Tag:Minnesota Wild
Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 3:50 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers and Bruins finally meet

McDonagh's and Seguin's teams renew acquaintances. (Getty Images)

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

Thanks to the scheduling quirks of the NHL, it has taken us until the end of January to get a dose of some real New York-Boston feuding in hockey. No offense to the Devils and the Islanders, but the city-to-city rivalry is reserved for pretty much only the Rangers against the Bruins.

This season, though, the wait has seemed even longer than it really has been. That's because of the little fact that for the first team in a long, long time, the Bruins and Rangers are the best two teams in the Eastern Conference.

There has been some bemoaning lately of the lack of rivalries in hockey. Well this isn't on par with Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, but there's always a little extra flair when it's New York vs. Boston. This one should have a lot of extra flair.

Nobody at this point will dispute the Rangers are one of the best teams in the league this season. You'd be foolish to try. But there are people, myself included, who are still wondering exactly how good are the Rangers? Well what better way to find out than to send them to the hornets’ nest that is TD Garden in Boston to face the defending champs?

Although it’s too bad we could have had this game a week or so ago. By their standards this season, each of these teams has lost some steam going into the game. The Bruins are only 6-4-0 in their last 10 (gasp!) while the Rangers just slightly better at 7-3-0. I laugh about it a little but it was just in the last two weeks that each of these teams had won nine of 10 games.

One of the tricks for each of the coaches is to find ways to keep pushing their guys in the middle of the season, particularly when you've had as much success as these two Original Six squads have. Sometimes that can be as simple as finding a bear to poke (pun clearly intended).

Bruins coach Claude Julien took his poking stick to the midsection of Nathan Horton this week on the Bruins' recent road trip.

"Horton has got to pick up his game. No ifs or buts about it," Julien said after the shootout win at Florida. "A guy his size needs to get more physically involved. He needs to compete a lot harder. He's skating hard, you can see it on the backcheck ... but we need more from him. When he's emotionally engaged, he scores goals and he's a difference-maker. He's got to find his game. We're at the point where we're a little shorthanded and we need him to step up."

Horton responded by scoring twice in the loss to the Lightning and then one more in the win on Thursday night against the Devils. That might be mission: accomplished.

It looks like Rangers coach John Tortorella has his own target to try and prod.

Brad Richards was the star they brought to New York this summer to give Marian Gaborik that other scoring threat and finally give Henrik Lundqvist some much-deserved support. In that regard, Richards has been alright. But that's it.

In 45 games he has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points while carrying a minus-3. That stat still means very little, plus/minus, but on a team like the Rangers, it's tough to be negative. He and Ruslan Fedotenko are the only players on the team with more than 10 games played that are in the red.

Going into the game against the Bruins, Richards hasn't tallied a single point in the last six games. Obviously that's not very good, particularly for a guy making $6.7 million per season.

While Tortorella didn't go anywhere close to the level of criticism that Julien did with Horton, he at least made it known that Richards needs to step up some. From Ranger Rants:

Coach John Tortorella said he didn’t want to analyze individual performances after the game when asked specifically about Staal and Brad Richards. But he acknowledged that Richards’ game wasn’t spot on right now (he was a minus-1 in 16:46 though he won 12 of 16 faceoffs).

If the Rangers can get a point-per-game pace out of Richards like he has been doing for most of the past few seasons, then watch out.

This will be the first of four matchups between the foes this season and each will very likely go a long way in determining who gets home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

If that leaves you wanting more ...

... Then you'll get it. There is no better way to spend Saturday if you're a hockey fan than to tune in to the NHL Network. Once that Rangers-Bruins tilt is done it's on to the next, but it takes no backseat to the first game.

The Vancouver Canucks seem to have a lot of rivalries these days. We all know about their ongoing feud with the Bruins, they have a fierce battle with the Chicago Blackhawks and pretty much any team from Canada.

But don't forget about their rivals to the south in San Jose, too. They've had some damn good playoff battles as well, including that Western Conference final matchup a season ago where Kevin Bieksa was the only person on the ice who knew what the heck was going on.

