Predators’ Boyle, Simmonds out ‘week-to-week’

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Hours before their Game 3 matchup against the Dallas Stars (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream) the Nashville Predators announced that both Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds are considered “week-to-week” with separate ailments.

Boyle, who missed Game 2 due to “illness,” had an appendix procedure, while Simmonds, who only has one goal for the Predators since being acquired just before the February NHL trade deadline, is out with a lower-body injury.

Simmonds left Game 2 in the first period after taking a Roman Josi shot to the knee. After coming back to the ice to test out his leg during a timeout, he retreated back to the dressing room and did not return. Miikka Salomaki, who hasn’t played for the Predators since Jan. 4, is expected to take his place on the fourth line with Rocco Grimaldi and Calle Jarnkrok.

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Both players were acquired in February as Predators general manager David Poile looked to strengthen his team’s bottom six. Two experienced veteran forwards, Boyle and Simmonds gave even more balance to a roster that looks to make another deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring.

But with the Predators using the phrase “week-to-week,” especially this time of year when team’s are even more reluctant to say anything about injuries, is not good for either player.

MORE: ‘Grind’ games likely to continue as Predators-Stars series shifts to Dallas

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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.

How Mark Stone is fitting in with Golden Knights so far

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With zero goals and just one assist in his first four games in Vegas, many might be tempted to say that Mark Stone hasn’t worked out so well early on for the Golden Knights.

Luckily for Stone (not to mention Golden Knights GM George McPhee), there are plenty of other numbers to suggest that things are going right as planned. More or less.

Most obviously, the Golden Knights are winning. They’re currently on a four-game winning streak, including consecutive 3-0 victories with Marc-Andre Fleury in net.

Piling up wins likely cools would-be hot takes, and Stone also doesn’t have to flinch every time he fails to score a point, as he already essentially agreed to an extension upon being traded to the Golden Knights.

The deeper you look, the more promising things get — at least while acknowledging that four games is an incredibly small sample size.

For one thing, Stone is getting his chances. While that first Vegas goal continues to elude the 26-year-old, Stone’s fired 13 shots on goal in his first four contests. Considering Stone’s robust career shooting percentage of 16 (up to 17.7-percent this season), it’s difficult to imagine this cold streak going much longer.

Stone’s carried his strong possession play to Vegas, a team that already showed proficiency in puck hoggery even before they landed Stone. As TSN’s Travis Yost notes, the Golden Knights have been carrying the play when Stone is on and off the ice so far. Overall, they’ve been in a top three possession team (Corsi and Fenwick percentages) since the trade deadline, according to Natural Stat Trick’s numbers.

Gerard Gallant’s made a logical call early on in placing Stone with Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty, while keeping the Reilly SmithWilliam KarlssonJonathan Marchessault line intact.

Smith-Karlsson-Marchessault has shown some strain in trying to duplicate last season’s brilliant work, but the Stone addition could really make life easier. In an ideal situation, the Golden Knights could essentially boast two “top” lines.

From matchups to adjusted roles, the Stone trade is making a positive ripple effect. Pacioretty stated as much, as Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported this past weekend.

“I think Stone coming in and giving us that balance throughout our lineup, I see a lot of similarities in our forwards now compared to when (Nate Schmidt) came back from his (20-game suspension),” Pacioretty said. “It’s not one player that makes a huge difference. I think it’s one player that puts everyone in a position to succeed with a role that they’re comfortable in.”

The Golden Knights have already been a nightmare matchup during their home games in Vegas. Now imagine how much Gallant might be able to exploit different situations with the last change. Stone could be used to shut down an explosive opponent, while Marchessault & Co. might enjoy cushier zone starts.

With Vegas basically locked in to the third spot in the Pacific (see the Playoff Push here), Gallant shouldn’t be afraid to run with different alignments.

Perhaps there would be situation where the Golden Knights would want to load up with Marchessault, Stone, and Karlsson on a top line? Maybe Alex Tuch might find especially strong chemistry with Stone, as they’re both bigger forwards? Which groups of scorers would work best on the power play, and would Gallant be wiser to either go top-heavy or maybe echo Mike Babcock by aiming for two fairly even power-play units?

In most cases, teams that made big trade deadline purchases can only experiment too much. After all, many of those squads either are desperately fighting for a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, or are trying to avoid matchups by securing a better seed.

The Golden Knights have the luxury of basically using the next month as a hockey laboratory to see what works the best, and figure out which wrinkles can be ironed out by April.

If the current combinations work best, that’s a nice problem to have, because from the look of things, the Golden Knights plus Stone equals some serious problems for the rest of the NHL.

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.

Success of Senators’ rebuild depends entirely on Eugene Melnyk

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The Ottawa Senators’ teardown is all but complete. Now the building back up has to begin.

