Cal Clutterbuck

Early returns: NHL players on getting back in small groups during Phase 2

As of Tuesday, we’re two days into Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan. To put things mildly, not every NHL team has approached Phase 2 in the same way. Considering the protocols for opening things up, plenty haven’t gotten the puck rolling just yet.

This post aims to round up some of the perspectives from players who have gotten the chance to get back a bit, though. Please note that this isn’t a comprehensive list of every team back in action for Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan.

Matt Benning on the Oilers skating

One curious question is: how long does it take to shake off the rust. Considering that the NHL is still trying to hash out details for training camps (aka Phase 3), the answer appears subjective.

“If I’m off the ice for two days, it feels like I’ve never skated in my life before, so three months was a little bit nerve-wracking …” Oilers defenseman Matt Benning said.

Benning noted that it takes different players different amounts of time to get used to edgework and other skating factors. But it sounds like Benning specifically sits in the “more the merrier” camp. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

If you need a moment of zen, enjoy this footage of the Oilers beginning Phase 2:

*refreshed Ahhhhh*

Tavares doing Tavares things early in NHL Phase 2

Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares is known for being something of a thinking man’s hockey star. Sometimes that drive can manifest itself in ways that are … honestly, kind of nerdy.

Tavares told reporters including TSN’s Karen Shilton that he quickly decided to start taping his sticks at home to get the most out of his time.

“There’s a pretty big-time crunch on being in the arena; you only have about 45 minutes to an hour to complete your workout and you’ve got about 40 minutes on the ice,” Tavares said. “The windows are fairly small, but the actual work we’re able to get in is going to go a long way in helping us prepare and get ready. The intensity is there.”

Shilton notes that Tavares is skating in a group with Jack Campbell, Cody Ceci, Mitch Marner, Ilya Mikheyev, and Jake Muzzin.

Josh Bailey among Islanders getting back to skating at facility

Bailey joined Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, and Thomas Greiss for small-group workouts. Bailey admitted feeling some rust, and that there’s no substitute for skating.

There’s also no substitute for family. Bailey acknowledged that the “hub city” system will take some getting used to. At least he’d have his Islanders teammates, though.

“It’ll definitely be different,” Bailey said, via Cory Wright of the Islanders’ website. “No matter how it all comes together, when, how, if, whatever the case may be. It won’t be what we are accustomed to. But when you’re with the team it kind of gives you that feeling of normalcy.”

Plenty still needs to be settled before NHL goes from Phase 2 to Phase 3

Overall, the Phase 2 return to ice seems more like a trickle than a stampede.

For every instance such as Marc-Andre Fleury getting geared up with the Golden Knights, there are players who want to avoid taking risks, or teams facing restrictions.

In some cases, players are able to skate on their own. During an appearance on “Lunch Talk Live,” Blake Wheeler explained that he’s been able to get some reps in with Adam Oates in the Boca Raton area in Florida.

MORE NHL RETURN TO PLAY:

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.

Johnny Boychuk needs 90 stitches after skate to face

Islanders
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New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk was injured on Tuesday night when he was hit in the face by the skate blade of Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen in the third period of their game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

It was a terrifying scene as it happened, especially as Boychuk frantically scrambled off the ice holding his face.

On Wednesday, general manager Lou Lamoriello issued an update on Boychuk’s status.

The official word is that while Boychuk needed 90 stitches to repair the cut, there is no damage to his eye and, according to Lamoriello, he should be “fine.”

“Johnny Boychuk is okay,” said Lamoriello when addressing the media on Wednesday. “There has been no damage to his eye. He had quite a night. He felt the skate blade get his eye, but fortunately it just got the eyelid. It took 90 stitches to fix, a plastic surgeon took care of it. I don’t want to exaggerate with the stitches because they do use very small stitches, but there were 90 of them. He will be fine. It’s just a matter of time with the eye opening up and him feeling good.”

It goes without saying that 90 stitches to your eye-lid area is major deal, but given the circumstances Boychuk is very fortunate this situation did not turn out far worse.

This is the third significant injury the Islanders have had to deal with this season due to a skate blade cut.

Cal Clutterbuck missed more than two months after he suffered a cut to his wrist from Patrice Bergeron‘s skate back in December.

Casey Cizikas has also been sidelined for the past 10 games after a cut to the leg.

