Nail Yakupov named NHL Rookie of the Month for April (Larionov)
Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov, who led all rookies with 11 goals and 15 points in 14 games, has been named the NHL Rookie of the Month for April.
Yakupov edged Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk (6-6—12 in 14 games), Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz (3-8—11 in 14 games), Calgary Flames left wing Sven Baertschi (3-8—11 in 10 games), Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (4-4—8 in 13 games) and Dallas Stars right wing Alex Chiasson (6-1—7 in seven games) for the honor.
Yakupov, 19, scored in seven of his 14 games, including his first career hat trick in Edmonton’s season finale April 27 vs. Vancouver. He had five multi-point efforts and finished the month with a +7 rating.
Selected by the Oilers with the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Yakupov led all rookies with 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games this season. He also ranked first among freshmen skaters in power-play goals (6) and shooting percentage (21.0%). Yakupov joins St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (January), Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (February) and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin (March) as Rookie of the Month winners this season.
Nail Yakupov named NHL Third Star of the Week (Larionov)
Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov earned the NHL’s Third Star honour as part of the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending April 28.
Yakupov, 19, scored an NHL-best six goals in four games to help the Oilers finish the season with a pair of victories. He was held off the scoresheet in a 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks April 22, but bounced back with his 12th goal of the season in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks April 24.
The 5’11”, 184-pound winger, posted five goals in the final two games of the season; scoring two goals in a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild April 26 and recording his first career hat trick in a 7-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks April 27.
Galchenyuk wins Molson Cup for April (Larionov)
MONTREAL – Goaltender Carey Price is the Montreal Canadiens Molson Cup Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season, while forward Alex Galchenyuk is the Molson Cup recipient for the April segment.
Born in Anahim Lake, British Columbia, Price, the Canadiens’ Player-of-the-Month in February, finished ahead of teammates Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk.
The netminder played 39 games during the regular season, for a career total of 310, ranking him eighth on the team’s all-time list for most games played by a goaltender. Price posted a record of 21 wins, 13 losses and 4 overtime/shootout losses. He maintained a 2.59 goals-against-average, while blocking 921 of the 1,018 shots he faced for a .905 save percentage. Price recorded three shutouts in 2012-13, for a total of 19 in his career, ranking him ninth in team history.
Galchenyuk earned the last segment of the season, finishing ahead of Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native recorded 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) with a +5 differential in 14 games in April. One of his tallies was a game-winning goal.
Galchenyuk post-practice (Larionov)
Hershey Bears F Peter LeBlanc tied for AHL playoff scoring lead
Hershey centerman Peter LeBlanc (0-5-5) is tied for the AHL playoff scoring lead. “Things have been going well lately and the boys have been putting the puck in the net,” LeBlanc said. “The power play’s been clicking well, so it’s been good.” LeBlanc produced 8-10-18 in 33 regular-season games with Hershey. “He’s done a real good job on the power play,” Bears head coach Mark French said. “He’s a guy who put up real good numbers last year in Rockford. I thought when he first came here, offensively you could see some chances coming, but they weren’t going in. Late in the season, he seemed to get hot, and now he’s staying hot.”
Adam Clendening: Exit Interview
Canadiens’ rookie duo ready to take on the playoffs (Larionov)
BROSSARD, Quebec — Montreal Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk laughed when asked about the scruff of growth on his cheeks and neck — the result, he claims, of going only two weeks without shaving.
Clearly, the NHL’s youngest participant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is ready.
“I think if I shaved before the playoffs, even if we go really far, there won’t be anything on me,” Galchenyuk said. “So I’m probably not going to shave.”
A day later, fellow rookie Brendan Gallagher was asked the same question.
He immediately accused his road roommate of cheating, claiming it’s been more like two months since Galchenyuk last shaved.
“I’m going to be the worst, I’d expect, in the League,” Gallagher said.
The Canadiens’ pair of dynamic rookie forwards can indulge in these light-hearted problems only because their play on the ice has been anything but a problem for their team this season.
In fact, it could be argued the emergence of Gallagher, 20, and Galchenyuk, 19, is the biggest reason the Canadiens were able to turn things around so quickly from the nightmare of last season, giving coach Michel Therrien a balanced attack from his forwards that gave opposing coaches matchup problems all season.
The two likely will begin the Canadiens’ first-round playoff matchup against the Ottawa Senators playing on either side of center Lars Eller, who at 23 is the grizzled veteran of the line.
The young trio is labeled as Montreal’s third line, but none of its members have played like third-liners of late. Eller and Galchenyuk were Montreal’s two best forwards in April, with 13 and 12 points, respectively, in 14 games. Gallagher’s biggest strength this season has been his consistency, but he had a little burst after being moved onto Eller’s line in the team’s second-to-last game, getting two goals and an assist in his final two outings.
“We’ve been playing mostly against other teams’ third and fourth lines, I believe,” Eller said. “I don’t know if other coaches have tried to match lines that hard, but we take whatever comes our way. We don’t worry too much about the opposition; it’s really about what we’re going to do. I truly believe that.”
Eller and Galchenyuk have been playing together practically the entire season. Gallagher was the third member of that line early in the season before being moved to a line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais before being reunited with Eller during a 4-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets last Thursday.
In terms of total points, Montreal’s “third” line was its most productive this season despite the fact Eller and Galchenyuk barely have been used on the power play. Eller set a career high with 30 points, Gallagher had 28 and Galchenyuk 27. When it came to even-strength points, Galchenyuk was second on the Canadiens with 26, Eller third at 25 and Gallagher fourth at 24.
“We’re young, we’ve got a lot of energy and we’re just trying to translate it to the ice and get the momentum going for our team,” Galchenyuk said. “We just need to keep doing that in the playoffs.”
The one who has brought the most energy to the team all season, undoubtedly, has been Gallagher.
Listed at 5-foot-9, 178 pounds, Gallagher plays as if he is 6 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, crashing the net shift after shift and battling far larger defensemen for pucks along the boards — and coming out with them on his stick more often than not.
Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban noted how the team would be fine if everyone played like Gallagher. Indeed, his game is tailor-made for the playoffs.
“The good part about my game is it doesn’t have to change at all. I can play the same way, and it just makes it that much more fun,” Gallagher said, flashing his ever-present smile that drives opponents nuts on the ice but makes him so engaging off it. “I’m going to focus on playing the same way and doing the same thing I’ve always done. That said, in the playoffs everything matters that much more. I’m looking forward to it.”
As for Galchenyuk, his game has been more of a work in progress all season as he adjusted to the speed and strength of NHL players. Gallagher had the advantage of spending the lockout playing in the American Hockey League, but Galchenyuk jumped to the Canadiens after starting the season with his junior team, the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, then helping the United States win the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
With his 33 OHL games, seven at the WJC and 48 games with the Canadiens, Galchenyuk’s 88 games played this season is by far the most of his career — and significantly more than the eight he played last season (six in the OHL playoffs) following a preseason knee injury.
Except rather than fade down the stretch, Galchenyuk got stronger.
“I think I just felt more comfortable and adjusted to the speed of the game,” Galchenyuk said. “I’m just trying to go out there and be the player I can be and create offense.”
Therrien deserves a good deal of credit for how he managed the integration of Galchenyuk and Gallagher into the NHL, and he’s doing the same thing again late in the season with the addition of rookie defenseman Jarred Tinordi to the Canadiens’ top six on the blue line. However, the coach said it is the team’s makeup that deserves the most credit, with a healthy mix of youth, young veterans Subban, Pacioretty and Josh Gorges, and older veterans Brian Gionta and Andrei Markov to help guide the kids along the way.
“I like the chemistry of our team,” Therrien said. “We have some good veterans who are taking care of those young kids, and we’ve got some great young kids with great work habits who listen to veterans, listen to coaches. I believe that chemistry is very important to a hockey team, and our team has that.
“I believe chemistry brought us to where we are right now.”
And the final, missing ingredients to that chemistry were two young forwards who have performed so well on the ice that their biggest concern heading into the biggest tournament of their lives is facial hair.
Island products take aim at the Stanley Cup
Matt Irwin of Brentwood Bay acknowledges it is surreal that his first career Stanley Cup playoff game tonight will be in his home province against the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s pretty exciting to be playing against the team you grew up watching,” said the San Jose rookie defenceman by phone Tuesday before the Sharks departed California.
“The key for us is to play our style — our North-South game — and get it in deep,” said the six-foot-one, 25-year-old, who had six goals, 12 points and a minus-one rating in 38 games.
It’ll be a best-of-seven series of mixed emotions for family and friends on the Island.
Dad Mike Irwin quipped: “We can’t lose in this series.”
Yet blood is thicker than Canuck Nation.
“But obviously, we’re cheering for the Sharks,” said Mike Irwin, who retired as staff sergeant after a long career with the Saanich Police.
Meanwhile, two other Island-produced defencemen head into the Stanley Cup playoffs, including Minnesota Wild veteran Clayton Stoner from Port McNeill. Another may change the antipathy toward Toronto many on the Island claim to hold. Ryan O’Byrne of Victoria will skate with the former hapless Maple Leafs, as they make their first post-season appearance in nine years.
“There is so much excitement, energy and passion around [Toronto] … it’s a lot of fun,” said O’Byrne, the six-season NHL veteran, who was traded to the Maple Leafs mid-season from the Colorado Avalanche.
“The city is going nuts.”
With eight defencemen on the Maple Leafs roster heading into the series against the Boston Bruins, O’Byrne will be a game-time decision but he’s taking it in stride like a pro.
“I’m a professional and have to stay ready,” he said by phone from Boston.
“If I get in, I’ll play my game, which is simple, physical hockey. My 19 games of NHL playoff experience with Montreal, including making the  Eastern final, can’t be discounted.”
Both Irwin and O’Byrne are revealing case studies of players who eschewed the major-junior WHL route in favour of the Junior A B.C. Hockey League League, O’Byrne through the Victoria Salsa (now Grizzlies) and Nanaimo Clippers and Irwin through the Clippers.
Irwin got cut from more rep teams than he cares to remember, was never selected in the Bantam draft, and went through Junior B with the Saanich Braves. He never played spring or summer hockey but instead baseball with Jamie Benn who is also from the Saanich Peninsula — and now a highly-paid forward with the NHL’s Dallas Stars — while dads Mike Irwin and Randy Benn coached on the diamond.
“Staying away from hockey in the summers, and playing baseball, kept me fresh for hockey,” said Matt Irwin. “It was a big key as to why I never got sick of hockey.”
These certainly weren’t those pushy hockey families of gaudy Canadian hockey lore.
“My parents never forced me,” said Matt Irwin.
There is certainly a lesson in that.
“My advice to parents is: ‘Don’t go crazy.’ I never ever thought, in all those years of youth hockey, that I had a kid that was going to the NHL, much less Junior A hockey,” said Mike Irwin.
“If the talent is there, it will be found.”
It wasn’t until Matt went to Nanaimo, and played three seasons in the BCHL with the Clippers, that his talent was was truly discovered.
“Bill Bestwick [then Clippers head coach/GM] really lit a fire under Matt and told him he could do this,” said Mike Irwin.
“Bill instilled that confidence in Matt.”
The rise was slow-building, but had become so startlingly evident, that Irwin was signed by the Sharks after just two years in the NCAA at Umass-Amherst and assigned to the Worcester Sharks of the AHL in 2010, where he played through the beginning of this season before the NHL lockout ended.
But the decision to depart the NCAA, which meant leaving school, was wrenching for the family. What if pro hockey didn’t pan out?
Irwin promised his parents he will complete his business degree, which he plans to do long-distance through the University of Phoenix. “You never know how long hockey will last,” said Irwin.
But after making a significant rookie impact, this is a ride that could last awhile for Irwin.
“In the NHL, the speed is quicker … it’s the biggest stage and everything is magnified,” he said.
Not that much fazes this guy. His dad describes him as “boring” but in a good way. “He’s so laid back that nothing gets to him,” said Mike Irwin.
Not even his old favourite Canucks team.
Nail Yakupov Year-End Interview (Larionov)
Tyler Seguin matures into pressure-packed role
In his previous two NHL postseasons, Tyler Seguin was still just the new kid, a young man with tremendous potential and a lot to learn about life, on and off the ice, in the big leagues.
Come playoff time, any good hockey person knew better than to expect too much from a youngster like Seguin. It wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to ask a teenager to step up and deliver amid the heightened intensity and pressure of the playoffs.
But Seguin’s status has changed as the Bruins face off tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Garden. He’s not the young, raw kid anymore — even if he is just two months past his 21st birthday — but a player the B’s desperately need to be very good.
In recent Bruins-Maple Leafs matchups, there’s been so much pressure on Toronto winger Phil Kessel; now he’s got company in that regard, as a major spotlight will be focused on Seguin.
In the 2011 playoffs, capping his rookie season, Seguin was a healthy scratch in the first two rounds. He was forced into the lineup at the start of the conference finals vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning by Patrice Bergeron’s minor concussion, and responded with a goal and assist in his first game. Seguin then added two goals and two assists in his second game.
Seguin’s contributions had a profound impact on the 2011 playoff run. Indeed, it could be argued that there would have been no Stanley Cup but for what the then-19-year-old was able to do.
It was an unexpected delight for the team, a bonus. This time around, the B’s need that sort of thing from Seguin — and more of it. There was no pressure on him to produce back then. Now, with 20 playoff games (five goals, five assists) on his resume, there’s plenty of pressure.
“I think Tyler understands that,” Bruins president Cam Neely said as he watched practice yesterday at the Garden. “This is a couple of years removed from when he stepped into the playoffs against Tampa and had that great game for us. I know that he likes to be counted on and relied upon. It’s really going to be up to him to show what he can do. He’s got the skill set for it, and he’s got the experience of what it is to play NHL playoff hockey.”
This season, Seguin clearly made progress in becoming a more complete pro player, posting 16-16-32 totals and a plus-23. A guy who used to turn away from contact now instigates it. He backchecks, he blocks shots, he generally has come to understand the game has to be played not just with the puck, but also without it.
Seguin enters his third postseason much better equipped than in his first two.
“I think that’s a good way to put it: better equipped,” Seguin said. “I feel like I have more experience. I’ve tried to advance and complete my game as a forward, at both ends of the ice. So with the game I play now, I’m more confident going into the first-round series than I was last year.”
