TORONTO — Philipp Kurashev will readily admit his season hasn’t gone the way he wanted or expected.
But after resetting himself with a brief trip down to the AHL — during which he tallied two goals and one assist in three games — he hopes December can be a turning point.
“I’m trying to figure it out,” he said Friday. “I was able to score some in the AHL, so hopefully it will [translate] into here.”
Kurashev erupted last season with nine points in his first 17 NHL games. He recorded only seven points over his final 37, though, and entered Saturday with five points (zero goals) in 20 this season.
Nonetheless, his advanced metrics have all improved. The Hawks have a 49.7% expected-goals ratio during his even-strength ice time, up from 40.9% last year. And individually, he’s shooting more frequently and accurately. His shot-attempt rate has increased from 8.3 to 12.5 (per 60 minutes) and his on-goal rate from 60.4% to 67.4%.
“I’ve had some good looks this year,” he said. “Maybe some of the bounces didn’t go my way, and one of them got called back, [but] I just try to not have it in my head. I try to stay loose and not be so tight when you shoot — be confident. I know I have a good shot, so I have to use it.”
Interim coach Derek King said that he asked Kurashev to “battle a little harder for loose pucks” and that he has done a “really good job in that aspect” lately. King has placed him in a somewhat notable role on the third line the last two games, too. Now the priority is to jump-start his production.
“They want me to get back to how I [usually] am: a confident player, making plays,” Kurashev said.
McCabe’s family growing
Jake McCabe missed three games recently because of what King called a “family matter.” McCabe disclosed Saturday it was for the best kind of family matter, the birth of his son.
“We thought he was coming on [last] Saturday, actually, so I had to leave New York,” he said. “He had to wait a couple more days, and then he came [Tuesday] when we played New York again. It’s pretty special to have a baby boy.”
McCabe said his wife, Gaby, is doing well. The couple also has a 1-year-old daughter, and McCabe joked about how “it’s crazy to use the term ‘kids,’ plural.”
He returned on this trip to his usual pair with Connor Murphy, who missed the same three games with a concussion.
King takes high road
Former Islanders coach Mike Milbury, who has evidently pivoted to podcasting since his second career as a TV analyst bombed, trashed King on that podcast Friday.
“If anybody thinks this guy can coach an NHL team, they’re nuts,” Milbury said. “As I had him as a player, he was laconic, lazy, whatever you want to call it, even though he had some talent. Listening to him talk as if he were a coach, talk about the opposite of inspiration. It’s boring.”
King — who played under Milbury in 1995-96 and 1996-97 — said one of his kids sent the clip to him. But he, characteristically, took the high road with his response.
“I’m not sure I was the player he liked,” King said. “He was trying to trade me, and then I broke my jaw, so he couldn’t trade me anymore. And then the next year, we had a great relationship, he was really good to me, treated me well.
“I had nothing wrong with Mike. So I don’t know what else [to say].”