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Dave Lozo's Bag Skate: Sushi Diet Helping Jakub Voracek Lead the NHL in Scoring

Dave Lozo@@davelozoNHL National Lead WriterNovember 19, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Jakub Voracek #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers warms up prior to his game against the Detroit Red Wings on October 25, 2014 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Lighter Voracek lighting it up

There was nothing wrong with Jakub Voracek's game last season. He had a career-best 23 goals and 62 points in 82 games, yet Flyers coach Craig Berube felt Voracek could do more.

"I talked about it with Chief (Berube)," Voracek said. "He felt I could be even better if I dropped a little weight. At the beginning, I disagreed with him, because my game is about strength in the corners and on the puck. Then I decided I would try it."

Voracek went from 219 pounds to 209 pounds during the summer by banishing carbohydrates from his diet and eating mostly chicken and sushi on a consistent basis. "No bread, no pasta. I had steak about once a week. Not even sushi with the rice. I was always eating sashimi."

The new nutrition plan coupled with cardio-heavy workouts in Montreal with Vinny Lecavalier, Jiri Hudler and Kris Letang have helped Voracek become the league leader in points this season with 26 in 16 games. He's tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, although he has played one more game than Voracek.

"I wouldn't say I'm faster; I was always fast," Voracek said. "I feel quicker, like from a standing spot. The first two steps, I'm quicker than I've always been. It's the biggest difference for me, because I have more time to make things happen."

Voracek has done most of his damage this season with Claude Giroux as his center, but the latter isn't necessarily carrying the former. Voracek has played about 94 percent of his five-on-five minutes with Giroux this season, so it's hard to say for sure how well either is playing without the other with such a small sample size. But looking at the WOWYs on Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, Voracek's possession numbers are about the same when he's away from Giroux, who has slightly worse numbers when the duo is separated.

It's not as if Voracek's numbers are the result of power-play scoring either. He has just one goal and seven assists with the man advantage; Crosby has four goals and nine assists on the power play.

Voracek is quicker, more experienced and at the age of 25 appears to be on his way to new career highs in goals and points.

"If you look at it, (Steven) Stamkos and these guys that are training and doing the right things, they play well," Berube said. "Jake's always had the ability and always been a verity good skater and dedicated guy, but I think he really dedicated himself in the summer time during the offseason program.

"He's lighter. He's quicker. He doesn't seem to get tired in third periods."

There you have it. Drop 10 pounds over the summer on a sashimi-heavy diet and you too could be as good as Crosby.

Quote of the Week: Jon Cooper vs. Darryl Sutter

Lightning coach Jon Cooper and Kings coach Darryl Sutter are the two most quotable coaches in the NHL. Each week, we will let you decide who had the best quote.

Cooper made an appearance on Sportsnet's Hockey Central podcast (starting at 15:30) and had some interesting things to say about last year's playoff loss to Montreal, being a rookie and the progression of Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin, but he had his best line about something unrelated to his team.

Nick Kypreos was being ribbed for his career assist total (44 in 442 games) when Cooper said why he wouldn't join in the laughter about those numbers.

"Whatever your assist totals are, that's how many more assists you have than me in the league."

You see, Cooper "never played the game," so he has zero assists. Some would say he also has no place to talk about hockey because of that. But as we all know, those people are idiots.

And now, we don't have a single quote from Sutter, but instead, we will show his postgame press conference after the Kings lost 6-5 in a shootout to the Anaheim Ducks last Wednesday. The highlights include saying his team never led, unless you count goals, which I guess he doesn't.

Keep in mind, this is Sutter rushing to a bus in Anaheim, which is 30 minutes from Los Angeles. What a champion.

Fare thee well, dry scrape…but why?

In an effort to have fewer games reach a shootout, the NHL made two changes to its overtime format for this season: It had teams switch ends so they had longer changes and instituted a "dry scrape," in which two Zambonis clean the ice without spraying water.

More goals in overtime, fewer shootouts, everyone is happy.

Except no one is happy, ever, apparently.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the league would abandon the dry scrape as of Saturday. NHL Vice President of Hockey Operations and Fake Artist Identifier Colin Campbell said the five minutes required to scrape the ice was a "buzz kill," and you know how hard it is to kill the buzz of a 61-year-old man.

The news was met with joy by many hockey scribes who hated waiting five minutes for overtime to start, even if that's how long it would take shootouts to start when Zambonis hit the ice after overtime in years past. Nashville Predators GM David Poile called the dry scrape a buzz kill, which is exactly how many would describe leaving Keith Yandle and Bobby Ryan off the 2014 U.S. Olympic team.

