Zach Werenski got some work in before his team hit the ice for practice on Wednesday. Not that he’s on the verge of imminent return, but it’s just nice to see him back on the ice so quickly after his shoulder injury. Let’s hope it’s not something that recurs (again).

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It wasn’t all good news for the Jackets, though, as Emil Bemstrom suffered a dislocated rib and torn cartilage, and that will put him on the shelf until potentially after the all-star break. 

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Rasmus Dahlin was a full participant in practice on Wednesday for the Sabres. He could return Thursday night, but Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News seems to think that the weekend is more likely.

The thing here is he did practice with the top PP unit, and that’s usually the final step before a player is reactivated from injury. Maybe he really will be back on Thursday night?

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Nazem Kadri returned to the lineup for Colorado on Wednesday night.   

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Nick Leddy was practicing with the Islanders on Wednesday afternoon.

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Filip Zadina was sent back to the AHL by Detroit. I wouldn’t expect him back for the rest of the year, honestly. There’s no sense in having him play with whatever mess Detroit has in the lineup this year. Let him keep developing chemistry with the future of the franchise and have him up for a full season next year with a (hopefully) replenished roster.  

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Somewhere, Taylor Hall is still lamenting the failure of his boating license:

 

 

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After a few NHL games, Florida sent Aleksi Saarela back to the AHL.

This is just something that I’ve been thinking over, but there’s a lot of talent in the AHL for Florida that really hasn’t had much impact at the NHL level, isn’t there? Yes, yes, I know, the top-6 is pretty loaded for the Panthers meaning if anyone did get called up, they’d be stuffed down the lineup anyway. All the same, whether it be Saarela, or Borgstrom, or Tippett, or Heponiemi, and we could go on here, there hasn’t been anything in the way of impact at the NHL level.

Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are both UFAs after this season and though the Panthers will technically have room to sign both, but that would push them very tight to the cap and committing probably close to $15M a season to two guys who just turned 30. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of, if not both, those guys gone next year. That would open up a couple spots for the kids to really make an impact in the NHL, and I think Tippett in particular.

Regardless, the team really needs these guys to make an impact if they’re going to survive the Bobrovsky contract. That’s a lot of money that is not being well spent which means they have to save elsewhere. Productive players on ELCs can certainly help in this regard.

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Something fun I saw on Twitter a couple days ago:

 

 

The guy that immediately came to my mind was Marian Gaborik. We have to remember that this guy had a stretch of six years where he had at least 30 goals in five seasons and 40 goals twice (and one of those seasons was 30 goals in 48 games). Maybe that doesn’t sound special, but here are Minnesota’s league rank in goals/game by season during his tenure:

  • 2000-01: 30th
  • 2001-02: 25th
  • 2002-03: 24th
  • 2003-04: Tied for 23rd
  • 2005-06: 25th
  • 2006-07: 19th
  • 2007-08: 17th
  • 2008-09: 22nd

That’s eight straight seasons with a franchise that didn’t finish in the top half of the league once in scoring. He was playing a defensive wasteland and was still one of the top goal scorers of the decade. He had one great season with the Rangers but after that he was just too injured to really be anywhere as effective as he could be/had been. Undoubtedly, the team that drafted him combined with injuries turned what was a Hall of Fame talent into someone perceived as just a pretty good player once upon a time.

A good reply I got on Twitter was Ales Hemsky. (It was from an Oilers fan, so yes there’s bias, but I also agree here.) He was a guy who was constantly derided for being soft or whatever, but he was a fantastic two-way winger who was integral to the team’s 2006 Cup run. I don’t think he’s quite to Gaborik’s level in talent, but it’s a good answer.

I got a few replies saying Pavel Datsyuk, and I get the sentiment, but he was a point-per-game player in three separate seasons post-2009, once as recently as four years ago. If people who just started watching hockey in 2010 don’t know how good Datsyuk was, then they really didn’t start watching hockey until 2016. 

What do y’all say? There are a lot of long-time hockey fans and fantasy players who frequent this site. Who do you feel is the most underrated player from the first decade of this century? Hit up the comments.

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Peter DeBoer was fired as the head coach of the Sharks. The team had improved after a dismal October but this is a team with a window to win now, not in three years. Also, not much a coach can do when his goaltending is performing so poorly at even strength that their numbers at even strength would only be middle-of-the-road on the penalty kill.

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The Avalanche moved Nathan MacKinnon off his regular line and put Nazem Kadri there. MacKinnon was between Burakovsky and Donskoi. Intrigue!

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T.J. Oshie had a goal on Wednesday night that you’ll see on season-end lists:

 

 

The big boys, Alex Ovechkin excepted, came to play for the Caps as John Carlson had a goal and an assist and T.J. Oshie scored a pair in the team’s 3-2 win. Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jakub Vrana, and Tom Wilson all had assists.

Ovechkin didn’t have a shot or point in this game. Everyone else in the top-6 had a point, and everyone else in the top-6 except Backstrom had a shot. What a weird game.

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Remember when people were freaking out about Patrik Laine because he only scored 30 goals last year and went through cold stretches? Those people would be happy to know that Laine is on pace for his third straight year of goal decline, but now on pace for a career-best point-per-game and has already tied last year’s assist total (20). It’s been a turnaround year of sorts for Laine, but not necessarily in the ways that we think. Let’s look a bit deeper.

Obviously, playing more minutes on the top line with Mark Scheifele helps a lot. Remember that Nikolaj Ehlers missed about a quarter of the season last year, meaning Laine was pretty much by himself for those games on the second line. Laine is up to 19:21 per contest, by far a career-high, which includes over 15 minutes a night at 5-on-5. It’s a lot of 5-on-5 minutes, really, as he’s 15th among all forwards in the league, and just a handful of seconds behind names like Artemi Panarin and Nathan MacKinnon. He’s finally getting the usage of a top-line player and it’s translating to a point-per-game mark. Who’d have thought.

Secondary assists are a concern here. He currently sits with 0.81 second assists/60 minutes at 5-on-5, amassing six such assists already this year. He had six in total in 2017-18 and that mark of 0.81 is more than double is average from his first three seasons (0.32). Now, he is playing with more talented players than in years past so his second assist rate climbing isn’t unexpected, but 0.81 is a mark that would have been fifth among all regular forwards last year. It’s high.

The shooting percentage is down but I don’t think that’s really unexpected for a guy like Laine. We know he relies on shooting talent, not things like driving to the net or parking at the net-front on the power play, to score goals. (I’m not saying he can’t or doesn’t do those things, they’re just not what he’s best at, and certainly isn’t the way he racks up goals.) Does the shooting percentage being down tell us anything? Well, here’s his shot map at even strength back in his 44-goal 2017-18 season (taken from Hockey Viz):

 

 

Those are a lot of shots closer to the net than we might anticipate. He still shot a fair amount from the tops of the circles, but we can see a concerted effort to get to the slot, even the low slot, to get those goals.

That hasn’t really been the case so far this season:

 

 

Now, as far as shooting from distance goes, shooting from the high slot isn’t a terrible thing. But we do see he’s not getting deep into the slot with anywhere near the frequency he has in the past. There’s a reason his individual expected goal total at 5-on-5 this year is the lowest of his career.

Why is this happening? That’s a good question. Just a wonky third-season sample? Play change due to new line mates? Play change due to coaching? I’ll let people smarter than me figure that out. What I will say is that unless something changes, maintaining a point-per-game pace with that type of shot selection in conjunction with a high secondary assist rate will be hard, 19 minutes a game or not.