The “NHL Sound Bites” column is your go-to for daily hockey stories with quotes from your favourite players and staff.
In this edition of NHL Sound Bites, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury comments on trade rumours, Corey Perry gets ready to return to the place he formerly played 14 NHL seasons, and the Edmonton Oilers sound off after a seventh consecutive loss.
Fleury is Focused on Helping Blackhawks as Trade Deadline Approaches
The Blackhawks rank seventh in the Central Division with a 15-18-6 record and are expected to be sellers at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 21. Among the possible players who could be heading out of Chicago, Fleury is in the final year of his three-year, $7 million average annual value (AAV) contract he signed with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 13, 2018. There seems to be a good chance last year’s Vezina Trophy winner could be sent to a Stanley Cup contender soon.
“It’s not my thought yet,” said Fleury on the possibility of being traded. “All I want is to have this team make the playoffs. Honestly, that’s what’s in my head right now. To me, it’s not worth looking too far ahead. I just want to put this team in a good position to make the playoffs, and that’s my goal.”
Chicago sits eight points out of a wild card spot in a tightly-contested Western Conference playoff race. Fleury is giving his team a chance with a solid .916 save percentage (SV%) across 27 starts in net. He has a 13-11-3 record with the Blackhawks this season.
“I’ve been better I guess,” said Fleury. “We’ve been winning some games, so I think it’s not just me. As a team in general, we’ve been playing well, giving ourselves a chance to win every night. I think guys are playing well in front of me, too, which makes my job easier. I feel good.”
The Blackhawks are heating up as of late, with a 4-0-1 record in its last five games. They have a crucial set of games coming up, with four of its next five matches against Central Division opponents who they are chasing for a place in the postseason, the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche.
“I think the last five games have been better,” said Fleury. “We’ve been playing better and we’re playing some division teams coming up. There’s no quit in our game, right? We have to keep pushing through this. I know there’s a lot of teams ahead of us, but I don’t know. Still, my goal is to try to keep climbing in the standings as much as possible.”
Perry Prepares for Return to Anaheim for First Time Since Ducks Days
Perry will make a return to the Honda Center ice in Anaheim for the first time since his contract was bought out by the Ducks following the 2018-19 season. The 36-year-old played his first 14 NHL seasons with the team, tallying 776 points (372 goals, 404 assists) in 988 games and helping the team win the Stanley Cup in 2007. Since then, he has played for the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and now Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It was a special time here,” said Perry. “This is where I grew up and coming out here at 20 years old and being part of this organization and community for 14 years, it’s special. I’ll always say this was home. I don’t know how it’s going to make me feel when I get out on the ice and I see all the fans and faces on the other side that you’re still very close with and still talk to and communicate with.”
Although Perry has found success since leaving Anaheim, playing in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final with the Dallas Stars and 2021 Stanley Cup Final with the Canadiens, he had his most productive years with the Ducks. In 2010-11, he won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer and the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. He ranks second all-time in Anaheim goals (372), second in games played (988), and third in points and assists (776, 404).
“They’re like brothers some of them over there,” said Perry. “It’s probably going to be emotional, but once the puck drops it’s hockey and game on.”
Oilers’ Leadership is Being Tested on Demoralizing Seven-Game Skid
After a hot start to the season, the Oilers are crumbling on a seven-game winless skid. Their latest loss, a 6-0 shutout by the Florida Panthers on Jan. 20, likely stung the most. Dropping the game on home ice, there is serious concern in Edmonton right now as the Oilers look to climb back out of a hole that only seems to be getting deeper.
“This is a true test of leadership,” said Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse. “It’s easy to be a leader when you’re 9-1 or 16-5, it’s easy to lead a team and be the ‘rah-rah’ guy. This right here, getting out of this is a test for all our leaders on our team. Getting out of this is what’s going to make our team better. You have to show up every day with your hardhat on, that’s the only way to get out of this.”
The Oilers drop to an 18-16-2 record on the season, sitting six points out of a wild card spot. While things are very rocky for Edmonton right now, there is still hope for them to turn things around and compete in the postseason this year. To do that, it will require a full team effort.
“Losing [stinks], you have to keep powering through it,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “We worked all week and a lot of the game, we worked, we just didn’t get any results for our work. Then we got behind and we got chasing.”
Getting shutout at home for a seventh-straight loss could mark a turning point for the Oilers, depending how it responds next game. The team will get a chance to end its skid against its arch-rival, the Calgary Flames, at home on Saturday, Jan. 21. Edmonton will need to put together a full 60-minute effort as the Flames sit just four points above the Oilers, and would surely love to hand their rival another loss.
“We had a good start and then they get the lead and then we’re chasing it,” said Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith. “No matter who you’re playing and what game you’re in, it’s always hard playing from behind. The way things are going right now, it’s been tough, it’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, it’s going to have to be us in there that pull it together and find a way to stick in those games and keep it close.”
Thank you for reading this edition of NHL Sound Bites, and make sure to listen to THW Podcast every weekday (Monday to Friday) to hear everything your favourite hockey writers have to say about the hottest topics around the league.
Tom Pepper hosts The Hockey Writers Podcast on iHeartRadio and wherever you listen to podcasts, every weekday (Monday to Friday). He also writes the “NHL Talk” and “NHL Sound Bites” columns. He is a diehard Buffalo Sabres fan in Toronto, frequently driving the Queen Elizabeth Way to cheer on his team at KeyBank Center.