Pens sure to trade to shake things up

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Sports - KEVIN ALLEN

Are the New York Is­lan­ders a play­off team? Are the Van­cou­ver Canucks this good? Are Bob Boughner’s and Mike Yeo’s jobs safe?

There is plenty we don’t know early in the sec­ond month of this NHL sea­son. But here are five things we do know with less than two weeks be­fore U.S. Thanks­giv­ing:

Let’s make a deal

When Pitts­burgh Pen­guins gen­eral man­ager Jim Ruther­ford took his team to task in a can­did in­ter­view on 105.9 FM in Pitts­burgh Wed­nes­day, you can be sure play­ers took no­tice. He will make a trade. Soon.

Ruther­ford is among the most ag­gres­sive traders in NHL his­tory.

The Pen­guins need de­fen­sive help and a spark up front. Ruther­ford said he doesn’t see any de­sir­able de­fense­man in the mar­ket place, but he has a his­tory of find­ing what he needs. The Los An­ge­les Kings and Carolina Hur­ri­canes could be will­ing trade part­ners.

Swedish sen­sa­tion

Un­ques­tion­ably, Elias Pet­ters­son, 19, is the NHL’s best rookie. The de­bate is whether we should al­ready con­sider the Van­cou­ver Canuck one of the league’s top play­ers.

Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill com­pared him to Pavel Dat­syuk be­cause of his de­cep­tive­ness. He pointed out Pet­ters­son is more dom­i­nant than fel­low Swedish coun­try­man Peter Fors­berg was at his age. He was the first player in 26 years to score nine or more goals in the first nine games of his NHL ca­reer.

Pet­ters­son has 10 goals and 17 points in 11 games.

Stan­ley Cup pre­view

The Nash­ville Preda­tors and Tampa Bay Light­ning are the two teams that have most lived up to ex­pec­ta­tions this NHL sea­son.

No­body would be shocked if th­ese two teams ended up in the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal. Both teams have a bal­anced ros­ter, rich in skill and play­off ex­pe­ri­ence. Nash­ville goalie Pekka Rinne, 36, is play­ing as if he is in the prime of his ca­reer. Tampa Bay goalie An­drei Vasilevskiy is only now ex­plor­ing the depths of his ta­lent.

The Preda­tors have the No. 1 de­fen­sive team (2.07 goals per game), and Light­ning have the No. 5 de­fen­sive team. The Light­ning are the No. 2 of­fen­sive team (3.63) and the Preda­tors are tied for sixth (3.40).

Of­fense back in style

With nearly a fifth of the sea­son in the books, scor­ing is up 4.7 per­cent. Teams are av­er­ag­ing

3.11 goals per game, ac­cord­ing to hock­eyref­er­ence.com. If that holds, it would be the NHL’s high­est team aver­age since 1995-96 when teams av­er­aged 3.14.

It’s un­likely the NHL will re­turn to the high-scor­ing ways of the 1980s when teams av­er­aged 3.5 to 4.0 goals per game. Goalies are too big, too tal­ented, and em­pha­sis on de­fense is too un­wa­ver­ing.

Don’t write off Knights

The Las Ve­gas Golden Knights aren’t in a play­off spot but give them credit for hang­ing in there while en­dur­ing this pe­riod of in­juries and bad luck.

In­juries and No. 1 de­fense­man Nate Sch­midt’s 20-game sus­pen­sion are the rea­sons for the slow start. Alex Tuch missed the first eight games be­cause of a lower body in­jury. Paul Stastny’s in­jury was a ma­jor blow. Max Pa­cioretty was hurt and now Erik Haula is out for an un­de­ter­mined time. When ev­ery­one is healthy and Sch­midt re­turns, the Golden Knights will be back in the hunt.

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