So is Joakim Nygard going to be Todd Marchant on a breakaway — great wheels, hands not quite in the same ballpark except for that historic playoff goal on Andy Moog in OT in 1997 — or is there more there from the Swedish winger?
Nygard had two clear-cut, in alone chances on goalie Jonathan Quick Thursday and was stopped on both. He knows he’s got to score on those. Especially the one when it was 3-1 for L.A.
“I had a lot of breakaways in Sweden, too, and it took a couple of years before I buried them. I have to do it better,” said Nygard, whose wheels are NHL-calibre but he’s only got one goal in 16 shots.
“First couple of years (Sweden) I tried a move on the breakaways, then I started shooting and the puck started going in. I’m shooting here, too. So we’ll see,” he said.
He had a terrific chance from 20 feet in the third, too, but defenceman Alec Martinez got his stick blade on it with Quick clearly beaten on the play.
“Kass (Zack Kassian) passed it to me in the slot and I had lots to shoot at but I didn’t get the puck up. It’s coming, though. I had a couple of tough games after my injury (ribs) but I’m getting the chances.”
Tippett definitely needs Nygard’s speed in his top nine. He may not be a second-line winger but maybe third line left-wing. “He was coming but there were those injuries … there’s still another level there,” said Tippett. “The good thing about him? He’s really determined, he’s not here to mess around. He wants to be a good player and that’s positive to see.”
NO SHIFTS ARE TOO LONG
When Mike Babcock was coaching Canadian Olympic teams generally he wanted his players to empty the tank in 40- to 45-second shifts and get off, but it’s different in regular-season NHL play, especially today, especially where big guns often stay out for most or almost all of allotted PP time. Which is why Oilers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are 1-2 in league scoring and average ice-time at 62 and 61 seconds, with Alex Ovechkin at an even minute a shift and fellow Caps’ D John Carlson at 59 seconds. He runs their power play from the point.
“All those guys’ (McDavid, Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom) minutes get skewed because of our power play. It’s unique. I’ve never seen it where they play two minutes … I’m always thinking, ‘You can’t do that or you’ll be tired.’ But they can stay out there because of the offensive-zone time,” said Tippett.
ALL BETS ARE OFF
If Evander Kane was expecting a quiet reception Thursday when the Sharks were here to play the Golden Knights, the fans can read the papers. They serenaded him with “Pay your markers.” Kane owes $500,000 to the Cosmopolitan Casino in Vegas going back to last April in the playoffs. He was booed roundly when he was the last guy on the ice for warmups. Trash talking from 18,000.
Defenceman Caleb Jones, playing right side with Klefbom even though he’s a left shot, doesn’t care what job description he has, only that his employment is currently in the NHL. Jones had his first off game in Los Angeles since his call up from Bakersfield, not nearly as decisive with the puck, but wasn’t alone. It’s part of his learning curve, and, again, most lefties play left side.
“His skating is good, he’s been really simple with his play. He’s not making big mistakes. He’s been solid, defending, moving the puck,” said Tippett, who gave Brandon Manning quite a few reps at practice Friday but will go back to Jones for the Golden Knights game.
Jones has no trouble playing his off side, even though he’s having to make plays on his backhand.
“There’s so many left-handed D when you’re growing up, going back to bantam, midget, and that’s when it starts (playing the right side),” said Jones. “For me, I played right side in junior in Portland because we had five lefties, then I’ve done it in the AHL. But in the U.S. (national) program I played left (with Charlie McAvoy in the world junior).”
This ’n that: Tippett liked it when Draisaitl said he had a very poor game in L.A. “Shows he understands the game. I didn’t argue with him,” said the Oiler coach … Tippett wasn’t tipping his hand on his starting goalie against Vegas, even after Mike Smith was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period in L.A. “Whoever plays tomorrow isn’t playing in Arizona (Sunday),” said Tippett … Winger Jujhar Khaira took a Dustin Brown shot off his left hand in the second period Thursday and while he came back briefly to play, he only had two shifts in the third and just 9:54 ice-time. He didn’t practise Friday. “He was a bit sore today but there’s a good chance he’ll play (against Vegas) … Adam Larsson said he had no ill effects after his first game (he played 13:37) since Oct. 2. “My legs were fine. But I only played even-strength, no penalty-killing,” said Larsson … Tippett has thought of inserting Gaetan Haas into his penalty-killing rotation because of his smarts and skating. He’s still a work in progress as a right-shot face-off guy, though, at 39 percent on 118 draws. Really tough for first-year guys on draws, with NHL strength on the dot.
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