NHL Notebook: Vegas Golden Knights forward Mark Stone out indefinitely after back surgery, U.S. NHL viewership plummets and more

Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
The Vegas Golden Knights will be without forward Mark Stone for the foreseeable future after undergoing back surgery Tuesday.
Stone, 30, was injured on Jan. 12 and began rehab work not long after. A recent setback, however, led to it being determined that surgery was the best course of action.
His surgery was performed by Dr. Chad Prusmack in Denver, C.O. Tuesday, and Stone is expected to make a full recovery. He appeared in 43 games this season for Vegas scoring 17 goals and 38 points.

NHL U.S. viewership drops

The NHL has seen a ratings drop of 22 percent, the Sports Business Journal reported Wednesday.
Heading into the All-Star break, it’s far from great news for ESPN and TNT, who have heavily invested in the NHL brand over recent years.
“The main reason for such a big drop is that both cable nets have doubled the number of games that they have carried compared to last season, from 27 to 54,” the Journal’s Austin Kapp penned. “Bigger schedules of games typically hurt average viewership.”
To date this season, there’s been an average of 373,000 viewers for NHL regular games, down from 478,000 U.S. viewers at this point last year.
Here’s some of what The Athletic’s Sean Gentile wrote about the news:
In this case, though — and maybe only this one — you should think twice before internalizing the ESPN/TNT deal as a failure because there are legitimate explanations for the drops. If this surprises you, you are not alone.
In ESPN’s case, they started using hockey as counter-programming for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” Nationally speaking, that’s where other broadcasts go to die; American sports fans, other than ones who root for the teams involved, have better things to do. Folks, you’ll be shocked to hear, would rather watch football or, like, eat dinner.
So in 2021, ESPN reserved that spot for stuff like NBA G-League games (Ignite vs. Grand Rapids Gold on Dec. 19) and the MLB Gold Glove ceremonies, opting instead to go light on NHL coverage during football season. In 2022, the approach changed, along with the decision to go from eight televised games — which undoubtedly got a bump from the return-to-ESPN curiosity factor — to 17, many of which aired against the planet’s most reliable TV juggernaut. Gotta show them somewhere.
And, of course, if you removed those recent Sunday night games from the equation and graded on the same rubric as last season, ratings would rise to an average of 491,000. That’s better than ESPN’s average during the 2021-22 season.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen enters Calder race

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has entered the Calder Trophy race.
This, according to The Athletic’s Steven Ellis, who had this to say about Luukkonen’s season: 
Luukkonen has been pegged as Buffalo’s goalie of the future for a while, but he’s starting to show why right now. The 23-year-old has a 13-5-2 record through 20 games and went 6-2-1 in the month of January. Eric Comrie started off hot, but an injury, plus some inconsistent play in his return, have given Luukkonen plenty of opportunity. Craig Anderson has been a nice mentor piece, as well. Sabres fans, you might finally have that No. 1 you needed for all this time.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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