- The Ottawa Senators have recalled Christian Wolanin from the minor leagues, sending Christian Jaros back to take his place. The swap gives them a different option for their trip to the west coast, which starts tomorrow with a game against the San Jose Sharks.
- The New Jersey Devils have sent both Jesper Boqvist and Josh Jacobs back to the AHL. Boqvist, 21, has played 35 games this season but has just four goals and zero assists. He’ll need to find his game again in the minors if he ever wants to be an impact player for the Devils.
- Jonas Johansson has been assigned to the Rochester Americans once again, leaving the Buffalo Sabres after two weeks. The big goaltender now has six games under his belt at the NHL level, with many more likely coming in the future.
- The Anaheim Ducks have returned goaltender Anthony Stolarz to AHL San Diego. He was recalled earlier this week to serve as the backup while Ryan Miller dealt with the flu but now that he has returned, Stolarz can return to his role as the starter for the Gulls. Anaheim has also returned defenseman Simon Benoit to San Diego, per the AHL’s Transactions Page. He was recalled for the second time this season on Wednesday but has yet to see NHL action.
- With Cody Ceci being activated off IR, the Maple Leafs have loaned defenseman Timothy Liljegren to the AHL’s Marlies. The 20-year-old got into 11 NHL games with Toronto, recording an assist while logging just over 10 minutes a night in ice time.
At this time of year, every game is important to both ongoing playoff battles and teams’ final decisions on their trade deadline stance. Friday was no different, as the Blues asserted themselves against the division rival Stars, the Avalanche narrowly edged the Ducks to keep up in the Central as well, the Islanders got a much-needed win, and the Oilers, Predators, and Hurricanes all failed to come away with two points in upset losses. However, the fiercest battle in the NHL right now is at the top of the league, where the Bruins and Lightning are simultaneously batting for the Atlantic Division title, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and the President’s Trophy. As good as Boston has played of late, they have still lost ground to a Tampa club that has been unstoppable since December. After a rare Bolts loss to Vegas on Friday, the Bruins needed to take advantage in a Pacific clash of their own in Calgary. The odds seemed bleak after allowing three goals to the Flames in the first six minutes of play, but Boston shut out Calgary for the rest of the game and came away with a meaningful 4-3 win to increase their lead over Tampa Bay to five points. Whether it is a top contender, a fringe playoff team, or a bottom-dweller, every minor move also has significance at this time. With the trade deadline arriving in just two days, look for today to be a busy day for roster tweaks:
- The Vegas Golden Knights have recalled a pair of players, including Las Vegas native Gage Quinney. The 24-year-old forward has finally earned an NHL appearance with 32 points in 42 games so far this season, among the top producers on the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. The trade of Cody Eakin opens up a roster spot up front in Vegas for Quinney and his teammates in the minors, at least until Alex Tuch returns from injury or the Knights make a trade addition. Also returning to the top level is defenseman Zach Whitecloud, who has skated in seven games with Vegas so far this season.
- Scott Wilson is on his way back down to the minors, as the Buffalo Sabres announced that they have reassigned the veteran forward. The move is somewhat surprising, as Wilson has contributed two points in four games since being recalled earlier this month and seemingly looked like he would either stick with Buffalo for a while longer or could potentially be a candidate to be traded as an affordable depth addition for a contender. Instead, the impending free agent will head back to the AHL’s Rochester Americans, where he has 19 points in 29 games this year.
- After losing Cody Goloubef on waivers yesterday, the Ottawa Senators have promoted Christian Jaros to fill his place on the back end. Jaros, 23, played in 61 games with Ottawa last season but only six so far in 2019-20. As the Senators get set to trade away multiple pieces before the deadline on Monday, Jaros is one of a number of minor leaguers from AHL Belleville expected to see an increased role down the stretch.
- The injury-riddled Columbus Blue Jackets have recalled defenseman Gabriel Carlsson from the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. Carlsson was just sent down yesterday, but the team will need him as they take on the Predators tonight without any regulars expected to return to the lineup. Carlsson, a big, stay-at-home defender, has been a good fit in Columbus as a spot starter, even if he has yet to produce a point in six games this season.
- Darcy Kuemper is taking an important step towards returning to the lineup as the Arizona Coyotes have assigned him to the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners on a conditioning stint. He has missed just over two months with a lower-body injury but was one of the top goalies in the league before being injured. Assuming there are no setbacks, he should return to Arizona sometime next week and give them a huge boost in their push for a playoff spot.
- The Philadelphia Flyers have returned defenseman Mark Friedman to AHL Lehigh Valley, reports Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer. He has been shuffled back and forth in recent days and managed to get into Thursday’s game with the big club where he logged more than 16 minutes of ice time.
- With Erik Gustafsson being held out of the lineup with the trade deadline on the horizon (he won’t be joining the Blackhawks for their upcoming road game), Chicago will be recalling defenseman Lucas Carlsson from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL, reports Mark Lazerus of The Athletic. If he gets into the lineup, it will be his first NHL action. Carlsson is in his second season with Rockford and has 26 points in 48 games this season.
- The Colorado Avalanche announced they have recalled forward Logan O’Connor from the Colorado Eagles of the AHL. With only 12 healthy forwards on the roster, O’Connor should provide some insurance in case of injury for the time being. The 23-year-old returns after a stint with the Avalanche in December where he played seven games with one goal. The forward has 12 goals and 25 points in 40 games with the Eagles.
- The Edmonton Oilers announced they have assigned forward Colby Cave and defenseman Evan Bouchard to the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL. Cave has played in six games since being recalled on Feb. 10, but hasn’t picked up a point in that span. He has one goal in 11 games for Edmonton this season. His assignment likely indicates that Connor McDavid is ready to return to the Oilers’ lineup. As for Bouchard, the 10th-overall pick in 2018, he will have to wait to make his 2019-20 debut. He was recalled Wednesday and has been a healthy scratch twice. He is expected to play with Bakersfield on Saturday and could return to be Edmonton’s seventh defenseman on Sunday again.
Heading into this season, few would have expected the Ottawa Senators to be active buyers on the trade market. Few would have expected them to be a .500 team on November 23 as well, though. The Senators are playing well and their first substantial acquisition of the season, former New York Rangers forward Vladislav Namestnikov, has worked out nicely (although he’s currently injured). The team has been open about their desire to add more veteran pieces and, while previous reports indicated their preference was to acquire another forward, The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that the team is now hoping to trade for a defenseman.
The Senators were not overly strong or deep on the blue line when the season began. Behind Thomas Chabot, it was mostly a unit composed of role players and unproven prospects. However, the situation has become even more dire due to injuries. Young Erik Brannstrom remains sidelined with a hand injury, depth defender Cody Goloubef left Friday night’s game with an undisclosed injury, Andreas Englund suffered an injury in the minors, and Christian Wolanin has yet to play this season as he returns from a shoulder injury. Nikita Zaitsev is also currently in his native Russia tending to personal matters. Garrioch writes that this left Ottawa no choice but to recall both Maxime Lajoie and Christian Jaros from the minors on Friday, leaving AHL Belleville with just two NHL prospects – first-year AHLers Lassi Thomson and Olle Alsing – and a defense corps otherwise composed of tryout players and ECHL call-ups. Clearly, Ottawa could use a blue line addition purely from a numbers perspective.
However, performance is also an issue on the blue line, particularly when it comes to scoring. Zaitsev, who is expected to return soon, has not contributed much offensively despite considerable ice time. Fellow former Maple Leaf Ron Hainsey and 2018-19 standout Dylan DeMelo have also been non-factors in the scoring department. This has left Chabot carrying the load and Mark Borowiecki contributing on offense, which has not typically been his strong suit. If the Senators are going to trade for a defenseman, they may as well target a player who can take on a regular role and assist the team offensively.
With that said, don’t expect Ottawa to target any of the big names on the rumor mill. While it would be comical for the Senators to add yet another former Toronto player, Tyson Barrie is likely not a target. Nor is New Jersey’s Sami Vatanen, Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz, or Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin. The Senators will likely target upside at a low cost. Unsigned RFA Julius Honka of the Dallas Stars seems like an intriguing option, so long as they can swing a deal before the December 1st signing deadline. An impending UFA, like Namestnikov, would also make sense for the Senators, who could flip that player at the trade deadline if need be. Chicago’s Erik Gustafsson, L.A.’s Ben Hutton, and San Jose’s Radim Simek are all interesting options. Detroit’s Mike Green, who has name value but disappointing numbers so far this season, could also be a potential buy low/sell high candidate if he could turn his game around. There are plenty of options available for the Senators to make a move, but the question remains when and who.
As usual, Saturday is a very busy day on the NHL calendar with 28 teams in action. There should be plenty of roster movement around the league as a result and we’ll keep tabs on those moves here.
- The Senators announced (Twitter link) that they have returned defenseman Christian Jaros to Belleville of the AHL. His NHL stint lasted just one day but he did log a little more than ten minutes of ice time on Friday. It’s expected that Nikita Zaitsev (personal) will be available for their next game on Monday.
- Joseph Blandisi is back on his way to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, per a Penguins team release. The 25-year-old has a goal and an assist in nine games with Pittsburgh this season but had been a healthy scratch over their past two games. The Pens are off until Monday so the move may just be to bank a little bit of cap space as well.
- The Red Wings announced that they’ve assigned defenseman Joe Hicketts to AHL Grand Rapids. The 23-year-old has played in six games with Detroit this season, logging a little over 18 minutes per night. Although he has been productive in the minors (nine assists in 11 games), that didn’t translate to the big club as he has just a pair of NHL helpers on the season.
- Eric Comrie is back with the Coyotes who announced that they’ve recalled the goalie from his conditioning stint. He got into four games with the Roadrunners, posting a 2.75 GAA and a .900 SV%, but had spent the maximum amount of time possible in the minors and had to be recalled. Where things go from here is a bit trickier. He’s waiver-eligible and clearly the third-string option behind Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. In the short-term, he’ll likely be spending a lot of time in the press box in Arizona.
- The Boston Bruins have returned Urho Vaakanainen to the AHL in anticipation of the return of Torey Krug to the lineup on Saturday. Vaakanainen has not done much scoring at either level this season – scoreless in the NHL and just two assists in the AHL – but he did not look out of place in five games with Boston. The Bruins’ top defensive prospect, Vaakanainen may be developing into more of a smooth-skating puck transition defenseman than an offensive dynamo.
- The San Jose Sharks have announced that veteran defender Dalton Prout has been placed on injured reserve. Taking his roster spot for the time being is forward Noah Gregor, promoted from the AHL Barracuda. Gregor has yet to record his first NHL point through ten games with the Sharks this season, but has been better than a point-per-game in the minors.
- The Athletic’s Joe Yerden relays that the Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian has already been activated, while forward Vladimir Sobotka has been placed on LTIR, which puts the Sabres just over $3MM into their LTIR allotment.
The Ottawa Senators will have to go without one of their key defenders tonight, as Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia reports that Nikita Zaitsev is back in Russia for personal reasons. Zaitsev has been logging more than 23 minutes for the Senators this season, his first with the team after following head coach D.J. Smith up the highway from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Vladislav Namestnikov has a tailbone injury and will be out a week, according to Garrioch. That’s a tough break for a player that has found new life in Ottawa, scoring six goals and 12 points through his 20 games since being acquired from the New York Rangers. Namestnikov, who turns 27 today, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
- As CapFriendly points out, these recalls have stretched the Senators organizational depth incredibly thin, at least on defense. The team has just a single defenseman, Andreas Englund, still in the minor leagues on an NHL contract. Lassi Thomson and Olle Alsing have also signed their entry-level deals, but were both loaned away at the start of the season. If the team suffers any further injuries, we could see an interesting recall.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning preparing for another run to challenge for a Stanley Cup, one of the team’s top players remains unsigned in Brayden Point, who continues to sit out with a number of top restricted free agent forwards, including Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen, Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk, Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. Several defensemen, including Boston’s Charlie McAvoy and Columbus’ Zach Werenski.
However, there has been no end in sight for any of these players and there remains no timeline as all of these players are waiting for the first one to sign and set the market, according to Tampa Bay Times’ Diana Nearhos. Most expect that the first domino to fall will be Marner with everyone signing contracts just underneath him. However, that could change if one of the others opts to sign first. Point’s deal will be an interesting one on a team that already has quite a few top-paid players, but Point, who tallied 41 goals and 92 points.
“It’s a unique marketplace,” said agent Gerry Johannson, who counts Point among his clients. “Everyone is waiting for some clarity.”
So far only two key restricted free agents have signed, both in peculiar circumstances. Jacob Trouba forced a trade to the New York Rangers before finally signing, while Carolina matched Montreal’s offer sheet to Sebastian Aho in early July. In the meantime, the wait continues.
- With the signing of Colin White, the Ottawa Senators have 10 guaranteed spots on their forward line, according to Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun. That will leave quite a training camp battle for three spots (assuming Ottawa keeps 13 forwards) between some of the team’s top prospects, including Max Veronneau, Rudolfs Balcers, Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, Alex Formenton, Jonathan Davidsson and Nick Paul. On defense, the team has five players already set, leaving two (or three) spots on their defense for prospects, which will include Christian Wolanin, Maxime Lajoie, Erik Brannstrom and Christian Jaros.
- One major question in Buffalo will be what role will forward prospect Victor Olofsson play next season. The 24-year-old prospect had dominant season in his first year in North America last season, tallying 30 goals and 63 points in 66 games with the Rochester Americans of the AHL and scored two goals and four points in six games for the Sabres last season. The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski reports that Oloffsson is likely to start the season with the Sabres and despite the logjam at left wing, he is likely to force either Conor Sheary or Marcus Johansson to the right-wing position as both have some experience playing there. However, Olofsson will likely have to beat out both Tage Thompson and C.J. Smith to earn a spot.
With a desperation for scoring wingers, The Athletic’s Jon Vogl (subscription required) writes that the Buffalo Sabres need to consider moving some of its depth on defense if it wants to add some secondary scoring to its ranks. The team is in desperate need at the right wing position, both now and in the near future, and there is little help on the way from Rochester. The Americans top two right wingers are Daniel O’Regan, who is expected to become a Group VI unrestricted free agent this offseason due to not playing enough games at the NHL level, while the team’s first-line right winger, Wayne Simpson, is on a minor-league deal.
Vogl writes the team is overloaded with defenseman with more help on the way as the team has Brendan Guhle, Brandon Hickey and Will Borgen are performing well in Rochester. With that kind of depth, the team should consider moving a depth defenseman like Nathan Beaulieu, Marco Scandella, Matt Hunwick or even Jake McCabe as trade options to get a winger. He suggests that Dallas, Detroit, New Jersey, St. Louis and Winnipeg as potential trade partners before the deadline.
- Despite missing Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury and being listed day-to-day, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the game that Brayden Point was held out as a precaution because it was the second game of a back-to-back set and the team has a day off today, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. Cooper added that he believes Point should be OK and is likely to play against Vegas on Tuesday.
- NHL.com’s Dave McCarthy reports the Toronto Maple Leafs got some good news as forward Tyler Ennis, who has been out of the lineup since Dec. 22 with a broken ankle, skated Saturday and is coming closer to a potential return, although head coach Mike Babcock was quick to point out that there is no timeline for his return. “I don’t know exactly the timeline on that,” Babcock said. “I know he skated real well today in his testing. They always tell you, ’I’m ready, I’m ready’ but that doesn’t mean they get a get-out-jail free card yet.”
- Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren reports the Ottawa Senators offered no new information on the injury suffered by defenseman Christian Jaros when he was tripped into the boards Saturday by Detroit’s Darren Helm. He remains day-to-day. Jaros has been averaging 13:48 of ATOI, but has seen an increase of ice time recently, even getting some top-four minutes.
On the last day of 2018, 26 of the league’s 31 teams will be in action. The day starts with an epic matchup between the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals, and ends with a pair of Western Conference battles that could have a big impact on the playoffs. While teams prepare for 2019, we’ll keep track of all the minor moves they make today.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets have recalled Eric Robinson from the minor leagues, after a great start from the former Princeton University standout. Signed last spring as an undrafted college free agent, Robinson played in one game down the stretch for the Blue Jackets but was held scoreless. That hasn’t been the case very often in the minor leagues, where the 23-year old forward has recorded 19 points in 33 games and is tied for second on the team in goals with 10.
- C.J. Smith is on his way up to the Buffalo Sabres, recalled from the AHL today. Smith has followed up an outstanding first professional season with 29 points in 33 games this year, and is tied with Victor Olofsson for the Rochester Americans scoring lead. The 24-year old has two NHL games under his belt, but is still waiting to score his first goal at the highest level.
- The Washington Capitals are preparing for the return of Brooks Orpik by assigning Tyler Lewington to the AHL’s Hershey Bears, his NHL stint over for now. Lewington played two games for the Capitals and actually recorded two points, also getting into a fight to kick off his NHL career.
- Nicholas Baptiste is on his way up to the Nashville Predators, the first time he’ll be part of an NHL locker room that doesn’t belong to the Buffalo Sabres. Baptiste, 23, has 14 points with the Milwaukee Admirals this season after being acquired from the Sabres in early October.
- While they deal with a lengthy injury to Dustin Byfuglien, the Winnipeg Jets will rely on their defensive depth to keep them afloat in the Central Division. Relying on that depth means Sami Niku is headed back to the NHL, where he could see some additional playing time. Niku played in five games earlier this season for the Jets but is still looking for his first point of the year.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs have recalled Trevor Moore under emergency conditions once again, and the young forward will continue to fill in for the injured Zach Hyman and Tyler Ennis. Moore has two points in his first three NHL games and has injected some more speed into the Maple Leafs’ fourth line.
- Egor Yakovlev has played 11 games with the New Jersey Devils this season, but for now he is heading back to the minor leagues. The team sent Yakovlev down before their afternoon tilt against the Vancouver Canucks.
- The Ottawa Senators have officially placed Christian Jaros on injured reserve, according to CapFriendly. Jaros broke his finger while in a fight with Islanders’ Ross Johnston Friday and will be out for a month. The team already placed Thomas Chabot on IR further weakening the team’s defense.
- He’s already playing, but before the game today, the New York Rangers activated defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, according to CapFriendly. The 29-year-old was expected to miss two to four weeks with a separated shoulder, but has returned closer to the two-week mark. The veteran has struggled with injuries since signing with New York in the summer of 2017. Shattenkirk has appeared in 29 games this season, but has clashed at times with new head coach David Quinn, and is playing a career-low 18:23 of ATOI this season. He will attempt to boost those numbers again now that he’s healthy.
- The Minnesota Wild announced they have assigned veteran defenseman Matt Bartkowski to the Iowa Wild of the AHL after their 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh today. That could suggest that defenseman Nick Seeler will be ready to return to the team for Thursday’s game at Toronto. Bartkowski played in two games filling in, scoring a goal Saturday.
The blue line of the Ottawa Senators is going to have a different look for the next few weeks. Speaking with the media today, head coach Guy Boucher confirmed that both Thomas Chabot and Christian Jaros are out long-term with injuries suffered in the team’s match-up with the New York Islanders on Friday night. Jaros, who fought the Isles’ Ross Johnston in the games, suffered a broken finger and will be out up to a month. Chabot, who took a big hit from Matt Martin, left the game and did not return. His ailment is being deemed an upper-body injury and is expected to keep him out three weeks. Chabot had played in all 38 of the Senators’ games to this point and is second on the team in scoring with an equal 38 points. He also leads the team in average time on ice by a substantial margin. Chabot’s absence will be crippling to an already-struggling Senators team. Jaros has also played a surprisingly large role for Ottawa, skating in 28 games and providing consistency in his own end. The corresponding call-ups of Christian Wolanin and Stefan Elliott will be hard-pressed to replace Chabot and Jaros by any means, making the outlook for the next month a bleak one for Ottawa. More short-term, Boucher also mentioned that Magnus Paajarvi is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and Marcus Hogberg will make his NHL debut in net tonight with Craig Anderson still sidelined with a concussion.
- Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois held a press conference today to discuss many aspects of the team and it was overwhelmingly positive, as one would expect from the team with an impressive lead over all their competitors in the league. However, one negative note was BriseBois’ update on forward J.T. Miller. The GM stated that Miller is out “week-to-week” with an upper-body injury and will be placed on injured reserve. He is not expected to be re-evaluated for at least another week. Miller is tied for fifth on the Lightning in scoring and also provides a physical presence to the team’s top-six, which will be sorely missed. Fortunately for Tampa, they have more than enough scoring to go around to make up for Miller’s absence from the score sheet.
- The Boston Bruins may have gotten Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, and Jake DeBrusk back from injury for their last game, but they lost Charlie McAvoy (IR – lower body) and David Backes (suspension). Add another name to that list, as head coach Bruce Cassidy announced that Brad Marchand will also be absent from the line-up tonight when the Bruins take on the Buffalo Sabres. While the team did not disclose the nature of the injury, it is reportedly an upper-body issue. For at least one game, the Bruins will have to make do without the dynamic winger and his team-leading 29 assists. Luckily, Cassidy left open the possibility that both Marchand and McAvoy could return to the team in time for the Winter Classic, which would be as close to full health as Boston has had all season long.
- As the New York Islanders get set to visit John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, they will do so without star forward Jordan Eberle. Eberle missed the team’s last game with an undisclosed injury, but the Isles have now officially placed him on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury. A difficult campaign continues for Eberle, who has struggled to score – 17 points in 35 games – and now finds himself sidelined for an indefinite amount of time. The Isles hope that recall Michael Dal Colle can help to offset Eberle’s absence, given that his presence has not been overwhelming so far this year anyway.
- Zemgus Girgensons is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury, the Buffalo Sabres announced, and the team will have to find a replacement to anchor their fourth line. The exact nature of the injury is unclear, as is when it occurred, but the Sabres need to address the absence in short order with the Boston Bruins on the docket tonight. Girgensons leads all Buffalo forwards in hits and has been a dependable defensive forward all season long, posting some of the best possession numbers of his career.
The Hurricanes have taken defensemen in the first round in three of the last five drafts (Haydn Fleury, Noah Hanifin, and Jake Bean) and have amassed plenty of depth at that position in recent years. Speaking with Lauren K. Ohnesorge of the Triangle Business Journal (subscription required), team owner Thomas Dundon indicated that the team will not be drafting blueliners with their top picks as long as he’s in charge:
“We won’t be drafting defense in the first round as long as I’m here. I’ve got to have more offense. I want to lose 5-4, not 2-1. If we lose 5-4, I’ll have fun at least.”
Considering Carolina’s defensive depth, it’s certainly understandable that they wouldn’t be looking to take a rearguard early on for a few years at least but it’s rare that anyone would come out and make a proclamation regarding draft strategy like this. It will be interesting to see if the Hurricanes instead look to stockpile some extra picks later in the draft to use on defenders or if they simply look to fill those spots through trades and free agency down the road.
Elsewhere in the East:
- It appears that Senators defenseman Christian Jaros will be staying up for the rest of the season as he indicated to Craig Medaglia of the teams’ website that he has been told to find a more permanent place to stay and move out of the hotel he had been staying at since being recalled in October. The 22-year-old has been with Ottawa for most of the season, playing in 23 games thus far while averaging a little over 13 minutes a night on their third pairing.
- Although Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek hasn’t played in nearly a month, the team doesn’t plan to ask him to go for a conditioning stint, notes Joe Smith of The Athletic (subscription required). The 24-year-old, who was previously made available for a trade, can’t go to the minors on a full-time without clearing through waivers, a risk Tampa Bay clearly doesn’t want to take but a conditioning stint of up to two weeks is allowed if the player agrees to it. With Anton Stralman nearing a return from his lower-body injury, Koekkoek’s path to playing time will likely get even tougher so it wouldn’t be surprising if the team has a change of heart on a conditioning stint sooner than later.