The Sharks are an interesting team to me. Perhaps it's a situation of just getting used to it, being desensitized to them, but once again they are right there in the race for the Presidents' Trophy this season. Remember, they have games in hand on every single Western Conference team.

Yet they are just quietly trudging along on the West Coast. It's expected from them now to be honest. That's a great compliment to give to the ownership and front office in San Jose.

Unlike the Eastern powers mentioned above, these Western heavies have already met three times this season, so when they dance on Saturday night in Vancouver, it's the last time they'll see each other until next season. Unless ...

Hot, hot, hot!

The Ottawa Senators are 12-2-2 since Kyle Turris came to town. They are in the midst of a very challenging road trip to the West Coast, starting it off with a win on Thursday in San Jose.

When they looked at the itinerary for the road trip, they had to look at the Saturday visit to Anaheim as a little bit of a reprieve on the tough trip. Not anymore.

It took a while, but Bruce Boudreau is seeing the Ducks play the way we all thought they would this season. All of a sudden, these are the two hottest teams in the NHL (what?!?). The Ducks are 6-0-1 in their last seven games in their own right.

It's likely well past the time for them to get back into the playoff picture. Even with these 13 points in seven games, they are still 13 points behind Colorado for the eighth spot in the West. What a really strong finish can do, though, is affect the way general manager Bob Murray views his team and thus how much of a seller the Ducks will be at the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

In the meantime, each of the Sens and Ducks gets a heat check in one of the few places in either the USA or Canada that it's actually warm right now, Southern California.

Familiar foes

Friday night will feature some old friends facing off as the Florida Blackhawks visit the Chicago Panthers. Wait ...

Since Dale Tallon took over in Florida as general manager, the Panthers have taken on quite a strong feeling of the Blackhawks. They currently carry five former players from Chicago: John Madden, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. Of them, only Skille wasn't a contributor to the Stanley Cup a couple of seasons ago.

To make that happen obviously Tallon had to send some of his Panthers players to GM Stan Bowman in Chicago. It's not as strong the other way but the Blackhawks currently employ former Panthers Michal Frolik, Steve Montador and have Rostislav Olesz and Alexander Salak in the system.

But the player to watch in this battle? How about Andrew Shaw, who is quickly making a big name for himself in Chicago. The 20-year-old forward who was a fifth-round pick by the 'Hawks has five points in the last four games on the strength of a goal in each game. That's led to the Twitter hashtag of #ShawFacts where fans have taken their best Chuck Norris jokes and tailored them for Shaw.

Something else worth watching: With weather conditions as bad as they are in Chicago this weekend, will the Panthers have any problems getting out of town and into Winnipeg in time for their game Saturday against the Jets?

Speak of old friends ...

What would the Tampa Bay Lightning give to have the summer over and keep Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson?

The Bolts will get the chance to see firsthand what has happened to Smith since he moved to the desert this offseason. For those not in the know, what has happened is that he has become a quality starting goaltender for the Coyotes.

The Lightning are giving up more goals than any team in the league. Don't you think Smith and his 2.41 goals against average would be handy in Tampa Bay this season?

Then again, it probably wouldn't be too much different if the defenders in front of Smith were playing the same/as injured as they are in front of Roloson and Mathieu Garon.

Fun doesn't stop Saturday

On Sunday there is a nice pair of battles for matinee games in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins will take on another one of the I-95 corridor powers in the Philadelphia Flyers while the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Washington Capitals for their final bout this season. It might be a bit watered down without Sidney Crosby playing, but it's still worth watching.

Both games are worth it, so get ready to wear out the "last" button on your remote.

We're going streaking!

A look at the winning and losing streaks heading into the weekend.

Penguins: Remember how they just lost six in a row? This is how you rebound from that. The Pens take a four-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Canadiens before the game against the Caps.

Detroit Red Wings: For the moment, they have taken the lead in the Central Division, which is an unbelievable race this season. Their five straight wins will be put on the line Saturday vs. the Blue Jackets.

St. Louis Blues: They are doing what they can to keep pace with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, and they're doing it just fine. They ride a three-game run into a home game against the Sabres, losers of 10 straight on the road.

Buffalo Sabres: As just mentioned, 10 straight road losses, four in a row overall. Only the one chance in St. Louis to snap it this weekend.

Panthers: They haven't won a game in their last three chances but they have picked up points in two of those three. The double dip this weekend is at Chicago and at Winnipeg.

Minnesota Wild: The ship keeps on sinking. Remember when they were first in the NHL? I hardly do either. Four straight losses and Dallas on tap this weekend.

Dallas Stars: Misery loves company, I suppose. Dallas brings its own losing streak of three games into the weekend, but they get Tampa Bay before facing the Wild.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.
Posted on: January 18, 2012 4:11 pm
Edited on: January 18, 2012 4:43 pm
 

Rookies facing the toughest assignments

CouturierBy: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at which top rookies are playing some of the toughest (and easiest) assignments in the NHL.

Most NHL teams are going to put their rookies into favorable situations on the ice.

They are usually not going to be asked to play the toughest minutes on their team, against the best opponents and in defensive situations, and instead are going to be put into low pressure situations where they have the best opportunity to succeed. There are, of course, always exceptions, and some youngsters are asked to take on larger (and more important) roles, whether it be out of necessity, or because the player has shown that he's capable of taking on such an assignment at a young age. 

This year's rookie class has had some pretty impressive performances so far, including that of top overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (currently the NHL's leading rookie scorer) in Edmonton, Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson with the Devils and, of course, Philadelphia's young forwards Sean Couturier (pictured) and Matt Read, who have not only flashed some offensive ability, but have also proven themselves to be more than capabale penalty killers.

But which of the NHL's top rookies are being asked to play the toughest minutes this season?

Well, that's what the scatterplot picture below helps us figure out. We're using Relative Corsi Quality of Competition (the level of competition the player is playing against -- the higher the number, the tougher the opponent, and vice versa) and Offensive Zone starts (both via Behind The Net) during 5-on-5 play to determine which rookies are being asked to play in the toughest situations by their respective teams.

The closer a player is to the top left of the chart, the harder the assignments he's being given (playing against better players and starting fewer shifts in the offensive zone), while the closer a player is to the bottom right, the easier the assignment (playing against weaker competition and starting more shifts in the offensive zone).

The players included: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Oilers), Adam Henrique (Devils), Nick Johnson (Wild), Luke Adam (Sabres), Cody Hodgson (Canucks), Jared Cowen (Senators), Adam Larsson (Devils), Gabriel Landeskog (Avalanche), Sean Couturier (Flyers), Matt Read (Flyers), Ryan Johansen (Blue Jackets), Raphael Diaz (Canadiens), Craig Smith (Predators), Colin Greening (Senators) and Kaspars Daugavins (Senators).

Rookie Assignments

A few thoughts:

1) When it comes to the NHL's rookie of the year debate the two most common names are, naturally, Nugent-Hopkins and Henrique. They are, after all, the top two scoring rookies in the league, and before Nugent-Hopkins went out with his injury they were neck-and-neck in that scoring race. Now that Henrique is running unopposed for the foreseeable future, he's going to take over that scoring lead (barring an injury of his own, of course) and will probably become the front-runner for the award by seasons end.

Both players have arguments working in their favor.

When we did our mid-season award picks I went with Henrique based on the fact he and Nugent-Hopkins were nearly identical offensively, while Henrique was being asked to play in tougher situations (as the chart above illustrates). Along with that, he is also one of the top penalty killing forwards on the best penalty killing team in the league, and has proven himself to be a threat offensively even when his team is down shorthanded, currently tied for the league in shorthanded points. Conversely, Nugent-Hopkins is getting some of the easiest minutes in the league among the top rookies, and has played just a total of one minute and 16 seconds of shorthanded ice time this season.

That said, it can't be ignored that Henrique is already 21 years old while Nugent-Hopkins is one of the youngest players in the league at the age of 18. Actually, he's the second-youngest player to have skated in an NHL game this season, having been born just six days after Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad, who appeared in nine games for the Senators.

He may not be asked to play in tough situations, but his performance is still darn impressive given his age.

2) Don't overlook the rookie duo in Philadelphia. The Flyers completely re-tooled their roster over the summer, and halfway through the 2011-12 season they haven't missed a beat as far as being a contender in the Eastern Conference is concerned.

 Losing Mike Richards and Jeff Carter looked like it was going to be a major blow to their forward depth, and while they are definitely a different team from a year ago, they're still boasting an impressive group of forwards, including their two prized rookies Couturier (selected with the draft pick that came from Columbus in exchange for Carter) and Read. Both are among the Flyers' top penalty killing forwards, and among Flyers forwards that have played at least 20 games this season Read is currently facing the fourth-toughest competition on the team.

3) Mike Yeo, head coach of the Minnesota Wild, appears to have a lot of faith in Nick Johnson, a player the team picked up on waivers before the season. Not only is he playing, by far, the toughest minutes of any of the top rookies in the NHL (he's currently 11th among rookie scorers) his Qual Comp is the highest of any forward on the Wild roster. Perhaps that faith shouldn't be much of a surprise given the connections both have to the Pittsburgh organization (Johnson was drafted by the Penguins, while Yeo was a former assistant).

Of course, age once again needs to be taken into account. While Johnson is playing tougher minutes than all of these other rookies, he's also by far the oldest player on the chart having already turned 26 back in December. A 26-year-old rookie and an 18-year-old rookie aren't exactly the same thing.

Taking into account performance, assignments and age I'd still choose Henrique as the top rookie in the NHL this season (so far), with Nugent-Hopkins, Read and Craig Smith coming in just behind.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 16, 2012 9:13 am
Edited on: January 16, 2012 9:24 am
 

Report: Mikko Koivu could miss month

KoivuBy: Adam Gretz

The Minnesota Wild have been falling fast in the Western Conference standings, and now they could be facing a critical stretch in their season without the services of their best player, Mikko Koivu. According to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune, Koivu could miss the next month of action due to a shoulder injury that he suffered on Saturday night during Minnesota's 3-2 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues.

Even with Koivu, the team's leading scorer with 33 points (9 goals, 24 assists in 41 games), the Wild are one of the NHL's lowest scoring clubs, entering the week with an average of just 2.22 goals per game, the second-lowest mark in the league. Only the Los Angeles Kings average fewer. Obviously, this could be a big blow to a season that could already be starting to slip away from them.

Along with being Wild's leading scorer, he's also their best defensive forward and a legitimate Selke Trophy contender, so it's not just the offense that's going to be missed in his absence.

Since starting the season 20-7-3 and owning the best record in the league in early December, the Wild have lost 13 of their past 15 games, with only one of the wins coming in regulation (a 4-3 win over Edmonton back on December 29). As of Monday morning they occupy what would be the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, holding a one-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche and a two-point lead over the Dallas Stars. After facing Philadelphia on Tuesday, the Wild have four games (two each) against the Avs and Stars over the next two weeks. That's an important stretch of games.

Koivu isn't the only injury facing the Wild right now as the team is also without forwards Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who is out with concussion-like symptoms.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

The Wild have a puck possession problem
Pierre-Marc Bouchard out with concussion
Bouchard injured on hit
More Minnesota Wild news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:06 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 1:44 am
 

Minnesota's puck possession problem

WildPucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at what might be the biggest problem with the Minnesota Wild.

By: Adam Gretz


The Minnesota Wild have a problem right now.

After beating the Phoenix Coyotes on December 10, their seventh win in a row, the Wild improved their record to 20-7-3 and owned the best point total in the NHL. They had the look of a sure-fire playoff team and one that was going to end a three-year playoff drought for the franchise.

Of course, that could still end up happening, but it's been all downhill ever since.

In the month that's followed the Wild have won just one game in regulation (a 4-3 win against Edmonton, a team that's been one of the worst in the NHL over the past 20 games), a stretch that's seen them go 2-8-3. The other win came on Tuesday night, a 5-4 shootout win against San Jose after the Wild let a two-goal lead slip away in the final four minutes of regulation. As of Wednesday, the Wild went from the top team in the Western Conference to the No. 7 spot, just three points out of the No. 9 spot, in exactly one month, and their next three games are against Chicago, St. Louis and Philadelphia, which is definitely not an easy stretch.

