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Tag:Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Posted on: January 5, 2012 2:53 pm
 

Ryan Nugent Hopkins out 3-4 weeks (shoulder)

By Brian Stubits

Edmonton Oilers rookie and Calder Trophy favorite Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been out of the lineup recently, nursing a sore shoulder. The team announced on Thursday that he's going to be out a bit longer, like 3-4 weeks.

The No. 1 pick in last summer's draft, Nugent-Hopkins was a hit from Day 1. There was a little debate from the Oilers whether or not they were going to keep him around, but it didn't really revolve around his talent level. That was evident. When he earned his spot with the team, the talent became clear to the rest of the league.

In the 38 games that he has played for the Oilers this season he has amassed 35 points (13-22=35). He has been particularly strong on the power play where he has posted 18 points, one behind Florida's Brian Campbell for the most in the NHL on the man advantage.

About the only knock that people could come up with for Nugent-Hopkins as an NHL-ready player was his size. There was some concern that his small frame wouldn't hold up that well playing in the NHL. This is the first even small sign of that in his young career.

Edmonton was quick out of the gate this season, spurred on by their young talents including Nugent-Hopkins and 2010's No. 1 draft pick Taylor Hall. They have since come back to the reality that their future is bright, but the present isn't as much. They are currently mired in a 2-8-0 stretch in their last 10 games and the absence of Nugent-Hopkins isn't going to help.

This likely means it's back to the draft lottery for the Oilers at the end of this season, which isn't the worst thing in the world for a franchise that's building toward a championship roster via the draft.

Also, will this month of inaction cost Nugent-Hopkins the Calder Trophy? That will bear watching for the award-inclined fans.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 27, 2011 12:25 pm
 

Smith-Pelly injury could close junior loan doors

By Brian Stubits

It's getting harder and harder for general managers to loan their prized young prospects to their junior national teams. What happened to Canada's Devante Smith-Pelly serves as the latest deterrent.

In Canada's 8-1 destruction of Finland in its tournament opener on Monday, the Scarborough, Ontario native and Anaheim Ducks forward Smith-Pelly, was forced to leave the game after blocking a shot. He didn't return and then later on Monday the Ducks announced Smith-Pelly won't be coming back for Team Canada or the Ducks for at least a month. He suffered a fractured left foot and will be out 4-6 weeks.

Before I go any further, I must make it clear that NHL players have to be released to the national teams and GMs certainly have the right of refusal. Smith-Pelly and Tampa Bay Lightning center Brett Connolly are the only NHL players in this year's World Junior Championships, but Team Canada also sought the services of Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers, however GM Dale Tallon denied, so Gudbranson is still with the big club in South Florida. The Edmonton Oilers had a similar decision to make with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and they elected at the beginning of the season not to have him play for Team Canada. There were plenty of other options denied as well.

It has long been a common practice for teams to grant the requests of the national clubs. The thought process often included the idea of how much can be learned playing for your country as well as getting some more ice time for players who might not get as much as young prospects on their NHL squads. But we're likely going to see fewer and fewer.

In the cases of players like Nugent-Hopkins, it's a no-brainer for the franchise to keep the player around. He's an all-world talent and has been arguably the best player on the ice for the Oilers this season. He is literally a key component of the team winning. In the case of Smith-Pelly, Connolly and Gudbranson, none has received a lot of ice time this season. In the case of Gudbranson, he's actually been a healthy scratch on numerous occasions this season. Still, Florida didn't want to let him leave the team for a few weeks.

The risks will scare more and more teams away. In addition the obvious of not wanting to take a good player off your roster for a few weeks, who wants to risk injuries that will cost their team a good, young player?

Obviously Smith-Pelly could have suffered the same injury with the Ducks and it's in no way to say that his playing for Team Canada is to blame for his injury. The same thing could happen in any game at any level. But the fact is Smith-Pelly did get hurt playing for Team Canada. You'd at least rather your guy get hurt playing for your team, wouldn't you?

More on World Juniors

We hear all the time in sports the objectifying of players. They are called pieces, parts, assets, weapons. Another popular one is calling them investments. In the case of the latter, it's a pretty apt comparison to make, after all teams put a lot of money into professional athletes. When you are talking about 19-year-olds, they are part of your franchise's future. They really do fit the bill for the word investment. So do you really think many people want to turn over high-priced investments to another broker, to keep the analogy going? I don't think so.

