Ten teams are on bye this week, but the NHL schedule isn’t slowing down and neither will the transactions as we head toward the All-Star break and the trade deadline. Sunday’s slate of five games is spread throughout the day, with the Capitals and Blackhawks squaring off early this afternoon, two more later matinees, and then two night games. Highlighting the lineup is a battle between two teams active on the trade market and desperate for a postseason berth this season, the Hurricanes and Oilers. With both teams needing a win in the worst way to stay relevant in the playoff race, expect an intense match-up between two teams that normally have little ill will between them. Keep up with all of today’s moves – and there have already been a lot – right here:
- The Dallas Stars, one of the teams taking the week off, have sent several players to the minors for that stretch, including defenseman Connor Carrick, who is reassigned on a conditioning loan. Young forwards Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov will also head to the AHL’s Texas Stars for at least the coming week. The trio have all seen limited play time in the NHL this season, so rather than let them sit for a week while healthy, Dallas has opted to give them the opportunity to get some work in with the AHL squad.
- The Carolina Hurricanes announced that they have recalled defenseman Haydn Fleury from the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. Fleury, who played in 67 games with the ’Canes last season, has only been with the team for ten contests this year. The 22-year-old was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, but thus far has been unable to show elite offensive ability at the top level. Carolina will continue to give him chances when they can, but behind a deep and talented group of defensemen, Fleury will have to do more with his opportunities moving forward.
- Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post suggests that the New York Rangers, also on bye, will send top pro defensive prospect Ryan Lindgren down to the AHL during the break rather than make him sit for a week. Lindgren’s recent recall received great fanfare from the Rangers’ faithful and this bye week demotion back to the Hartford Wolf Pack won’t change the team’s plans, which likely are to keep Lindgren in the starting lineup for as much of the remainder of this lost season as possible. Cyrgalis adds that another Rangers rookie, Brett Howden, will not be sent down, as the team hopes some time off will help him break his recent slump.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have reassigned recently-acquired forward Joseph Blandisi to the AHL, the team announced. It wasn’t clear where Blandisi fit in the Pittsburgh lineup after the trade that sent Derek Grant back to the Anaheim Ducks, so the team will let him serve as minor league depth for the time being. Blandisi has found success as a scoring forward in the AHL and will be an asset to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but he has been unable to translate that ability to the NHL in stints with the Ducks and New Jersey Devils and will need to adopt a more physical, energy line role to stick at the top level.
- The “bye week” claims another, as the resting Columbus Blue Jackets have sent Kevin Stenlund down to the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. Stenlund made his NHL debut last week and did not look out of place in a bottom-six role, but nevertheless is better suited to get some additional work this week in the minors rather than sitting. Don’t be surprised to see the big 22-year-old center back up in Columbus after the break.
- CapFriendly reports that defenseman Anton Lindholm has been recalled by the Colorado Avalanche. Lindholm has been up and down several times for the Avs this season, but has only skated in two games with the team after suiting up for 48 games last year. The small, but solid stay-at-home defender has shown some more offensive ability with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles but until he can provide a little more production at the NHL level, he’s likely nothing more than a replacement-level depth option. The Avalanche also announced that forward Dominic Toninato has been recalled as well.
- CapFriendly also adds that the Winnipeg Jets have sent little-used defenseman Cameron Schilling down to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose for the bye week. The veteran has only skated in four games with the Jets in his first season with Winnipeg, but did record his first NHL point back in November. Schilling is a ways down the depth chart for the Jets, but has the experience to step in if need be down the stretch. To keep him sharp, they’ll send him back to the AHL, where he’s played 27 games this season. With no game until Jan. 28, the Jets also have assigned defenseman Sami Niku to Manitoba, according to CapFriendly. The 22-year-old has fared quite well filling in on Winnipeg’s blueline.
- Peter Cehlarik has played well alongside David Krejci and Jake Debrusk since his recall three games ago, but with the Boston Bruins hitting their bye week, they have announced that Cehlarik is headed back down to the AHL’s Providence Bruins. Cehlarik has been perhaps the closest thing to a solution on the Bruins’ second line all season and is sure to be back up after the break. In the meantime, The Providence Journal’s Mark Divver suspects that Cehlarik could replace the injured Ryan Fitzgerald at the AHL All-Star Game.
- The San Jose Sharks announced they have placed defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic on injured reserve today and have recalled defenseman Jacob Middleton. The team has been without Vlasic for eight games already with an undisclosed injury, so he can return to the lineup whenever he is ready. Vlasic’s number’s and play have dropped a little this season, but the team still misses his blueline skills as the Sharks have now lost two straight. The 23-year-old Middleton has appeared in one game for the Sharks this season. He has two goals and 12 points with the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL.