All posts by Ian McLaren

Report: Crawford could miss rest of season with vertigo-like symptoms

There appears to be a mounting belief that Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford could be sidelined for the remainder of the season, reports Mark Lazerus of the Sun-Times.

Head coach Joel Quenneville said 10 days ago that Crawford was expected to return from an upper-body injury at some point, but apparently it's not quite that cut and dry.

From Lazerus:

Three sources told the Sun-Times that Crawford is dealing with vertigo-like symptoms, for the second time in his career. And there is a growing concern within the organization that Crawford could miss the rest of the season, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Tuesday.

Crawford has not played since Dec. 23, and was placed on injured reserve shortly after the holiday break, at which point he was ruled out indefinitely.

Prior to being removed from the lineup, Crawford was playing some of the best hockey of his career, posting a record of 16-9-2 with a .929 save percentage. Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass have been tending the net in his absence, and the Blackhawks currently sit bottom of the Central Division standings.

Crawford missed almost a month at the end of 2015-16 with what was reported to be symptoms of vertigo, but he was able to return for the postseason.

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Canadiens can’t secure 2 points despite most shots since 1990

It's been that kind of season for the Montreal Canadiens.

Coming off a shootout loss to the rival Boston Bruins on Saturday, Claude Julien's club came out firing Monday against the New York Islanders, finishing the contest with a 56-24 shot advantage.

According to Hockey Reference, 56 is the highest number of shots recorded by Montreal in a single game since an 11-1 win over Pittsburgh on Feb. 24, 1990.

Instead of coming away with the win, however, the Canadiens dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Islanders, backed by a career-high 52 saves from Thomas Greiss and secured by a John Tavares goal - his second of the night - in the extra frame.

The Canadiens did pick up a single point, but that won't do when they're 11 back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic Division, and now eight back of the Islanders in the race for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

On the positive side of things, captain Max Pacioretty scored for the fourth time in four games and Jonathan Drouin snapped a 13-game drought.

Next on the schedule is another date with the Bruins, set for Wednesday in Boston.

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Why MacKinnon should be considered a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate

Nathan MacKinnon is emerging as one of the NHL's most valuable players.

Here's a quick look at why he should be included in the conversation for the Hart Trophy at this point in the season:

The numbers

The Colorado Avalanche center scored his 20th goal of the season Monday against Anaheim, a second-period tally that served as the game-winner - his sixth of the season to date. His 34 assists boost his point total to 54, good for a share of second in the NHL.

Player Games Goals Assists Points
Nikita Kucherov 44 27 33 60
Johnny Gaudreau 45 15 39 54
Claude Giroux 43 14 40 54
Nathan MacKinnon 43 20 34 54

These numbers put MacKinnon well on pace to break his previous career highs of 24 goals and 39 assists set as a rookie back in 2013-14.

On top of that, 46 of MacKinnon's 54 points are primary in nature, meaning either a goal or the first assist. Monday's goal pulled him level with Kucherov for tops in the NHL, per Corsica.

His six game-winners also slot him second in that category, one behind both Calgary's Sean Monahan and Tampa Bay's Brayden Point.

And while it's not outside the realm of normalcy for a No. 1 overall draft pick to score big goals and average a point per game or better, what makes MacKinnon's performance to date so noteworthy is the context.

The background

For starters, let's not forget Colorado is coming off a historically awful season, finishing 2016-17 with the lowest point percentage in the shootout era. But following Monday's win over the Ducks, the Avalanche - who sit two points out of a wild-card spot - now boast a record of 24-16-3, earning more wins and points through 43 games this season than all of last.

Related: Avalanche push win streak to 7 games

Leading that charge, of course, is MacKinnon, whose 54 points put him 13 ahead of Mikko Rantanen and 21 ahead of captain Gabriel Landeskog, the next most productive players on the roster.

All this after MacKinnon was thrust further into the spotlight following the departure of Matt Duchene, who ranked third behind MacKinnon and Landeskog in total points over the past five seasons - including the beginning of the current campaign.

With no immediate help brought in through the Duchene trade, MacKinnon is now quite literally the offensive driver in Colorado, and is putting up career numbers while drawing increased attention from the opposition's top defensemen.

The caveat

There's plenty of season to go, and there's certainly no shortage of worthy candidates, beginning with Nikita Kucherov, who could very well end up with both the Art Ross and Maurice Richards trophies. Right now, he's the clear-cut favorite.

And even with usual suspects Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid lagging in the scoring race, there's fresh faces like Johnny Gaudreau, Phil Kessel, and Blake Wheeler to contend with, among others.

But if MacKinnon remains near the top of the scoring leader board and the Avs can go from worst team in over a decade to the postseason, then he'll be as worthy as anyone in being judged as most valuable to his team.

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Flames complete Florida sweep to remain one of NHL’s hottest teams

The Sunshine State was friendly to the Calgary Flames.

A night after beating the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flames got the best of the Florida Panthers on Friday to extend their winning streak to six games, currently the longest in the NHL.

The opposition has not been of the pushover variety, either.

Date Opponent Result
Dec. 31 Chicago W 4-3 (OT)
Jan. 4 Los Angeles W 4-3
Jan. 6 Anaheim W 3-2
Jan. 9 Minnesota W 3-2 (OT)
Jan. 11 Tampa Bay W 5-1
Jan. 12 Florida W 4-2

The length of the streak is not staggering by any means, but it's an important run of success nonetheless.

Calgary has now amassed 52 points and sits one behind the Los Angeles Kings for second in the Pacific Division, albeit with two more games played. The Flames have also built a four-point cushion over San Jose, but the Sharks also have games in hand on Calgary.

Still, the Flames are taking care of business as of late, and as a result, are hot on the trail of a playoff berth for the second season in a row.

Calgary plays Sunday in Carolina before the team's bye-week break.

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3 candidates to fill Hedman’s All-Star spot

It's not only the Tampa Bay Lightning who will be without Victor Hedman as a result of a lower-body injury sustained Thursday in a game against Calgary.

The defenseman will be sidelined three-to-six weeks with the ailment, thereby forcing him to miss several regular-season contests as well as the upcoming All-Star Game, which the Lightning will host on Jan. 28.

Hedman was one of three defensemen named to the Atlantic Division roster, along with Ottawa's Erik Karlsson and Detroit's Mike Green. Here are three players who could step into those skates:

Morgan Rielly

The easy choice here is the Toronto Maple Leafs' Rielly, whose 31 points (five goals, 26 assists) rank him second among Atlantic defensemen - two behind Hedman.

Rielly is also sixth in scoring at his position league-wide, and is already only five points off his career high of 36 set two seasons ago.

Superstar center Auston Matthews will also be in attendance, and the addition of Toronto's best defenseman would certainly garner further interest in the event from one of hockey's largest fan bases.

Torey Krug

The Boston Bruins will already be represented by Brad Marchand, and while the young Charlie McAvoy would be an exciting replacement - and make no mistake, his time will come - it's Torey Krug who could add more black and gold to this year's All-Star festivities.

Krug is coming off a breakout 51-point campaign in 2016-17, and has recorded six goals and 16 assists through 36 games this season. While his point total ranks him seventh among Atlantic blue-liners, his point-per-game average (0.61) puts him behind only Karlsson, Hedman, Rielly, and Shea Weber (currently injured).

He's also recorded the third-most points by a defenseman from that division since the beginning of 2015-16, with Karlsson and Hedman again leading the way.

Krug's game lends itself to three-on-three excitement, too.

Mikhail Sergachev

Despite Hedman's absence, the hometown Lightning will be well showcased, with forwards Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos set to suit up.

Still, there's an argument to be made for the inclusion of rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, acquired by Tampa Bay this past offseason in a deal centered around Jonathan Drouin.

Sergachev would by no means be a reach to replace his teammate. In 44 games, the 19-year-old has scored eight goals and added 18 assists, and his 26 points slot him fourth in the division (trailing Hedman, Karlsson, and Rielly), and 16th around the NHL.

He'll take on a bigger role for the Lightning with Hedman out of the lineup, and while he's been outperformed by Rielly and Krug (on average), he has proven to be a star performer perhaps sooner than expected. His presence would be a nice boost for Lightning fans.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Report: Oilers GM tells teams Slepyshev available on trade market

The Edmonton Oilers may be looking to make a move.

General manager Peter Chiarelli informed all NHL teams by email that forward Anton Slepyshev is available on the trade market, according to Sportsnet's Mark Spector.

The 23-year-old winger recently became waiver eligible and is in the final year of his entry-level contract. He carries a cap hit of $925,000.

Slepyshev was drafted 88th overall in 2013 and has recorded five goals and nine assists in 70 NHL games.

He's been limited to 18 appearances this season due to a lower-body injury and several healthy scratches.

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Coyotes trade Duclair to Blackhawks for Panik in 4-player trade

The Chicago Blackhawks have traded forward Richard Panik and Laurent Dauphin to the Arizona Coyotes for Anthony Duclair and Adam Clendening, the teams announced Wednesday.

Duclair is believed to have recently requested a trade out of the desert, seemingly in search of a fresh start after struggling to regain the fine form of his rookie year that saw him record 20 goals and 24 assists in 81 games.

The 22-year-old scored nine goals and added six assists in 33 games for the Coyotes this season, and he's set to become a restricted free agent this summer.

In return, the Coyotes receive 26-year-old Panik, who has this season and next remaining on a deal that carries a $2.8-million cap hit.

In 37 games this campaign, he contributed six goals and 10 assists.

No salary was retained in the deal, TSN's Pierre LeBrun adds, thereby freeing up some cap space for Chicago after taking on the balance of Duclair's $1.2-million cap hit.

Dauphin and Clendening are minor leaguers with limited NHL experience, with Duclair and Panik clearly serving as the centerpieces of this deal.

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Gionta, Wisniewski highlight U.S. men’s Olympic roster

The U.S. men's Olympic hockey team won't feature current NHL players, but there will be a few familiar faces playing for gold next month in Pyeonchang, South Korea.

The full roster was named Monday during the second intermission of the Winter Classic at Citi Field in New York, with forward Brian Gionta - who will be team captain - and defenseman James Wisniewski serving as the most notable names.

Here's a look at the roster:

Ryan Zapolski (KHL)
(Two more goalies will added to the roster later in January.)

Chad Billins (Swedish League)
Jonathon Blum (KHL)
Will Borgen (NCAA)
Matt Gilroy (KHL)
Ryan Gunderson (Swedish League)
Bobby Sanguinetti (Swiss League)
Noah Welch (Swedish League)
James Wisniewski (German 2nd League)

Mark Arcobello (Swiss League)
Chris Bourque (AHL)
Bobby Butler (AHL)
Ryan Donato (NCAA)
Brian Gionta (unsigned)
Jordan Greenway (NCAA)
Chad Kolarik (German League)
Broc Little (Swiss League)
John McCarthy (AHL)
Brian O’Neill (KHL)
Garrett Roe (Swiss League)
Jim Slater (Swiss League)
Ryan Stoa (KHL)
Troy Terry (NCAA)

Tony Granato will serve as head coach.

The men's Olympic hockey tournament will run from Feb. 14-25.

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Parise cleared to make season debut

Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise will make his season debut Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.

Parise underwent back surgery in October, and was recently sent to the AHL for a one-game conditioning stint wherein he recorded an assist.

In 69 games last season, Parise scored 19 goals and added 23 assists.

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Vigneault: Shattenkirk’s transition to Rangers ‘a work in progress’

Kevin Shattenkirk's game is being called into question by yet another NHL head coach.

In December, Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals apologized for suggesting Shattenkirk isn't a top-pair defenseman following a failed playoff run with last season's Presidents' Trophy winners. And now, in advance of Monday's Winter Classic, New York Rangers bench boss Alain Vigneault admitted it's taken longer than expected for Shattenkirk to establish himself with his new club.

"I would say he's a work in progress," Vigneault said Sunday, according to Dan Rosen of "There's no doubt that our expectations and his expectations are a little bit higher than what we've seen so far."

Shattenkirk was dealt to Washington by the St. Louis Blues prior to last season's trade deadline, and he then signed four-year, $26.6-million contract with the Rangers on July 1, 2017. He enters Monday's outdoor game against the Buffalo Sabres with five goals and 17 assists to his credit, but he's been held without a goal over his past 22 games and is pointless in the last five.

Vigneault suggested the pressure of playing in his hometown may be weighing on the defenseman.

"I think (Shattenkirk) is probably putting a little bit of pressure on himself to do real well in front of new teammates, a new environment, friends and family," he said. "Sometimes it takes a little bit of time."

The New Rochelle, N.Y., native expects 100 friends and family members to be in the stands at Citi Field for the Winter Classic. A breakout on the big stage would do everyone well.

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