PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Johansen has spent almost his entire hockey life in the middle of the ice. But it's a move to the wing that earned him a permanent spot in the NHL.
The fourth pick of the 2010 NHL Draft as a center, Johansen started this season in the middle, but since his move to the wing, his play has improved dramatically.
"We watched him play a few games, some exhibition games, in the middle and felt at this time it's too big a responsibility," said Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel. "We didn't get to see his offense, we didn't get to see him play with the puck like we know he can. He was really trying hard to learn the game and not make mistakes defensively that it took away from the offensive side. We threw him on the wing and we think he's blossomed over there e offensively. We started to see what he can do."
After totaling just 1 assist in his first five games, Johansen has 3 goals and an assist in his last five. In the Jackets' two wins this season, Johansen has the game-winning goal.
"To play in the NHL on the wing is pretty different," Johansen told NHL.com. "I just had to learn a couple new things quickly. It wasn't too hard to adjust. Feel pretty comfortable there now. I feel confident with the puck when it comes around the boards or if I receive it on the half wall. I'm not worried about it."
It's a big change from last season for Johansen, who admitted to being overwhelmed by his surroundings when he got to training camp last year.
"When I was first drafted and moving on to my first camp, it was kind … I was in shock the whole time," he said. "I ended up playing against (Sidney) Crosby and (Alex) Ovechkin in exhibition games and my eyes were wide open the whole time. I was having so much fun being around."
He was returned to his junior team, the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, and had an outstanding season -- 40 goals in 63 games -- and went back to Columbus this summer with a new mindset.
"This year I felt I had a really strong chance of making the team," he said. "I'm just focused on winning more than who I was playing against."
His teammates have started to take notice of how the 6-foot-3, 203-pound forward is beginning to blossom.
"He's getting better every day," R.J. Umberger told NHL.com. "He's starting to learn he's got a lot of size and he can use it. He's stronger than he thinks and he's moving his feet more and creating a lot of things below the goal line with his size.
"The challenge for him is just learning to compete every night. It's a hard league. For him, he knows he can play here and contribute."
"Every day it seems like I'm learning new things being up here," said Johansen. "For myself, I'm just taking everything in right now, soaking it all up. It's been a tremendous experience so far. Hopefully we can start winning some more games here."
On a personal note, it was the first time I've seen Johansen since he was drafted in Los Angeles. He and his Portland teammate, Islanders forward Nino Niederreiter, were part of one of my favorite videos since I've been with the NHL. It's worth watching to get some nice insight into two young men with wonderful personalities.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Jeff Carter made his return to Philadelphia today, but not in the way the All-Star center would have liked it.
Carter has missed the last eight games with a broken right foot, and has yet to resume skating.
Broken feet are nothing new to Carter -- he broke both feet during the Flyers' run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final -- and this time, he said he's being smart about allowing this injury to heal fully rather than hurry his return just to play against his former team.
"I wasn't going to rush back just to get into this game," he said. "I have to worry about getting healthy, that's the first thing."
Carter said it was an emotional experience walking into the Wells Fargo Center this morning. Prior to the June trade that sent him to the Blue Jackets, it was his only NHL home.
"It's a little weird being on the other side now," he said. "It's different. It's actually first time I've ever been down here (visiting locker room). It's a big change, but it is what it is."
Carter said one of the things he misses most about Philadelphia are the fans.
"I had six great years here," he said. "I enjoyed coming to the rink and playing in front of the fans every night. Everybody says it's one of the best places to play, and the fans are a huge part of that. It makes it a lot easier for guys to go on the ice and play good hockey when you have fans like that behind you."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
DETROIT –Anaheim Ducks star forward Corey Perry took a special car trip across the U.S.-Canadian border Friday night and drove to London, Ont., where he played junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League.
There, the London Knights welcomed him onto the ice at John Labatt Centre to retire the No.94 jersey he wore there for three memorable seasons. Perry began to get a little emotional as he watched the banner with his former jersey number rise to the rafters.
Afterward, the car he drove there in got a flat tire – but it still couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
“It was a special night,” said Perry, the reigning Hart Trophy winner and Rocket Richard Trophy recipient. “When you’ve got an organization that does that for you at such a young age … normally they wait until you’re retired and done playing hockey, so to have it done already feels special. It was a lot of fun.’
As for the emotions he experienced?
“It was a special night and it was nice to have my family and friends there,” Perry said. “I looked over at my mom when the banner was going up and she had some tears in her eyes and it just got me choked up as well. It was (a little overwhelming). You see the video and they all started chanting my name, so I was pretty emotional. Then the banner going up and knowing it’s going to be there forever, it’s pretty cool.”
DETROIT – He’s just 19 and is still listed at 6-foot-1, 196-pounds, but Anaheim Ducks second-year defenseman Cam Fowler says he’s bigger than listed and it’s paying off in terms of his improved defense this season.