This recent decline should have been expected (I wasn't ready to buy their fast start earlier this season ... though, I said the same thing about the Rangers and theyr'e still winning. So there's that) and unless something changes in the second half of the season they might have a big struggle ahead of them. Why? Because they are one of the worst puck possession teams in the league, which isn't exactly a good recipe for success in the NHL.

Entering play on Wednesday the Wild were generating the third-fewest shots per game and allowing the most. They're getting outshot by an average of over five shots per game, the worst mark in the league. If this continues it's not going to be a promising development for their playoff chances.

The table below takes a look at the past 10 NHL seasons and the playoff chances for teams when out-shooting, or getting out-shot by, a certain margin over the course of the season.

Possession Matters
Shot Differential Playoff % Total Teams Stanley Cup Finalists Stanley Cup Champions
+5 (or more) 100% 20 out of 20 5 4
+4 89% 14 out of 16 5 4
+3 90% 19 out of 21 1 0
+2 64% 16 out of 25 1 0
+1 64% 24 out of 37 3 0
+ >1 70% 27 out of 38 2 1
- >1 34% 11 out of 32 0 0
-1 36% 9 out of 24 2 1
-2 25% 7 out of 27 0 0
-3 40% 10 out of 23 1 0
-4 6% 1 out of 16 0 0
-5 (or more) 4% 1 out of 23 0 0

Most teams finish somewhere between plus-one and minus-one over the course of an 82-game season. It's the teams that separate themselves from the cluster, one way or the other, that either compete for the  Stanley Cup (on the positive side) or compete for the top-overall pick in the next summer's draft (on the negative side). It should again be pointed out that Minnesota currently falls into the minus-five (or worse) category (and they are the only team as of Wednesday).

Over the past 10 seasons only one such team has been able to make the playoffs -- the 2001-02 Montreal Canadiens, a No. 8 seed that finished two points ahead of the ninth seeded Washington Capitals. If you remember, that was also the season that Jose Theodore put together one of the best season-long goaltending performances in recent memory by leading the league (by a pretty sizable margin) with a .931 save percentage, an obvious outlier in his career, and taking home the Hart Trophy as the league MVP and the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender.

When the Canadiens faced a similar deficit the following season, and Theodore's level of play regressed back to his normal career levels (a .908 save percentage -- exactly his career average -- instead of .931, a top-15 mark all-time) the Canadiens missed the playoffs and Theodore went from being the next Patrick Roy to just another in the revolving door of mediocrity in the Montreal net. He was eventually traded for David Aebischer in 2006.

Another team that stands out from the above chart, and also happens to be the one team over the past decade that won the Stanley Cup despite being outshot during the season, is the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins. It was a tale of two teams that year. They started the season with Michel Therrien behind the bench, playing a very passive, defense-first system. After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals the previous season (losing to the Detroit Red Wings) they found themselves on the outside of the playoff picture in mid-February following a humiliating loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

At that point in the season the Penguins were 27-25-5, and were being crushed in terms of puck possession, getting out-shot by nearly four shots per game. It was then that they made drastic changes to the entire team. Pretty much everything about it, from the coach, to the system, to the make-up of the roster. Therrien was replaced behind the bench by Dan Bylsma, brought up from their American Hockey League team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the team instantly started playing a more aggressive brand of hockey with an emphasis on getting to the offensive zone as quickly and often as possible. Along with that, general manager Ray Shero completely overhauled the team's top line by trading for forwards Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin to improve the offense, and added some additional toughness by picking up Craig Adams on waivers.

Almost instantly they completely flipped the script on their season, and went from being a team that was getting out-shot by nearly four shots per night with a .500 record, to a team that was now out-shooting its opponents by four shots and finishing with an 18-3-4 record. That level of play continued through the playoffs, all the way through their Stanley Cup Finals rematch with Detroit, ending with a Pittsburgh win in seven games.

