Milan Jurcina

Jurcina signs in Czech Extraliga

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Unrestricted free agent Milan Jurcina has found work, signing a deal with HC Pirati Chomutov of the Czech Extraliga. The news was first reported by Jurcina’s agent, Allan Walsh, who said the veteran NHL defenseman would debut with Chomutov on Friday.

There’s a certain amount of intrigue surrounding the Jurcina signing given his injury-riddled last two years in the NHL. He missed 53 games over that time with hip, elbow and groin ailments — as such, the Islanders opted not to extend Jurcina’s contract after giving him a one-year, $1.6 million deal for the 2011-12 season.

Prior to the injuries, the 6-foot-4, 253-pound rearguard had proven to be a steady, defensive-minded presence. His best season came in 2008-09 with the Capitals, when he played in a career-high 79 games before adding two goals in 14 postseason contests.

That said, he seemed to discover a more offensive side to his game with the Isles, scoring a career-high 17 points in just 46 appearances in 2010-11.

With Chomutov, Jurcina will play alongside Chicago Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik, who signed with the team in September.

Travis Hamonic is the Islanders’ blue line rock


The Islanders’ captain might be defenseman Mark Streit, but he’s not the guy getting fans on Long Island out of their seats.

After two seasons, Travis Hamonic has turned into a physical force on the blue line for the Isles. The 2008 second-round pick made his debut with the Isles in the 2010-11 season after a junior career in Moose Jaw that saw him suit up for Team Canada in World Juniors.

Hamonic made his impact immediately piling up 103 penalty minutes in 62 games, but he wasn’t a full-fledged goon. In that time he added five goals and 21 assists. He followed that up last season by cutting down on the penalties and upping his responsibilities with 24 points and doing this with all sorts of injuries along the blue line.

While most folks will sneer at the plus-minus statistic (often with good reason) keep in mind he was a team best +6. By comparison, Streit was a -27 and Milan Jurcina managed to pull in a -39 in just 65 games. The Isles might want to up Hamonic’s average time-on-ice next season from the over 22 minutes per game he was seeing last year.

Hamonic’s stability is something much needed by the Islanders, especially when you’ve got other defensemen that don’t even want to join the team.

Zach Parise really doesn’t want his hand to be broken (Update: It isn’t)


Getting in front of a slap shot is one of the dangers of being a hockey player. When you’re Zach Parise of the Devils, steering clear of blue line bombs is in your best interest, but it’s unavoidable at times. Such was the case yesterday afternoon when Parise took a Milan Jurcina slap shot off his hand.

Now, Parise is just hoping that there aren’t any lingering effects from getting in the way. As he tells Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice, he’s really hoping his hand isn’t broken.

“It’s OK,” Parise said. “I just took a puck into it. It hurt for a little while, but it’s OK.”

Parise said he had not had an X-ray on his hand yet. When I asked him if he needed one, he said, “I hope not.”

Parise didn’t miss any action after getting hit, so at the very least adrenaline kept him playing. The Devils already have Travis Zajac out of action and if Parise’s hand is busted, they’re in deep trouble.

Going without Zajac has been tricky but doable. Going without Parise would up the pressure on Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, and Adam Henrique to produce big numbers. With the playoffs coming up soon, that’s one stress the Devils would like to avoid.

Update (9:53 a.m. ET): The joy of the Internet, moments after this was posted, Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger hears from Lou Lamoriello that x-rays on Parise’s hand were negative. Go ahead and exhale, New Jersey.

Report: van Riemsdyk to have surgery on broken foot, out 4-6 weeks


Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren has updated the status of forward James van Riemsdyk, who broke his foot during Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders.

Warning to Flyers fans — the news ain’t great.

Homgren said van Riemsdyk will undergo surgery on Mar. 6 to insert a plate into his left foot to help with the healing process. He’ll be out 4-6 weeks, a recovery period that will likely sideline him for the remainder of the regular season.

(Of note, van Riemsdyk’s surgery will be performed by Dr. Steve Raikin, the same doctor that oversaw Chris Pronger’s broken right foot last season.)

This is the latest in what’s been a forgettable year — injury-wise — for the 22-year-old power forward. He’s missed 19 games (15 with a concussion)  in what was supposed to be his breakout campaign after leading the Flyers in goals last postseason and signing a six-year, $25.5 million extension in August.

van Riemsdyk’s injury also throws a wrench into Philly’s forward rotation. He had been playing well on the “kid line” with Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek — it’s unclear who’ll replace him — and also drew the admiration of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov for blocking the shot that broke his foot, a slapper from Isles defenseman Milan Jurcina.

“You can see the guys like JVR sacrifice themselves, just put themselves in front of a 100 mile per hour puck, just don’t get the puck to the goal, it’s amazing,” Bryzgalov said. “It gives a boost to the team like ‘Hey, this guy battles, we’ve got to battle too.'”

Top 10 rental defensemen at the trade deadline


With so many teams in the market for depth defensemen as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches, here’s a list of pending unrestricted free agents (with cap hits) on bad teams that could be available.

1. Hal Gill, Montreal ($2.25 million) – Big, tough, shot-blocker extraordinaire with a ton of playoff experience. Won a ring with Pittsburgh.

2. Pavel Kubina, Tampa Bay ($3.85 million) – Not the offensive defenseman he used to be, but won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. Can play 20 minutes a game if needed. Has a limited no-trade clause.

3. Tim Gleason, Carolina ($2.75 million) – Should be among the most sought after blue-liners. Gleason is one of the few plus players on the ‘Canes. Not afraid to get his nose dirty.

4. Bryan Allen, Carolina ($2.9 million) – Sizable cap hit for what you’re getting, but if salary space is no issue, Allen offers size and toughness.

5. Adrian Aucoin, Phoenix ($2 million) – Not young at 38, but plays 20 minutes a game for the Coyotes. Big shot from the point.

6. Andy Sutton, Edmonton ($2.125 million) – Another big, tough defenseman.

7. Chris Campoli, Montreal ($1.75 million) – Played all seven playoff games last season for the Blackhawks before a contract dispute led to a parting of ways.

8. Steve Staios, NY Islanders ($1.6 million) – At 38, an experienced vet that went to the 2006 Cup finals with the Oilers.

9. Milan Jurcina, NY Islanders ($1.6 million) – The minus-23 isn’t great, but neither are the Isles.

10. Brett Clark, Tampa Bay ($1.5 million) – Needed a tenth guy for the list. That’s Clark.