this season, but a lot of that drop has been driven by a significant dip in his shooting percentage.

He was already starting to see a bounce back before the injury, scoring five goals in his past eight games.

Blue Jackets keep surprising

Expectations were low for the Blue Jackets at the start of the season after the team lost Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel in free agency. Add in the recent injury situation on top of a slow start, and this team has every possible excuse to have completely gone in the tank. That has not happened.

Even with all of the free agency departures the Blue Jackets still had reasons for optimism this season (we looked at that here and here) because of the young talent still in place. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones form one of the best defense duos in the league, and they have been their usual steady selves this season. Pierre-Luc Dubois is also an emerging star in the NHL and becoming a legit No. 1 center that can impact the game on both sides of the ice.

But perhaps the biggest factor in their ability to remain competitive has been the emerge of Korpisalo, and most recently, Elvis Merzlikins in net.

Goaltending was always going to be the big X-Factor for this team and would strongly dictate what the team could do.

Merzlikins has been the big story over the past couple of weeks as he has stepped up in place of the injured Korpisalo. After losing each of his first eight decisions in the NHL, he is now 6-2-0 in his past eight games with a .950 save percentage. That includes back-to-back shutouts in his past two starts.

It is not realistic for him to keep playing at that high of a level, but as long as he and Korpisalo (once he returns) do not completely fall apart the Blue Jackets are going to have a great chance to not only stay in this race, but also shock the NHL and potentially return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Especially if they can start getting some more of their key players (Bjorkstrand, Murray, Texier, Anderson) back in the lineup.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL injury news: Good for Bruins, bad for Jack Hughes and others

Bruins injury news Krug Krejci McAvoy Hughes
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The 2020 Winter Classic began the next decade of NHL action, and that action included violence, a comeback, and Texas-sized fun. Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 feels more like the first full round of hockey in this new decade, though, and it’s not surprising that there’s plenty of NHL injury news to consider, from returning Boston Bruins to less positive developments for the likes of Jack Hughes.

Let’s get to the tidbits like Brian Boucher seeking fried Snickers.

Plenty of good Bruins injury news updates

The Bruins hold a significant lead in the Atlantic Division, but can’t be happy about a 4-2-4 stretch, and their generally mediocre end to 2019.

That said, as much as the Bruins rolled with the punches over the last few seasons, you can only hold off injuries for so long. Boston buckled after a while, so the Bruins must be heartened to start 2020 a little bit healthier. It certainly looks that way right now.

The Bruins’ website shared plenty of promising updates:

Even if McAvoy can’t quite return, that’s quite the slew of returning players. Danton Heinen is also expected to be back in the mix after being a healthy scratch.

More bad breaks for Blue Jackets

The Bruins face the Blue Jackets on Thursday, and Columbus stands on the other end of the spectrum. The Blue Jackets keep finding ways to earn standings points, even as injuries pile up, and John Tortorella receives more fines.

The Blue Jackets placed intriguing young forward Alexandre Texier on IR on Thursday with a lumbar stress fracture. “Lumbar stress fracture” translates to a back/spine injury, so it’s no surprise that Texier is sidelined indefinitely.

Texier adds to an increasingly ridiculous Blue Jackets injury list that also includes:

Combine injuries with all of those free agent loses, and Columbus deserves credit for hanging in there. Sadly for Torts & Co., they face tough odds to actually persevere to the playoffs, though.

Setback for Jack

Jack Hughes looked like he was heating up with three points in his last four games, but now he’s hurt. The top pick of the 2019 NHL Draft suffered an upper-body injury, leaving him day-to-day.

Considering the sorry state of the New Jersey Devils, there’s no sense in risking Hughes’ long-term health by rushing him back. Honestly, Hughes might benefit from a break.

The Devils face the Islanders as part of NBCSN’s doubleheader on Thursday, with coverage beginning at 6 p.m. ET. Click here for the livestream link.

[MORE: Devils – Islanders preview]

Assorted injury news

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.

NHL injury roundup: Bruins’ Krug, battered Blue Jackets

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Not everyone healed up enough during the holiday break. This post runs down some of the biggest injury bits, including the Boston Bruins placing Torey Krug on IR.

Krug and other Bruins injuries

The Bruins limped into the break with just two wins in their last 10 games (2-4-4). Losing Krug only makes matters worse, especially with Charlie McAvoy also banged up.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said that Krug will be out through at least Dec. 31, while McAvoy is day-to-day. Boston will ask more of the likes of Zdeno Chara, starting with a home-and-home against Buffalo beginning on Friday.

