Thiessen, WBS Penguins force Game 7
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have played 146 playoff games in their 14-year history.
Never before has a goaltender turned in a performance like Brad Thiessen did Monday night.
Thiessen was downright heroic, making 46 saves to lead the Penguins to an improbable 2-1 overtime win over the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The Penguins are the fourth team in AHL history to force a seventh game after losing the first three games of a series. It will be played Wednesday night in Providence.
“To be honest, when I was out there, there’s a verse in the Bible that says, ‘I can do all things through Him that gives me strength,??” Thiessen said. “I was saying that over and over in my head because I couldn’t do that on my own. It was fun. It was fun to be a part of. I’m just happy to give our team a chance and bring it to a Game 7.”
With the score tied 1-1 entering the third period, Thiessen stepped into the spotlight.
The P-Bruins kept the Penguins hemmed in for almost the entire 20 minutes, thwarting clearing chances with ease, working the puck down low and piling up an amazing 20-2 shots advantage.
Thiessen, who has a .973 save percentage since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff after the first period of Game 2 against Providence, majestically stopped all 20 shots, most notably going from post to post to get his right pad on a Jamie Tardif shot after a cross-crease backdoor pass from Ryan Spooner with 8:40 left.
“We learned on him hard tonight,” center Trevor Smith said. “The last couple games we have too. They have a real strong offense over there and he took the game over for us. Third period, we got away from what we were into and played a lot of D zone and he bailed us out. He’s the first star tonight and for most of the series.”
As the Penguins made their way to the locker room before the start of intermission, they were being outshot 47-15. Something had to change or their season was about to end.
“Our guys, we were afraid to make plays,” coach John Hynes said. “We weren’t playing the game. We were playing not to lose. We were playing not to make a mistake. Therefore, when we had opportunities to make plays, we didn’t. That’s something we addressed with them in the overtime. We had to go out and play hockey and win the game. The difference between the third period and the overtime was 100 percent mental.”
Early in the overtime, Alex Grant slapped a puck from the right wing off the end boards and Smith backhanded the rebound past goalie Niklas Svedberg at the 3:26 mark.
“(Grant) made a great play,” Smith said. “He shot around the block and just missed the net. It laid there real nice for me off the back wall at the side of the net. It laid flat. It kind of bounced up perfect for me on my backhand. It might have hit a D-man’s stick. It was a great feeling to see it go in.”
In regulation, the only blemish on Thiessen’s record was a Craig Cunningham breakaway from the blue line in on a bad line change by the Penguins at 1:07 of the second period.
Providence took a brief break from dominating play a few minutes later and was called for two minor penalties in a span of 1:38. The Penguins made them pay.
Two seconds after a 23-second 5-on-3 power play ended, defenseman Brian Dumoulin picked a corner from the top of the left faceoff circle to make the score 1-1 and set up Thiessen’s star turn.
“They’re a good team. They kind of took it to us,” Thiessen said. “We were able to hold the fort and buy some time to get that big one in OT.”
Thiessen, Penguins push Bruins to limit
Trevor Smith corraled a loose puck and tucked it in with 3:26 gone in overtime as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins closed in on AHL history with a 2-1 win over the Providence Bruins on Monday night.
The Penguins, who lost the first three games of the series, have forced a Game 7 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Wednesday (7:05 ET, AHL Live).
Brad Thiessen made 46 saves in a heroic performance for his third consecutive season-saving victory. The Penguins were outshot 47-18 for the game — including 33-5 in the second and third periods combined.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton controlled play early and was credited with seven of the first 10 shots in the game, but Providence finished the scoreless first period with a 14-10 edge.
Providence struck first just 1:07 into the second period when a slow Penguins line change led to an odd-man break and eventually a 2-on-0 down low. Craig Cunningham took a pass from Jamie Tardif and beat Thiessen, ending the Penguins goalie’s shutout streak at 133:30.
Wilkes-Barre tied it up on the power play at 6:03 of the second when Brian Dumoulin wired a point shot to the top corner over the glove of a screened Niklas Svedberg, seconds after a two-man advantage had expired.
The third period was all Providence, which owned a 20-2 advantage in shots for the frame, but Thiessen was up to the task.
On the game-winning goal, Alex Grant kept a Bruins clearing attempt in at the blue line and put a shot wide of the net. Smith scooped up the puck and wrapped it around before Svedberg could get back in position.
Thiessen (4-1) has now stopped 143 of 147 shots in the series, good for a 0.85 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage since taking over in the second period of Game 2.
Svedberg (6-5) stopped 16 of 18 shots for the Bruins, who have lost three consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 26 to Nov. 2, 2012.
NOTES: Wilkes-Barre is the fourth team in American Hockey League history to force a Game 7 after falling 0-3… Road teams are now 10-3 in overtime games during the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs… The Penguins were 1-for-5 on the power play in Game 6; the Bruins were 0-for-3… Wilkes-Barre improved to 20-11 all-time when facing elimination.
Matt Rupert scores in Memorial Cup vs Halifax
Thiessen leads WBS into history books
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Brad Thiessen spent most of the final two months of the regular season watching Jeff Zatkoff command the net for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Fast forward three weeks, and Thiessen not only righted the ship for the Penguins playoff run, he was the main reason why the team made history on Wednesday night.
After Zatkoff allowed 12 goals in the first four periods of the series against the Providence Bruins, head coach John Hynes turned to Thiessen. From the second period of Game 2 to the end of Game 7, Thiessen responded by allowing a mere four goals. He finished the series with a minuscule 0.70 goals against average and a .978 save percentage.
More importantly, Thiessen guided the Penguins to four straight wins – the fourth coming via a fitting 5-0 shutout to wrap up the series.
By overcoming a 3-0 series deficit, the Penguins became just the third team in the AHL’s 77-year history to win a series after losing the first three.
Thiessen was a big reason behind the historic achievement.
“We were a little down and out and he gave us life early in the series,” Hynes said. “He continued to play well and that allowed us to get our feet on the ground and chip away.”
Thiessen’s feet were on the ground from the time he took over. In Game 3 he stopped 20-of-22 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss. After that, Thiessen only allowed two goals in the next four games – all wins, including two shutouts during the span.
It’s an achievement that even the normally modest Thiessen can’t ignore.
“You don’t really think about it when you’re in a game because I’m just trying to give my team a chance to win,” he said. “Whether it’s 98 percent (save percentage) or 82 percent, if we’re winning games it doesn’t matter in the playoffs.
“I’m just happy I was able to come in and give us a chance.”
Thiessen had plenty of motivation, in addition to the chance for a Calder Cup, to step up this postseason. Not only did his team have its season on the line with each game in the Providence series, Thiessen’s career as a Penguin faced elimination as well.
He’s an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season.
“I thought about that every now and again. But more important was the game at hand and not whether or not it was my last game here,” Thiessen said. “I tried to keep that in the back of my mind and focus on the game.”
With history on the line, Thiessen was as calm as ever in Game 7 on Wednesday. He made difficult saves look routine – including a stop on a David Warsofsky shot through traffic in front. Even the desperate flurries of shots from the Bruins in the third period didn’t faze Thiessen. He stopped them all, gave up few rebounds and stood tall in his crease.
His play not only drew the praise of coaches and teammates, Thiessen’s opponents couldn’t help but notice as well.
“Give him credit. He played great,” said Providence captain Trent Whitfield as he reflected on the series. “He did what he had to do to give them a chance to win. It happens like that sometimes. You get into a goalie’s head and we were able to get some pucks by him, they make a change and (Thiessen) has a fresh start with nothing to lose. He played great and I tip my hat to him and that entire team.”
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Matt Irwin Pregame
Seguin goal vs NYR
Penguins goalie Thiessen turns the page to see Syracuse Crunch as next challenge
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton netminder Brad Thiessen’s immediate ambition upon coming on in relief during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Providence was to stop the next puck he saw.
And then the next one, too, and the one after that, all the way down the line.
He could never have imagined that besides making saves, he was saving the Pens’ season.
But that’s exactly what he did.
Although the Bruins went on to win Games 2 and 3, Thiessen then anchored one of the most unlikely comebacks in AHL history by helping the Penguins rally from a 3-0 hole to a 4-3 series win.
“Your mindset going in there is hold the fort down, hope you can stop them a little bit,” Thiessen said on Friday. “You’re not thinking too far ahead. You’re thinking about the job at hand.”
Thiessen’s next task is to carry over his near-flawless play into the Eastern Conference finals against the Syracuse Crunch. Thiessen and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton visit Syracuse for Game 1 on Saturday and Game 2 on Sunday.
While Jeff Zatkoff (26-20, 1.93, .920 this season) was the Penguins’ No. 1 in net for much of the year, head coach John Hynes will likely keep playing the lottery ticket that is Thiessen at least for the start of the series.
Thiessen was a serviceable backup during the regular season – (16-12-2, 2.68, .902) – he’s been almost unbeatable with the team’s fate on the line in the playoffs. After jumping in for Zatkoff against the Bruins, Thiessen stopped 177 of 181 shots (0.70, .977) in the rest of the series.
That included a heart-stopping 46 saves in a Game 6 win and and Game 7 shutout. Thiessen, a fourth-year pro, said instead of trying to digest the odds against making a comeback all at once the team just tried to figure out a scenario in which it could simply win the next game.
“Getting into that situation, it’s the time of year you want to be playing. The intensity goes up. I felt like I was seeing the puck well and playing with confidence,” Thiessen said. “You try not to think about it too much. That’s when you over-analyze. I was just trying to play my game and know I’ve done it in the past and can do it again.”
Thiessen bumped into the Crunch twice this season, going 0-2 with a 3.05 goals-against and a .914 save percentage. Now, Thiessen will be staring into an offense that leads the AHL playoffs with an average of 4.29 goals scored per game.
“We know the problems they are going to present,” Thiessen said. “We know they have a real skilled group there. They score a lot of goals. Everyone of their top guys are guys who compete.”
The Crunch will have to use that sandpaper to annoy the 5-foot-11 Thiessen. Crunch coach Rob Zettler said he noticed that the goalie had far too clear a view of most of Providence’s shots.
“He sees the puck, he’s going to make the save. They (the Penguins) did a good job allowing him to see a lot of pucks,” Zettler said. “I think he’s found a groove right now. He’s probably feeling pretty good about himself right now. He’s on a little bit of a roll. It’s our job to get him off it.”
Crunch captain Mike Angelidis is one of those who will be leading the traffic in front of Thiessen’s crease.
“All these goalies are so technical. Most of them will make the original save. It’s getting rebounds,” he said. The playoffs, you have to go to the blue paint. Every team says it. You have to be in his kitchen.”
Thiessen and his teammates will be ready for the heat.
“We have to turn the page (from the Providence series). Tomorrow night, I go out there and try to continue what I’m doing,” he said. “We’re going to be going in fresh tomorrow. It’s going to be a good series.”
Seguin scores vs Pittsburgh
Bud Light Hog Talk – Adam Clendening
OKC Update: Olivier Roy
Crowded crease a healthy challenge for Roy
SAN ANTONIO, Tex. – When the Edmonton Oilers acquired 24-year-old goaltending prospect Niko Hovinen off waivers from the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this season, Oklahoma City’s crease got a whole lot more crowded.
2009 fifth-round pick Olivier Roy began the 2012-13 season as Yann Danis’ backup after graduating from the starting role with the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder a year prior. But after a so-so start in which the 21-year-old posted a goals-against average approaching 2.90 and a save percentage below the .900 mark, Roy was returned to the Thunder on Feb. 12.
The Amqui, QC product was outstanding in his recent stint in Stockton, posting a 3-1-0 record, 1.24 goals-against average and .962 save percentage. He was promoted back to the Barons two weeks later after Danis was recalled to Edmonton during the Oilers’ monstrous nine-game road trip.
“It’s been different. With the addition of Niko and Yann being called up a couple times, there have been a lot of challenges this season,” said Roy. “You can’t control those things, so I’m staying focused on playing one game at a time and when you get the opportunity to get the net, you have to try and make the most of it.”
Roy did that this past Sunday in a win over the San Antonio Rampage, making 37 saves — many of the sensational variety — en route to a hotly contested 3-2 victory at the AT&T Center.
It was the goalie’s first win since returning to the Barons on Feb. 27.
“We had a lot of penalties against, but we managed to keep the score in our favour,” said Roy. “For myself, it was huge and it feels great. Every single game is really important for us right now, trying to make a statement that we’re really a playoff team. There are no off nights for us.
“That’s how we need to approach every single game.”
The Barons and Rampage go at it once again Wednesday in San Antonio. According to Head Coach Todd Nelson, Roy will make his second straight start because, as the coach put it, “he deserves it.”
“Olivier started the season with us and when we got Niko, he went down to Stockton and got some confidence there. It showed on Sunday night. Roy was put under a lot of pressure late in the game and he stood tall for us. It was great to see him play very well.
“Roy’s been getting better and better and so is Niko, so we’re very happy with their development.”
“The group of guys (in Stockton) played great in front of me,” added Roy. “I did exactly what I was trying to do. I was trying to take it one game at a time and it went pretty well. I was happy with my play over there and I’m trying to bring the same confidence I had in net over there to here with the Barons.”
The goaltending situation could get a little muddy as soon as Wednesday once again, however. It appears as though Nikolai Khabibulin is good to go after missing the bulk of the road trip. As a result, announced by General Manager Steve Tambellini after the Oilers defeated the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night in Denver, Danis has been reassigned to the Barons.
Danis recorded his first win as an Oiler on Mar. 10, stopping 21 shots in relief of Devan Dubnyk who was forced to leave the game after colliding with Marian Hossa and teammate Teemu Hartikainen.
At present, all three goaltenders will remain on the Barons’ roster.
Naturally, Roy hopes he will stay in copper and blue long-term to continue to develop in the AHL and work alongside his veteran mentor.
“Absolutely, he’s really helped me along the way,” said Roy. “He’s given me a lot of advice on how to approach a game, how to prepare, and even how to handle certain situations within the game.
“It’s really been helpful for me.”
Galchenyuk’s shootout goal vs Ottawa (Larionov)
Andrei Loktionov’s Goal vs Philadelphia
3.13 Postgame: Andrei Loktionov
Irwin scores vs Kings
Larkin signs ATO with Falcons
Springfield, Mass. – The Springfield Falcons, AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, announced on Thursday that they have signed defenseman Thomas Larkin to an amateur try-out agreement (ATO).
Larkin, selected in the fifth round (137th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Blue Jackets, recently completed his four-year career at Colgate University (NCAA, D-I). The 22-year-old served as a co-captain of the Raiders during his senior season of 2012-2013 and collected 58 points (15g-43a) in 147-career collegiate contests. Larkin was named to the ECAC Third All-Star Team during his junior campaign of 2011-2012.
Born in London, England and a resident of Cocquio Trevisago, Italy, Larkin helped Italy win Group A of the 2011 IIHF World Championship (Division I). He also participated with Italy at the 2012 IIHF World Championship.
The Falcons end their four-game road stretch in Providence on Friday before returning to the MassMutual Center on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. to host the Bruins. Springfield closes out the weekend in Connecticut on Sunday against the Whale. The Falcons lead the Whale by 12 points for first place in the Northeast Division with three games in hand.
NHL: Canucks sign U.S. college free agent Kellan Lain
VANCOUVER – The Canucks found a gem through U.S. college free agency in defenceman Chris Tanev and they hope they have found another in 6-6, 220-pound centre Kellan Lain after signing him Saturday to a one-year contract.
Lain, 23, is a native of Oakville, Ont., and has played the last three seasons with the Lake Superior State Lakers of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Lain had eight goals, eight assists and 111 penalty minutes during the 2012-13 campaign. The Canucks intend to assign him to the American League’s Chicago Wolves.
“He has a good blend of both speed and skill,” said Canuck assistant general manager Laurence Gilman. “We’re going to bring him to Vancouver, as we usually do with new players, to get him acclimated to our organization and he will then join Chicago sometime in the midweek.”
Lain received a $92,500 signing bonus on his one-year contract, which was the longest he could sign for based on his age. He will receive a $70,000 salary (pro-rated) in the American League and $832,500 (pro-rated) if he is called up to the Canucks.
According to Gilman, Lain had been heavily scouted by Canuck senior advisor Stan Smyl, whose duties include watching U.S. colleges.
“He’s been on Stan’s radar for quite some time and we have followed him very, very closely,” Gilman said. “We were in competition for him with a number of other NHL teams.”
Lain shoots left and led the Lakers in faceoff wins with 313. The Canucks are in dire need of a left-handed centreman adept on the draw after shutting down Manny Malhotra (vision) earlier this year.
Reached at his parents home Saturday, Lain was understandably excited to sign his first professional contract. He said 10 teams were originally in the hunt for his services before it came down to a final four.
“It was a tough choice,” he said. “Picking an NHL team is never easy when more than one wants you. Growing up in Canada, it’s the same story — we all want to play in the NHL. Now that it’s a possibility, it’s really exciting, especially coming to an organization like Vancouver. It’s a special city and they have a great team.”
Asked for a scouting report on himself, Lain said: “I’m pretty much described as a big centreman who can skate, is good in his own end, is good on faceoffs, can kill penalties and chip in once in a while offensively. So that’s pretty much how I’m described and I agree. I also like to play feisty. I’ve played feisty my whole life.”
Plans call for Lain to fly to Vancouver on Sunday and watch the Canucks play Monday against Minnesota and Tuesday against St. Louis before he heads off to the Wolves. By the way, Lain played against Tanev “a little bit” in the greater Toronto minor hockey system. He is four months older than Tanev but added that he doesn’t know the Canuck defenceman personally.
Canucks sign Kellan Lain, and may not be done
When it comes to the Canucks, Kellan Lain has two things going for him.
He has size. He’s a centre. And the Canucks need both.
It helps explain why the Canucks have been coveting Lain, 23, for two seasons, even though he scored just 21 goals in the 108 games he played for Lake Superior State.
But the Canucks aren’t selling Lain as the next Joe Nieuwendyk.
“We see him as a bottom end centre, more like Paul Gaustad or maybe a David Steckel type player. That kind of guy,” Vancouver assistant GM Laurence Gilman said. “He can be a shutdown centre.
“He’s a 6-foot-6, 220-pound centre with decent puck skills who plays with edge and is a very good skater. Those type of players don’t just grow on trees. We were very fortunate to get him, he was highly sought after.”
There were four teams in on Lain before he made the decision to sign with the Canucks as a college free agent. You can be sure the Canucks current lack of depth at centre, and the fact they have no one like him in the organization were the main reasons he chose the Canucks.
Lain will first come to Vancouver and get his tour of Rogers Arena. Maybe take a spell in the mind room, too. He’ll be with the Canucks early in the week for his indoctrination and then report to Chicago after the Canucks-Blues game on Tuesday.
It’s expected he’ll be in the Wolves lineup quickly.
Irwin scores vs Kings again
Seguin scores vs Pittsburgh again
Introducing Kellan Lain
He is big and mean and skilled – oh and did we mention big? He is Kellan Lain, the newest member of the Vancouver Canucks family.
At 6-foot-6 and 222-pounds, Lain is an intimidating presence on the ice and instantly becomes the largest Canucks prospect in height and weight after a signing a three-year entry level contract with the team on Saturday. Lain will report to the Canucks American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, in the next few days.
“Kellan is a big, strong center with pretty decent skills that skates good,” said Jim Roque, who coached Lain for the last three seasons at Lake Superior State University in the NCAA.
“Obviously his role on my team will be different than what is asked of him at the pro level; on my team he was asked to score a little more and be an offensive guy, I think he has those traits, but I think he is more of a third line checking center, faceoff guy.
“He is competitive, competes hard and has an edge to him”
Canucks director of player development Dave Gagner agrees.
“Kellan is a big, strong, detailed player; wins face-offs, finishes checks, plays with an edge, is hard on his opponents and skates well too.”
Lain, a native of Oakville, Ontario, spent the last three seasons with the LSSU Lakers, where he accumulated 39 points (21-18-39) and 210 penalty-minutes in 108 games, including 111 penalty minutes in 32 games this past season.
“He hits hard, he is physical, that’s his game,” added Rogue. “He has to play with an edge, play physical and stick his nose in there to be effective.”
At 220 pounds one would think size wouldn’t be an issue, however Roque said adding some weight to his already large frame is a must in order to for him to keep a physical presence at the pro level.
“His body needs to fill out, he needs to get thicker,” said Roque. “He is still a thin kid for a big kid. His body needs to fill out and get bigger if he is to play at 80 games plus playoffs at the pro level.”
In the NCAA, 111 penalty minutes in 32 games is a staggering amount, but Roque says Lain’s size and punishing hits led to referees handing him his share of penalty minutes strictly due to his large stature.
“When you get a five in our league you also get a 10 with it to and he had a couple check from behinds and a couple hit to the heads. To be honest, our league kind of ran him out of college hockey as every time he hit a guy it was a penalty because he is so big.”
As far as off-the-ice, in just speaking to the 23-year-old Lain you can instantly tell he is a laidback, smart guy who comes from a strong family.
“He is a good kid, that comes from a nice family, his parents are educators,” said Roque. “Real good team guy, easy to get along with and likes to have fun.”
And now ladies and gentleman, we present 10 things you may or may not know about the newest Canucks prospect Kellan Lain:
– His dad, a teacher, taught Manny Malhotra through high school. “I got the chance to meet him a few times when he was playing in Guelph and he is someone I looked up to growing up,” said Lain.
– He is good friends with Sam Gagner, so he got to know Sam’s dad, Dave Gagner pretty well and is friends with fellow Canucks prospect Jeremy Price. “The familiarity with everyone played a big part into my decision to come to Vancouver.”
– The last time he was in Vancouver he was five-years-old.
– His job this past summer was promoting Bud Light.
– He missed almost a year of hockey when a skate blade from an opposition goaltender cut his wrist in a playoff game, which required surgery. Instead of starting his freshman season in the NCAA the next season he spent the year recovering from the injury and joined his OJHL team at the end of the year. “That was really scary, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to play hockey again.”
– He took college classes while playing junior in Oakville, which he was able to transfer to Lake Superior State and will graduate with a degree in marketing this spring after only three years at the school. “I didn’t want to leave school without my degree so it’s really nice to sign an NHL contract and obtain my degree at the same time.”
– He feels the one thing he needs to work on is his strength. “I need to get stronger and bigger, not in height but in weight.”
– He feels he plays a similar role to current NHL players Paul Gaustad and David Steckel.
– Off the ice he describes himself as big family man that is laidback and likes to play golf in the summer and also enjoys hitting the gym.
– His thoughts on dealing with all the media requests on the day he signed: “This is crazy, I have never been around anything like this before, and it’s a lot bigger than I thought it would be, but it’s really fun!”
Welcome to the hockey market that is Vancouver, Kellan.more
Leafs Sign Leivo To Entry Level Deal
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Monday that they have signed forward Josh Leivo to a three-year NHL Entry Level contract.
The left-winger recorded 19 goals and added 25 assists for 44 points in 34 games while serving as an alternate captain with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season. He later joined Kitchener in a trade on January 8, 2013. He currently has seven goals and 15 assists in 23 games for the Rangers. Overall, his 40 assists, 66 points, and +22 mark leads Kitchener players in all three categories. He is currently tied for 18th in OHL points. Leivo was named OHL Player of the Week for the period ending October 7, 2012 after scoring six goals in three games with a +5 mark.
Leivo, 19, was Toronto’s third choice, 86th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Centre of progression
Marty Williamson called Carter Verhaeghe into his office recently and told him to take it easy.
The coach/general manager of the Niagara IceDogs appreciates Verhaeghe’s willingness to go all-out, all the time, but delivered the message that sometimes less is more.
“We were looking at the young guys and we thought Carter was kind of looking tired,” Williamson said. “The young guys have school and practice and then they work out. We consider Carter a veteran because he does everything — power play, penalty kill and regular shifts — he’s playing as much as anyone his age and I think he was just tired.”
Williamson’s chat centered around knowing when to dig down deep in practice or at the gym, and when to back off a little bit.
“We had a little talk about maximizing his effort, whether it’s slowing down in practice a little bit or whatever because I need him in the games,” Willliamson said. “He’s got to conserve himself a little bit. Young guys are a little panicky sometimes. He’s in the lineup and not every one-on-one battle drill is do-or-die.
“For us to be successful in the playoffs, I need him.”
Verhaeghe, a 17-year-old native of Waterdown, has quietly put together a respectable season for the Niagara IceDogs with 16 goals and 40 points in 63 games, well up from his rookie totals of four goals and 16 points. He broke out of a nine-game scoreless slump with a pair of two-goal games over the weekend in wins over Belleville and Windsor.
“It’s nice to contribute to help my team,” Verhaeghe said. “We had a pretty big weekend in beating Belleville, the top-ranked team in our conference, and then beating Windsor. It’s nice to help out the team best as I can and if it’s offensively.
Williamson noticed a big difference in his sophomore centre this weekend.
“I don’t know whether it was coincidental but he seemed to have a little more speed this weekend and that’s a big key for him,” Williamson said. “He’s got good hands but if he has just average speed he can’t get around people and make things happen. He had better tempo in both games.”
Verhaeghe likes where his game is now, but admitted there is always room for improvement.
“You obviously want to improve all the time. I’m pretty pleased right now but I can always do better,” he said. “I obviously want to contribute more consistently on the offensive side on a regular basis.”
While Verhaeghe has the offensive potential to help the team, his is smart enough and strong enough defensively to chip in at the other end of the ice when he hits a dry spell scoring.
“When things aren’t going your way or they’re not going in, you can’t worry about that,” Verhaeghe said. “You just have to keep playing well and keep on doing it and trust that once things start going your way, things will start going in. If you just keep doing the right things and playing the right way.”
Verhaeghe has come a long way from last season when he often played on the fourth line and rarely saw the ice in crucial situations.
“There’s a big difference from last year. I’m getting more opportunities and trying to do the best I can with it,” he said.” It’s a big difference playing a different role. I feel like I’m getting better and more comfortable and getting better almost every game I play. I’m just trying to develop as a hockey player.
“As a rookie, you pretty much have to do the simple things and play the game the right way. Now, I can try and make plays and try and do more things I’m capable of doing but I wasn’t able to do last year.”
With Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie and Steven Shipley gone next season, the IceDogs expect Verhaeghe to play an even bigger role.
“He should become our No. 1 centre next year,” Williamson said. “He needs to get physically stronger to be able to handle the rigours of the league and the responsibility that goes along with that.
“It’s a big summer for him going forward. He can do it in spurts, but he’s having trouble doing it consistently. A lot of it is physical with him. He needs to put on 10 pounds of muscle and get physically stronger.”
Gomez scores first as a Shark
Seguin’s three-point night vs Toronto
Nikolay Goldobin gives his first full-English television interview (Larionov)
Gomez scores vs St. Louis
Irwin scores vs St. Louis
Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin showing his value offensively and defensively
BOSTON – Don’t look now, but Boston Bruins right winger Tyler Seguin has found his offensive rhythm again. But he’s also showing flashes of spectacular defensive skills.
Seguin connected on the power play and also made an incredible save in front of an empty net to help preserve the shutout as the Bruins took full advantage of the struggling Philadelphia Flyers, 3-0 Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
The Flyers haven’t performed well on the road and against Northeast Division opponents with records of 4-10 and 1-5, respectively.
Seguin hustled back and made a kick save on Flyers center Maxime Talbot with 2:30 left in the third period while Boston was on the power play. Boston goalie Tuukka Rask had gone out to clear the puck away from a streaking Ruslan Fedotenko, then was caught out of the net.
“Oh, that was Tyler?” Rask said with a smile. “I thought it was Dougie (Hamilton). Yeah, it was great. He was telling me he would have caught the guy when I sprinted out of the net, but it’s good to see he’s got my back and he’s got those goalie skills too.”
“He’s starting to take some pride in (his defensive) game as well. Those are good things to hear,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Every coach likes a two-way player. We certainly don’t want to take the offensive part out of his game, but any time he can help us out at the other end it is a bonus.”
Rask stymied the Flyers with 23 saves, which included a few big stops on the penalty kill as Boston finished a perfect 3 for 3.
Seguin’s score sparked a three-goal attack on Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (25 saves) in a 2:18 span in the first period. That woke up a sleepy sell-out crowd of 17,565, which didn’t have much to cheer about as the B’s didn’t register a shot on goal through the first 11 minutes.
“His game has gotten better,” Julien said. “He had a slow start for the last two weeks – he’s just being more of Tyler. He’s just found his game and he’s really helped that line be a better line.”
Galchenyuk post-practice interview (Larionov)
Matt Irwin interview
Phil Varone’s four points lead Rochester Americans over Lake Erie
Democrat and Chronicle
The scoresheet says Phil Varone played a great game for the Rochester Americans on Tuesday and his coach agrees.
The second-year centerman scored two goals and helped set up goals by Frederick Roy and Nick Crawford as the Amerks defeated the Lake Erie Monsters 4-1 in Quicken Loans Arena in a late-morning game in Cleveland.
But the tangible offensive production was just a small part of what Amerks coach Ron Rolston liked about Varone’s play.
“Phil was really detailed and it might have been one of, if not the, best games he played this season,” Rolston said. “And not just because of the points.
“He played a smart game and he didn’t force plays. When he does that, when he’s the general out there in terms of spreading the puck, then he’s at his best.”
Varone has been willing to embrace that concept. He was the Amerks leading scorer a year ago with 11 goals, 41 assists and 52 points. Nearly all (11-35-46) were scored over the final 52 games.
But this season, because of the NHL lockout, he wasn’t used as a top-line center. Cody Hodgson and Kevin Porter were there and got plenty of power-play time, as did Marcus Foligno.
Now that Hodgson and Foligno are with the parent Buffalo Sabres, Varone is getting much more power-play time, in addition to his regular shift plus penalty-killing and faceoff duties.
It’s surely no coincidence that his scoring has increased. He has 3-6-9 and is a plus-8 in plus/minus in the past eight games. In his first 34 games, he produced 3-9-12 and was a minus-9.
But he believes — and Rolston would concur — that the increased scoring is a byproduct of his willingness to play a total game.
“I just try to go out and play a good two-way game,” he said after his first four-point game as a pro. “I’m not worried about points, I go into every game wanting to play a good two-way game, to win my faceoffs, to kill penalties.”
In killing a first-period penalty, he gave the Amerks a 2-0 lead, scoring off a short-handed breakaway at 11:40. Earlier in the period he and Patrick Rissmiller assisted on Roy’s goal, which gave the rookie winger a three-game goal-scoring streak.
Varone and Luke Adam then set up Crawford’s power-play goal at 16:19 of the second period to provide a 3-0 cushion.
“I thought we were OK today,” Rolston said, noting that six days off between games may have been why the Amerks weren’t sharp with the puck.
“But we were opportunistic with some of our chances early on and the power-play goal was huge.”
Maybe it’s a good sign that a team isn’t at its best but still can win a road game 4-1 over the Monsters, who had earned points in eight straight games.
“I thought with the time off we were a little rusty but it was good that we found a way to get the job done,” said Rolston, whose team has used a 9-2 hot streak to improve to 26-16-2-1.
With 55 points in only 45 games, the Amerks are fifth in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference heading into Friday’s Hall of Fame induction night against the Houston Aeros.
“I think we’re playing a lot better now than we were at the start of the season,” Varone said. “We’re more disciplined, and I don’t mean in not taking penalties. It’s how we approach the game at different times of the period and based on the score.”
Loktionov interview (Larionov)
Nikolay Goldobin – Sarnia Sting Highlights (Larionov)
Loktionov welcomed trade from Kings to Devils, believes he can help NHL team (Larionov)
Newest Devil Andrei Loktionov welcomed the news a week ago that he had been traded by the Los Angeles Kings.
“I was happy to change the atmosphere and actually play in the NHL,” said Loktionov, still breathing heavy after a hard skate at the end of today’s optional practice. “It’s good to be in the NHL and also to go to New Jersey. It’s a new team.”
The Devils called up the 22-year-old center from Albany today after he played two games with the AHL team following the trade from the Kings for a 2013 fifth-round draft pick. The Devils coaches will watch him again in Thursday’s full practice before deciding whether to put him in the lineup to make his Devils’ debut Friday night against Philadelphia.
Loktionov said he was told, “Just go and practice and then we’ll see.”
Although there was no room for him on the Kings’ roster, Loktionov believes he can help the Devils.
“I think I believe and New Jersey believes too,” he said.
Loktionov confirmed that he asked the Kings for a trade because there was little opportunity for him to play in the NHL with their depth at center.
“There was no room on the Kings because of (Anze) Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll,” he said. “I don’t want to be in the AHL. I want to be in the NHL.”
The Kings tried to shift Loktionov to left wing to find a spot for him in their NHL lineup, but that didn’t work. He admits he is not comfortable playing that position and prefers center.
“It’s a huge problem for me,” Loktionov said of playing wing. “When you play on the wing, it’s a different role for me. You play in different situations. It’s a little bit tough for me. I was always saying that because I played most games in the NHL on the left wing because there was no space for me on the Kings (at center). So, you have to play on the wing.”
Loktionov’s preference to play center could hurt his chances of sticking with the Devils. Head coach Pete DeBoer already said earlier today that showing he is versatile would help Loktionov find a role on the NHL roster.
“The thing about playing in the NHL is if you limit yourself to one position there’s four jobs on a team,” DeBoer said. “If you’re versatile, there’s 12 forward jobs. So, it’s simple math for me. Make yourself versatile.”
Loktionov was happy to see a couple of familiar faces in the Devils’ locker room. He knows center Adam Henrique well from when they were junior teammates with Windsor in the OHL on 2008-09 team that won the Memorial Cup. That was Loktionov’s first season in North America after coming over from Russia and Henrique made the transition much easier for him.
“We’re good friends,” Loktionov said. “I know him a long time. We played together. He was always helping me because I came here and I didn’t speak English. I didn’t know anything. He would pick me up and (take him) from my home to the rink and then from the rink to home. He was always with me. He’s a good guy. It was good to be with him and talk with him. He’s a nice person.”
Loktionov also knows defenseman Peter Harrold from their time together in the Kings organization.
“The Russian guys, Kovy and Volchie (Ilya Kovalchuk and Anton Volchenkov), I just met here the first time,” Loktionov said. “I heard they’re good guys too.”
Mike Cammalleri has hat trick and assist in Flames’ 7-4 victory over Stars
CALGARY, Alberta — Back in action after missing three games with an injury, Mike Cammalleri had milestone night.
Cammalleri scored three goals, including the 200th of his career, in his return from a hip injury to help the Calgary Flames beat the Dallas Stars 7-4 on Wednesday night.
“It’s special for sure,” said Cammalleri, who also had an assist. “I truly feel I’m living a dream come true playing in this league. Stuff like that makes you sometimes reflect a little bit and you appreciate what we do.”
The seven goals were a season high for the Flames, who had scored four goals four times.
“We liked the energy we brought tonight and with that came some offensive production which was nice,” Cammalleri said. “As a group you want to build on something like this. We’re capable of breaking games when we want to.”
Roman Czervenka added a goal and an assist, and Jay Bouwmeester and Jiri Hudler also scored. Alex Tanguay, Lee Stempniak and Jarome Iginla each had two assists, and Leland Irving made 30 saves to improve to 2-1-1.
Brendan Morrow scored twice for the Stars, Eric Nystrom and Cody Eakin added goals, and Jaromir Jagr had two assists. The Stars had won four straight, including a 4-1 victory in Edmonton on Tuesday night.
Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan wasn’t happy with his team’s lackluster start.
“I don’t know if we weren’t ready as much as we weren’t ready to compete,” Gulutzan said. “We were soft in the beginning, soft with our sticks, soft with our play. We weren’t ready. I thought (the Flames) played a solid game, but I didn’t think they came guns a’blazin’. I thought we were just soft.”
Dallas goalie Richard Bachman made 16 saves in his second start of the season.
Bouwmeester opened the scoring at 3:11 of the first period, creeping in off the point to swat a loose puck past Bachman. The Stars had a great chance to tie up the game a short time later, but Irving made a great paddle save to deny a short-handed attempt by Ryan Garbutt.
At the other end on the same power play, Hudler one-timed a shot from the slot by Bachman to finish off a three-way passing play. Cammalleri added another power-play goal for the Flames, before Nystrom connected for the Stars. Czervenka then converted a feed from Tanguay to put the Flames up 4-1.
“We were always one or two steps behind,” Jagr said. “Next time we have to play a little bit better especially when we play back-to-back games and the other team have a rest. We can’t just give it to them in the first period.”
Just 45 seconds into the second period, Morrow scored during a Dallas power play. Cammalleri added his second of the game at 3:23 of the second, and Morrow swatted a loose puck past Irving 24 seconds later.
Shortly after Czervenka rang a shot off the crossbar, Glencross tapped a great pass from Iginla into the Dallas net behind a sprawling Bachman to give Calgary a 6-3 lead.
With Matt Stajan already in the penalty box for tripping, Calgary defenseman Dennis Wideman was assessed a delay-of-game penalty late in the second for smothering the puck with his hand to give the Stars a 5-on-3 power play for 59 seconds. While the Stars didn’t cash in during the two-man advantage, Eakin scored with Wideman still in the box 1:05 into the third to pull Dallas within two goals.
Cammalleri completed his hat trick with an empty-net goal.
Devlin improving since trade to Petes
The third team is the charm for Brandon Devlin.
The 18-year-old defenceman has blossomed since joining the Peterborough Petes in early December, his third team in three years after stints with the Barrie Colts and Windsor Spitfires.
Devlin’s solid defensive play and power play contributions have been a significant part of the Petes’ dramatic turnaround since Christmas. His 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) and +7 rating in 30 games with the Petes are better totals than either of his previous two seasons.
After struggling to gain the trust of previous coaches, Devlin says the approach of interim coach Jody Hull and his staff has made a world of difference for him.
“I’ve been given a great opportunity here,” Devlin said, as his club prepared Wednesday to face the Brampton Battalion at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Memorial Centre.
“The coaches believe in me and have shown they believe in me and have given me the chance to play. When coaches show confidence in a player it goes a long way.”
He says he doesn’t say that to slam his previous coaches.
“Every team is different and every coaching style is different. The guys in Windsor were great and definitely know their hockey. The guys here definitely know their hockey, it’s just a different style of coaching,” Devlin said.
Hull admits he wasn’t sure what to expect from Devlin upon his arrival.
“I think he’s finally come into his own in this league and every guy does that at a different stage of his career,” Hull said.
“I think Brandon figured it out through a lot of hard work since he’s come here and the fact he was given an opportunity, maybe, to play in a situation he wasn’t getting before with some power play time. All of a sudden his confidence has grown.”
Devlin said getting traded can be difficult on a player’s psyche.
“You think ‘What’s wrong with me or what did I do wrong?’ That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes it’s just about what a team is looking for or needs and it’s not about the player,” Devlin said.
Instead of frowning at being dealt to a team in last place at the time, Devlin said he embraced it as an opportunity. The club has made a dramatic turnaround since a coaching change, going 10-6-0-3 under Hull. They’ve gone from 16 points out of a playoff spot to four behind the Kingston Frontenacs, 4-1 losers in Belleville on Wednesday. The Petes have 14 games left and Kingston 15.
The surge also coincided with changes made before the trade deadline.
“In the locker room the boys just get along a lot easier now,” Devlin said. “There is no tension. Everyone jokes around with everyone. It’s like one big happy family.”
Hull says Devlin’s greatest asset has been his consistency.
“That’s one of the things I’m trying to get our players to buy into,” Hull said. “To play at the next level that’s one of the things you have to be. He’s a coachable player who when you tell him to do something, he’ll go and do it.”
Galchenyuk sets up OT Winner for Habs (Larionov)
OHL Round-up: Lodge seizes opportunity
The leap to the pro hockey level is one few are able to make. While talent, skill and dedication are compulsory in making that jump, other elements — some beyond a young prospect’s control — play a part as well. Opportunity and exposure, for instance. And the former usually begets the latter. Offering a gifted skater the chance to develop, and hopefully shine, can be nearly as valuable as providing quality coaching and instruction.
When opportunity recently came knocking for Jimmy Lodge of the Saginaw Spirit, the young center not only answered, but jerked the proverbial door clear off its hinges and tossed it across the room. Promoted to the top line following the departure of Florida Panthers’ prospect Vincent Trocheck (traded to the Plymouth Whalers after representing Team USA at the World Junior Championships), Lodge has simply flourished alongside Garret Ross (Chicago Blackhawks, 5th round, 2012) and Eric Locke. Scoring 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 17 games can’t be chalked up to fluke. Not that the 17-year-old center wasn’t well-regarded before; only now there’s empirical evidence he can score regularly against the top shutdown lines in the league. The accompanying boost in confidence ahead of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft doesn’t hurt either.
Cutting sets Attack games played mark
Owen Sound Sun Times
Junior hockey players don’t set out wanting to break a franchise’s record for games played. They’re all dreaming of being drafted at 18 and going straight to the National Hockey League.
It takes a certain kind of player to start in the Ontario Hockey League as an underage 16 year old and then stick for five seasons with the same team. Despite the ups and downs, the player keeps coming back. And despite the downs, his team wants to keep him.
Keevin Cutting’s record for longevity with the Owen Sound Attack is a testament to such perseverance.
The 20-year-old Bracebridge native set the new record with 313 career games for Owen Sound, one more than former teammate Marcus Carroll, who established the mark of 312 in 2010.
“I’ve spent a quarter of my life here and I pretty much consider this place my home,” Cutting said Wednesday following Owen Sound’s 2-0 loss to visiting Guelph. “It definitely wasn’t anything I expected. You can be moved any day in the OHL and I’m just blessed that they had the faith to keep me here.
“It’s an honour because I’m an Attacker for life now. I’m excited.”
Cutting had a tough sophomore season in 2009-2010, finishing with a -21 plus/minus rating, and he was in tough coming into the following season. But the current Attack captain slowly worked his way back into form, recording a tremendous +44 swing in his plus/minus from one season to the next.
“I think it’s a tribute to the coaches who were here before and the general manager,” said Attack coach Greg Ireland. “They saw something in him and they stuck with him and believed in him. It takes a lot of games and a lot of commitment. You’ve got to stay healthy and play well. He’s a shining example of a kid who’s pretty mature and can see the big picture.”
Cutting started his OHL career with the Attack as an underage rookie in 2008. He’s put together career totals of 17 goals and 56 assists as well as a +9 rating and 231 penalty minutes. He was part of the Attack’s OHL championship in 2011 and he was on the ice for Carroll’s then-record setting game.
“This is awesome because Keevin is a great player and it’s kind of neat to be passing it on to somebody that I know and who I shared my experiences with,” said Carroll, who played 76 games over two seasons with the East Coast Hockey League’s Utah Grizzlies before suffering a career-ending back injury. “There couldn’t be a better place than Owen Sound to set a record like this. The fans and the people are great and it just makes it a top-notch experience to set it here.”
Patrick Watling and Hunter Garlent scored for the Guelph (30-17-1-4, fourth in the Midwest).
Thomas scores twice for Whale
The Improper Bostonian Bachelor/ette issue cover shoot featuring Tyler Seguin
Galchenyuk media availability prior to Flyers’ game (Larionov)
Seguin uses grit, defense to find offense
WINNIPEG – Given the way his puck luck has gone over the last few weeks, Tyler Seguin had some negative thoughts when his second period tipped goal was under video review by the NHL.
Did Seguin think it was coming off the board?
“100 percent,” said a smiling Seguin. “The only thing I was thinking on the bench is that it’s not going to count because of a high stick or something. When it happened I was battling with a guy and I put my stick out with my eyes shut, so I wasn’t exactly sure what happened.
“But then I finally saw the replay and didn’t think it was a high stick.”
So instead Seguin’s strike counted as his third goal of the season and Boston’s opening score in a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre, and Claude Julien was giving the 21-year-old credit for his best all-around game of the season after it was all over. The Bruins winger was solid in the defensive end and even broke up an odd-man rush in the first period on a hustling back-check when Zdeno Chara was out of a play with a broken stick.
“It was great to see Seguin score a goal, but more than that he just played a great overall game,” said partner in crime Brad Marchand, who notched the game-winner in the third period. “If you watched him tonight, he was everywhere. He back-checked very hard, he was great in our end, he was shooting the puck and that’s what you need out of him.
“When he plays like that we’re a pretty tough team to beat. When things aren’t going the way you want sometimes you just need a goal like that to get you going.”
That defense led to offense in the second period with the Bruins down 1-0 after an Alex Burmistrov goal. Zdeno Chara lobbed a shot from the right point toward the net and both Seguin and Brad Marchand converged on the shot at the same time. It was Seguin moving toward the cage that got a raised stick on the puck and tipped it past Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
It was one of seven shots attempted by Seguin in victory, and a sign that the Bruins forward has upped his grit game with a greasy goal that won’t necessarily make any highlight reels anytime soon.
“Even though it’s a tip that’s not usually my game, I’ll take it,” said Seguin. “Obviously when you’re not scoring and producing the guys see that you’re getting frustrated. The message I got over and over was to keep battling and to maybe take my grit up another level and my compete level up. That’s what I tried to do tonight.”
Now it’s up to Seguin to keep things humming offensively after breaking through with a greasy one: he’s got two goals in his last six games after potting one empty netter in his first nine games of the season.
Things are set up for a productive rest of the road trip for Seguin if he can keep the grit level at a respectable level until shots start falling for the Bruins forward on a regular basis.more
Cammalleri pleased to be back on the ice
Despite a season-opening loss, Mike Cammalleri could easily stand back, look at the big picture and perfectly encapsulate what it meant to him to be playing hockey again.
Soaking up the unconditional fan adulation, pomp and circumstance that opened the season Sunday night, Cammalleri took time to wax poetically after the team’s 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
“One of the big things the lockout did — maybe especially for a veteran player — is make you appreciate so much what we do for a living and just how much fun this is on so many different levels,” said the 11th-year pro, who was locked out in 2004-05 as well.
“It’s somewhat euphoric to be playing again.”
Pressed for more details on what exactly he missed, Cammalleri didn’t disappoint, articulately summing up most players’ thoughts.
“It’s the whole thing,” said Cammalleri, 30, hoping to return to the 39-goal form he had with the Flames four years ago.
Jets name Jokinen alternate captain
The Winnipeg Jets have named Olli Jokinen and Mark Stuart as their alternate captains for the new season.
The pair replace Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, who wore the letters last year.
Andrew Ladd remains the captain of the Jets.
The Jets are Jokinen’s seventh NHL stop over a 14-season career. The 34-year-old forward signed with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent last summer before the lockout.
Stuart, 28, is starting his seventh NHL campaign. He began his career with the Boston Bruins before being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers prior to their move to Winnipeg.
The Jets dropped a 4-1 decision to the Ottawa Senators in their home opener on Saturday night and play in Boston against the Bruins on Monday afternoon.
Seguin scores shootout goal
Yakupov’s first NHL game (Larionov)
Irwin’s First NHL Game
Beyond that, I also talked with Matt Irwin about his first NHL game.
“A couple nerves to start off, but I got my first hit in early, made a couple plays and settled down right after that,” he said.
Was the game pretty much what he expected as far as pace and speed?
“I think so. We had a good pace at camp and that helped me out big-time. I wasn’t coming straight from the AHL right into my first game,” Irwin said. “I was able to gauge the pace a little better.”
How was the on-ice communication with d-partner Dan Boyle?
“He was great. Said things when he needed to say stuff. Most of the time he kept to himself — little pointers here and there. And he let me play my game. I hope I made his job a little easier because he sure made mine easy.”
Leivo with three points, including OT winner, as the Rangers edge the Wolves
The Canadian Press
SUDBURY, Ont. – Joshua Leivo scored at 4:36 of overtime and added two assists in regulation as the visiting Kitchener Rangers edged his former team the Sudbury Wolves 5-4 on Sunday in Ontario Hockey League action.
Leivo had spent the past three seasons playing for Sudbury before Kitchener acquired him in a trade on Jan. 8th, and the 19-year-old forward has two goals and eight points in seven games with his new club.
Rick Schofield at home with Rochester Amerks
Democrat and Chronicle
Rick Schofield has a new role with the Rochester Americans.
Well, two actually.
The second-year forward has been moved from center to the left wing, and he is being asked to score some goals.
Skating on the wing may require a bit more time before Schofield is completely comfortable. He has never been anywhere other than center in his career.
He shouldn’t need all that long to reacquaint himself to scoring, however. He has done plenty of that in the past.
Which is maybe why he looked right at home in the role on Monday afternoon, when the Amerks defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 in the Hometown Heroes game at Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester Community War Memorial.
Schofield set up a goal by Frederick Roy in the first period and then scored the tie-breaking goal 1:47 into the second period as the Amerks improved to 21-15-2-1 by defeating Hamilton for the sixth time in seven meetings.
“It feels good to contribute,” said Schofield, who played in a fourth-line checking role for two months, until a hip injury sidelined him for 15 games.
His goal Monday was important. Kevin Sundher and Kevin Porter scored in first 53 seconds of the game, and Roy’s goal made it 3-0 after just 5:45. But the lead disappeared and the Amerks found themselves tied when Hamilton’s Joey Tenute scored 24 seconds into the second period.
“We got the lead playing a certain way and then we went back to complicating things,” coach Ron Rolston said.
Schofield bailed them out only 83 seconds later. He drove a low slap shot right between the legs of goalie Robert Mayer to restore the lead, and when Evan Rankin scored at 8:42 of the second period the Amerks were in control.
He has produced two goals, three assists and five points in the past four games after scoring just 3-5-8 in his first 19 games.
“This is the role I’ve always wanted to play,” Schofield said. “I’ve been more of an offensive player in the past and it’s great to finally put some points on the board.”
He returned from a nagging hip injury on Jan. 11, just in time as it turned out. The NHL lockout ended the next day, and center Cody Hodgson and left winger Marcus Foligno were soon heading to the parent Buffalo Sabres.
That meant lineup shuffling for Rolston. Hard-nosed left winger Nick Tarnasky vaulted to a top-six forward line role. Schofield, his center for much of the season, was moved to left wing on a line with center Phil Varone and right winger Evan Rankin.
This is, however, what Rolston envisioned when he pursued Schofield in free agency over the summer. He knew Schofield had been an offensive player at Lake Superior State, and also liked what he did in a checking role as a rookie last season with the Syracuse Crunch.
“He’s a really good all-around player,” Rolston said. “Really this is the first assignment on wing he has had at this level. His whole life he has been a center-ice man. He’s very versatile and somebody we wanted in our lineup.
“He hasn’t really been in a big offensive role at this level yet. He’s on a line now that can get pucks down low and go to work and he’s able to finish plays off.”
Galchenyuk learns he made the Habs’ roster
Galchenyuk’s NHL debut a family affair (Larionov)
MONTREAL — When Canadiens first-round draft pick Alex Galchenyuk sent his family the good news by text message last Friday, followed by a phone call, they scrambled to make it to the Bell Centre on Saturday to watch him play his first National Hockey League game.
His parents, “Alex Sr.”, as he’s known with the Sarnia Sting where he’s an assistant coach, and mother Inna left for Montreal late Friday night after the Sting’s game.
“People in Sarnia seemed so excited,” said Inna, who spotted many fans wearing Canadiens hats when she picked up her husband after the hockey game.
At Galchenyuk’s request, they brought along Leo and Mary, the family’s Yorkie and Bichon-Shih-tzu mix.
They drove until 5 a.m. before stopping at a hotel. But with Alex Sr. hoping to see the morning skates at the Bell Centre they hit the road again a few hours later for Montreal.
His sister Anna, 25, drove up from New York City.
“He wasn’t freaking out nervous—he was excited nervous,” Anna said of her 18-year-old brother before the Canadiens season opener on Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“You could see in his eyes he couldn’t wait to get out there.”
The excitement and joy of watching Galchenyuk make his NHL debut still lit up their faces on Monday as his mother and sister recounted the experience at a downtown Montreal hotel. (Alex Sr. was over at the Bell Centre at the time watching the Canadiens practice.)
“Goosebumps, tears, everything altogether,” Anna laughed, recalling her reaction during the pregame introductions.
“I even started singing,” said Inna.
“She was singing O Canada,” Anna said of her Russian mother.
“I was so happy. I was so happy,” his mother said.
The Canadiens drafted Galchenyuk, a forward with the Sting in the Ontario Hockey League, last June.
The Canadiens can play Galchenyuk in five games before having to decide if they want him to stay with the team or go back to the Sting. And head coach Michel Therrien hasn’t tipped his hand yet.
Galchenyuk, who was born in Milwaukee where his father was playing hockey at the time, started skating at 18 months. Inna recalled his first scrimmage at the age of 3 in Detroit where Anna had figure-skating practice. While she skated on one rink, he skated on the sheet of ice with kids who were a few years older.
The final tally was 5-5. Galchenyuk scored all the goals.
“He didn’t know which net he’d have to score (on). So he would score five in his net and five in the opponent’s net,” Anna said.
Galchenyuk asked his mother afterward to stay near the net he needed to score on in the next game.
On Saturday before the game, the Galchenyuks stocked up on Habs merchandise.
“Me and Mom got jerseys, Dad got the hat, a T-shirt, so we were all set for the first game,” Anna said.
It wasn’t the only exciting hockey event this month for the Galchenyuk family who travelled to Ufa, Russia for the World Junior Hockey Championship to watch Alex play for Team U.S.A., which won the gold medal.
“We don’t even have a time to breathe. One flows into another,” Anna said, adding how her brother flew to Montreal for the Canadiens training camp shortly after the world juniors.
After Thursday’s intra-squad Canadiens game at the Bell Centre with 17,000 people in the stands, Galchenyuk admitted to looking up at the crowd.
“It’s unbelievable,” Galchenyuk told reporters. “You dream about this since you were a little kid.”
His father got his own taste of the city’s zeal for hockey on Saturday when the Canadiens opened up the Habs and Leafs morning skates as part of a bid to make amends for the NHL lockout.
“Our dad was in total shock, by the way, after he came to the morning skate and there were 8,000 people in the stands,” Anna said.
She described her brother as a “very focused kid.”
“And I always say he’s really mature for his age,” said Anna, adding he’s the first person she turns to for advice.
The Galchenyuk family is sticking around for Tuesday’s game against the Florida Panthers.
As the interview came to an end, Alex Sr. arrived at the hotel after watching the Canadiens practice.
They were so excited to see Alex’s first game, he said.
When people were cheering his son, “I didn’t cry but I got like wet, wet eyes,” he said.
Tyler Seguin Pre-Game
Yakupov talks prior to Oilers’ home opener (Larionov)
Scott Gomez takes long way to San Jose, expects to sign with Sharks this week
Scott Gomez found his way to San Jose after the Montreal Canadiens told him to hit the road, but all he has to show for it is a number on the back of his helmet as he participates in bag skates at practices.
There is still no contract, but Gomez will, sometime this week, sign with the Sharks. He will wear the No. 23 jersey, just like he did in his first game with the New Jersey Devils in 1999, when he was 19. That’s when current Sharks associate coach Larry Robinson was his head coach with the Devils.
How the veteran centre got No. 23 in the first place is a very funny story, one Gomez was only too happy to rehash Tuesday morning at Rexall Place after the Hall of Famer Robinson walked past him to the dressing room.
Gomez wanted the No. 11 jersey badly, but he didn’t get it in New Jersey.
“I had been wearing No. 48 in camp (like all rookies, wearing higher numbers) and the day I made the team, I came into the locker-room and I saw this No. 23 on the board. I said, ‘damn it, who’s 23?’ Gomez said. “Larry was right behind me and I can see the look on his face, ‘This kid just made the NHL, what’s he complaining about?’
“Larry walked up to me later and said, ‘what’s wrong, kid?’
“I said, ‘what do you mean, what’s wrong? Who’s worn 23?’ He told me, ‘Bob Gainey, a pretty good player,’ but I said, ‘you guys are older. I don’t remember too much about him.’
“ ‘How about Michael Jordan?’ ” Robinson said.
“ ‘Yeah, but that’s basketball,’ ” Gomez said.
“Larry went over to the trainer and said, ‘is No. 11 available in Albany?’ The trainer looked and said, ‘yup, it’s available on the farm team.’
“Larry said, ‘hey, kid. You still want 11?’ ”
Gomez sheepishly back-tracked.
Now, 904 games into his NHL career, the veteran centre is just happy to get another shot at keeping his career going, with Robinson hanging out with him as he skated up and down the Rexall ice.
Gomez is not ready to go ice fishing in Alaska, in Anchorage, where he grew up. The Habs bought him out, paying him two-thirds of the $10 million he was owed, taking into account the pro-rated 48-game, lockout-shortened season. He doesn’t have any money worries, but he’s only 33 and he’s too young to quit.
“One thing the lockout has taught us is what retirement life is going to be like for the older guys,” he said. “I still love competing, playing for the fans. It’s an honour to play in the National Hockey League … .”
Gomez doesn’t know when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and his agent Ian Pulver will finalize a contract, likely in the $700,000 US range, but it’s coming.
He’ll likely be slotted into a third-line role, with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture slotted as the top two centres.
Montreal GM Marc Bergevin had a chat with Gomez before training camp opened and told him he wasn’t going on the ice because the Habs didn’t want to risk an injury. This meant they couldn’t use him as one of two compliance buyouts starting June 1 — a wrinkle in the new collective bargaining agreement.
The NHL Players’ Association got involved, saying it was unfair to have Gomez and Wade Redden, who was in the same boat with the New York Rangers, not being allowed to play anywhere. The league then decided to waive the June 1 rule for Gomez and Redden.
“I was down in the dumps for about 10 minutes, driving away and not knowing what my future held, then I got a call from Ian Pulver and he, ‘this isn’t going to happen.’ He said, ‘don’t do anything dumb, stay on course,’ ” Gomez said.
“I’m sure he wants to prove something to himself, but also prove to everybody else that they’re wrong,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, who is waiting for Wilson to tell him when Gomez is officially a Shark, not just auditioning for a role.
“Ask every guy who plays in this league or any professional athlete. You want to prove people wrong,” said McLellan.
Obviously, there are no rules in today’s NHL about players without contracts skating with teams in practices.
“Hey, don’t point that out, don’t ruin it,” he said, laughing.
Gomez might have insurance, maybe he doesn’t. But still he’s getting a test-drive, and he could get hurt.
“I know which shots to stay away from. I know not to go in front of the net. I know who to go into the corner with.”
Wilson feels Gomez, who won the Stanley Cup twice playing with the Devils, has something left.
The Rangers dealt him to Montreal for Chris Higgins and Ryan McDonagh, getting a terrific return in McDonagh, one of their top three defenders along with Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. The Canadiens are the big losers here, simply buying him out. It was embarrassing to Gomez, but the Sharks have thrown him a lifeline.
“I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe I’ll find out in a couple of hours, a couple of days,” said Gomez.
“I’m addicted to winning. You play to have a shot at a Stanley Cup, especially if you’ve won one. I’m not ready to give that up. I know this is a business …
“I don’t know how many years I have left.”
Sharks sign free agent centre Scott Gomez to one-year deal
SAN JOSE, California — San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has signed unrestricted free agent center Scott Gomez to a one-year deal. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gomez, 33, posted 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 38 games with Montreal in 2011-12. This season, he spent 11 games with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL this season recording 13 points (six goals, seven assists).
The 12-year NHL veteran has appeared in 902 career regular season games with the New Jersey Devils, the New York Rangers and Montreal, amassing 686 points (169 goals, 517 assists).
The 2000 Calder Memorial Trophy winner, awarded to the League’s best rookie, was also named to the 2000 NHL All-Rookie Team.
A two-time NHL All-Star (2000, 2008), he has made three Stanley Cup Finals appearances with New Jersey (2000, 2001 and 2003), winning the Stanley Cup twice (2000, 2003). In 140 career NHL playoff games, Gomez has posted 99 points (29 goals, 70 assists) and his 70 assists are T-55th most in NHL Playoff history.
Gomez has represented the United States of America in several international tournaments including: 2006 Olympics, 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 1998 and 1999 World Junior Championships.
The five-foot-eleven, 200-pound native of Anchorage, Alaska was originally selected by New Jersey in the first round (27th overall) of the 1998 NHL Draft.
Galchenyuk & Yakupov’s Firsts (Larionov)
Galchenyuk earns ovation for first National Hockey League goal (Larionov)
Alex Galchenyuk said people told him he was lucky when he was drafted by the Canadiens and he understood why Tuesday night when the sellout crowd greeted his first National Hockey League goal with a loud ovation.
“I’ve never heard anything that loud,” Galchenyuk said.
Galchenyuk put the finishing touches on the Canadiens’ 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers when he tipped a shot by Brandon Prust at 14:25 of the second period.
“I had my back to the goal and (Prust) faked a pass to a defenceman and then shot the puck,” said Galchenyuk. “I tipped it and then everything seemed to be in slow motion and I saw it land on its side and then went into the net.”
That touched off a celebration that ended with Galchenyuk jumping into the glass and the sellout crowd roared its approval.
“All my celebrations when I was in Sarnia come from emotions and as you could see I was pretty excited,” Galchenyuk said. “I was just skating around and I was pumped and I saw the fans going wild and I jumped the glass.”
“I’m just happy he didn’t hurt himself on the celebration,” fellow rookie and linemate Brendan Gallagher said.
The goal came at the end of a shift which saw coach Michel Therrien send Galchenyuk, Gallagher and Prust out on the power play.
“You want to give young players a chance to succeed and you try to manage the game,” Therrien said. “Their line was playing well and we were ahead 3-1 and it was a good spot for them. They stayed on after the power play ended and they were rewarded.”
Galchenyuk’s goal was enough for the fans to award him the game’s first star but he said there might have been a better choice.
”It was great to go out there and throw the pucks and talk to the fans but (Andrei Markov) scored two goals and he deserved it. But I guess because I’m a young guy and I scored my first goal, they gave it to me.
Galchenyuk was playing centre after lining up at left wing in the season opener against Toronto. When asked if he had a preference, he said: “I’m a forward. It’s not like I’m a centre or on the wing. I’m just happy to be playing in front of 21,000 people.”
Gallagher, who has been hanging out with Galchenyuk since they roomed together in training camp, was making his NHL debut and said he was happy to be part of Galchenyuk’s success after picking up an assist on the goal. But it would be a mistake to suggest that Gallagher was along for the ride. He three shots on goal and had four hits.
I have to get to the net to be successful,” Gallagher said. “I have to create havoc and open up some space.”
As for his first NHL experience, Gallagher said: “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous but I reflected back on all the people who made sacrifices to help me get here. It starts with my parents. Like all hockey parents, they would get up at five in the morning to drive me to practice. They were always supportive.”
The game was a team effort and there was no shortage of strong performances.
Yakupov and Irwin
Hostetter earns brief promotion to the Phantoms
The fate of Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect Tyler Hostetter was tied to that of veteran National Hockey League defenseman Andreas Lilja.
So when the 37-year-old Swedish born Lilja cleared waivers last Thursday, one day after being waived by the Flyers, that meant he was joining the American Hockey League’s Adirondack Phantoms.
The domino effect was that 5-foot-11, 182-pound defenseman Hostetter left the Phantoms, one step below the NHL, and went back to the Trenton Titans of the East Coast Hockey League.
The Lititz native took the move in stride.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully everything falls into place,” said Hostetter, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday next Wednesday, Jan. 30.
As the NHL endured a 113-day lockout to begin the season, Hostetter helped to solidify the blue line for the Titans. But then with the lockout in the rear-view mirror and the NHL preparing to drop the puck, the Phantoms announced on Jan. 10 that Hostetter and three of his teammates — forwards Shane Harper, Matt Mangene and Andrew Johnston — were reassigned to Adirondack.
Hostetter, who signed a three-year entry level contract with the Flyers in 2009, practiced with the Phantoms and then traveled with the team for a two-game road trip to play the Binghamton Senators and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 11 and 12.
The Phantoms, with former NHL coach Terry Murray at the helm, are battling for a playoff spot in the Northeast Division of the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
Asked how he liked playing for Murray, Hostetter said, “It was good. I like him. It was more like my junior coach Robbie Ftorek (with the Erie Otters in the Ontario Hockey League), like how he practiced and everything. It just seemed like he demanded practice to be good. Without saying it, you could just tell.”
After returning with Adirondack from its road trip, he played with the Titans in their 4-3 overtime win over Reading on Wednesday, Jan. 16 and recorded an assist. Hostetter then immediately rejoined the Phantoms after the game, but was reassigned to the Titans the following day when Lilja cleared waivers.
In his brief professional career so far, this wasn’t Hostetter’s first taste of the American Hockey League, as he played in 10 games with the Phantoms over the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. He said the biggest difference between playing at that level and with the Titans in the ECHL is the intensity involved with every shift.
“(The speed of the game) is not that much different, to be honest with you,” Hostetter said. “I don’t see it like that. The people bear down more, they’re stronger. Every shift is hard and the passing is hard.”
Currently, Hostetter has 14 assists and 27 shots on goals in 33 games this year with the Titans. A year ago, he recorded seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 34 games.
But as he works to improve his overall game, Hostetter is paying close attention to his play inside the Titans’ defensive zone.
“I’m an offensive defenseman and I’m trying to focus on my defensive skills,” he said, “because I’ve had my offensive abilities since I’ve been playing hockey, so I just figure that if I work on my defense, it’s going to help me out a lot better.”
If it helps him get another call-up to the Phantoms, that’s all the better. Having already been promoted once this year, one might think that Hostetter isn’t far away from getting told to pack his bags for Adirondack. For his part, Hostetter is just trying to take care of his own business.
“I don’t know really what their situation is, I don’t really try to think about it,” he said. “I just keep working hard and if I get the call up, I get the call up.” More HOSTETTER, page B-6
Gomez interview prior to Sharks’ home opener
Like Yakupov, player agent Larionov also scored his first NHL goal at Edmonton in his second game (Larionov)
EDMONTON – Nail Yakupov’s agent, Igor Larionov, was at Rexall Place on Tuesday night to see the kid’s first NHL goal in his second game, which brought back a sense of deju vu with the Hall of Famer.
“My first NHL goal was scored here, too, in my second game, on (Edmonton Oilers goalie) Billy Ranford,” said Larionov, who is in town for three days and will undoubtedly see Ranford on Thursday because he’s the Los Angeles Kings’ goalie coach.
“I scored my goal on a breakaway after Paul Reinhart was making like Wayne Gretzky and I was coming late (on the play),” said Larionov, who didn’t jump deliriously into the glass as Yakupov did.
“I was too old. I was 29,” said Larionov, who was playing for the Vancouver Canucks.
Reinhart, of course, is the father of Oil Kings defenceman Griffin Reinhart.
Yakupov buried a Sam Gagner feed on a power play, one-timing a shot past Antti Niemi after the San Jose Sharks had jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The glass took a beating after the goal went in.
“I didn’t know what I was doing. I was so happy,” said Yakupov.
Fittingly, Alex Galchenyuk, Yakupov’s Sarnia Sting teammate in junior, also scored his first NHL goal on Tuesday for the Montreal Canadiens. He jumped into the glass, too; the same celebration thousands of kilometres away.
Larionov also represents Galchenyuk, who was the third overall pick last June, and said he would be talking to Habs general manager Marc Bergevin next week about the youngster.
“I have to find out if they want to keep him (past five games) or send him back to junior. I have to talk to Marc and see how much they want to play him,” said Larionov, who knows it’s fine for young players to be on NHL rosters but not if they’re playing six or seven minutes a game.
Yakupov has averaged 16 minutes and 22 seconds during his first two Oilers games; Galchenyuk only 12:08.
Only one negative in Yakupov’s play so far. He’s minus-four. Not every goal was his fault, but everyone knows he has to work on his defence and his work along the boards.
“I asked Ryan Smyth to talk to him,” said Larionov, well aware so many plays come off the wall in tight NHL quarters.
Bolduc suits up for Phoenix
Thiessen helps WBS Penguins blank Ice Caps
The Times Tribune
WILKES-BARRE TWP. – On Wednesday afternoon, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins conjured up memories of the early 2000s when they brought back former captain and leading scorer Tom Kostopoulos.
A few hours later, goalie Brad Thiessen turned back the clock too with a dominant, 26-save performance in a 3-0 victory over the St. John’s Ice Caps at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Thiessen, who is 5-1 with three shutouts in six January starts, is once again flashing the form that made him the AHL’s goaltender of the year in 2010-11.
“He’s played well,” coach John Hynes said. “The biggest thing with him right now is he’s seeing the puck real well and his compete level is real high.”
The Penguins blitzed St. John’s early, scoring on their first power-play attempt of the game at the 2:32 mark.
Alex Grant skated in from the left point toward the faceoff dot, took a pass from Riley Holzapfel from the right-wing corner and buried a shot past Eddie Pasquale.
The Penguins have won five in a row, and they’ve taken a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal in three of those games.
“Anytime the power play can contribute, it’s huge,” Holzapfel said. “We’ve been stressing that a lot lately, that special teams have got to win us games.”
The Penguins ran their lead to 2-0 when Philip Samuelsson capitalized on a St. John’s turnover at the 12:23 mark. He picked up a loose puck at the blue line and quickly fired a shot past a Dominik Uher screen and in.
Thiessen made perhaps his most important save late in the first period, turning back a Carl Klingberg shot from the right wing 3:10 before intermission to keep the Ice Caps off the board.
The Penguins then made the score 3-0 less than a minute later when Holzapfel finished off the rebound of a Paul Thompson shot from the right wing at 17:41.
“It was nice to get out to a big lead,” Thiessen said. “Lately, we’ve been kind of eking some games out. To be able to jump out like that was nice. We’ve had some leads like that in the past that have gotten away from us. We were able to limit chances after that and play well with that lead.”
The Penguins choked the life out of the game from there. They managed only three shots on goal in each of the last two periods, but they didn’t give St. John’s much in the way of scoring chances either.
“Not that we weren’t on the attack, but we didn’t create a lot after we were up 3-0,” Hynes said. “Structurally and defensively we were good, but we’d like to get more of a puck possession game and still be attacking.”
On the rare occasions where the Penguins did give up a scoring chance, Thiessen stood his ground. He’s allowed a total of five goals in his last six starts.
“You just get in there and feel like you’re seeing the puck well,” Thiessen said. “They try to generate a lot of offense from their D and our guys were blocking a lot of shots from the point. That helps a lot when you’re trying to fight through traffic and guys are putting their bodies on the line.”
Yakupov’s Dramatic Moment (Larionov)
Gomez likely to debut on Saturday
SAN JOSE – Sharks newcomer Scott Gomez will likely make his debut on Saturday against Colorado, although head coach Todd McLellan wouldn’t completely confirm it.
“A very good chance we’ll see him tomorrow,” the head coach said. “We’ll get a health update tomorrow on the roster. He had a good practice today. We used him in some different situations in practice, so he should feel a little more comfortable. We’d really like to see what he’s going to do.”
One of those situations is the Sharks’ second power play unit. Gomez lined up there as the center with Marty Havlat and Ryane Clowe, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun on the points.
The Sharks’ power play has been impressive through three games, to say the least, going 7-for-18 (38.9 percent, third in the league). All seven goals have come from the top unit, however. Gomez has apparently bumped forward Tommy Wingels from the power play.
The 33-year-old center also took line rushes with James Sheppard and Adam Burish, so should he get in the lineup, signs point to Andrew Desjardins sitting out.
One player that looks poised to keep his place in the lineup, even with Gomez dressing, is center Michal Handzus. There was rampant speculation that Gomez would replace Handzus as the third line center, but the stoic and professional 35-year-old vet has impressed McLellan so far.
“I think Zeus has played very well since the season started. Completely different guy,” McLellan said. “Because we have signed Scott Gomez, I don’t think that’s any reason for Michal Handzus to lose his job or his position. They can battle it out, continue to push each other, and obviously different situations allow for different players to use a certain skill set.
“Zeus has been very good on the penalty kill this year so far; very good in the faceoff circle. Scotty might be a little more offensive in power play situations. There is room for both of them, and they can push each other.”
Handzus was an incredible 15-1 in the faceoff circle on Thursday against Phoenix, and along with Brad Stuart and Douglas Murray, nearly killed off a full two-minute two-man advantage for the Coyotes. He was a -1, but that only due to Antti Niemi letting in a bad goal to Lauri Korpikoski.
As for Gomez, Ryane Clowe is looking forward to a different look on his power play unit.
“It’s a pretty good second unit when you put myself, Marty and Gomer on there,” Clowe said. “It’s two pretty solid units out there, especially with the first unit going the way they are. One thing about Gomer, is the ability to pass the puck is a real threat. We have three lefties, and I kind of want to get to the net a bit more.”
Gomez may not be the only player making his Sharks season debut. Goaltender Thomas Greiss will likely make an appearance in one of the two games this weekend, and it looks like it might be on Saturday, as he was the first goalie off of the ice on Friday while Niemi stayed on for some extra work.
Matt Irwin Feature Video
Battalion leader Goodrow bundling up for the north
A true leader on a young team can lead a team to great heights and luckily for the Brampton Battalion, they have Barclay Goodrow.
Goodrow was drafted by the Battalion with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection. He played hockey in his hometown of Aurora, ON, before moving to the York-Simcoe AAA program in 2004, where he scored 67 goals in 71 games in his draft eligibility year.
It’s also not the first time Goodrow’s had an extended stay in Northeastern Ontario, as he played on the Team Ontario roster that won silver at the 2010 World Under-17 Challenge, held in Timmins.
Knowing that he’s coming up north for the 2013-14 season in North Bay, he’s got a shopping list.
“The north is definitely a lot colder,” he said, “I definitely need to buy some more hats and mittens and bring them all up next year but the hockey support is great.”
The Troop captain is in his fourth season in the OHL, and is a solid 20-plus goal scorer. He has 24 goals and 34 points in 41 games thus far. He should easily set a new career high in goals—26 goals last season—and could break the 30-goal plateau.
Fans of North Bay have already taken notice of Goodrow and his team, with two multiple bus trips to Sudbury to see the Battalion in action against the Wolves.
“It’s an exciting time, seeing all the North Bay fans in Sudbury (January 4),” he said, “We still have a season to finish off in Brampton so for the most part, we should be focused on that and then once the season ends, then our focus will turn to North Bay and it’ll be pretty exciting after that.”
He walked the halls of Memorial Gardens with his teammates for that Jan. 5. practice.
“It’s a rink with a lot of character,” he said of the Gardens, “I’ve heard some stories of some past times here and it sounds pretty cool so the renovations should add some more character to it and it should be a great rink to play in.”
He was sidelined with a shoulder injury in late December but made his return to the line up in a 2-1 win over Sudbury on Jan. 13.
“It feels great to get back into the lineup,” Goodrow told BattalionHockey.com following the win over Sudbury.
“No hockey player will ever tell you that they like watching their team play, especially when we were going through some struggles. But it’s great to get back in there and get a big win.”
Goodrow seems to be getting back his goal scoring touch early, as he scored a power play goal in his third game back to propel the Battalion to a 2-1 win over Peterborough Sunday afternoon.
Goodrow, as well as many Battalion players, are on Twitter, and North Bay fans are getting ready for the new season.
“People here have been without a team for 10 years now so I see the support over Twitter,” he said, “Getting a lot of Twitter followers (@bgoodrow23) from North Bay so that’s good and the hype around next season is going to be huge.”
The Battalion continue their home stand against the Niagara IceDogs Friday night.
Thomas scores in Connecticut win
First NHL Goal for Matt Irwin
Fleury likes Yakupov yippee (Larionov)
Imitation, of course, has long been considered the sincerest form of flattery.
As Picasso once is reported to have said: “Bad artists copy; great artists steal.”
And the inventor of the ice-long-knee-slide/ arm-pump/wild-delirium-celebration figures the kid absolutely Nail-ed it.
“I thought it was great,” enthused Theoren Fleury. “He was having fun. He scored a big goal. He’s happy. What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with being happy? What’s wrong with having fun?
“I actually didn’t see the goal. I was at (son) Beaux’s soccer practice. Once I got out, my phone started blowing up. I thought ‘Whoa!” And sure enough, the game had just finished.
“I saw it later. Great goal. “And you know the connection, Edmonton-Calgary. Same building. It all kind of fed into it.”
The exultant post-game celebration by Oiler rookie Nail Yakupov on Thursday night against the L.A.
Kings immediately triggered warm memories of Fleury’s famous rink-length dash after swiping the puck from Mark Messier in overtime and scoring on Grant Fuhr to send the bitter, brilliant first-round playoff series of ’91 to a Game 7.
That moment has through the years gone down in folklore; remains among the cameo-keepsake images for an entire generation.
Thursday wasn’t a playoff game, an elimination game, a game against your most bitter of rivals right in the hostile environment of their own barn. It didn’t carry that kind of significance. Still, for a young Oilers team to have one goal unfairly chalked off just seconds before, then to tie it up at the death, showed an amazing amount of self-belief, of resilience.
Going on to win in OT on Sam Gagner’s goal made the night even better.
This being 2013 and not 1991, Yakupov’s yippee went viral almost immediately following the game-tying tee-ball strike with 4.7 seconds left in regulation. Immediately, everyone had an opinion on its relative merits.
Here, the consensus was positive. Even the current Calgary Flame voted Most Likely To Pound Nail in similar circumstances, Cory Sarich didn’t see anything untoward or disrespectful.
“He’s excited to be scoring a goal. I guess that’s how you’ve got to be playing this game. You’ve got to be energized. You gotta enjoy what you’re doing.
“If (the Kings) don’t like it, too bad. If you don’t like it, don’t allow him to score. I’ve seen a lot of celebrations in this league, and if they’re worked up about that one …
“I’ve seen guys bouncing off the glass, I’ve seen guys riding sticks.
Look at Vinny Prospal. Every goal he scores, he’s like that: As if he’d never scored a goal before in his life. And it’d drive other teams crazy. “Look at soccer. Look at some of the football celebrations over the years. This wasn’t pre-planned. It was spontaneous. Personally, I don’t care. If a guy’s coming to the bench and making a scene, that’d rile guys up. But he wasn’t offending anybody.”
When asked if he’d whip up his own trademark celebration under similar circumstances, Sarich, the scorer of 20 career snipes, smiled indulgently.
“I don’t get much chance to celebrate goals.”
The Yakupov dash has everyone talking. A sampling of other Flame reaction the day after:
? Matt Stajan: “I skated with him in the summer.
He celebrated like that after a goal in three-on-three shinny hockey, so it doesn’t surprise me. I think it’s good for the game. He brings excitement. That’s just his personality. He likes to score.”
? Mikael Backlund: “I don’t know if I would’ve skated through my teammates. He has a lot of passion in his game. If that what he likes to do, that’s up to him. It was a nice goal. At the same time, you’ve got to be careful doing stuff like that … skating through your teammates. I can see why he did it – a young guy, a lot of emotions, his second goal of his NHL career in his third game – but you have to be careful doing things like that.”
? Mark Giordano: “It wouldn’t have been my first choice for a celebration, but it’s exciting and it doesn’t hurt anyone. It doesn’t hurt the game, it only helps the game. Fans like seeing that stuff.”
? Dennis Wideman: “I don’t think he was showing anybody up. He didn’t do anything like taunting their bench or pointing at their bench or pointing at the goalie.”
Naturally, if Yakupov replicates the feat this evening at the Scotia-bank Saddledome with the Flames still in search of their first victory of the season, feelings on its appropriateness might alter slightly.
But most people, sanely, chose to savour the raw emotion, the almost childlike wonder, of the moment.
And to the those who viewed it different, as disrespectful and out of order, the 1991 inventor of the ice-long-knee-slide/arm-pump/ wild-delirium-celebration has a friendly word of advice: Lighten up, already!
“I guess,” scoffed Theoren Fleury, “it’s kind of the world we live in, right? Everybody wants to be PO’ed about something. So (Thursday) I guess they chose to be PO’ed at Nail.
“Guys like myself and (Jeremy) Roenick, who’ve left the game … there’s none of that character, that flair, left.
“I’m sure your job’s a little more redundant, sorting through the same old cliches every day. The game needs more personalties, especially coming out of a lockout.
“You’ve got personality? Show it. He’s obviously got personality.
“So what he did, I think it’s great.”
Lake Erie Monsters’ Andrew Agozzino named starter in AHL All-Star Game
Plain Dealer Staff
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Lake Erie Monsters rookie foward Andrew Agozzino has been picked as a starter for the Western Conference in the American Hockey League All-Star Game. He becomes the first-ever player in the six-year history of the Lake Erie Monsters organization to be named a starter for the All-Star Game.
Starters were selected by online fan voting.
Fellow Monsters rookie forward Mike Sgarbossa will also represent Lake Erie on the Western Conference All-Star Team. The game will be played Monday in Providence, R.I.
Goldobin emerging as a blue chip prospect (Larionov)
The Scouting Report
Nikolay Goldobin is not be the most well-known Russian to play for the Sarnia Sting.
That honour belongs to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft’s first overall pick, Nail Yakupov.
But with Yak taking off for greener pastures in Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL at the start of this season, and now suiting up for the Edmonton Oilers, Goldobin has done his best to fill the void.
I spoke with his agent, Igor Larionov, during a recent match with the Windsor Spitfires and here’s what he had to say about his young client:
Rob Benneian: When Nikolay is playing his best, what is he doing?
Igor Larionov: (Smiles) Scoring goals. (Laughs). Scoring goals, creates some chances, makes the players around him better players.
RB: What’s the biggest strength of his game? His shot?
IL: He’s got accuracy shooting, that’s for sure, and second of all he’s so creative, so nifty. So unpredictable. That’s the key piece of his game.
RB: What can a guy like you teach Nikolay as he’s transitioning to North American hockey?
IL: He has to be more consistent, play hard every night. Play hard every shift. Bring your talent every time you step on the ice.
RB: Is there anyone you’ve played with or seen play he compares to?
IL: It’s hard to say. He’s not where I want to see him yet. He’s had a good season but I can see a lot of things that need to be improved. That’s what he’s going to spend the summer (doing).
RB: So what does he need to improve on, other than consistency?
IL: To be consistent, you have to be mentally and physically strong. That’s the key for any player. You’ve got skill, you’ve got the tools, you gotta put everything in the toolbox to be a complete player.
RB: He’s not the biggest guy (eliteprospects has him at 5’11?, 146 (!) ) by any means, can he get much bigger or stronger?
IL: He’s growing. He’s around six feet now. You can see he’s kind of smaller side, but his complexity, he needs some muscle all over his body. He just turned 17. He’s still got a couple years to get better, to get bigger.
RB: The transition to North American hockey seems to be going well, he’s clipping along at almost a point per game (40 in 45), did you expect him to be better?
IL: It’s very hard mentally for Russian boys coming over a few thousand miles away from home, play different hockey, away from family. I think he’s played great hockey this year, beyond my expectations, but when you’ve got the skill and the mind, that tells you you’ve got so much potential and I expect him to be so much better.
I also asked Igor what it is about Sarnia that draws his clients there (Nail, Galchenyuk, Goldobin, etc.). He said their blend of a North American/European style of play, that the coaching staff allows the players to play their own games and use mistakes as learning opportunities, plus the proximity to Detroit.
Island’s Irwin fitting in nicely with Sharks
SAN JOSE — In a star-studded lockerroom, Matt Irwin could have been mistaken for a fan Sunday morning.
After all, the Brentwood Bay, B.C. native talked enthusiastically about idolizing Trevor Linden while playing for the Nanaimo Clippers. But the talk among teammates was how the undrafted San Jose Sharks defenceman has made a seamless rookie transition to the NHL. He even unloaded a heavy slapshot for his first career goal Saturday.
The effort was posted in a hurry to YouTube and there was a flurry of calls from his minor-league teammates in Worcester, Mass., and likely a few from old college teammates at UMass-Amherst, too.
“I don’t know if I ever pictured one goal and it doesn’t matter — it’s kind of been a whirlwind and kind of exciting,” he said before a 4-1 victory Sunday over the Vancouver Canucks. “We’ve all had that moment on the driveway and stuff like that. I don’t think I even scored too many of those goals then. I was just trying to play.”
Iriwn doesn’t look like and certainly doesn’t sound like a rookie. A pairing with veteran Dan Boyle and the tutelage of assistant coach Larry Robinson have the 25-year-old blueliner poised for a brighter future after signing a two-year, two-way free agent contract that expires after this season.
“He’s played great — better than great,” said Boyle, who was also undrafted. “He’s not only doing what he needs to do, he’s doing more and not just eating up minutes. He’s a big factor in all the games. Veterans sometimes do the mistake of giving a young guy too much information and then it’s overload.
“Some people are just born to be competitive and when you get passed over, you certainly have a chip on your shoulder. Mine is still there.”
Irwin played 22:48 Saturday and had six blocked shots in a 4-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche. On Sunday, he logged 18:01 and blocked two shots.
“It’s been a pretty quick two weeks but Larry Robinson has been very positive,” said Irwin. “His track record speaks for itself and it’s an honour to be in the same room. It’s little things like staying inside the dots and don’t get too extended and maybe something a regular fan wouldn’t notice in a game.”
Todd McLellan has noticed how Iriwn has helped in the absence of the injured Brent Burns and Jason Demers. The only mishap Sunday is when he fell down in his own zone in the first period as Jannik Hansen raced around him and rang a shot off the post.
“He looks like he belongs,” said the Sharks coach. “He’s adapted well in not being drafted, but that’s the individual because some (drafted) players feel entitled.”
Undrafted Matt Irwin ‘looks like he fits’ with Sharks
SAN JOSE – Matt Irwin is too young to remember Larry Robinson. But he knows “big bird.” Big yellow fella from Sesame Street.
“My uncle is a Montreal Canadiens fan, so he’s a big Larry Robinson fan,” Irwin, the 25-year-old San Jose Sharks’ rookie, said before facing the Vancouver Canucks here Sunday. “I haven’t had to ask for an autograph yet (for my uncle), but that might be coming up soon.”
Irwin is already signing autographs for himself. The defenceman from Brentwood Bay on Vancouver Island has been a revelation to the Sharks’ coaching staff, which includes Robinson, known as “Big Bird” when he played and merely one of the greatest blueliners of his generation.
Robinson and Irwin are getting to know each other.
Undrafted after three Junior-A seasons with the Nanaimo Clippers, Irwin entered the University of Massachusetts as a 20-year-old freshman and played two seasons in Amherst. He earned a free-agent contract from the Sharks, then spent another 2 ½ seasons in the American Hockey League before injuries to San Jose defencemen Brent Burns and Jason Demers helped Irwin make the lineup for the start of the lockout-shortened National Hockey League season.
Until two weeks ago, Irwin’s entire NHL experience was one pre-season game.
But through four games this month, the 6-2, 210-pound Irwin was averaging 22:48 of ice time and playing with Dan Boyle in the defence’s top four.
“He looks like he fits,” San Jose head coach Todd McLellan said. “And we’re saying that after four games in his National Hockey League career, and it just so happens those four games took place in January. Usually by (January of a typical season), a young defencemen in the league is starting to fit in because he’s had three months of playing time.”
In Saturday’s 4-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche, Irwin scored his first NHL goal on a point shot.
“Ever since you start playing hockey, you want to play in the NHL,” he said. “The last couple of years it’s been coming closer and closer to reality and finally this year I got my opportunity and I’m just trying to make the most of it. Everyone has an opportunity at some point, hopefully, and then you’ve just got to take advantage of it. Pay your dues down in the minors and just keep working hard.”
Boyle knows about working hard and paying dues. Maybe that’s why he feels a connection to his rookie partner.
At 5-10, Boyle was literally overlooked in college by most NHL teams. But he has built a 13-year career that includes a Stanley Cup win with the Tampa Lightning and an Olympic gold medal with Team Canada.
“I’ve never been drafted; I don’t know what it’s like,” Boyle said. “I just think some people are born to be competitive. When what you want to do is play in the NHL and you get passed over year after year, yeah, you certainly have a chip on your shoulder. Mine is still there. Thirteen or 14 years later, I still have it.
“Matt has played great, better than great. He not only is doing what he needs to do, he’s doing more.”
Robinson said it wasn’t such a bad thing that Irwin had to learn in the American League and work his way to the NHL.
“His loss was our gain,” Robinson, 61, said of getting a NHL-ready rookie at age 25. “Sometimes they’re ready to play at a young age, like Justin Schultz in Edmonton, and other times it takes a little bit longer. The key for any defenceman in the league today is the ability to skate, and he has very good mobility. He’s got a terrific shot, is smart, uses his stick well, good size.”
It sounds familiar when Robinson says it.
D’Agostini taking more great strides
Andrew D’Agostini is once again participating in the Cystic Fibrosis Canada Great Strides Walk and has set a fundriasing goal of $5,000.
The Petes’ goalie raised more than $4,000 last year and has dedicated his fundraising team to Anthony Romanelli a Peterborough youngster with CF who has become a close friends.
This year’s walk begins at 8:45 a.m. May 26 at Nicholls Oval. Fans can make a donation or join D’Agostini’s team and collect pledges at http://my.e2rm.com/personalPage.aspx?registrationID=1711914#.UPyHU2NZ_90.facebook.
D’Agostini and his goaltending partner Michael Giugovaz are also raising funds with their Saves for CF campaign. To date they have raised more than $3,500, through donations made for each save this season.
Olivier Roy – Save of the Season?
Carolina Hurricanes prospect Ryan Murphy will skate on
Team Canada added a painful memory to its participation in the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Hockey Championship (WJHC) tournament, suffering a 6-5 overtime loss to Team Russia in Ufa, Russia on Saturday.
Carolina Hurricanes prospect Ryan Murphy saw the end of it, up close, as he was the last player to challenge Valeri Nichushkin before he rounded the faceoff circle to goaltender Malcolm Subban’s left, before tucking the puck past the netminder to claim the bronze medal.
The loss left Team Canada finishing the tournament without a medal for the first time in 15 years, and Murphy with a heartbreaking end to his first and only WJHC competition after scoring a goal and two assists in the losing effort.
However, the end of that journey will only lead him onto his next one – towards the National Hockey League with the Hurricanes.
As the announcement was made on Sunday that the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) had come to a tentative understanding on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the news for Murphy and other prospects around the league means that they may get the opportunity to prove themselves at the next level sooner than expected.
Under the microscope
Murphy’s selection to Team Canada came in the final hour, and came after being left off the squad for the past two years as a final cut.
Even as a first round NHL draft pick (12th overall) for the Hurricanes in 2011, some questioned Murphy earning a spot on the Canadian roster.
Some openly criticized that it came as a result of favoritism shown by Team Canada coach Steve Spott, his coach in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Kitchener Rangers.
It seems that since the day he was drafted, many have wondered much about him, and what a future in professional hockey will present for the young rearguard.
According to Hurricanes Vice President for Hockey Operations Ron Francis, the development of a young NHL defenseman usually takes longer than that of a forward.
“Absolutely, no question,” he said.
“It’s a lot tougher for a D to step into this league and to develop.”
Francis was quick to point out that expectations for young and talented players must be tempered with a focus on developing them at the right pace.
“You look at these kids that are 18 and 19 (years old), and you say ‘Okay, how’s he going to be at 22, 23, 24?’ That’s a tough position – there’s a lot of things you need to learn,” said Francis.
A special player
Since he was drafted, everyone from Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford on down through the organization have tabbed Murphy as a ‘special player’.
Even Canada’s most vociferous supporter of Murphy, former NHL coach Don Cherry, has compared his skating and stickhandling abilities at his age to those of one of his former players, Hall of Famer Bobby Orr.
Murphy is not big, not overly defensive in his play, but possesses the ability to carry the puck from end to end and to distribute the puck or put it in the net – 194 points (47 goals, 147 assists) in 205 games in the OHL to date, overwhelmingly proves that.
Even during his first full training camp in Carolina last season, Murphy made a case for the organization to keep him around until the maximum time allowable before sending him back to Kitchener.
Risk, reward style of play
According to Rangers radio anlyst Mike Farwell – who knows Murphy well and understands him probably as much as Spott does – Murphy is the real deal.
“He holds more positives to help on the offense than vice-versa,” Farwell said.
“This guy brings a unique set of skills to the ice and is second to none – when you talk of his skating and stickhandling.”
As much as Murphy’s talents with the puck will lead his path to becoming an effective special team’s player, his play without it is what many have been criticizing him on.
“Yes he will always prove himself offensively first, but he’s actually strong in his end – extremely smart,” Farwell continued.
“He plays 33-35 minutes per game, but is underrated defensively in his own end. He will turn any doubters into believers.”
Being a leader
Playing in his fourth season with Kitchener, Murphy is the team’s captain, a responsibility that has taken him a while to adjust to according Farwell.
“He’s had a bit of down year. Ryan Murphy wasn’t Ryan Murphy (early on). Biggest thing was him assuming the captaincy. Ryan and I had talked about it. He feels a certain responsibility – he tries to do too much on the ice. Playing in a ‘hockey mad’ market (in Kitchener), he has felt the pressure to be successful.”
Farwell’s comments are entirely understandable considering the footsteps that Murphy is following in the city located southwest of Toronto.
Former Rangers teammate and Hurricanes forward, Jeff Skinner, came into the NHL and captured the attention of everyone in Raleigh and around the league and secured the Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2011.
Another former teammate of Murphy’s and captain of the Rangers, Gabriel Landeskog, made his debut in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche an impressive one as well – winning the 2012 Calder trophy and being awarded the captaincy of the team in September – becoming the youngest in league history, at 19 years old, to assume such a role.
Thus, if Murphy feels pressure to succeed in Kitchener and beyond, those are a couple of reasons why.
However, the advantage that many young players like Murphy have is to look up to those who came before them, and to heed their advice, while continuing to work hard to become a better player.
A few pointers from above
Though Hurricanes captain Eric Staal didn’t play for Team Canada at the WJHC, he knows about playing and winning in international competition.
Staal’s a member of the ‘Triple Gold’ club: winning a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006, a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2007 World Championships, and being part of the famed 2010 Canadian team that won Olympic gold in 2010.
When he heard of Murphy’s ascent to the captaincy in Kitchener, he could relate and offered some advice.
“I think anytime that you’re on any team when you’re in a leadership role, you’re looked in other responsibilities, besides focusing individually,” Staal said.
“You have to hold other people accountable but you also have to make sure you’re performing. That involves practices, games – I think you learn that at that level – that’s how you get to the next level. Now that he’s in that role down there, I think he can work at that and know that you have to perform in practices and games to ensure you make that next step.”
From one WJHC vet to another
Another player in the Hurricanes organization who has firsthand international playing experience, is two-time WJHC gold medalist Zach Boychuk, currently a forward with the Hurricanes affiliate club, the Charlotte Checkers.
Boychuk earned his two medals in 2008 and 2009 and provided some words of wisdom for Murphy as a fellow member of the organization.
“I was really pulling for Murph and Team Canada,” Boychuk said after practice on Saturday at PNC Arena.
“You look at Murphy’s game today – a nice goal and couple of assists. The end, not winning the game which is a little disappointing – but for him – he’s such a talented player with such great offensive skills. He worked his way up during that whole tournament, to that first power play unit, and showed he could quarterback a pretty incredible power play.”
What’s the next step for the young blueliner according to Boychuk?
“I would say, just take that disappointment and go back to Kitchener or when the season starts, come up here and play your best,” Boychuk continued.
“I think a little bit of a letdown can sometimes bring the best out of you and for him, he’s got a bright future ahead of him, I think he’s going to be a great player for the Hurricanes for a time to come.”
Getting the chance
With a new NHL season approaching, Murphy may well get the opportunity to show Hurricanes management what being a captain and playing on the world stage has taught him in working towards becoming a full-fledged professional.
“For us, the key is just being patient with the young guys, Ryan included, letting them develop and working with them until we feel they’re ready,” Francis said.
There’s no doubt that the Hurricanes would like him see Murphy make positive strides at the next level and will follow their process to get him there.
“We’re very pleased at the talents he possesses, and we think he’s got a bright future. At the same token, we’re going to work with him, develop him, and not rush him into a situation that affects his development or confidence going forward.”
Tyler Seguin interview video
Seguin flying in first skate after lockout
BOSTON — Perhaps to make Tyler Seguin feel a little bit more comfortable, Andrew Ference gave the 20-year-old forward his Ceske Budejovice school-bus-yellow retro sweater to wear during Monday morning’s skate at Agganis Arena.
It wasn’t a complete replica of Seguin’s colorful outfit that he donned as Switzerland’s leading scorer over the last four months with 25 goals in 29 games for HC Biel. But it was certainly Euro enough to qualify.
“He had a different jersey over there [in Switzerland] for being the leading scorer, so he felt right at home,” said Ference. “He was just missing the helmet with the flames shooting out of it.”
Make no mistake about it, though. Seguin looked like he hasn’t missed a beat while weaving through defenders and firing off sizzling wristers with a lightning-fast release. He was joined by Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask and Ference on the ice at Boston University, and was clearly the best player on the ice skating among All-Star performers like Keith Yandle.
If anything, the 20-year-old looks even better than the hockey player last remembered for his overtime game-winner against the Washington Capitals last spring, and looks primed for a dominant stretch over a 48-game shortened regular season. Seguin looks more like a player ready to take on a bigger role, more ice time, more responsibility and a key role on the Boston power play that’s been screaming out for more of his skill and creativity over the last two years.
“I feel great. I played a lot of games over in Europe,” said Seguin. “Obviously I’ve got to re-adjust to playing on a smaller ice surface again. Even today it felt like the ‘D’ were coming up a bit quicker. But I feel well-conditioned and ready to go.”
Seguin said he’s just happy to be back in Boston after a long, strange journey in Switzerland, and he’s looking forward to once again donning the Black and Gold.
“Words can’t describe it. From not seeing the guys to missing the game, it’s been a long couple of months,” said Seguin. “I want to apologize to the fans for everything that happened, but hopefully we move forward from here.
“There was a couple of times I got text messages telling me to pack my bags, and then I got a call the next day telling me it was a false alarm. That got a little annoying. Obviously we missed some games and hopefully the fans come back. We’re looking forward to putting that stuff in the past.”
While the third season in the NHL is typically when young stars blossom into superstars and Seguin is already coming off an All-Star campaign where he led the team in goals scored and points, there’s another element to it as well. Playing on his own for a few months in Europe adds another stage to his development as a player and a professional athlete, and has him in a position to really hit the ground running once the NHL season opens on Jan. 19.
“For a guy like Tyler I think he grew up a lot over there [in Europe],” said Ference. “He learned a lot about life in general and the type of hockey he was playing over there was tremendous. All down the line guys are going to be prepared at game speed ready to go.
“That’s on top of the good core group of guys we have coming back anyway. So it’s really exciting.”
Unfortunately a 48-game schedule means that Seguin can’t put up a 35-40 goal season with some gaudy offensive numbers to show how much he’s improved from last year’s version. But it should be apparent early and often if the same No. 19 flying around the Agganis Arena ice surface is zipping through defenders when the Bruins open their schedule on Jan. 19.
Sarnia Sting rookie Nikolay Goldobin scored eight goals, 12 points in five games (Larionov)
The Sarnia Sting’s top line keeps producing OHL Players of the Week.
Nikolay Goldobin became the third member of the line to win the award in the past five weeks Monday after notching eight goals and four assists in five games.
Goldobin was moved up to the top line with Reid Boucher and Charlie Sarault to replace Alex Galchenyuk, who was at the World Junior tournament in Russia.
The highlight of Goldobin’s week was a four-goal performance on New Year’s Day against London, including the overtime winner to snap the Knights’ 24-game winning streak.
He followed that with a four point performance Friday against Windsor and three more Saturday in Erie.
The hot streak has Goldobin, 17, tops among rookies in goals with 21 and second in points with 39 on the season.
Previously this season, Galchenyuk and Sarault have won the award.
New Jet Jokinen brings a little bit of Finland and a lot of skill and leadership
Winnipeg Free Press
Olli Jokinen just might be the next best Finn.
Winnipeg Jets fans already have soft spots for Finnish products Teemu Selanne and Teppo Numminen and they are never to be replaced or forgotten. There can only ever be one Teemu or Teppo.
But listening to Jokinen talk about our city, his place with the Jets and where he wants to take his game leaves one impressed and wondering if GM Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t pull off the sleeper free agent signing of last summer.
The mammoth contracts handed out to the likes of Ryan Suter, Zach Parise and Shea Weber drew much more attention but flying under the radar, Cheveldayoff nicely filled his own needs while staying within his budget.
Key among Cheveldayoff’s needs was the presence of a big centre with a respected pedigree. The Jets have lots of skill but Jokinen represents a blend of skill and polished professionalism. He’s a true pro and he’ll be able to provide coach Claude Noel with invaluable leadership to a group that is lacking in that area.
“The best way to lead is by example. Sometimes you have to dump the puck in or block the shot. It’s not all about scoring goals. You have to look after the little details but if that doesn’t work I’m not afraid to speak up,” Jokinen said.
You have to be honest with yourself and sometimes honest with your teammates,” he said. “You don’t have to be a jerk about it but a team doesn’t have to be about 20 of the nicest guys either. Sometimes the truth hurts.”
Having been through two lockouts, Jokinen will provide a voice of experience in the dressing room and be able to lead many of his younger teammates through a new set of circumstances.
Jokinen says focusing on the games and putting everything else aside will be key if the Jets are to be a playoff team.
“The mindset, after a short training camp, you have to be able to play 60 minutes,” said Jokinen.
“You have to play 60 minutes and stick with the system, whatever the system is going to be. You have to have everyone on the same page be ready to play good defence because the goals against has to be low. That’s going to be the toughest part. Players skated in the lockout but there will be some bad habits and you can’t have those habits once you start playing for points. You have to be mentally ready and you can’t take days off.”
Just because Jokinen, who will earn a pro-rated portion of $4.5 million this season after signing a two-year, $9-million contract this summer, isn’t among the league’s highest-paid players doesn’t mean he won’t be the source of huge improvement in the Jets lineup.
Winnipeg now has a front-line centre with size, speed, skill and experience. Jokinen will be Winnipeg’s best forward and not just because he can put the puck in the net but due to his will to keep it out of his own.
The 34-year-old native of Kuopio, Finland is an established pro with 292 goals and 683 points over 1,042 NHL games. Jokinen has always been able to score but he might be arriving in Winnipeg having found the secret to a two-way game putting him at the apex of his career.
“The book on me early in my career, when I was in Florida, was that I could score but I didn’t play in my own end,” said Jokinen, to a group of reporters at the MTS Iceplex on Monday breaking a self-imposed silence now that the lockout has ended. “It was accurate. But when I got to Calgary, Brent (former Flames coach Brent Sutter) said there was no reason I couldn’t score and play good defence. He stressed that the best way to prevent goals against was to spend as little time in our zone as possible. I think I really improved that part of my game and I think I’m playing the best hockey of my career.”
Jokinen had a number of offers to consider last summer but his wife Katrina did a little homework of her own.
“She talked to Teemu’s wife who said Winnipeg was the best place they ever lived,” said Jokinen.
The scouting report to this point has been dead on.
“I love it here,” he said. “I actually asked my wife about a month ago if the season gets cancelled, if they want to go back to Florida and we’ll put the kids in school there.
“Everybody said no, we want to stay here.
“It’s been tough that we had a lockout but at the same time you have to look at the positives out of it and we’ve made a lot of friends outside of hockey and people have been really nice. People are very friendly over here. It’s a great city.
“I didn’t have any expectations coming in. I didn’t want to listen to every second person who was saying, ‘You’re out of your mind signing in Winnipeg; it’s cold, it’s a bad city.’ You hear a lot of negative stuff about the city if you don’t live here. But once you live here, you’ve got everything you need. People love hockey, there are unbelievable schools, people are friendly. What else can you ask?”
Yakupov Arrives in Edmonton (Larionov)
Laurent Dauphin scores against Quebec
Exclusive – Q & A with Scott Gomez: ‘I’m here to help the team win’
Centreman Scott Gomez arrived in Montreal late Wednesday night, driving up from New Jersey following a cross-continent flight from California, where he had been playing with the ECHL Alaska Aces.
The 33-year-old native of Anchorage packed an enthusiasm to begin Habs training camp, along with a very clear understanding that he’s coming off an injury-riddled, unproductive season that followed 2010-11’s dismal campaign, the poorest of the 11 he had played in the NHL to that time.
Gomez has this abbreviated season and a full 2013-14 left on his bloated contract, the seven-year, $51-million deal to which he was signed in 2007 by New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather. That contract has only increased the size of the bull’s eye many have affixed to the back of his jersey.
Gomez arrived in Montreal by trade in June 2009, his acquisition by then-GM Bob Gainey in part paving the way for a handful of unrestricted free agents to sign with Montreal that summer, encouraged by the team’s direction.
A two-time Stanley Cup champion with New Jersey, Gomez had 12 goals and 47 assists here in 2009-10 and his leadership played a large role in helping to carry the Canadiens three rounds into the playoffs.
But his production tailed off dramatically the following year; last season, he missed 44 games with injuries.
So Gomez’s critics are almost giddy now, seeing him as the prime target for one of the Canadiens’ two permitted compliance buyouts that will kick in for 2013-14 and 2014-15, following the upcoming 48-game schedule.
But if such an unceremonious see-ya is on the radar of Gomez, who will have a cap hit of $7,357,143 when the buyout window opens, he’s not letting on.
Late Thursday, Gomez called me to speak at considerable length; more like he rasped, believing he contracted something from an ailing airplane neighbour on his flight from the west coast.
He was in Ontario, Calif., playing with his hometown Alaska Aces, when rumours started to swirl that NHL training camps could begin as early as Thursday.
So instead of returning home to Anchorage, Gomez threw his hockey gear on a plane and flew east, then drove north.
“My little sister was staying with me,” he said. “So now she’s probably the happiest person in the world.”
Gomez didn’t speak with media gathered at the Canadiens’ Brossard training facility following Thursday practice, his voice almost shot; he said he will meet the cameras and notebooks Friday noon-hour after his on-ice workout.
Through a couple of coughing fits, he had enough to call for a half-hour late Thursday. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation in question-and-answer format:
Q. You sound like you’re enthusiastically ready to throw yourself back into this mess…
A. I think everyone’s pretty excited that there’s hockey. Hey, it’s fun playing in the NHL. We’re all excited to get back.
Q. Were you one of the guys who expected this NHL season would begin, or a guy who thought it was toast?
A. When you’ve gone through it before, you don’t know what to expect. I remember last time, a couple times, I was pulled out of the (Aces) lineup because the rumour was that (the NHL) was going to start. I didn’t think last time there was any way there would be no season. When it happened, it opened your eyes. Going through it once you didn’t know what to expect. But the main thing this time was to get hockey going again for the fans. It’s tough to answer them when they’re always asking and you want to be playing. There are some great hockey fans out there.
Q. Six goals and seven assists in 11 games with the Aces the past few weeks. How was the experience?
A. It was great. It was fun playing hockey. To get the opportunity to play in front of family and friends again, I had a blast. Alaska is an outstanding organization, the (head) coach, Rob Murray, (assistants) Louis Mass and Scott Burt, it was fun. I got to spend some time at home. It’s been a long time. We all want to be playing here (in the NHL) but I had a great time. It’s always a great experience to play in front of the people out there.
Q. The Canadiens finished up on April 7. We have gone from spring, summer, fall and back into winter without hockey in this city. When you begin camp, it will be a little more than nine months since a meaningful faceoff in Montreal. Does the whole thing seem surreal, or having been through a lockout once before, do you just look forward?
A. I’m just glad there’s hockey again. I believe I was in Peoria last time when the (2004-05) NHL season was cancelled. You think of how many people are losing out. Not only us, but people who work in and around the buildings and the fans. This time around, too. Especially playing in a city like Montreal, places like that, you realize how important it is, not only for fans. I’ve been in town just a day now and in the restaurants I go to… for certain people, even my buddies back home, they loved the fact I was playing there but they wanted NHL hockey.
Q. Were you back in Montreal at all during the summer?
A. No, I stayed maybe a week after the season. Then I went to New Jersey and New York. It was still too early to go home. A couple other places but I can’t remember. It seems so long ago. I drove in (Wednesday) night. It was a nice drive up. The only delay was at border patrol. They wanted to talk about hockey. The guy had season tickets and he was pissed. I knew I was back in Canada, put it that way. It was good to go over the Champlain Bridge (laughs).
Q. We spoke at length before last season’s training camp and you were very enthusiastic about 2011-12. You’d had a miserable 2010-11 season and you’d spoken candidly about that to reporters on locker-cleanout day. And then last season, if I’ve catalogued it properly, you suffered a torn lat in October, a torn groin in November, then suffered an eye injury and a concussion in March. You played 38 games and missed 44. Could you have written a script that ugly?
A. The thing about last year is we didn’t make the playoffs. Simple as that. I don’t care about me personally. We didn’t make the playoffs. You can ask any one of us. Unless you’ve gone through it before, which I hadn’t, and a couple of the guys, it’s the worst. To know you’re not going to get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. In all essence, that’s all I’ll say about last year. We didn’t make the playoffs. I’m not going to sit here and talk about my injuries. It’s a long summer. A long summer to think about that. My injuries? It’s never been about me. The bottom line is we didn’t make the playoffs.
Q. Have you had a more bizarre year than last season? Look through it and it reads like a bad novel.
A. I’ve never not made the playoffs in all my life. I don’t care what it was. The fact we didn’t make them was terrible. That’s what you play for. I don’t know how more I can stress that. That’s all that comes into my mind and the minds of all the guys who were here last year. We just… we didn’t even get a chance to go for the ultimate prize. At the end of the day, the goal is to win the Stanley Cup. And to win the Cup, you’ve got to get in. And that’s all I remember about last year.
Q. Did you watch any playoffs last year?
A. Do you wear a tuxedo to the games? (laughs) Nah, it’s too hard. I never have. No, no. Since I was a kid, I’m too pissed off to watch. I don’t care to watch when we lose. No, it’s almost like you’re jealous when you’re watching guys play. It’s always been that way. I’m not going to sit there and watch guys having the time of their lives when you’re miserable for not being in the playoffs.
Q. Have you had any discussions or any contact with (general manager) Marc Bergevin or (head coach) Michel Therrien since they were named to their positions?
A. I talked to (Therrien) this summer, I think when he got the job. It seems so long ago, I can’t exactly. But not to Marc yet.
Q. When would you have the chance? The lockout still isn’t officially over until the players ratify the CBA.
A. There are still a lot of rules. Most of all, we (the players) were all pretty excited to see each other (in Brossard on Thursday). That was the main thing, to see our teammates again. It felt right, seeing the guys and the trainers. Camp starts Sunday, hopefully, that’s when it all starts over again. A fresh start for every team. Here we go. Going for the Cup.
Q. OK, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. If you Google “compliance buyout,” chances are good your photo will pop up. Your status was addressed at a news conference this week held by (Canadiens owner) Geoff Molson, Bergevin and Therrien. To a question, Bergevin replied, and I paraphrase, that you’re a part of this team and you’d be at training camp. Have you heard from anyone, in any way, about the compliance buyout that’s part of the new CBA?
A. No. I’m here. I never once have felt I’m entitled to anything. I’m here to play for the Montreal Canadiens and I’m here to help the team win. My dad gave me the greatest advice: “Make them keep you. Make them play you.” That’s every year you go into. I’m happy to be back and a buyout is the last thing on my mind. I’m here to help the team win in whatever capacity they want. I’m going to give my all.
Q. Max Pacioretty suggested to me today that everyone has to prove themselves all over again. From the GM to the head coach and his assistants, there’s a whole new face on the management of this team. Do you believe that it works to your advantage, or at least not to your disadvantage, that you’ve got a new coach and GM and beginning the first time you step on training-camp ice, you’ve got a clean slate to earn that ice time?
A. Everyone who plays in the National Hockey League, unless you’re a couple of guys, Gretzky or Lemieux, I don’t know, you’re never entitled to anything. You’re hungry. We’ll do anything to get back to winning and being a contender. You prove yourself every day in this game. You prove yourself at every training camp. Patch is right. Everything is new. It’s a clean slate but at the same time the goal is the same and that’s to get in the playoffs and go for the Stanley Cup. Once we realize it’s going to work, you’ll do anything to win and that’s the thought from all of us. It wasn’t a good feeling for us last year. It’s such a good room, such a good group of guys. Let’s face it, when you’ve got the best goaltender in the world, it starts there and you’ve got to take advantage of that. Last year is last year. The goal is to get in the playoffs and get the chance.
Q. A few offseason additions here: Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon. Some sandpaper. Is that something this club needed to maybe keep other clubs at least a little honest?
A. First and foremost, they’re outstanding teammates. Their reputations speaking for themselves. I’ve known Frankie a long time – the guy can move the puck, he’s a great D-man. I remember I was with New Jersey and there was a scrum in Montreal. I grabbed Frankie, I don’t know, maybe because he was more my size, and right away (Devils defenceman) Sheldon Souray told me, “Gomer, that’s the last guy you’ll want to mess with.” Frankie is not only tough, he’s an outstanding D-man. He’s a pain in the ass to play against. You’re not going to beat him. The other two? Look at what they’ve done in their careers. Not only that, they fit in right away. It is a close team. They’re character guys and great players. They’ll contribute. They’ve been around. We were just together today and the vibe is the room is great. Honestly, I can’t wait to get started.
Yakupov thrilled to be an Oiler (Larionov)
EDMONTON — If you’re wondering how Nail Yakupov feels about being in Edmonton, all you need to know is he was the first guy on the ice during Thursday’s informal skate at Rexall Place.
Of course, the Edmonton Oilers’ first overall pick in the June 2012 NHL entry draft didn’t have far to go.
“Where are you staying?” the Russian winger was asked.
“Here … locker-room,” Yakupov said.
“No, I mean where? In a hotel?” asked a reporter.
“No, I am here,” he said, without breaking stride, but later breaking into a smile.
Well, he did say last summer he’d be calling the Oilers dressing room his home.
Yakupov, who flew from Russia to Frankfurt, Germany, and then to Calgary to get here on Wednesday, actually has a place to stay outside his locker stall or a bunk in the trainer’s room for the next little while. He’s staying at a hotel.
His mother, sister and father will also be joining him to help with the NHL acclimation, although Yakupov did play two junior years in Sarnia with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sting, so he’s not a North American neophyte.
“When do they get here?” he was asked.
“Why you want to know?” Yakupov replied.
“Because I’m, uh, a reporter,” said the veteran scribe.
“They are coming, soon. First game? I hope,” he said.
OK, maybe Yakupov doesn’t like to answer every question, but he said he welcomes the glare of expectations in Edmonton.
In his role as captain of the Russian team at the world junior championship in Ufa, Russia, he didn’t speak to the media for a time because he was getting frustrated that his teammates were getting the dirty end of the stick, with nobody caring what they thought. Interviews? Bring ‘em on.
“I was impressed he’d be out here today … it had to be tough coming from Russia,” said Oilers winger Jordan Eberle, one of a dozen players who practised for more than an hour with Ryan Whitney, Ryan Smyth, Ben Eager and Jeff Petry joining the group on Thursday.
Yakupov seems thrilled to be here. He rushed to Edmonton, unlike New Jersey Devils winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who played a Kontinental Hockey League game earlier this week and didn’t feel like leaving his Russian team until he was ready.
“It’s not my deal,” Yakupov said. “When the lockout was done, I said I was coming right after to play with the Edmonton Oilers.”
“(Kovalchuk) has his life. He is probably coming now. He has a (NHL) contract.”
Yakupov had fellow Russian Nikolai Khabibulin, the Oilers veteran goaltender, chauffeur him to Rexall Place for his first Edmonton skate since his junior club won a bronze medal in Ufa, beating Canada 6-5 in overtime.
“When I was younger, I watched (Khabibulin) on TV, winning a Stanley Cup … now he’s getting me at the hotel and bringing me to the rink. It’s great to have him as my teammate now,” Yakupov said.
Khabibulin turns 40 this Sunday, when the Oilers will undergo fitness testing and have their medicals.
“He’s the same age as my father. That is pretty cool,” Yakupov said. “My dream has been to play in the NHL and while this was only my first practice and not everybody was here, I still skated with guys who’ve been in the NHL for a lot of years and young players who score the goals and win the games and play here at Rexall Place,” he said.
Yakupov had a conversation with Smyth, as well.
Smyth, who still has lots of game left off his work in the Spengler Cup during the Christmas break, is twice as old as Yakupov. He was the Oilers’ first-round pick (sixth overall) in 1994 and has played 852 games as an Oiler, second only to team president Kevin Lowe (1,037).
But back in 1994, Smyth didn’t have the same level of hype as Yakupov.
He can impart lots of wisdom, however, although it’s unlikely Yakupov will be as greasy a player around the goal-crease area as Smyth, who lives there during games.
Yakupov won’t be using any of Smyth’s heavy lumber, either. You could do chin-ups with Smyth’s weighty sticks.
“We were talking when I was taping my sticks … maybe I would try his in the summer for fun, but I don’t want to use them in a game,” Yakupov said, laughing.
Smyth welcomed Yakupov to the Oilers club, something the kid appreciated.
“It’s not like he’s the king or anything. He talks to you, no matter how old you are. He said if I needed anything, here was his number. That was good to hear,” Yakupov said.
“I think we are family.”
Yakupov wore the C for the Russian junior squad and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, his Oilers teammate, was Canada’s captain. Now, they’re not only on the same NHL team, but almost next-door neighbours in the dressing room.
“Good experience to play against Nuge. Seemed like every shift we would be against him,” Yakupov said.
He could start on the second line with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, but it might not be quite as big a step to the NHL as the other first overall picks — Taylor Hall and Nugent-Hopkins — had to make. They came straight from junior. Yakupov has been playing in the KHL.
“You play with the men there and there are a lot of National Hockey League guys there … Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, which made it a good experience,” said Yakupov, who also played against Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin.
“We played against him, my second game. We lost, but I remember I won a faceoff against Malkin. That was a good thing,” he said.
Yakupov has always worn the No. 10 jersey in honour of fellow Russian Pavel Bure, but captain Shawn Horcoff has that here, so he’ll wear No. 64.
“Six plus four,” Yakupov said.
Only one other Oilers player in franchise history, Jason Bonsignore, has worn 64, but he only had a cup of coffee in the NHL.
Minnesota Wild Finnish rookie forward Michael Granlund, who has been playing with the American Hockey League’s Houston Aeros, might be the only other NHLer in a No. 64 jersey this season.
Whatever the number, Yakupov knows there’s suffocating pressure on any first overall pick, but it beats being the 231st selection.
“I’m going to try and not think about it. Sometimes you want to do something crazy on the ice, but I’ll just try to be me,” he said.
Galchenyuk meets the Montreal media (Larionov)
Thiessen leads WBS Penguins to shutout of Bears
The Times Tribune
WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Maybe Brad Thiessen is the man to lead the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins out of the wilderness.
The fourth-year goaltender made 23 saves Saturday night as the Penguins edged the Hershey Bears, 1-0, at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The Penguins have won just two games since Christmas, but both of those victories were Thiessen shutouts.
“He made all the saves he should have made and he made some he shouldn’t have,” coach John Hynes said. “That’s when you have a really good chance to win hockey games.”
A few weeks ago, the idea of a Thiessen-led resurgence would have been scoffed at.
After winning AHL goalie of the year honors in 2011, he has spent the last season-plus struggling to keep his goals-against average below 3.00 and his save percentage over .900.
Those struggles have been nowhere to be found in the last four games, however. Thiessen’s numbers during that stretch are stellar.
He was at his best in the third period Friday night, helping the Penguins maintain the narrowest of leads while killing a pair of penalties. Most notably, he went post-to-post to take a Ryan Potulny shot off his mask with 9:25 left and kept his glove on a puck Garrett Mitchell had stuffed into the crease with 46.5 seconds to go.
“I feel good about my game,” Thiessen said.
In the second period, Beau Bennett took a pass at the left faceoff circle, drew in two defenders and dished to Brian Dumoulin at the point. Dumoulin skated toward the center of the ice and sent a shot past a Jayson Megna screen and inside the right post at 12:57.
The Penguins were 3 for 69 on the power play in their previous 14 games.
“That was important, especially for us to get the lead,” Dumoulin said. “That was big. We’ve been struggling. We wanted to keep it simple and get pucks to the net. That’s what we did. We had good puck retrievals in the zone and we were able to get our shots through.”
It was the only goal for the Penguins, who have scored just 10 times in their last nine games, but it was enough.
“We’ve been playing good hockey. We just haven’t been rewarded for it and we haven’t scored as many goals as we would have liked,” Thiessen said. “We only got the one tonight, but when you don’t let in any, that’s all you need.”
With NHL players expected to officially ratify a new collective bargaining agreement today, leading to the opening of training camps Sunday, a flurry of transactions is expected around the AHL.
The movement started Friday as Eric Tangradi and Simon Despres were scratched in anticipation of their imminent call-up to Pittsburgh. Hynes said he expects three or four more players to join them, but he didn’t know if they would leave town before or after tonight’s game.
“We talked about having a complete team effort and giving guys different opportunities, which will continue to occur particularly over the next couple weeks with all the change and transition that will probably go on,” Hynes said. “It’s a good first step for us.”
Jesse Blacker mic’d up
Tyler Seguin wins Spengler Cup
Goldobin scores four, Sarnia stops London’s streak (Larionov)
The Canadian Press
Nikolay Goldobin’s four goals, including one in overtime, lifted the Sarnia Sting to a 6-5 victory over host London that ended the Knights’ 24-game winning streak Tuesday.
London (32-5-3), which was just one win short of the Canadian Hockey League mark of 25 set by the 1983-84 Kitchener Rangers, led 3-0 after the opening period and later owned leads of 4-2 and 5-3.
Goldobin, who is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2014 and is a Russian import, is now tied with Erie’s Connor McDavid for goals by a rookie with 18.
Alex Basso and Justice Dundas also scored for the Sting (21-13-3), who lost 3-2 to London on home ice Monday. Anthony DeAngelo chipped in with three assists.
London had built its 3-0 lead in the first intermission on goals by Max Domi, Brett Welychka and Bo Horvat. For Horvat, it was his 11th goal in his past 13 outings.
Chris Tierney and Nikita Zadorov also scored for London, while Seth Griffith earned three assists and now leads the OHL scoring race with 25 goals and 64 points. Griffith passed Ryan Strome of Niagara who is playing with Team Canada at the world junior hockey championship.
David Savard, John Moore leading solid Springfield Falcons defense
SPRINGFIELD – Even after a mini-slump in December, the Springfield Falcons lead the American Hockey League in goal differential.
That is 99 goals for, 70 against, for a differential of plus-29.
At 2.33, the Falcons rank second to Abbotsford (2.13) of the Western Conference in goals allowed per game.
Much of the credit goes to goaltender Curtis McElhinney and his backups, plus a solid corps of defensemen. The forward corps does its part by forechecking well.
Springfield’s backline brigade includes John Moore and David Savard, both of whom saw considerable playing time last season with Springfield’s parent club, the Columbus Blue Jackets of the locked-out National Hockey League.
Moore has been sidelined with an upper body injury, but has been skating this week. The Falcons aren’t quite the same without him, because he’s a power skater who fills all roles, including on the power play and penalty kill.
Moore played 67 games in the NHL last season, Savard 31. Like Moore, Savard is a key player when the Falcons run the power play or kill penalties. He averages 20-plus minutes on the ice per game.
Throughout his career, going back to his junior days with the Moncton Wildcats, Savard has been known for his ability to rack up assists. In his last junior season, he had 64 in 64 games. As a Springfield rookie two years ago, he led the team with 43. Now, he and Tim Erixon have a combined total of 33 assists, showing their value as point men. Erixon had three assists last weekend.
“Savvy has a good skill set with the puck, and the kind of vision and poise a defenseman needs,” coach Brad Larsen said. “When he’s pushing the puck up ice, he’s a really good D player, strong on his skates. He uses his size (6-foot-2, 223 pounds), and he positions himself well.”
Savard shrugged off his assist totals. “Maybe sometimes I pass too much, but I’ve always been more of a passer than a shooter,” he said. “It’s part of my game.”
When he does fire the puck, good things often happen. For instance, the Falcons’ first goal in their Sunday victory over Norfolk came when Ryan Johansen knocked in a rebound of a Savard slapper from the left point.
Savard has been skating all season with Nick Holden as his defensive partner.
“This is basically our third season together. We have a great relationship on the ice,” Savard said.
Tyler Seguin’s Overseas Domination Immortalized by Swiss Fan’s Amazing Tribute Video
Bruins fans certainly miss Tyler Seguin, but they sure aren’t the only ones out there that miss the beloved young sniper.
One Swiss hockey fan has put together an incredible compilation video (described as “Tous les goal de Tyler Seguin sous le maillot du HC Bienne”) of Seguin’s dominance overseas, which can be seen below.
Seguin finished with 25 goals and 15 assists in 29 games, while also adding a goal and an assist for Team Canada in the Spengler Cup.
Olivier Roy Postgame
Dreaming of Edmonton (Larionov)
UFA – After Russian forward Nail Yakupov started to play professional hockey with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk this season, he hoped to debut with the Edmonton Oilers sooner rather than later.
Yakupov put himself into the history books as the number-one draft pick last summer during the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh – an honour fellow countrymen Ilya Kovalchuk (2001) and Alexander Ovechkin (2004) received some years before him.
Yakupov was born Nizhnekamsk, not far away from Ufa by Russian standards, in Tatarstan. His father, Rail, worked as a youth coach, team administrator and the head of the youth school at the local club Neftekhimik.
Nail Yakupov started skating at the age of four but was not a hockey fan in childhood.
“Nail didn’t watch hockey on TV,” said Yakupov, Sr. “He loved football. Even now he supports Chelsea while I cheer for Manchester United.”
“Do you remember the Champions League final in Moscow, when ManU won in a shootout? In that time we were ready to fight,” he added with a smile.
Yakupov Jr. saved his love for football at least for the warm-up, but hockey has come to be the most important thing for him. At school he practised with boys who were older than him, but he struggled to score. But the agent Alexei Dementiev helped him a lot in the beginning of his career.
“Nail is a very smart guy,” Dementiev said. “Usually, youngsters forget instructions, but he isn’t one of them. He learned a lot.”
In the 2009/2010 season Yakupov played at the top junior level in Russia for the MHL’s Reaktor Nizhnekamsk. A KHL debut with the parent team Neftekhimik was unrealistic at that time because they bet on experienced players. That’s why he eventually decided to go to Canada and play for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting to learn English and prepare himself for NHL.
To perform in North America was Yakupov’s dream. The family of Alex Galchenyuk, who plays for Team USA in Ufa and is the son of former Dynamo Moscow forward Alexander Galchenyuk, helped him a lot. They lived together, played for Sarnia, and scored a lot of goals. The local fans loved the duo with Russian roots.
“In his first year in Canada, Nail was confronted with a language barrier,” remembered his father Rail. “With Alex and his parents they communicated in Russian. It was when Galchenyuk got injured that my son really learned English.”
Yakupov had played 113 games in his two years in Sarnia and had 175 points (82 goals + 93 assists).
However, at the 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Germany, he was in the shadows of his partners Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Grigorenko. His 13 (6+7) points during the tournament were all but forgotten.
The Russian team won the U18 bronze medal and eight months later Yakupov was one of the leaders on the U20 national team at the World Juniors in Calgary, although not the main leader. Not yet at least.
The captain and star of the team was Yevgeni Kuznetsov. Yakupov played with him on one line and was responsible for the heavy work. He didn’t score goals but was rewarded with nine assists. In overtime of the gold medal game against Sweden, Yakupov suffered a knee injury, but returned to finish the game.
The summer after he was chosen as the first-round pick by the Edmonton Oilers. A surprise? Not at all.
“Igor Larionov taught my son a lot,” Yakupov, Sr said about his son’s agent. “Larionov is an experienced man in the world of hockey. He taught Nail to give interviews and to smile.”
“Our family is built on positive attitude,” added Ulnas, Nail’s mother.
“Even foreigners were exhausted after Krikunov’s training,” said Rail Yakupov. “But they were always smiling.”
However, success in junior leagues does not necessarily turn into success in senior hockey. For Yakupov the labour conflict in the NHL meant the chance to play professional hockey at home in the KHL while waiting for his debut with the Oilers.
“Real men’s hockey was a good school for him,” said Yakupov Sr. “Vladimir Golubovich, Neftekhimik’s coach, normally does not trust young players. But he let Nail play.”
Golubovich led Dynamo Moscow to the 1995 championship and also there he relied on experienced players. But he wouldn’t be allowed to keep the city’s greatest prospect on the bench.
Yakupov paid back for the confidence put in him. In 22 games for Neftekhimik he collected 18 (10 +8) points. He was especially successful in October when he scored ten goals.
In November, Yakupov led his team during a tour in Canada with games against All-Star Teams from the OHL, QMJHL, and WHL. But his figures were rather modest with two goals in six games. It’s not enough for the captain and the first-line forward.
“Why do you always expect hat tricks from him?” Russian U20 national team coach Mikhail Varnakov replied to the media. “Nail played for team.”
It’s the same words the Russian coach said after the difficult quarter-final game against Switzerland his team won in a shootout when Yakupov didn’t come out to talk to journalists.
Probably, he decided that after that game it’s better to keep silence, or to perform before talking.
His number 10 provokes reporters and fans to compare him with forward Pavel Bure, who played in three World Junior Championships and wore the jersey also in the NHL and the Russian men’s national team.
“Bure? Yakupov to ‘Pasha’ is the same distance as from here to the moon,” stated legendary Boris Mikhailov after the 4-1 defeat against Canada.
Bure debuted at CSKA Moscow when Mikhailov worked as an assistant of Viktor Tikhonov. But Yakupov is different. He is not a super scorer like Bure was.
Larionov thinks that Yakpuov is closer to Vladimir Krutov.
Nail Yakupov dives head first to block the point shot WJC 2013 (Larionov)
Galchenyuk goes for world junior gold in parents’ homeland (Larionov)
UFA, RUSSIA – Alex Galchenyuk and his American teammates have one more game for gold at the world junior championship.
Galchenyuk, born of Russian parents in Milwaukee, Wisc., when his dad played in the American Hockey League, has been a man in demand when it comes to media here since his first language is Russian and he speaks English.
“It’s tough sometimes. You have to focus on Russian and then, boom, go straight to English,” said Galchenyk, “then, boom, back to Russian. But I think I’m doing pretty good with it, I think.”
He’s also doing pretty well on the ice.
Though he was held pointless in the USA’s 5-1 semifinal win over Canada Thursday — the USA will now face Sweden in Saturday’s gold medal game — he is still second on the team in scoring with two goals and six assists.
His play has impressed Montreal Canadiens director of procurement and player development Trevor Timmins who is here watching the championship. He said Galchenyuk, whom the Canadiens drafted third overall last summer, has finally recovered from a knee injury which kept him out of all but two games for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League last season.
Galchenyuk has 27 goals and 34 assists in 33 games with the Sting this season.
“He really took a lot of strides there (in Sarnia) in the last month and a half of the season. He had an outstanding December in Sarnia. He really stepped it up. After missing almost an entire year of hockey it took him a while to get going, but he’s back to full speed ahead. He’s back to where he was before he was injured,” said Timmins.
“He already conducts himself as a professional. That’s what impressed us so much last year. He has all his ducks in a row with regards to nutrition and off-ice training and extra practice on his skills. He pays a lot attention to his preparation. He’s a kid who just wants to get better and he comes from a hockey family.”
The Canadiens drafted Galchenyuk as a centre, but he has been playing the wing. Timmins said he can play all three forward positions and it might be to his advantage to play the off-wing and open some room for his outstanding shot.
“Whether he plays centre or the wing is up to the coach,” said Timmins. “We drafted him as a centre, but if a young player has to start out on the wing and then move to centre it relieves some of the responsibility off them. Again, that’s up to the coach. Players sort themselves out.”
Galchenyuk said playing for the USA here has been important to his development.
“This has been huge. It’s the world’s best players in this age group. The speed is definitely different from the OHL. It’s a great experience and I’m looking forward to winning the gold medal,” he said.
Timmins said he didn’t know what plans Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin had for Galchenyuk in the event the NHL lockout ends and training camps open.
Galchenyuk said he’d like the chance.
“Maybe if the lockout ends, I’ll have a chance to go there. We’ll see then,” said.
Bilingual Alex Galchenyuk Talks About Interviews in English and Russian
Joining the Rush: Nail Yakupov & Alex Galchenyuk funny stories (Larionov)
Galchenyuk, USA win Gold (Larionov)
WJC U-20 All 8 Points
Yakupov scores twice, Russia wins bronze (Larionov)
Blacker Plays Goalie – 01/02/13
Tyler Seguin putting up points with EHC Biel in Switzerland during lockout
The Canadian Free Press
BIEL, Switzerland – Tyler Seguin is settling in to his new surroundings.
The locked-out Boston Bruins forward has spent the past month in Switzerland, where he’s found a home with EHC Biel during the NHL’s work stoppage. The 20-year-old has quickly established himself as a dangerous player on the larger international ice surface with eight goals and 16 points in 12 games.
“I think I’m still adapting,” said Seguin. “There are still plays out there that I feel like I can still make better reads. I think it’s just going to keep coming with experience in this league.
“Hopefully, I’ll keep improving.”
Seguin seems to have taken his game to another level recently, recording a hat trick during a win over Ambri-Piotta last week and following it with a two-goal effort in a victory over Zurich three nights later.
“The last games he’s coming on like crazy,” said coach Kevin Schlapfer.
The trip abroad has been a positive experience for Seguin, who is still playing under an entry-level contract in the NHL and could have been assigned to the American Hockey League before the lockout.
Instead, he was one of the first Canadian-born players to sign overseas.
“Right when I heard there was going to be a lockout I told my agent right away that I wanted to go to Europe,” said Seguin. “I just thought it would be cool to see what it’s like to be a professional hockey player in Europe. It’s been a fun ride so far, I’ve gained some good friendships over here.”
Biel sits sixth in the 12-team Swiss league and has called in more reinforcements. Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane arrived on Sunday and is expected to make his debut against Zug on Tuesday.
Seguin briefly met Kane prior to the 2010 draft, when he was one of the top prospects who attended a game during the Blackhawks-Flyers Stanley Cup final.
“I’m relatively new to the NHL so I’m still a fan of his,” said Seguin. “I’m looking forward to actually getting to know him better and maybe even playing with him.”
For now, Schlapfer is still trying to determine how he’ll use his NHL stars. He’s toyed with the idea of starting them on different forward lines and then combining them occasionally when the team needs boost.
“They have the same style,” said Schlapfer. “They like to fly on the ice, to skate, and they’re mobile. I think that’s a good combination for the hockey here in Switzerland.”
Meet the Rookies – Alex Galchenyuk (Larionov)
IceDogs deal Beukeboom
ST. CATHARINES – The Niagara IceDogs dealt a piece of their present for three pieces of their future Wednesday, shipping overage defenceman Brock Beukeboom to the Guelph Storm.
In return, the IceDogs recieve three draft picks — Oshawa’s fourth round pick in 2013, London’s second round pick in 2014 and Brampton’s sixth round pick in 2014.
IceDogs coach/general manager Marty Williamson said talks have been ongoing for some time with Guelph.
“They’ve been on me for a while about him,” Williamson said. “They thought he would be a good fit for their team, but were weren’t willing to pay the price I wanted and finally we got to a point where I think the price is where I think it helps us re-stock.”
Beukeboom, who was told of the deal at morning workouts by assistant coach Jason Brooks, agreed to waive his no-trade clause.
“I’m a little shocked by it, ”Beukeboom said after saying his final good-byes before practice Wednesday. “I figured if I was going to get traded it would be closer to the deadline, but at the same time, it’s a win-win for both teams.
“They’re building for the future here and Guelph is making a run at it and adding some veterans to the lineup. It’s definitely mixed emotions. I loved the city, loved the team and loved the community, so it will be tough leaving here, but at the same time I’m going to a really good hockey team.”
Williamson said deal will open up some much-needed playing time on the blue-line for youngsters Aaron Haydon, Broderick Kelly and Ryan Shipley. All three have been healthy scratches of late.
“I can’t keep sitting out the young guys on the back end,” Williamson said. “It just got to the point where the development of these guys is just getting hurt too much. Broderick hasn’t been playing a lot at the end of games and we’ve got to him doing that if we expect him to be starting our upswing in the next year and the year after and being an impact guy, then he’s got to get into those situations. We don’t want these guys sitting too long. It’s a point that we believe in those guys.”
“It’s a quarter of the season almost gone and they’ve been outstanding in how they’ve accepted their roles, but it’s time that they step up and play bigger roles for this hockey team. Yea, they will make some mistakes, but we need to get over that hump or we’re just prolonging an agony that’s going to come down the road.”
Williamson said Beukeboom will be missed as much in the dressing room as on the ice.
“He’s a wonderful kid,” Williamson said. “He’s a great team guy and well liked in the dressing room. You’re always going to miss those kind of team guys. On the ice, he’s stepped up his game. He was playing aggressive and more solid for us. That’s why the commodity was out there. If he wasn’t playing well, I wouldn’t be getting three picks for him. Credit to him, I think he’s playing very well this year.”
Beukeboom is slated to make his Storm debut at home Friday when Guelph hosts Oshawa. Ironically, the Storm visit the IceDogs Saturday.
Beukeboom admitted is will be surreal to be on the other side of the ice Saturday.
“When I did it with Soo when I was traded the first time, it was very nerve-racking,” he said about playing his former team. “The friendships and bonds I’ve made with the coaches and players is pretty special and something I’ll remember for a lifetime.
“I’m happy with it. They’re happy with me coming in, but it’s definitely tough leaving this city.”
Beukeboom was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round (63rd overall) in 2010. His NHL rights were traded to the St. Louis Blues in February 2011 but did not sign and is a free agent.
“Brock is a player that we have followed closely over the past season and a half,” Guelph GM Mike Kelly said on the team’s web site. “He is a right shot defenceman who brings a combination of size, skill, grit and leadership to our team.”
Niagara hosts Kitchener Thursday.
Yakupov strikes again, and again — the Nail nets two goals, one assist to lead Neftekhimik win (Larionov)
Edmonton Oilers top prospect Nail Yakupov continues to light it up over in the KHL. He closed out a superb October with another lights-out performance on Halloween night, scoring twice and setting up a third to delight the home crowd as Neftekhimik repelled Torpedo, 4-2.
Yakupov’s first goal tied the affair at 1-1, finally breaking the ice against Matt Dalton more than half way through the game. He got the primary assist on Alexander Salayunov’s powerplay marker late in the second that gave the home team its first lead. The cherry on top came in the last minute of play with Dalton on the bench for an extra attacker. The empty-netter was Yakupov’s 10th goal of the season, in just his 13th KHL game.
As has become his custom, Yakupov also led his team in shots on goal, with 6. He now has a whopping 57 shots on the season, an average of 4.4 per game.
There are a couple of other good signs in the fairly decent stats package that the KHL provides. Yakupov saw more ice time in this one, as his 18:10 ranked third on the club. His line with Petr Koukal and Tomas Netik started the game, and saw equal ice time to the usual first line of Martin Cibak, Oscar Oskala, and Yegor Milovzorov. Moreover, Yak saw his ice time rise by the period, playing nearly 7 minutes of the final frame even as Neftekhimik clung to a one-goal lead down the stretch.
As for that empty-netter, while in some senses such are cheap goals, it speaks to the coach’s confidence in putting his young sniper on the ice with a one-goal lead and 30 seconds to go. It’s clear evidence that Yakupov is emerging as a go-to player in the grand scheme of things.
Yakupov now has the team lead outright in goals, while his 14 points in 13 games make him the only point-per-game scorer on the club.
Galchenyuk working hard in Sarnia (Larionov)
SARNIA, Ont. — The morning skate for the Sarnia Sting ended 20 minutes ago, but there are still four figures on the ice at the RBC Centre.
Defenceman Connor Murphy is at one end working with father, former National Hockey League defenceman Gord Murphy. The elder Murphy is an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers, but the NHL lockout has left him with some free time and he’s working with the Sting.
At the other end of the ice, the Galchenyuks, père et fils, go through a series of puck-handling drills. Alex Jr., the Canadiens’ first-round draft pick in June, seems to be imitating a Japanese chef as he rapidly swings his CCM RBZ stick from one side to another, chopping at the puck under the watchful eye of Alex Sr., an assistant coach with the Sting.
“Junior’s always the last person off the ice,” Mark Glavin, the team’s assistant general manager, says.
“I don’t think about being out there longer than anyone else,” Galchenyuk explains later. “I just feel there’s always something I can do a little better, something I can work on.”
That attitude is one of the reasons why the Canadiens selected Galchenyuk with the third overall pick at this year’s NHL draft. In fact, it’s the reason why Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens’ director of amateur scouting, would have selected Galchenyuk if he had the first overall pick.
“He was our guy all along,” Timmins said on draft day in Pittsburgh.
Galchenyuk may have been available at No. 4 because there was gaping hole in his resumé. He suffered a knee injury in an exhibition game last September and missed most of the 2011-12 Ontario Hockey League season. He returned for two regular-season games and six playoff games.
“That was important to show teams that the knee was good, but it was also important for me and my family,” Galchenyuk said. “It was difficult at first because I couldn’t do anything with my leg and then it was just a lot of hard work. Every week, I felt a little better and I was glad I was able to play.”
The Canadiens had a good look at Galchenyuk at the NHL combine in Toronto and then later at their pre-draft testing day in Montreal. Both sides came away happy from the Montreal combine. The Canadiens were convinced that the knee was sound and Galchenyuk was blown away by the team’s training facility in Brossard.
“It had everything you could want,” he said. “I went back there for the development camp and it was great to spend three or four days and walk around the city and meet the other players.”
But Galchenyuk said he was surprised when the Canadiens called his name on draft day.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I went to the draft,” he said. “You hear a lot of rumours, but I was happy when the Canadiens picked me.”
The injury wasn’t the only question mark about Galchenyuk. He was born in Milwaukee, where his father — who is Belarusian — was playing in the International Hockey League. Galchenyuk spent time in Italy, Switzerland and Russia while growing up, and he was lumped into a group of Russian players along with Sarnia teammate Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko.
NHL teams feared these players would bolt for the Kontinental Hockey League if there was a lockout or they didn’t catch on immediately in the NHL. Yakupov has returned to Russia, but Galchenyuk and Grigorernko are still in Canada.
“I knew (Yakupov) was not coming back,” Galchenyuk said. “He’s playing in his hometown and, if you live in Russia, you have a dream to play with a KHL team. For me, the NHL is the big picture where I saw myself since I was a little kid. You want to compete with the best players, you want to play for the best fans. It’s different from every other league.”
Galchenyuk, who returned to the U.S. at age 16 to play midget hockey in Chicago, describes himself as an American. He was one of the best players at the U.S. junior national camp this summer and will represent the U.S. at the upcoming world junior championship unless, of course, the NHL lockout ends and he earns a job in Montreal.
That’s a long-shot, but the lockout has actually improved Galchenyuk’s chances of making the jump to the NHL. The U.S. junior camp provided him with ice time and competition against top players from Sweden and Finland.
“I think the lockout is definitely good for me because I missed a lot of games,” he said. “I’m playing a lot of games here and getting a lot of ice time. I’m getting better and working on the things I need to improve.”
When asked what areas of his game need work, Galchenyuk replied: “There’s no specific thing. It’s getting better in everything and getting that game feeling back in your body. I missed a lot of time last year.”
Getting that game feeling back took some time this season, but Galchenyuk has been on a roll lately with 18 points in his last 11 games. He’s tied for sixth in the OHL scoring race with 21 points.
On this night against Windsor, he scores two goals, but it’s his third point — an assist — that highlights his greatest asset. A natural centre, he lines up on right wing and shows an ability to find the open man time and again. He’s an unselfish player who uses his size — 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds — to battle in the corners.
“He has all the tools, but he’s also a hard worker,” Sarnia coach Jacques Beaulieu said.
It remains to be seen how long it will be before Galchenyuk tests those skills in the NHL.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen if the lockout ends,” he says. “I heard on TSN that I’m on the list of junior players who can go to training camp, but right now I’m playing in Sarnia and I have to focus on here.”
Mike Cammalleri All-Canadians Videos
Bolduc named MeiGray Group ECHL Alumnus of the Month
PRINCETON, N.J.- Former ECHL and current Portland Pirates center Alexandre Bolduc is The MeiGray Group ECHL Alumnus of the Month for October.
The leading distributor of game- worn hockey jerseys and “Official Game-Worn Jersey Source of the ECHL,” MeiGray sold more than 500 game-worn jerseys in 2011-12 and has sold more than 6,500 since it became “The Official Game-Worn Jersey Source of the ECHL” in 2002-03.
The 27-year-old scored 11 points (6g-5a) in seven games during October. After being held scoreless in?Portland’s season opener, Bolduc ended the month on a six-game scoring streak including four consecutive games where he notched multiple points. Bolduc is tied for second in the American Hockey League in scoring while his six goals are tied for third in the league.
The Montreal native scored 16 points (10g-6a) in 24 games with Bakersfield in 2005-06 and added eight points (4g-4a) in 11 games during the 2006 Kelly Cup Playoffs. He returned to the?Condors in 2006-07, notching 24 points (7g-17a) in 16 games and tallying six points (2g-4a) in six games during the 2007?Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Selected in the fourth round (127th overall) by the St. Louis Blues in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Bolduc has 133 points (54g-79a) in 263 career AHL games with Manitoba and Portland. He has also seen action in 48 National?Hockey League games with Vancouver and Phoenix, registering five points (2g-3a).
Nail Yakupov’s first month in the KHL
Leaf prospect Josh Leivo: Unbe-Leivo-ble
The Leafs Nation
Nothing special jumps out at you watching Josh Leivo. He doesn’t blow by you with blistering speed or dazzle in one-on-one situations. He doesn’t have a 100 mile-per-hour slap shot and isn’t going to flatten people with huge hits.
What does jump out is improved scoring capacity, a singular aspect exhibited from his pre-Ontario Hockey League days that he’s adapted to his maturing overall game.
Year over year from his draft year in 2011, he scored 19 more goals and on a similar pace this season, without OHL scoring leader Michael Sgarbossa.
I should preface this by saying I haven’t seen Leivo live yet this season. Everything has been through video, television.
In 2011-12, Leivo scored 10 goals by his 26th game, scoring 22 in the final 40 games. Below is a breakdown of his weekly scoring starting October 11, 2011 through to the end of the season. (Here is a league wide look at the year over year change).
Seguin scores four
Barclay Goodrow scores two goals as Battalion defeat Sudbury Wolves 4-2
BRAMPTON, Ont. – Barclay Goodrow scored a pair of goals and Brenden Miller tallied the eventual power-play winner late in the second period as the Brampton Battalion doubled the Sudbury Wolves 4-2 in Ontario Hockey League play Sunday afternoon.
The win snapped a four-game winless streak for the Troops.
“Huge win for us, especially when it’s against a division rival,” said Goodrow. “We have a pretty good rivalry with those guys.”
Ray Huether opened the scoring for Sudbury with 56 seconds remaining in the first period, taking a Nicholas Baptiste pass in the slot and beating Matej Machovsky with a quick shot.
Brampton tied things up just 34 seconds later when Nick Paul sent Goodrow in on a breakaway and slid a backhand shot five hole on Taylor Dupuis. Goodrow put the Battalion in front at 2:58 of the middle stanza, firing a snapshot past Dupuis as he streaked down the wing.
Josh Leivo shootout goal
Alex Galchenyuk’s four points lead Sarnia Sting past Plymouth Whalers 7-5 (Larionov)
The Canadian Press
PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The Sarnia Sting avenged its 3-2 loss at home Friday night to the Whalers by returning the favour with a 7-5 win in Plymouth Saturday night in Ontario Hockey League action.
Both teams now have a share of first place in the OHL’s West Division.
Captain Alex Galchenyuk led Sarnia (9-7-1) with two goals and two assists.
Galchenyuk opened the scoring 4:54 into the game, and Ryan Hartman tied it for the Whalers at the 9:59 mark. Charles Sarault gave Sarnia the lead for good at 19:12 of the first period.
The Sting broke the game open with goals from Nikolay Goldobin, Nick Latta and Galchenyuk in a 6:56 span of the second period.
Yakupov signs entry-level deal with Oilers (Larionov)
Nail Yakupov, the first player chosen in last month’s NHL Draft, has signed a three-year, entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers. No financial terms were disclosed.
“We’re very happy to sign Nail to a three-year contract,” Edmonton general manager Steve Tambellini told the team’s website Monday. “He’s an extremely talented and passionate young man who we feel will be an integral part of our team for many years to come.”
Yakupov became the first Russian-born player selected No. 1 at the NHL Draft since Alex Ovechkin went to the Washington Capitals in 2004 when Tambellini announced him as the team’s top choice at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22.
“Edmonton is a great city and crazy town for hockey … it’s a hockey town and I play hockey and I just want to play my best hockey,” Yakupov said after being selected.
The 2012 Draft marked the third straight year that the Oilers owned the No. 1 selection — Tambellini chose left wing Taylor Hall in 2010 and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011. Yakupov, who played for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, entered the 2012 Draft as NHL Central Scouting’s No. 1 overall North American skater.
Does Yakupov feel he’s ready for the NHL as an 18-year-old?
“Why not?” Yakupov asked his questioner. “I think I’m ready for NHL. I want to try. I have whole summer to train and work with Edmonton. This is a great team, a young team, and they play good hockey. It’ll be good playing with those players.”
Yakupov played in 42 games for the Sting last season, producing 31 goals and 69 points He had a plus-15 rating and 12 power-play goals. Despite being sidelined on four occasions due to a back injury, knee injury, suspension and upper body ailment, he proved capable of handling any adversity.
“I just want to just work and show how I can play hockey and help my team to win every game … that’s what I want,” Yakupov said.
In 2010-11, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound right wing had 101 points, including 49 goals, in 65 games en route to being named the OHL Rookie of the Month three times as well as the OHL Rookie of the Year and BMO Rookie of the Year in the CHL.
He also won a silver medal with Team Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championship, notching a team-leading nine assists with a plus-5 rating in seven contests. Russia dropped a 1-0 overtime decision to Sweden in the gold-medal game.
Canadiens ink top pick Alex Galchenyuk (Larionov)
The Montreal Canadiens on Monday announced the signing of first-round pick Alex Galchenyuk to a three-year entry-level contract. No financial terms were disclosed.
Galchenyuk, 18, played in two regular-season games with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League in 2011-12 due to a knee injury. In the playoffs, Galchenyuk had two goals and two assists in six games. Although he missed nearly the entire season, the Canadiens made him the third player taken in the 2012 NHL Draft last month.
In his first junior season in 2010-11, Galchenyuk ranked third in scoring with the Sting with 83 points and tied for the team lead with 52 assists. Prior to that, he scored 44 goals and had 87 points in 38 games with Chicago of the United States Hockey League.
The Milwaukee native is the son of former Soviet and Belarussian player Alexander Galchenyuk, who now coaches with Sarnia.
Yakupov signed, sealed (Larionov)
With a freshly signed contract tucked in his back pocket, Nail Yakupov has one last bit of business to take care of: He needs to secure his spot on the Edmonton Oilers’ roster.
The Oilers signed the NHL’s first overall draft pick to his three-year entry level contract, a deal that falls under the parameters of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA). To that end, his base salary is $925,000 US per season, but he will be a $3.775-million salary-cap hit, a total that includes all the bonuses he could collect if he triggers every one.
“I was not nervous about getting the deal done, but I’m excited it is done,” Yakupov said when reached in Russia on Monday. “I will change my training when I get to Edmonton, so I’m ready for the first day of camp.”
Following the Oilers development camp in June, the dynamic winger returned to Russia with plans to spend the summer at his home in Tatarstan. He will fly back to North America in August to compete in the CanadaRussia Challenge, after which he’ll make his way to Edmonton. The four-game, under-20 tournament opens with games in Yaroslavl, Russia, on Aug. 8-9, then swings over to the Metro Centre in Halifax for games Aug. 13-14.
Yakupov said his mother and sister will follow him to Edmonton, a city he started to win over with his energy and exuberance during the June camp.
“I spoke to Igor Larinov, his agent, and said, ‘Is this Nail?’ He said, yes, this is him. You know when he’s happy, you know when he’s excited, you know when he’s not happy,” said Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini. “He’s an expressive, flamboyant player.”
Yakupov played the last two seasons with the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League, collecting 170 points in 107 games. His mom and sister were with him there, as well.
During the 2012 world junior hockey championship, the five-foot-11, 190-pound rightwinger led the silver medallists with nine assists in seven games.
“Nail is projecting what’s going to happen in camp. He knows nothing will be handed to him,” Tambellini said. “It wasn’t with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He came in, went through rookie camp, training camp, pre-season games, then we saw where we were at. But whether you’re talking about Nugent-Hopkins (Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle), they all had a transition time. I expect Nail to go through a transition, also.”
Galchenyuk inks deal with Habs (Larionov)
Alex Galchenyuk of the Sarnia Sting has moved one step closer to his NHL goal, signing a three-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens announced Monday they’d inked the third-overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft. Terms of the entry-level deal weren’t released, as per club policy.
“I was waiting for it, I think it’s the second step after the draft,” Galchenyuk said Tuesday.
“When you get signed, you kind of feel calm and relaxed.”
The 18-year-old centre spent the last two seasons with the Sting. After a dazzling OHL rookie campaign where he tallied 83 points in 68 games, Galchenyuk tore his ACL in a preseason game and missed all but two regular season games this year.
Galchenyuk battled back, and impressed enough at the NHL draft combine for the Canadiens to scoop him up with the third-overall pick.
“I’m definitely more hungry right now,” Galchenyuk said. “I didn’t play a lot (last year) but I want to play more.”
After the draft, Galchenyuk took part in development camp in Montreal. He’s now back in Sarnia, working towards training camp in September with his sights set on making the Canadiens’ roster.
“My goal is to play next year in the NHL,” he said. “I’m just going day by day. I can’t predict the future.”
A potential NHL lockout could bring Galchenyuk back to the Sting roster this fall. But Galchenyuk is confident any work stoppage would be short-lived.
“You train for September, but who knows,” he said.
Sting head coach and GM Jacques Beaulieu said he hoped to have Galchenyuk back in town for 2012-2013.
“If he can go play in the NHL, that’s great for Alex,” he told The Observer in June. “But we’ll definitely take him with open arms.”
Galchenyuk is off to Lake Placid, N.Y. in early August for the Team USA National Junior Evaluation Camp.
Asked how he’d spend his NHL money, Galchenyuk laughed.
“I didn’t get the cheque yet,” he joked. “I might buy a car or something.”
Beaulieu sees big things for Yakupov, Galchenyuk (Larionov)
In a memorable 2012 NHL Draft that saw a record-tying 13 defensemen taken in the first round (including eight of the top 10 picks), two forwards also made history. And the coach who watched them play last season sees big things for both — even if it potentially comes at the expense of his own team.
With Sarnia Sting teammates Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk selected first by Edmonton and third by Montreal respectively, it marked the first time teammates had been selected in the top three since the Sedin brothers were taken second and third in 1999. The last time two Canadian junior teammates were taken in the top three at the draft was 1974, when Wilf Paiement and Richard Hampton of the St. Catherines Black Hawks were drafted by the Kansas City Scouts and California Seals, respectively.
“We had a pretty good indication that Yaky [Yakupov] was going to go No. 1. Gally [Galchenyuk], we didn’t know. But we knew that Montreal liked him a lot,” said Jacques Beaulieu, the Sarnia coach and general manager who coached both players last season. “It’s been hectic for the organization, but also positive.”
In his first season behind the Sting bench, Beaulieu was forced to contend without Galchenyuk, who was limited to two regular-season games after tearing his ACL in the preseason, while Yakupov finished 30th in Ontario Hockey League scoring, missing 26 games with an upper-body injury. The two players combined for an astonishing 184 points as 16-year-olds the previous season, and when Beaulieu took over the club last May, it didn’t take him long to realize the embarrassment of riches he had up front.
“Both of them are very special. They’re very skilled, but they’re just good at everything,” he said. “They’re going to help teams in the National Hockey League win a lot of hockey games.”
It might not be long before Yakupov and Galchenyuk make good on Beaulieu’s prediction. Each player signed his entry-level contract this week and could potentially be skating in the NHL sooner rather than later.
“Yakupov is definitely ready to play in the National Hockey League. There’s no doubt. The only thing with Alex is he missed an entire season. I don’t want to say he’s not ready, but his skill level and his skating and hockey sense are at a pro level already,” said Beaulieu, who was pleased to hear Galchenyuk express his intentions to make the Montreal roster as an 18-year-old. “I’m happy he said that. I wish him all the best and I hope he does make that hockey team. If he doesn’t, he’s going to play a lot of hockey for us and help us win hockey games.”
That’s high praise coming from a coach who has made his bones in junior hockey developing defensemen instead of forwards. Over his junior coaching career, Beaulieu has worked with future NHL blueliners Dan Girardi, Marc Methot and Kyle Quincey. Also, his son Nathan is one of the Canadiens’ top defensive prospects. But he’s also worked with some superstar forwards, particularly as an assistant coach under Dale Hunter with the London Knights, where Beaulieu worked with future All-Stars Rick Nash and Corey Perry.
“Corey Perry and Gally are alike, and I think Yaky and Rick Nash are alike. Both kids are game-breakers and can make a difference in a game,” Beaulieu told NHL.com. “These guys are ready to go. It depends on the organization and their depth to see if they fit in or not.”
Ruperts create double the trouble
London Free Press
One kid in hockey, these days, is an expensive proposition.
What if you have twins?
Ron and Karen Rupert, whose sons Matt and Ryan have become London Knights fan favourites, understand what it means to double up on the costs of the game.
“It can be tough,” Ron said from his Grand Bend home. “Today, you have sticks that cost $300. When they’re really little, you can get away with the cheap ones, but that doesn’t last. If one kids has it, everyone else on the team has to have it. Any time we got wind of a sale on equipment, we drove there.”
Ron coached his sons in minor hockey. There was no rink in Grand Bend so it was kind of a grey area and parents could pick where they wanted the kids to play.
“We started out in Thedford and won the championship in novice,” Ron recalled. “We only had 10 players and I split the boys up on different lines to even things up and I once had an opposing coach come up to me and say, ‘No wonder you win, you keep playing the same kid all the time’.
“I thought that was pretty fun. I told him, ‘Well, actually, there’s two of them.’”
It didn’t take long for the Hunters to hook onto the twins. They started playing in Sarnia for the Lambton Junior Sting and ended up, one year, an age group up in minor midget as major bantams, before moving to the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs.
“They were top 10 scorers (in the league) two years in a row,” Knights scout Craig Warwick said, “and they haven’t changed a bit. The one thing you noticed every time about the Ruperts, they were always the best players on the ice.
“I know a lot of teams wanted them but not as badly as we did (the Knights picked them in the third and fourth round of the 2010 OHL draft). Give the credit to (Knights GM) Mark Hunter. He saw them play. He and (director of scouting) Lindsay Hofford knew what they wanted and that (1994-born Knights draft) is turning out on par with the (1985) one that won the Memorial Cup.”
The brothers will be expected to help lead the Knights back for another crack at the Cup.
Ryan will likely move back to his natural centre position with Austin Watson graduated. He and Matt will have a new linemate.
Both expect to inherit more responsibility and leadership.
“Scott Harrington is probably going to be our captain, it’s going to be his fourth year on the team,” Ryan said, “but I think I might get the chance to pitch in a little bit and say more. Last year, I might crack a joke, but I would leave it there.”
The one-liners are actually more of Matt’s forte, anyway.
“They’re pretty similar people, really,” Ron Rupert said. “There’s not much difference in the two. Matt’s a little quicker with a line most of the time. Ryan is more laid-back, but that’s about it.”
As a Leafs prospect, Ryan will get some more scrutiny — like Greg McKegg and Nazem Kadri before him. Matt, who missed significant time last year with a shoulder injury, doesn’t know if he will head to Leafs’ main camp.
“There wasn’t an exit meeting,” he said. “I hope I go somewhere (this fall). I’m just going to work hard and hopefully, I’ll get drafted next year.”
No one with the Knights is going to change their opinion of him if he isn’t.
“Matt should’ve been drafted and that pick (of Ryan) is the best the Leafs have made in a long time,” Warwick said. “These guys are going to play in the American Hockey League, for sure. They’re going to be fan favourites. They’re quality kids and they were raised the right way by Karen and Ron.”
And if you’ve ever seen them play, you won’t soon forget it.
Matt Irwin on the verge of reaching the NHL
Prepared to enter his third full year in the Sharks organization, defenseman Matt Irwin finds himself closer than ever to reaching his goal of skating in the National Hockey League. And with training camp right around the corner, it may only be a matter of time before the 6’2’’ blueliner gets the call-up to San Jose and never looks back.
“He’s NHL-ready,” said Worcester Sharks assistant coach David Cunniff. “He’s giving himself a good chance to make it. If he doesn’t make it to San Jose out of camp he’s going to be pushing people into the (2012-13) season.”
Coming to Worcester straight from UMass-Amherst, Irwin was well prepared to make the leap to the pro ranks after his sophomore year of college. However, he had a lot to work on before becoming a legitimate candidate for an NHL roster. Deemed as a power-play specialist upon his arrival to Worcester, the British Columbia native wasn’t polished at the defensive aspect of the game, and it showed in the number and type of minutes the Sharks coaching staff gave him. But Irwin’s willingness to take constructive criticism from his coaches and change his style of play made a world of difference.
“When you come to the AHL from college, it’s a totally different animal,” coach Cunniff added. “And in Matt’s rookie year, he started off a little bit slow. He struggled defensively. But he’s been doing everything that myself and the other coaches have been working with, and he’s put himself in a great spot by doing so.”
Irwin’s ability to develop into a well-rounded, two-way player has led to his ascent up the Sharks’ prospect rankings—an accomplishment that would have been difficult had he remained solely an offensive-minded player. This evolution has been exemplified no better by his selection to the AHL All-Star game last winter, becoming one of two Worcester players to earn a nomination in 2012.
“Coming in, I think I had a solid camp in San Jose and I turned that over into a good season,” Irwin said of the ‘11-‘12 campaign. “I think it was a good year for me. I started off strong, kind of hit a wall, and found more consistency towards the end.”
“When he came to us he needed work on his defensive game,” Cunniff said. “He had the offensive talent to see the ice well, a good first pass out of the zone and a great shot. But I think we’re able to teach him a little bit more so he’d be a better two-way player. Now that he’s played for us for a few years, I think his defensive game has improved a ton.”
In his time working with the Sharks’ coaching staff, Irwin was able to improve his defense in a number of specific ways. For starters, his skating got a lot better, including his ability to stop crossing over to avoid falling out of position. Additionally, he became more resourceful with his stick as he learned how to disrupt passing lanes near and around the crease.
“When he came to us as a rookie, I think a lot of people questioned his skating,” said Cunniff. “But he’s one guy when you watch the games you can see stuff we’ve been working on. His skating has improved to the point where he doesn’t put himself in bad situations anymore.”
“As well as the skating, his stick improved a lot. He was able to eliminate a lot of plays last year through the use of his stick, which he didn’t do much at all when he first came here. And it’s had a big impact.”
Despite the progress Irwin has made, it will be no easy task to make San Jose’s roster out of camp. With a bit of a logjam at defense, there may not be a spot for him in the NHL even if he’s ready. And depending on how long that logjam lasts, San Jose’s hand may be forced.
“San Jose has such a great group of D-men now that it’s tough to crack that lineup,” said Cunniff. “We’ve seen a lot of good players come to Worcester and have a tough time cracking the roster (in the NHL). If they send him down because they’re so deep on the back end, he’s going to be forcing management in San Jose one way or another.”
The 2011-12 campaign in the rearview mirror, Irwin is spending his offseason hard at work back home, where he’s been preparing himself for next year.
“We’re working out a lot,” he said. “We have a group of guys from the AHL and NHL. We’re all skating and working out together. Everyone is looking to get stronger and faster and improve all the stuff you need to win.”
Whether in San Jose or Worcester, look for Irwin to take the next step in his career and continue provide the Sharks organization with a quality, reliable defenseman.more
Nail Yakupov – My Eyes (Larionov)
Galchenyk on TheBeautyStatusTV (Larionov)
Beskorowany at Stars Camp
His skill set transfers well to the NHL
After scoring a whopping 129 goals and totaling an impressive 232 points in 185 games for the Oshawa Generals the past three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, Christian Thomas turns pro this fall, shooting for a spot with the Rangers and mindful that he might first gain some valuable experience in the American Hockey League with the Connecticut Whale.
Thomas, the 20 year-old 2010 second round pick of the Rangers, clearly provides an intriguing point-producing option as the Blueshirts seek to improve their offensive production. But two major questions face Thomas heading into training camp: 1) is he physically and mentally ready to make the jump from major junior hockey into the NHL?, and 2) at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, is Thomas too small to succeed at the NHL level?
Newly-named Whale assistant coach Jeff Beukeboom has seen a lot of Thomas in recent years—as a a coach in the OHL—and offers up this opinion of the talented winger.
“I know Christian Thomas really well, my son (Blues prospect Brock Beukeboom) and he grew up playing against one another, and I think his skill set translates well to the NHL,” said Beukeboom. “I know he’s a good kid and he’s willing to work, and learn, and try new things. Any time you have those traits, you’re going to be fine. I think he’s going to adapt fine, and the size thing won’t be such an issue.”
Beukeboom believes that Thomas—whom he refers to as “a good character kid”—has a distinct advantage in adapting to the pro game, and that is his father, long-time NHLer Steve Thomas, has prepared him his whole life for what lies right in front of him now.
“The great thing for Christian is that he has a great sounding board in his father,” noted Beukeboom. “As long as he’s open minded and listens—which is the type kid he is—he’ll be fine. I think with his background, that’s a huge plus for him.”
Speed Dating with Tyler Seguin, August 15
LOWELL, MASS. – The Lowell Spinners, Class-A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, will once again unroll the black and gold carpet and welcome Boston Bruins star and Stanley Cup Champion Tyler Seguin to LeLacheur Park for a special “Speed Dating” promotion during the Spinners August 15 game against the Aberdeen Ironbirds.
Fans will have the opportunity throughout the evening to win a chance to spend time with the hockey superstar during the game. Each winner and their family will have the opportunity to spend five minutes with Seguin in a private suite, giving them the chance to ask the Stanley Cup Champion and NHL All Star questions, take photos, enjoy the game and who knows even score a phone number.
“When we asked the question “Who would be the one person in the Boston area that a Speed Dating Event Planner would want more than anyone?” The answer to us was Tyler Seguin,” said Spinners Vice President of Corporate Communications Jon Goode. “He is one of Boston’s most sought after Bachelors.”
Winners will be picked throughout the evening, through the Spinners Game Day program, Social Media sites, online auction and gameday contests.
“We want to offer a unique experience to our fans,” said Goode. “We are in the business of making memories and this is certain to be a memory that will last a lifetime.”
Seguin joins a long line of Bruins teammates to visit LeLacheur Park, as the Spinners play host to the annual Milan Lucic “Rock & Jock” Softball Classic each summer, during which many of Milan’s Bruins teammates participate.
Tickets to the game itself, in which the Spinners host the Aberdeen IronBirds, are available now at www.LowellSpinners.com or by phone at (978) 459-1702. Our “Speed Dating” contestants will be selected at the before and at the game itself.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
Lessard signs with SF Bulls
Exclusive: Kitchener Rangers Coach Steve Spott Discusses Ryan Murphy
As head coach of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers and the Canadian National Junior team, Steve Spott has seen his fair share of talented young hockey players. So when the 44-year-old claims that a particular kid has “world-class ability,” you know he’s referencing someone special.
And that’s exactly how he perceives defenseman Ryan Murphy, a 3-year veteran in Kitchener and former first round pick in the NHL Draft.
In an interview on Tuesday, Spott went as far as to say that Murphy “should become a point-per-game player” in the National Hockey League. To put that in perspective, Erik Karlsson—universally considered as the best offensive D-man in the world—managed 78 points in 81 games last season.
No pressure, Ryan.
“I don’t think there are many players out there like him,” Spott said of the budding prospect. “He’s got so much potential.”
Murphy, 19, was selected 12th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011 and has since become a central figure in the organization’s long-term plans.
Considered the most offensively gifted rearguard in his draft class, his explosiveness and scoring touch give Murphy a ceiling high enough to reach the lofty expectations bestowed upon him. And while Murphy’s physical skills cannot be understated, Spott believes it’s his mental game that sets the 5’11” defenseman apart.
“What separates him is his hockey sense,” Spott said. “He sees things coming at him a lot quicker than other players do.”
That hockey sense matched with elite skating, good puck handling and a wicked shot have led to some pretty remarkable numbers for Murphy—numbers that many forwards could only dream of producing.
The Aurora, Ontario native has averaged 1.9 points per game over the last two years with the Rangers, notching 79 and 54 points in 2010-11 and 2011-12, respectively. Says his coach, “he’s is almost like a fourth forward out there.”
Murphy’s statistics are certainly impressive, but the NHL is a substantial step up from the junior ranks. For that kind of production to translate to the pros, Spott believes that Murphy needs to shape his game similar to Karlsson’s.
“Look at Karlsson in Ottawa; that’s the player he’s going to have to model himself off of,” Spott said. “Ryan’s going to have to take advantage of the opportunities he gets offensively the way Erik does, both on the power-play and at even strength.”
But despite all the talk of Murphy’s offensive prowess, scouts have constantly questioned his defensive abilities. Many puck-moving blueliners are victims of such criticism in their teenage years, but Spott doesn’t think this will be a problem for Murphy moving forward.
“His defensive game is underrated,” he said. “I think that’s going to be the gel for Ryan. It’s not a matter that he can’t do it—it’s a buy-in. He needs to buy into Carolina’s system.
“But we’ve had no issues with him. For me, it’s all there.”
His coach’s assurance notwithstanding, these worries won’t be put to rest until Murphy proves he can handle the defensive workload in the NHL. And once Murphy makes it to Carolina, it will be up to the Canes’ brass to help him adjust.
“Kirk (Muller) is going to have to trust him when he puts him out there on the ice,” Spott said. “Kirk will know what Ryan can do offensively, but he’s going to have to trust him defensively as well.”
As the new season approaches, Murphy will garner a lot of attention in local and national circles as he attempts to earn a full-time role in the NHL. Spott believes that he has the skills necessary to make the jump—it’ll just be a matter of whether or not he’s strong enough.
“The selfish side of me hopes (he won’t go to Carolina),” said the Kitchener bench boss. “But the only thing holding him back is his strength. Going to training camp and going head to head with the likes of the Staals will be a good test for him.”
Once Murphy arrives in Raleigh, he’ll have a familiar face to guide him along the way. Star forward and 2010 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner played alongside Murphy with the Rangers during the 2009-10 season, and the two know each other well. According to Spott, they were more than just teammates in Kitchener–they were great friends as well.
“Jeff and Ryan were really close,” he said. “Any time you have elite players like that, they want to do well with each other.
“There’s good chemistry with the two of them. Thinking about having them together on the man advantage with Murphy on the point…they can be a deadly combo.”
Skinner, now a franchise cornerstone, was able to find immediate success in the NHL after several years of Spott’s tutelage.
Given the high praise the coach has for Murphy, don’t be surprised if the young defenseman follows suit.
Windsor Spitfires’ Joshua Ho-Sang ready to wing it: Making The Jump
Joshua Ho-Sang is spending this week on a family camping trip, enjoying some quality team at the beach. Next week, he’ll plunge into the depths of being a rookie with the Windsor Spitfires.
The Spitfires have Ho-Sang, a fleet-footed forward with scoring touch, pencilled in as a top-six forward. With Alexander Khokhlachev nixing his final junior season to play for the KHL’s Moscow Spartak, the Spitfires need some offensive spark and could stand to have Ho-Sang blossom in the Ontario Hockey League rather quickly. So it’s not surprising GM Warren Rychel and coach Bob Boughner plan to have Ho-Sang, the No. 5 overall choice in the OHL priority selection draft, do some training in Windsor next week. Call it a pre-training camp training camp.
“It’s good chance to kind of start developing that chemistry with the guys who are training there all summer, getting ready for the upcoming season,” says the 6-foot, 162-pound Ho-Sang. “It’s great to be part of that franchise. They’re determined to win. You have amazing people supporting you and every single goal that the team has, it’s pretty cool being part of that.”
Ho-Sang played two seasons of AAA minor midget with the Toronto Marlboros. His lot last season, on a minor hockey scale, was akin to a player whose fall birthday means he spends three seasons in junior before entering the NHL draft. He had to fight through added attention from opponents on the ice. He was also subject to close scrutiny from scouts who had already had a big window to watch him the prior season.
In Windsor, Ho-Sang will not have to be the linchpin. Just as current Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall did after joining the Spitfires in 2007, Ho-Sang is shifting from centre to wing. The Spitfires had two pivots, Brady Vail (Montreal Canadiens, fourth round) and Michael Clarke (Colorado Avalanche, fifth), drafted in June. Their 2011 first-rounder, Jordan Maletta, is in his NHL draft season. So is power forward Kerby Rychel, who’s fresh off a 41-goal season and is projected as a first-round NHL pick.
“With wing, there’s less responsiblity and more just get the puck to the centreman and get up the ice,” Ho-Sang says. “There’s less to think about. Windsor has a ton of very capable centremen, so the fact I’d get to play with those guys is very exciting. I’m really excited for the chance to play with Kerby Rychel. He had 41 goals last year. I’m really big on passing. I love to set guys up. I hope I can find chemistry with him. He’s one of the guys who’s opened up to me and explained what I’m in for as a rookie.
“All of my goals are team-oriented,” Ho-Sang adds. “Because if the team does well, it shows the picks and the people they put in place are working.”
Ho-Sang’s preparation for the jump from midget to major junior also involves bulking up. While he’s a rangy 6-foot and 162 pounds, he notes his parents — Jamaican-born father Wayne and Chilean-born mother Ericka — have come in handy with their kitchen know-how.
“My mom’s been a big part of that,” he says. “She has a degree in nutrition so it’s kind of handy. She kind of hides good stuff in my food and she always gives me stuff after workouts that I might not want, but I need to eat it. My mom and dad are great cooks, so that helps.”
1. Whom in the NHL do you really study closely to get an idea of what it takes to be a
“Two people I take a lot from for my game are [Detroit Red Wings centre Pavel] Datsyuk and [Boston Bruins centre] Tyler Seguin [a graduate of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers]. Seguin is more of a trigger guy. Datsyuk’s more shifty and I like to implement both of those [elements] into my game. Tyler Seguin had one of the best plus-minuses in the NHL this year [second with plus-34] and I’ve been told by multiple influential people in the game that a high plus/minus is a big thing. Having a good plus can help me achieve my goals.”
2. Obviously, there is no area of the game you can take for granted at 16, but what’s something specific you really want to improve on as a rookie?
“Defence is the biggest thing. You can make the NHL as a defensive specialist. I want to be really well-rounded so I can adapt to any team in the NHL. Defence is one of those things that’s lost in minor hockey because if you score goals, the coach will just say go out there and score goals. I’m really excited to learn more about that part of the game, having someone teach it to me and break it down properly.”
3. Your father teaches tennis and you dabbled in soccer and basketball, so when did hockey win out over all?
“Right from the start. I played all those other sports, but I always knew hockey was my real first love.
“I love just being on the ice on general. Warren told me, ‘Josh, no ice, gym,’ but the ice is my home away from home.”
4. Outside of family, who has had the biggest effect on you in hockey?
“John Walters [his adviser]. He’s not a part of my family, but he feels like it. He’s been there for me since I was nine. I met him in the funniest way, actually. He was a coach and he swore during a practice with his minor midget team and I was in minor atom and my face was up against the glass. And he came over and he apologized and he said, ‘I’ve heard about you, buddy, keep working, keep moving forward.’ And then he got into the agency business and he was obviously my first choice.
“He calms me down. He knows me not only as a hockey player but as a person and it’s really easy to talk to him about almost anything. He understands, when I’m playing bad, why I’m playing bad. He never really questions my opinions and gives his, which can be hard to find. I appreciate everything he’s done. He’s like a father-brother figure.”
5. Your shootout winner in last summer’s Allstate All-Canadians game (a NHLPA-organized event featuring Canada’s best 15-year-old players) is shown in the promo for this season’s event, is it weird seeing that?
“A lot of people have asked questions about it. It’s pretty cool, being in a commercial at 16. It’s one of those things you see and you don’t believe it and then you’re like, ‘wow, I’m in a commercial.’ They showed it during the ESPYs, which is pretty huge.”
Andy Andreoff on Kings prospects Schumacher, Toffoli and Vey
If you’re looking at a list of the Kings top forward prospects and trying to guess which ones may be playing in LA in a few years, the names Andy Andreoff, Michael Schumacher, Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey are most definitely going to be part of the discussion.
Yet, each brings something different to the table. Toffoli’s the sniper, Vey has smarts, Schumacher brings size and Andreoff…well, he’s the freight train that will run you over to get it all done.
“He’s a team guy, meaning he reads the game and follows it and sees it,” said coach Nelson Emerson, after the Kings’ recently completed Development Camp. “If something is going on on the ice that he needs to deal with, he’s going to deal with it. Plus, he’s got all the skills – he has good hands, he makes plays, he protects the puck well, he can score. But, he’s also tough, he’s tough as nails. He understands that part of the game and that’s a real pleasure to coach and a real pleasure to have in your organization – a kid that will do that when it’s needed.”
Former head coach Terry Murray shared a similar sentiment last summer, describing Andreoff as a ‘pretty gritty guy’ and somebody who’s ‘in everybody’s face right away.’
During training camp there was some discussion about the burly forward spending the season in Manchester. However, in the end, he returned to the OHL for his over-age year. After his Oshawa Generals were eliminated from the playoffs though, he finally made his AHL debut – where he scored two goals in four games for the Monarchs.
He first arrived in LA for Dev Camp last summer, after being selected by the Kings in the third round of the 2011 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-1 winger also attended Rookie Camp with the Kings last fall. So, this time around, things were a bit easier on him.
Having a little bit of experience from last summer helps,” Andreoff shared. “Plus, it’s great to see the guys again. I’m pretty comfortable with them and even got close to some of them. Playing in Manchester helped a lot too, where I got to play with guys like (Robbie) Czarnik and Vey. So, it was good to see those guys again after playing with them a couple months ago.”
On the ice, there was another Monarch he seemed to keep targeting – “Yeah, I was battling with (Nick) Deslauriers. I was finishing my checks on him and having some fun with him. We laughed about it though. Battling with him is pretty fun. He’s a big, stay at home defenseman. But, he has a lot of offense in him too. He works hard in the corners and he’s a really strong, big kid. He’ll do well in Manchester or LA.”
Andreoff was paired up with Toffoli back at the hotel this time around. Did that make things easier or is it a real challenge being roommates with a guy he may be competing with for a roster spot?
“It doesn’t really matter, I don’t think,” said the 21-year old Andreoff. “If we were playing against each other, we’d still be battling. Toffoli’s a joker. He’s pretty funny. He’s a great guy, but it doesn’t really matter. You have to battle for your spot, it doesn’t matter who it is. I also think we’re a little bit different players (he laughed). So, we’re battling for a different spot.”
Prior to camp, Toffoli told MayorsManor it’s much easier to room with Andreoff than play against him. And we talked about their ongoing competition for the best tan, something Toffoli praises Andreoff for.
“He keeps telling me that. But, Ty has great flow. So, I’m a little jealous of that.”
Whether it’s Toffoli or LA’s other prospects from the OHL, Andreoff’s just taking it all in stride.
“I played against Tanner Pearson this season too, he had a great year. I also played against Schumacher and (Collin) Miller, so it was nice to see all those guys out there again as well. But, it’s different seeing them at first, because you played against them and battled against them during the regular season.”
Like Andreoff, Schumacher is also often described as a power forward. Yet, nearly everything about their size and game are completely different. However, they each have an exciting skill set that’s still under development.
“I think he’s a great player,” Andreoff said of Schumacher. “When we played against the Soo, he impressed me. He’s a big forward and wins battles in the corner – and a lot of guys don’t want to go in the corner with a guy who’s 6-foot-5. So, I think he’ll do well when he moves on to being a pro.”
When it comes to Vey, he may not be the quiet guy many have labeled him as.
“He talks a lot,” Andreoff proclaimed. “In the dressing room, he’s probably the most talkative guy in there. He’s a funny kid, good character.”
With Toffoli and Andreoff likely to start next season in Manchester with Vey, the Monarchs look like they’ve become bigger and better almost overnight.
Bowman on Clendening
Hole-in-one at charity tourney wins Gomez new $50,000 car
Anchorage Daily News
Scott Gomez might not have to spend the rest of the summer driving his little sister’s old Nissan.
The Anchorage hockey star fired a hole-in-one in his own charity golf tournament Thursday to win a new $50,000 SUV.
Gomez, a 32-year-old center for the Montreal Canadiens, aced the No. 6 hole at Eagleglen Golf Course, one of four holes that promised a new car from Continental Motors as a reward for a hole-in-one.
“The guy wins a car at his own tournament. Can you believe it?” said Continental Motors owner Marten Martensen.
“I’m still in shock,” he said.
The shot was the talk of the tournament, especially among other pro hockey players competing, guys like Joey Crabb and Tim Wallace of Anchorage. “We can’t stop laughing,” Gomez said.
Gomez, who as the star of the one-day tournament played with a couple of foursomes Thursday, had just joined a group of military men from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson when he made his big shot.
“One of them said, ‘Let’s see if anyone can hit the green,’ ” Gomez said.
Using a six-iron, Gomez hit the ball straight off the tee. “It kept rolling and then it disappeared,” he said.
Martensen said Continental Motors has offered similar prizes for more than a decade and has sponsored holes in the Gomez tournament for four years. This is the first time anyone has ever aced one of the sponsored holes, he said.
Although this is certainly a case of the rich getting richer — Gomez is entering the sixth season of a seven-year, $51.5 million contract — few in Anchorage are likely to complain.
Unassuming, approachable and happy-go-lucky, Gomez has legions of fans here. He starred for East High and the Alaska All-Stars before becoming Alaska’s first NHL star. He has played for two Stanley Cup champions, and both times he shared his day with the Stanley Cup trophy with thousands of fans at the Delaney Park Strip. When the NHL locked out players for the 2004-05 season, Gomez turned down a chance to play for big money in Europe and instead came home and played for the Alaska Aces of the ECHL.
Gomez said he isn’t a particularly good golfer, but the hole-in-one gave him temporary delusions of greatness. When his foursome reached the next hole offering a car for an ace, Gomez was visualizing the improbable.
“I thought, ‘I’m gonna win two cars.’ I really thought I was going to get another one,” he said.
But no. His game actually took a nosedive after No. 6, he said, maybe because too much adrenaline was pumping through his body.
Gomez said he isn’t sure what will happen with the SUV, an Acura MDX. “The Foundation will get it in some form,” he said.
But whether the charity gets the car or a nice fat check might depend on whether Gomez wants to upgrade his summer-time ride.
“My friends say I should keep it,” he said, because what he’s driving now doesn’t quite scream multi-millionaire hockey star.
In Montreal, he said, “a bunch of us are sponsored by BMW,” so that’s what he drives during the NHL season.
But this summer in Anchorage, where Gomez lives during the brief off-season, he’s driving a mid-1990s model Nissan that little sister Natalie used through college.
“I got her a new one for graduating,” he said.
Getting to know Max Iafrate
Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows when it comes to the Washington Capitals, my favorite player of all time is defenseman Al Iafrate.
Everything about the guy — from his blistering slapshot to his gloriously balding mullet — made him almost too good to be true. While he played less than four full seasons in Washington, Iafrate remains a fan favorite with the locals all these years later because of just how uniquely gifted he was.
Needless to say, when I heard that his son, defenseman Max Iafrate, was invited to the Caps Development Camp it was only a matter of time before I tracked the kid down to chat with him. Having interviewed his father a few years ago after a Caps Convention, I was interested to learn more about the next generation of Iafrate.
After spending some time with the kid, I walked away impressed with his quiet confidence. He’s young and has a ways to go before we’ll know for sure whether or not he’s an NHL player, but after chatting with him, it’s tough not to want to pull for the guy.
During his time with the Kitchener Rangers in the Ontario Hockey League, the junior Iafrate has been known as a stay-at-home defenseman. While he doesn’t have a problem with his role on the squad, he was eager to show people there’s more to his game during his time at Caps Development Camp.
“That’s what they asked me to do,” he said. “You’ve got Ryan Murphy [the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft] in front of you and the guy puts up 70 points a year, so that was my job. Even if he doesn’t makes the jump to the NHL this year, I think I’ll have an increased offensive role.”
Caps fans who attended the team’s development camp got a glimpse of how many different ways you’re able to contribute. Not only did you drop the gloves twice, but you also showed some offensive flair by jumping up into the play and assisting on Red Team forward Gregory Miller’s overtime winner in a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the White Team during the final scrimmage of camp.
“Yeah, I’m more confident in my skating and stick handling than maybe I’ve been in the past,” said Iafrate, who is listed at 6-foot tall and 220 lbs. “I’ve been working on getting in better shape because I think the better your conditioning, the more enhanced your skills are. It’s definitely more fun out there when you’re making plays because you’re moving your feet.”
What do you take away from an experience like this?
“It helps get you in really good hockey shape. I learned a lot of new stuff in the weight room and I earned an invite back to the rookie camp if there’s no lockout,” Iafrate said. “So hopefully there’s no lockout and hopefully I can learn even more from there.”
What was it like working with coach Adam Oates?
“We talked a lot,” he said. “If they’re not talking to you, then they don’t really care about you, so it was good. He wants me to switch my curve to Mike Green’s stick. That’s never a bad thing when they want you to use the stick of one of the best offensive defensemen out there.”
When I talked to Iafrate at the conclusion of development camp, he was clearly in a good mood. Between getting invaluable time with an NHL club and doing well enough to earn another trip back to Washington, he was pretty content with everything. The experience had to be even more gratifying considering he was one of the highest-rated prospects in the 2012 NHL Draft who failed to hear his name called.
“I was invited to the combine and when that happens, you usually get drafted,” he said. “I was considered one of the top 100 prospects or whatever going in, but I didn’t get interviewed by that many teams. Once it was over and I didn’t get drafted, I didn’t really take it that hard. I mean, what’s the point of getting down about it. There wasn’t anything I could do about it.
“But right after the draft, my agent called and said the Caps had invited me to camp,” Iafrate continued. “This is one of my favorite teams — especially since my dad’s best years were here. So I was happy to come out here to an organization with so many skilled players. Hopefully they’ll win the Cup soon and I’ll be a part of it.”
Speaking of your father, how much of his playing career do you remember?
“Just his time in San Jose at the tail end of his career,” he said. “I remember being around the rink a little bit towards the end before he retired. But I’ve heard stories about his time with the Capitals. Those were the most fun playing days he had.”
Growing up, how involved was he with you when you decided to start playing hockey?
“Yeah, he taught me all of the skills and the right way to play the game,” Iafrate said. “He was great with the skill stuff, but I think you need a coach to teach you all of the positional stuff. Even though he was in the NHL, I think it’s hard to teach that stuff when you’re not there every day practicing it anymore.”
I want to go back to something you said earlier. I can’t help but chuckle a little bit when I hear you talk about how important conditioning is when your father was famously known for chain smoking in between periods of play.
(Laughs.) “Yeah, he smoked cigarettes, but he was a freak of nature,” he said. “He was 6-foot-4 and 240 lbs. with no body fat on him. He could run like the wind and probably could have played football if he wanted to. He was definitely a freak athlete.”
I interviewed your dad a few years ago and he said if he had the right stick, he could still blast a slapshot like the good old days.That sound about right to you?
“I remember back when I was like eight, he did a segment with TSN where he shot 92 miles per hour just standing there with flip flops on,” he said.
And how does your slapshot compare to your father’s?
“I’ve never got timed, but I know someone got 96 mph in the prospects game,” Iafrate said. “I could probably get 100. But honestly, I don’t think slapshots are used as much these days. Maybe the quarterback of the powerplay gets to tee it up, but goalies are so good now it’s much tougher to score from the point.”
Your father aside, which NHL player do you model your game after?
“I like [Phoenix defenseman] Keith Yandle,” he said. “He’s pretty underrated, but he’s good for 10-12 goals and 40 points a year. He’s an all-around player and we’re about the same size, so I like his game a lot.”
You turned a few heads this week by dropping the gloves. What prompted you to throw down with Brent Tate during the final scrimmage?
“I got a concussion earlier in the year, so I don’t really like getting hit in the head,” Iafrate said. “I mean, it’s not that hard to hit a guy in the head when he’s looking down to get the puck behind the net. It doesn’t really take skill to smoke someone in the head with an elbow. I have respect for guys who can dish out open-ice hits, but not that. After he hit me, I ran him and then he called me out.
“I fought eight times my rookie year and five times last year,” he continued. “It’s part of my game, if I need to. I’ll do it if I need to, but I don’t go out looking for it.”
So where do you go from here?
“I go back to training and then hope there’s no lockout so I can come back out to rookie camp,” he said. “I’d love to eventually earn a contract with the Capitals. They invited me out and gave me a chance, so I’d love to end up here.”
The one thing that stood out during our conversation was the part when Iafrate said Oates told him to switch to a different stick. While the coach didn’t want to talk about the performance of particular players during the camp, I was still curious about his thought process.
“I suggested it — I don’t tell them,” Oates said. “These guys are playing at a high level and they got here for a reason. When I watch guys play and I see something where I feel their tool is letting them down — not their skill level or where they are in the game — if I think it will help them, I’ll present it to them. Video doesn’t lie, and I saw a couple things with him.
“I used Mike’s footage the last couple years in New Jersey showing the D how to corral the puck, move a puck and have the poise back there,” said Oates.
And who knows, maybe changing sticks will be exactly what Iafrate needs to take his game to the next level. If everything works out, then one day he might actually get the chance to play for Oates here in Washington.
If that happens, I’d like to humbly ask that the kid be given No. 34. If for no other reason than to see that name and number taking the ice for the Caps one more time.
Seguin mentoring next generation
Tyler Seguin is mentoring the next generation of young NHL players as part of the Allstate All-Canadians mentorship program’s mentorship camp. Forty-two bantam players (with 1997 birthdays) from all over Canada were selected for an intensive camp that teaches skills both on and off the ice, culminating in the Mentorship Cup, which is broadcast on TSN. The players are split into two teams, Team Hall and Team Tavares (for two other young NHL stars helping to lead the way, Taylor Hall and John Tavares). Seguin showed up to help lead the players in a set of on-ice drills.