Monday, October 28, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: The Great Eight

The Portland Winterhawks were on the road this past week, and when the week started, they were not in first place.  As of today, they are in first place, thanks to wins in all four games.  Tuesday was the second of a five game road trip, as they took on a Lethbridge team that has had issues both on and off the ice.  Chase De Leo, Keegan Iverson, and Brendan Leipsic all scored in the first period and after 20 minutes, it looked like another rout was on.  However, Lethbridge had other ideas, as Brady Ramsay would cut the lead to two after two periods and Axel Blomqvist would pull Lethbridge within one at the 14:35 mark.  However, the Winterhawks ended any hopes of an upset by hanging on to a 3-2 win.  Wednesday, the Winterhawks traveled to Medicine Hat to take on a Tigers team that was in a bit of a funk.  Nic Petan scored the lone goal in the first period, but things would get ignited in the second period, as both teams would put up a three spot each, with the Winterhawks getting goals from Taylor Leier, De Leo, and Iverson while the Tigers would get goals from Cole Sanford, Steve Owre, and Blake Penner.  4-3 would be the score until late in the third period, when Leipsic would seal the 5-3 win for the Winterhawks and their sixth win in a row.

Friday was a trip to Cranbrook, BC, where the Winterhawks would get their only look of the season at a Kootenay Ice team that features Sam Reinhart and newly acquired Tim Bozon, noted thorn in the Winterhawks' side from his Kamloops days.  Petan would open the scoring and De Leo would net the next two goals in the first period for the Winterhawks, but Reinhart would pull Kootenay within two after one period.  No scoring in the second period would give way to an Austin Vetterl goal to make it 3-2 early in the third period.  However, Derrick Pouliot and Josh Hanson would score for the Winterhawks, and not even a Zak Zobrosky goal could get Kootenay back in the game, as Iverson would end any hope of a comeback with his third goal of the week.  Jarrod Schamerhorn would earn the win in his only appearance this week, and Oliver Bjorkstrand assisted on four goals this game.

Saturday was the last game of the road trip and against division rival Spokane, first place was at stake in an early season match-up that also saw the Chiefs try for revenge for an earlier loss.  Leier and Leipsic would sandwich a Liam Stewart goal to make it a 2-1 advantage for Portland after one.  Bjorkstrand would put Portland up 3-1 early in the second period, but goals by Mike Aviani and Jason Fram would tie things up until the 16:11 mark, when Leier would score what became the deciding goal for the Winterhawks.  Brendan Burke was outstanding in three contests, and his confidence is growing with every game.

The Winterhawks return home for a game against Brandon on Wednesday before hitting the road for rivalry games against a revamped Seattle team on Friday and a return engagement with Spokane on Saturday.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Trading Places

As you may remember, I offered some solutions on fixing the Buffalo Sabres, and one of those involved trading Thomas Vanek.  My solution to that now differs from what Buffalo decided to do just now, as they sent him to the New York Islanders for Matt Moulson, a first round pick in 2014, and a second round pick in 2015.  Both players are set to be free-agents after the season, and for both teams, this is essentially a swap of goal scorers with Buffalo getting additional draft picks.  However, the dynamic is more than that, as Vanek gets his wish to leave the Sabres squad that is rapidly becoming a national punchline and now, we will see whether Moulson's numbers were a direct result of being linemates with John Tavares.

From his rookie year in 2005, Vanek as scored at least 20 goals a season, and that includes the lockout shortened season last year.  He has managed to score 40 goals twice, and is a likely threat to reach that total this season should he be on a line with Tavares.  Moulson emerged as an offensive threat in the 2009-10 season, notching the first of three 30-goal seasons while lined up with Tavares during Tavares' rookie year.

Where this trade could go wrong is that both are unrestricted free-agents after the season, and the Islanders could be the ones that lose the most, as they did give up two draft picks in what stands to be potentially deep drafts, and if Vanek walks away, it could be ugly when the team moves to Brooklyn.  For the Sabres, while they finally have some semblance of peace, if only for a little while, they do have to hope that Moulson's numbers are not just a mere product of being a linemate of John Tavares.  The draft picks help, but the feeling here is that the Sabres could have gotten just a little more.