The puck-moving, speedy Fowler also said his weight gain was the result of a hard off-season training program. He said he came into Anaheim’s camp weighing around 208 pounds this fall, but has since dropped about five to play at 203.
So far, it’s working out well.
“Battling in the corners and pushing off of guys is where I really notice is the most,” said Fowler, who has five assists and in 13 games. “The main thing is that I didn’t want it to slow me down at all, and it hasn’t. That’s a big part of my game. It’s just been a little added strength, which I needed.”
Fowler, an offensive-minded defenseman, had 10 goals and 30 assists as an 18-year old rookie last season. He also had an ugly minus-25 rating, which he targeted for improvement by bettering his defensive skills. It seems to be working, as he’s currently a minus-2 heading into Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings – the team located just across the Detroit River from his hometown of Windsor, Ont.
“It’s just kind of picking your spots out there (to be more offensive),” Fowler said. “A lot of it depends on who you’re matched up with and what line you’re playing against. Some lines you really have to pay attention, because there’s guys that can really hurt you. We played against (Alex Ovechkin) and (Marian Gaborik) and those guys are always on the offense. If you’re getting caught up ice in the play, it really puts you behind the eight ball. You need to know when to jump up in the rush and when to hang back.”
Not only did Grabner score 34 goals as a rookie last season, but he also won the fastest skater competition at All-Star Weekend in January.
The third-year center is looking forward to playing with Grabner and regular linemate Matt Moulson in the reshuffled pairings.
“I think it will be good – a little bit of a different mindset,” Tavares said Saturday morning. “As much as we’ve been getting opportunities, we haven’t been getting results. Sometimes you just need a different look, a clean slate, a different mindset to breed some confidence and excitement into everybody.”
With the Isles having been blanked in two of their last three games and scoring just seven goals during the six-game slide, Tavares said the Islanders have to look at the shuffle in a positive light.
“You have to take it that way,” he said. “We’ve been playing pretty well – although it’s easy to say you’re playing well when you’re not winning. We’ve been creating a lot of opportunities; we just haven’t been able to find the net. Hopefully some new chemistry, some new looks will bring some of the success and results we’re looking for.”
Having Grabner instead of Parenteau will mean some changes for Tavares.
“It is a little bit [different],” he said. “You have guys who do things differently and play different styles. It’s not really going to change my game, but for sure it will be a little different.
“I’m looking forward to playing with [Grabner]. It should be fun.”
There hasn’t been a lot of fun on Long Island for the past three weeks – the Isles haven’t won since beating the Rangers 4-2 on Oct. 15. Tavares said the Islanders need to go back to what they were doing in the early stages of the season, which saw them win three in a row before the current slump.
“I think sometimes when you’re trying to make the perfect play or the perfect shot, that starts putting you in trouble,” he told NHL.com. “You’re not going to get those opportunities every night. A lot of the goals you see on the highlights come from just putting pucks on the net and maybe you get a loose rebound or it goes off a skate and in – and that can get you going.
“Then everything comes more easily. You play more simple and you do the right thing. People say ‘you’re working too hard,’ but I feel it’s more like you’re trying to complicate things more than you should. You need to keep it simple and do the little things that will start to build your confidence and breed success.”
PHILADELPHIA -- The Flyers had 14 forwards on the ice and didn't practice line rushes, so there's a bit of a question of how their lineup might shake out tonight when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets.
James van Riemsdyk and Matt Read skated for the full practice, but both are considered day-to-day -- van Riemsdyk with a lower-body injury that kept him out of Thursday's game against New Jersey, Read with an upper-body injury that has sidelined him for the last two contests.
Eric Wellwood was called up from Adirondack of the American Hockey League on Friday and also was on the ice this morning, meaning he's a possibility for tonight.
The only forward who didn't skate today was Andreas Nodl, who the team is listing as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
So what will the lineup look like tonight? Can't be 100-percent sure, but here's a possibility. Again, things could change drastically if van Riemsdyk and/or Read are able to play.
PHILADELPHIA --Jakub Voracek said he had three great seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the ending certainly left a sour taste in his mouth. So the Flyers forward certainly has had this game circled on his calendar for quite a while.
"I'd be lying if I said no," he said. "I was pretty excited for this game since the season started. It's going to be a great game. Hope it's going to end for us well. … It's another NHL game for me and I'm going to try to do my best as always, hopefully help the team win, and show them (the Blue Jackets) they made a mistake."
The Jackets picked Voracek with the seventh pick of the 2007 Entry Draft, and in three seasons in Columbus he averaged 13 goals and 45 points per campaign.
Last season, though, he endured the worst stretch of his hockey life, picking up just one point in his final 16 games.
"It was the worst time in my life, in my NHL career," Voracek said. "Even if it's a tough stretch, in 16 games, if you're playing on the first or second line, you still got to be able to get more than one secondary assist, somehow. You've got to get it. It's impossible to not have it. It was a really bad time, nothing went in. We didn't play well as a team and I didn't play well as a player."