Lamoriello also issued an update on Cizikas on Wednesday.

“Casey is coming along as quickly as he can,” said Lamoriello. “He is walking, he is doing all of the things he should be doing. Hopefully we will get him back on the ice in the next week or so. Then it’s a process of him just getting his strength back. I would say he is at least another couple of weeks away.”

Related: Islanders’ Boychuk injured by skate blade

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 roundup: Yamamoto out for Oilers; Kuemper returns for Coyotes

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Checking in on some injury news around the NHL.

Another injury for Oilers

On Monday the Edmonton Oilers made two pretty significant trades to improve their forward lineup with the additions of Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis.

Those additions are taking on even more importance on Tuesday because of yet another injury to an already battered lineup.

The Oilers announced on Tuesday that promising young forward Kailer Yamamoto is going to be sidelined on a week-to-week basis due to an ankle injury. The Oilers are already playing without James Neal, Oscar Klefbom, and Kris Russell due to injuries. Connor McDavid had also missed six games before returning to the lineup on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Yamamoto, the team’s first-round pick in 2017, has taken a huge step this season in his development and is currently averaging a point per game (20 points in 20 games) this season.

Kuemper back for Coyotes

Some significant news for the Coyotes in their playoff push on Tuesday as starting goalie Darcy Kuemper returns to the lineup when the team hosts the Florida Panthers.

Kuemper, who currently owns the NHL’s highest save percentage this season (.929) among qualified goalies, has not played since Dec. 19.

The Coyotes enter the game clinging to a playoff spot following a month-long slump through most of January and February. They have, however, won three of their past five games and have two in a row at home against the Panthers and Sabres and are now getting their best goalie back for the stretch run. As long as Antti Raanta stays healthy they have one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL right now.

Markstrom’s injury will be tough for Canucks

Jacob Markstrom has been the underrated star of the Canucks’ turnaround this season and, very quietly, one of the league’s best goalies.

Now he is going to be sidelined for a yet-to-be-determined period of time, leaving the Canucks’ goal crease in the hands of Thatcher Demko and trade deadline acquisition Louis Domingue. The Canucks have lost six of their past nine games and a brutal schedule ahead of them that includes a four-game road trip that starts tonight in Montreal.

If Markstrom’s injury turns out to be significant, that might be the difference between a playoff spot and an early summer.

Clutterbuck back with Islanders

Cal Clutterbuck was back on the ice with the Islanders on Tuesday, but he is not yet ready to return to game action for their game against New York Rangers tonight.

He has been sidelined since December due to an ugly cut he suffered when his wrist was hit by the skate blade of Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron.

He recently played two games for Bridgeport in the American Hockey League.

Tarasenko getting closer

The St. Louis Blues did not add another winger before the trade deadline on Monday, but that does not mean some extra help is not on the horizon.

All-Star winger Vladimir Tarasenko is back skating with the team and inching closer to a potential return to the lineup, according to general manager Doug Armstrong.

Armstrong said on Tuesday that Tarasenko will travel with the team on its upcoming road trip, not because he is going to play, but to further assimilate himself with the team. When they return from that trip Armstrong said they will be able to sit with Tarasenko and the team doctors to figure out a return date for him. That update comes via The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.

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 Fantasy Hockey: Fabbri, Pageau highlight this week’s top adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Nick Paul, Senators – C/LW: Paul has gotten tastes of The Show for years now, but coming into this season he was far from established as a regular in the NHL. In 2018-19, he had a goal and an assist in 20 games while averaging a mere 8:28 minutes and the season prior to that he had a goal in 11 games while averaging 7:54 minutes. However, when he played in the minors, he was developing into a serious offensive threat, to the point where he scored 16 goals and 39 points in 43 AHL contests last season. Now he might finally be ready to apply those skills to the NHL. Over his last six games he’s scored two goals and six points in six games while averaging 17:03 minutes. The rebuilding Senators have given him a chance to prove himself and he seems to have taken advantage of it. Obviously, he’s still a significant risk, but it’s also worth noting that he’s only owned in 2% of Yahoo leagues, so if you’re feeling aggressive, you can scoop him up now in the hope that this is just the start of something bigger.

