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Tuesday 10: Visors, Pens PK, struggling Jackets

Tuesday, 10.25.2011 / 9:51 AM / NHL.Countdown

By EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst

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Tuesday 10: Visors, Pens PK, struggling Jackets
 
How many serious eye injuries will have to occur before the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association get serious about making visors mandatory?
 
On Monday night, Flyers captain Chris Pronger was clipped near the right eye by the stick of Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski, who was following through on a shot. Pronger immediately fell to the ice before racing to the team's dressing room.
 
According to early reports, Pronger might have been fortunate. Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren, addressing the media after the game, said if all goes well during the next four days -- Pronger will be confined to bed rest and see the eye doctor each day during that time -- he could rejoin the team in "10 days to two weeks."
 
If all goes well …
 
Today, the game is faster than it's ever been. Bigger, stronger players, armed with high-tech sticks, are routinely jacking the puck at speeds near or above 100 miles per hour. When one of those shots deflects, there's no getting out of the way.
 
Ask Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who took a shot right between the eyes during a Ducks-Sharks game on Oct. 17. Fortunately, Beauchemin was wearing a visor, which saved him from a potentially devastating injury.
 

""I could have lost my eye. I could have broken the bone. A lot of things could have happened without (the visor)."
-- Ducks' d-man Francois Beauchemin

"I could have lost my eye," Beauchemin told the Orange County Register. "I could have broken the bone. A lot of things could have happened without (the visor)."

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday it is the League's preference to have all players wear visors, but that NHL players have maintained it should be an individual player choice.

"We respect that view," said Daly. "We have proposed a mandatory rule with grandfathering [if players prefer], but it's not something the players have agreed to do. We aren't willing to move unilaterally in this area without the PA [NHL Players' Association] agreeing."

Last March, Canucks center Manny Malhotra suffered a serious eye injury on a seemingly innocuous play when he was hit in the face with a puck in the neutral zone. On that play, the puck had been passed up the ice and deflected off the sticks of Malhotra and Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson. Malhotra wasn't wearing a visor.

 
In Pronger's case, he was hit with a wayward stick. It can be a stick or a puck or, heaven forbid, a skate. Things are happening faster than ever on the ice. It's time leaders on both sides start to make more of a push to make the visor a mandatory piece of equipment -- or, at least, make it mandatory for every new player entering the NHL.
 
This is a tricky subject for the NHLPA, which has a significant number of its members that would be against such a change. Some guys, for their own reasons, don't want to wear one. And there are many players who just like the idea of having a choice.
 
A few decades ago, there was a similar discussion about helmets. In the same way, there were players who didn't want to wear a lid and/or liked the idea of having the option.
 
Eventually, common sense won out and helmets became a standard piece of a skater's equipment. Today's game demands the same smart move to include the visor as a part of every player's gear.  
 
Now, here's the Tuesday 10:

1
Seriously good penalty killing is among the top reasons why the injury-riddled Penguins have been able to roll to a solid 6-2-2 start.
 
Dan Byslma's bunch has surrendered just one power-play goal in 33 chances against. For the mathematically challenged, that's a silly-good 97-percent success rate.
 
They've been particularly sensational on the road, killing off all 20 man-down situations. Clearly, goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson are doing their part; but the team's penalty killers -- guys like forwards Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Craig Adams, as well as several of their defensemen -- have been excellent.
 
And for good measure, the Penguins have scored a League-best three shorthanded goals. At this rate, opponents might want to decline the penalty against the Pens.
 
2
On the flip side, some dreadful penalty killing stands among the many reasons why the injury-plagued Blue Jackets have stumbled out to a 0-7-1 start.
 
Columbus has given up 10 power-play goals on 28 chances against. That averages out to a League-worst 64.3-percent kill rate. The Senators stand as the only other club with a penalty-killing average of less than 70 percent (69.2).
 
At home, the Jackets have done a reasonably good job, killing 11 of 13 penalties. On the road, however, their opponents have converted eight of 15 chances. In that they still have 37 road games left on the schedule, they'd better get that fixed … fast!
 
3
After a shaky 1-3-2 start in Tampa, the Lightning have gotten back to a more focused defensive style. That adjustment has resulted in back-to-back wins against the Islanders and Sabres.
 
In their first six games, the Lightning were giving up an average of 37 shots per contest. That's nearly nine shots more per game than they gave up last year. As you can figure, coach Guy Boucher wasn't happy with that.
 
In the past two games, Tampa has given up a combined total of 38 shots; an average of 19 per game. The Lightning may have a bench load of talented offensive players, but they seem to be at their best when they're locked in defensively.
 