It got worst at his season-ending exit interview, when Voracek's conditioning was criticized publicly by coach Scott Arniel.
"The biggest thing that is holding him back is his conditioning," Arniel told the Columbus Dispatch that day. "I think this guy can be an elite player in this League if he gets himself in shape."
Voracek still is bothered by the comments, more because they were made publicly.
"I don't think it's right to talk about it in the papers," he said. "It is what it is, it's what he said. I disagree with him. I went to the World Championship last year and I felt great the whole tournament, which was almost the end of May. It was a long season for me as well, and physically I felt great. Sometimes it doesn't mean if you play bad that you're out of shape."
Voraceck now says he's moved beyond what was said, and spent time on the bench this morning talking to former teammates.
"It is what it is," he said. "It's behind me and I have totally new NHL life."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
The start of the season has been a dream for the League-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, but a nightmare for fourth-year defenseman Luke Schenn. The 22-year-old has slipped down the depth chart -- his normally strong defensive game plagued by a mix of poor decisions, turnovers, and bad breaks.
He will watch from the press box Saturday night as a healthy scratch for the first time since Dec 9, 2009. The 5th selection in the 2008 Entry Draft has an even plus-minus rating this season, below par on a team with the third-best offense and second-best 5-on-5 ratio in the League.
Schenn’s slow start is in contrast to other Leafs blueliners led by captain Dion Phaneuf. A resurgent Mike Komisarek has taken Schenn’s spot in the top four, while Schenn’s ice time has steadily decreased from 22:06 on opening night against Montreal to just 9:13 in Thursday’s 4-1 win against Columbus. Coach Ron Wilson addressed Schenn’s situation following that game.
“It’s a struggle for Luke right now, he’s got to fight through this and not get frustrated,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to figure out the best approach with Luke.”
For his part, Schenn has maintained a positive outlook, commenting on his slump earlier in the week,
"I know my opportunity will come.” Schenn said. “We've got four defensemen right now who are playing great – obviously ahead of me – and they're playing big minutes right now and obviously deservingly so.
"I'm not going to get too rattled or frustrated about it. It's part of the game. Every player goes through this, probably every year, and definitely throughout their career. You just learn how to deal with it and at the end of the day it's not a worry because I know that this isn't going to last forever."
Now banished to the press box, Schenn will need to maintain that positive attitude while Cody Franson, another promising young defenseman who has underachieved this season, enters the lineup against the Bruins. Franson, acquired in the off-season from Nashville, now has his chance to earn the trust of Wilson. Schenn meanwhile, can only sit and wait for an opportunity to get his game back on track and do the same.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils weren’t the only team to skate at Prudential Center this morning hit hard by the injury bug.
The Winnipeg Jets were forced to call up yet another defenseman Friday -- Paul Postma -- to replace injured Randy Jones in the lineup. The 22-year-old had played in 10 games with the St. John's IceCaps this season, producing two goals and eight points. Postma played in his first and only NHL game last season with the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Jets are without four regulars along the blueline in Tobias Enstrom (broken collarbone), Mark Stuart (upper body), Ron Hainsey (upper body) and Jones (foot contusion). The club actually placed Enstrom on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 31. Additionally, Derek Meech (lower-body) won't be ready until after the Jets return home Nov. 10. The club is currently playing the fifth of a seven-game road swing (3-1-0).
"We have guys banged up so Paul was added to the roster," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said. "He'll play some power-play, but we just want him to defend, be responsible and move the puck … play simple. Sometimes it's easier to play at this level than the American League, and I've watched him on tape from last year. He looked OK. He was good in training camp and was disappointed to be sent back."
Postma, who will likely be paired with Johnny Oduya in his season debut Saturday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, is looking forward to making the most of this opportunity.
"I got the call (Friday) and it wasn't my first call up, so I've been there before so nerves aren't exactly what they used to be," Postma said. "But with all the injuries, I'm just glad I get a chance to play."
"He's going to play, he's on a roll," Noel said of Pavelec. "I won't hesitate playing him back-to-back (Saturday and Sunday) either. It's not an issue. I'd ride him right now with the way he is performing."
When asked if his team will play any differently knowing Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk will be sidelined by injury, Noel admitted that wouldn't be the case.
"(Kovalchuk's) a guy who can really break a game open," Noel said. "He's a guy you need to be aware of on the power play. We'll have to manage our game intelligently with the defense we have and spend as little time as we can in our zone … find ways to exploit their game. This is a game we feel we can win."
Here's what the projected lineup looks like for the Jets following their morning skate:
Philadelphia is where I started my NHL career and this is where I want to be so I am really happy. This definitely gives me a lot of confidence by the Flyers showing that they have confidence in me. I know they want to see me get better as a player and this is the place to do it.
— Zac Rinaldo to the Flyers website on signing a two-year contract extension with Philadelphia