Mirco Mueller

Jason Zucker #16 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his second goal
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The Buzzer: Zucker finding rhythm with Penguins; Kreider’s trade value soaring

Three Stars

1) Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby has always excelled when one of his wingers could skate like the wind. General manager Jim Rutherford tried to capitalize on this strategy and acquired Jason Zucker to fill the void. The winger cashed in twice in the Penguins’ 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens, while Crosby assisted on both tallies. If Zucker thrives on Crosby’s wing, his contract will start to look like a bargain for the next couple of years. The Penguins have survived an extraordinary amount of injuries this season, but Zucker’s emergence would provide a necessary boost.

2) Chris Kreider, New York Rangers

On one hand, Jeff Gorton has to be pleased that Kreider is acting as his own salesman ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. However, the thought of trading a premium talent instead of re-signing the forward is dangerous for any general manager. Kreider picked up a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York collected its fourth consecutive win. The Blueshirts are not ready to take the next step but the upcoming decision about Kreider could shape the next few years in a positive or negative way.

3) Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets came up one goal short against the San Jose Sharks Friday, but Connor’s second-period tally was a thing of beauty. The 23-year-old received a pass to the left of the Shark’s goaltender then slid the puck and his stick between his legs to even the game at 1-1. Connor is one goal shy of scoring 30 for the third consecutive season and continues to be one of the more underrated forwards in the NHL. The Jets will continue to rely on their high-powered offense as they look to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.

Highlights of the Night

Described above, Connor stole the show with this impressive maneuver.

Nikita Gusev stepped around Jaccob Slavin and Travis Zajac set up Mirco Mueller for the easy tap-in.

Kreider scored the go-ahead goal when he hammered a one-timer from the slot.

Stats of the Night

Scores

New York Rangers 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 1
San Jose Sharks 3, Winnipeg Jets 2
Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Montreal Canadiens 1
Carolina Hurricanes 5, New Jersey Devils 2


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Devils’ Mueller stretched off after scary crash into end boards

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Yikes.

New Jersey Devils defenseman Mirco Mueller had to be stretched off the ice just over a minute into the third period of Wednesday’s game against the Calgary Flames after a nasty crash rendered him motionless for some time.

Mueller was trying to get to a cross-ice pass from Travis Zajac, but whiffed on the shot attempt. The puck went behind Flames netminder David Rittich, with Mueller and Flames forward Michael Frolik chasing it down.

Mueller’s right foot appeared to pick into the ice, sending Mueller awkwardly into the end boards and Frolik crashing down on top of him through the collision.

Medical attention was immediately summoned, with the Devils’ doctor and training staff from both teams attending. A stretcher was rolled out as players nervously watched on, many stunned.

Mueller appeared conscious as he was getting loaded onto the stretcher and was able to give the crowd a thumbs up as he was rolled across the center line, which drew a nice roar from the home crowd.

The Devils had good news following the game, reporting through their official Twitter account that Mueller had “full feeling and movement in his extremities.” The Devils said he alert oriented and conscious and was taken to local hospital for further evaluation.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Looking to make the leap: Mirco Mueller

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Like most things in San Jose last year, Mirco Mueller’s progression didn’t go exactly to plan.

Mueller, the 20-year-old blueliner San Jose took 18th overall in 2013, started out the year in the NHL as part of GM Doug Wilson’s “tomorrow team” movement, only to see his ice time dwindle by early December.

From there, he was loaned to Team Switzerland for the World Juniors and, upon returning, was shuffled back and forth between San Jose and the club’s AHL affiliate in Worcester, before a thumb injury in late March ended his year.

All told, Mueller appeared in just 39 games for the Sharks, three for Worcester and six for Switzerland — not a ton of hockey for a youngster that needs all the reps he can get.

Which begs the question — where will he get them this year?

On paper, Mueller appears to be part of the club’s six-man defensive unit, along with Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, Brenden Dillon and newly acquired Paul Martin. But the Swiss rearguard will have some pretty heady competition for that spot, particularly in the form of Matt Tennyson, who appeared in a career-high 27 games last year, and Dylan DeMelo,  a 22-year-old prospect who, according to AHL bench boss Roy Sommer, is ready to make the leap himself.