Banged-up Blue Jackets

Columbus deserves serious credit for going on a hot streak (five straight wins, 6-0-2 in eight) considering mounting injuries. The Blue Jackets didn’t push into the East’s top eight, though, so they’ll need to persevere some more.

Cam Atkinson going to IR represents the toughest loss, but the sheer quantity mixes with such quality. The Blue Jackets expect Oliver Bjorkstrand to miss multiple weeks. Combine those two with Ryan Murray and Josh Anderson, along with smaller ailments, and the list becomes daunting.

John Tortorella deflected talk of injuries presenting such a challenge to the Blue Jackets, according to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline (sub required).

“It isn’t a challenge, it’s just the way pro sports are,” Tortorella said. “You have injuries, you plug a guy in and you go play.”

More injury updates and news

  • The Red Wings updated that Anthony Mantha will miss at least four weeks with an upper-body injury. Jeff Blashill indicated that the injury is to Mantha’s ribs. Jake Muzzin‘s hit on Mantha prompted concussion concerns, so this is a mix of good and bad news.

This list isn’t considered comprehensive. If you want even more injury details, check out Rotoworld’s injury report and player news updates.

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.

Who will make up the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class?

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The 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame class has been inducted, with Hayley Wickenheiser, Guy Carbonneau, Sergei Zubov, Vaclav Nedomansky, Jim Rutherford, and Jerry York getting enshrined in Toronto.

With that, it’s time to turn the page and take a look at who Hall of Fame chairman Lanny MacDonald might call next June when the 2020 class is revealed.

Per the Hockey Hall of Fame, eligible players “must have not played in a professional or international hockey game during any of the three (3) playing seasons prior to his or her election.” A maximum of four male and two female inductees can be elected in the player category a year. 

Like the 2019 class, there is one lock for 2020, and that’s Jarome Iginla. Beyond the longtime Flames captain, there are some players right on the cusp who have been waiting for the call. The voting process is secretive, so we have no idea how close any individual player is to getting inducted, but here’s our look at what the next group of Hockey Hall of Famers may look like.

THE LOCK

Jarome Iginla — “Iggy” spent 20 seasons in the NHL with five teams, but will forever be remembered as a member of the Flames. In 1,554 career games, Iginla scored 625 goals and recorded 1,300 points. He hit the 50-goal mark twice and scored at least 40 goals four times. He played in six All-Star Games and was a two-time winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy, and also won the King Clancy and Art Ross Trophies, as well as the Ted Lindsay Award. Before he reached the NHL, Iginla won two Memorial Cups with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. On the international scene, he represented Canada at various levels, winning two World Junior Championships, one World Cup of Hockey, and two Olympic gold medals. It was his pass that led to Sidney Crosby’s golden goal during the 2010 tournament in Vancouver, ending Canada’s drought.

THE PROBABLY-SHOULDS

Marian Hossa – He’s a first-ballot HOFer to me, but given how under-appreciated he was during his 19-season NHL career it would be fitting if he’s overlooked in a year absent a large number of locks. For his resume, Hossa has a Memorial Cup title and three Stanley Cup rings to his name. He represented Slovakia at the World Championships eight times, Olympic Games four times, and played in two World Cup of Hockey tournaments — once for his home country and the other for Team Europe. In 1,309 NHL games, Hossa scored 525 goals and recorded 1,134 points. The production continued into the postseason with 149 points in 205 playoff games.

His trophy case lacks a number of individual honors, however. He was runner-up for the Calder Trophy in 1999, the only time in his career he was a finalist for an NHL award. His two-way game was sorely underrated and that was reflected in Selke Trophy voting where he finished 10th or better only three times.

Alex Mogilny – He was the first Soviet player to defect west and when he arrived he quickly made his mark. His 76-goal season in 1992-93 tied him for the NHL’s goal scoring lead with Teemu Selanne. He would finish with a 127 points that season. A year later the Buffalo Sabres named him the first European captain in league history. When it was all said and done, the six-time All-Star scored 473 goals and recorded 1,032 points. He’s a member of the IIHF’s Triple Gold Club after winning the Stanley Cup, Olympics and World Championship.

Daniel Alfredsson – Will the second time around be the charm for Alfie? A veteran of 18 NHL seasons, Alfredsson has an impressive resume and strong international credentials to make the cut. He scored 444 goals and recorded 1,157 points during his NHL career, and has a trophy cabinet that features Olympic gold and silver medals, the 1996 Calder Trophy, six NHL All-Star appearances, and the King Clancy Trophy. He’s also known for scoring the first shootout goal in league history, and sported Hall of Fame worthy hairstyles over his career.

THE POSSIBLES

Jeremy Roenick – 513 goals, 1,216 points, nine-time All-Star, silver medals at Canada Cup and Olympic Games. JR’s elite level status only lasted for a few seasons in the early 1990s. After three-straight 100-point and 45-plus goal seasons, his production settled into the “very good” range in the mid-90s. He certainly has the “fame” part down with the personality he’s shown during and after his NHL career as an analyst for the NHL on NBC, as well as his influential role in the 1996 movie “Swingers.” Roenick, however, did not win any individual hardware, so even in classes where there appears to be an opening, the door might remain closed for him.

[MORE: Meet the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame class]

Doug Wilson – 237 goals, 827 points, 1982 Norris Trophy winner, eight-time All-Star, Canada Cup gold. You don’t hear the San Jose Sharks general manager’s name much when these discussions come up. He played during an era dominated by Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque, but examine his career and it was a pretty solid one. He finished his career top 20 in points by a defenseman and top 10 in points per game. This is a good note from Sean McIndoe of The Athletic that bolsters his case: “Here’s the complete list of players who both won a Norris Trophy (peak) and finished in the top 25 all-time in defenseman scoring (longevity), but haven’t been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Doug Wilson, and that’s it.”

Curtis Joseph – 454 wins, 51 shutouts, Olympic gold medal, three-time All-Star. A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, Joseph had himself a fine career, but did not win a Stanley Cup or any individual hardware. Is he Hall of Fame class or Hall of Very Good class? Only seven goalies, including Martin Brodeur, who was inducted in 2018, have been inducted into the Hall since 1990. Are more coming soon?

Boris Mikhailov – The man Herb Brooks loved to remind his “Miracle on Ice” team looked like Stan Laurel had a decorated career playing for CSKA Moscow and representing the Soviet Union internationally. Domestically, Mikhailov scored 429 goals for CSKA and recorded 653 points, leading them to 11 Soviet League titles. On the international scene, the long time captain captured two Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships. Could Nedomansky’s support a year ago help Mikhailov or another player who played significant time in Europe?

THE REST

Tom Barrasso – 369 wins, 38 shutouts, 1984 Calder Trophy, 1984 Vezina Trophy, 1985 Jennings Trophy, 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup titles, 2002 Olympic silver medal.

Rod Brind’Amour — With Carbonneau’s two-way play earning him love and Hossa potentially getting in with the 2020 class, why not the Hurricanes head coach? He finished his career with 452 goals and 1,184 points in 1,484 NHL games and has two Selke Trophies on his mantle, along with a Stanley Cup.

Shane Doan — (First year of eligibility.) 1,540 games with the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise, 402 goals, 972 points, two World Championship gold medals, one World Cup of Hockey gold medal, two-time Memorial Cup winner, two-time NHL All-Star, King Clancy Trophy winner. A very fine career, but worthy of induction?

Patrik Elias – 408 goals, 1,025 points, Olympic bronze, two World Championships bronze medals, two-time Stanley Cup winner, nine 20-plus goal seasons.

Theo Fleury – 455 goals, 1,088 points, seven-time All-Star, gold at the World Junior Championship, Canada Cup and Olympics, silver at the World Championship and World Cup of Hockey, 1989 Stanley Cup winner.

Sergei Gonchar – 220 goals, 811 points, five-time All-Star, 2009 Stanley Cup title (two more as a coach), silver and bronze medals from the Olympics and World Championships, eight 50-plus point seasons, five straight seasons with at least 18 goals.

Steve Larmer – 441 goals, 1,012 points, 1983 Calder Trophy, two-time All-Star, 1991 Canada Cup gold, 1994 Stanley Cup title, owns third-longest consecutive games streak in NHL history.

Vincent Lecavalier – 421 goals, 949 points, 2004 World Cup of Hockey gold and MVP, 2004 Stanley Cup, 2007 Rocket Richard Trophy, 2008 King Clancy Trophy, four-time NHL All-Star. It’s not quite the trophy case of 2018 inductee Martin St. Louis, so that could probably leave Lecavalier stuck in the Hall of Very Good.

Jere Lehtinen – 243 goals, 514 points, three-time Selke Trophy winner (as a winger), one Stanley Cup, World Championship gold and three silvers, one Olympic silver, three Olympic bronze medals, one World Cup of Hockey silver, IIHF Hall of Fame inductee.

Kent Nilsson – 262 goals, 686 points, two-time NHL All-Star, 1987 Stanley Cup title, 1978 WHA rookie of the year, IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame, Canada Cup and World Championship silver medals.

Chris Osgood – 401 wins, 50 shutouts, three-time Stanley Cup champion, two-time Jennings Trophy winner.  A good goalie on some great Detroit Red Wings teams for a long time. How much has that hurt his candidacy?

Keith Tkachuk – 538 goals, 1,065 points, 1996 World Cup of Hockey champion, Olympic silver medal. Like Roenick, Tkachuk’s numbers are good, but he’s in a range where there are a handful of players with similar stats. While Joe Mullen’s inclusion may help Tkachuk or Roenick at some point in time, right now, he’s just on the outside.

WOMEN’S CATEGORY

Karyn Bye-Dietz – She was part of the gold medal winning U.S. team at the 1998 Olympics and took home silver at the 2002 Games and six World Championships. During the ’98 Games, Bye Dietz led the Americans with five goals and eight points and finished her international career with 84 points in 51 games. In 2011 she was only the fifth woman to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame and in 2014 was named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

Maria Rooth – A 2015 IIHF Hall of Fame inductee, the forward represented her country at the Olympic four times, taking home silver and bronze. She played 265 times for Sweden and finished with 105 goals. Before her international career, Rooth played at Minnesota Duluth where she ended her collegiate career as the second-leading scorer in school history (119 goals, 232 points) and a three-time All-American. She’s also the only woman to have her number retired in the history of the program.

Kim St. Pierre – There’s a lot of gold medals in St. Pierre’s trophy case. Inside you’ll find three from the Olympics, five from the World Championships, and one from the Four Nations Cup. The longtime netminder recorded 15 shutouts and 24 wins representing Canada on the international stage. She also won the Clarkson Cup with Montreal Stars of the CWHL and was named the league’s top goaltender two seasons in a row.

BUILDER CATEGORY

Red Berenson – After an NHL career that lasted 987 games and saw him win a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens, score six goals in a game once, and represent Canada in the famed 1972 Summit Series, Berenson went into coaching. After six seasons as a coach with the Blues and Sabres, he left for the college game and was behind the bench for the University of Michigan until 2017. In those 33 years, he’s helped the program to a pair of national championships, 11 Frozen Four appearances and 11 conference titles. Personally, he’s a two-time CCHA coach of the year, the 2008 Spencer Penrose Award winner for top D-I coach, and going back to his NHL coaching days, the 1981 winner of the Jack Adams Award.

Ken Hitchcock – After six stints as an NHL head coach, it appears Hitchcock’s coaching days are behind him, but after his brief retirement to come back coach the Oilers last season, you never know. For now his coaching resume lists 849 wins (third all-time), one Stanley Cup title, and numerous players thankful for his influence and teams who were improved with him behind their bench. He’s also owner of a HOF-worthy sweatshirt.

Mike Keenan – Whether it was his quick hook with goalies or clashing with his players, there was never a dull moment when “Iron Mike” was coaching your team. But he also did win as his 672 NHL victories and 1985 Jack Adams Award shows. His teams won four conference titles and he helped lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup in 1994, ending their 54-year drought. He also won in Russia, guiding Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the Gagarin Cup title in 2014, making him the first North American coach to win the KHL championship and the first coach to win both the Gagarin Cup and the Stanley Cup. Keenan’s championships also include the 1983 AHL Calder Cup and two Canada Cups, including the legendary 1987 tournament.

Bryan Murray – He compiled 620 wins as a head coach for five teams over 17 NHL season and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs 12 times in 13 full seasons behind a bench. He won the Jack Adams Award in 1984 and was named NHL Executive of the Year after building the 1995-96 Panthers team that reached the Cup Final.

Viktor Tikhonov – The head coach of the dominant “Red Machine” passed away in 2014 and is long overdue for induction into the Hall of Fame. Tikhonov, a 1998 IIHF HOF inductee as a builder, led the Soviets to the 1981 Canada Cup, eight golds at the World Championships, two at the Olympics and another coaching the Unified Team in 1992. He also coached CSKA Moscow and led them to 12 straight league titles.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Blue Jackets place Texier, Murray on injured reserve

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without two key players injured in Saturday’s loss to Philadelphia for several weeks.

The team put rookie forward Alexandre Texier and defenseman Ryan Murray on injured reserve on Monday.

The 20-year-old Texier is expected to miss two to four weeks with a knee injury. The 26-year-old Murray will be out for up to a month with a broken hand.

Texier has two goals and an assist in 11 games with Columbus this season. Murray, who missed most of the second half of last season with a back injury, has a goal and three assists in 10 games this season.

The Blue Jackets host the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.