The ability to create shots (and prevent shots) is a reflection of skill, talent and strategy (coaching), which is why the teams that are the best at controlling the puck are the ones that tend to win the most games and have the best chance at winning it all. Looking at the Wild and there just doesn't seem to be enough players to create chances offensively, and the defense isn't anything great. They've been relying on their two outstanding goalies, Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, and while they've had excellent seasons they can only mask Minnesota's flaws for so long.

Can they still make the playoffs this season? Sure, anything can happen. Maybe they continue to get a '01-02 Jose Theodore-type season from their goaltenders (because at this rate that's probably what they're going to need), or maybe something drastically changes in the second half of the season that allows the team to generate more offense and spend more time in the other end of the ice. But if things keep going like they have been, the odds could be stacked against them.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 11, 2012 10:54 am
Edited on: January 11, 2012 2:16 pm
 

Setoguchi misses meeting after seeing Sharks?

By Brian Stubits

The Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks built up quite a relationship this offseason. They made a couple of trades, big ones too. In separate deals the Wild acquired both Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi from the Sharks while giving up Martin Havlat and Brent Burns.

Tuesday was the first time that the former Wild players had the chance to go back to Minnesota for a game, a chance to show the fine folks of St. Paul how the trades have worked out for both sides. Only problem was Setoguchi wasn't playing for the Wild, and not because of injury but instead he was a healthy scratch.

Why would the struggling Wild willingly put Setoguchi in the press box for a night, particularly against his former team? Michael Russo at the Minneapolis Star Tribune has an idea:

On a night when the Wild was already without second-liners Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse, Yeo made the gutsy decision to scratch Devin Setoguchi for what he called a violation of a team rule. Multiple sources tell me Setoguchi missed a team meeting this morning the night after going out with a bunch of his Shark buds.

Cavorting with the enemy before the game and missing the team meeting (presumably) as a result? I think most would agree that's grounds for something.

Personally, though, I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often. Any time you hear players who are retiring or who recently retired, what do they always talk about missing? Not the game itself, but the guys they played with, being on a team. Of course a lot of these guys develop great friendships, they spend so much time together and pour their hearts into a common goal.

Maybe I'm not old school enough (or is it a case of being too old school?) but I don't have much of a problem at all with Setoguchi hanging out with his former teammates when they visit town. I like my athletes to be real, not be made from the steel, as one of my favorites Ilya Bryzgalov would say. I hate when players are held to this higher, robotic standard in the guise of professionalism.

As long as he isn't giving away secrets of the Church of Yeo or doing anything stupid to put himself in trouble, it doesn't bother me much. Key word being much. I can live with that.

Obviously where he runs afoul of the rules in anybody's book is missing the team meeting. Setoguchi wasn't the first nor will he be the last to be scratched for that. Remember Bruins forward Tyler Seguin and his really bad excuse for missing a meeting in Winnipeg because his clock was still on Boston time (do the time zone conversion to see why it's bad)? That earned him a scratch.

That's what got Setoguchi a seat in the press box here, too. You can't miss team meetings.

The good news for him is that coach Mike Yeo says the slate starts clean on Wednesday.

I'll put it to you: Is hanging with the enemies before a game an absolute no-go?

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 10, 2012 2:12 pm
 

Wild's Bouchard out with concussion-like symptoms

By Brian Stubits

Pierre-Marc Bouchard missed all but one game in 2009-10 with a concussion. That same concussion cost him the end of the 2008-09 season and beginning of the 2010-11 campaign. So he knows all about hockey's big problem.

Unfortunately for him, he is being reminded about it now.

The Minnesota Wild announced on Tuesday that Bouchard is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. They are waiting for more information before dropping the symptoms part and going with full out concussion, but if we've learned anything in the last year, that's likely where this is headed.

A little more from Michael Russo at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

According to GM Chuck Fletcher, Bouchard hasn't felt comfortable since the Zach Bogosian check into the boards last month in Winnipeg. Late in last week's Vancouver game, Bouchard was elbowed and has been experiencing symptoms.

Fletcher said Bouchard's symptoms aren't near as severe as when he was out with post-concussion syndrome during the year-plus away. Fletcher did admit they were being vague with Bouchard's injury, but he did suffer a groin strain as well against Vancouver and the Wild didn't want to use the concussion word until it had more information.

