Travis Zajac helping build Devils future as he prepares for 1,000th NHL game

NEWARK, NJ – Travis Zajac is two NHL games from reaching 1,000, and though the New Jersey Devils forward has plenty of seasons behind him, he’s looking ahead by helping to build a better future for his team.

He was scheduled to reach the milestone this weekend but could be out for the games against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, MSG-B, MSG+, NHL.TV), and Sunday after entering COVID-19 protocol Friday.

When he does play two more games, he will join defenseman Ken Daneyko (1,283 games), goalie Martin Brodeur (1,259) and forward Patrik Elias (1,240) as the only players with 1,000 games for the Devils.

The 35-year-old center knows the path New Jersey is taking with its youth movement and said he feels his experience and leadership can be a big part of it.

Outdoor rivalry games never easy, but ‘so much fun’ for Bellemare

LAKE TAHOE, CA – When Pierre-Edouard Bellemare steps on to the ice this weekend during the NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe, he’ll use an extra moment to take it all in.

“I’m a kid from France. It comes down to that,” the Avalanche forward told NBC Sports this week. “Where I come from, how often will I have the chance to play outdoors? Another game in the NHL is huge. I never thought I was going to be here.”

Bellemare and the Avalanche will play the Golden Knights Saturday afternoon (3 p.m. ET, NBC) on a rink built on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort Golf Course. The Bruins and Flyers will play Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on the same sheet with the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background.

Ottawa Acquires Dzingel in a Swap of Forwards with Carolina

OTTAWA, ONT- The Ottawa Senators announced today that the team has acquired forward Ryan Dzingel from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Cedric Paquette.

 A native of Wheaton, Ill., Dzingel returns to the Senators in the midst of a campaign in which he has registered four points (two goals, two assists) and two penalty minutes over 11 games in his second season with the Hurricanes.

 

Foote scores first NHL goal to help Lightning defeat Predators

TAMPA BAY, FL – Cal Foote scored his first NHL goal, one of four second-period goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-3 win against the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Victor Hedman had a goal and an assist, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 23 saves for the Lightning (4-1-1).

Pekka Rinne made 29 saves for the Predators (4-4-0), who lost to the Lightning in regulation for the first time (9-1-2). Filip Forsberg had two assists.

John Gibson Named NHL’s Third Star of the Week

ANAHEIM, CA – Ducks goalie John Gibson was named the NHL’s Third Star for the week ending Jan. 24, going 2-0-1 with a 1.33 goals-against average, .960 save percentage and one shutout to help the Ducks (2-2-2, 6 points) collect points in three of their four outings (2-1-1).

He earned his 20th career shutout with 34 saves in a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Wild Jan. 18. Gibson then started each of Anaheim’s two games against the Colorado Avalanche, making 29 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss Jan. 22 and 32 stops in a 3-1 triumph Jan. 24. The 27-year-old Pittsburgh native has appeared in 292 career NHL games, compiling a 141-104-35 record (2.52 GAA, .919 SV%).

 

Wild trade for Two-Time Stanley Cup Champion Ian Cole

ST. PAUL, MN – Minnesota Wild General Manager Bill Guerin today announced the National Hockey League (NHL) club has acquired defenseman Ian Cole from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for defenseman Greg Patryn.

Cole, 31, owns two shots, four hits and two blocked shots in two games this season. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound native of Ann Arbor, Mich., collected 26 points (4-22=26), 83 hits and 122 blocked shots in 65 contests during the 2019-20 season with the Avalanche and set a career high in assists and tied his career best in points. The left-shot blueliner ranked second on the team in blocked shots and third in plus/minus rating (+21). He tallied his 100th career assist on Nov. 30, 2019 at Chicago and scored the game winning goal in his 500th career game on Dec. 7, 2019 at Boston. The defenseman tallied two assists, 21 shots, 27 hits and 29 blocked shots in 15 games during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As Dylan Larkin’s Red Wings captaincy begins, what the ‘C’ will change for him

DETROIT, MI – The Red Wings have had just three captains over the last 34 years: Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.

