Bowman: Blackhawks are ‘pretty close’ to making a trade


Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman feels like he’s “pretty close” to making a trade, and it seems like he’s just as open to landing a defenseman or forward, as he told

“We’re open to either one,” Bowman said. “I know it’s a generic answer, but there’s more than one way to improve your team. It doesn’t have to be just a replacement for Patrick. Sometimes you’re going to improve your team in different ways, bringing in different kinds of players. We’re open to that. We’ll see where it goes.”

Those who love concocting hypothetical deals should be delighted to hear that Bowman’s aims aren’t broad in terms of position alone. It sounds like he’s just as willing to acquire a rental as he might add someone with term on his contract.

The message seems to be “if you have an idea, run it by me.”

The juiciest bit comes from the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc, who reports that the Blackhawks are aiming pretty high with some of their ideas, possibly targeting a player at the higher end like Jeff Skinner or Michael Cammalleri.

Replacing Patrick Kane would obviously be a tall (and borderline impossible) task, but imagine Skinner on a team as talented as Chicago?

It’s possibly more likely that Bowman’s moves don’t make waves at that level, but we’ll find out soon enough, as the March 2 trade deadline looms.

(Chicago’s first full game since Kane suffered his injury went well as they blanked the Florida Panthers 3-0 on Thursday night.)

Canes’ Skinner frustrated by lack of production


After scoring 33 goals in 71 games last season, there was some thought Jeff Skinner could reach the 40 goal plateau this season.

However, through 48 games the 22-year-old has just 11 goals and is on pace for his second lowest goal total since he turned pro during the 2010-11 season.

“It’s been a little frustrating for me, personally,” Skinner told The News & Observer. “When you want to help the team win, for me, being a part of that is producing offensively. That’s part of my job. So, yeah, it’s a little frustrating.”

The Canes’ forward snapped a 10-game drought scoring his first goal since Jan. 10 in Carolina’s 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.

Skinner started the season slow.

After suffering a concussion in the preseason and missing the first four games of the regular season, he scored just once in his first seven games.

GM Ron Francis agreed with the statement that Skinner was being overly cautious returning from his third concussion in five NHL seasons.

“I think it’s fair assessment to say that, and especially early in the year,” Francis said. “He had a slow start. But lately he has been going into the tougher areas and getting chances. He’s done a better job of that.”

On top of his slow start, Skinner is playing for a new coach in Bill Peters and learning a new system.

With the Canes hoping to be ‘fairly active’ at the trade deadline, Skinner is not worrying about his name popping up in trade rumors.

“I’m still sort of young in this game, and I’d like to keep learning,” Skinner said. “When you go through a stretch like I had, it’s frustrating and a little bit of adversity but something you can learn from in the big picture. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Ducks ride Gibson’s strong performance to break slump


The way Ilya Bryzgalov had been playing, a Frederik Andersen-less Anaheim Ducks team seemed to have a shaky short-term future. Good thing John Gibson’s back in the mix, then.

In just his second appearance since Oct. 30, Gibson absolutely carried the Ducks to a 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, breaking Anaheim’s three-game losing streak in the process.

The shot differential was significant. Carolina generated a 36-17 disparity in the game with a 29-13 advantage through the first 40 minutes being the most glaring. Even so, only Jeff Skinner’s power-play goal bested Gibson tonight.

Matt Beleskey scored the game-winning, which impressively gives him an NHL-leading eight game-winners this season.

It’s pretty obvious that the Ducks have Gibson to thank for this win, but he took the typical humble hockey player approach after the game:

The Ducks expected to trot out a platoon with Andersen and Gibson in net, but injuries opened the door for Andersen through much of this campaign. Perhaps the reverse might open the door for Gibson?

Either way, Ducks brass has to feel a little bit better about this situation after that display.

Skinner may be parked as Peters keeps swinging ‘ultimate hammer’ in Carolina


First it was Alex Semin, then Elias Lindholm.

Now… Jeff Skinner?

The 22-year-old might be parked as a healthy scratch tomorrow when the ‘Canes take on the Coyotes in Arizona. Head coach Bill Peters — who, upon taking the ‘Canes job, said “I have the ultimate hammer as the coach, and the hammer is the ice time,” — had Skinner rotating in and out of Wednesday’s line rushes, and delivered a not-so-subtle message afterward.

“He’s an offensive player who needs to provide offense. You’ve got to provide that primary dimension as an athlete, doing what you’re paid to do. And if you’re not doing that, you’ve got to have a B-game,” Peters explained, per the ‘Canes website. “Right now, his B-game is not good enough to make up for the lack of offense.”

The former Calder winner has had a rough go the last few games, going eight straight without a goal (while posting a minus-5 rating). Tuesday night in Anaheim, with the Canes up one and on a 5-on-3 power play, Skinner was whistled for an offensive-zone tripping penalty.

Peters hasn’t been afraid to send messages this season via the healthy scratch. Semin’s been parked in the press box on numerous occasions and, over the weekend, Lindholm was scratched for a game against the Rangers in New York.

Now, it could be Skinner’s turn.

“I talk about competitive people being in a competitive environment and we want to win,” Peters said in late January after dropping Semin from the lineup, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “We are playing our best 20 players in order to win hockey (games).

“That’s the lineup. It’s not hard.”

Peters has been no-nonsense since Day 1 in Carolina and this latest instance with Skinner — and center Riley Nash, who was skating as a d-man with John-Michael Liles today — shows that he’s not afraid to discipline those that don’t fall in line.

And to be fair, the approach seems to have paid off. After a terrible start to the year, Carolina is 7-3-3 in its last 13 and gave Anaheim all it could handle last night at the Honda Center, losing 5-4 in OT after blowing a two-goal third period lead.

NHL on NBCSN: Lightning seek sweep vs. Hurricanes


NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Carolina Hurricanes host the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

At a quick glance, Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes should be a layup for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

They’re the top team in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning won three straight games heading into the All-Star break. Even with Tyler Johnson’s lower-body injury labeling him as a game-time decision, the Bolts go into this contest boasting a ton of talent.

The margins are smaller once you look a little closer, though.

Yes, the Lightning won both games against the Hurricanes so far, but each win was by a 2-1 score. Tampa Bay boasts frail leads in the conference (the New York Islanders trail by one standings point with two games in hand) and its division (Detroit is only behind by one point with a game in hand; Montreal is three away with three games in hand).

The Lightning still seem to shake out as one of the East’s elite (see their +29 goal differential, among other factors), yet that closer examination still speaks to the notion that they have some work to do.

The most obvious area of improvement is their work on the road. They’ve quietly struggled away from Tampa Bay, going 11-10-3. Every other current East playoff team grades better that the Lightning (some much, others just a bit) until you get to eighth-place Boston with a nearly identical 10-9-3 road mark.

If the Bolts want to take that next step from promising, rising team to genuine contenders, they need to become more proficient without home cooking.

The Hurricanes stand as a sturdier test than their 16-25-5 record suggests, too.

Carolina is on a two-game winning streak and is 6-2-1 in nine January contests. With the Staal brothers, Jeff Skinner and All-Star Justin Faulk, there’s enough talent there to make the Hurricanes a spoiler threat as the seasons last two-plus months wind down.

At the moment, it seems like it might be Anton Khudobin vs. Ben Bishop in net, but stay tuned for goalie nods to find out for sure.