NHL Injury roundup: Oilers’ Nurse out 2-3 weeks; Oshie could play Saturday

Oilers NHL Injuries
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Checking in on some recent injury news around the NHL….

Edmonton Oilers dealing with some injuries on defense

The most significant of which belongs to Darnell Nurse.

He was injured during the Oilers’ 2-1 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night (a game in which he played more than 31 minutes). Nurse suffered a broken finger in the win and is expected to be sidelined for the next two-to-three weeks according to the team.

Following a monster breakout season in 2020-21 that saw him score 16 goals and 36 total points in 56 games, Nurse has zero goals and 11 assists in his first 16 games this season. Even without a goal this season he is still the Oilers’ top defender and his absence is going to be significant.

Along with Nurse, the Oilers are also expected to be without Slater Koekoek for the next three-to-four weeks.

Goalie Mike Smith is also not close to returning and is still expected to be out on a week-to-week basis.

The Oilers are 12-4-0 so far this season and in contention for the top spot in the Pacific Division.

Islanders will be shorthanded for new building opening

The New York Islanders will finally play their first home game of the season on Saturday night, opening their new building. They will likely be without several key players. The Islanders announced on Friday that forwards Anders Lee and Ross Johnston have been placed in the league’s COVID-19 protocol. The Islanders are already playing without Josh Bailey who is also in the protocol.

They join defenseman Ryan Pulock who is expected be sidelined for several weeks due to injuries.

The Islanders enter Saturday’s game in last place in the Metropolitan Division with a 5-6-2 record. They are still one of the best defensive teams in the league, but are near the bottom of the league offensively.

Drew Doughty returns to Kings practice

Even though a return does not seem to be on the immediate horizon, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was back at practice on Friday.

He was injured on October 22 when he was involved in a knee-on-knee collision against the Dallas Stars and was expected to be sidelined for eight weeks, and not begin skating with the team for six weeks.

Friday marked four weeks since the injury, so it is obviously well ahead of schedule.

Maybe too ahead of schedule.

“He got in the middle of a drill once, I don’t know what he was doing,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said via NHL.com. “He wasn’t supposed to be in that drill, so we have to manage him a little bit. When it comes to practice, he’s probably not pounding the door down saying he wants more out there, but it was amazing to see him excited out there today, and that’s good for our group. We need that.”

The Kings have been on a roll recently after a slow start, going on a 7-1-1 mark of their past nine games.

T.J. Oshie could be an option on Saturday

The Washington Capitals have been on a roll latey even though they have been without several key players, including Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller, Anthony Mantha, and T.J. Oshie.

They could be closer to getting one of those players back.

Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said that Oshie and Nic Dowd are “possibilities” to play on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.

Oshie has not played since October 27 against the Detroit Red Wings. He has four goals and two assists (six total points) in seven games this season, including a hat trick against the Ottawa Senators in one of his most recent games.

PHT Morning Skate: Merzlikins most important game; Night of injuries

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.

• Recapping an historic night for the Seattle Kraken as they get their first ever win. [Seattle Times]

• How the Kraken won their first game. [The Athletic]

• Ottawa reaction to Brady Tkachuk‘s new seven-year contract. It took a while to get there, but the Senators finally made it happen. [Silver Seven Sens]

• How the Tkachuk contract finally came together. [TSN]

• Kings of the podcast welcomes Los Angeles Kings head coach Todd McLellan. [Mayor’s Manor]

• An emotional night in Columbus as the Blue Jackets win big over the Arizona Coyotes and also honor Matiss Kivlenieks. Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins called it his most important game. [Sportsnet]

Mark Stone exited the Golden Knights’ 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night with an apparent leg injury. [Las Vegas Review Journal]

• The good news for the Dallas Stars is they were 3-2 overtime winners against the New York Rangers. The bad news is defenseman John Klingberg and starting goalie Braden Holtby both exited the game with injuries. [Defending Big D]

• The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, and lost goalie Petr Mrazek to an injury. [Toronto Star]

Anze Kopitar with a five-point night, including a hat trick, for the Los Angeles Kings. Have a look at the highlights here.