Seguin and linemates Bergeron and Brad Marchand went out for steak dinners Monday night in the Seaport District, and they talked about the role the Bruins need them to play. The line carried the team much of the first two months of the 48-game season, then tailed off.
“I don’t know if I can say any of us had the greatest of years like we wanted to,” Seguin said. “It was a very up-and-down season for us as individuals and as a unit. We went out and sat down and talked about it over dinner. I think we’re going to jell right back and get the consistency back.”
Not for the first time, Neely said he wants to see Seguin shoot more — and not be quite so unselfish in trying to set up his mates.
“The way I look at is, sometimes it’s being selfish not to shoot the puck,” Neely said. “That whole line can be too unselfish. Tyler has speed that I’d like to see him use more on the outside, to put himself in positions to shoot the puck — especially with March and Bergy driving to the net. It would create more scoring opportunities for that line.”
Seguin knows it.
“There are times when I have the chance to bear down and shoot the puck hard, and I make an extra play,” he said. “Maybe on a 2-on-1, shoot it low, instead of trying to make that fancy pass.”
Questioned extensively about his past allegiance to the Maple Leafs as an Ontario native, Seguin admitted, “It’s kind of almost a weird feeling, maybe a little bittersweet. I grew up watching them my whole life. I’m excited they made the playoffs. They had a great year. I’m excited to be playing them.”
And in a position to play a key role in sending them home disappointed.
Seguin ready for spotlight against Kessel, Leafs
BOSTON — When the 2012-13 regular season ended and the final standings paired the Boston Bruins against the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series, the matchup made an impact on the Seguin family.
“I don’t know if they were that happy,” Bruins forward Tyler Seguin said of his family’s reaction. “My sisters weren’t the happiest. They’ve got to go to school and deal with it all, unlike me. But I don’t think they care too much. They’re excited that we’re in the playoffs, first of all, and they’re excited that we’re playing them.”
Seguin, from Brampton, Ontario, grew up rooting for the Maple Leafs. Now he’ll try to make Toronto’s first appearance in the playoffs since 2004 a short one. Game 1 of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series is Wednesday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, CNBC).
If history is any guide, Seguin should play a huge role in his current team’s attempt to beat his childhood rooting interest.
In 16 regular-season games against the Maple Leafs, Seguin has 10 goals and 16 points. That’s the most points the 21-year-old has accumulated against any opponent in his three-season NHL career. He admitted after practice Tuesday the games against the Maple Leafs are “something extra special,” and he’s not the only one who feels that way.
In addition to being from the Toronto area, Seguin was selected by the Bruins with a draft pick that originally belonged to the Maple Leafs. The pick, which wound up No. 2 in the 2010 NHL Draft, was part of the package Toronto traded to Boston in exchange for forward Phil Kessel. The Bruins used two other picks acquired in the deal to select forward prospect Jared Knight in the third round in 2010 and defenseman Dougie Hamilton in the first round of the 2011 draft. Games between the Bruins and Maple Leafs in Boston often feature the crowd mocking Toronto’s sniper with chants of “Thank You Kessel!” and booing him mercilessly.
Every Maple Leafs-Bruins game since the Kessel trade has felt like a referendum on that deal. Bruins linemate Brad Marchand said Seguin thrives on the spotlight.
“I think he knows a lot of people are watching and a lot of things are expected of him when we’re playing against Toronto,” Marchand said. “The fact that he came with their pick and he’s from there, he’s got so much friends and family there, and he’s also a superstar. I think all those things combined, he’s expected to bring a lot and he rises to the occasion.”
Seguin’s 16 goals in 48 games this season put him on pace to just about match his 29 goals from a season ago over an 82-game schedule. However, he scored once in the final seven regular-season games and the Bruins’ offense as a whole stumbled to the finish line. Now it’s up to Seguin to make sure those struggles don’t carry over into the postseason. Against the Washington Capitals in the first round last year — a series the Bruins lost in seven games — it took him until Game 6 to get on the score sheet.
“I think that was almost kind of how things have gone this year, not being able to finish off chances and bury the puck,” Seguin said. “But I thought, it’s a year ago now, but I think I was playing well, I just couldn’t score too much. And then the last few games it started paying off and it was too little too late. So I think when I look at this first-round series, it’s about getting off to a better start for myself.”
For most of the first half of the season, Seguin, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron formed Boston’s most consistent line during their second season together. Injuries and problems on the other lines, though, forced some juggling by Bruins coach Claude Julien. Now it appears that line will be reunited against Toronto.
It’s a line that will be counted on to produce and keep the opponent’s top scorers off the board. And the trio has thrived because Seguin has improved enough as an all-round player to hang with his more-experienced teammates.
“I think he’s matured a lot, but also he’s learned to play both sides of the ice,” Bergeron said. “So that really makes him a better player. I think that goes a long way when you’re able to do that and do the little things, the little details, to get your linemates the puck or get the puck out of the zone, whatever it is. It makes a huge difference. And, yeah, I feel he’s improved in all those aspects that you don’t necessarily notice, but as a player and as a linemate it helps a lot.”
Seguin’s continued growth into an upper-echelon player who could continue to decimate the Maple Leafs won’t make life any easier on his sisters and family back home. But in Boston, Seguin’s play makes everyone thankful.
“I don’t know if I can say any of us had the year that we wanted to. It was a very up-and-down year for us as individuals and as a unit,” Seguin said. “But I think us as a line, when we were going, we stayed consistent for a while until things … we had injuries, guys started going out of the lineup and things started to get switched around. So I think now that we know we’re back together, we went and sat down and talked about it over dinner and I think we’re going to jell right back again and get that consistency back. So this will be a great time.”
Peter LeBlanc heating up at the right time for the Hershey Bears
HERSHEY — Peter LeBlanc’s first two pro hockey seasons came and went without the experience of playing in the postseason.
This season, his third as a pro, he’s made it to the playoffs with the Hershey Bears.
Any trepidation he might have had about about dealing with the increased pressure to produce points in the playoffs has gone out the window quickly.
LeBlanc, 25, picked up three assists in the Bears’ 5-4 OT win over the Providence Bruins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series last Sunday in Rhode Island and had two in Game 1 of the series, giving him a team-leading five points heading into Saturday’s Game 3.
LeBlanc and the Bears can clinch the best-of-five series with a win Saturday (opening faceoff, 7 p.m.).
LeBlanc (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) was acquired by the Bears from Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks organization) for Matt Beaudoin on Jan. 31. He scored 24 goals for the IceHogs last season but only four in 34 games prior to the trade this season. The disparity in his output could be traced to Rockford having deeper scoring depth during the NHL lockout.
LeBlanc, a seventh-round draft pick (186th overall) by the Blackhawks in 2006, scored eight goals and assisted on 10 more in his 18 regular-season games with the Bears.
Leblanc’s two assists in Game 1, one on the power play, helped the Bears build a 4-0 lead. In Game 2, LeBlanc’s pass set up Ryan Stoa’s breakaway goal just 3:14 into the game to put Hershey up 1-0 in a series where strong starts have bolstered the Bears.
“I got a pass from (Julien) Brouillette and I saw Stoa streaking down the wing,” LeBlanc said. “Their defenseman played me instead of Stoa so I fed him an area pass and he made a great move on the breakaway.”
LeBlanc has certainly helped the Bears’ power play, which has scored in five of their 10 chances over the first two games of the series. Three of LeBlanc’s five points have come on power play goals, including Jon DiSalvatore’s game-winner in Game 2.
“When we acquired him, he was having a bit of a down year for a number of reasons,” said Hershey coach Mark French. “He didn’t have a lot of offensive confidence when he got here but it’s grown. He got hot in the last two weeks of the season and, fortunately for us, he’s stayed hot.”
LeBlanc did not get a lot of power play time in Rockford. Now that he has in Hershey, it’s helping his five-on-five game as well.
“You get more touches of the puck on the power play so when you’re playing five-on-five, you’re more comfortable with the puck,” French said. “Plus, with goal-scoring, guys get streaky and he’s on one for us right now.”
Stoa has been playing on a forward line with LeBlanc fairly consistently since LeBlanc arrived in Hershey. Matching the two has worked out well.
“Peter is easy to play with and is a smart player,” Stoa said. “We’ve been close to putting pucks in the net for a long time. They seem to be going in right now.”
LeBlanc may get a new linemate to pass the puck to on Saturday with heralded rookie Tom Wilson joining the Bears. Wilson, the Washington Capitals’ first-round selection (16th overall) in the 2012 draft, comes to Hershey after his junior team, the Plymouth Whalers, were eliminated from the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
Wilson (6-4, 210), a right wing, skated on a line with LeBlanc and Stoa in practice Thursday at the Giant Center.
“He’s a big body,” French said. “He plays an abrasive style. You wouldn’t have to ask him to play physically and he has a bit of a mean streak in him. He also has some pretty good skill.”
Wilson had nine goals and eight assists in 12 playoff games for Plymouth.
LeBlanc will be glad to distribute the puck to any of his wingers, hoping the passes lead to goals.
“Going to Providence and stealing two games is obviously huge for us but it means nothing unless we finish it off this weekend,” LeBlanc said. “We don’t want to give them any confidence or motivation. The start (of the game) is big. If we get all over them, we can put them in panic mode.”
Something that LeBlanc, despite his limited playoff experience, has managed to avoid so far.
Canadiens rookies rely on fathers for support (Larionov)
After finishing last in the Eastern Conference last season, the Canadiens have already punched their ticket to the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, thanks in large part to the contributions of rookie forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.
Entering Saturday, 20-year-old Gallagher ranked second among NHL rookies with 13 goals, and 19-year-old Galchenyuk ranked second among first-year players with 15 assists. But their roads to Montreal couldn’t have been more different.
A standout since the age of 13, Galchenyuk was the first player taken in the 2010 Ontario Hockey League draft before being selected third in the 2013 NHL Draft. Undersized, Gallagher was taken in the ninth round of the Western Hockey League draft before the Canadiens selected him in the fifth round, No. 147, at the 2010 NHL Draft.
But there is one major similarity in their divergent paths to Bell Centre: the presence and sizeable role of their fathers.
“We have a lot of talks. And not just about hockey. ‘Are you healthy? Are you happy? Any questions for your parents?’” Ian Gallagher said. “There isn’t a lot of advice that comes from us in terms of performance. That’s left to their team. In terms of mental health and mental wellness and general approach to life, we have plenty of conversations.”
As the longtime strength and conditioning coach of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, the team that selected Brendan 195th in 2007, Ian Gallagher was able to work with his son for four years. At the same time, Alex Galchenyuk Sr. was grooming one of the world’s top prospects. The elder Galchenyuk started coaching his son with the Dynamo Moscow development program, guiding a 13-year-old prodigy who would star on a team made up of players a year older. Galchenyuk Sr. would continue to coach his son in Chicago midget hockey and joined the Sarnia Sting’s coaching staff when the team selected Alex Jr. first in 2010.
“I kind of help him. I don’t push him. I just share information and he reacts. He’ll ask me ‘What’s a better way to this, this and this?’” said Galchenyuk Sr., who admits he was surprised to see his son make the Canadiens roster as an 18-year-old. “I didn’t expect that. But I had a good feeling. His last game before [competing for the United States at the] World Juniors, he got five points and dominated. In my head, I thought it was probably the last game for him in junior.”
Gallagher wasn’t nearly as hands-on with his son’s junior hockey development. In fact, he was somewhat wary when the Giants added his son to their roster.
“It’s just uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to do things with players that are not necessarily something that parents agree with but are in the interest of the program,” Gallagher said. “I think everybody made the best of it and ultimately benefitted from it. From a selfish point of view, it’s nice to have your son at home while he plays junior hockey.”
The rookies have endeared themselves to the Montreal fans this season. After starting the season as a healthy scratch, Gallagher has become a favorite thanks mostly to the fearlessness and energy he’s demonstrated on the ice. They are qualities his father identified at a young age.
“That’s something that I think is part of Brendan’s identity. He likes to compete and he enjoys competition,” Ian Gallagher said. “He likes to be successful in competition. In order to do that, you have to pay a price. I don’t think he looks at himself as sacrificing any more than anyone else on the team.”
While Gallagher has often been portrayed as the hard-working underdog, Galchenyuk has been making headlines for years. Adding the 2013 World Junior title to his formidable resume, Galchenyuk has enjoyed incredible success at a young age. But it hasn’t come without hard work for the Milwaukee-born player, who lives with his mother and older sister in Montreal.
“People don’t realize how hard he works. He is staying focused. He’s controlling what he is doing,” Galchenyuk Sr. said. “It’s not like other teenagers. He has practice and his individual stuff. He controls what he eats always. He’s got his own menu and his mom and his sister cook for him. It was very hard for him to stop drinking Coke.”
Much like their sons, Gallagher and Galchenyuk Sr. enjoyed different careers playing hockey. Gallagher played Junior A but describes himself as having “no chance of being a professional in the sport.” Galchenyuk Sr. played for Dynamo Moscow as well as the fearsome Soviet national team before coming to the United States to play for the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League.
Entering the playoffs, the two Canadiens rookies have provided stability for one another. Together they’ll be sharing the experience of competing for the Stanley Cup for the first time.
“They are friends. It makes him adapt quicker. Even in the locker room and in practice and in games,” Galchenyuk Sr. said. “It’s better if two young players have good communication off ice and on ice. It always helps.”
Their backgrounds may be wildly different, but Gallagher shares Galchenyuk Sr.’s assessment of the bond their sons now share in Montreal.
“The fact that they’re experiencing the exact same things for the first time together is tremendously helpful,” Gallagher said. “Brendan talks about what a good person and a good player [Galchenyuk] is. That also makes it very comforting.”
Tyler Seguin’s be-Leaf tested
As a child, Tyler Seguin frequently sat in the stands at the Air Canada Centre with his father Paul. He cheered, envisioned himself on the ice, and hoped for a Toronto Maple Leafs win and eventual playoff run.
Seguin got his wish. He’s in the NHL and was on the ice last night as the Maple Leafs made the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. But rather than wearing blue and white, he wears black and gold as his Bruins locked horns with Toronto in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Though his loyalty changed, Seguin said the series still is sentimental.
“It was my hometown. So I’d go to Leaf games all the time,” Seguin said prior to the game. “When we go and play at the ACC, I’ll kind of look up at some sections where I know I was sitting growing up as a kid with my dad. I grew up hoping we’d at least make the playoffs and here we are playing against (the Bruins). It’s a cool experience.”
Seguin never forgot his roots. When he was 13 he played at the Westwood Arena for the Toronto Young Nationals, 19 miles from the Air Canada Centre. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, in his rookie season, Seguin brought the Cup back to Toronto and to Westwood for other potential pro prospects to see.
But with the nostalgia that a series with Toronto brings, there’s also the ever-popular comparison with Phil Kessel.
In 2009, the Bruins traded Kessel to the Maple Leafs for a 2010 first-round pick, a 2010 second-round pick, and a 2011 first-round pick. Neither the Bruins nor the Maple Leafs knew what would become of the draft picks, but the B’s emerged with Seguin and another Toronto native Dougie Hamilton with those chips.
Seguin doesn’t believe comparisons to Kessel are justified.
“It’s not like they knew I was going to be the pick. It was just a pick and it happened to be me and Dougie,” Seguin said. “I guess it’s going to be linked just because it’s what people want to talk about and have stories. But other than that, I think Phil is a great player and I definitely have respect for him on the ice. I’ve met him a few times off the ice. He’s a good guy.”
As he skated last night, Seguin was living his dream, only this one includes the twist of a Toronto loss.
“It’s an exciting experience, but I want to take it as just a playoff run,” Seguin said. “(It’s) not about who you’re playing. You’ve got to come out and make sure you’re ready.”
Galchenyuk’s First Playoff Point (Larionov)
Thiessen fine with short notice
During the first two games of the series against the Binghamton Senators, Jeff Zatkoff stopped 69 of 73 shots to guide the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a pair of wins.
For Thursday’s Game 3, however, Zatkoff was a late scratch.
In his place stood Brad Thiessen and his 25 games of playoff experience.
Call it a luxury, having a veteran backup to turn to in case number one can’t go.
“For sure. When (head coach John) Hynes gives the tap to the other guy, I’m sure he feels like it’s a luxury as well,” said center Trevor Smith.
Even if that starting nod comes a bit late.
Zatkoff practiced in full on Wednesday, but was a no-show on Thursday when the team skated onto the ice for warm-ups. Hynes said the team was monitoring Zatkoff’s condition late Wednesday night, and he described it as “pre-existing” and “nothing serious.”
Anyhow, it was enough to give the start to Thiessen – a decision that wasn’t made until five hours before the start of Thursday’s Game 3.
Before then, Thiessen spent the last couple of weeks wondering if he had played his last game as a Penguin.
“It crossed my mind a little bit. Maybe the last game of the season,” Thiessen said. “Thankfully it wasn’t.”
Despite the short notice, Thiessen turned in a stellar performance on Thursday, stopping 19 0f 21 shots to guide the Penguins to a 3-2 win. Not bad for a player who only had a few hours to prepare for big playoff game.
“I had a bit of an inkling (Wednesday night) there might be a chance. Coach called me in the afternoon (on Thursday) to tell me it was my game,” Thiessen said.
Although it was Thiessen’s 26 AHL postseason game, he admits to feeling a few butterflies before the start.
It’s the playoffs, after all.
But his teammates had no uneasy feelings about playing Game 3 with Thiessen, and not Zatkoff, in net.
“He’s a veteran guy and he’s taken this team far in the playoffs before,” said Riley Holzapfel. “We’re not really too worried about it when you have a guy like Brad than can come in and steal you games.”
And that’s exactly what Thiessen did. After allowing an early goal to Binghamton in the first period, he kept them at bay for the rest of the night while his teammates got their offense in order and tallied three goals in the third period for the win.
About the only thing that Thiessen’s teammates felt was a bit odd was how he could come in on short notice and play so well.
“Goalies are weird,” said Zach Sill. “They get ready and you just let them do their thing. We had full faith in Brad that he was going to come out and do the job.”
Hynes said Zatkoff will rejoin the team for Sunday’s practice and he described his condition as day-to-day. While the Penguins next opponent has yet to be determined, as has the start of the second round, Thiessen assured he will be ready if he gets the nod for another start.
Even if it comes at the last minute.
“You’d like to know ahead of time, but you try to prepare the same way whether you’re playing or not,” he said. “As a player you try to elevate your game, and I think I can do that in the playoffs and be a difference-maker. Zatkoff’s been doing a great job, and if I’m called upon again I’ll try to bring the same thing.”
Laurent Dauphin 2013 U18 Highlights
Andrew D’Agostini named 2012-13 MVP of Peterborough Petes
Holding his most valuable player award Andrew D’Agostini says his work with the Peterborough Petes isn’t done.
D’Agostini carried away three awards and Brett Findlay four from the Petes year-end banquet Friday night at the Trentwinds International Centre.
D’Agostini’s remarkable second-half turnaround epitomized the club’s dramatic improvement after Christmas. D’Agostini went on to get his first taste of pro in the ECHL and as a back-up for one AHL game, after the Petes season ended. However, the Petes’ second-half surge has left D’Agostini wanting more.
“I dreamt of this day and I still have dreams I haven’t reached, yet,” D’Agostini. “My goal is to bring a championship to this city and I’m doing everything I absolutely can to achieve that. They absolutely deserve it. I tell everyone who asks I can’t explain how proud I’d be to play a fifth and final season here.”
D’Agostini has seen the team go through adversity and wants to experience success before he leaves.
“I can’t explain, despite the lack of success and the ups and downs, how proud I am to wear the maroon and white. I’d love to come back for a fifth year and bring a Cup and some playoff rounds and exciting hockey to pick up where we left off last season,” he said.
Galchenyuk sets up winning goal vs Ottawa (Larionov)
Roy delivers another ‘wow’ game
The Thunder doesn’t let the little things, or the big things, bother it.
Stockton was outshot, gave up a quick goal in the third period and had one of its scores waved off by officials. But none of that swayed the Thunder, which got another playoff gem from goaltender Olivier Roy and beat the Idaho Steelheads 3-1 Friday in the opener of the ECHL Western Conference finals in front of 3,556 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. Game 2 will be at 4:10 p.m. Sunday.
The Thunder took the lead with 6 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in regulation on a goal by Max Boisclair, and Ryan Hayes contributed an insurance goal with 1:27 left. But to get to the victory, Stockton had to go through the usual ups and downs that have marked its postseason.
The Steelheads generated plenty of chances, outshooting Stockton 36-22, but Roy was strong again, turning away every offering except for David de Kastrozza’s shot 14 seconds into the final period to tie the game 1-1.
Soon after that goal, Harrison Reed seemed to have given Stockton the lead, but the officiating crew led by referees Joe Sullivan and J.M. McNulty reversed the call.
The Thunder regrouped, and Boisclair eventually got it the lead.
“We’ve been great at not letting anything like that bother us,” Thunder coach Thomas said. “And Roy was great again; it may have been his best game of the playoffs.”
Roy’s 35 saves was the most he’s had in a postseason game this season.
“No matter what happens, you have to keep pushing,” Roy said. “The defenders in front of me played so well. They blocked shots, and didn’t let them get to rebounds.
The Thunder will be hosting a watch party for Game 2 at the King’s Room at Stockton Arena. Admission is free, and doors will open approximately 30 minutes before game time.
Loktionov plays for Russia (Larionov)
Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images
Sharks’ Scott Gomez could play Game 3 against Vancouver Canucks
SAN JOSE — Sharks coach Todd McLellan is optimistic center Scott Gomez will be available to play against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday in Game 3 of their opening round series at HP Pavilion.
Gomez, out with soreness since he took a big hit April 23 against the Dallas Stars, skated again Saturday at the Sharks practice facility. He skated before games one and two in Vancouver but was held out of the lineup both times.
“There’s no doubt we’d like to get him into the series. He makes a big difference to our team, especially with the power play,” McLellan said. “He’s got the ability to control the puck. As soon as he’s ready and feels good and knows that he can go into that type of competitive environment and contribute, then we’ll use him.”
San Jose went 0 for 5 on the power play in Friday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Canucks, who were effective in bottling up the neutral zone on the penalty kill and not allowing the Sharks to skate into their offensive end unimpeded. Gomez is usually part of the second power play unit.
“This time of year, you just want guys to score,” Gomez said. “You’re not worried about, ‘If I was out there, this would have happened.’”
Gomez is eager to rejoin a playoff push after missing the postseason in 2012 with the Montreal Canadiens, who finished fifth in the Northwest Division.
“This is the real season, this is what you play for,” Gomez said Saturday. “Regular season’s great, but this is the fun part. To know that you’re playing in the playoffs, especially after missing it last year. You know you have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. … You want to be out there, but we’ll see what happens.”
Scott Gomez Pregame
Galchenyuk’s goal vs Philadelphia (Larionov)
Irwin’s goal vs Phoenix
Checkers get first-rounder Murphy
The Carolina Hurricanes have assigned defenseman Ryan Murphy to their top development affiliate, the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers.
Murphy, 20, recently wrapped up his fourth season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers, where he ranked ninth among OHL defensemen with 48 points (10g, 38a), despite playing only 54 games. He also added three goals and four assists in 10 playoff games before Kitchener was eliminated on Friday.
A first-round draft pick (11th overall) by Carolina in 2011, Murphy made his NHL debut with the Hurricanes in February, going scoreless in four games. In 228 career OHL games, he racked up 220 points (53g, 167a), while adding 57 points (12g, 45a) in 53 career playoff games. Murphy was also a member of Team Canada at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships.
The end came unexpectedly for Keevin Cutting
Owen Sound Sun Times
The end came as a shock to Keevin Cutting.
The Owen Sound Attack captain felt his Ontario Hockey League team was built to go a long way in the playoffs.
So Sunday’s 3-1 Western Conference semifinal loss to Plymouth not only ended the Attack’s dreams of a championship but also the 20-year-old Bracebridge native’s OHL career.
“I thought we had the team to bring it to the top,” Cutting said on Sunday.
“Sometimes it doesn’t end the way you want it to.”
Cutting played five seasons in Owen Sound, setting the franchise record for games played at 374 (327 regular season and 47 playoffs).
“It’s been a huge honour being part of this team and especially to be captain,” the defenseman said.
“We’ve had great success. I know we weren’t voted to be where we are now so I’m really proud of our team.”
The stay-at-home defenseman won’t bring fans out of their seats with his play but he was an invaluable shutdown D for the Attack.
“He’s a great guy and a phenomenal teammate,” Attack coach Greg Ireland said.
“He’s poured his heart and soul into this organization and it will be tough to see him leave because of the quality person he is. Really what he brought to the table is leadership.”
Blue Jackets Add Defenseman David Savard to Active Roster on Emergency Recall from American Hockey League’s Springfield Falcons
The Columbus Blue Jackets today announced that defenseman David Savard has been added to the team’s active roster on emergency recall from the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League.
Savard, 22, totaled 44:35 of ice time in three games played with Columbus earlier this season and has recorded 5-26-31 with 40 penalty minutes and a +12 plus/minus rating in 60 appearances with the Northeast Division-champion Falcons in 2012-13. The St. Hyacinthe, Quebec native was originally selected by the Blue Jackets in the fourth round, 94th overall, of the 2009 NHL Draft. The 6-2, 219-pound blueliner has tallied 2-8-10, 16 PIM in 34 career NHL games and 20-76-96, 130 PIM in 176 career AHL appearances.
Kellan Lain Sportsnet Feature
Nail Yakupov pregame (Larionov)
To Russia with hope
Carter Verhaeghe’s stock continues to rise.
The 17-year-old centre has gone from a suspect to a legitimate National Hockey League prospect thanks to a strong finish to his sophomore season with the Niagara IceDogs.
Verhaeghe, who finished fourth on the IceDogs in scoring with 44 points in 67 games, can now add international experience to his resume after being named to Team Canada at the 2013 IIHF World under-18 championship.
Verhaeghe will be heading to Sochi, Russia Wednesday to join the rest of Team Canada for the tournament which gets underway Thursday with the start of the preliminary round. Verhaeghe becomes only the second IceDog named to the spring under-18 Canadian team. Freddie Hamilton was selected in 2010.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” the Waterdown native said. “They called me earlier in the month and told me I was on their short list and they would keep in touch. The next call I got (Monday) was to go to Russia.”
Verhaeghe admitted he wasn’t quite sure if he still even had a shot to make the team.
“I didn’t know if I was going or not or what the process was,” he said. “They take guys right up to the 17th. I was just hoping to get a call and I got it.”
Niagara coach Marty Williamson is thrilled to see Verhaeghe get this opportunity.
“These opportunities don’t come along that often and you have to take advantage of them,” Williamson said. “For him, I think he deserves it. He had a wonderful second half. He’s on everyone’s list so it’s nice to see his rewarded.
“When you put on that Canadian jersey, everything gets magnified.”
Verhaeghe is naturally thrilled with the opportunity to represent his country.
“It’s going to be great. I’ve never been to Europe so that will be cool,” Verhaeghe said. “It will be awesome playing hockey over there and representing Canada.”
Verhaeghe got some advice about playing for Canada from former IceDogs teammate Ryan Strome.
“I texted him and told him and he was excited for me,” Verhaeghe said. “He told me just to enjoy the experience and have fun with it but he told me the good is not very good!”
Verhaeghe saw his stock rise thanks to a solid second half. The turning point may have been a chat with Williamson where the coach and Verhaeghe discussed the fine balance between working too hard off the ice and in practice and therefore not having a full tank left for the games.
“He practiced hard. There were no hiccups that way,” Williamson said. “ He just realized how important each shift was and when you see what works, you tend to buy in even more. It’s just that learning process and kids get it at different times.”
Looking back, Verhaeghe now feels he has struck the right balance between work and recovery.
“It was important in the playoffs and down the stretch. I need my rest and I need to be 100% every night to help the team,” he said. “Right now, I just need to focus everything on the team and helping the team do the best they can.”
Verhaeghe, who is eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft June 30 at the Prudential Centre in New Jersey, is well aware a strong showing at the tournament could further increase his stock. He was ranked 122nd by NHL Central Scouting in their midterm rankings.
“It potentially could. I’m not sure what the NHL teams are thinking,” he said. “Playing against these players will only help my game. I’m just looking to develop and get better as a hockey player.”
Lifelong dream comes true for Waterdown’s Verhaeghe; he’ll wear the Maple Leaf
Several weeks back, he got a call from Hockey Canada telling him he was on the short list for the world under-18 tournament team and might soon get an invitation to play for his country. Stay ready.
So he did. After all, the event is a big deal. Tons of future NHLers have played in it over the years and used it as a final launching pad to the draft. Plus, Carter Verhaeghe had never worn the Maple Leaf before. In fact, he’d never even played for Team Ontario. For him it would be a really big deal.
Except it didn’t happen. The phone didn’t ring. When the list of players came out online and Twitter posts started flying around, he wasn’t on it.
“When I didn’t see my name, I guess I was a little disappointed,” says the 17-year-old from Waterdown.
It’s probably fair to suggest his level of disappointment was slightly more acute than what he’s letting on. How could it not be? He’s never had trouble making any team in his life.
The St. Mary’s student was a star on the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs, which got him selected in the second round of the OHL draft in 2011. He made the Niagara IceDogs in his first try and put up decent freshman totals of four goals and 12 assists.
With more playing time this year, he exploded. His totals shot up to 16 goals and 28 assists. That landed him in the 122nd slot on NHL Central Scouting’s list of draft-eligible players. Meaning he’s almost certain to be picked in June.
Even so, after the IceDogs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and he didn’t hear anything from the national program, he began making backup plans. Namely, beginning his off-season training.
“I wanted to be in shape for the draft,” he says. “Who knows, I might’ve been invited to the combine.”
Then, on Monday, he was eating lunch at school when his phone rang. It was his coach from Niagara.
Hockey Canada was going to be calling any minute, Verhaeghe was told. You’re in.
They did call, too. Elated, he texted his parents, told some friends who were nearby, and raced home to go get a picture done so he could get his travel visa. Then started packing for the trip with his mind wandering a little bit.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to wear a Canada jersey,” he says. “It’s a huge honour. I never thought it would be a reality.”
It is now. On Wednesday, he jumps on a plane and flies to Sochi, Russia — site of next winter’s Olympics — where he’ll catch up with the rest of the team that’s been there for a few days and has already had some exhibition games. The tournament starts the next day. If Canada makes it all the way to the finals, he won’t be getting home until the very end of the month.
Of course, this means he’s going to miss a few tests back at school.
“Quite a few,” he says.
Does that bother him? Especially this late in the academic year?
“Don’t mind a bit.”
Bolduc v Gomez
BriseBois: New Syracuse Crunch defenseman Artem Sergeev here to get a head start on next year (Larionov)
While not ruling out the possibility that he could play this year, Tampa Bay assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said that new Syracuse Crunch defenseman Artem Sergeev’s main task is getting a jump start on next season.
BriseBois said this is an important time in the player getting to know his new surroundings and coaches, and the organization also has a chance to update its scouting report on him.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound defenseman played for Val d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL this season.
In 55 regular season games, Sergeev posted six goals and 33 assists for that team. In 10 playoff games, he went 3-3.
“He is a really good athlete, real strong physically,” BriseBois said. “We look forward to working with him on his overall game.”
Yakupov’s goal vs Minnesota (Larionov)
Life between the pipes: a profile of Steelheads goaltender Tyler Beskorowany
Galchenyuk’s goal vs Pittsburgh (Larionov)
Galchenyuk’s goal vs Tampa Bay (Larionov)
Bruins, Tyler Seguin thank first responders
(Credit: Steve Babineau)
After the Bruins’ emotional game Wednesday — a shoot-out loss to the Sabres, unfortunately — Tyler Seguin and his teammates hung around to say hello to some of the police, fire, and emergency personnel (above) who were the first responders after the Marathon bombings.
Unconventional road led Oakville’s Kellan Lain to NHL deal
Seven years ago, not many could have predicted a potential National Hockey League career in Kellan Lain’s future. Not even Kellan Lain himself.
Having been cut by midget AAA teams in Mississauga, Oakville and Halton, Lain had had his fill of rep hockey and chose instead to suit up for his T.A. Blakelock Tigers high school team. More than developing his skills or being exposed to scouts, Lain simply wanted to enjoy the game again.
“I hadn’t really been enjoying hockey for the previous four or five years. It wasn’t something I really wanted to do anymore,” recalls the 23-year-old Lain. “I decided to play high school hockey and have some fun with my buddies. Then my plan was to play junior B and go to university in Canada.”
Playing high school hockey in Halton, one of the few regions in Ontario that do not allow rep players, isn’t exactly the best way to get noticed. But, ironically, it might have been the best hockey decision Lain ever made.
Blakelock coach Ken Butler had assembled a strong team when Lain attended the school. Lain wasn’t even the Tigers’ star, according to the coach.
“He was one of my top six forwards,” says Butler, whose team also featured future Ontario Hockey Leaguer Mitch Fillman. “I wouldn’t even say he was my No. 1 centreman.”
But under Butler, who demanded defensive responsibility but encouraged creativity in the offensive zone, Lain rediscovered his love for the game. The Tigers reached the Halton final in both years Lain played on the team.
“When you enjoy playing the game, it makes a huge difference. You are comfortable and you are confident. Those are big things to be successful in hockey,” Lain says. “(The first season playing for Blakelock) was a big year for me. Even though it was just high school hockey, it was probably the year that changed everything for me.”
Lack of size, something Butler feels was the main reason Lain had been cut by those midget coaches, was no longer an issue either. By the time Lain graduated from Blakelock, he was well over six feet tall.
“He probably grew a foot in high school,” Butler says.
Played three seasons with Oakville Blades
The Oakville Blades took notice of Lain’s strong play with the Tigers, and Lain joined the local junior A team in the fall of 2007. Lain went on to play three seasons for the Blades, helping Oakville reach two national championship tournaments during that span and parlaying that exposure into a scholarship from Lake Superior State University.
Last month, Lain moved one step closer to the NHL dream he had once given up on, inking a free agent deal with the Vancouver Canucks.
“I think it’s sunk in now,” Lain says. “For the first little while, it was surreal because it’s something I’ve wanted so badly and worked so hard for and had to overcome a lot to get here.”
When Lain talks about what he’s had to overcome, he’s talking about more than being cut by several teams or seeking a way to enjoy the sport again.
As dim as Lain’s hockey future might have appeared in 2007, the outlook was even darker two years later. Lain sliced the ulnar artery of his left wrist on an opponent’s skate while playing for the Blades, a scary injury that threatened to end his playing career.
It took nearly a year for Lain to recover. He underwent two surgeries and put in countless hours of extensive rehabilitation with hand specialists at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital before returning to the Blades’ lineup in time for the 2010 postseason.
“It was hard work, but it was something that made me stronger and made me appreciate everything in life more,” Lain says.
Perhaps it is that perspective gained that makes Lain content with the role hockey executives and scouts project him to fill as a pro.
Though he averaged nearly a point a game during his final two seasons with the Blades, the best-case scenario for the 6-foot-6, 220-pound centre appears to be as a defensive specialist.
“We see him as a bottom-end centre, more like Paul Gaustad or maybe a David Steckel type player. That kind of guy,” Canucks assistant general manager Laurence Gilman told the Vancouver Province.
“He can be a shutdown centre.”
That’s the type of backhanded compliment Lain has received for the past several years. Some might not be flattered by it, but Lain takes it in stride. He also says it doesn’t bother him that he has yet to record a point in 10 games with Vancouver’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.
“As you move up in pro hockey, everyone plays their own role. Every team has goal scorers and top skill guys, and every team has role players as well. It’s just being a piece of the puzzle,” Lain says.
“When you get this far, you’re playing with some of the best players in the world. Being able to be good at a few things that a team needs is important. I’m fine with that… A third-line centre role is what I see myself as well. I don’t disagree with anything anybody says.”
Words spoken by someone who sounds as though he’s just happy to be there. And also someone who is grateful he played high school hockey at Blakelock.
“I’m sure the coaching he gets now is better than I (provided),” Butler says.
“But I’m sure he got something here.”
CISCO Arena Cam: Mike Cammalleri
Seguin goal vs Pittsburgh
Penguins pair wins Hap Holmes Award
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Jeff Zatkoff and Brad Thiessen of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are the recipients of the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award for the 2012-13 season. Since 1972, the award has been presented to the goaltender(s) with at least 25 games played on the team which allows the fewest goals in the regular season.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton surrendered a league-low 178 goals in 2012-13, finishing its regular season on Saturday with a record of 42-30-2-2 and 88 points, qualifying for the Calder Cup Playoffs for the 11th consecutive season. This is the second time in the last three seasons that the Penguins ranked first in the AHL in goals against.
Zatkoff posted a 26-20-0 record and five shutouts in 49 appearances for the Penguins, leading the AHL with a 1.93 goals-against average and compiling a .920 save percentage. Thiessen, who also won the Hap Holmes Award in 2010-11, was 16-12-2 with four shutouts, a 2.68 GAA and a .902 save percentage in 32 games.
The Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award, which was first awarded in 1948 to the goaltender with the best goals-against average in the AHL, is named for Hockey Hall of Famer Harry “Hap” Holmes, a prominent figure in early professional hockey and an outstanding goaltender of his time. Previous winners or co-winners of the award include Gil Mayer (1951, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56), Johnny Bower (1957, ’58), Marcel Paille (1961, ’62), Gerry Cheevers (1965), Gilles Villemure (1969, ’70), Pete Peeters (1979), Pelle Lindbergh (1981), Olaf Kolzig (1994), Mike Dunham (1995), Manny Legace (1996), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (1998), Martin Biron (1999), Joey MacDonald (2003), Jason LaBarbera (2005, 2007), Dany Sabourin (2006), Cory Schneider (2009), Cedrick Desjardins (2010) and Ben Scrivens (2012).
Irwin fine with one-game break
SAN JOSE – Sharks rookie defenseman Matt Irwin needed a break.
On Tuesday against the Kings, he was pulled from the lineup in favor of Scott Hannan, who had been recovering from a neck injury and had yet to play since he was acquired by the Sharks at the April 3 trade deadline. Irwin returned on Thursday against Minnesota, and was an effective player in nearly 20 minutes of ice time, finishing +2 with three shots on goal.
“For him to get a game just to sit and watch and catch his breath, I thought we saw the results of that tonight,” McLellan said after the 6-1 victory over the Wild on Thursday. “He was fresher, and made some good plays.”
Unlike the majority of Sharks, some of whom played overseas for a brief stretch of time, Irwin has been playing regularly since early October. He started the season with AHL Worcester, and played 35 games there total. Combine that with 34 games his rookie season at the NHL level, without much time for a break, and it’s been a hectic year for the 25-year-old.
Irwin had no qualms with watching a game from the press box after 24 in a row on the ice.
“They saw stuff in my game that wasn’t where it was at before, and that could have to do with me playing a lot of games and minutes down there and then coming up here, and playing every other night,” Irwin said on Saturday. “I agreed with their decision, of course. They wanted to get Scottie into a game, and it was good to see him out there and back in a Sharks uniform. Whatever I had to do to help the team, I’m all for.”
How is his energy level now?
“Good. I feel great. You’re always thinking about the next game after you play. You’ve got one day to kind of relax, keep to yourself, and you’re right back at it.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and a good journey so far. We’ve got a good group of guys in here, and we’re looking to go a long way.”
To say it’s been a successful season personally for the British Columbia native, who recently signed a two-year contract extension, is an understatement. Irwin’s six goals tie him for second in the league among rookie defensemen, with Justin Schultz of Edmonton and just one behind L.A.’s Jake Muzzin. His 10 points is tied for sixth.
He continues to show a knack for getting shots to the net, and is third in the league for rookie defensemen with 72. He has four games with at least five shots on goal, more than any other first-year blueliner.
Loktionov’s goal vs NY Rangers (Larionov)
Cammalleri’s goal vs Minnesota
Scott Gomez’s 700th point
Devils’ Loktionov paying dividends since coming over from Kings (Larionov)
With the trade deadline only two days away, the Devils stumble home from a three-game road trip in which they lost twice in a shootout and once in overtime to face the Islanders tonight in a game pivotal to both teams’ playoff chances.
The Devils are seventh in the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of the ninth-place Islanders, with 13 games remaining. If Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello makes another move to strengthen his team before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. deadline, it will be difficult for him top the payoff he’s gotten so far from the deal he made Feb. 6 for center Andrei Loktionov.
In what has been a steal for the Devils, Lamoriello gave the Los Angeles Kings just a fifth-round draft pick for Loktionov, who has seven goals and four assists in 18 games since joining the team.
“We’ve been very fortunate with how things have worked out with Loktionov,” Lamoriello admitted.
Loktionov, 22, considers himself very fortunate, too. Since being drafted in the fifth round in 2008, the native of Voskresensk, Russia, had gotten a taste of the NHL with the Kings, playing in 59 regular-season games, including 39 last season. He also played in two playoff games during their run to the Stanley Cup last season, but did not get his name on the Cup as he fell two regular-season games short of the required number.
Loktionov was toiling again on the Kings’ AHL team, waiting for another chance to play in the NHL, when the Devils acquired him.
“I just wanted to play and New Jersey gave me that chance,” Loktionov said. “I think I’m doing not bad. I’m so glad to be back playing in the NHL. That’s all I needed, I guess – to play at this level.”
Loktionov wanted to play in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League during the NHL lockout, but the Kings forced him to play in Manchester, N.H., which prompted him to request a trade.
“I was so mad because I had been in Russia for months and they told me I had to come back. ‘You have to play here,’ ” he said. “I didn’t know the reason to play here. I had played already three years in the AHL. Maybe it was a showcase [for a trade]. I don’t know.”
With Loktionov slated to become a restricted free agent this summer, Kings GM Dean Lombardi told The Los Angeles Times that he feared Loktionov “could go back to Russia,” so he took the best deal he could get after the lockout ended.
Loktionov said the idea of playing in Russia next season never entered his mind.
“You never know, I guess, but I wasn’t thinking about going to Russia,” he said. “Maybe [Lombardi] was thinking that, but not me.”
Loktionov couldn’t be happier with how things worked out, though.
“I’m so happy now,” he said. “But, at beginning of the season I wasn’t so happy.”
Before Ilya Kovalchuk injured his right shoulder, Loktionov had earned a spot as the center on his line. With Kovalchuk out, he’s been playing mostly with Adam Henrique and Matt D’Agostini.
Kovalchuk’s absence hasn’t slowed Loktionov, who had two goals and an assist during the Devils’ three-game road trip.
“Every day that I’m around him, I’m impressed by something he does; a skill play he makes you didn’t see coming,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “There’s something every day that he kind of surprises you [with].”
Nail Yakupov pre-game interview (Larionov)
Irwin celebrates Sharks win
Sharks Sign Right Wing Christopher Crane
SAN JOSE, California – San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has signed right wing Chris Crane to an entry-level contract. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The 21-year old Crane recently completed his junior season at Ohio State University, posting nine points (6-3-9) and 69 penalty minutes in 38 games played.
“Chris has done a great job, under the tutelage of Head Coach Mark Osiecki, in preparing himself for this next stage of his career,” said Wilson.
During his 2011-12 sophomore campaign, Crane registered 24 points (14-10-24) and 30 penalty minutes in 35 games played. He led Ohio State in goals (14) and was tied for first in points (24), sharing the team’s Leading Scorer Award. Amongst all CCHA players, Crane ranked tied for eighth in power play goals (6) and tied for 12th in total goals scored (14).
Crane is a two-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete, an Academic All-Big Ten choice, and recipient of the 2011-12 Perani Cup, an award given to the player who earns the most three-star honors on his team during conference play.
The six-foot-one, 195-pound native of Westchester, Ohio was drafted by San Jose in the seventh round (200th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
MacDermid sees trade as an opportunity
BOSTON — When Lane MacDermid learned he was traded Tuesday morning to the Dallas Stars in exchange for veteran forward Jaromir Jagr, he was surprised but accepted the news with a positive attitude.
“I didn’t see it coming,” MacDermid said. “This could be an opportunity to get some games. I knew it was going to be hard here to get some games in, so it should work out for both parties.”
MacDermid, 23, heads to Dallas along with unsigned draft pick Cody Payne and a conditional second-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for the future Hall of Famer. Jagr will join the Bruins on Wednesday and will wear his traditional No. 68.
As MacDermid left TD Garden around 3:30 Tuesday afternoon carrying his sticks and with his equipment bag over his shoulder, he joked that he’s been telling everyone he was traded straight up for Jagr.
“It’s kind of cool. Actually, I grew up watching Jaromir play and he’s an amazing player. To be a part of that deal is pretty cool,” he said.
MacDermid played a total of three games for the Bruins this season. Because of his contract status, the Bruins would have lost him through waivers if he were assigned to Providence, so MacDermid remained in Boston as a healthy scratch.
“I was happy to be up here,” he said. “I wasn’t totally expecting to stay up here, so I was happy to be around the club and learn from the guys and coaching staff. It was a good experience.”
As far as being traded, he holds no ill feelings toward the Bruins organization.
“I try not to take things too personally,” he said. “It’s a business and they’re trying to do what’s best for the club. I totally understand.”
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli spoke with MacDermid after the deal was complete.
“He just said, that’s the way the year’s been going and he didn’t want to lose me on waivers, so he’s kept me up,” explained MacDermid. “It was tough to get me in, so this will be an opportunity for me to maybe play some games and get some experience with [Dallas].”
Edmonton Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov adding defence to his offensive repertoire (Larionov)
Derek Van Diest
EDMONTON – Nail Yakupov admits he’s starting to figure it out.
There were high expectations on the Edmonton Oilers most recent first-overall pick coming into the season.
And while Yakupov has shown flashes of brilliance offensively, it’s his defensive game that has the coaching staff showing more confidence in him.
“I think the key thing is my teammates, they help me a lot, off the ice and on the ice,” said Yakupov. “I’m playing with the captain (Shawn Horcoff) and he talks to me all the time and I’m learning and working hard every day.
“Sometimes I don’t have any points but I think the first thing you have to do is work for your team, and I think we have a great chance to make the playoffs this year.”
Yakupov scored a goal and added an assist in the Oilers 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Monday at Rexall Place. The two teams face each other again Wednesday in Calgary.
However, it was Yakupov’s work in his own zone that had head coach Ralph Krueger singing the winger’s praises following the contest.
“There are a few things that happen if we go back 11 games and one of them was definitely Nail growing up in such a quick period of time,” Krueger said. “He’s very responsible without the puck, you can see him making strong decisions, he was the first forward back on multiple occasions (Monday). He plays physical, takes multiple responsibilities defensively. He’s been getting smarter with the puck and more patient. He’s understanding the difference between simple plays versus opportunity and that’s all showing up. We’re excited for a kid that age, what he’s done here in these two and a half months, it certainly shows us that we have an exciting future with Nail.”
A star with the Sarnia Sting, Yakupov’s offensive exploits were well documented prior to being selected first overall by the Oilers in last summer’s NHL draft.
Yet with plenty of young, offensive talents already in the mix, the Oilers could afford the luxury of introducing the highly-skilled Russian winger to his own zone.
“When I was younger, I would just play offence and not worry too much about defence,” Yakupov said. “But this is the best league in the world and you have to play defence, too. How well you play defence will depend on how much you get to play. Horc has helped and everybody on the team has helped me a lot.”
Heading into the second half of the home-and-home against Calgary, Yakupov has seven goals and 18 points on the season.
The goal he scored Monday was his first since connecting against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 25.
“It’s always nice to score,” Yakupov smiled. “I can’t remember the last time I scored, a year ago probably? I’m excited about it and excited to be able to get the two points.”
Playing with Horcoff and Ryan Jones has proven a good fit for Yakupov. As the team’s third line, the unit’s main responsibility is to keep the puck out of their own net. What they contribute offensively is a bonus. On Monday they scored twice in the win against the Flames.
Yakupov is picking up a lot playing with two veterans.
“That’s the progression of players coming into the league, whether they’re 18, 19, 27 there’s always a little bit of time to adapt,” said Jones. “But he’s an unbelievable hockey player with a ton of skill and a world-class shot.”
Yakupov’s work-ethic has also not gone unnoticed. The 19-year-old is constantly striving to get better, whether it would be on the ice or in the gym.
“He’s a guy that I think when he first came here, it took him a while to get comfortable, especially when it came to the communication, but he’s a highly intelligent player,” Horcoff said. “It took him a while to realize that he has to play both ends of the ice if he wants to play more. He’s starting to realized that now and so, with that realization has come some willingness to learn. Plus we’re really trying to hold each other accountable when it comes to turnovers and dangerous plays. With that we’re going to get results. For Yak it’s a process. He’s such a young player, he’s going to take some time, but he’s on the right track.”
Yakupov’s goal vs Calgary (Larionov)
Seguin scores in Bruins win over Ottawa
Lane MacDermid scores first NHL goal
Nail Yakupov’s first multigoal game (Larionov)
From high school hockey to the big time
NORTH OAKVILLE – Oakville native and former Blade Kellan Lain has taken the next step in his hockey career.
On March 16, Lain signed a professional contract with the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks and was assigned to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago.
Lain is the second ex-Blade to play for the Wolves in recent weeks, as Steve Pinizzotto had a conditioning stint in the Windy City before making his pro debut with the Canucks in mid-March.
The decision sign with the Canucks was an easy one for the former Blakelock standout.
“They are a great organization with a tradition of winning,” he said. “They have been interested in me for a couple of years and felt I would be a great fit within their organization.
“Talking with the management, I felt very wanted and they believed in me as a player,” he added. “They have a great development program and provide everything needed to improve and continue getting better.”
Lain’s road to the pros differs from most.
Instead of playing Rep hockey, Lain suited up his high school team, the T.A. Blakelock Tigers.
From there, he moved up to the Oakville Blades and later earned a scholarship to attend Lake Superior State University in Michigan.
The move to the collegiate level almost didn’t happen.
During a playoff game in 2009, Lain suffered a horrific accident. His wrist was cut by a skate blade and he was out of hockey for almost a year. The injury delayed his arrival at LSSU for a year.
The 6’6” Lain spent the last three seasons at Lake Superior State University, where he recorded 39 points (21 goals, 18 assists) in 108 games.
“I loved LSSU,” he said. “It was the best three years of my life. I developed life long friendships and have memories that will last a lifetime.
“We had a great coaching staff and gave me every opportunity to grow and we had good teams each year and got a chance to play with a lot of good players,” Lain added. “It was like having a second family. We were all so close and did everything together.
Lain put in just as much work in the classroom as he did on the ice, and will get his degree early.
“I am on course to graduate this year,” he said. “Receiving my degree in three years and having the opportunity to sign was a perfect situation. My education was very important to me so having my degree provides insurance for the future after hockey.”
Lain chose the Canucks over other Western Conference teams like the Ducks, Coyotes and Red Wings, who were all interested in acquiring his services.
Chris Crane interview
Agozzino pregame interview
Sharks sign Matt Irwin to extension
SAN JOSE – The Sharks signed defenseman Matt Irwin to a two-year contract extension, the team announced on Wednesday.
Irwin will receive $900,000 in the first year of the deal in 2013-14, and $1.1 million in 2014-15, his agent told CSNCalifornia.com.
“We’re very excited to have Matt Irwin for the next two years. We think he has a bright future,” Doug Wilson told CSNCalifornia.com.
“It’s exciting. I’m excited to stay here and continue winning with this team,” Irwin said.
Irwin, 25, was due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“I wanted to be a Shark,” he said. “They did a great job over the years developing me as a player. It started in Worcester there for two and a half years. I felt like I wanted to stay here, and owed it to them with their loyalty and bringing me up and giving me an opportunity, so I’m excited to be a Shark.”
The deal came together quickly.
“I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to it,” Irwin said. “I was still concerned about playing well and establishing myself that I could play at this level, and let that discussion happen between my agent and Doug. I’m grateful and happy to be here.”
Irwin started the season on the opening night roster, as the injuries to Brent Burns and Jason Demers left the team thin on the blue line. He was reassigned in early February, but returned on Feb. 28 and has been with the club ever since.
Now, he’s here to stay for at least two more years.
“He’s stepped in right from Day 1 in training camp,” Todd McLellan said. “We forget how rushed it was, how little time we had and how little time he had to get accustomed to the NHL pace. He did a tremendous job and a result he’s earned himself an extension which is deserved.”
In 26 games, Irwin has five goals and four assists for nine points and four penalty minutes. The six-foot-two-inch British Columbia native was originally signed by the Sharks as a free agent on March 23, 2010.
Matt Irwin Interview
Galchenyuk’s goal vs Winnipeg (Larionov)
Galchenyuk Postgame Interview (Larionov)
Goldobin Runner Up for Top Rookie (Larionov)
Sarnia Sting forward Nikolay Goldobin finished as the runner-up to Erie’s Connor McDavid for the OHL Rookie of the Year award Thursday.
McDavid won in a landslide, taking 85 points out of a maximum 95 in voting by the league’s general managers, while Goldobin came second with 29 points. Brampton’s Blake Clarke was third with 22 points.
Goldobin led all rookies with 30 goals and 68 points this season, his first in Sarnia after being drafted 36th overall in the 2012 CHL Import Draft. McDavid, the first overall pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection had 66 points in 63 games as the league’s youngest player.
Goldobin was also named to the second All-Rookie Team at right wing, finishing with 65 points in voting, four behind Kingston’s Spencer Watson, who was named to the first team.
MacDermid’s goal vs Anaheim
Neither Lane MacDermid nor dad Paul knew about strange date that now bonds their careers
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Even Lane MacDermid’s dad didn’t know about the odd stat. When the Stars rookie scored Wednesday against Anaheim, his first NHL goal came 31 years to the day after his dad scored his first goal in the NHL.
Paul MacDermid was a winger for the Hartford Whalers and scored his first goal on April 3, 1982.
“I called my parents, and my mom had to research it herself,” MacDermid said. “Neither had any idea that’s what happened. It’s pretty cool.”
Paul MacDermid had 116 goals and 142 assists (258 points) in 690 career games, and Lane would love to produce similar numbers in his career.
“I’m glad to play in the NHL again, it feels good,” said MacDermid, who played mostly in the AHL but had eight NHL games with Boston before being traded to the Stars on Tuesday. “I just want to do my best and show what I can do at this level.”
Amerks Sign Forward Justin Kea to ATO
(Rochester, NY)… The Rochester Americans announced today that the team has signed forward Justin Kea to an Amateur Tryout.
Kea, 19, recently completed his junior hockey season with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League, where he recorded 48 points (22+26) and 102 penalty minutes in 68 games. He also appeared in four playoff games. In three seasons with Saginaw, Kea, a native of Woodville, Ontario, has collected 68 points (29+39) and 227 penalty minutes in 195 games. The 6-foot-4, 206-pound forward was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round (73rd overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Stephens could go in first round of OHL Draft
It’s been a long road through ups and downs in their minor hockey careers but Peterborough natives Mitchell Stephens and Jordan MacLean are about to reap the rewards.
The families of the two 15-year-old hockey players made sacrifices, endured criticism and overcame obstacles to place the boys in the Toronto Marlboros GTHL program. On Saturday, they are expecting to be selected in the OHL draft with Stephens, a five-foot-11, 170 pound offensive forward, likely to be a first-round pick. Some sources have told The Examiner he could go as high as eighth to the Saginaw Spirit.
He recorded 44 goals and 40 assists for 84 points in 58 games. It’s not as clear when MacLean might be selected. The six-foot, 165-pound defensive defenceman had a goal and 12 assists in 52 games.
In minor peewee, Stephens and his parents Lee and Heather, made the decision to leave the Peterborough Minor Hockey Council’s AAA Petes program. The PMHC did not stand in his way and for two years the family commuted to games in Toronto.
In his third year, other OMHA teams tried to block his release to the GTHL leading to a decision for Lee to move to Toronto and enrol Mitchell at Peak Academy to comply with Hockey Canada residency rules. When MacLean, son of Dan and Jeanette MacLean, decided to join Stephens two years later, he was also blocked from leaving so his mother got a transfer with her provincial government job to Toronto. He too enrolled at Peak.
The Petes team was struggling and both felt they needed a change of scenery.
“It was a better opportunity,” said Mitchell Stephens, who knew the Marlies coaches and some players from a summer hockey team he joined.
“The team wasn’t strong,” MacLean said. “I thought I’d have a better opportunity and it would be a better atmosphere going to Toronto.”
Jeanette said the family was told they wouldn’t be given a release so moving was the only option.
“Peterborough struggles to be competitive,” she said. “It certainly gave the boys an opportunity to play with kids of higher calibre, more competitive hockey and different coaching.”
Lee said minor peewee may seem like a young age to move a child for hockey but he felt it was necessary.
“As players get older it becomes more and more difficult for them to move from their centres,” he said. “For exposure and opportunity the GTHL is recognized as one of the best leagues in the world. The Toronto Marlies have always, historically, produced high-end players.”
Stephens believes players should have the freedom to pursue opportunities wherever they wish. He says Mitchell won two OHF championships and four GTHL titles in Toronto and a silver medal at this year’s OHL Cup Showcase Tournament, where Stephens was his team’s MVP in three of seven games.
“If we hadn’t made that decision we, perhaps, wouldn’t be where we are today,” Lee said.
Both players said it was tough to leave home and friends to go to a new city. MacLean admits there were times he wondered if he did the right thing because he missed friends and home.
“You realize now the sacrifice has paid off,” MacLean said. “My mom made a huge sacrifice. I don’t think I would have been able to do it if she hadn’t moved with me.”
Mitchell admits the pressure of it being their draft year affected he and his teammates early in the season. It took a while to put the distraction aside but when they won the Silver Stick Tournament in Whitby it was a turning point.
“We adjusted to all the hype about the draft and the scouts,” he said. “The boys rallied together.”
Stephens says he’s trying to stay level-headed about the draft.
“I’m trying to keep an open mindset and enjoy the experience. Being drafted is something I’ve always dreamed about. Whether I go eighth, ninth, 10th or in the second round, it’s an honour and a special thing,” said Stephens.
Having grown up in a city with an OHL team, both were aware from a young age what it was all about.
“Going to games when I was young you looked up to players like that,” Stephens said. “You wanted to be there.”
“Even more so now,” MacLean said. “We know friends who we played with before who are now playing in the OHL. You’ve been going to these games since you were little and now you’re looking at friends you sat beside on the bench who are playing in the exact same spot you were watching. It’s a great opportunity.”
Otters Take Saban
The Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League announced this morning that they have selected Toronto Red Wings Defensemen Jesse Saban with their 2ndround pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection Draft being held today via the Internet and conference call, from the Springhill Suites Hotel, located at Interchange Rd, in Erie PA.
Saban, a 6-foot-3 and 205 pound defensemen from Lindsay, Ontario, registered 4 goals and 12 assists for 16 points in 32 games during the 2012-13 season.
“Jesse is a well rounded defender that can punish opponents with his physical tools while supplying some offense,” said Otters Assistant General Manager Dave Brown.
Spitfires Pick Moore
The Winsdor Spitfires top pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection is from across the Detroit River
Centre Ryan Moore from Troy, Michigan was grabbed with the 35th overall pick in the draft. Moore finished with 24 goals and 24 assists along with 54 penalty minutes in 36 games in 2012-2013.
Thunder enters postseason riding goalie’s hot hand
STOCKTON – There will be no need for introductions when the Stockton Thunder and Las Vegas Wranglers meet in the first round of the ECHL National Conference playoffs.
The teams already have played eight times, the coaches are best friends and three Las Vegas players were once members of the Thunder. Familiarity is likely to breed competitiveness when the best-of-seven series begins 7:30 p.m. today at Stockton Arena.
The fourth-seeded Thunder (37-26-9) enters the postseason having won four in a row and seven of 11, and is confident it has the roster, led by red-hot goalie Olivier Roy, to make a run deep in the playoffs. First up is No. 5 Las Vegas (37-30-5), and all indications are that this will be a tight series. The Thunder and Wranglers split the eight games, and all but one were decided by one goal.
“It just seems like it’s going to be a good matchup, and a close one,” Thunder coach Matt Thomas said. “It’s going to be a tough series for us to win, for sure.”
Thomas and Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel have known each other for more than a decade. Thomas was an assistant coach and Mougenel was a player with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies when they won the Kelly Cup in 2002. Mougenel was an assistant to Thomas for four seasons in Fresno and Stockton before becoming head coach of the Wranglers in 2009.
It’s the first time they will meet in the playoffs.
“I don’t think it’s very fun because I don’t want to lose to him,” Thomas said with a smile. “We know it’s part of the business. It will be exciting for both of us to go after one another and try to see who comes out on top. Put it this way – I’m working extra hard.”
Mougenel, who led the Wranglers to the Kelly Cup finals last season, also has mixed feelings.
“It’s unfortunate that one of us has to lose,” Mougenel said. “We’re obviously close and our families are very close, but at the end of the day both want to win.”
Forwards Judd Blackwater, Geoff Paukovich and Adam Huxley played for Stockton before going to Las Vegas. Huxley was a fan favorite during his Thunder tenure.
“There are players who used to be here, and their coach used to coach here. It’s going to be an exciting series,” Thunder captain Garet Hunt said.
The Thunder’s late-season good fortune can be directly tied to the return of Roy in March from his American Hockey League assignment. He has won four of five games, allowing just six goals during that span. Roy credits the defense in front of him, but his teammates are very confident with him in the net.
“He’s been playing excellent. Our defense has been really stepping up and shutting guys down, stopping a lot of shots, protecting the house more,” Hunt said. “We’ve really been taking a lot of pride in that in the last couple of weeks going into playoffs.”
Roy is backed up by Tyler Bunz, who had a solid season. The Wranglers counter at goalie with veteran Joe Fallon and Mitch O’Keefe, and have a balanced offense led by Andrew Sarauer (21 goals, 41 assists). Center Harrison Reed led Stockton in scoring (21 goals and 24 assists in 45 games).
Galchenyuk shows strengths after shaking goal drought (Larionov)
MONTREAL—Alex Galchenyuk’s first season with the Montreal Canadiens was filled with such high expectations that any struggles were certain to be scrutinized. An 18-game goalless drought certainly wasn’t helping.
But the Habs teenager took advantage of a rare start at his natural center position on Thursday to score his fourth goal of the season in a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
“Even a couple games back I felt I was getting close, I have the chances (and) maybe I missed the net (or) hit the post, but I knew the time would come,” the 19-year-old Galchenyuk said. “I don’t mind (playing) wing, I don’t mind (playing) center.”
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien indicated his decision to play Galchenyuk at left wing had all been part of the organization’s long-term thinking.
“We all know Alex is a center man, we have to work with him. It’s a learning process for him. We want to give him a lot of experience this year so for the future it is a benefit for him for his career,” Therrien said. “Because we lost Tomas (Plekanec) we gave him a chance to play center and he did really well, managing the puck well, was solid both sides of the ice.”
The coaching staff’s work with the Russian-American has helped Galchenyuk make up for his lack of offense with good defense and a +8 rating. So while fellow rookie Brendan Gallagher has seen his name thrown into the Calder Trophy race as a rookie-of-the-year candidate, Galchenyuk has kept working to improve on his 17 points this season.
“Those young players are going to have ups and downs and you have to be sure you are working with their confidence,” Therrien said.
Galchenyuk also credited his father, Alexander, with helping him get back-to-basics.
“He told me to focus on the little things, play a simple game,” Galchenyuk said.
Galchenyuk may be moving back to left wing come Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins as Therrien said Plekanec could return.
Galchenyuk’s goal vs Boston (Larionov)
Mitchell Stephens drafted eighth overall by Saginaw Spirit
Mitchell Stephens feels he’s landed in the perfect spot to start his OHL career.
The Peterborough native was selected eighth overall by the Saginaw Spirit in the first round of the OHL draft on Saturday. He was one of two local players selected as Logan DeNoble went to his hometown Petes in the 13th-round.
Stephens, a skilled offensive forward, had 44 goals and 84 points in 58 games for the OHL Cup Showcase Tournament silver medalist Toronto Marlboros.
“It’s a great honour to be selected by Saginaw,” said Stephens, who watched the draft unfold at home on the internet. “They have a great coach, a great organization and great players. It’s a special moment for me and my family to be drafted there.”
Stephens is particularly excited about the opportunity to play for Spirit coach Greg Gilbert. The former NHL player and coach was the OHL coach of the year last season
“Greg Gilbert is a great coach,” he said. “He’s turned players like Jimmy Lodge and Eric Locke into NHL draft picks and high-end players in the league. The organization is very well respected. They’re going to be a great team next year with great players. Hopefully, we’ll make a run for an OHL championship.”
Stephens also felt it was a team which offered him a good opportunity to play right away.
“The way I can play I think I can fit into their top six forwards but I can’t take anything for granted or have a sense of entitlement going to camp,” he said. “I have to keep working hard in the summer and, hopefully, get there.”
A lot of speculation had Stephens going to Saginaw but he said until the draft actually took place, he couldn’t be sure. He says he didn’t sleep Friday night.
“Nothing was set in stone. I just had to try to keep a level head about everything and not take anything for granted,” he said. “It wasn’t too much of a shock but it was still a special moment.”
While this is just another step in his evolution as a hockey player, Stephens says it’s a culmination of one dream.
“Ever since I was a kid watching the Petes play the OHL is somewhere I wanted to be,” he said, adding it was special for another reason.
“Seeing all the friends I know get drafted is special,” he said. “I’ve congratulating the guys and they’ve been congratulating me. All the support from everyone is awesome.”
Jesse Blacker Recalled From Marlies
Dave Nonis, Senior Vice-President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, announced Monday that the hockey club has recalled defenceman Jesse Blacker from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
Blacker, 21, has played 53 games for the Marlies this season collecting 10 points on three goals and seven assists, along with 31 minutes in penalties. The 6-2, 190-pound defenceman has yet to play his first NHL game and has been assigned sweater #49. He was originally Toronto’s third choice, selected 58th overall in the 2009 Entry Draft.
Leafs call up Marlies defenceman Blacker
BOSTON – Jesse Blacker got the call. Now the 21-year-old defenceman has to wait for a tap on the shoulder.
Dripping sweat and smiling ear to ear as he took off his hockey equipment on Monday morning at the TD Garden, Blacker looked like a guy who could use a rest, even if he didn’t want one.
Blacker was summoned from the AHL late Sunday night and made his way to Beantown from Chicago, arriving on Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. after playing three games in three nights with the Marlies.
So it was not a surprise Blacker was a healthy scratch for Monday’s game against the Bruins, but the Toronto native was a step closer to making his NHL debut.
“It’s something I have been hoping/waiting for,” Blacker said. “Hopefully I get in a game, but if not, I will take the experience and run with it. Just learn from some of the guys here. I have an idea of what it takes, I have been around for a while, but just take what I can from it and take the experience on the ice.”
With John-Michael Liles nursing a sprained ankle that he suffered on Saturday night versus Boston, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle reinserted Mike Kostka into the lineup. Kostka was a revelation coming out of the short training camp and started strong, but faded a bit and was a healthy scratch for the past five games.
The Leafs had to bring a defenceman up, because Carlyle didn’t want to be stuck if one of them was hurt during the morning skate or became sick.
“We think Kostka has earned the opportunity to go back in,” Carlyle said. “We just felt in the last time around with Kostka it was a numbers game and things weren’t going quite the way we had liked them to. With the injury to Liles, Kostka is a natural fit. Blacker has been a soldier for our American Hockey League team.”
In 53 games with the Marlies, Blacker, the 58th pick overall by the Leafs in 2009, had three goals and seven assists and was minus-2. An offensive defenceman with Owen Sound and Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League, Blacker has developed his defensive skills in his 11/2 seasons as a full-time AHLer.
Dallas Eakins came to Blacker after the Marlies’ game in Peoria, Ill., on Sunday night and told him he was going to the big club. An anxious Blacker got approximately 31/2 hours’ sleep and then hoped a plane to Boston.
“Dallas let me know, and he was extremely supportive and I was extremely thankful,” Blacker said. “One of the biggest things he said to me (earlier this season), was what position did I play, and I said I play defence.
“It was just more about concentrating on my own end. The time I get the points are when I worry about defence first and let the offence roll with it. It’s just been about improving my all-around game.”
Loktionov scores vs Senators (Larionov)
Jokinen’s Goal vs Carolina
Seguin’s Goal vs Montreal
Yakupov sets up Horcoff (Larionov)
Loktionov’s goal vs Tampa Bay (Larionov)
Charles Linglet Lugano Highlights
Jokinen’s goal vs Carolina
Lain figures Canucks right up his alley
As a U.S. college free agent, Kellan Lain could have signed anywhere. He spoke to 10 teams, narrowed it down to four, and then chose the Vancouver Canucks.
“It was a tough choice, picking an NHL team is never easy when more than one wants you,” said Lain, a 6-6, 220-pound, left-shot centreman from Oakville, Ont. “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.”
Lain, 23, played the last three seasons with the Lake Superior State Lakers of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. He had eight goals, eight assists and 111 penalty minutes during the 2012-13 campaign. The Canucks intend to assign him to the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves. His signing was announced Saturday.
Lain’s contract is for one year only, a requirement of the collective bargaining agreement based on his age. He received a $92,500 signing bonus and will be paid a $70,000 salary (prorated) in the AHL and $832,500 (pro-rated) if he is called up to the Canucks. He will then become a restricted free agent in the summer, assuming the Canucks qualify him.
“We hope he likes us,” said Canuck assistant GM Lorne Henning when asked about the prospect of keeping Lain beyond the rest of the season.
Lain is projected to be a bottom-six forward at the NHL level. He is good on the draw and won 56 per cent of faceoffs this past season for the Lakers. The Canucks are desperate for a top left-handed faceoff man since Manny Malhotra (vision) was shut down.
“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,” Lain said. “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.”
According to Laurence Gilman, the Canucks’ other assistant GM, Lain had been heavily scouted by Canuck senior adviser Stan Smyl, whose duties include scouring the U.S. colleges for late bloomers.
“He’s been on Stan’s radar for quite some time and we have followed him very, very closely,” Gilman said. “He has a good blend of both speed and skill. 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 mid-week.”
Plans called 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. The Canucks top U.S. college free agent to date is defenceman Chris Tanev, who was signed by the Mike Gillis regime three years ago. Lain is four months older than Tanev and played against him “a little bit” in greater Toronto minor hockey but doesn’t know him personally.
Lain leaves Lake Superior State after three seasons, signs with Vancouver
USCHO Staff Report
Lake Superior State junior forward Kellan Lain has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, giving up his senior season with the Lakers.
In his three seasons with Lake Superior State, Lain compiled 21 goals and 18 assists for 39 points and 210 penalty minutes in 108 games.
Lain racked up 111 PIMs this past season in 32 games, something LSSU coach Jim Roque discussed on the Canucks’ official website.
“When you get a five [-minute major] in our league, you also get a 10 [-minute misconduct] with it, too, and [Lain] had a couple check from behinds and a couple hit to the heads,” said Roque. “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 (6-foot-6, 222 pounds).”
Lain took college classes while playing juniors in his hometown of Oakville, Ont., 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,” Lain added.
Kellen Lain meets the media
Murphy, Rangers brace for Storm
SAULT STE. MARIE — It all happened so fast.
The Kitchener Rangers were up 3-0 in their best-of-seven OHL western conference final against the favoured Windsor Spitfires and just one win away from cracking the championship.
Then, in what seemed like an instant, it all came crashing down. The Spitfires rattled off four consecutive victories and never lost another game on their way to winning the Memorial Cup in 2010.
“We were so close,” said Rangers’ defenceman Ryan Murphy. “It was an amazing experience.”
So too was the following year when, in Murphy’s eyes, the Rangers were even more talented but were sent packing in seven games in the opening round by the Plymouth Whalers.
Last year, Kitchener got its revenge by returning the favour to the Whalers in a thrilling seventh game in the west semifinals.
From hotshot rookie to team captain. It has been memorable ride in a Rangers’ uniform for the Aurora native. But the story isn’t over yet. Murphy – and potentially 10 others – has one last playoff run left before leaving town.
“It’s now or never for us,” said the 19-year-old rearguard. “If we’re going to go out, we mind as well go out swinging.”
Kitchener wrapped up regular season play with a 6-4 loss to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Saturday at the Essar Centre. With fourth spot in the OHL’s western conference already locked up, the club opted to sit starting goalie John Gibson and star forwards Matt Puempel, Tobias Rieder and Radek Faksa.
Murphy played sparingly while other top guns saw limited action in what was a must-win game for the Greyhounds, who secured sixth spot in the west with the victory.
And so, the Rangers’ 50th anniversary regular season comes to an end.
The 39-20-1-8 record, good for 87 points, is the second highest total in general manager and head coach Steve Spott’s five-year regime. But with 10 players drafted or signed by NHL teams, the bar was set higher.
“I think it was an up and down season,” said Murphy, who is expected to join the Carolina Hurricanes, or their farm team, this fall. “We had a lot of injuries and call ups. We never really got to play with our full lineup throughout the year which is critical. It cost us games in the end.”
But there is a sense that the best is yet to come, as the club prepares to host the Guelph Storm in the opening round of the playoffs Friday at the Aud.
“There were a lot of expectations,” said Murphy. ‘But I don’t think we’ve let anyone down yet. It’s playoff time and we still have a lot to prove and we’re ready to go.”
And the captain believes. He says the team isn’t scared of OHL top dogs the London Knights or other power house clubs such as the Owen Sound Attack or the Plymouth Whalers.
“It all comes down to the will to win,” he said.
The final chapter in the captain’s junior hockey journey begins Friday at the Aud at 7:30 p.m.. Game 2 runs Sunday, also on East Avenue, at 7 p.m. Games 3 and 4 are at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph Tuesday and Thursday.
Galchenyuk speaks after practice
Irwin Goal at ANA 3/18
Postgame 3/18: Matt Irwin
FalconsTV With Thomas Larkin
Hockey-tonk heaven: B-R grad skates with Tyler Seguin at the TD Garden
Wicked Local Raynham
Raynham —For a passionate New England sports fan, it doesn’t get much better than skating in the Garden with Tyler Seguin.
Unless, of course, the Boston Bruins phenom skates up behind you while your cousin is snapping your picture and does John Travolta’s signature move from “Saturday Night Fever” in what is arguably one of the greatest photo bombs of all time.
“It encapsulates everything. We’re at the Garden. I’m being a silly Bruins fan. And there’s Tyler Seguin getting in on the silliness,” said Paula Damigella, a 2006 Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School graduate who grew up in Bridgewater and has been a diehard, lifelong Bears fan.
Paula, 24, who won the “AT&T Tyler Seguin: Your House or Mine” photo sweepstakes, got to bring 9 of her friends and relatives to the TD Garden for a skating party with the 21-year-old Bruins winger on Wednesday, March 6.
Paula, who hails from a large, close-knit Italian family, brought mostly cousins, as well as another dozen or so family members to sit on the bench and enjoy the event, including her mom Bonnie, dad Paul, little sister Allie, 12, and brother Nick, 14.
It was a dream come true for Paula, who has an outgoing, bubbly personality and loved every minute of the big day, her mom said.
“She was just beaming and skating around in awe,” Bonnie said.
And Seguin couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly. By the end of the event, Bonnie had adopted him as an honorary Damigella.
“He’s a really sweet guy. He’s down to earth and a lot of fun,” Paula said.
Paula’s friend Jessica Sares doesn’t know how to skate, so Seguin suggested he and Paula guide her around the ice.
“Jessica was so thrilled. She said, ‘I’ll never wash my hand again’,” Bonnie said.
At another point, Bonnie asked Seguin if he’d race across the ice with the cousins, who range in age from 16 to 24. Not only did he agree, he graciously let Paula’s cousin Michael win, Paula said.
Paula, an Emerson College graduate who works in the school’s IT department, can’t remember a time when she wasn’t a huge sports fan. She’s up and down throughout a game, cheering, wincing, yelling at the television.
“It’s visceral. It’s the tradition. It’s this massive stock of memories. I’ll get flashbacks to watching games with my dad as a little girl,” Paula said.
She’s addicted to “Bleacher report” and eats up sports books. She loves Boston, the sights, the smell, the energy. Fenway, the Garden. The culture, the history. The storied teams.
And then there’s the pajamas.
Last year she was heading out to watch game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in a sports bar with some friends. She was convinced her Bruins pajama pants were lucky, but it didn’t seem like an appropriate place to wear them, so she stuffed them in her purse.
But when the game got tense, she couldn’t stand it anymore and ducked into a bathroom to put the pajamas on. The Bears lost anyway. Did she conclude it was just an irrational superstition and she couldn’t possibly have been responsible for the devastating loss?
Not exactly. In her head, she knows that. But her heart is a different matter.
“I should have been wearing them from the start,” Paula said.
That was right around the time Paula found out she’d won the contest. But for a while it seemed like the big day would never come.
First Seguin injured himself during the playoffs.
Then, they melted the ice at the Garden at the end of the season.
Finally, there was that little matter of the NHL lockout.
The contest organizers asked if Paula wanted to hold the event somewhere else. But she stuck to her guns. She might never get another chance to skate at the Garden, she thought.
You don’t give up on a dream just because it takes a while to achieve. If being a Boston sports fan has taught her anything, it’s taught her that.
The evening even included dinner with Seguin for Paula and all her guests at the Garden.
They asked him if he thinks the 2013 team is as good as the champion 2011 team.
“Tyler said ‘No, we’re better. We love each other. We’re like brothers’,” Paula said.
Then her cousins asked if he’d flash them a signal the next time he scored a goal.
“What would I do?” he asked.
“One of my cousins said, ‘Blow us a kiss’,” Paula recalled with a groan.
“Tyler laughed and said, ‘I’m not doing that’,” Paula said.
Sure enough, the next night he scored a goal. No signal, but the camera went off him for a moment, so they’ll never know for sure.
“When he scored, my phone exploded. My cousins were all texting me, ‘We’re good luck!’” Paula said.
Of course, that’s a big responsibility.
“This year, it seems like if I don’t watch, they lose. It’s really stressful. Sometimes, I have a previous engagement,” Paula said.
Battalion reflect; gear up for Sudbury series
The 2012-13 OHL regular season came to a close on Sunday and to that, a season of reflection for the Brampton Battalion, who are on the move to North Bay next season.
On the ice, the Troops finished the year in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 34-25-3-6 record.
“I thought we did okay,” said Battalion head coach/GM Stan Butler, “Always as a team, you want to strive to do better but I think given the youth of our team, I think we’re a pretty young team, I thought we had a pretty good season.”
There’s still a playoff run to go, but that didn’t stop fans in Brampton, who showed their support on the weekend against Peterborough with a reported 3,432 in attendance for the season finale.
“It was special,” said Battalion captain Barclay Goodrow, “There’s been fans that have been here since day one and for their team to be leaving, it’s definitely tough for them, but to go out the way we did, especially in front of so many people and especially it being a big game for Peterborough as well, they had a lot of fans there, it wasn’t just an every day game for us, we wanted to win it for those fans and we wanted to thank them for all the support they’ve given us the past 15 years so it was definitely a good way to go out and now we have some momentum going into the playoffs, which is good.”
Goodrow scored a career-high 38 goals this season and although he says it would have been nice to hit the 40-goal plateau, he was happy with how his season went.
“In the past, I would have a few highs and a few lows throughout the season,” he said, “But I feel like this year, I kept the lows pretty short and the highs were pretty high so I was pretty happy with the way my season went and definitely with the team finishing fourth, I consider it a good year for us.”
Goodrow’s play this season on a team that finished 19th in the OHL in goals scored (193) was praised by Butler, as well as the play of some key defensive contributors.
“I think Barclay Goodrow had an extremely good season,” said Butler, “When you’re one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and a guy can get 38 goals for your team. I don’t think we had another 20-goal scorer on our team so from that perspective, I think he had a great year. I think Zach Bell was very strong on defense, did a good job and I think (Matej) Machovsky in net, gave us a good chance to win every day.”
Machovsky missed a bit of time this season when he represented the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championships in Russia, but finished the season with a 25-19-4 record, a 2.52 goals against and a 0.910 save percentage with three shutouts. Butler says his goaltender has been good from the very beginning.
“As a 17-year old, he was the first team All-Rookie goalie in the league and he’s just carried on from that,” he said, “(Machovsky)’s numbers over his three years here are very good so he’s done a good job and I think before he left (for the World Juniors), he had confidence and when he came back, he still had confidence. He’s that type of kid.”
The fourth place finish means a first round playoff series with the fifth place Sudbury Wolves (29-27-5-7) for the second consecutive year. The Troops swept the Wolves last year and won the season series this year, taking five of the eight contests and taking 11 of a possible 16 points in the process.
“Ever since the deadline, we’ve gone unbeaten against them but they’ll definitely still remember what we did to them last year in the playoffs,” said Goodrow, “I think they’ll have that in the back of their minds and I’m sure they want to get retribution but we just have to stick to our game plan, as coach says all year, we’re a team that can be really successful when we follow the game plan but won’t be when we don’t and that’s when things start to get hard for us so if we stay focused at it, one game at a time, we’ll go from there.”
Butler says the game’s this year against Sudbury have been “pretty well flip a coin”, with six of the eight decided by two goals or less and both teams winning a shootout each.
“Even though we actually beat them four straight in the playoffs (last year), the games were extremely close,” said Butler, “They’ve got a better goalie this year, they brought in (Franky) Palazzese from Kitchener. I think the teams are pretty even and the one great thing about the fans of North Bay is to have any support, extra support in Sudbury from our fans from next year would be a great advantage for us.”
Goodrow says the team is excited to get the playoffs started.
“It’s the part you play for all season,” he said, “Especially in Sudbury this time around, hopefully we’ll have some Battalion fans there from North Bay and that should be a good atmosphere for us.”
Thomas Larkin scores first pro goal
SPRINGFIELD – Cocquio-Trevisago, Italy,
isn’t exactly a
hotbed for hockey.
But it has produced at least one professional and the Springfield Falcons are glad he’s on their side.
Defenseman Thomas Larkin scored his first American Hockey League goal to spark a two-goal first period and the Falcons ended a six-game winless skein with a 2-0 victory over the Manchester Monarchs Wednesday night.
The win before 2,588 at the MassMutual Center, was the Falcons’ first since March 3 when they blanked the Worcester Sharks 2-0 on home ice.
Curtis McElhinney, who posted the shutout against Worcester, did it again against the Monarchs. He made 24 saves for his league-leading ninth shutout.
“He just stops everything,” Larkin said.
The nine shutouts are both single-season franchise and Springfield hockey history records. McElhinney passed both the Falcons’ Manny Legace and the Indians’ Marcel Paille.
“He’s been a rock,” coach Brad Larsen said. “He allows us to play with confidence.”
The Falcons may have gone winless in their previous six, but thanks to hockey math, they did not go pointless. They earned two points because one loss came in overtime and another in a shootout.
But there’s no substitute for a regulation win, especially for a team trying to maintain a comfortable first-place lead, which swelled to 11 points over the idle Connecticut Whale.
Four of those six setbacks were by one goal. The players were confident they would turn things around, even with a thin lineup ravaged by injuries and call-ups.
“We’ve got veterans who know losing is unacceptable,” Larsen said. “We had a good pace and I loved our forechecking. We had jump.”
Thanks to organizational depth, newcomers have become a factor for the crucial stretch run. Players like Larkin (college), Trent Vogelhuber, Nathan Moon, Will Weber, (ECHL) Spencer
Machacek,, Matthew Ford (trades) and Alex Aleardi (juniorhockey) have been brought in.
“That’s been our M.O. since the (NHL) lockout ended,.” Larsen said.
Larkin, who was born in England and raised in northern Italy near his mother’s family, recently completed a four-year career at Colgate University. He had the second highest point total by a Colgate defenseman with 19 points as a freshman.
“He’s a big, rangy kid,” Larsen said. “He’s quick to contact.
He played for Italy in the 2012 IHF World Championships and competed against some of the world’s best players.
“I feel like I got some experience that has really helped me,” Larkin said.
He came to the United States at 14 to play hockey in prep school.
Not shy about jumping into the offense, Larkin got things going during a two-goal first period. He collected a pass from defenseman Mike Banwell and drove a 30-foot shot past goalie Martin Jones at 12:59 of the first period.