On Monday, general manager Pierre Dorion traded the last meaningful remnant of a roster that was one goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final not even two full years ago when he sent Mark Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights. It was a huge trade that could significantly alter the Western Conference both, now and in the future with Stone agreeing to new terms on a contract in Vegas, and gave the Senators what should be one of the biggest pieces of their rebuild in stud defense prospect Erik Brannstrom.

That trade followed the other pre-deadline deals that saw them send Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a collection of draft picks and prospects that will be used for this massive overhaul of the organization. Together, all means that in under two years the Senators have now parted ways with Duchene, Dzingel, Stone, Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Derick Brassard, and Mike Hoffman. That Turris-Duchene trade also included what will be this year’s first-round pick … which will almost certainly have the highest odds of being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

It has to be a brutal time for Senators fans because not only was that the foundation of a team that was on the threshold of a championship (literally one goal away from playing in the Stanley Cup Final!), but because there is no real hope for short-term success. We saw that play out on Tuesday night in Washington D.C. when what is left of the Senators’ roster was just completely and totally steamrolled by the defending champions.

[Related: Golden Knights win Stone sweepstakes, agree to extension]

There is going to be a lot more of that the rest of this season, and probably even into next season.

What is even more troubling is long-term outlook could be potentially bleak as well because no one really knows how this rebuild is going to go.

The Senators have tried to be transparent with their plans (sometimes uncomfortably so) and they do have some intriguing pieces to build around.

Keeping their 2018 first-round pick (fourth overall) over the 2019 selection as part of the Duchene trade could prove to be disastrous if it ends up being the No. 1 overall pick, but they did get a really good player in Brady Tkachuk out of it. He has flashed top-line potential this season and looks like a keeper.

Thomas Chabot has also been a positive development this season and stepped in admirably to, as best he can, replace what the team lost in Karlsson on the blue line. He has been one of the league’s most productive defenders this season and after all of the trades is the leading scorer — by a wide margin — of the remaining players on the Senators’ roster. He figures to be the centerpiece of the rebuild along with the recently acquired Brannstrom.

Dorion could not say enough positive things about his newest top prospect, referring to him as a “star” and also saying it “was a long day, but we did something good for the Ottawa Senators today.”

If Brannstrom develops as the Senators hope he can, they should have the makings of a dominant defense pairing with him and Chabot.

Even though they lost the chance to potentially land Jack Hughes this season, they still managed to get back a first-round pick (and maybe a second next year) as part of the Duchene trade and now have 27 draft picks over the next three years, including five in the first two round of the 2020 draft. From a pure hockey standpoint they have at least tried to put a foundation in place to potentially build something. They still have to make the picks, and they still have to develop them into NHL players, and they still have to hope players like Tkachuk, Chabot, and Brannstrom become the star-level players they are anticipating they will become.

But what is truly going to make-or-break this rebuild is one man, and one man only — owner Eugene Melnyk.

He recently outlined an aggressive spending plan that, in his words, will lead to an unparalleled run of success that will feature the Senators spending to the league’s salary cap every year from 2021-2025. That would line up with what would be the peak years for players like Chabot, White, Tkachuk, and Brannstrom and leave the door open for the team to be aggressive in free agency or in trades.

On paper, it all sounds like a great plan. But it has to actually happen in the real world for any of it to matter.

Here is why it is hard for me — and why it should be hard for Senators fans — to just blindly accept that it is going to happen.

First, the Senators under Melnyk haven’t shown anything close to a willingness to do that in recent years, even when the team was good. They have consistently been well below the league’s salary cap for the past decade, even when the team was good and a playoff team.

Second, we just watched them send out two homegrown All-Stars in Karlsson and Stone, one of which is probably the greatest player the team has ever had and one of the best players ever at his position, because they could not convince them — or were unwilling to match their salary demands — to re-sign.

If you, as an organization, are not willing or able to pay up to keep players like them, then why should we be confident the team will be willing to keep a player like Chabot, or Brannstrom, or Tkachuk in the future if they become the players the Senators hope they will become?

The answer is you shouldn’t, because actions speak louder than words, and all of the recent actions of this organization suggest this is just going to be a never-ending cycle where the Senators look more like a farm team for the rest of the NHL than any sort of legitimate championship contender.

MORE: Senators’ owner outlines aggressive spending plan

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.

Johansson, Marchand attempt to move on from elbowing incident

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Marcus Johansson‘s brief time with the New Jersey Devils was ultimately derailed by injuries, the most significant of which was a concussion that cut his 2017-18 season down to just 29 games.

He suffered that concussion when Brad Marchand elbowed him in the head back on Jan. 23, 2018, resulting in Marchand being suspended for five games. It was one of the nine times in Marchand’s career that he had been fined or suspended for an on-ice incident.

Later in the season Johansson had some pretty harsh words for the play, Marchand, and the length of the suspension.

