Kukla's Korner

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Prospect roundtable

Sports Illustrated's Peter Roumeliotis engaged in a Q and A with several prospects, including Red Wings defenseman Vili Saarijarvi, discussing a wide variety of topics in an intriguing roundtable discussion:

Sports Illustrated: What went through your head when you got drafted?

Julien Gauthier (pick No. 21, 2016 draft): It was the best feeling of my life. Everything you've done since you're a kid comes in mind at that moment. I would relive it every day and thank everyone who has helped me in my young career.

Vitaly Abramov (No. 65, 2016): I was really happy, proud and honored that I've been drafted in the league and that I became a part of the Blue Jackets organization.

Olli Juolevi (No. 5, 2016): It was a great day and when you finally got to know which team is going to draft you. It's exciting and a really happy day.

Continue Reading »

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Fixing the playoffs

ESPN's NHL crew debates ways to improve the Stanley Cup playoffs this morning:

Scott Burnside: There is only one way to align the playoffs to reward the league's best teams. And after all, isn't that the whole point of a playoff, to have a system that ultimately allows for the best teams to face each other at the end? I'm not advocating a 1-16 format, given the travel issues and overall weirdness we saw with that. But the simple and only right answer is to go with a 1-8, 2-7, etc., matchup in each conference. That way a team like the Montreal Canadiens, which would be fifth today in the Eastern Conference, doesn't get home-ice advantage in the first two rounds, which would be the case under the current setup (unless they get dumped in the first round by the New York Rangers, who will finish with more points but who will be relegated to a wild-card role and have to cross over, thanks to the misguided system now in place). The Capitals should be rewarded for their superlative play by facing the worst team in the playoffs and then the next worst team in the second round, and so on. Why should they have to play the Pittsburgh Penguins or Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round? It's ridiculous. The fans think so and, trust me, the players -- at least players on good teams -- hate the current format too.

Continued

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Werenski and Jones rocking the Blue Jackets

From the Columbus Dispatch's Michael Arace:

The Blue Jackets are vastly improved for many reasons, first and foremost this one: the burgeoning awesomeness of Seth Jones and the ethereal quality of Zach Werenski. They were not expected to put themselves among the league's elite, not this year.

Jones and Werenski are ranked among the top 15 scorers among defensemen — which cannot be said for any other pair on any other team. Don't tell me you saw this coming. Their combined age (41) is two years older than Zdeno Chara and four years younger than Jaromir Jagr. At this time last year, Jones looked like a solid No. 3 and Werenski was preparing for midterms.

They have been at the forefront of the startling transformation of what was, for years and years and years, and years and years, the most nondescript team in the NHL — and, arguably, in all of American professional sports. A healthy Sergei Bobrovsky and an emergent Alexander Wennberg have contributed mightily to the Jackets' suddenly terrific assemblage, but the two defensemen are the poured-cement foundation.

Continued

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  Tags: columbus+blue+jackets, seth+jones, zach+werenski

Crosby vs. McDavid tonight

NHL.com's Tim Campbell reports that tonight's marquee match-up involves Sidney Crosby battling Connor McDavid:

The NHL scoring race will be a certain headline when two of the League's marquee centers, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, play against each other at Rogers Place on Friday (9 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SNW, ROOT, NHL.TV).

McDavid leads the NHL with 74 points (22 goals, 52 assists). Crosby is tied for second with 70 points (League-leading 34 goals, 36 assists).

The game also creates a focus on what's to come.

Crosby, 29, is looking to add to an impressive resume that includes 137 points in 124 Stanley Cup Playoff games and two Cup wins. The defending champion Penguins are tied for second with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division with 90 points.

The Oilers have 78 points, two behind the Anaheim Ducks for second in the Pacific Division, and are on course to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Continued

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  Tags: connor+mcdavid, edmonton+oilers, sidney+crosby, winnipeg+jets

The Emperor’s still cold

Good morning, George here. I wanted to let you know that Paul's still without power two days after 65-mile-per-hour gusts pulled down power lines throughout Southeastern Michigan, and right now there are still 400,000 Michiganders without power in SE MI.

DTE Energy has stated that 90% of people affected by the power outages will get their power back by Sunday, but there are no indications as to when any specific area will get its power back. I spoke with Paul last night, and he's very cold in the 25-degree weather.

For the moment, you're stuck with me, and today is a Red Wings game day, so that's going to be my focus. I'll do my best to get hockey stories to you, but I'm still baffled as to how Paul stays on top of everything, so I'm admittedly no substitute for The Emperor.

Send him warm thoughts!

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Lightning lose pair to knee injuries

Pretty scary stuff here. Vladislav Namestnikov got tied up with Zach Parise in the Lightning-Wild game...

And then Tyler Johnson was the victim of a knee-on-knee hit by Nino Niederreiter:

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  Tags: minnesota+wild, nino+niederreiter, tampa+bay+lightning, tyler+johnson, vladislav+namestnikov, zach+parise

Penguins’ Sestito gets 4 games for boarding Enstrom

PENGUINS’ SESTITO SUSPENDED FOUR GAMES FOR BOARDING

NEW YORK (March 9, 2017) – Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Sestito has been suspended for four games, without pay, for boardin Winnipeg Jets defenseman Toby Enstrom during NHL Game No. 984 in Winnipeg on Wednesday, March 8, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.

The incident occurred at 13:10 of the first period. Sestito was assessed a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Sestito will forfeit $12,777.76. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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  Tags: pittsburgh+penguins, tobias+enstrom, tom+sestito, winnipeg+jets

Is Brent Burns ‘all Hart?’

TSN's Scott Cullen issues "Three Quarter NHL Awards," and his Hart Trophy pick is...intiguging...

HART
Winner
: Brent Burns, D, San Jose
Runners-Up: Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh; Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton

This is a difficult decision. Crosby has been my pick through the first two installments, but as his goal-scoring pace has slowed, it gets more reasonable to consider Burns, a defenceman who is leading the league in shots on goal and has more than a point per game. Furthermore, Burns is on pace for 34 goals, and the last time a defenceman scored that many goals, had better than a point per game and four shots on goal per game was Doug Wilson in 1981-1982 (The only other defenceman to meet those thresholds in a season was some guy by the name of Orr, three times).

This isn’t to take away from Crosby, who is having a great season, and McDavid, who is leading the league in scoring in his second season, but Burns’ season is extraordinary, and we’re far enough down the road that I’ve shifted into Burns’ corner, though it’s admittedly a close race.

Some others to consider: Chicago right winger Patrick Kane, who is suddenly second in the league with 70 points, is probably the best candidate outside the top three. Evgeni Malkin, Nikita Kucherov and Jeff Carter have all been really good, too, but not quite at the same level.

Cullen continues...

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  Tags: brent+burns, connor+mcdavid, edmonton+oilers, hart+trophy, pittsburgh+penguins, san+jose+sharks, sidney+crosby

Thanks, but no thanks

Finnish politeness from Philadelphia Flyers forward Valtteri Filppula:

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  Tags: philadelphia+flyers, toronto+maple+leafs, valtteri+filppula

On the trade deadline from a player’s point of view

From ESPN's Joe McDonald:

Drew Stafford hadn't seen his wife, Hali, who is pregnant with twins, or his 2-year-old son, Mason, for more than a month when he was traded from the Winnipeg Jets to the Boston Bruins on March 1.

Less than 24 hours after the trade, he left Winnipeg and had a brief layover at the Minnesota airport, where he was able to see his wife at the gate for 20 minutes before Stafford, 31, continued his journey to Boston to play for his third NHL team.

"She's about 33 weeks now, so she's coming down to the wire," Stafford said after he arrived in Boston. "She can't travel, so she's back home in Minnesota. She met me at the airport to say 'hi' quickly because I haven't seen her in a while. It was nice to catch up. She's doing good, and I'm obviously monitoring that. The family stuff is extremely important to me."

The NHL trade deadline is an stressful time for players, but the personal pressure and anxiety they deal with often goes unnoticed because their teams are busy fighting for a postseason berth.

Continued

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  Tags: boston+bruins, drew+stafford, winnipeg+jets

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

 

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