Yakupov ‘not happy’ about being a healthy scratch


Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins surprised many by making 2012 top pick Nail Yakupov a healthy scratch on Saturday. While a message might have been sent, Yakupov told the Edmonton Journal that he isn’t happy … and he’s just going to change the way he plays.

“I’m not happy about it. I just want to play every game,” Yakupov said.

“I’m going to play my game … I’m not going to change but maybe play better without the puck, or forecheck more, but I love playing with the puck. I really don’t like skating all the time, and forechecking, and hitting somebody every shift. I don’t think it’s my game.”

Yakupov, 20, proved divisive last season with his flamboyant goal celebration(s). It’s refreshing to hear him be so frank about his style, but some might want him to add a little more “sandpaper” to his game.

As far as Eakins is concerned, he just wants to make sure that the talented sniper doesn’t try to do it all by himself.

“The kids’ passion is to score and he was just going to take it all on himself to do that,” said Eakins. “I don’t care how good you are, you can’t produce by yourself in this league. You have to use your linemates, so it was more of a reset button for him. He can come in fresh with a new perspective.”

If you judge Yakupov by his recent numbers, there might be some merit to that philosophy.  Yakupov had more goals (17) than assists (14) for the Oilers and did the same in the KHL (10 goals vs. 8 assists) in 2012-13. His goal-to-assist ratio is almost 1:1 in recent years, so that might make some wonder if he “makes his teammates better.”

(Jeff Carter’s a polarizing player to many, and he provided the most startling example of that disparity with his 26-goal, 7-assist campaign in 2013.)

Really, that’s a viewpoint held largely by nitpickers, though. The Oilers probably won’t be too worried if Yakupov ends up with more goals than assists some seasons, as long as he doesn’t go through too many stretches where he fails to produce either.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Report: Gionta returns to Habs in Winnipeg

Brian Gionta is expected to arrive in Winnipeg on Sunday, TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie reports.

One would assume that he’ll be able to play for the Montreal Canadiens against the Jets in Winnipeg on Tuesday, then. The 34-year-old captain has been dealing with “personal reasons” during this early part of the 2013-14 season, missing Saturday’s 4-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

Those off-the-ice distractions haven’t totally thrown off his game; he has a goal and an assist in four games, with nine shots on goal.

The Habs are playing strong hockey so far, but it never hurts to have your captain in action.

Photos: Ducks celebrate the Mighty days


The Anaheim (previously Mighty) Ducks are celebrating their 20th anniversary by donning jerseys in honor of those Disney-inspired duds Sunday as they host the Ottawa Senators for #ThrowbackNight.

The Senators might seem like an odd choice, but there’s something fitting about facing the team they won their lone Stanley Cup against … while not wearing the sweaters that remind some of knucklepucks, the flying-V and Emilio Estevez.

Anyway, the team shared a few photos, so here are a few. (Click here for a great panoramic view of the locker room.)

source: Getty Images



(PHT will update this post with a photo of Teemu Selanne in the new-old sweater tonight, because … come on.)

As an added perk, the Ducks Web site also shared some great photos from a game that happened about 20 years ago against the Detroit Red Wings.

Warning: You might experience Guy Hebert nostalgia.





Byfuglien adjusts to larger PK workload with Jets

The Winnipeg Jets (then Atlanta Thrashers) made a bold and mostly successful decision to move Dustin Byfuglien back to the blueline after significant success as a forward with the Chicago Blackhawks. Now that transformation is really coming through, as he’s assuming one of the toughest roles: killing penalties.

In his first years with Winnipeg, Byfuglien’s been on the ice in shorthanded situations for just about 30 seconds of his 24+ minutes per night.* So far in 2013-14, the 28-year-old defenseman is devoting 2:28 PK minutes per night of his 24:14 total ice time.

He spoke positively with the Winnipeg Sun about the adjustment.

“It’s been good so far, it’s a little different,” Byfuglien said. “But I can read the game fairly well, I know what the offense is thinking and what they’re trying to do.”

As a team, the Jets have some room for improvement in the shorthanded area; they’ve allowed six power-play goals in five games and rookie Jacob Trouba leads defensemen in PK time with almost four and a half minutes of shorthanded time per game.

Still, Byfuglien deserves credit for being willing to expand his horizons (no fat jokes, please) and it’s plausible that the Jets’ PK unit might improve with him.

* – Here are the exact numbers from NHL.com:

2012-13: 30 seconds per game of 24:24 total TOI
2011-12: 25 seconds of 24:06
2010-11: 5 seconds of 23:18

Devils’ Henrique wants to be a ‘pain,’ not a pest


Young New Jersey Devils forward Adam Henrique has a simple goal: he wants to be tougher to play against. He’s being specific, though, as he told the Newark Star-Ledger that he doesn’t want to be a “pest.”

For me it’s trying to be going every shift,” Henrique explained. “Have my legs going and be involved in the game physically winning puck battles. I need to focus on doing that every shift every game, to be hard to play against. Be a pain to play against. When I’m involved in the game like that is when I’m playing my best.

“Not like a pest. Somebody who’s always winning puck battles and always playing hard on the puck. Getting in there and making it tough on the other team. Not turning into a pest out there, starting scraps or stuff like that. I’m not looking to start any big fights or anything.”

The 23-year-old forward is average-sized, if not flat-out small, so staying out of scuffles would probably serve him best. Granted, some of the most pesky forwards were under-sized (Claude Lemieux was no behemoth and Theo Fleury’s sprite-like frame powered his rage), but the Devils would probably prefer to see Henrique create goals instead of havoc.

In other Devils news, it appears that Andrei Loktionov will get back in the lineup tonight against the Winnipeg Jets, sliding Jacob Josefson out of the lineup and pushing Henrique back to left wing.