In case you need a reminder on that tough hit from Bogosian on Bouchard from earlier this season, here you go.

We've seen time and time again how bad things can get with repeated concussions. Moreover, it's been known to make guys more susceptible to more concussions down the line. I really hope that's not the case for Bouchard.

From an on-ice standpoint, the Wild will certainly miss Bouchard while he's out, too. They have been struggling to find offense for weeks now and losing a play-making winger who has 22 points in 37 games isn't a good way to get to that end.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 9, 2012 2:27 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2012 5:25 pm
 

Patrick Sharp to miss 3-4 weeks

By: Adam Gretz

The Chicago Blackhawks have become the latest team to be hit with a significant injury.

The team announced on Monday afternoon that forward Patrick Sharp is going to be sidelined for the next three-to-four weeks with what has been described as an "upper body injury" (It's reported to be a broken wrist, coming when he was slashed just before scoring a goal on Sunday night). It comes at a bad time for Chicago as the team is currently riding a four-game losing streak and has also lost six of its past nine games

He was injured on Sunday night when the Blackhawks lost to their divisional rivals from Detroit, 3-2 in overtime, and played just a little over five-and-a-half minutes. He left the game after the first period and did not return.

It's a big blow for the Blackhawks for the near future as Sharp is one of their best, most reliable and most consistent skaters. Through his first 42 games of the season he's second on the team in goals (20), fourth in assists (20) third in total points (40), first in power play points (12) and leading the team with 158 shots on goal.

Assuming it's just a three-to-four week injury he should be back in the lineup sometime in early February. Looking ahead at Chicago's schedule they get the struggling Blue Jackets and Wild this week, before things get significantly tougher with games against the likes of Detroit, San Jose, Vancouver and a home-and-home set with Nashville over the remainder of the month.

More NHL Injuries

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 9, 2012 9:52 am
Edited on: January 9, 2012 7:00 pm
 

Scott Arniel fired by Blue Jackets

Arniel1By: Adam Gretz

On Monday morning the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled the trigger on a move that had been anticipated for some time now.

The team fired head coach Scott Arniel following a 7-4 loss in Anaheim on Sunday that dropped the Blue Jackets to a league-worst 11-25-5. Arniel will be replaced on an interim basis by former Minnesota Wild head coach Todd Richards.

It seems like this is a move that probably should have taken place some time ago given how bad the Blue Jackets were from the start of the season, roaring out of the gate by losing their first eight games and 10 of their first 11. It was a massive hole that was (and still is) too deep to overcome, and it's getting deeper by the day. Right now there are only seven teams in the NHL that are more than five points out of a potential playoff spot. The Blue Jackets are 20 points back.

A couple weeks ago general manager Scott Howson refused to place the blame on the coaching staff, and talked about how the team was going to look to be active in the trade market.

Obviously, there were some problems in Columbus. Young, skilled players like Derrik Brassard and Ryan Johansen were relegated to fourth-line duty, or even the press box on some nights, with Brassard's agent, Allan Walsh, putting the crosshairs on Arniel for, in Walsh's words, "a history of burying players and using them as scapegoats to mask his own lack of success on the ice."

Whether or not Arniel was a good or bad coach, or if a change needed to be made (it's pretty obvious something needed to happen), the situation in Columbus has been ugly in every possible way. Injuries have piled up, including the most recent one for summer acquisition Jeff Carter on Sunday, while the goaltending, particularly from former Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason, has been among the worst in the league. The Blue Jackets currently have the second-worst team save percentage in the NHL at .893, narrowly ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. On an individual level the only goalie with a worse mark than Mason's .883 is Dwayne Roloson.

Arniel ended up lasting just a season-and-a-half in Columbus as the team put together a 45-60-18 record during his time with the team. The Blue Jackets have won just eight games in regulation since November 24 ... of 2010.

His replacement for the time being, Richards, was the head coach in Minnesota during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons and put together a 77-71-16 record. He was replaced this offseason by Mike Yeo.

Here is Howson talking to the media about the decision.



More on the NHL's coaching carousel

Photo: Getty Images

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