Just a quick refresher for you:

“It was stupid. There’s nothing else to say about it. I think there was no point in doing that,” he told reporters after Monday’s practice. “There was no hockey play whatsoever there. It’s sad to see that there are still guys out there trying to hurt other guys… It’s sad. It’s stupid. I hope it doesn’t come to him ending someone else’s career before it’s enough. It’s not why we play the game.

“I think there are always situations where you try to hit someone, you try to make a hockey play and things go wrong. Then there are plays like this where I think it’s got nothing to do with hockey. It’s sad to see. I guess I’m unfortunate to be on the receiving end of that.”

This all relevant now because on Monday the Bruins, who still employ Brad Marchand, acquired Johansson from the Devils in an effort to bolster their scoring depth and make a potential run at the Stanley Cup.

Given the history between the two players it was definitely one of the most interesting trades of the day, and on Tuesday Johansson addressed the elephant in the room that is that history.

Johansson said, via Matt Porter of the Boston Globe, that he received a call from Marchand shortly after the trade along with an apology for the hit.

Johansson said “it was great” and, basically, “these things happen,” and he just wants to put it all behind him.

“Most teams you have guys you’ve bumped heads with a little bit,” Johansson said. “For me, it’s something I’ve put behind me. I’m happy that I’m just playing hockey right now. I’ve just heard great things about Marchy, that he’s a great guy and a great teammate, and he’s a hell of a hockey player.”

So, there is that.

Given the impact the play had on Johansson’s career and life and how strong his emotions were in the aftermath it’s hard to imagine those feelings have just simply gone away in the blink of an eye. He is human, and humans hold grudges against people that have wronged them either physically or emotionally. But he is also correct that if you play enough NHL games on enough NHL teams you are probably going to have a teammate that you have had some sort of on-ice issue with in the past.

Your only choice at that point is try and put it behind you as best you can and work together toward your common goal.

Johansson, now fully healthy, has been on a roll over the past month and joins the Bruins riding a 13-game stretch where he has recorded 12 points. That is exactly the type of secondary scoring his new team needs.

Given how top-heavy the Bruins’ lineup has been this season, especially at forward, he and Charlie Coyle could prove to be huge additions for a Bruins team that has very quietly climbed near the top of the NHL standings.

More: Bruins reunite Johansson with his buddy Marchand

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.

 

Flurry of moves shows Blue Jackets want to win now

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Columbus Blue Jackets have made it clear they don’t want to wait any longer to make a serious Stanley Cup run.

In a series of moves before Monday’s trade deadline, the Blue Jackets dealt mostly draft picks and prospects for players who can contribute now, and also decided to hang on to a pair of pending free-agent superstars for a playoff run.

The club added top-shelf guys who can contribute now, demonstrating how badly management wants to make a deep playoff push after the first-round knockouts of the past two seasons. They were by far the busiest Metropolitan Division team at the deadline.

The big get was Ottawa star center Matt Duchene, for whom Columbus traded young forward Anthony Duclair, a couple of top prospects and future draft picks on Friday. On Saturday, Duchene’s Ottawa linemate Ryan Dzingel was acquired, and goalie Keith Kinkaid and tough-guy defenseman Adam McQuaid were picked up from New Jersey and the New York Rangers, respectively, just before the Monday deadline.

“I think everyone senses they’re all in,” Dzingel said Monday. “I think the guys in here and me appreciate that, and so do the fans. So it’s going be awesome.”

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen also stood pat with elite forward Artemi Panarin and two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, both of whom likely will leave for big free-agent paydays after the season. Kekalainen said there were no serious trade offers for those players, and he acknowledged his preference to keep them, anyway, even though both have refused to sign contract extensions with the team.

“People say we used picks and mortgaged our future,” Kekalainen said. “And if we traded Artemi Panarin for draft picks, (they’d) say `they don’t want to win now.’ So it’s just one of those things – you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But every year is an opportunity to compete, and I feel we have a really good team and this gives us an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup.”

The new-look Blue Jackets now will have six players with 20 or more goals – the most in the league – distributed among the top three forward lines. Hanging on to the third place in the Metro, they host divisional rival Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

The window has been thrown wide open.

“We’re very balanced with four lines, deep, deep into every position,” Kekalainen said. “We have enough skill, we have enough scoring. I think we have some power-play skill added now with Duchene, a great faceoff man. So I think we have a lot of ingredients you need to compete.”

Coach John Tortorella appeared to be in an (uncharacteristically) ebullient mood on Monday, and that was before the McQuaid trade was announced.

“Management has sent a message – we’re trying to get better,” he said.

The moves went down well with team leaders, too. Duchene, who joined the team in Ottawa on Friday, had a goal and an assist in Saturday night’s win over San Jose.

“You look at what could be and the depth that we have now, it excites guys,” captain Nick Foligno said. “I think it slots guys in to where they should be, and now it’s on us. Management did their job and continue to do their job, now it’s on us to go out and play the right way, and I think those guys fit really well into what we’re trying to do here.”

Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mitchstacy

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports