By Matt Citak
With the baseball season coming to an end tonight, it’s time to shift focus towards the NHL, where things are just starting to heat up. We are about a month into the 2017-18 season, and have already seen a few teams burst out of the gate and establish themselves as early contenders. While the Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues were expected to play well, not many people would have predicted this much early-season success for the Vegas Golden Knights or New Jersey Devils. With some big games coming up, it will be interesting to see if these teams can keep their momentum going into November.
Here are some of this week’s top NHL headlines.
Golden Knights down to fourth goaltender
The Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s newest expansion team, surprised everyone by getting off to a historically hot 8-1 start. While the Golden Knights have lost their last two games, it’s hard to put the blame on the whole team. During Vegas’ 6-4 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday, the team was forced to go with Maxime Lagace as their starting goaltender. Due to all of the injuries the team has suffered at the position, Lagace is Vegas’ fourth goaltender in only 11 games. Starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been out since suffering a concussion on Oct. 13, and is being described as “day-to-day” by Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant. Malcolm Subban, Fleury’s backup, made three starts before suffering a lower body injury that landed him on injured reserve. The Golden Knights then called up 23-year-old goalie Oscar Dansk from the minors, who also made three starts before going down with an undisclosed injury during Monday’s loss. Enter Lagace, the undrafted goalie who has spent the last four seasons bouncing around between the AHL and ECHL. The Golden Knights are hopeful Fleury can return soon.
Bruins forward David Backes to have colon surgery
The Boston Bruins announced on Wednesday that forward David Backes will undergo surgery to remove a portion of his colon and will be out for about eight weeks. The 33-year-old veteran has been dealing with diverticulitis, a disease that is characterized by inflammation in the intestinal tract. Backes missed the first five games of the season because of the condition, but then appeared in five games in October, recording one assist. He posted 17 goals and 21 assists in 74 games for the Bruins last season.
Coyotes center Clayton Keller named Rookie of the Month
October was a month to forget for the Arizona Coyotes, who have a league-worst three points after going 1-11-1 to start the season. It hasn’t been all bad news for the Coyotes, though. Their 19-year-old center, Clayton Keller, was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for October after he led all rookies with nine goals and 15 points in 13 games. Keller registered a point in 10 of his 13 games, including a seven-game point streak. He becomes the first Coyotes/Jets rookie to score nine goals in one calendar month since Teemu Selanne (20) in March, 1993.
Devils forward Brian Boyle could make debut Wednesday
New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle hasn’t appeared in a single game this season after being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia during training camp. However Boyle traveled with the Devils on the team’s three-game, Western-Canada road trip, and could make his season debut as early as tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. Boyle, who signed a two-year, $5.1 million contract with New Jersey during the offseason, could not be more excited to finally get back on the ice.
Lightning duo continue to shine, named First and Second Stars for October
The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently tied with the St. Louis Blues with a league-leading 21 points after both clubs begun the season 10-2-1. The Lightning also sport the league’s best goal differential at +17, and a big reason for that has been the play of forward duo Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Both forwards started the year with an 11-game point streak, becoming only the seventh set of teammates in NHL history to accomplish the feat. Stamkos’ 18 assists and 24 points lead the league, and resulted in him being named the NHL’s First Star for October. Kucherov was right behind his teammate, as his 13 goals are the most in the NHL while his 21 points rank second. This performance led to Kucherov being named the league’s Second Star for October. Both Stamkos and Kucherov have recorded points in 12 of Tampa Bay’s 13 games this season.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.