John Tavares’ role is expanding under interim coach Doug Weight

Takeaways: A weekly spin around the NHL

Doug Weight has made at least one prominent change since he replaced Jack Capuano behind the New York Islanders bench last month.

He’s expanded the role of his best player.

A four-time all-star himself over almost two decades in the NHL, Weight is using captain John Tavares more on the penalty kill than ever before.

Tavares almost never killed penalties before this season, totalling just three minutes and 29 seconds all of last season and never more 13 minutes in his first seven seasons.

Capuano started to change that this season, but Weight has taken it to a whole new level, tripling Tavares’ shorthanded ice-time in his brief term as Islanders head coach.

Tavares is averaging one minute and 32 seconds on the penalty kill under Weight — second to Nikolay Kulemin among New York forwards — compared with just 31 seconds under Capuano.

It’s worked too.

Not only has Tavares picked up a goal and assist shorthanded since his duties were increased, but he’s been incredibly effective in a small sample size. New York has given up 93 shot attempts per 60 minutes when Tavares is on the ice shorthanded — the top mark on the team and substantially better than teammates like Casey Cizikas (113) and Cal Clutterbuck (125), both of whom were used heavily under Capuano.

Weight has cut time for Cizikas and Clutterbuck on the penalty kill as well as Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson. He’s relied more on Tavares, Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera as well as Dennis Seidenberg and Calvin de Haan on the back-end.

The Islander penalty kill has been incrementally better since the coaching change, and overall the club boasts an impressive 12-5-2 mark under Weight. 

RETURN OF THE KING

L.A. got Jonathan Quick back from injury on Saturday and then traded for fellow 2015-16 Vezina trophy finalist Ben Bishop as insurance on Sunday. But what the Kings could really use is scoring boost in their bid to make the post-season.

The club entered a Monday clash with the Wild carrying the NHL’s seventh-worst offence this season, with Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson accounting for about a third of the goals. Only two other players have reached double figures in the goal department, and captain Anze Kopitar has especially struggled in the first year of a nine-year, US$80 million contract.

Kopitar had only six goals through the first 55 games, on pace for a career-low of nine.

Three years ago at the trade deadline Dean Lombardi pried Marian Gaborik from Columbus for an offensive spark and he was a hit, scoring 14 goals and 22 points in 26 playoff games en route to a Stanley Cup. The Kings could use a similar infusion at this year’s deadline, especially with Gaborik, now 35, showing his age this season.

HOTTEST PLAYER IN HOCKEY

Filip Forsberg scored a career-high 33 goals last season, but after 27 games this year the Nashville Predators winger had found the back of the net just two times. He has scored 22 goals since, the most of any player in hockey. The 22-year-old has been especially hot of late, tallying back-to-back hat tricks for Nashville last week before adding a goal in each of the two games that followed.

BREAKOUT

It’s been a breakout year for 23-year-old New York Rangers winger J.T. Miller.

This season: 19 goals, 47 points in 62 games

Last season: 22 goals, 43 points in 82 games

A first round pick in 2011, Miller has been a sensation while playing primarily alongside Michael Grabner (26 goals) and Kevin Hayes (43 points) on a productive third line. With a cap hit of just US$2.75 million for this season and next, Miller is a bargain too.

SAME OLD BRUCE

Back when Bruce Boudreau was the Washington Capitals head coach HBO’s 24/7 series captured him delivering a speech laced with profanities. But that’s not the person Frederik Andersen got to know during three seasons with Boudreau in Anaheim.

“It’s funny, everyone asks if he swears a lot because of that 24/7 thing, but that couldn’t be pretty much more opposite of what (he) really is like,” said Andersen, now the Toronto Maple Leafs No. 1 netminder. “He’s pretty positive and only if things are unacceptable he’ll tell people obviously and hold people accountable.”

The most effective regular season head coach in NHL history (.664 points percentage entering Monday’s action, tops among coaches with at least 500 games), Boudreau has the Minnesota Wild headed for their best season in franchise history.

It’s nothing new. Boudreau had a .672 regular season points percentage in Washington and a .648 clip in Anaheim, dismissed both times due to post-season failure.

“He makes people want to play for him harder,” Andersen said. “His record is amazing and he’s done great pretty much everywhere he’s gone. It’s impressive.”

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press

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