Welcome to the latest installment of While You Were Away. We’ll be tracking stories you may have missed and players who are trending up and down, as well as offering a few predictions and generally keeping you updated on all things hockey beyond your favorite team.
• The St. Louis Blues have extended professional tryout contracts to aging wingers Martin Havlat and Dainius Zubrus. Havlat, 34, put up 14 points in 40 games last season while the 37-year old Zubrus had 10 points in 74 games, both with the Devils.
The New Jersey connection may not be a coincidence. Devils great Martin Brodeur signed on as the Blues’ assistant GM last summer and forward Scott Gomez was given a PTO with the team in training camp after scoring 34 points in 58 games with New Jersey last season. On Tuesday night, Gomez scored his first goal of the season—the eventual game winner in a 2–0 shutout of Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Blues are clearly looking to build some depth in their lineup, a necessity up front with winger Jaden Schwartz out 12 weeks with an ankle injury and Paul Stastny lost to a broken foot. Robby Fabbri returned to action against the Lightning after being sidelined by a concussion. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (groin) is close to seeing action again. The Havlat and Zubrus moves could buy some time and provide some stability for the Blues in a very competitive Central Division.
• Though Petr Mrazek looked strong at times in Detroit’s 3–1 loss last night to Carolina on Tuesday night, his one big gaffe became a storyline. Mrazek came out of the net in the second period of a scoreless game to play the puck and inadvertently dished the biscuit to a streaking Victor Rask who, it should be noted, plays for the Carolina Hurricanes. Rask potted an easy goal.
Such things happen to goaltenders in the NHL from time to time. And Mrazek has looked pretty stable throughout the season thus far, posting a respectable .922 save percentage in five games in the hope of solidifying himself as the Wings’ no. 1 goalie.
After all the off-season drama of Mike Babcock leaving Detroit for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Wings are flying a bit under the radar and frankly haven’t looked as dominant as they often did under Babcock.
Theres always a learning curve to be expected with a new coach, but with only nine points through nine games and largely the same lineup that Babcock had last season, you have to wonder if Jeff Blashill is getting everything he can out of this squad. Miscues like Mrazek’s last night are the type of things that Babcock worked hard to eliminate. They might not be getting the headlines right now but how the Wings fare is a story to keep an eye on.
• For the life of me, I could never figure out why Boone Jenner of the Columbus Blue Jackets isn’t talked about more and more on a national scope in this league. Jenner fell much lower than he should have in the 2011 Entry Draft (37th) and after posting points-per-game averages of 0.40 and 0.44 during his first two seasons, respectively, he looks primed to have a breakout season. He scored the opener in a 3–1 win over New Jersey on Tuesday night, potted two against Colorado in the Jackets’ previous game and has six on the season. (Now, that’s a streak, Columbus!)
There were many who believe that John Tortorella is the wrong man for the job in Columbus but one person who stands to benefit is Jenner. He’s a salt-of-the-earth goalscorer whose relentless style of play will likely have Torts singing his praises and giving him more ice time very soon. Jenner has averaged only just over 15 minutes in ice time per game this season, seventh among all forwards on the team, but he now leads the Blue Jackets in goals.
With Ryan Johansen out with an undisclosed injury, Torts may have to lean on Jenner more than expected and the NHL may finally start giving him the recognition he deserves.