There aren't many players in the NHL that are still eligible to play in the juniors. Most of the ones that are of age are of the Nugent-Hopkins ilk, so good that they can make an immediate impact in the NHL. They aren't going to leave the NHL for a few weeks to play for their junior national team. So really we're only talking about a small number of players that are under 20 but aren't logging serious minutes in the NHL. For them there is still some upside in a loan to the national team, most specifically more ice time.

Of course, weighing the player's desire to play for their national team has to be a consideration. Last thing you want is a player to feel resentment over not getting a chance to wear his nation's sweater. That's why I don't think this will ever be an issue for the Olympics.

They aren't completely comparable as the NHL has begun shutting down for the Olympics thus no player is missing games for their professional team, but there have been rumblings that not all league executives like letting their players go play for their national teams because of the risks at play. But that's a battle they won't win. There are too many guys who want to play in the games, so they'll play.

But at some point the cons will outweigh the pros when you are talking about a couple of players at the junior level. The Ducks won't have Smith-Pelly available for a couple of weeks when the Junior Championships are done. That's too bad, I'm sure coach Bruce Boudreau would like some time to work with the young and talented player. The odds of the Ducks climbing back into the playoff picture are long, but a healthy Smith-Pelly wouldn't hurt them by any stretch. That's a pretty big con.

He hasn't played a whole lot with the Ducks, score three goals and two assists in a little less than nine minutes on ice per game. But he was helping to provide some line depth for a team that doesn't have a lot of it in Anaheim.

I'm not saying this is a death sentence to the World Junior Championships -- that would be ludicrous -- or even the end of NHL players in the Junior Championships. There will still the occasional NHLer released for the championships, just not often.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 20, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Wild move to top of the NHL

By Brian Stubits

When I was trying to wrap my head around the aftermath of the weekend in hockey, you must pardon me if I'm a bit staggered. It's not exactly the college football landscape after Saturday, but it's equally as jolting.

It's still only late November, but a tour of the standings is surprisingly fun. And confusing.

Who'd a thunk the NHL's top team at this (or any) point in the season would be the Minnesota Wild? Was there anybody not busy laughing at Dale Tallon that they could have seen the Florida Panthers ahead of the Southeast Division? Did anybody believe Dave Tippett could work his magic again and have the Coyotes in first place of the Pacific? Lastly, who saw the Maple Leafs atop the Northeast Division?

This is the bizarro NHL. Or maybe it's just that this is the NHL with the 2-1-0 point system.

The difference between the best in the NHL (Wild and Chicago Blackhawks) to 25th place (Winnipeg Jets) is only eight points. Four of the six divisions have the fourth place team within four points of the division lead.

One of the divisions that doesn't fit that bill is the Northwest, and that's not because the Vancouver Canucks are running away with it again. Instead, the Wild are, building the biggest division lead in the NHL, holding a five-point lead on the Edmonton Oilers (we told you this was bizarro world).

If we want to take the last 10 games (which we do, it makes this look better) the Wild are the hottest team in hockey alongside the Boston Bruins. Each of them are 8-2-0 in that span after the Wild took the two points from the St. Louis Blues on Saturday with a shootout victory.

It must be the offseason additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, right?

They haven't hurt matters, to be clear. But I wouldn't go as far as to call them the reason the Wild have the most points in the league. Offensively speaking, the Wild have been well below average. Their 2.20 goals per game ranks 28th out of 30 teams.

Obviously that means it's the defense that's led them to a league-high 12 wins. The Wild are surrendering a very impressive 1.95 goals against average. It's funny how starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom is the "worst" goalie of the tandem of he and Josh Harding as he sports a 1.97 GAA and.935 save percentage.

The most amazing part about this is the Wild are doing it with what most would agree is a no-name group of defensemen. Brent Burns is gone to San Jose. Greg Zanon has been sidelined as have Marek Zidlicky and Marco Scandella. That leaves a cast of characters that I doubt anybody outside of Minnesota or Houston (the Wild's AHL affiliate) had heard of; guys like Justin Falk and Kris Fredheim.

This is all under first-year NHL coach Mike Yeo, by the way. He has come in from Houston and has this team as one of the biggest turnaround stories of the season. I defy anybody, including those fans in Minnesota, to say they saw the Wild starting this well.

Speaking of surprising turnarounds ...

There's another team shocking the NHL under a first-year coach after an awful season a year ago. That would be the Florida Panthers.

Kevin Dineen, certainly with a great pedigree as a player in the NHL, has put his name in the early running for the Jack Adams (next to Yeo) with what he has done in Florida. Or perhaps we should say with what Dale Tallon has done.

The top line for the Panthers is making all the difference right now. For years, the Panthers didn't have much production from the top line. If you had to rank where they stood, it was always in the bottom five of top lines in the NHL, that includes when it featured Stephen Weiss, David Booth and Nathan Horton.

The new top line of Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg showed its prowess on Saturday night against the Penguins in South Florida. They were in on all three Florida goals, including Weiss' power play tally in the final minutes. Each member of that line is on pace for about 80 points or more. None of the three has ever had more than 61 points in a season (Weiss in 2008-09).

The team has some serious gumption. After taking the late lead on the Pens, they withstood a massive barrage, particularly the final 65 seconds when the Penguins pulled goalie Dan Johnson. That's when Jose Theodore -- another surprise -- stood tallest and denied Pittsburgh's numerous scoring chances. Theodore, by the way, has a very respectable 2.46 GAA and .923 save percentage.

We are close to a quarter of the way through the season and it's just so weird to call them the first-place Panthers. But that's exactly what they are.

Getting Bizzy

Another one of the surprising teams (boy, there are a lot of those) is the Phoenix Coyotes -- we'll have more on them this week. They have been winning in seasons past, but I think many believed that Ilya Bryzgalov was a big reason for that and when he left for Philadelphia, most predicted they would falter.

Surprise is a word that would aptly describe Paul Bissonnette's night on Saturday, too. Maybe even surprise doesn't cut it, shocking would fit better.

The Coyotes tough guy who hardly plays but is one of the most popular players in the NHL due to his Twitter fame, had the rare shot to play in Buffalo, near his hometown of Welland, Ontario. It also happened to be the first time his mother had the chance to see him play live in the NHL. And so wouldn't you know it, this happened:

As I said, shocking. That goal brings his total to five goals in the past three seasons with the Coyotes. Maybe equally shocking was Tyler Myers' play to give Bissonnette the shot on the doorstep.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes' 4-2 win moved them into a tie with the Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division.

We want 10!

How crazy are things right now? The Oilers scoring nine goals on the Blackhawks and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins recording five assists goes here. Oh, and Taylor Hall had a hat trick.

The Oilers had eight goals at the mid-way mark of the game, prompting the chants of "We want 10!" from the Edmonton faithful. They came close, real close, in the final minutes, but didn't get it. Instead they had to settle for a 9-2 rout. For shame.

For the Oilers, it's what you would call a rebound win. They entered the game on a four-game skid. The quick start to the season seemed long ago in the rearview mirror. But then in 60 minutes they scored more goals (nine) then they had in the entire span of that losing streak (eight).

What's more, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to live up to the billing. Labeled as a play-making center, the Nuge's five-assist night was the a record-setter. No 18-year-old had ever done that before in NHL history. His 19-year-old linemate Hall had his second career hat trick. Whatever they wanted to do, they did.

As for the Blackhawks, their four-game win streak ran into the Alberta armor and went kaput in back-to-back nights to the Flames on Friday and then the Oilers.

"Right now, it seems like every little mistake we make it's in the back of our net and we're making a lot of mistakes," defenseman Duncan Keith said on Saturday. "We all as a team need to focus on committing to playing the right way and the way we know how to play. We have to. The last two games have been embarrassing. The only thing we can do is try and learn from it and move on."

Make it eight

The Boston Bruins can't be touched right now.

With their 6-0 trouncing of the Islanders on Saturday, they have won eight games in a row. With that run, they have finally climbed back into the top eight of the Eastern Conference standings.

The most amazing part of the eight-game run? The Bruins have outscored their opponents 42-14 in that time. That's an average margin of victory of 3.5 goals per game. As I said, they can't be touched right now.

Caps popped

The Capitals are in a tailspin, leading to the annual chatter of Bruce Boudreau's job safety starting up again. That can happen after taking a 7-1 pounding by the similarly struggling Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

When asked after the game about a vote of confidence for Boudreau, GM George McPhee game a "no comment."

But it's still hard to put this on Boudreau in my mind. He's trying everything he can to right the ship. The problem is partly on the shoulders of Alex Ovechkin, who has failed to score a point in any of the past four games. The last time that happened? Go back to February of 2007.

