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Nichols’ Notes: Crosby on Benn, Hutchinson Not Stressed & More


Sidney Crosby Likes Jamie Benn’s Game, Michael Hutchinson Aims to Bounce Back

Sidney Crosby has a clear appreciation for Jamie Benn’s game.


“He’s just such a complete player, and people are starting to see that,” Crosby said. “He plays both ends of the ice, he’s a big guy, he’s hard to contain, he’s got a big shot. Even when he doesn’t seem to have a lot of space, he finds a way to make things happen. He’s got a lot of weapons.”


Benn’s response?


“It means a lot. He’s the best player in the world, so it’s pretty cool to hear things like that,” Benn said. “Personally, I just want to be the best player I can be. I just try to keep flying under the radar and have fun.”




Intriguing revelation following Wednesday’s practice for the Stars. Benn took the day off to rest, and bench boss Lindy Ruff shook things up to look at players in different roles. We could see a potential new wrinkle for Jason Spezza.


“It was an opportunity to look at different options,” Ruff said. “Last night, there was hardly any power play time, so it was tough on Jason’s ice time. Either I get him involved in penalty killing or maybe I even bump him up with Benn and Segy with Segy on the right every now and then.”



Darren Dreger mentioned on Wednesday that “there’s absolute truth” the notion that Jim Rutherford is looking for a top-six winger for the Pittsburgh Penguins, although “there’s no sense of urgency” and it “might take until February.”


Bob McKenzie had just recently intimated something similar: “I suspect that they’re not finished yet” in terms of constructing the team.




In the meantime, Evgeni Malkin has been winging it for the Penguins on a line with Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis. The trio has seen success, and will stay together for at least a few more games.


“As he gets his legs going, there is an option at that time to move him to center,” head coach Mike Johnston said of Malkin. “But if their line is playing like they have been, I really like the line. Dupuis has had lots of jump. I like the mixture of the speed on one side, playmaking on the other. Sutter controls it through the middle. I don’t mind that line right now. We’ll see how it goes through the course of the next two games.”



McKenzie put forth on Wednesday that the Red Wings have “significant interest” in Tyler Myers. Last year, the Sabres had asked for Anthony Mantha, a tidbit which had also been revealed on the weekend by Elliotte Friedman. McKenzie says Mantha was a non-starter for the Red Wings, as was Gustav Nyquist when the Sabres asked for him.




Ken Hitchcock on his St. Louis Blues facing off against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.


“Los Angeles is … they’re who they are,” Hitchcock said. “They play pretty much the same way all the time. Everybody talks about measuring stick and all this, that’s not relevant for me. The measuring stick is ourselves — it’s us against the competition. Every game is a measuring stick on how we perform.


“Both teams, us and Los Angeles, we just roll the lines. Like we play four lines and we just play. The test isn’t for us, Los Angeles. The test is for us, ourselves. Keep moving our game forward, keep getting better. The last two periods against New York were really good hockey. That led us into really good hockey against Calgary. Those are the building blocks that we want.


“Some teams get off to fast starts. Some teams take a while. But this time of year, it’s all about momentum from details, momentum from playing the right way. That’s what we want to build, really good momentum, based on all the work we put in since we came out here Saturday night. We want to see some value for that now.”




Erie Otters assistant coach Jay McKee, who played with a young Crosby in Pittsburgh, discusses the Connor McDavid and Crosby comparisons which have been made.


“The comparables between him and Sid, it’s everything,” McKee said. “It’s the way he works off the ice, the way he communicates in the dressing room, the work ethic he puts out on the ice in practice. …


“Sid’s a hard-working guy that leads by example on and off the ice and he’s very humble, very quiet, not real flashy. Connor’s the kind of guy when he scores goals he’s not out there riding his stick or celebrating in fancy fashion, he just wants to get the job done.”




Barry Trotz explains how to get better on faceoffs:


“Reps and reps and reps,” Trotz said. “And then you take it to the next level of situational reps.


“Knowing the linesmen and knowing the other centermen. If you want to be your best, then you’re going to know all different ways to take draws and you’re going to have to study other centermen and counteract what they do. And you’re going to have to learn the linesmen because they all drop the puck a little differently and have their own cadences.


“There’s going to be a lot of pucks dropped [at practice] over the next 190 days. That’s why we keep extra pucks on the bench. It’s tough for us coaches to bend down and pick up a thousand pucks a day.”




Ryane Clowe has been skating with Adam Henrique and Michael Ryder so far for the New Jersey Devils, and, most importantly, has been healthy. He had a pair of concussions last season, but feels “kind of back to normal, I guess.”


His targets this season?


“The only number I have is I’d like to play 82 games. Or a lot of games, I guess,” Clowe said. “But I’ve had some pretty good years in this league and it’s not like I feel any different on the ice. I feel really good as far as foot speed and quickness, strength, all that stuff.

“I’m happy to play and the passion is still there. Not worrying about anything out there could be an issue. I’d like to have a good offensive year as well. I think if I’d played a full season last year I would’ve had a pretty good season. More than anything I just want to give myself a chance to have a good year.”



Aaron Ekblad is just beginning his NHL career, but Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant is impressed with what he’s seen so far.


“The kid is playing the way we want him to,” Gallant said. “He’s looked good. He’s playing the way he did in junior although he’s playing against men, against NHL players so he’s not getting the scoring chances he did. Still, he’s putting the puck to the net, moving the puck and defending real well. He’s getting better every game.”




Dreger on Eric Staal:  “It’s littered with ‘ifs’ and the top of the list is if Eric Staal wants to leave.”


Also: “I don’t think there will be a deal in-season. Perhaps in the off-season at best.”


LeBrun on Staal: “People hear what they want to hear.”


Also: “I can tell you that talking to a Hurricanes source last night after this report came out, he said ‘Hey, that’s pretty much the last guy we want to trade.’”


Aaron Ward on Staal: “I can’t envision Eric Staal at this point saying to himself, and you’d have to be really frustrated as the captain of the team to say, ‘I give. I give up.’ It’s not in his nature.”


Also: This issue came up and I talked to a few people in the organization and they’d be apprehensive to make the move too because they understand how difficult it is to find a guy to fit a market, fit a team, and be a star.




The Canucks had a dismal power play last season, but it has shown signs of life under the guidance of Perry Pearn in 2014-15.


“Yes, I was surprised that it was as low as it was because I’ve been around the league long enough to know how tough it is to defend against (the Sedins),” Pearn said. “I also know, when you have those off years on the power play, it carries over into every aspect of your game.


“I never thought too much about analytics … but I’ve been keeping stats on special teams going way back to Ottawa (in the 1990s) and I know if you win or tie the power play game, your winning percentage is over .700. And a lot of times even higher than that, so you have to focus on winning the special-teams game.”



Stephen Weiss knew coming into this season that a roster spot with the Detroit Red Wings wasn’t just going to be handed to him “on a silver platter.”


“It’s a hard league. You don’t just snap your fingers and go out and score five goals in six games. It’s a process,” Weiss said. “I’ve been working real hard in practice to score goals and get sharp again in those situations. It’s coming. It’s just a matter of getting a chance now and hopefully getting a bounce here or there in a game to get on the board and things start to snowball in your direction and away you go.




Darryl Sutter explains the necessary evil of restricted movement clauses when asked about no-trade clauses and his time as the GM of the Calgary Flames:


“Well, in that market, you had to have a lot of those because you couldn’t overpay to keep a player,” explained Sutter. “We were very much a budget team, so the off-set of that were those types of clauses. They were restricted movement clauses. They weren’t ‘no trade;’ they were basically a list of teams. [Reporter: Did you grit your teeth when you had to give one of those?] Yeah, all the time. But at the end of the day, that would be ownership’s decision, and that’s how you could retain top players.”




Paul MacLean evaluates Jared Cowen’s game in the early going, with the young Ottawa Senators rearguard potentially heading to a second straight health scratch status Thursday night.


“Jared has struggled with the puck, reading where the next pass is going,” said MacLean. “We’re not totally disappointed with his physical play and his defensive play has been better (than last season), but other guys have played better. We have seven defencemen and we need to play the six best guys.”


Also: “There’s still a lot to learn, a lot of good, great, games left in Jared Cowen. Sometimes, it’s hard to be that age. We don’t want him to accept being scratched from games, but we expect you’re going to come in and work with us and continue to work with us to be a better player because that’s what it all about, being a better player.”



Michael Hutchinson was yanked in his only start of the season so far, but neither he nor his coach is showing any concern yet.


“We’ve had a good talk about it,” Paul Maurice said. “It’s all part of their role. Not every day is Christmas in the National Hockey League and sometimes you’ve got to deal with the bumps. That’s part of what he has to deal with. Both our goalies and all the goalies in the league are going to have to fight through that at one point and I believe he’ll be able to do it.”




Ryan Jones is now with the Vancouver Canucks AHL affiliate on a PTO, and Kevin Bieksa reflects on a fight he had with Jones when the winger was a member of the Edmonton Oilers last season.


“I still remember what he said to me in the penalty box: ‘I’m not scared of you. I’m not tough, but I’m not scared,’” Bieksa recalled. “I thought that was pretty admirable, that he basically doesn’t care how tough the guy is, he’ll stand up to anybody whether he wins or loses the fight. Those are the kind of guys you want in your organization, an honest player who plays the game hard and finishes all this checks.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][dt_fancy_separator separator_style=”dotted” separator_color=”accent”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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