The Phoenix Coyotes’ Raffi Torres is eligible to return to the lineup for Saturday’s date with the Dallas Stars after serving his suspension for concussing the Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa with a hit to the head during the playoffs last year. Torres was originally suspended for 25 games by league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, but had it reduced to 21 games in early July by commissioner Gary Bettman following an appeal. Torres served 13 games last spring, and eight more to start the 2012-13 season.
Thankfully, Hossa looks fully recovered and is off to a good scoring start (nine points in seven games), as is the Boston Bruins’ Nathan Horton, who missed 36 regular-season and seven playoff games last year, also because of a concussion. Horton had five points in six games, after being restored to his regular line, with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, which was a big hit for Boston during their 2011 Stanley Cup run.
Tyler Seguin, who led the Bruins with 29 goals last season, finally got his first and coach Claude Julien noted to the Boston Globe it might have been because Seguin was “out of sync” after playing in Switzerland on the big ice. Equally out of sync: Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown, a 54-point scorer last year, who has managed just two points and a minus-five rating through his first six games.
First for a reason
Nail Yakupov, the first player chosen in the 2012 entry draft, is paying immediate dividends for the Edmonton Oilers. Of Yakupov’s four goals, one came in the final five seconds of regulation against the Los Angeles Kings, which led to an overtime victory; while another came in OT against Phoenix.
The Calgary Flames may have had the strangest scheduling start to the season, playing only four games in the first 12 days, including a five-day break this past week, which permitted coach Bob Hartley to run a mini-training camp of sorts – not a bad thing for a team trying to adjust to a new coach. Things heat up from here: In February, the Flames play catch-up, with 14 games in just 28 days.
Injuries are undermining performances all around the NHL, but the Colorado Avalanche have been particularly missing their new captain, 20-year-old Gabriel Landeskog, who had been brilliant in the early going – or until he was knocked out of the lineup with head and neck injuries following a Brad Stuart check. With Steve Downie gone for the season (knee) and last year’s scoring leader Ryan O’Reilly unsigned, the Avs have been sputtering offensively.
Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith is scheduled to return this weekend after missing time with a foot problem, but in the interim, the Coyotes got two good games out of Chad Johnson, a free-agent pickup last summer. Johnson started with a shutout victory and then earned the Coyotes a point in a 2-1 OT loss to Edmonton this week, which technically left him atop the goalie statistics with a minuscule 0.98 goals-against average. Playing ahead of the usual Phoenix No.2, Jason LaBarbera, Johnson had previously made six NHL cameos over two seasons as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup with the New York Rangers.
Sigh of relief
Desperately short of scoring balance, the Rangers were happy to learn that team captain Ryan Callahan’s shoulder injury wasn’t considered too serious and that he’ll likely only miss 10 days to two weeks. Callahan’s shoulder popped out in a fight with the Philadelphia Flyers’ Max Talbot – and the initial fears were it could be far more serious. Carl Hagelin, who lost his spot on the top line to Rick Nash, is especially struggling, with zero points in his first seven games. Hagelin also failed to score a goal in 17 playoff games last spring (and added just three assists), after a pretty good rookie year (38 points in 64 games).
BY THE NUMBERS
Wins for Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne through five starts, after leading the NHL in victories last year with 43.
Goals for Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber through five starts, after tying for the lead in goals by a defenceman with the Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karlsson last year at 19.
Number of players born and trained in Southern California to appear in an NHL game, after Emerson Etem made his debut for the Anaheim Ducks last Tuesday vs. the San Jose Sharks.
THEY SAID IT
“You have to panic right now. We have to bring everything we have. It’s a short season. We have to panic right now.”
The Florida Panthers winger, after the team followed its season-opening victory with four consecutive losses.
“I’m waiting like a dog in a car, waiting to be let out.”
The Los Angeles Kings winger, back in coach Darryl Sutter’s doghouse, had been benched for three consecutive games through Thursday.