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 18: The Zambonis dry scrape the ice before the start of O.T. during a NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 18, 2014 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings won 1-0 in OT (Dave Regin
Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Players, executives, writers and guys who once criticized officials for calling penalties against his son all hated the dry scrape, so it had to go.

But here's the thing: The dry scrape was working.

Through 268 games last season, 61 went to overtime, and 21 were decided before the shootout. That means 34.4 percent of games that went to overtime never went to a shootout.

Through 268 games this season, 68 went to overtime, and 30 were decided before the shootout. That means 44.1 percent of games that had gone to overtime avoided a shootout. 

Overtime and shootouts the past two seasons
SeasonGamesOvertimesOvertime winsPercent
2013-14268612134.4
2014-15268683044.1
Source: NHL

The numbers have been even better of late: In the NHL's past 188 games entering Tuesday's slate, 47 games went to overtime, and 23 were decided in the extra session. That means 48.9 percent of games since Oct. 21 haven't needed a shootout.

It's almost as if after weeks of kicking and screaming about the five-minute wait stalling momentum, players were adjusting, and more games were being decided by a hockey game, not a breakaway contest.

So the NHL instituted a rule that helped achieve the desired result, and all it took to get rid of it was seven weeks of whining from people who hate change more than anything.

Now, the people who shovel the ice during television timeouts will handle the ice cleaning before the start of overtime. Generally, it takes about two minutes to get that job done, which is three fewer minutes than the dry scrape.

If we learned anything, it's that it takes 121 seconds to kill a buzz, and that's more important than preventing games from going to a shootout, the ultimate buzz kill.

KHL Thing of the Week

There is some quality hockey that is played overseas that we rarely hear about in North America. This section will highlight that or something else from our friends playing hockey in the KHL.

For a change, this section will be free from sarcasm. I like this story a lot.

LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 08: Mark Owuya #30 of Team Sweden prepares to tend net against Team USA at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp on August 8, 2008 at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Mark Owuya is 25 years old, born in Sweden and the son of a Ugandan father and Russian mother. He was never drafted into the NHL and has plied his trade as a goaltender mostly in Sweden and couldn't get above the AHL level. He had a .930 save percentage in 29 games with the ECHL's Reading Royals and a .929 save percentage in 19 games with the AHL's Toronto Marlies in 2011-12, but it didn't lead to an NHL shot.

He signed a two-year, two-way deal with the Maple Leafs in 2011, but the team didn't give him a qualifying offer this offseason. Not long after, he received a one-year suspension in Sweden for skipping a drug test, a ban that was lifted a few months later.

Now Owuya is playing in the KHL and made his debut with Medvescak (Zagreb) on Nov. 5. He is 2-1-1 with a 2.15/.922 split. Those numbers were even more impressive before he allowed five goals on 21 shots to Vityaz on Sunday. It's a great start for a well-traveled, undrafted goaltender who has posted impressive numbers everywhere he has been.

Owuya also appeared on the Swedish version of American Idol and rapped as "Mark In Da Park."

As always, the KHL is fun.

Who Is Connor McDavid-ing This Week?

The tank battle for Connor McDavid will be quite the scene this season as teams stumble over each other to finish last in the standings, thus guaranteeing either McDavid or future American hero Jack Eichel.

Here's how it's looking entering Tuesday:

1. Buffalo Sabres (5-13-2, 12 pts)

It was naive to think the Sabres would cruise to 30th place this season, so it's important to remain calm about this two-game winning streak. Over 82 games, every team gets off track at some point; what the good teams do is avoid prolonged stretches that go against the ultimate goal.

A silver lining for Sabres fans: In these two wins, they've allowed 64 shots on goal. If they can maintain that level of dedication to defense over the rest of the season, the Sabres should be happy with the end result.

2. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-11-1, 13 pts)

After a nine-game losing streak, disaster struck for the Jackets, as they won two games in a row, the second one with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky back from injury.

Would Bobrovksy's return lead to an unexpected turnaround? Would it end the push for McDavid or Eichel?

If Tuesday's 5-0 home loss to the Red Wings is any indication, the Jackets should remain in the conversation for the No. 1 pick for at least a little while longer.

3. Edmonton Oilers (6-10-2, 14 pts)

It was only a matter of time before the Oilers rediscovered their passion for first overall picks. A 2-6-1 stretch has the Oilers making their first appearance on this list, which is partly due to a lack of offense of late.

In their past nine games, the Oilers have scored just 18 goals. One player who could help carry the scoring load is…you guessed it…Connor McDavid! The Oilers' so-so start probably had a lot of people thinking the team wouldn't be in the mix for a No. 1 pick, but it looks like it's getting its act together.

Goal of the Week

"I am El Nino. All other tropical storms must bow before El Nino."

That skill level required on this goal by Nino Niederreiter is off the charts. He had to maintain his balance while falling down and shift the puck from forehand to backhand from behind the goal line. 

At least the Islanders got Cal Clutterbuck from the Wild in the trade.

Questions and Answers

Got a question? Tweet me @davelozo or email me at dave111177@gmail.com, but please don't call before 9 a.m. I will answer any of your questions about hockey or whatever if it's a good question.

Joel Yinger @jyinger

@DaveLozo With the rumours about the new World Cup format, am I wrong to suspect that Vince McMahon is doing some consulting work for Gary?

I usually ignore questions with an extraneous "u" in a word, but I'll make an exception for this Canadian.

To answer your question, I love it. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston laid out all the particulars of a new World Cup format, and it's hard to argue with any of it.

You get the six hockey powers (Canada, U.S., Sweden, Finland, Russia and Czech Republic), one All-Star team of players who didn't happen to be born in those six countries, then one team of young stars. It's so brilliant that I find it hard to believe the NHL thought of this. 

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 18:  Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia looks on from the ice during the Men's Ice Hockey Qualification Playoff game against Austria on day eleven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russ
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The beauty of the All-Star team (this team without a country will be from this point forward known as The Island of Misfit Boys) is it cuts the fat on those countries like Slovenia that can win a game but not the tournament. The one part of the Olympics that never worked was watching the powers either smash the little countries or having the little countries play such a shell game that the game itself was boring.

The Island of Misfit Boys would feature, in theory, Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara, Anze Kopitar, Nino Niederreiter, Roman Josi, Mats Zuccarello, Thomas Vanek, Christian Ehrhoff, Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss.

Would they be an underdog against those other six teams? Sure, but they'd have a chance.

As for the young stars team, they'd probably get waxed by any of the other seven teams. If you are young and not good enough to make one of the seven teams, you're probably going to get bowled over physically.

As for the Vince McMahon part of your question, I don't get the reference because I don't watch wrestling because I'm not 11 years old. Good question, though.

Jesse Spector @jessespector

@DaveLozo What is your favorite unorthodox pizza topping? Like, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, etc. are out of the conversation.

This is the most difficult question anyone has ever asked. How do you quantify what is orthodox and what is unorthodox? One man's traditional topping is another man's ew gross why is this on your pizza you weirdo?

(If you click on that tweet, an entire thread broke out over this question that didn't really lead to any solid answers but will make you crave pizza.)

The only thing that doesn't belong on a pizza is pineapple. It's inhuman. If you're wrapping any cheese product in any fruit product, it's food blasphemy. Cheese and fruit in the same bite is an abomination in the eyes of Lorde, who I hear is vehemently in favor of cheese/fruit segregation.

So the question becomes, what is unorthodox? Jesse agreed that buffalo chicken is just that, but I've probably had dozens of buffalo chicken slices, so it's normal to me. I had to begin wracking my brain for a potential pizza topping that is unorthodox, yet good enough to belong on pizza, yet something I, a pizza connoisseur, have never considered.

Then it hit me: french fries

The only way to make french fries better is by adding cheese, and with this plan, we are adding cheese, tomato sauce and bread. You can vary the fries: steak fries, curly fries, Nathan's fries, crinkle cut, heck, venture into tater tots if you're feeling adventurous.

I now know what Matt Damon felt like in Good Will Hunting when he answered all those math questions.

Holly @holly_holl

@DaveLozo This is both a hockey & life question: can you recommend a good bunker for a Stars fan looking to hide for the rest of the season?

How quickly Stars fans are willing to give up. They're only 6-8-4 with 64 games remaining. 

Last season, the Stars opened 5-6-2. Later in that season, they lost six straight and nine of 10 to fall to 21-20-8. It may just be that the Stars are a streaky team, and this is one of their bad streaks.

But if you insist on building a bunker, this 2012 story about an underground bunker builder could help. According to Rising Bunkers, the average cost of a bunker ranges from $39,500 to $4.2 million (!). So please examine the different bunkers (I recommend The Commander) and see what price structure fits your budget.

Frank G @frankglaw

@DaveLozo Toronto or Ottawa who is the better hockey team

Which pile of garbage would you prefer in your home, the one that smells of used diapers or the one that smells like a dozen decomposing mackerel?

This one is tough, but I think I like Toronto to finish with more points than Ottawa. According to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, the Leafs are six points better than the Senators in Fenwick percentage close through a quarter of the season, so that makes me lean toward them, even in the wake of a hilariously bad loss to the Sabres on Saturday.

I also think the Leafs have slightly better forwards and defensemen while the goaltending is a wash. 

It's close, but I'd rather be rooting for the Leafs than the Senators this season.

Fredrik Hilding @FHilding

@DaveLozo Who are your three non-hockey playing favorite Swedes?

1. Per Bjurman, Aftonbladet hockey writer. Quality Swede. We've had drinks everywhere, including airport bars when our flights are delayed. I've been sitting next to him in press boxes for years. Funny guy.

2. Eagle-Eye Cherry, musician. For the longest time, I thought Eagle-Eye Cherry was a band. Turns out, it's a guy, the guy who sings Save Tonight. Even better, I think "Eagle-Eye" is his birth name, not a nickname because he has great vision. This means if you're at an airport, you have a chance to hear over a loudspeaker, "Eagle-Eye Cherry, please come to customer service immediately."

3. Bjorn Nittmo, ex-New York Giants kicker. As an 11-year-old Giants fan, I can't ever properly convey how fun it was to say Bjorn Nittmo. I still crack up, mostly because I'm still 11 years old emotionally. Based on his career stats, he was OK in his six games but was useless outside of 40 yards on field goals. He also had a role in Any Given Sunday in which he played Kicker. I don't remember him in that movie, but I bet he nailed that part.

Jewy Buffet 🏴 @MannyOWar

@DaveLozo What's your favorite Metal album released in 2014? (so far)

Ghost Stories by Coldplay. Those guys rock so hard.

Pat @pathoagland

@davelozo what do you think Josh Harding's future in the NHL is?

Sadly, I think it's nonexistent. I base this on him passing through waivers Tuesday, because if teams aren't willing to take a shot on him now, I don't know if they ever will.

Harding, who will be 31 years old in June, is on the back nine of his career. He also has multiple sclerosis. None of those things will change. He had a fantastic 1.65/.933 split in 29 games last season before his medical condition caused him to miss the entire second half of the season and playoffs.

ST. PAUL, MN - DECEMBER 31: Josh Harding #37 of the Minnesota Wild makes a save against the St. Louis Blues during the game on December 31, 2013 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

With a cap hit of $1.9 million and a contract that expires after this season, no one claimed him. The Devils, who have started Cory Schneider in every game this season and possess the cap room to fit Harding, chose not to make the claim. Would any other goalie in this situation, with his numbers and cheap contract, go unclaimed? Doubtful, unless he had a serious medical issue that could knock him out of the lineup at any moment.

“The reality is Josh hasn’t played in a game since Dec. 31,” Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said to the Star-Tribune on Monday. “He missed training camp and the first month-and-a-half of the season, and that’s a lot of time for any player to miss. Our main goal now is to help him successfully regain his form of last season, and assuming he clears waivers, we felt this move would best help facilitate that.

“There’s really no sense in putting a timetable on how long it’ll take him to get ready. This move allows us to just give him the time that he needs to get his game back. He needs to play games.”

Unless Darcy Kuemper or Niklas Backstrom suffers an injury over the rest of the season (which is possible, especially with Backstrom), then Harding would get another crack at the NHL. But if teams in desperate need for goaltending help now don't see him as a viable option, will they change their minds when he's a free agent in the offseason?

I hope so, but it doesn't look good for Harding now.

Chantal 🐞 @pucksnlife

@DaveLozo Ok, is Drew Doughty a cyborg? Related: Martinez out for a week, cap crunch and everything else, is there a solution to LA's D?

Yes. Drew Doughty is a cyborg. He is also only 24 years old. Remember when you were 24? Stamina is a great thing.

Side note: While he is great now, I wonder how Doughty is going to look when he's 30. Everyone likes to make jokes about Phil Kessel being heavy, but Doughty isn't exactly lean, and he's three years younger than Kessel. Hockey isn't a game where you need to have a ripped, chiseled physique to be great, but it's interesting that Kessel gets heat on this and Doughty doesn't, not that either deserves it.

Anyway.

Until the league allows the Kings cap relief on Slava Voynov, this will be a potential problem all season. The Kings and the league did the right thing by immediately suspending Voynov amid allegations of domestic abuse, but it seems unfair to punish the organization and the team by having Voynov's cap hit count while he's out. The league needs an exempt list for situations like this.

All statistics via NHL.com, and all salary-cap information via CapGeek.com.

Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.