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Twitter talk: Fast starts for RNH, Stars, Caps

Thursday, 10.27.2011 / 9:33 AM / NHL.Countdown

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Twitter talk: Fast starts for RNH, Stars, Caps
NHL.com looks at topics that figure to dominate the Twitter-verse, from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' fast start to the expected sale of the Stars and the Rangers coming home to a renovated Madison Square Garden.
From a No. 1 draft pick who belongs in the NHL to a team chasing a record to another team that finally gets to play a home game, here are five topics that should be trending in the NHL Twitter-verse this week:

#HeyRNHshouldstay

Top draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers is scheduled to play in his ninth NHL game Thursday when Washington comes to Edmonton. It should not be his last game in the NHL this season.

The Oilers can still return Nugent-Hopkins to Red Deer of the Western Hockey League and hold on to the first year of his three-year entry-level contract. If they decide to send their top scorer back to his junior team, the Oilers would be making a grave mistake.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Center - EDM
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 8
SOG: 20 | +/-: 4
Nugent-Hopkins has shown in just eight games that despite being 18 years old and maybe a bit too slight in his frame, he is already an NHL player and he belongs in the best league in the world. He has not looked out of place, and any mistakes or inefficiencies in his game are normal for a rookie -- no matter his age.

#StableStars

There's genuine, yet guarded, optimism in Dallas as Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi appears in line to take over as the team's new owner. There is still courtroom red tape to cut through, but if all goes to plan, the Stars could be announcing Gaglardi as the new owner come late November.

Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk told me late Monday night that he spoke to Gaglardi earlier in the day, after the NHL confirmed his was the only bid to buy the Stars out of a prepackaged bankruptcy, and said the potential new owner was excited about how things were unfolding.

Nieuwendyk is happy as well, considering he's been operating on a slim budget (Dallas currently has the League's lowest payroll) as the ownership situation works to its resolution. If Gaglardi's bid is accepted by the courts and the NHL's Board of Governors, don't discount the Pegula Effect happening.

Now that billionaire Terry Pegula is the owner in Buffalo, the franchise has been revitalized and the Sabres are very much a team to watch this season. This isn't to say that Gaglardi will have the exact same effect on the Stars, or that his pockets are as deep, but new ownership in Dallas will provide the fresh start the Stars and Nieuwendyk need.

#DistrictOfCapitals

The Capitals are 7-0-0 heading into Edmonton on Thursday. With three more wins they'll match the 1993-94 Maple Leafs and 2006-07 Sabres for the best start in NHL history.

They've won their last four games by a combined 17-4 after needing either overtime or a shootout to win their first three. I probably wasn't alone in thinking the Caps would be in line for a loss either last Thursday in Philadelphia or Saturday at home against the Red Wings, but they won those two games by a combined score of 12-3.

NHL.COUNTDOWN

Tuesday 10

EJ Hradek - NHL.com Analyst
EJ makes the case for mandatory visors, talks Penguins PK, struggling Jackets and more.
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Judging by how the rest of the Southeast looks right now, it appears the Capitals will walk to another division title -- and likely win it by a landslide. It's too bad that no matter how many points they get this season, all they'll guarantee themselves is their first two playoff games at home.

#TheNewMSG

The concourses are wider and the food options are more enticing. The seats in the lower bowl are spacious, and the fan experience for those lucky enough to have an event-level suite is just through-the-roof amazing.

And yes, for us media types, the new press box at Madison Square Garden is nothing short of a blessing.

The renovations at the Garden are only 33-percent complete, but the building is in good enough shape to open Thursday night for the Rangers' home opener. The buzz is growing in New York as everyone wants to get a look inside to see what the old barn looks like now.

The players got their first taste of the building Wednesday and it played to rave reviews. The Rangers have a new state-of-the-art dressing room complete with a workout room, whirlpool tubs, etc. They basically have everything a professional sports team needs to be at its best. Now it's up to the Rangers to make good on it.

#EyeingPronger

Chris Pronger's eye injury, a result of Mikhail Grabovski's follow-through on a shot Monday, has sparked up the debate on visors in the NHL. Our own E.J. Hradek had a sharp take on visors and the need to make them mandatory in his Tuesday 10 column this week.

I have to agree that it's definitely something that should be looked into, and perhaps it will be the topic du jour when the general managers meet in Toronto on Nov. 15. That said, my immediate thoughts went to Pronger, not to the piece of equipment he wasn't wearing.

The fact that Pronger is lucky is both a relief and a miracle because that scene in Philly was ugly. Pronger's reaction was enough for everybody in the building and all of us watching on TV to realize how much pain he was in. I couldn't be sure when I saw it where Grabovski's stick got him, but when we learned it was the eye, fear washed over me and I immediately covered my own eyes.

Pronger is a hockey player and a darn good one, but he has only a few good years left in his career. He has an entire life to live after he's done playing this game, and he was maybe an inch (or less) away from having to go the rest of his life with vision problems.

As much as I hope he wears a visor when he returns, I'm just glad to know that Pronger will return. It was that close.


Let's forecast the future now. The crystal ball says these five topics could be trending by this time next week:

#ColumbusShakeUp

One win helps, especially when it comes against Detroit, but the Columbus Blue Jackets have already dug themselves such a deep hole in the Western Conference that you wonder if they'll ever be able to find their way out of it this season. Moreover, you wonder if Scott Arniel and Scott Howson will be the guiding forces behind the Blue Jackets' attempt to climb out of the ditch.

Maybe it's still too early to put countdown clocks on their futures in Columbus, but the next three games could be telling. The Jackets begin a stretch of three in four nights Thursday in Buffalo. They also play Saturday in Chicago and Sunday at home against Anaheim.

If Columbus goes 0-3, which would drop its record to 1-10-1 this season, how could anyone argue against change, especially when Ken Hitchcock is in the organization? If the Blue Jackets build off their impressive 4-1 victory over the Red Wings and pick up some more points to start the climb back to respectability, it could buy Arniel and/or Howson some extra life in Ohio's capital city.

#SeenSid?

If the Pittsburgh Penguins are waiting to see how Sidney Crosby responds to contact in successive practices, they should be able to get it next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Pittsburgh plays Saturday at Toronto but doesn't have another game until Thursday against the Sharks at HP Pavilion.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that Crosby makes the trip to California with the team and is ready to play either in San Jose on Thursday or in Los Angeles two nights later. It's also not out of the realm of possibility that Crosby stays home, continues to work with strength coach Mike Kadar, and targets Nov. 11 at home against Dallas as his return game.

It's all a guessing game now, but next week could bring us all closer to an answer.

#BoothRevival

David Booth
Left Wing - VAN
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 1
SOG: 21 | +/-: -8
David Booth's debut as a Canuck wasn't exactly the greatest show on earth. He played nearly 16 minutes and put three shots on goal in a 3-2 loss to Edmonton. He'll remember it as his first game as a Canuck, but not for what transpired on the ice.

That should not be telling of what is to come with Booth in Vancouver. He is experiencing a career revival of sorts, moving from a team that hasn't been a contender in years to one that is expected to again challenge for the Stanley Cup.

Booth has the talent, know-how, and moxie to perform in the pressure cooker that is Rogers Arena. All he requires is time to adjust to his new team and his new city, but something tells me he won't be given much in the way of leeway there. The Vancouver fans are looking for immediate results, so by next week he could be a fan favorite or a guy that isn't living up to his potential.

We're not naïve enough to think three games in a Canucks uniform is enough time to properly judge Booth's impact, but maybe at some point he will provide a glimpse as to what he will become.

#SurgingSharks

It may seem backwards, but the Sharks have found their footing on the road after going 1-3-0 to start the season, including three games at home. San Jose has won three in a row and its six-game trip continues Friday in Detroit. The Sharks come to New York to play the Islanders on Saturday and the Rangers on Monday before finally going home.

They've righted themselves after a rocky start, but the surge needs to continue over these next three games or the positive start to this road trip will be forgotten.

The fact is that everybody in the hockey world knew the Sharks' start to the season was not indicative of the type of team this is. If you remember, they struggled at the beginning of last season as well and went on to win the Pacific Division and reach the Western Conference Finals.

#StarSearch

Who would have thought the team with the lowest payroll in the League, the team that blew a chance to make the playoffs last season and then lost star center Brad Richards to free agency over the summer, would be off to one of the best starts in 2011-12?

We're not hearing as much as we should be about the Dallas Stars and the start they've had under first-year coach Glen Gulutzan. They're leading the Pacific Division with 14 points (7-2-0) thanks to superb goaltending from Kari Lehtonen, rejuvenated play from Sheldon Souray and an offense that's doing just enough to win.

Dallas plays Los Angeles on Thursday and New Jersey on Saturday before it gets nearly a week off. The Stars have given us no reason to believe they can't win these next two games and go into their five-day break as one of the best stories of the first month.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
Quote of the Day

Not only is it a great idea, but if you don't [start using analytics] you're going to fall behind. You have to be on the cutting edge. It was [Arizona Coyotes assistant general manager] Darcy Regier who said, 'If you didn't invent it, you have to be the second- or third-best copier, because if you're fourth or fifth you've got no chance.'

— Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on his interest in advanced statistical analysis