Cal Clutterbuck, Islanders – RW: Clutterbuck is a bit of an interesting one from a short-term perspective. He’s spent his entire career as a bottom-six forward who makes his presence known physically and can chip in a bit offensively, but he’s logged over 16 minutes in each of his last six games. To put that in perspective, his average playing time over his entire 457-game tenure with the Islanders is 13:18 minutes. He’s done more offensively while his playing time has been up, scoring two goals and four points over those six games, which is pretty nice given that he’s also one of the best sources of hits in the league. His uptick in playing time is probably not going to last and it is worth noting that the Islanders have dealt with more than their fair share of forward injuries lately. Still, for now he’s an interesting pickup.

Tony DeAngelo, Rangers – D: DeAngelo had 30 points in 61 games in his 2018-19 breakout campaign and he’s been building off that this season. He has five goals and 13 points in 13 contests and he’s hot right now with at least a point in each of his last four games. If you look at his average ice time this season, you’ll see it’s at 17:58 minutes, down from 19:20 minutes in 2018-19, but that shouldn’t be taken as a warning sign. He only logged 8:09 minutes on Oct. 18th and that’s skewed down his average. From Oct. 10th onward, he’s averaged 18:49 minutes in 10 contests.

Jared McCann, Penguins – C/LW: McCann wasn’t a major offensive threat when he was with the Florida Panthers, but he was a young forward with upside. When the Penguins acquired him during the 2018-19 campaign, it offered him a fresh start and even the potential to play alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Malkin missed a major chunk of the season due to injury, but since returning on Nov. 2nd, McCann has been getting minutes with him. In fact, McCann has a goal and four points over his last two games with Malkin factoring in on three of those points. As long as he’s playing with Malkin, McCann should have some fantasy value.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Senators – C: Pageau isn’t exactly a major offensive threat most of the time, but he’s red hot right now. He’s on a four-game goal streak and five-game point streak. That’s brought him up to eight goals and 12 points in 16 contests this season, but don’t expect him to come close to maintaining that pace. Once he starts to cool down, you’ll want to re-evaluate owning him.

David Krejci, Bruins – C: Krejci had 20 goals and 73 points in 81 games last season, which made him a pretty compelling player to own in most fantasy leagues. What it didn’t do is convince fantasy owners that he would be a great option this season. Krejci was only drafted in 6% of leagues and his average draft position was 164.1. Now a lot of that has to do with him only having center eligibility and in fact, Krejci is a good example of just how deep that position is. Nevertheless, after shaking off an early season upper-body injury, he’s gotten on track with two goals and six points in six games. Even as a center, he should be good enough to be a factor on a lot of teams. He’s currently owned in 24% of Yahoo leagues.

[For more fantasy sports analysis, check out Rotoworld]

Jared Spurgeon, Wild – D: Spurgeon set a career-high last season with 43 points, but that was hardly an anomaly for him given that he had 38 points in 76 contests in 2016-17 and 37 points in 61 games in 2017-18, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that this season should produce more of the same. Certainly he’s on that track with two goals and 10 points in 17 contests. Even if that’s not enough to appeal to you, he’s still worthy of consideration as a short-term pickup given how hot he is. He’s scored a goal and six points in his last seven games.

Tyler Bertuzzi, Red Wings – LW/RW: The Red Wings are a terrible team this season, but there are a few silver linings on this squad. Bertuzzi is one of the main ones. He had six goals and 16 points in 19 games while averaging 19:32 minutes. He’s owned in 52% of Yahoo leagues, so the window on scooping him up is closing, but if you still have the option to grab him, you should seriously consider doing so.

Bryan Rust, Penguins – LW/RW: Rust suffered a hand injury in the preseason that prevented him from making his season debut until Oct. 26th, but he’s already made up for that lost time. He’s recorded at least a point in each of his six contests, giving him five goals and seven points in six games. It certainly doesn’t hurt that, like McCann, he’s been playing alongside Malkin recently. That makes this potentially more than just a hot streak, but even if it ends up being just that, he’s still worth considering as a short-term grab.

Robby Fabbri, Red Wings – LW/RW: Fabbri had 18 goals and 37 points in 72 games with St. Louis as a rookie in 2015-16, but injuries have proven to be a significant roadblock in recent years. Fast forward to 2019-20 and he’s healthy, but the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues just didn’t have a role for him. With that in mind, trading him to Detroit last week was something of a favor. It gives him a fresh start on a team with openings for young players. Fabbri has taken advantage so far with two goals and three points in two contests with Detroit.