 

Cali slump: All 3 NHL teams in Golden State are rebuilding

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — What just a few years ago was the most treacherous stretch of the NHL schedule for many teams has turned into a bit of breather of late.

The days of being run by the physical, overpowering teams in San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles are long in the past. The stars on those teams have slowed with age or moved on to other places.

All are in the midst of retooling following back-to-back seasons where all three California teams missed the postseason.

“We knew that this type of phase was coming in at some point in this phase of our journey,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. “We had a pretty good run for along time. We had to replenish our system.”

It’s a pattern that is similar in Southern California where the Ducks and Kings are dealing with the same process. It’s just a bit shocking that it is happening at the same time considering the success those franchises had.

Since Anaheim entered the NHL in the 1993-94 season, there had been only season (1995-96) where none of the California teams went to the playoffs before the past two seasons.

The Sharks have missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the third time in franchise history. The Ducks have matched a franchise-worst playoff drought of three years and the Kings also have missed three years in a row.

This comes after a stretch between 2003 — when the Ducks made it to their first Stanley Cup Final — and 2019, when the Sharks lost to St. Louis in the Western Conference final, that one of the three California teams made it to the conference final in 13 out of 16 seasons.

In a 10-year stretch from the 2008-18, which was the last time all three teams made the playoffs in the same season, the California teams won 65.6% of possible points in their home games, making the stretch where Eastern Conference teams played all three California squads in succession more treacherous than the Bermuda Triangle.

The run started in 2003 when Anaheim lost to New Jersey in the Stanley Cup Final. The Ducks then won it all four years later for California’s first Cup title in one of their five trips to the conference final or better in that span, led by stars like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer.

The Kings won it all twice during this period, with Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick helping them left the Cup in 2012 and ’14, while losing the conference final the year in between.

The Sharks were the most consistent of the three teams, led by players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, but never won the ultimate prize, losing to Pittsburgh in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final and four other times in the conference final.

Most of those players are long gone or past their primes, leaving those teams waiting for new stars to come in and lead the way to success.

“We knew there was going to come a time when the Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski era was over,” Wilson said. “You have to replenish. We went many, many years without replenishing our system, using picks to add or players to compete.”

The Ducks and Kings had similar stretches as the focus on “win now” came at a cost of draft picks and prospects that all three franchises are still paying. Years of neglect to the farm system will take time to overcome and all three appear to be heading into this season with the view that simply making the playoffs could be viewed as a success.

“The playoff word should be used in every locker room right now, but we need to improve before we declare ourselves playoff-ready,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan, who led the Sharks to two conference final appearances in 2010 and ’11. “Are we capable of it? I think we have the right players to do it, but can we get our game together quick enough, and maintain it long enough during the season to compete for that? We’ll figure that out as we go. One step at a time for this group.”

Doughty, Kopitar confident Kings can end postseason drought

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LOS ANGELES — Drew Doughty has never been one to shy away from high expectations. So, as the defenseman enters his 14th season with Los Angeles, he thinks the Kings have enough talent to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

“I think that’s our goal this year,” Doughty said. “We’re not gonna just automatically make it, but I think for me and everyone else, that’s our goal.”

The Kings are still in rebuilding mode but many of their young prospects are on the verge of contributing to a roster that still has some cornerstone veterans, including forwards Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, goaltender Jonathan Quick and Doughty.

While recent first-round picks Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte are in the mix for spots on the opening night roster, the Kings did add some pieces during the offseason to make them more competitive. They acquired forward Viktor Arvidsson from Nashville and signed center Phillip Danault and defenseman Alex Edler during free agency.

The offseason additions are a sign to Kopitar that they are past being strictly in rebuilding mode.

“It’s on us to take the next step and be in the mix when March and April come around and hopefully make the playoffs,” said the team captain, who went past the 1,000-point milestone last season.

While Kopitar and Doughty are looking to take the next step, coach Todd McLellan has more immediate concerns, such as trying to get the Kings off to a good start.

“We’re moving forward, but we need to improve before we declare ourselves playoff-ready,” he said. “Are we capable of it? I think we have the right players to do it, but can we get our game together quick enough, and maintain it long enough during the season to compete for that? We’ll figure that out as we go.”