So what's the next step after a team meeting and a practice on a typical off day? It could be the benching of Alexander Semin. The other talented Russian forward on the Caps, Semin has already seen demotions this season. In Sunday's practice, he was dropped all the way to the third line and when Boudreau was asked if Semin might be a healthy scratch on Monday against the Coyotes, Boudreau didn't say one way or the other.

Matters could be coming to a head very soon in D.C. one way or another.

Coming back to Earth

Once sitting atop the NHL in points, the Dallas Stars have gone into a funk, losing five in a row, topped off by a 3-0 loss at Colorado on Friday and a 4-1 defeat in San Jose on Saturday.

That prompted first-year coach Glen Gulutzan to go off about this team, leading to ...

Quote of the weekend

From CSN Bay Area:

“We whine like little babies throughout the game,” Gulutzan said. “I don’t know if there’s been a history of that here or not, but every team that I’ve coached, we’ve always been at the other end of the scale. I think we’re the worst penalty differential in the league, and every team I’ve coached we’ve always been the opposite.

“That’s going to change. We’re going to change that culture here. We’ve got to do it by zipping our mouths one step at a time. The refs are human, and if you whine that much, they’re not going to give you calls. That’s just the bottom line. We’re not getting some calls, and it’s our fault.

“I’ll be glad to go back to Saskatchewan if we don’t get out of this, but at the end of the day we’re going to do it the way we’re going to do it,” he said. “We’re going to be men, we’re going to have character, we’re going to shut our mouths and we’re going to play. If that’s not good enough, then so be it.”

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 4:13 pm
 

No surprise: Nugent-Hopkins sticking with Oilers

By Brian Stubits

Looks like the Edmonton Oilers came to their senses after all. Either that or they just wanted to leave the hockey world in suspense.

The Oilers informed the top overall draft pick from this summer, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, that he will be staying with the team instead of going back to his junior team just down the road from Edmonton in Red Deer. His next game will be his 10th with the Oilers, the extent of the pre-contract tryout.

"He knows the spotlight has been on him and will continue to be, but he went out there and did what he's always done," Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini said.

Last week the Oilers said they were still strongly considering sending Nugent-Hopkins back and giving him more seasoning in junior hockey. However I'm not sure how many people bought that. Nugent-Hopkins has been nothing but spectacular this season.

He is the team's top scorer with five goals -- including a hat trick -- and nine points. Can you imagine the justification Edmonton brass would have given for sending Nugent-Hopkins back? It surely couldn't be about not being ready to play at the NHL level.

Teammate Ryan Whitney shared everybody's thoughts on the matter.

"The Nuge is staying in NHL huh? What a shocker. In other news, sky is blue, grass is green and it's going to be cold in Edmonton in January."

This means that we will get to see a lot more of the Kids & the Hall line with the top pick two years ago Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. As a whole, the Oilers have 48 points. Nugent-Hopkins, Hall and Eberle have combined for 26 of those, including 10 of the team's 17 goals. Perhaps the most amazing thing about that line is that Eberle is the elder statesman at 21 years old.

"Taylor and Jordan have been amazing mentors for me," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I'm thrilled that I get to keep playing with those guys."

"The Nuge" -- I admit, I cringe when I type that, but it's just so much more convenient than Nugent-Hopkins -- did have some proving to do as his size was the question, but those questions should be gone. That was the only question to answer, and he nailed it.

Welcome to your NHL career, Nugent-Hopkins. It goes without saying this was the right choice.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:39 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 12:58 am
 

Heatley, McDonagh with buzzer-beater goals


By: Adam Gretz

The Edmonton Oilers were less than one second away from securing a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Well, technically speaking it was more like half of a second.

Just before the final horn sounded to end the game, Wild forward Dany Heatley picked up a loose puck along the side of the net and somehow managed to find enough of an opening to slip it in past Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to send the game to overtime. Neither team scored in the extra period while Minnesota was able to secure the 2-1 in the tie-breaking shootout thanks to a goal from Matt Cullen and a couple of misses by Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (he shot the puck over the net) and Eric Belanger (he had Niklas Backstrom beat, but fired the puck off the post).

The fact it was Heatley that scored the goal for Minnesota to ruin Edmonton's night had to make it even worse for Oilers fans. Heatley has been public enemy No. 1 in Oil Country for a couple of years now due to his refusal to waive his no-trade clause when he was traded by the Ottawa Senators. After refusing to go to Edmonton the Senators eventually traded him to San Jose where he spent the past two seasons before being traded to Minnesota over the summer in exchange for Martin Havlat.

Elsewhere in the Province of Alberta, the New York Rangers managed to secure a 3-2 overtime win against the Calgary Flames when defenseman Ryan McDonagh scored his second goal of the season when he happened to be in the right place at the right time to play a random bounce off the board and deposit it into an empty net, also with less than a second remaining on the clock.

Rough night for the teams in Alberta, and another reminder that it only takes less than a second to score a goal.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 20, 2011 4:06 pm
 

Slide risks: Who returns to juniors, who stays

By Brian Stubits

One of the rules of the CBA I love is the ability to give young prospects extended tryouts with the parent organization without risking a contract kicking in. It's a great opportunity for players to learn from some NHL experience and, in some cases, prove they are too good to be sent back to their junior team.

These players are known as "Slide-Risk" players. Here's what the CBA rule states specifically:

"In the event that an 18 year old or 19 year old player signs a Player Contract with a Club but does not play at least 10 NHL games (regular season and/or playoffs) in the first season under that player's Player Contract, the term of his Player Contract and his number of years in the Entry Level System shall be extended for a period of one year, except that this automatic extension will not apply to a player who is age 19 according to Section 9.2 by virtue of turning 20 between September 16 and December 31 in the year in which he first signs a Player Contract."

To summarize, if a player under the age of 20 doesn't play more than 10 games at the NHL level, his contract doesn't kick in. So that's one more year to hold off restricted free agency. What's not to like about the provision?

This season, there are 12 players who could be returned and have their contract years delayed. Without further ado, let's see the names (in alphabetical order, of course).

Brett Bulmer, Minnesota Wild: Bulmer was selected 39th overall by the Wild two drafts ago, but his toughness and energy seem to be welcome as far as first-year coach Mike Yeo is concerned. Bulmer seems like he has earned a spot on the third line, although he hasn't been playing all that much (9:38 per game). He does have a pair of assists in that time. He might not play a whole lot, but Yeo talks pretty glowingly about him. Verdict: Wild ride continues.

Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning: This is an iffy call. Connolly, taken sixth overall two drafts ago, has the skill. That's evident by his playing alongside Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis at times already this season. Here's what coach Guy Boucher told the Tampa Tribune: "He eventually will be an NHL player. Now will he be an NHL player starting this year for a long time? It's up to him and it's up to, I think, circumstances, too, for us to see if he can manage it because we don't want to hurt the kids." Verdict: 50/50 still.

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers' top pick in this summer's draft might have surprised a few by earning such a strong look from the staff in Philly, but he has continued to impress. Couturier at this point seems like a fixture already on the team's penalty-killing unit and he is averaging 14:53 minutes on ice per game. He also has a goal and two assists through the first five games. Verdict: Looks like a lock to stay.

Erik Gudbranson, Florida Panthers: The rough-and-tumble defenseman who went third overall two years ago has found himself a defensive partner in Ed Jovanovski, the veteran the Cats brought in this summer. He has only managed 11:49 of ice time in five games, but that's partly because he has racked up 24 minutes in penalties already, getting himself into a pair of fights against the Lightning. Verdict: There seems to be no inclination to send him down. Fine in Florida.

Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets: He has played in only three of the Blue Jackets' six games this season, getting on the ice for just 8:18 per game. If he sticks around, his role won't be a big one, likely finding a home on the third of fourth lines. He is their big prospect in Columbus, but he might benefit from more time in the WHL, especially if the team isn't committed to playing him night and night out. Verdict: Could go either way still.

Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: Landeskog was the player who was universally dubbed with the "most NHL ready" tag prior to this past summer's draft. The expectation for whichever team took him, he would become a fixture almost immediately. That still seems to be the case in Colorado as Landeskog is playing close to 17 minutes a game, has shown solid speed and strength and amassed three points (two goals and an assist). Things are going good in Colorado with him there, that should say enough. Don't mess with a good thing. Verdict: Get comfortable in Denver, kid.

Adam Larsson, New Jersey Devils: Many believed the Devils got a steal by grabbing Larsson with the fourth pick of the draft this summer. But the three that went before him look pretty darn good too, so it's understandable. But that doesn't mean he might not be the best rookie of them all. The Calder candidate has been averaging a whopping 24:14 of ice time with New Jersey and is expected to be a rock on the blueline at the Rock. Verdict: Jersey boy for sure.