The SKA Report: Playing West

SKA is coming off a good week in which they amassed five points in two games.  On Tuesday, they finished up a road trip with a game at Neftekhimik.  Viktor Tikhonov opened the scoring to make it 1-0 after one, but a Yegor Milovzorov goal would tie things up early in the second period.  Patrick Thoresen would put SKA up one to close out the second period, and a Roman Cervenka goal would be insurance that they need to end the road trip with three points and a 3-1 win.  On Saturday, SKA returned home to play division rival Dinamo Riga.  SKA jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Ilya Kovalchuk and Tony Martensson, but a Andris Dzerins goal would leave SKA up only one after one period.  Miks Indrasis would score the next two goals to put Riga up one midway through the third, but Tikhonov would force overtime, and while that wasn't enough time, the shootout was SKA's friend, as Tikhonov would score the only goal to give SKA the win.  Dmitry Shikin was the winning goalie in both contests.

SKA finishes out this home stand with games at division rivals, with CSKA on Monday, Lev Praha on Wednesday, and Slovan Bratislava on Friday.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

DiPietro Sighting!

When we last left Rick DiPietro, he was given a compliance buyout by the New York Islanders in July.  Well, he has returned...or at least, will be given a chance at a comeback.  Thanks to the rash of injuries that have hit the Carolina Hurricanes' goaltending group, DiPietro will have his chance with the team's AHL affliliate in Charlotte, NC.  When you have injuries to both Cam Ward (who's becoming as fragile as DiPietro these days) and Anton Khudobin, that will take its toll on your minor league system, as both Mike Murphy and Justin Peters had to be called up.  The result?  DiPietro, along with Allen York, were signed to player tryout contracts.

It's a long way from the days when he was given the most ludicrous contract in NHL history (He wasn't alone, as the Islanders had a habit of doing such things.  Just ask Alexei Yashin), but for DiPietro, any chance is better than none, and he would be wise to make the most of this chance in Charlotte.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fixing the Sabres

As you may know, the Buffalo Sabres just simply can't catch a break this season, and now, they're playing all of their first round picks from the last two years.  Yes, that means Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons from 2012 and Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov from 2013 are in the lineup.  It never had to come to this, and certainly, they could have (and should have) cut their losses with either or both Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek.  This piece will attempt to find answers in righting the Sabres' rapidly sinking ship, which means I get to put on my General Manager's hat once again.  All of this is obviously presuming that the Sabres will be needing either or both needing a new general manager (not me) and head coach.

Trading Ryan Miller

Yes, his GAA stinks, but it only scratches the surface of the problems of the team, and like all of the other problems, could have been prevented in the off-season.  Miller's value is not going to get any higher, and clearly, the days when he almost lifted the U.S. to olympic gold in 2010 seem like a lifetime ago.  That said, the market for a goalie wasn't particularly kind, as the Vancouver Canucks found out when they attempted to trade Roberto Luongo, where they ultimately ended up trading Cory Schneider instead.  Right now, the Sabres don't have much in the way of options for trade partners, but given the injury issues that both Carolina and Nashville are facing in goal, Miller could step in and contribute for the right price, especially with Cam Ward's recent injury history in Carolina.

Trading Thomas Vanek

Vanek was named captain for the team's home games, which effectively put an end (for now) to the rumors of him getting traded.  He is the team's second leading scorer with seven points, behind only Cody Hodgson, and appears to be producing his expected numbers.  He would carry far more value than Miller at this point, but given his production right now, it is likely the Sabres could hold on to him until closer to the trade deadline, as there will be teams likely lining up at the Sabres' door in an effort to get Vanek as the missing piece for a Stanley Cup run.  If the Sabres play it right, they can get maximum return for Vanek here.

Compliance buyouts

The Sabres foolishly did not exercise the compliance buyouts this past off-season, which means the bloated contracts of Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff, and Tyler Myers are still on the books.  Unsurprisingly, none of them are even producing anything close to 0.50 points per game, and Leino has not been able to find the ice much in his time with the Sabres.  The compliance buyouts are still available for next off-season, and the Sabres would be wise to use at least one of those two buyouts.  Leino should definitely be given one, and while it appears to be a long shot that Myers would be given one, as he's still young enough to be given a chance to turn it around, time may be running short.  Ehrhoff's size of contract makes him a target, as well, though he did produce numbers closer to his Canucks days (prorated).

Handling of rookies

The mishandling of Grigorenko last year resulted in the Sabres having to burn a year on his entry-level contract, which made his demotion to the juniors after 25 games sound pointless.  Sometimes, you just never learn from your mistakes, and that is exactly what is happening with Nikita Zadorov this season.  Yes, he has not reached the threshold for number of games played before the decision needs to be made, but it is obvious that the Sabres may very well be making the exact same mistake again, as Zadorov can use another year in juniors.  Both Girgensons and Ristolainen can be sent to the AHL, as neither played in the Canadian juniors prior to their draft year despite their age, with Girgensons already spending a year in the AHL.  How well the Sabres handle both players will be telling, as neither has made an impact with the team yet.  The key will be putting the players in position to succeed, something that hasn't happened with Grigorenko and may very well affect the other three players.

Blowing Down Lethbridge's House

To say that the Lethbridge Hurricanes would like a redo on the start of this season would be an understatement.  In fact, their streak of seasons without a playoff berth is in good shape to reach five, as they currently have given up the most goals (74), were forced to trade away two of their top three scorers from last season, and absolutely have no answers as to how to fix any of their problems.

Where to begin?  Let's begin with the two players they HAD to trade: Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie.  Last week, it was mentioned that both requested trades and were sent home as a result while the team was trying to find a trade partner.  Last night, they found one in the Seattle Thunderbirds, as they sent to Lethbridge Riley Sheen, Carter Folk, and a third round pick in the 2015 Bantam Draft in order to get rid of both Yakubowski and McKechnie.  Both players were behind only Russell Maxwell in scoring last season, yet both also had their struggles this season.  There is no doubt that the new start, combined with playing alongside Shea Theodore and top rookie Matthew Barzal, should energize both players.  As for what Lethbridge gets in return, Sheen was seen as one of the hardest working players on the Thunderbirds while Folk is a younger player that should be integral to the team's future.  For the Hurricanes, they also had a game that evening, as they played Moose Jaw, and for a while, it looked like the turnaround that began with a spirited (albeit one that fell short...again) effort against Portland that saw them nearly come back would carry over into the Moose Jaw game, as they were up 3-0 after two periods.  Unfortunately, an average game of hockey is three periods, and Moose Jaw would score three unanswered goals to force overtime, where they would score the game-winner and hand Lethbridge another defeat.

In total, the Hurricanes are 2-11-1-1 and are clearly the worst team in the league right now.  The days of nearly winning it all seem like an eternity (it was actually 2008, where they lost to Spokane in the WHL finals that year), and unless they magically find a goaltender that won't wilt in the face of a toxic atmosphere, it figures to be a while before they can ever compete again.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Retiring First Rounders

Remember Roman Hamrlik?  I do, and I also happen to have this card, back when I collected hockey cards (for the record, I still have them, but haven't added any in a while).  Yesterday, Hamrlik announced his retirement, which lasted 20 seasons and seven NHL teams.  He will forever go down as the first ever draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in what turned out to be a rather weak draft, as he went first overall in 1992.  That year, the draft included the talented, but enigmatic Alexei Yashin, a dependable Cory Stillman, and the still-going Sergei Gonchar (currently with the Dallas Stars).  Hamrlik never really got going with the Lightning despite an all-star nod in 1996, arguably his best offensive year, due to some poor teams around him.  He spent time with Edmonton, where he earned another all-star nod in 1999, the New York Islanders, where he earned his third all-star nod in 2003, Calgary, Montreal, Washington, and the New York Rangers.  He also earned a gold medal in 1998 with the Czech Republic and retires with 155 goals and 483 assists in 1395 games.