Speaking of the American League, it could end up being the place where Mueller starts this season.

There were worries San Jose rushed him to the NHL last year and it’s important to remember that, of all the d-men taken in the first round in ’13, only Seth Jones and Rasmus Ristolainen have emerged as regulars; some have argued that Nikita Zadorov, taken two spots ahead of Mueller, was also rushed to the NHL (and has since been traded to Colorado).

What’s more, the likes of Philly’s Samuel Morin (No. 11), Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey (No. 13) and the Islanders’ Ryan Pulock (No. 15) have yet to even make their big-league debuts.

Mueller knows that, based on his age and number of players looking to stick with the Sharks, this fall’s training camp will go a long way in deciding his fate.

And he knows the challenge will be difficult.

 “It’s always competitive,” he said, per the San Jose Mercury News. “A lot of jobs are on the line.”

Sharks agree to five-year deal with Brenden Dillon

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Agent Jarrett Bousquet has revealed that the San Jose Sharks have inked a five-year deal with his client, Brenden Dillon.

The financial terms of the deal weren’t immediately known, but he’s coming off of a one-year, $1.25 million deal.

Update: Dillon’s contract is worth roughly $15.9 million per CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz.

The 24-year-old defenseman had 10 points and 77 penalty minutes in 80 games with the Stars and Sharks in 2014-15. He also averaged 19:34 minutes per contest. He started the season with Dallas but was moved in November in exchange for Jason Demers and a 2016 third-round pick.

Although he was never drafted, Dillon signed an entry-level contract with Dallas in 2011 and became a regular with the team during the lockout shortened 2013 campaign, so he’s already a veteran of 209 contests.

Dillon is projected to join Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, and Mirco Mueller on the blueline next season, leaving the door open for the Sharks to acquire another defenseman via the trade or free agent market to round out their top-six.

Related: Report: San Jose interested in acquiring Bieksa

NHL on NBCSN: Sharks desperate for wins, Penguins seek definitive end to slump

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the Pittsburgh Penguins host the San Jose Sharks at the Consol Energy Center, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have fallen on hard times and while they did manage to secure a 3-2 win yesterday, it was against the lowly Coyotes. If you exclude games against Arizona, Pittsburgh hasn’t won since March 12.

“We‘re playing so bad right now, it’s true,” Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin said before the start of the Coyotes’ game, per the team’s website. “Not just one guy, it’s the whole team. The last game (Pittsburgh’s 5-2 loss to Carolina on Thursday), I think it’s the worst game of the whole season. It’s not fun to watch.”

Regardless of the opponent, a win’s a win, but tonight’s game against the San Jose Sharks will be a much bigger test. The Sharks are six points behind in the playoff race with seven contests remaining, so the chances of them making the playoffs are slim, but they’re coming off back-to-back wins as they desperately try to stay in the race.

“Every win is rewarding, especially right now,” Sharks forward Joe Pavelski told CSN Bay Area. “We’re fighting and playing for wins.”

Adding to the challenge for both teams is the fact that they’re playing with depleted defenses. The San Jose Sharks lost blueliner Mirco Mueller (hand) on Thursday and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body) on Saturday. Defenseman Scott Hannan sustained a cut under his eye during Saturday’s game, but he still might end up playing tonight.

On Pittsburgh’s side, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is out with an upper-body injury while Kris Letang was hospitalized on Saturday following a hit by Shane Doan:

With a 41-23-11 record, the Penguins are tied with the New York Islanders in terms of points in the battle for the second seed in the Metropolitan Division and the first round home-ice advantage that comes with it. Pittsburgh has played in one less game than the Islanders, so they have a bit of an edge in that respect. At the same time Pittsburgh is only three points ahead of the Wild Card seed Washington Capitals, so if the Penguins’ struggles continue, they could slip significantly in the standings.