- NBC Sports Tarik El-Bashir writes that Washington Capitals wing Jakub Vrana, who was a healthy scratch for the first time this year on Thursday, will return to the lineup today against the Minnesota Wild on the Capitals third line. He had just two points (both goals) in his previous 13 games. “I’m putting him back where he was … and I want to see him play really well tonight,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
- El-Bashir adds that Washington Capitals defenseman Christian Djoos, who suffered an upper-body injury Tuesday against the Nashville Predators and missed Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, did not skate today. “I don’t know exactly when he’s going to skate yet,” Trotz said. “He’s still day-to-day with the trainers. Once they tell me he can skate, he’ll be out there.”
As always, we’ll keep track of all the league’s minor moves right here. Keep refreshing this throughout the day.
- The Washington Capitals have loaned Tyler Graovac to the AHL on a long-term conditioning stint. That allows the Capitals to move Graovac down without having to send him through waivers for the time being. The 24-year old forward hasn’t played since October 17th, but must be healthy enough to get back on the ice.
- Nikita Soshnikov is at practice with the Toronto Maple Leafs and has been called up to replace Frederik Gauthier. Today is when Soshnikov’s KHL out-clause kicks in, meaning he would have to be called up or risk him going back to Russia. While it doesn’t seem like Soshnikov is itching to leave North America, it’s an easy call-up to make at this point. Interestingly though, if Soshnikov plays three more games in the NHL he will lose his waiver-exempt status.
- The Los Angeles Kings have recalled Andrew Crescenzi from the AHL, giving him a chance to get into his first NHL game. The 25-year old Crescenzi has been in the Kings’ system for several years but has yet to get a sniff of the NHL lineup. While there is no guarantee this time around, it at least will provide him with a big-league paycheck for a few days.
- After allowing five goals in the third period last night, the St. Louis Blues have made a change up front. The team has assigned Beau Bennett to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL. Bennett has played six games for the Blues this year but has yet to register a single point. The 25-year old forward last cleared waivers on September 28th, but hasn’t used up the allotted 30 active roster days (or 10 games) yet, and thus can be sent down without clearing again.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, offense seems hard to come by. The Flyers found themselves on the losing end of another shutout Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild — that’s the fourth time this year. According to Philly.com’s Sam Carchidi, Philadelphia is on pace to suffer through 19 shutouts this year. The most the Flyers have ever had was 10 back in the 1968-69 season. Nevertheless, the team needs to find its offense if they want to avoid this trend.
One issue is that one of the team’s top scorers, Wayne Simmonds, has been banged up with nagging injuries and has been held without a goal for nine straight games. The scribe suggests the team look to their AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, to try to find someone who could invigorate their offense such as Danick Martel. This addition could give Simmonds some time off to heal.
Martel, who is a two-time 20-goal scorer with the Phantoms is having a breakout year as he’s already put up 14 goals in 15 games. The diminutive forward (5-foot-8, 166-pound forward) might be ready for the challenge of the NHL.
- The Athletic’s Scott Powers tweets that Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was asked about the play of Vinnie Hinostroza with the Rockford IceHogs this season and whether he might be called up soon. The 23-year-old wing, who played 49 games for the Blackhawks last season, didn’t make the team out of training camp, but has played well with his AHL team, putting up seven goals and eight assists in 14 games. Quenneville’s response was that Hinostroza is playing well, but calling him up is not an option since the team is healthy and “it’s not as if we’re disappointed with anyone up here.”
- The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch writes that while the team has lost Zack Smith to a dislocated thumb for three weeks, the team might be getting back forward Bobby Ryan soon. The 30-year-old Ryan who has been out for nearly a month with a broken finger could be back soon, although nothing will be decided until later this week. Ryan, who has six assists this season in eight games this year, has been skating while the club has been overseas in Sweden. He’s also been shooting the puck, which suggests he might be ready for Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Washington Capitals goaltending prospect Vitek Vanecek is making his AHL season debut for the Hersey Bears today after missing time with a lower body injury, according to Hershey Bears’ Zack Fisch. The 2014 second-round pick played 39 games for the Hershey Bears last year, putting up a 2.54 GAA and a .909 save percentage.
The New Jersey Devils got back into the win column Saturday after failing to win their previous four games. Despite that fact, New Jersey remains in first place with a 10-4-2 record in a tough Metropolitan Division. Yet, the team’s 2-1 victory Saturday against the Florida Panthers was a defensive effort in which many players praised the play of unheralded defenseman Steven Santini, according to The Record’s Andrew Gross.
The physical 22-year-old defenseman only played in 38 games a year ago, but is a mainstay on the team’s defense this year. The former second-round pick from 2013, showed off his physicality against Florida with big hits, most notably a hit in which he dumped the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov into his team’s own bench in the second period. Santini got plenty of ice time with 23:42, was credited with four hits and was smart enough to avoid a penalty when challenged by Panthers’ enforcer Micheal Haley in the third period.
- New York Islanders Joshua Ho-Sang made the most of his emergency recall Saturday when he scored a goal against the St. Louis Blues last night, according to Arthur Staple of Newsday. Ho-Sang, the team’s first-round pick in 2014, had played six games with the Islanders to start the season, but was sent down to work on improving his in-game mentality — knowing when to drive to the net and when to dump the puck. Ho-Sang had put up two goals and four assists in six games during that span with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but with Anthony Beauvillier day-to-day, Ho-Sang got his chance to redeem himself. He can stay up on an emergency basis for 30 days or 10 games, but the team could always officially recall him as well.
- Jonathan Bombulie of The Trib Live writes that Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Hunwick, who has already missed 12 games due to a concussion diagnosed on Oct. 17, has hit a plateau in his recovery and will be held off the ice for a few more days. “He’s been having a tough time getting over that last hurdle, and so they want to take a little bit of a different approach to try to get him over that last hump,” coach Mike Sullivan said.
- NBC Sports Tarik El-Bashir writes that Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen will travel on the team’s upcoming road trip to Nashville and Colorado, according to head coach Barry Trotz. Niskanen, who has been on LTIR since Oct. 14 due to an upper-body injury, will not suit up tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, but could be ready to suit up for one or both of the away games this week. The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan tweets that Niskanen has been cleared for contact, but is not “full go” and may or may not be ready for games this week. A key veteran defender, the team’s defense would get a big boost upon his return.
- New York Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey went straight to the dentist after Saturday’s victory over the Edmonton Oilers, according to Newsday’s Steve Zipay. The 24-year-old wing took a Zack Kassian skate to the mouth in the second period. Two of Vesey’s teeth had to be removed from his lip. Despite the injury, Vesey returned for a shift in the third period and wore a protective plastic cage attached to the lower part of his helmet. He is day-to-day.
- The Capitals announced that they have returned Liam O’Brien to Hershey of the AHL. The physical winger has played in three games with Washington this season, collecting five penalty minutes while averaging 6:55 per game. He also has a pair of goals in nine minor league contests. The move was made with the team expecting winger Brett Connolly to return to the lineup on Sunday from his head injury.
Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is among a handful of Washington players who haven’t produced up to their typical levels yet this season. Through 16 games, he has 13 points but that’s still off his usual 70-point (or greater) pace. As Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post points out, the team has been deploying Backstrom in more of a defensive role in the early going and while he is more than capable of being a strong defender, the usage has taken away some of his offensive opportunities. Head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that he will try to use Backstrom in more of an attacking role when Washington is at home when they will have more control over the line matchups.
The New York Islanders may have come out of last night’s performance with a loss, but it definitely didn’t feel like one. For one, the team’s offense, particularly the power play, seems to have hit its stride and the team finds itself putting up solid numbers. A lot of that credit goes to their top line of John Tavares and Anders Lee. However, it’s the third man on that line that deserves quite a bit of credit, according to Newsday’s Arthur Staple, who gives much of the line’s success to Josh Bailey.
Bailey has been the key to the team’s offensive firepower, especially on the power play and has helped fix that power play which started the NHL season at a 0-for-20. The scribe points out that while Tavares and Lee have combined for five of the team’s nine goals, all coming since their Oct. 19th game against the New York Rangers, it is Bailey’s passing work that has made the difference. The 28-year-old winger is among NHL leaders with six power play assists since then and has had nine assists in the last four games, giving him 13 assists this season. In fact, since the start of last year (the 2016-17 season), Bailey has racked up 56 assists and only 10 players in the NHL have more than him, including names like Connor McDavid, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Kane and Niklas Backstrom.
Unfortunately, for the Islanders while that’s great to see him taking that next step, its also another cause for concern as he is in the last year of a five-year, $16.5MM deal. He undoubtedly will expect a raise, likely a significant one and suddenly along with Tavares, the team will have their work cut out for them this offseason.
- Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post Gazzette writes that Pittsburgh Penguins’ fourth-line wing Carl Hagelin is well aware that his offense needs to step up. The recently scratched wing has struggled this year offensively. While he’s never been an offensive juggernaut, the 29-year-old has struggled with just a goal and an assist in 14 games. Add that to the $4MM the team owes his this year and next year, his struggles even stand out more. Mackey writes that it’s his shooting percentage that has fallen off a cliff since last year. His 4.4 percent shooting percentage is way down from his earlier career averages of 9.4 percent.
- Mike Vogel of NHL.com writes that the Washington Capitals’ line of Lars Eller, Tom Wilson and Chandler Stephenson is thriving in the three games that they’ve been paired together. Eller and Wilson have played together quite a while, but it has been the addition of Stephenson, who replaced the injured Brett Connolly that has made the difference in the line. The 23-year-old might finally be breaking into Washington’s lineup after only playing in 13 games combined in the last two years. So far, his one goal and two assists in four games looks solid. In the three games, the Eller-Wilson-Stephenson line has posted three goals and eight points, the most of all the Capitals lines. The success of the back-end line is welcome since the top six lines have struggled recently.
- Capitals prospect Ilya Samsonov has been diagnosed with a concussion, notes J.J. Regan of NBC Sports Washington. The 20-year-old is widely considered to be one of the top goaltending prospects in the league after a strong showing in the KHL and at the World Juniors last season. His 2017-18 campaign isn’t off to as strong a start though as he has posted a 2.78 GAA and a .912 SV% through his first 16 games with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, well off the marks of 2.13 and .936 he played to last year.
The NHL schedule is packed full tonight with 12 games, and teams are making some final adjustments to their lineups. As always, we’ll keep an eye on all the minor moves right here. Check back throughout the day for more updates.
- The Washington Capitals have sent Anthony Peluso to the minor leagues and recalled Liam O’Brien, swapping a 28-year old forward for one five years his junior. Peluso had gotten into two games with the Capitals, but was used sparingly on the ice. O’Brien, a similarly physical player, has more upside than Peluso and could be used more regularly should get into a game. In 14 career NHL games, including just one last year, O’Brien has two points.
- As expected, Mike Reilly and Luke Kunin have been recalled by the Minnesota Wild. Their assignment was just to save a few dollars on the cap during the Wild’s off day.
- Following the news that David Backes would miss the next two months due to colon surgery, the Boston Bruins have placed him on injured reserve and recalled Austin Czarnik from Providence. Czarnik is up on emergency conditions, and it’s not clear if he will get into the lineup right away. The Bruins take on the Golden Knights tonight, but already had 13 forwards up with the team including Jordan Szwarz who was called up yesterday.
- Tucker Poolman has been sent back to the AHL by the Winnipeg Jets. Poolman, 22, had been a healthy scratch in the team’s last five games and needs to continue his development somewhere. Though he has shown enough to warrant a long stint in the league, the Jets simply don’t have room for him just yet.
- The Vancouver Canucks have sent Anton Rodin back to the AHL without him getting into a single game. The Canucks don’t play again until Saturday, and likely want Rodin to get into the Utica Comets lineup Friday night. The 26-year old has one point in three games for the Comets so far this season.
New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault might not have much time left to repair the sinking ship. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks writes that he believes that Vigneault has one more game left to prove he can turn the Rangers disastrous start of 3-7-2 around. He will get that game Tuesday against the 8-1 Vegas Golden Knights.
While Brooks admits that it is his belief and he’s heard nothing to suggest that will happen, he points out that the team’s struggles to start the season, especially falling behind 3-0 in the first period to the equally struggling Montreal Canadiens shows that Vigneault may not be the answer. A coaching change may be the only way to breathe some life into the franchise who were heavily criticized for their efforts in thejr 5-4 loss.
Brooks also points out that the team’s poor start in first periods has been a key issue for New York. The team has been outscored 3-0 in the first two minutes of 12 games this season; 5-1 in the first three minutes of games; 6-2 in the first four minutes; 8-3 in the first six minutes; 10-4 in the first 10 minutes and 12-4 in the first 12 minutes of games. He writes this is inexcusable and is bad enough to physically allow so many early goals, but the team is also unengaged mentally the moment the puck is dropped.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets may have to do without winger Cam Atkinson for a little while as he suffered a lower-body injury, according to The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline (subscription required). The team’s leading scorer for the past two years had a rough game, suffering a lower-body injury in the first period, a puck to his helmet during the second period and then sustained another hit to his lower body that knocked him out of the game in the third period. Portzline said an announcement won’t be made until Monday as the team didn’t practice today. Atkinson has four goals and an assist in 11 games this year. Rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois moved up to replace Atkinson for the remainder of the game.
- Andrew Gross of Northjersey.com writes that winger Marcus Johansson is day-to-day after tweaking his lower body in pre-game warm-ups before Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. The scribe wrote that it was not a pre-existing injury, but the team choose to hold him out as a precaution. Johansson, who the Devils picked up in an offseason trade with the Washington Capitals, has been a solid contributor for New Jersey this year, having put up three goals and two assists in nine games this year.
- NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti wonders whether the Washington Capitals might not consider claiming defenseman Griffin Reinhart, who was put on waivers this morning by the Vegas Golden Knights. At $800K and at just 23 years of age, Reinhart might be a good investment for a team that has little cap room and little blue line depth. Reinhart, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, could be claimed by several teams in need of depth on defense. Unfortunately, the Capitals cannot take solace that they will get a high waiver claim even though the team presently sits at 5-5. CapFriendly reported today that current waiver priority is still based on last year’s record. Priority will switch to present standings starting on Nov. 1.