Nino Niederreiter, New York Islanders: The fifth overall pick two years ago was given an extended look last season when he played nine games for the Islanders, totaling two points. He was expected to earn a roster spot this year but he has yet to play because of a groin injury. When he's ready, he'll get his nine-game tryout started and they will go from there. Verdict: Good chance he's staying on the Island.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers: There was some skepticism if Nugent-Hopkins was ready for the grind of an NHL season but the Oilers would keep him anyway, it's important the franchise show the future. Well if he's shown anything in the first few games it's that he's good enough to stick around on his own merits anyway. He leads the team in scoring thanks in part to a hat trick already in his career. Verdict: Bundle up for an Edmonton winter.

Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets: The Jets turned lots of heads with their selection of Scheifele early in the draft, but he was impressive during camp and the preseason. So he earned his right at an extended look from the team. He does have a goal on the power play but he has averaged just 11:25 of ice time. "We'll do what's best for him," was coach Claude Noel's cryptic response to Scheifele's place. Verdict: A little more seasoning in juniors before a full season in the NHL.

Devante Smith-Pelly, Anaheim Ducks: It wasn't long ago that Smith-Pelly seemed like a bit of a long-shot to make the roster. But he's giving his best effort to make it a tough call on the staff. He has seemed to work well with Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon on the third line. Averaging a little more than 11 minutes per game, he has picked up one assist. Verdict: Have a feeling he stays since he can't be recalled if he's sent to juniors again. Few more games will tell the tale for sure.

Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators: This is a tough call. From a physical standpoint, Zibanejad seems ready. This hit from his European days pre-draft drew a lot of attention. And earlier this year, GM Bryan Murray said Zibanejad would stay with the Sens. But with just one assist in 12:35 per game and Ottawa being as dreadful as it has been, you wonder if he wouldn't benefit more by being sent down. Verdict: Should probably return to Sweden but gut tells me he stays in Ottawa.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 3:52 pm
 

Oilers' Hemsky out 2-3 weeks with shoulder pain

By Brian Stubits

The Edmonton Oilers have an incredibly promising and exciting line in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ales Hemsky. They form a fast and very talented trio for the Oilers to build on.

But for the time being, they'll be down Hemsky. The winger is expected to miss at least the next two or three weeks as he waits for pain in his surgically reconstructed shoulder to subside.

“I’m a little weaker than I was. That’s my main concern right now,” Hemsky told the Edmonton Journal. “I have to get stronger and get rid of the pain then I should be back to normal.

“My shoulder is solid, I don’t have a problem with that. I just have to get rid of the pain.

“I want to be 100 percent. I don’t want to get hurt again and miss six months of the season.”

It is important to note here that we aren't talking about a new injury with Hemsky. He had surgery in March to repair a torn labrum and it's still causing him discomfort. So instead of pushing it now and risking further damage or any other problems, he is going to sit out until things get better.

Hemsky played the entire season opener, but left the second game against the Wild after just one period. His health is crucial to the Oilers going forward, so it's a great decision to sit him now so he can come back fully healthy later.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 11:30 am
 

Saturday Story: Tavares, the Nuge are pretty good

By Brian Stubits

I wonder how Taylor Hall feels this morning? Saturday was a banner night for two of the past three No. 1 overall draft picks. But at least Hall had a good view for half of it.

First, it was John Tavares. the No. 1 selection in the 2009 draft is scorching hot at the moment for the Islanders. Tavares had a hat trick as the Isles took down the Rangers in a New York showdown. For J.T., it marked his second consecutive four-point game that included five goals.

At this rate, maybe Tavares should do the negotiating for a new arena on Long Island. Right now, he can't miss.

Now step over here for the latest showing in Premature Theater: are the Islanders the best of the New York-area teams? Since losing on opening night to the Florida Panthers 2-0 with some boo birds in attendance, it's been mostly smooth sailing for the young bunch.

They have won three in a row, beating the Wild, Lightning and Rangers. They're goaltending has been surprisingly solid with Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov. We saw surprising simply because this team was carrying three goalies on the active roster as of a few days ago and not many foresaw Montoya being the No. 1. The offense is showing the promise many people see; largely Tavares can be a superstar and he has some good players around him.

This is the point where we remind ourselves it's only the second weekend of the year. Of course Tavares won't score four points every night. But the Islanders have been taking steps the last two seasons and the signs were there for a breakout, just nobody could see how it happened in a division with the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers and Devils. So far so good.

Not to be outdone

On to the other star of the night. That would be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers. I'm starting to think maybe the scouting reports had him all wrong. I'm not talking about the knocks on his size, either, but the fact that he is a play-maker. I'd say he's making plays right now, goal-scoring plays.

The Nuge as some have already come to call him, netted his first hat trick of his career in the Oilers' 4-3 loss to the Canucks. So yea, in only his third career game, Nugent-Hopkins wrangled up a hat trick against Roberto Luongo and the defending Western Conference champions. This comes after his game-tying goal in the final minutes against the Penguins in his NHL debut helped Edmonton to a season-opening two points.

But Hall isn't feeling too bad. After all, he had a solid rookie campaign himself last season and he's enjoying the spoils of Nugent-Hopkins' great start by playing on the same line. He has assisted on three of Nugent-Hopkins' four goals this season.

That giddy giggling you hear is coming out of Edmonton, where visions of sugarplums dance in their heads at the idea of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins playing on the same line for years to come. Throw in a healthy Ales Hemsky and you have as exciting and talented a young line as you'll find in hockey.

It's still going to take some time, but this might be the season where the Oilers begin to show that improvement. Of course if they don't, I can't imagine Edmonton would feel too bad with a shot at top draft prospect Nail Yakupov.

Phillin' it

Oh, and this Phil Kessel fella is pretty good too. The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the NHL with a 3-0-0 record (the Capitals and Red Wings the others) and Phil Kessel has been a monster in that start.

Kessel is tied with Tavares and Pittsburgh's James Neal for the league lead in goals (five) and tied with Tavares and David Legwand in points (eight) despite playing in only three games.

Maybe that trade isn't looking that awful anymore.

What's that feeling in Toronto? Optimism? Nice to meet you again.

If a tree falls in the woods ...

The Dallas Stars are 4-1, but not many people in the Metroplex have been around to see it. In their home win on Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the announced attendance was 8,305. That followed up attendance numbers of 6,306 vs. the Coyotes and 7,949 against the Blues.

Now I understand full well that there is a certain other team that is stealing the spotlight in Dallas right now in the Texas Rangers. A World Series run is not easy to compete against. But those numbers are still awfully low, especially this early in the season with a team playing so well.

I'll give Dallas a pass for another week or so until the Rangers' run is done, but with young stars like Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, I have no doubt the Stars can surprise a lot of people this year and keep that up.

Jetting back

It was like an awkward family reunion when the Coyotes hosted the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. And it was only fitting that Shane Doan did damage against his "old team" with two assists on the night.

But the intriguing part was the dynamic in the stands. Among the crowd were plenty of Jets fans to see the long-lost brothers battle on the ice. However, Phoenix did a pretty darn good job of keeping them quiet.

"Everybody always talks about we have games when there's a lot of visiting fans in there," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "But what it does is really feed on the emotion of the building because you get some visiting fans in there cheering that really puts a burr in your fans' butt. I thought our fans did a great job tonight. Believe me, I had visions of hearing 'Let's go Jets' a lot more than we heard tonight."

As for Winnipeg, you start to wonder what it will take to win a game. Maybe it's adjusting to life in Winnipeg now, a sense of entitlement as coach Claude Noel hinted at ("It looks like our team thinks we have a free pass to fail."), or none of the above. Either way, there is lots of work to be done.

Hangover Part II

The last two Stanley Cup champions danced in Chicago on Saturday night, and it was the defending champs getting the best of the battle.

The Bruins needed a shootout to get by the Blackhawks in the the preseason Finals pick of your's truly. It was a goal from Nathan Horton that got them there.

Maybe this can be the smelling salts that wakes Horton and the Bruins from their slow start to the season.

Dirty or not?

We could make this a daily feature with the microscope that is being put on his in the NHL these days.

Here's a clip of a hit from the Capitals' Matt Hendricks on the Senators' Colin Greening. This one drew a good amount of attention on Saturday as people were wondering if this would lead to Brendan Shanahan's first in-season suspesion for a hit to the heads that didn't include a stick.

To me it seems Hendricks comes at the hit high, but doesn't specifically target the head. However the high follow through with the elbow going sky high doesn't help make the hit look good. In the end, I would think this doesn't get any more attention and is instead categorized a good hit.

Have a look for yourself (from Washington Times, Japer's Rink)

Photos: Getty Images

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com