TOP LINE CHANGE?

Arvidsson is likely to be on the first line with Kopitar and Dustin Brown, but there is a possibility Alex Iafallo could stay with Kopitar and Brown. If that happens, Arvidsson, Danault and Adrian Kempe would be the second line.

Los Angeles and Arvidsson are hoping for a beneficial partnership. The Kings averaged only 2.54 goals per game last season — fifth worst in the league — while Arvidsson is looking to regain his scoring prowess. He is a two-time 30-goal scorer but has just 25 goals the past two seasons.

TRANSITION IN NET

Cal Petersen is under contract for the next four seasons after recently signing a three-year extension and could supplant Jonathan Quick as the No. 1 goaltender.

Petersen was already starting more games than Quick, who missed the final two weeks of the regular season due to a rib injury. Petersen played in a career-high 35 games last season, but went 9-18-5 with a 2.89 goals against average and .911 save percentage. Quick went 11-9-2 and had a 2.86 GAA, but his save percentage was .898. Of the 39 goalies who have played 80 or more games the past three seasons, Quick is tied for the worst save percentage (.896) and has the fourth-worst goals-against (3.05).

Quick, who was in net when the Kings won Stanley Cups in 2012 and ’14, was left unprotected in the expansion draft.

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Byfield, who was the second pick in the 2020 draft. The 19-year old center — who had one assist in six NHL games last season — will either be on the fourth line on opening night or preparing for the start of the American Hockey League season with Ontario. If he is in Ontario, it shouldn’t be long before he gets called up.

Turcotte, the fifth overall pick in 2019, and Arthur Kaliyev are also waiting in the wings. Kaliyev led Ontario in goals (14) and points (31) last season.

PACIFIC MATTERS

The Kings are back in the Pacific Division, which includes four teams that did not make the playoffs as well as expansion Seattle. Vegas and Edmonton are the class of the division, but the final automatic playoff berth could be a scramble between the Kings, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.

NHL Power Rankings: Coaching hot seat tiers for 2021-22 season

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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the 32 head coaches around the league and how comfortable they should be feeling in their position for the 2021-22 season.

In other words: The hot seat rankings. We placed the head coaches in different tiers ranging from the safest and more secure jobs, to the coaches that might be feeling some heat for one reason or another.

Where does each coach sit this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

Tier 1A: Not going anywhere. New guys (Everybody gets a season)

1. Dave Hakstol, Seattle Kraken. Whether or not you like the decision to go with Hakstol is irrelevant. He is a first-year coach for a first-year expansion team. Expectations for this season are low and that makes him probably the safest coach in the league.

2. Andre Tourigny, Arizona Coyotes. Similar to Hakstol in the sense that he is a first-year coach on a team that is actively gutting its roster and reducing expectations for this season. Is he the right coach long-term? We will find out. But he is safe this year.

3. Brad Larsen, Columbus Blue Jackets. The big challenge here is what can he get out of Patrik Laine.

4. Gerard Gallant, New York Rangers. He has the most pressure on him among the new coaches because the Rangers have such high expectations this season, but he is also the most proven and best coach of the bunch. 

Tier 1B: Not going anywhere. Top coaches, performance related

5. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning. In his eight seasons with the Lightning the team has reached the Eastern Conference Finals/Semifinals five times, played for the Stanley Cup Final three times, and has won the Cup in each of the past two seasons. As safe as you can get for an established coach.

6. Rod Brind’Amour, Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the league under Brind’Amour and he just signed a new contract extension. He is safe.

7. Barry Trotz, New York Islanders. He is, quite honestly, the face of the Islanders right now and has helped completely change the culture of the team. He is going nowhere no matter what happens this season.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

8. Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche. If Colorado fizzles out in the First or Second Round maybe the Avs consider a change after the season, but I can not envision an in-season change.

9. Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers. The Panthers have real expectations this season and a roster that can compete, and that can be dangerous for a coach if the team underachieves. But Quenneville’s resume and track record keeps him safe.

10. Dean Evason, Minnesota Wild. It would take a massive regression and absolutely disastrous season for a change here.

Tier 2: Extremely safe, probably not going anywhere

11. Dominique Ducharme, Montreal Canadiens. That Cup Final run is going to buy him a lot of time even if the Canadiens struggle to repeat that success this season. And they probably will.

12. Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins. Cassidy has been great for the Bruins and the team should still be a contender. Are you going to get a better coach than him right now?

13. Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals. The Capitals are still a Cup contender and they do not really make knee-jerk reactions with their coaches.

14. Peter DeBoer, Vegas Golden Knights. The results should be good enough to keep him secure but the Golden Knights have proven to be the most ruthless, cutthroat organization in the league when it comes to making changes.

15. Darryl Sutter, Calgary Flames. Sutter is a giant in the Flames organization and they just brought him back. I am not ready to say he is completely safe, but it would be a shock if he went anywhere anytime soon.

Tier 3: Getting a little warmer

16. Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues. Not that Berube has done a bad job, but every year a coach gets away from their championship the shorter the leash gets. The Blues have lost in the first-round two years in a row. Maybe he is not in danger yet, but he could be getting close.

17. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins. He has been a wildly successful coach in Pittsburgh, but their past three playoff performances have been disappointing and the current front office did not hire him. They have no loyalty to him.

18. Lindy Ruff, New Jersey Devils. It would be a major shock if Ruff got fired within his first two years, but the Devils spent major money this offseason and have an emerging superstar in Jack Hughes. They need to show some real progress this season.

19. Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets. He is one of the longest tenured coaches in the league with a mixed bag of results. He always seems to be on the hot seat, but the Jets winning a round in the playoffs probably bought him some time.

20. Rick Bowness, Dallas Stars. There should be reasonably high expectations in Dallas this season, and if they fall short early in the season a change seems at least like it could be something that is discussed.

21. John Hynes, Nashville Predators. The Predators’ roster is weaker than it was a year ago and they needed Juuse Saros turning into superman to get into the playoffs.

22. Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs. It feels like everybody’s seat in Toronto is getting warmer. The coach. The general manager. Star players. Time to do something.

23. Don Granato, Buffalo Sabres. He is entering his first full season, but the Sabres seem like they are set to embark on a disastrous season. I am not sure he will be the fall guy for it. But you never know.

24. Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks. He just signed a multi-year extension this offseason. They like him and think they are closer to competing than they might actually be. This seems like an “after the season” change if one happens.

25. Todd McLellan, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings should not have any delusions about competing this season, but they should expect some progress.

Tier 4: Danger zone

26. Dave Tippett, Edmonton Oilers. He is highly regarded, yes. But the Oilers have two MVPs in the primes of their careers and could not even win a single playoff game against the Jets. Nobody’s job in this organization is — or should be — totally secure.

27. Alain Vigneault, Philadelphia Flyers. To be honest, this probably depends on which version of Carter Hart the Flyers get this season.

28. D.J. Smith, Ottawa Senators. I really have no idea what sort of coach Smith is and neither do you, mostly because he has been given the task of leading a young, rebuilding team that is starting from scratch. Tough situation to win in, and the losing will almost certainly continue this season.

29. Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings. Like Smith it is impossible to accurately evaluate Blashill because of the rosters he has had to work with. Still, in six years the Red Wings have one playoff appearance with him and have missed the playoffs five years in a row and almost certainly going on six years. Not many coaches get to keep coaching a team that long.

30. Dallas Eakins, Anaheim Ducks. The problem in Anaheim is probably more centered on the front office, but GM Bob Murray seems invincible. That is probably bad news for the coach.

31. Bob Boughner, San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are trending in the wrong direction, have a lot of problems on the roster, some bad contracts, and have missed the playoffs two years in a row. Recipe for a change if things start slow.

32. Jeremy Colliton, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks’ only playoff appearance the past four years (including three with Colliton) was the bubble season where they had the NHL’s 23rd-best record. They spent a ton of money this offseason, increased expectations, and still have a thin roster that looks nothing like a contender. Classic case of a team that might “disappoint” and make an early change.