Jason Demers

Kuemper slams Tkachuk to ice, nearly sparks goalie fight (Video)

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You can add Arizona Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper to the lengthy list of players around the NHL that has snapped in the presence of Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Late in the second period of the Coyotes’ 3-0 win on Saturday afternoon, Kuemper came to the defense of his teammate, defenseman Jason Demers, and slammed Tkachuk to the ice setting off a chaotic line brawl that nearly ended with a goalie fight.

It all started when Demers knocked Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau to the ice away from the play.

Gaudreau responded by skating up behind Demers and cross-checking him in the back, knocking him to the ice. While Demers was down on the ice, Gaudreau and Tkachuk each got in a little extra shot and it was at that point that Kuemper decided to enter the situation.

Once that happened, Flames goalie David Rittich stormed the length of the ice and tried to come to the defense of his teammate. The two goalies never actually fought, but they did both receive their share of penalties. Kuemper was assessed two roughing minors, while Rittich was given a two-minute penalty for leaving the crease to join an altercation.

Kuemper now has 20 penalty minutes since the start of the 2017-18 season which is by far the highest total of any goalie in the league. Rittich (now with 10) is the only other goalie with more than eight.

Tkachuk was also given four minutes for roughing, while Gaudreau received two minutes for cross-checking and Demers was assessed two for roughing.

You can see the entire sequence in the video above.

As for the actual game itself, it was a huge day for Kuemper as he stopped 38 shots to record the shutout and help the Coyotes improve to 12-7-2 on the season.

It is his second shutout of the season and improved his save percentage to an outstanding .937 in 14 appearances.

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.

 

Looking to make the leap: Stephen Johns

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To some Dallas Stars fans, the Patrick Sharp trade was as much about grabbing Stephen Johns as anything else.

(Granted, that might be a small sampling, but there was such chatter.)

Following the move, Stars GM Jim Nill probably summarized the most exciting takes: he’s the sort of defenseman the franchise might just be lacking.

“Stephen was a big part of that trade,” Nill said. “We’re trying to change a little bit of the dimension of our back end … he’s 6-foot-4, 220 lbs. and can skate.”

That’s what makes the 23-year-old especially interesting: while he packs some punch and snarl – relevant factors on a blueline that leans more toward finesse – it sounds like he’s swift enough that he won’t bring the Stars’ high-octane attack to a crawl.

Of course, it’s a big assumption that Johns can make the roster.

The Stars currently have eight defensemen under contract, and while some seem like they could be trade fodder if needed (Jason Demers?), Johns would need to impress to force the Stars’ hand.

Johns thinks he has what it takes, at least.

“Personally, I think I’m ready but it’s not up to me,” Johns said in July, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I’m going to do the best that I can, play the best hockey I can, and try to impress them.”

If you’re looking at young players who have the highest odds of making the team, Johns isn’t that guy.

One would think that Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and Jyrki Jokipakka would have a significant head start after playing quite a few NHL games in 2014-15. To some extent, they made their leaps – or steps up – already, however.

Johns is a more interesting story to follow during training camp. There’s a good chance that he’s not even the prospect with the highest ceiling hoping to make an impression – Julius Honka fits that bill – but Johns is at the age where he must be getting awfully antsy for a longer look.

For all we know, he may prove that he’s just too useful to send to the AHL.

PHT Morning Skate: Versteeg shows off his dance moves at Setoguchi’s wedding

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Kris Versteeg and Jason Demers showed off their dance moves recently at Devin Setoguchi’s wedding:

The Anaheim Ducks will unveil new third jerseys on Oct. 16 and hinted on Twitter Monday that the new look could be the jerseys worn in the original Mighty Ducks movie.

The New Jersey Devils unveiled the finalists in the Cory Schneider mask design contest. (Sportsnet)

In his latest piece for The Players’ Tribune, Pens’ forward Pascal Dupuis writes about why he’s attempting a comeback after being diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung. (The Players’ Tribune)

A hockey fan used melted ice from his favorite team’s rink for his daughter’s baptism. (Puck Daddy)

Dallas has ‘deepest bench of defense prospects in the league,’ says owner

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Though his team’s defensive play left plenty to be desired last season, Stars owner Tom Gaglardi is bullish on the blueline’s future.

“We’ve got the deepest bench of defense prospects in the league quite honestly,” Gaglardi told the Stars website this week.

The remark came during a wide-ranging interview about the club’s offseason moves. It’s certainly an interesting one to make — Dallas allowed the fourth-most goals per game last year (3.13) — though Gaglardi had no issues explaining his thought process:

— John Klingberg “has become the player we thought he might be able to become and maybe even better than that.”

— Patrik Nemeth “is a top four defenseman for a long time in the league.”

— Jyrki Jokipakka, “a seventh-round draft pick, two years ago he is a guy who has a chance and he comes in and plays, and he’s an NHLer.”

Those three, all 23 or younger, make up the core of Dallas’ young defensive prospect pool. But according to Gaglardi, there’s plenty of talent behind them:

“The list of guys back there – [Esa] Lindell is going to be a player, [Mattias] Backman, [Ludwig] Bystrom. In terms of the roster guys, there’s [Jokipakka] and Jordie Benn is capable to playing great hockey and [Jamie] Oleksiak is a first-rounder who is in that group as well. There’s a lot of promise there.

A year or two ago there were guys who were concepts and have now proven they can play at the NHL level and give us lots of options. We’ve got a healthy situation. We’ve got six spots for a game and eight guys on one-way contracts that are going to be battling to play.

And there are some guys coming up that have the capability to knock those guys out in Stephen Johns, Lindell and [Julius] Honka.”

It’ll be interesting to see which of the guys Gaglardi mentioned, if any, will push for minutes this year. Dallas’ top six looks to be comprised of Johnny Oduya, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Klingberg, Nemeth and Jokipakka, with Benn and Oleksiak as the Nos. 7 and 8.

Just don’t set that in stone.

Johns, acquired in the Patrick Sharp trade, said he’s ready for the NHL and Honka, the 14th overall pick in 2014, might be the most promising of the lot.

Guess that’s why Gaglardi’s so excited about what’s on the horizon.

Dallas d-man Johns, acquired in Sharp trade, says he’s ready for the NHL

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Patrick Sharp isn’t the only former Blackhawk looking to make his mark in Dallas.

Defensive prospect Stephen Johns, acquired by the Stars two weeks ago in the Sharp deal, is looking to make his big-league debut next season and challenge for a spot on the blueline.

“I am just going to be like every other guy here, battling for a spot, competing and doing whatever I can,” Johns said, per NHL.com. “Personally, I think I am ready, but it’s not up to me.

“I am going to do the best that I can, play the best hockey I can and try to impress them.”

Johns, 23, was held in high regard by the ‘Hawks, who took him 60th overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He’s big (6-foot-3, 229 pounds), showed good offensive upside in Rockford this year — 21 points in 51 games, missing time to a knee injury — and garnered some consideration as a darkhorse candidate to step in on Chicago’s defense in the playoffs, following Michal Rozsival‘s season-ending ankle fracture in Round 2.

A broken forearm kept Johns from making that leap, but a new opportunity came calling two weeks ago when he and Sharp were flipped to Dallas for Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt.

Dallas’ blueline is hardly set in stone; while the likes of John Klingberg, Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers and Johnny Oduya are all experienced NHLers, Johns should (theoretically) compete with fellow youngsters Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka and ’14 first-rounder Julius Honka for minutes.

It also remains to be seen where Jordie Benn, who struggled mightily last season, fits into the grand scheme of things.