Penguins going south?
The Pittsburgh Penguins are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup at +550, but they are in a slump, having lost five of their last six games.
"With the [limited] amount of practice time [due to the NHL's compressed schedule in this Olympic year], some of those details have started to slip in our system and how we're playing," coach Dan Bylsma told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
As Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette points out, Pittsburgh not only has to deal with the condensed schedule, but also back-to-back short summers (as a result of making the Stanley Cup finals).
Cheering up the Blues
Last year’s Coach of the Year nominee Andy Murray of the St. Louis Blues became the latest coaching casualty in the NHL.
How will St. Louis’ approach change under new coach Davis Payne?
"We want to attack in all areas," Payne told the St. Louis Dispatch. "We want to attack with the puck and we want to attack without the puck. We want to be a team that directs our game in a predictable manner.”
"There are X's and O's and there's systems and things like that,” forward David Backes said. “But there's a lot more on passion and trusting your teammates and playing as a group.”
St. Louis is 0-4-1 in its last five games with the over cashing each time.
Staying the course
Coming off their most successful season in franchise history, expectations were high for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.
Instead, they are tied for 13th place in the Western Conference, and 3-13-6 in their last 22 games.
As Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch points out, coach Ken Hitchcock isn’t planning any major changes to shakeup his team.
“We’ve got a plan and we’re willing to stick with it,” Hitchcock said. “And if it costs me my job then it costs me my job, but there is a plan."
That plan is to give considerable ice time to Columbus’ skill players.
Last year’s Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason has also been struggling for the Jackets. Mason is 11-14-6 this year with a 3.18 goals against average and .895 save percentage.
Cats on the prowl
Despite a 2-7-1 start to the season, the Florida Panthers are within four points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
According to Harvey Fialkov of the Florida Sun-Sentinel, the play of Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun has been a major reason for the Panthers’ improvement.
"Our team play was pretty poor the first 10 games of the season and he took the brunt of that, left alone a lot of times,'' said Panthers coach Pete DeBoer. “When I look at the first 40 games he's been real good.''
Vokoun began the season 1-7-1 but has since posted an 11-5-6 record.
Friday, Jan. 8 – Columbus Blue Jackets at Calgary Flames
The schedule will not get easier for the scuffling Blue Jackets. They finish off a three-game, four night road trip in Calgary following a game in Vancouver on Tuesday and in Edmonton on Thursday.
The Islanders must play their third road game in four nights against a Phoenix Coyotes team that is 16-6-1 at home.
Saturday, Jan. 9 – St. Louis Blues at Los Angeles Kings
The Blues will have little time to make adjustments under new coach Davis Payne. They play three games in California in four nights.