Now, after a two-year vacancy at the position, they have their next one. The Red Wings announced Dylan Larkin as the 37th captain in franchise history Wednesday, the day before they begin the 2021 season.
Yzerman said before last season’s training camp — his first as Detroit’s general manager — that he wanted to get to know the players before naming a captain, and that when the franchise did decide on one, “I intend that person to be the captain for a long time.”
Larkin fits that bill. After being picked 15th overall by the Red Wings in the 2014 NHL Draft, he has become one of their best players and most important leaders. Last season, he wore an “A” as one of four alternate captains for the team.
Yzerman certainly brought a wealth of experience to the decision, after leading Detroit for 19 seasons between 1986 and 2006. He was named captain at age 21, after the team’s disastrous 17-win 1985-86 season. Larkin, at age 24, is also taking the helm after a miserable season in which the Red Wings mustered just 17 wins.
The temptation to draw parallels between those circumstances is real, especially considering Yzerman’s influence on the decision. And it’s impossible to ignore Yzerman’s impact on the legacy of the Red Wings’ captaincy.
But as Larkin officially dons the “C” for the first time, who he is, and how he captains, are far more important. Because while the old saying is that you don’t need a letter to be a leader, the presence of that letter is obvious to everyone once it’s there. What does that change for a player?
“First of all there’s probably added responsibility, which sometimes can be hard for players, and I think that’s partly why I think it’s really important to be cautious and make sure that you’re making the right decision,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill told The Athletic recently. “But I also think you just gain a little bit bigger voice, meaning when that happens, when a person is named a captain, it’s like now instead of just talking, you’re talking with a megaphone. And what you say is more impactful.
“And so it’s really important that you’re saying the right things, but probably more important that you’re leading the right way. I would honestly say that’s where it changes, but the reality is … the most important thing is to be who you are, and to continue to lead the way you’ve led. Because that’s what’s put you in that position.”
That, above all else, is why Larkin was such an obvious choice. He won’t need to change.
“You know if there’s something that needs to be said he’s willing to say it,” Red Wings alternate captain Luke Glendening said recently. “And when you have a guy who practices what he preaches, it’s easy to listen to. It doesn’t get dry. It doesn’t run dry with guys because you see him putting in the work every single day to be the best player he can be.”
Glendening is talking, in part, about leading by example, a standard set by Red Wings captains through the years. The most recent names who have preceded Larkin in the role are Hall-of-Famers or, in Zetterberg’s case, at least have a chance to be.
Being in that tier of player is not a must for the captaincy, but at the same time, being a top player can go a long way when it comes to backing up what a captain is asking of teammates.
“You have to be able to do things if you’re going to talk about them in the locker room, or you’re going to talk about them in the heat of battle,” said Red Berenson, who coached Larkin at the University of Michigan and also served as Red Wings captain for the 1973-74 season.
“You’ve gotta go out and do them, and that’s a big part of it. A lot of great leaders never said much. Yzerman was known for being a quiet captain, but when the game was on the line, you knew that he was going to be able to make a difference in that game one way or the other, whether it was blocking a shot or winning a faceoff or scoring a big goal or creating a big goal or saving a goal. And I think those are the most important things, that you can do those things.”
Certainly, as arguably the Red Wings’ best player in recent years and a two-way centerman who plays some of Detroit’s most challenging matchups, Larkin has checked that box already.
He also, after five seasons with the Red Wings, has been around long enough to lead more directly, too. He has now lived through one of the toughest seasons in modern NHL history, which wasn’t easy on anyone, but does give him an invaluable perspective on the locker room, knowing what it needs and what it may respond to.
“He’s got a great temperature of the room in terms of, he knows when something needs to be said, when we need to call out something in terms of as a team, just not performing,” Glendening said. “But he also knows that there’s a time to lift guys up.”
These are words said about Larkin before he formally got the “C” — to Blashill’s point, the things that put Larkin in this position. More importantly, though, these are the things he’ll need to hang on to now that he’s here.
Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal echoed those sentiments late last season when asked what changed when he became captain, saying “everyone just kept telling me not to change, so I didn’t. It didn’t really change a whole lot for me. Personally I knew I was a leader in the room from the start, and I think most guys that are named captain already know that they’re a leader in the room.”

‘Boston will love him:’ Craig Smith is ready to bring his relentless energy to the Bruins

BOSTON, MA- When Craig Smith talks about the act of shooting, he doesn’t always say “shoot.”

He likes to “rip” pucks. He “hammers” them. He “wires” them.

Even his word choices are energetic.

“Boston will love him,” said former Bruins defenseman Hal Gill, who watched Smith nightly in his role as a Predators radio analyst. “His interviews are always electric. Usually he’s got his shirt off, he’s high energy, he’s got a big smile. One of my favorite quotes of his is, ‘Pedal through the floor, play with your hair on fire.’ That’s the energy he brings.”

On Oct. 10 the Bruins added Smith, the 31-year-old right winger, for his buzzy brand of 5-on-5 attacking. The signing, $9.3 million over the next three years, was widely hailed as one of the offseason’s smartest: a bargain for a five-time 20-goal scorer. Since debuting at practice on Jan. 3, Smith has ripped, hammered, and wired pucks next to third-line center Charlie Coyle and left wing Nick Ritchie. The Bruins believe they’ll get consistent production from the burly Ritchie, puck-possessing Coyle, and Smith, who scored 18 goals last year and was on pace for 21 when the season ended early.

Jesper Fast agrees to 3-year, $6 million deal with Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. — One of the Rangers leaders the last couple of seasons now has a new team.

The Carolina Hurricanes have agreed to a deal with right wing Jesper Fast on a three-year contract.

The team announced the agreement Saturday, saying it would the deal will have an average annual value of $2 million through the 2022-23 season. Carolina president and general manager Don Waddell called Fast “an intelligent, versatile player who fits the mold” of how the Hurricanes play under Rod Brind’Amour.