4
Zach Parise
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 4
SOG: 22 | +/-: 0
Now that Jacob Josefson (broken collarbone) has joined fellow center Travis Zajac (torn Achilles tendon) on the long-term injury list, Devils head coach Peter DeBoer has decided to move star winger Zach Parise to the middle.
 
Parise practiced between left wing Ilya Kovalchuk and right wing Nick Palmieri on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles. DeBoer plans on using the trio together against the Kings on Tuesday night.
 
Parise was the choice to move in from the wing because he has played center during his college days. Will it work? That's hard to say. Parise certainly has the talent to play in the middle, but he'll have to find a comfort level there.
 
In Chicago, Patrick Kane seems to be making a successful transition from wing to center. In that case, however, Kane is working alongside two-way star Marian Hossa, whose ability to excel in all three zones definitely helps matters.
 
6
Speaking of the Devils, DeBoer hasn't been shy about sending Kovalchuk over the boards. In three of the club's first six games, Kovalchuk logged more than 29 minutes. While all three went to shootout, those type of minutes are nearly unheard of for a forward.
 
On Friday night, against the visiting Sharks, Kovalchuk worked a season-high 32:25. In New Jersey's previous game, on Oct. 15, in Nashville, he finished with 32:04. No other player has played more than 32 minutes in any game during the young season.
 
Through Monday, Kovalchuk was the clear ice-time leader among forwards, averaging 26:56 -- nearly full four minutes more per game than the next busiest forward, Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf.
 
6
Remember the "controversy" that surrounded Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun when he didn't get the opening-night start? Can you still recall Vokoun's shaky first game in a Caps sweater? You should be able to; after all, it was just a few weeks ago.
 
It seems like a much more distant memory.
 
Since surrendering five goals in a 6-5 victory against the Lightning, Vokoun has allowed just six in his past five games, stopping 169 of 175 shots. The Czech-born stopper has won six in a row, his longest personal winning streak since opening the 2005-06 season with seven victories for the Predators.
 
7
Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
RECORD: 5-0-1
GAA: 0.81 | SVP: 0.972
How hard is it to roll shutouts in three straight games? Well, we haven't seen it since Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason turned the goaltending hat trick in Dec. 2008.
 
Nearly three full years later, LA's Jonathan Quick accomplished the feat, blanking the Blues, Coyotes and Stars in succession. In doing so, he became the first Kings goalie to post back-to-back-to-back shutouts and he pushed his scoreless streak to 188:10, breaking the franchise's previous mark established by Rogie Vachon.
 
On the season, Quick is near perfect with a 5-0-1 record, a microscopic 0.81 goals-against average and a spectacular .972 save percentage.
 
Can he put up a fourth consecutive zero? We'll have to wait a few more days to find out. Kings coach Terry Murray has opted to start Jonathan Bernier against the Devils on Tuesday night. I suspect Quick will be back in the crease when Los Angeles travels to Dallas on Thursday.
 
8
At last June's Entry Draft, there were several scouts who believed that Gabriel Landeskog was the most ready to step right into a full-time spot in the NHL.
 
So far, that's proven to be the case.
 
In his first eight games with the Avalanche, Landeskog has contributed 4 goals -- including a game-tying tally and a game-winner -- as well as an assist. He also leads the team with 29 shots. He's currently tied for fifth in the League in that category.
 
Coach Joe Sacco seems pretty comfortable with his rookie winger. He's giving him nearly 17 minutes of ice time per game. It's pretty clear that this 18-year-old has put his junior hockey days behind him.
 
9
Sharks sophomore center Logan Couture probably is feeling a little better after putting up his first goal of the new season against the Bruins last Saturday.
 
The savvy 22-year-old had just 2 assists in his first five games. That slow start didn't go unnoticed by Sharks coach Todd McLellan, who's expecting Couture to build on a terrific rookie campaign.
 
Couture's production should benefit from the arrival of winger Martin Havlat, who missed the first four games of the season as he continued to recover from off-season shoulder surgery.
 
In the short term, McLellan plans on using Couture and Havlat with rugged winger Ryane Clowe.
 
10
Finally … David Booth makes his Canucks' debut Tuesday night against the Oilers in Edmonton. For the record, you can count me among those who think this will turn out to be a terrific trade for Vancouver.
 
Working alongside fellow Michigan native Ryan Kesler and a much more talented supporting cast in the Pacific Northwest, I believe Booth will thrive in his new locale.
 
Quote of the Day

I might have blacked out. I was pretty pumped.

— New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid on his first NHL win Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning