Cross Checks: Niklas Kronwall
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / DECEMBER 2, 2013
MALKIN, KRONWALL AND KEITH NAMED NHL ‘THREE STARS’ OF THE WEEK
NEW YORK (Dec. 2, 2013) – Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith have been named the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending Dec. 1.
FIRST STAR – EVGENI MALKIN, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Malkin earned “First Star” honors for the second consecutive week after leading all skaters with nine points (3-6—9), helping the Penguins (18-9-1, 37 points) earn seven out of a possible eight points to remain in first place in the Metropolitan Division. He opened the week by recording an assist in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins Nov. 25. Malkin then posted his first multi-goal game of the season, registering 2-1—3 plus the shootout clincher in a 6-5 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 27. He added another assist in a 3-0 triumph over the Tampa Bay Lightning Nov. 29 before closing the week with a season-high three helpers and four points in a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers Nov. 30. The 27-year-old native of Magnitogorsk, Russia, has 4-13—17 during an eight-game assist/point streak dating to Nov. 18. He leads the NHL with 28 assists and ranks second with
35 points, one behind teammate Sidney Crosby (13-23—36), in 28 games this season.
SECOND STAR – NIKLAS KRONWALL, D, DETROIT RED WINGS
Kronwall posted a trio of multi-point games in leading the Red Wings (14-7-7, 35 points) to three victories in three starts. He scored his third goal of the season, all on the power play, and added an assist in a 6-1 victory over the Boston Bruins Nov. 27. Kronwall then posted a pair of two-assist games: in a 5-0 win over the New York Islanders Nov. 29 and in a
4-2 triumph over the Ottawa Senators Dec. 1. The 32-year-old Stockholm native has 2-7—9 during a six-game point streak dating to Nov. 21, including assists in five consecutive contests. He is tied for fourth among NHL defensemen with 18 assists and 21 points in 26 games this season.
THIRD STAR – DUNCAN KEITH, D, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Keith tied for the League lead with six assists as the Blackhawks (20-4-4, 44 points) won all four of their games to move atop the NHL standings. He collected a pair of assists in a 5-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Nov. 25. Keith then posted one helper in both a 3-2 triumph over the Calgary Flames Nov. 27 and a 2-1 shootout win over the Dallas Stars Nov. 29. He capped the week by recording two assists, his fourth multi-point game of the season, in a 5-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes Nov. 30. The 30-year-old Winnipeg native has 0-9—9 during a seven-game assist/point streak dating to Nov. 19. He leads all NHL defensemen with 23 assists and ranks second among blueliners with 24 points in 28 games this season.
• There’s no forgetting Nicklas Lidstrom. That goes without saying. But here’s to Niklas Kronwall for at least helping Wings’ fans with the separation anxiety that comes with losing the greatest defenseman of his generation to retirement. The scorching-hot Red Wings defender -- and fellow Swede -- had a goal and two assists Sunday as the Wings made it two wins in a row after a five-game winless streak, crushing a sloppy Vancouver Canucks team 8-3. Kronwall -- generally known for his hard, sometimes devastating open-ice hitting -- took over the NHL lead for points among defensemen with 16. The win vaulted the Wings into fifth place in the Western Conference. After a stretch of strong play, Vancouver netminder Roberto Luongo endured a miserable night as he allowed eight goals on 28 shots in a game the Canucks actually led 3-2 after the first period. Calling Cory Schneider.
• Hey, we know putting the schedule together, especially at the last minute, must be a hassle. Still, we find it hard to reconcile that the Boston Bruins played only their 15th game of the season Sunday, at least three fewer than any other team in their division. Still, it doesn’t seem to matter to the Bruins, who beat Florida 4-1, their third win in a row. Tuukka Rask moved to 9-1-2 by stopping 34 of 35 shots. The game featured an elegant spin-o-rama move by captain Zdeno Chara for a goal. For those keeping score at home, the Bruins own the best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference and are third overall with an 11-2-2 record.
• Of greater concern to the New Jersey Devils than losing two in a row to inferior Southeast Division talent is the fact that all-world netminder Martin Brodeur wasn’t able to answer the bell for Sunday’s tilt with the Winnipeg Jets. With Johan Hedberg between the pipes, the Devils were waxed Saturday by Washington by a 5-1 count as Alex Ovechkin recorded his first hat trick since January 2011. Brodeur was supposed to start Sunday but left warm-ups and team officials said he was dealing with back soreness that will be evaluated Monday. The Jets, 5-3 losers in Philadelphia on Saturday, went out and beat Hedberg 4-2. The Devils are 1-3-1 in their past five games and have relinquished the Atlantic Division lead to the Pittsburgh Penguins. As for the Jets, although they blew a lead in losing to the Flyers Saturday, they have actually enjoyed relative success on the road and are 3-1 on their current five-game trip. They are only two points off the lead in the woeful Southeast Division as well as two points out of the eighth and the final playoff spot in the East.
• The Pittsburgh Penguins rolled on without the services of Evgeni Malkin, who has been diagnosed with a concussion after taking a hard fall into the boards during Friday’s win over the Florida Panthers. The Penguins jumped out early on the Tampa Bay Lightning and then held on to win 5-3, led by Sidney Crosby, who had two goals and an assist. The game featured a battle between the two leading scorers in the NHL as Tampa’s Steven Stamkos kept pace with a three-point game of his own (one goal, two assists) and leads Crosby by one point. Still, tough times for the Lightning, who are 3-7-1, including 3-5-0 on the road, after a 6-1-0 start.
• You always wonder about games that will come back to haunt a team or games that spark a team to greater things. Was Sunday night in Calgary one of those nights? The Phoenix Coyotes led 4-3 with less than two minutes to go but allowed a Jarome Iginla goal with 1:23 left to tie it and then Curtis Glencross scored the winner 23 seconds later as the Flames bested the Yotes 5-4. The win marked just the second time this season the Flames have won two in a row. They are now two points in arrears of eighth place and improved a grisly home record to 4-5-2.
• And, oh yeah, Chicago won again. The Blackhawks welcomed Corey Crawford back to the lineup after a four-game absence due to injury and he stopped all 28 Columbus Blue Jackets shots as the Blackhawks’ streak of games without a regulation loss to start the season reached 18 en route to a 1-0 victory. Chicago, now 15-0-3, will entertain Edmonton Monday night.
- Rangers coach John Tortorella said defenseman Michael Sauer has not responded well to treatment for his concussion and he doesn't expect him to be ready for the start the season, according the USA Today.
- Niklas Kronwall said the rest of the Red Wings need to step up their games to fill the void left by Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement and Brad Stuart's departure, according to the Detroit Free Press.
- Blue Jackets draft pick Ryan Murray will play for the WHL's Everett Silvertips if there is a lockout, but his agent is concerned that doing so would stop Murray from being able to play in the NHL this season if there is a lengthy lockout, according to TSN.
- Lightning defenseman Mathieu Garon said the groin injury he suffered last season has completely healed, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
- Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson suffered a "bad" shoulder injury during an informal workout at the Panthers' training complex, a source told the Sun Sentinel.
- The NHLPA sent a cease and desist letter to Habs ownership stating that Quebec's labor laws prevent them from being able to lockout the Canadiens' players, according to The Canadian Press.
- Wild centre Zenon Konopka sat in on Friday's CBA talks and told the Ottawa Sun," A lot was said and a lot needs to be processed and I think it probably takes a day or two to think about it and come up with some new ideas."
- Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison said the number of players expected to be in New York this week -- estimates are between 150 and 200 -- shows just how interested the players are in negotiations, according to The News & Observer. “It’s certainly not a publicity stunt. You’ve got 200 guys going because we’re interested and want to know as much as we can, Harrison said, according to the report.
- After being part of the last lockout, Mike Ribeiro told The Washington Post the owners want the players to fix their mistakes again. "Last time, fans were on the players: ‘Oh, you guys are making so much money.’ Well, they gave it to me. They did the same mistakes [with large contracts] again and they want us to fix it again for them. It’s hard to understand,” Ribeiro said, according to the report.
MILLER, KRONWALL AND EMERY NAMED NHL ‘THREE STARS’ OF THE WEEK
NEW YORK (March 5, 2012) – Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall and Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery have been named the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ for the week ending March 4.
FIRST STAR – RYAN MILLER, G, BUFFALO SABRES
Miller posted a 3-0-0 record, 1.00 goals-against average, .974 save percentage and two shutouts as the Sabres (30-27-8, 68 points) moved within two points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. He began the week with back-to-back shutouts, making 43 saves in a 2-0 win at the Anaheim Ducks Feb. 29 and 39 saves in a 1-0 victory at the San Jose Sharks March 1.
Miller then recorded 32 saves in a 5-3 win at the Vancouver Canucks March 5, stretching his shutout streak to 155:37 before David Booth scored at
15:37 of the second period. The 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner is 22-17-5 with a 2.59 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and five shutouts in 46 appearances. He is 6-0-2 in his past eight starts and 11-2-3 in his past 16 decisions dating to Jan. 24.
SECOND STAR – NIKLAS KRONWALL, D, DETROIT RED WINGS
Kronwall tied for the League scoring lead and led all NHL defensemen with seven points (two goals, five assists) as the Red Wings won two of three games to keep pace with the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division. Kronwall provided Detroit with offense from the blueline in the absence of injured captain and seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom, beginning with one goal and two assists in a 5-2 win at the Columbus Blue Jackets Feb. 28. He had his second consecutive three-point game with three assists in a 6-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild March 2 and scored Detroit’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks March 4. The 31-year-old Stockholm, Sweden native has 31 points, including a career-high 14 goals, in 66 games.
THIRD STAR – RAY EMERY, G, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Emery went 3-0-0 with a 1.13 goals-against average and .959 save percentage to help the Blackhawks (36-24-7, 79 points) tighten their grip on sixth place in the Western Conference. He allowed one goal in 40 minutes of relief as Chicago rallied for a 5-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs Feb. 29, stopped 25 shots in a 2-1 win at the Ottawa Senators March 2 and made 23 saves in a 2-1 victory at the Detroit Red Wings March 4.
Playing in his first season with the Blackhawks, Emery has a 14-8-2 record with a 2.58 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 28 appearances.
Custance: Hey, Pierre. Hope you're not feeling as groggy as I am this morning after a late night of watching hockey. But last night was an entertaining one in the NHL. Let's start with Claude Giroux's triumphant return to the ice, where he provided further proof that the world of concussions is a highly unpredictable one. He missed just four games with his concussion, and you couldn't tell he missed any time with the way he played. He finished with four points, again establishing himself as the favorite in the Art Ross Trophy race. The fascinating thing was watching his recovery unfold on HBO during another great episode of “24/7.”
Too bad we can't say the same for Chris Pronger's recovery, a storyline that has been noticeably absent for most of the series.
The most intense game of the night came later between the Red Wings and Canucks, a matchup I'd love to see rekindled in the playoffs. Lots of debate about Niklas Kronwall's hit on Ryan Kesler. Kronwall clearly left his feet, but it didn't look like Kesler's head was targeted. Maybe I've spent too much time in Detroit, but I didn't have an issue with the hit, although Kronwall needs to stop leaping into guys. Kesler's biggest issue was that Kronwall refused to drop the gloves after the hit, but that's another debate altogether.
There was more than just one incident. Jimmy Howard went after Jannik Hansen after he felt he was interfered with. I know this is a touchy subject with Howard, who doesn't think he gets the same protection opposing goalies get against Tomas Holmstrom. But what a win for the Canucks, who have now won three straight and are one point behind Minnesota. It won't be long until we forget their slow start, don't you think?
LeBrun: If we get Wings-Canucks in the playoffs, Craig, count me in. You and I can collect the air miles together and cover what would be one heck of a series based on last night’s thriller. I’m a huge Ryan Kesler fan, but I think he’s dead wrong on saying Niklas Kronwall had to drop to gloves after that big hit. It was clean in my opinion, and there’s no need for a fight because of that. It’s annoying to me that today’s players feel a fight is warranted whenever there’s a loud hit -- even if it’s clean. A fantastic game, though, and the Canucks are on a roll and then some, having won 12 of their past 15 games. And if you’re the Minnesota Wild, you better get ready to hand over the penthouse keys in the Northwest Division, because there’s no way you’re staying there for much longer.
Of note, Roberto Luongo was sensational last night, and it seems like those days when Canucks fans were booing him are long gone. Bobby Lu is back. Vancouver and Boston, last spring’s Cup finalists, are on serious rolls. So much for the Cup finals hangover.
Meanwhile, in Dallas, the pride of Hearst, Ontario, did indeed return in glorious style with a four-point night, although the highlight of the game -- unfortunately -- seems to be the incident between Steve Ott of the Stars and Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. The way I see it, they’re both at fault. Ott went out of his way to step in front of Laviolette (did he know the HBO cameras were in the rink?), but I also think Laviolette should have either waited for the Stars to walk through or walked across the rink like most other visiting coaches usually do.
Either way, I know NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell was investigating the matter this morning. We’ll see if anything comes of it either in the form of fines or at least warnings to both teams. Laviolette declined comment via text this morning when I asked him for his take on it.
Custance: I have a feeling Laviolette's phrase "Typical Montreal" following a couple no-calls against the Canadiens will catch on. Maybe he should follow it up with "Typical Ott."
It's pretty impressive when you can get under the skin of the opposing coach like that, but good for Laviolette for taking the high road after the game rather than digging a deeper hole. I don't think Laviolette left his feet when he gave Ott a shove on the way past him, so I think he's safe.
It's a big win for the Flyers who have been suspect since the Pronger news emerged. They are now back on top in the Eastern Conference, setting up a nice showdown against the Rangers on Friday. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
I wanted to touch on one more game, since the Avalanche are suddenly unstoppable at home, winning again last night against the Blues. I had a good chat with Blues GM Doug Armstrong before the game about St. Louis' success under Ken Hitchcock. The players have completely bought in.
"They understand that if they follow the game plan and responsibilities, they have a good chance to have success," Armstrong said. "They're tired of losing. We're ready to go to a different level."
That's what makes Colorado's win last night over the Blues that much more impressive. The Blues are motivated, playing well, got 39 shots on Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and it still wasn't enough. That's now seven straight wins at home for Colorado, and they're quality wins, beating teams like the Blues, Flyers, Capitals, Red Wings and Sharks. Should we call off the Joe Sacco watch?
LeBrun: The Avs are playing their best hockey since early October, no question. That should definitely buy Sacco some time, although I wonder how he felt the other day when Patrick Roy specifically mentioned Montreal and Colorado as possible landing spots for him next year as an NHL coach. Um, Patrick, you do know that Joe Sacco still coaches there, right? Oh man, Roy is a beauty. But for the Avs, they’ve now won seven straight at home, and that’s key for Sacco.
One thing about GMs and team presidents I’ve talked to over the years in this job, is that they hate when their teams lose at home. They can be terrible on the road, but it’s unacceptable to lose a string of games at home like Colorado did earlier in the season.
You mentioned Giguere getting the win again last night. He’s started three straight games over Semyon Varlamov -- whom the Avs gave up a first-round pick for last summer. But the veteran Giguere, who finally appears healthy, has been the man of late.
"Right now, it's not too much of decision because Giggy is playing so well, we've won games, we're getting results," Sacco told the Denver Post.
Custance: Wouldn't it be something if Giguere ended up saving the Avs from sending a lottery pick to the Capitals in the Varlamov trade?
I remember talking to Giguere earlier this season, and he said he was still adjusting to the role of being a goalie mentor at this point in his career rather than the No. 1 guy. If he keeps playing like this, he'll hold that top spot.
As for tonight's games, we finally get to see the debut of Darryl Sutter as the head coach of the Kings. Dean Lombardi is betting on someone he knows well to turn around the stumbling Kings, saying yesterday that he thinks Sutter is entering the prime of his coaching career.
"I really believe the best is yet to come," Lombardi said.
I'm not so sure, but we'll soon find out. Sutter said he watched the past five Kings games live on television, and that Lombardi sent him seven games on tape going to the start of the season. Perhaps in analyzing those 12 games, Sutter can solve the team's scoring issues. It may be as simple as plugging Mike Richards back into the lineup. Richards has been cleared to play following his own concussion recovery, so if he can pull a Claude Giroux, the Kings should be all set.
But we've learned a couple things this year: One, there's no guarantee of success when you return to the ice following a concussion. And two, despite Hitchcock's success, a new coach doesn't automatically equal wins. The Kings' opponents tonight, the Ducks, are proof of that.
LeBrun: I’m thoroughly in the minority on this one, but I think hiring Sutter in L.A. was brilliant. You look at what he did in maximizing talent in Calgary, San Jose and Chicago as a head coach, and I think it’s exactly what the Kings need to wake up an underachieving roster. There are players on that Kings roster who need a little tough love, and they’re about to get it.
Another great night to sit back and watch some great games, Mr. Custance. So why not do just that?
Have a great holiday, Craig. I’ll be back tomorrow with Scott Burnside.
Bryan McCabe remains unsigned and the stars would really have to align for him to pack his bags at this point.
That's not to say it's not going to happen, but he's settled in South Florida with his family and the kids are in school, so it would need to be a really tempting offer.
A source told ESPN.com that a Western Conference team showed interest within the past week, but it wasn't something that interested the defenseman. He's made plenty of money in his career and has nothing to prove to anyone. If he does sign with a club this season, it has to be a super fit for him.
A source told ESPN.com Wednesday that the New York Rangers are scouring the market looking for help at defense, but they're not interested in bringing back McCabe at this point.
Predators' contract talks
Netminder Pekka Rinne and defenseman Ryan Suter are slated to become unrestricted free agents July 1 and the Predators have no interest in seeing that happen. GM David Poile met with Suter's agent, Neil Sheehy, last weekend and Rinne's agent, Jay Grossman, last week in New York to move talks along on an extension. The Preds will be aggressive in trying to get a deal done on both fronts.
Just like Ilya Kovalchuk's contract talks with Atlanta two years ago were an ongoing story, this has the potential to be the same in Nashville. And that's not even to mention franchise blueliner and captain Shea Weber, who is set to become a restricted free agent this summer. He can't walk free like Rinne and Suter, but it remains a hugely important negotiation that will also draw lots of attention.
Because he signed a one-year deal last summer after going to arbitration, Weber can't sign a new contract until January at the earliest. In the meantime, Weber and his agent, Kevin Epp, will sit back and see how things play out with Suter/Rinne, as well as look at how the team fares this season. All will be factors in Weber's next move.
There haven't been any talks between the Kings and Drew Doughty's veteran agent, Don Meehan, since the eve of camp. But given owner Tim Leiweke's comments to Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times this week and the urgency behind them, it's our guess the NHL club will likely reach out soon to Newport Sports (Meehan's firm) and try to take one last stab at it.
The Kings don't have a choice to try again. It's a big season for them; they want to contend and they need Doughty to do that.
Burke on Simmonds ruling
When asked about it after a recent preseason game, Rangers forward Sean Avery said Simmonds used a homophobic slur toward him on the ice.
"It's like banned substances; you can't suspend a player for using a drug that isn't among the list of banned substances," Burke told ESPN.com. "In this case, we didn't have a rule about homophobic slurs, so you can't suspend Simmonds. But now that the league put out that statement and put players on notice that any future homophobic slur will be punishable, I think that was a real important day for the NHL. It has to stop."
Burke also said he would address the issue with his own players before the regular season begins next week.
Leafs' trade talk
The Leafs' newfound depth, especially on defense, has the club working the phones to see if there's any interest in some of their players. Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson and center Tyler Bozak are among the names that have been discussed, but as of Wednesday, we're told nothing was close with any team. The Leafs could also start the season with eight defensemen on their roster.
Kronwall and the Red Wings
Contract talks are well under way between the Red Wings and star blueliner Niklas Kronwall, who is eligible to become UFA on July 1. Both camps spoke this week. My colleague at TSN, Darren Dreger, also reports the Kronwall camp is looking for a long-term, front-loaded deal similar to what Christian Ehrhoff signed with Buffalo.
Sabres' front-loaded deals
We've encountered some grumbling from a few NHL team executives about the Buffalo Sabres' front-loaded contracts with Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers.
Ehrhoff will earn $18 million of his $40 million, 10-year deal over the next two years. Similarly, Myers' new extension calls for him to earn $12 million of his $38.5 million, seven-year extension in the first year.
"I'm sorry, but that's killing this industry," one NHL GM, requesting anonymity, told ESPN.com. "We have to stop those front-loaded contracts in the next system."
The Sabres didn't break any rules. Other well-heeled clubs have done the same, but mid- to small-market clubs are frustrated, feeling that front-loaded deals have squeezed them out of the free-agent market.
NHLPA's fall tour
Union chief Donald Fehr has begun the NHL Players' Association's annual fall tour. Over the next two months, he'll meet with all 30 teams with the CBA at the top of the agenda. He began his tour last week and so far has met with players on the Flyers, Islanders, Lightning, Panthers and Canadiens.
Ray Emery is slated to get his first full start of the preseason Friday. His performance will go a long way in helping the Blackhawks decide whether they sign the camp invite to a one-year NHL contract to be their backup this season or cut ties and give youngster Alexander Salak the job instead.