NHL

NHL pluses and minuses: Cody Franson adds depth to Predators defense

St. Louis Blues have been red-hot since Jan. 3, when forward Jaden Schwartz returned from an injury

Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the past week:

+ Defenseman Cody Franson drew widespread interest before the league-leading Nashville Predators acquired him and right wing Mike Santorelli from Toronto for Olli Jokinen, minor leaguer Brendan Leipsic and a first-round draft pick. Franson adds depth to a strong and prolific defense, but he and Santorelli can become unrestricted free agents this summer. The Maple Leafs could flip Jokinen to a contender for another asset before the March 2 trade deadline. Nashville gets short-term help for a Stanley Cup run. Win-win.

+ The St. Louis Blues are 15-2-1 since Jan. 3, which coincides with sparkplug forward Jaden Schwartz's return from an injury. The Blues' 2-1 victory over Florida on Sunday in a five-round shootout gave them 17 wins against the East, top among West teams.

+ Playing for his fourth team this season, forward Mark Arcobello scored on his first shift with the Arizona Coyotes. He began the season with Edmonton, was traded to Nashville, claimed on waivers by Pittsburgh and claimed on waivers last week by Arizona. He's thought to be the third player to play for four NHL teams in one season.

- Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was suspended four games for what the NHL's Department of Player Safety termed "a dangerous hit that is excessively low" on Dallas forward Tyler Seguin on Friday. Seguin sustained a knee injury and will be out four to six weeks. Kulikov, who initially got a five-minute major for clipping and a game misconduct, is a first-time offender. Seguin ranks among the NHL leaders with 29 goals.

- Two players frequently mentioned in trade rumors were hurt last week and probably won't go anywhere now. Ottawa forward Chris Neil broke his left thumb in a fight Saturday and Arizona center Martin Hanzal was scheduled to undergo surgery for a back problem.

- The San Jose Sharks are usually strong at home, but their 5-2 loss Sunday to the Tampa Bay Lightning extended their futility at SAP Center to five straight games. "You lose when the team is not on the same page and that's what we're going through right now," forward Logan Couture told reporters afterward. Overall, the Sharks are 2-4-2 in their last eight.

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