The other former first round pick to retire recently was Martin Biron, who was taken 16th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 1995.  He earned the distinction early on as the last player to wear the number 00.  The "Biron Rule," as it's known, was enforced to make players choose numbers between 1 and 99 (99 would be retired league-wide after Wayne Gretzky's retirement in 1999, making it now between 1 and 98) due to a bug in the league's stat-tracking software.  For much of his Sabres career, he was the backup to Dominik Hasek, and when Hasek was traded prior to the 2001-02 season, it was Biron who took the starting job.  Despite putting up decent numbers, the Sabres did not make the playoffs until the 2005-06 season, when Ryan Miller began to take away some of Biron's starts and eventually, the starting job in 2007, when Biron would be traded to Philadelphia.  Biron would continue to play well in Philadelphia, leading to a free-agency deal with the New York Islanders, where he would struggle in his lone year there.  Biron would sign with the cross-town rival New York Rangers and provide capable backup to Henrik Lundqvist for two years.  However, the Rangers' early struggles this season prompted them to send Biron to the minors, where he would announce his retirement.  In 506 games, Biron posted a 230-190-25-35 record with a career GAA of 2.60.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The SKA Report: Strong Beginning, Not So Good End

SKA was on the road this week, as they went through more of the Eastern Conference.  On Wednesday, they paid a visit to last year's Gagarian Cup finalist Traktor, who were without Evgeny Kuznestov.  You can bet they missed his presence, as SKA proved to be rude guests, with goals from Viktor Tikhonov, Vadim Shipachyov, Evgeny Skachkov, Patrick Thoresen, Igor Makarov, Andrei Sigaryov, and Tony Martensson, making it seven different players to have scored en route to a 7-0 romp that also saw Ilya Ezhov get a shutout.  Friday meant a game at Magnitorosk and a date with Metallurg Magnitorosk.  Makarov and Danis Zaripov exchanged goals to make it an even game after one period.  However, it was all SKA, as Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Kucerhyavenko, and Maxim Chudinov scored to allow Ezhov and SKA to leave Magnitorosk with three points and a 4-1 win.  Sunday, SKA traveled to Ufa and met up with Salavat Yulaev.  Unfortunately, things didn't quite go as planned, as former SKA player Kiril Koltsov kicked off the scoring for Salavat Yulaev.  Thoresen tied it, but Yegor Dubrovsky would score to make it a 2-1 lead for the home team after one period.  A scoreless second period gave way to a Nikita Filatov goal for Salavat Yulaev.  Alexei Ponikarovsky pulled SKA within one, but that would be as close as they get, as Alexander Pankov would add an insurance goal and hand Ezhov and SKA a 4-2 loss.

SKA concludes the road trip on Tuesday at Neftekhimik before coming home for a game against Dinamo Riga on Saturday.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: On a Roll and On the Road

The Portland Winterhawks were able to get some momentum going into a five game road trip and then some.  On Wednesday, the Winterhawks easily handled the Tri-City Americans 4-1 behind goals from Brendan Leipsic, Adam Rossignol, Presten Kopeck, and Oliver Bjorkstrand.  Those goals sandwiched a Tri-City goal from Philip Tot and made a winner of Brendan Burke, who made 29 saves in the win.  Friday was a matchup against Swift Current, and was the last game before the Winterhawks started the road trip.  Connor Sanvido opened the scoring for Swift Current, but Nic Petan would send the Winterhawks to a tie after one period.  Alex Schoenborn and Bjorkstrand opened the scoring in the second period for the Winterhawks, but Tanner LeSann and Graham Black tied things for Swift Current.  Petan would score, giving the Winterhawks a 4-3 lead going into the third period.  Dominic Turgeon and Coda Gordon exchanged goals to make it a 5-4 decision in favor of the Winterhawks and a win for Burke.

The Saturday tilt at Kennewick, WA was the first of five games on the road, and for one period, things were even, as Chase De Leo and Jessey Astles exchanged goals.  Two periods later, the Winterhawks finished their demolition of the Tri-City Americans, as Keegan Iverson, Taylor Leier, De Leo, and Petan scored in the second period and in the process, chased Eric Comrie from the game.  Paul Bittner, Bjorkstrand, and Kopeck scored in the third, finishing a dominating win for the Winterhawks 8-1.  Burke finished the week a perfect 3-0-0-0.

The Winterhawks continue the road trip with games against a struggling Lethbridge Hurricanes team on Tuesday, Medicine Hat on Wednesday, a stop in Cranbrook, BC for a matchup at Kootenay on Friday, and Spokane on Saturday.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Troubling Winds

With a record of 1-9-0-1 and a home game tonight against Saskatoon, the Lethbridge Hurricanes are needing to dig out of an early hole.  Though the Hurricanes are in fact, leading the game 3-0 as of this writing, things are so bad right now that two of their better players are asking for trades.  Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie, two of the team's best offensive options, were sent home yesterday and are now awaiting trades.  From General Manager Brad Robson:
Both players through their agents and families have requested a trade, so we have sent the players home to wait for a deal to be done.
This turn of events underscores the team's struggles in recent seasons, and with recently floundering squads such as Prince George and Seattle finding success early on in the season, Lethbridge's troubles are magnified.  Certainly, it was going to be a transition year, as they brought in Drake Berehowsky to be the new head coach and Robson is also in his first year with the team, as they replaced Rich Preston after last season in their respective roles (Preston was both head coach and GM).  However, the eventual trades of both Yakubowski and McKechnie mean that only Russell Maxwell will be left of the team's offensive options.  Add to the mix the fact that their first round pick in this year's Import Draft Kristian Khenkel is not coming over to play with the Hurricanes due to some paperwork issues with the IIHF, and this season is one that the Hurricanes would like to forget...and it's only 12 games into the season.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Peterborough Express: Off to a Great Start

Even though I have not renewed the Peterborough Express for this season, as it got bumped for the SKA Report and I don't want to be bogged down with more than two team reports, today is as good as any to give an update on the Ontario Hockey League team known as the Petes.  As of today, the Petes are third in the division with 13 points, behind Kingston and Oshawa, both of whom have 15 points.  Despite a crushing season opening loss to Kingston 11-4, the Petes have rebounded nicely, going 6-2-0-1 since then, and certainly, Jody Hull behind the bench has made a difference.  I thought had the Petes gotten off to even a slightly better start last season before the coaching change, the Petes could have snuck into the playoffs and caused a scare.  As it is, the Petes are doing well, and Michael Giugovaz has done well in goal when given a chance.  It's a long season, but the Petes are offering the fans hope for the first time in quite a while.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Admiral Commodore

When you're an expansion team in the KHL like Admiral Vladivostok, you'll do anything to gain attention.  Now, as if being the team in the easternmost part of Siberia and surprising SKA on Sunday wasn't enough (Admiral's salary is less than what Ilya Kovalchuk makes, by the way), Admiral is bringing in Oggie Oglethorpe on, Mike Commodore.  If you forgot what Commodore was known for, the picture above should say it all.  He will provide depth for Admiral on the blue line and with any luck at all, bring back the Oglethorpe look for a team that like many others, could use a little color in their lineup.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The SKA Report: Home for the Week

This week, SKA was home for four games, and the results weren't all positive.  Monday, SKA jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Amur, thanks to goals by Artemy Panarin, Dmirty Kalinin, and Vadim Shipachyov.  However, Amur came back to force overtime on goals by Vyatcheslav Livotchenko, Mikhail Klimchuk, and Jan Mursak.  SKA would win in overtime on a Viktor Tikhonov goal to allow SKA to escape with two points and give Ilya Ezhov the win.  Wednesday, they welcomed Sibir Novobsibirsk and it was a struggle to score for both teams, as Tony Martensson scored the lone SKA goal in the first period and Ivan Lekomtsev would tie things up for Sibir.  The game would go to a shootout, where Dmitry Kugryshev would score the winner and hand Alexander Salak and SKA a loss.

Metallurg Novokuznetsk was the opponent on Friday, and this time around, things were never in doubt for SKA, as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two on goals by Alexei Semenov, Kevin Dallman, and Martensson.  Ansel Galimov scored for Metallurg Novokuznetsk, but a Kalinin goal made the final score 4-1 and made a winner of Ezhov.  Sunday, SKA hosted the expansion Admiral Vladivostok and Admiral proved to be too much this game.  Evgeny Grachyov and Artyom Ternavsky pushed Admiral out ahead 2-0, but Tikhonov would pull SKA within one at the end of one.  However, Evner Lisin would score for Admrial, and that would be all the scoring in the game, as Admiral won 3-1, with Salak taking the loss.

SKA hits the road again this week, with games on Wednesday at last year's Gagarian Cup finalists in Traktor Chelyabinsk, a Friday game against Metallurg Magnitorsk, and on Sunday at Salavat Yulaev.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: Flying Around

This week, the Portland Winterhawks only had one game, which was the Pink the Rink game against Kamloops on Saturday.  Because it ran in direct conflict with something else that I had going on, I went back and forth on whether to sneak in the game before the show.  I did (for a short time), and there will be pictures to follow after this report.

As for the game, the Winterhawks opened the scoring in the first period when Adam Rossignol put one past Taran Kozun, but Kamloops would tie it on an Aspen Sterzer goal to end the period.  Derrick Pouliot and Brendan Leipsic would put the Winterhawks up two to begin the second frame before Chase Souto would bring the Blazers within one.  However, Presten Kopeck would put the Winterhawks back up two before an Oliver Bjorkstrand penalty shot ended Kozun's night and in would come Bolton Pouliot.  Souto and Alex Schoenborn would exchange goals to end the period with the Winterhawks up 6-3.  Cole Ully would pull the Blazers within two, but that's as close they would get the rest of the way, as Derrick Pouliot added an empty net goal to end the scoring in favor of the good guys 7-4.

Next week, the Winterhawks welcome Tri-City on Wednesday and Swift Current on Friday before hitting the road to Kennewick, WA to face the Americans on Saturday.

And as promised, here are a few pictures from the game in what amounted to the nosebleeds.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Third Jersey News: WHL Edition

I haven't done a jersey update in some time, and given that the Regina Pats will be wearing new threads during home games on Fridays, now's the time to catch up on the other big third jersey news.  First, the Pats' third jersey, and as you can see in the picture, the Pats decided to keep a sense of tradition, with the crest in front that features the team name in the bars and the alternate logo from the team's previous third jersey in one of the areas divided by the PATS.  The striping isn't anything special, which works well in keeping things clean.

The Edmonton Oil Kings debuted their third jerseys on their opening night game against Calgary, and their template is taken from the Anaheim Ducks' third jersey.  Obviously, the Oil Kings decided to go in a different direction, as they broke out neon green and black, colors that are not part of the Oil Kings' usual scheme.  The logo is also radically different, as it shows a stylized variation of a king with the shoulder patch having the EOK on them.  It's not the greatest, but given the Oil Kings' recent history, something completely different is what the Oil Kings needed to keep things interesting, and their third jersey does that.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: Brought to you by the Number Six

The Winterhawks saw sixes in their three games this past week.  Unfortunately, they weren't always on the right side of the number.  Wednesday was the good portion of the week, as they beat division rival Spokane 6-4.  The Winterhawks jumped out to a 4-1 lead after one period, thanks to goals by Nic Petan, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and two from Alex Schoenborn, with Riley Whittingham getting the lone Spokane goal.  Blair Oneschuk pulled Spokane within two in the second period, but a Bjorkstrand goal to open the third period was all the Winterhawks needed, as Connor Chartier and Jason Fram could only get the Chiefs within one before Petan added an empty-netter to seal the game.

Friday and Saturday were not so kind, as the Winterhawks were run over by Kelowna in Prospera Place. Schoenborn opened the Friday game with a goal, but Myles Bell responded with a goal to even things up after one.   Bell and Nick Merkley scored to make it 3-1 Kelowna after two periods.  Riley Stadel added a goal, but Taylor Leier would make it 4-2 before the Rockets scored on goals by Merkley and Colton Heffley to make it a 6-2 final.  Things looked good at first on Saturday, as Bjorkstrand and Brendan Leipsic put the Winterhawks ahead to start the game.  However, it was all Rockets, as Stadel, Cole Linaker, and Bell scored to end the first period.  Things didn't get better, as Damon Severson scored in the second period, and despite a Leier goal to get the Winterhawks within one, the Rockets closed the game with goals by Ryan Olsen and Stadel.

The Winterhawks have a light week, as their only game is on Saturday for a Pink the Rink promotion at home against Kamloops.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The SKA Report: Time to Put on the Big Boy Pants

With word that Ilya Kovalchuk is going to miss a month after getting injured during the game Sunday at Vityaz, SKA faces a stretch where they will need everyone else to step up.  Things did not get off to a good start Tuesday at Nizhny Novgorod, as Torpedo took it to SKA from the word "go."  Daniil Zharkov and Jarkko Immonen put Torpedo up 2-0 after one period, with Immonen adding what would be the game-winner to begin the second period.  Yury Alexandrov would pull SKA within two, but Torpedo put the game away with goals by Immonen (for the hat trick) and Mikhail Grigoryev, rendering a Artemy Panarin goal late in the period moot, as Torpedo won 5-2.  Alexander Salak took the loss in arguably his worst game since joining SKA prior to the season.

Salak would get redemption, as SKA took on Ak Bars in Kazan, Russia today.  A scoreless first period gave way to the two teams exchanging goals, with Evgeny Skachkov scoring for SKA and Artyom Lukoyanov evening things for Ak Bars.  SKA would take over in the third period, with Dmitry Yudin and Alexei Ponikarovsky scoring, giving SKA a much needed win to close out the road trip.

SKA comes home next week for games on Monday against Amur, Sibir Novosibirsk on Wednesday, Metallurg Novokuznetsk on Friday, and a Sunday game against expansion Admiral Vladivostok.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More Things Missed...

A few more updates from around the leagues that somehow slipped through the cracks yesterday:

  • Jonathan Drouin will spend at least one more year in Halifax after he was sent down by the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to the close of training camp.  The move gives a struggling Halifax their leading scorer from last season and Zach Fucale, two players that will be expected to shoulder the load with Nathan MacKinnon, Martin Frk, and Konrad Abeltshauser all no longer on the team.  MacKinnon could be back if the Avalanche do decide to send him down, but don't bet on it.
  • The Buffalo Sabres named their captains, and no, that is not a typo.  Home games will see Thomas Vanek wear the C while Steve Ott dons the C for away games.  This isn't the first time Buffalo has gone with this arrangement, as Chris Drury and Daniel Briere did it in 2007, the last time Buffalo won a playoff series.  This move is an indicator that the Sabres are willing to keep Vanek around for at least this year and should he be traded, it means the Sabres won't have to go far for a captain, as Ott has been a community fixture since he arrived last season.
  • Tampa Bay named a new captain, and it is Martin St. Louis.  In 12 years with the Lightning, St. Louis has been the face of the franchise, and though his career is winding down, he can still contribute, as evidenced by his Art Ross Trophy last season.  He has been a leader in his time with the Lightning, and now, he has the C to prove it.
  • In KHL news, Ilya Kovalchuk will miss a month after colliding with teammate Alexei Ponikarovsky during the win at Vityaz last Sunday.  More on that in the SKA report coming soon, as their last game of the week is tomorrow at Ak Bars.
  • In a development that has surprised few, the Saskatoon Blades are the worst team in the WHL right now, as they are the only winless team as of this writing.  It was known that half of the lineup wasn't coming back, and with the likes of Lukas Sutter contributing for Red Deer, Dalton Thrower appointed captain of the Vancouver Giants, and new ownership, the Blades are headed for a long winter.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Quick Updates

With the NHL season kicking off tonight, today is about catching up on things that may have been missed while doing the season preview.

  • The Calgary Flames have named Mark Giordano captain, and Mike Cammalleri and Curtis Glencross will serve as alternate captains.  Giordano's appointment is an indication that the Flames want to be a tougher team to play against, and Giordano has the work ethic to make it work.
  • Dallas made official what everyone knew was coming and named Jamie Benn the new captain.  Stephane Robidas and Ray Whitney will serve as alternate captains.  Benn has been the face of the franchise for the past few years, and as the team's best offensive weapon, he has a chance to match what Mike Modano did in his time as a Star.
  • The Edmonton Oilers pulled a mild surprise by naming Andrew Ference the 14th captain in franchise history.  Signed in the off-season, Ference brings a championship pedigree and grit to a team that needs both.  His off-ice work since joining the team also figured into the equation, as he was heavily involved in the community and is looking to join the likes of Mark Messier, Kelly Buchberger, and Craig MacTavish as the next player to exemplify the "Oiler Way."  The alternate captains' role will be rotated amongst players.
  • The Portland Winterhawks have named Taylor Leier captain.  The Flyers' prospect replaces Troy Rutkowski, who has moved on to Binghamton, where he will play for the Ottawa Senators' minor league affiliate to start the season.
  • The Florida Panthers' quest for respectability goes through the Player Tryout Option route, as they have in a matter of weeks, signed Tim Thomas, Brad Boyes, and Tom Gilbert after signing them to PTOs.  They also signed Ryan Whitney after he was released from his PTO with St. Louis.