Players You May Want To Drop

Nick Bonino, Predators – C: Bonino has been a pleasant surprise so far this season with eight goals and 13 points in 17 contests. Rather than being propelled by a major hot streak, he’s been fairly consistent in his contributions. While a hat trick on Oct. 29th certainly has skewed his goals total, it’s also true that he’s only been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games once this season (Oct. 5-8). That said, his shooting percentage is at 25%, which is way higher than normal and doesn’t seem sustainable. His PDO and IPP are also similarly high, which are potential warning signs that he’s due for a regression. If you picked him up early and have ridden the wave then I wouldn’t advise dropping him at this time, but I do believe that you should at least see if you can cash him in for someone more likely to deliver long-term. As it is, there’s a good chance that he’s peaked in terms of value this season and will likely trickle down from here.

Erik Haula, Hurricanes – C/LW: After being limited to 15 games with Vegas last season due to a knee injury, Haula got a fresh start in Carolina in 2019-20 and was taking full advantage of it. He scored eight goals and 11 points through 14 contests, but the same knee that derailed him in 2018-19 is threatening to do so again. At first the injury didn’t sound too significant, but Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour went from describing him as day-to-day to saying that’s not the case. With Haula out indefinitely now, it’s unfortunately time to evaluate your alternatives.

Alex Galchenyuk, Penguins – C/LW: The Penguins got Galchenyuk in the Phil Kessel trade, but so far he hasn’t done much with his new team. It hasn’t helped that he’s missed time due to injury, but even while healthy he’s been limited to three assists in eight games. He’s averaging a modest 14:56 minutes per game, though he has seen some ice time with Crosby and Malkin. If you took him at the start of the season hoping that moving to the Penguins would give him a boost, it’s fair to drop him, but he is still interesting enough to warrant keeping an eye on.

Mikael Granlund, Predators – LW/RW: Granlund has fallen quick and hard offensively. He peaked in 2016-17 and 2017-18 with 69 and 67 points respectively, but last season he dipped to 54 points and so far in 2019-20 he has just two goals and four points in 17 games. He hasn’t recorded a single point in his last 12 contests and has fired an underwhelming 23 shots over that span. I think he’s fair to say he’s capable of more than this, but he’s not worth holding onto during this cold streak. If he starts to heat up then at that point he’ll be worthy of re-evaluation.

Ondrej Palat, Lightning – LW: Palat had two goals and five points in the span of four games from Oct. 26-Nov. 1, which drew some fantasy owners to him, but that hot streak has fizzled out. It’s worth noting that outburst corresponded with a stretch where he was averaging 18:49 minutes, but he has no points in his last two contests while logging 14:14 minutes and then 13:37 minutes. Palat is a solid secondary scorer who will have some hot streaks like that and periods of time where the Lightning lean on him more than usual, but his overall value over the course of a season is somewhat suspect in standard fantasy leagues.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

Islanders’ winning streak reaches 10 games

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The New York Islanders are doing their part to silence the critics and doubters that were waiting for them to regress this season.

And they are silencing them emphatically.

With their 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night they extended their winning streak to 10 consecutive games, improved their record to 11-3-0 and pulled to within three points of the first place Washington Capitals while still having played in two fewer games.

After falling behind early, the Islanders scored four consecutive goals from four different players. Among the goal scorers were veterans Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck, and Casey Cizikas, and rookie Cole Bardreau who scored his first career goal — also the game-winner — on a penalty shot.

So, about the Islanders.

I admit I was one of the people that was, let’s say skeptical, of their chances to repeat last year’s success and wasn’t sure how they would do without Robin Lehner. It was going to be a big test to see how much of the success was goaltending and how much of it was a real change to the defensive structure to a roster that, quite honestly, isn’t exactly loaded with All-Star talent, especially up front. But the results are the results, and they keep winning. A lot. The Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference as a whole is going to be extremely competitive this season and the Islanders have certainly given themselves an outstanding cushion.

They have a chance to extend their winning streak to 11 games on Thursday night when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team they swept in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs a year ago.

Their next three games are all at home.

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.