“It was nice to get the goal, but honestly, it feels better to win,” said Larkin, outside the Falcons locker room, which is closed to the media this season. ”
Xavier Ouellet – «La LHJMQ, une école de vie»
QMJHL Roundup: Clapperton leads Armada to 6-1 playoff win over Titan
The Canadian Press
Christopher Clapperton scored twice as the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada downed the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 6-1 on Thursday in the first game of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Clapperton also had an assist as the third-seeded Armada took a 1-0 lead in their first-round series. Marc-Olivier Roy scored and added two assists for Blainville-Boisbriand, while Marcus Hinds, Danick Martel and Olivier Picard chipped in as well.
Seguin celebrates Bruins’ GWG
Devils’ Andrei Loktionov enjoys his own comeback from injury
RALEIGH, N.C. — Martin Brodeur wasn’t the only Devils player to enjoy a successful comeback.
Andrei Loktionov, back in the lineup after missing two games and most of a third with a left shoulder injury, scored a power-play goal at 16:54 of the third period to give the Devils a 4-1 lead and assure the win Thursday night.
The Russian center’s backhander from the slot deflected off the right post and into the net.
“It’s nice to score a goal when you don’t play for three games,” he said.
Loktionov was hurt in the first period of the March 15 game in Philadelphia.
“I was a little bit sore in the first period,” he said. “Then everything (the pain) goes away.”
Agozzino signs with Colorado
22-year-old Andrew Agozzino signed a two-year, $1.18 million contract, giving him a $60,000 AHL salary and the Avs a $590,000 NHL cap hit. Agozzino signed a one-year deal with the Lake Erie Monsters for the 2012-2013 season, his first real professional foray after a five-year career in the OHL. He had a two-game tryout with the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues affiliate) in 2010, but returned to the OHL without a contract.
He has been a staple of LEM’s offense, leading the team with 28 goals and 45 points in 65 games. Agozzino has been a huge bright spot on an inconsistent team that is struggling to make the playoffs. Agozzino went undrafted despite being over a point-per-game player in juniors. He holds franchise records with the Niagara IceDogs in goals (159), assists (147), points (306) and games (316).
St. Peter’s Saints win OFSAA boys hockey AAA/AAAA championship
For the first time in school history the St. Peter’s Saints are OFSAA boys hockey champions.
The Saints completed a perfect 6-0 sweep through the OFSAA AAA/AAAA championship tournament in Mississauga and Brampton with a 4-2 win over St. Michael’s College in the final after a 4-2 win over Holy Trinity in semifinal play Friday.
Gerard Sullivan has coached the Saints for 28 years, 19 as an assistant to Ed Leahy and nine as head coach with Jaden Gates and Steve Stanlick at his side. During that span the Saints have been to OFSAA 10 times with their best performance a fourth-place finish in 2011.
“It’s a huge feeling of contentment, finally having reached the goal,” Sullivan said.
“Two years ago, we were so close and even last year we were knocking on the door in the quarter-final losing to the eventual winner Michael Power, who we were leading going into the third.”
Mitchell Stephens fired a hat trick for the Saints in the final and Will Gagne capped it with an empty-net marker. Brad Smith got the win in goal. Against Holy Trinity, Mac Maloney had an empty-net goal while Gagne scored twice and Nick Julian once.
Sullivan said the addition of Stephens, expected to be a first-round pick in the April 6 OHL draft, in the second semester was a major boost to the team.
“We had lost a significant player and we were able to fill that gap with Mitch, who was just a fantastic fit,” Sullivan said.
He said the team also adapted to some line changes and bonded during a March Break trip to Germany.
“Everyone wanted to be a part of a winner. It was a great atmosphere around these kids,” Sullivan said.
“We had a really good blend of veterans. We had nine returning players from last year, basically half the team had been here and through the experience and realized this is a marathon.
“We had four solid defencemen who had been here more than once. It all starts on the back-end. Our goaltender Brad Smith didn’t skip a beat and we got great additional goaltending support from Jake Fenton.”
There was a contingent of players from Douro and Ennismore who are playing in OMHA finals.
“They have a background of success,” he said.
Despite not having a full Kawartha season this year, with public schools across Ontario not participating in extracurriculars in first semester, the Saints played a 38-game schedule including tournaments, exhibitions and their trip. They were 32-3-3.
“This means everything with this being (St. Peter’s) 100th anniversary,” said second-year player Mike Cain.
“We hadn’t done better than fourth place in all the history of our school. Having our principal (Kathy Ross) pass away this year, it means the world to our team and our coaches and fans as well.”
Cain said it wasn’t easy with every game a stern test.
“We pulled through,” he said. “I think we’re a third period team and Mitchell Stephens came up big for us and got a hat trick. We just held onto it. It meant a lot to us.”
Future Sabres: Justin Kea
In Pittsburgh at the 2012 National Hockey League entry draft the Buffalo Sabres focused their attention on center ice.
Their two first round draft selections—Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons—have large frames and, while both were being weaned into the pro game largely on the wing.
But almost an afterthought, Buffalo chose another center with size in the third round—73rd overall. Justin Kea is playing with the Saginaw Spirit in the Ontario Hockey League and has put up 46 points over the first 63 games this season, but was selected with defense in mind.
The 6’4”, 206 lb. participated in a mini-combine for the Sabres before the draft but, with just seven goals and 13 assists over his first 127 junior games, offense wasn’t the first word that came to mind when scouts watched him play.
Increased playing time this season with Saginaw has changed that slightly, but the Woodville, Ontario native projects as a third or fourth line center who kills penalties and is on the ice protecting a one-goal lead in the final minute.
For comparison, picture Paul Gaustad with much better speed.
“Points-wise I’m having a good year and plus/minus is pretty good. I’m on the first PK and a little power play time, but I feel in the NHL I will be a defensive player and not a scorer so I’m more defensively focused.
“I would like to be like a Paul Gaustad. (Head) coach (Greg) Gilbert referred me to kind of be like him, so I watched some videos and I like the kind of hockey he plays—strong defensively, can score, good on draws— and I think that the kind of role I can play.”
An assistant captain with the Spirit, Kea won a gold medal with Team Ontario at the 2011 U-17 World Hockey Challenge and was named the OHL West Division Academic Player of the Month this past December.
“Hopefully I can take what I do in the OHL to the NHL—being good defensively and show that I can also put up some numbers.
“I went to the development combine before the draft and they said ‘you only have three goals this year— that’s not very impressive. How do we know you’ll be able to produce?’
So coming into the summer I really wanted to work on my goal-scoring ability and produce numbers this year. That was my overall focus but still being solid defensively. I really wanted to show everybody that I could put up some numbers.”
In spite of being ranked 93rd overall among North American skaters heading into the draft, Kea chose not to attend the event in Pittsburgh.
“Even though my agent was pretty confident in me getting drafted, I only had 14 points so I just decided to stay at home and share that moment with my family. I didn’t need all that big flashy stuff—I’m not that kind of guy.“It’s obvious Buffalo was going for a little size up the middle this draft and I’m happy they drafted me. I think I’ll be competing with the other two guys for a spot one day. Being a hard-working player and being in good shape will help me get that position.”
And likely on the ice against the other team’s top line.more
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
Yakupov’s PPG (Larionov)
Brandon Prust, Alex Galchenyuk et Brendan Gallagher magasinent chez Sartorialto (Larionov)
Monarchs Manufacturing – Andy Andreoff
Tyler Seguin’s two-way game solid
WILMINGTON — It started, perhaps, with the backcheck in Winnipeg.
Early in the Bruins’ 3-2 victory against the Jets on Feb.?17, the B’s were facing an odd-man rush and had a defender without a stick when Tyler Seguin dove to break up the play. Later in the game, he scored a tip-in goal from in front of the net, and since then, his entire game seems to be on the upswing.
Goals still are hard to come by, but Seguin will take a five-game point streak into tonight’s contest against Ottawa. He has 12 points this season (three goals, nine assists), two behind team leader David Krejci.
Seguin sees that Winnipeg game as the catalyst for his sustained stretch of solid two-way play.
“I got that tip and it took some weight off my shoulders, just getting another one,” he said after yesterday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “And since then I’ve just been focusing on my D-zone being good, and whatever happens after that happens. Right now, our team’s playing very well and it’s fun to be a part of it.
“I think I’ve been doing well on backchecks and winning battles. It’s definitely something I’ve been stressing on myself, and it’s been stressed by other people .?.?. and I want to stay consistent with that.”
Coach Claude Julien agreed that Seguin’s entire game has improved.
“It’s been pretty impressive with the way he’s backchecked, the way he’s played defensively. (Against the Islanders on Tuesday), if he’s not there in the crease area, there’s probably a goal with the defenseman not having a stick in his hand. He’s made some nice plays,” Julien said. “But also at the other end, things are starting to come around for him. His line is producing. (Brad) Marchand is the guy that’s benefiting on a lot of those goals, but Seguin’s there too.
“He’s in those dirty spots in front of the net at times and battling. I think it’s just a matter of time (before the goals come). A lot of times when a guy starts to score, they come in bunches. There’s no doubt he’ll catch up to his numbers as far as the goal-scoring.”
While the B’s demand sound work in all three zones, Julien stressed that he’s not looking to make Seguin something he’s not.
“The one thing I don’t want you guys to get confused about is that we don’t expect him to become a defensive player. He’s a goalscorer, he’s an offensive player, and we want him to thrive in those areas,” the coach said. “But for him to become a real good two-way player and for him to take pride at both ends of the rink is a bonus for us.
“He’s making a lot of things happen, he’s doing the right things in the offensive zone, and it’s just a matter of time before he starts to score. We drafted him for his offensive skills, so that’s got to continue. But as I’ve often said to the young players coming in, ‘We’re not trying to change you, but if there’s certain things we can add to your game without subtracting, you’ll benefit by becoming a better player.’?”
Seguin’s play also earned kudos from Marchand.
“He’s really bearing down and focusing on his defensive game and playing in all areas of the ice. You can see it right now. He’s playing awesome,” Marchand said. “The last five or six games he’s really stepped up a lot, he’s playing a really good two-way game. And that’s what we need from him. If we’re going to finish this season strong and head into the playoffs, we’re going to need him to play this way the rest of the year.”
If there’s a hole in his game right now, it’s on the perpetually struggling power play, where he’s yet to find room for his potent shot off the half-wall.
“It’s different here,” said Seguin, who has played the position in juniors and in Switzerland. “You have to come up so much higher and you have to earn more space because the guys are so much better at penalty-killing that it’s a different look and vision. Just reading the gaps and trying to get a one-timer, it’s a lot tighter space than I’m used to. It’s about finding that space and going from there.”
Loktionov’s goal vs Winnipeg (Larionov)
Cammalleri’s goal vs Colorado
Bud Light Hog Talk – Adam Clendening
CT Whale Hockey Talk – Christian Thomas
Thomas on his NHL Debut
Right wing Christian Thomas, 20, opened his NHL debut by putting a solid hit on Canadiens forward Erik Cole, firing a shot on goal and then getting dumped at the end of his shift by Habs defenseman Francis Bouillon – all in the name of finding a rhythm on the new, big stage.
“It’s always nice to get a good hit to start off the game,” said Thomas, who packed a punch on that first hit despite being just 5-9, 170 pounds. “My dad always tells me be physical, hard on the forecheck. Smaller guys have to do that to be successful, and I just tried to get it out of the way early.”
Thomas’ father, Steve, played 20 years in the NHL and is now a player development coach for the Lightning. But Steve skipped Saturday’s Tampa Bay game against the Hurricanes to fly to Montreal to see his son’s NHL debut. The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith did a good quick write-up on Steve’s trip and feelings here.
Christian, meanwhile, played 12:46 with two shots on goal and three hits, earning time on the Rangers’ second power play unit by getting a couple wristers on Habs goalie Carey Price early and hitting.
“I felt more comfortable as it went on,” Thomas said. “By the third period, I felt it was just another game out there. It was hard to get a ton of stuff going. Montreal was playing well defensively. (But) it was a great experience.”
Thomas was the Rangers’ second-round pick (40th overall) in the 2010 draft. He was with the Connecticut Whale in Scranton, Pa., when he got the call up. From there he flew to Philadelphia, but he was flight was delayed and he had to stay the night before hopping on an 11:30 a.m. flight to Canada.
Alex Bolduc Profile from Press Herald
Yakupov ‘You want to go out there and win games just because of Krueger (Larionov)
Osadchenko: You are now a full-time NHL player. You scored 8 points in first 10 games and now have 11 points in 18 games. Is the NHL exactly what you expected it to be or is it different somehow?
Yakupov: I didn’t have any expectations, to be honest. The time flies by very quickly. When I was a kid I couldn’t even dream of being in the NHL and now I have played over 10 games there. I play hockey and I’m having lots of fun. I feel very comfortable around my teammates. I am now just one of the guys on the team, nothing special. I like our team, our city and the atmosphere overall. I like winning, scoring points and helping my team in any way I can. I try to work hard and my coach trusts me.
AO: What was your ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment? For instance, Alex Burmistrov of the Winnipeg Jets once said that he felt ‘welcomed’ to the league when he was crushed into the boards behind the net really hard for the first time.
NY: Honestly, I felt that I was playing in the NHL from day one. True, I was still a little shook up during the warm-up. I was in awe, you know? (smiling) I was looking at my team, I was looking at the Canucks, I was looking at NHL logos all around the rink and I understood I was playing in the NHL. I was flying in the skies as they say. But I did understand that it was the NHL. And when the ref dropped the puck I told myself ‘Well, this is it. This is my first minute in the NHL’. And off I went.
AO: You are a very ambitious guy. Did you set a goal for yourself – to score in your first NHL shift?
NY: No, that wasn’t my goal. I mean, it’s not like I was working myself up focusing on that. It was’t like I was going to go back to the locker-room and sulk if I didn’t score. In your first NHL game you have to get used to the way the game is played over there. You have adjust to the way the guys play, what they do, where they skate… that took some time. Believe me, if I had a chance to score, I would have. I mean, I scored some goals eventually, right? For now my goal is to keep working hard. Given an opportunity, I will score, I will pass and I will do anything for my team. We need points badly. I want my team to win. I think, it’s more important than my personal stats.
AO: What was the greatest advice you were given before your first career NHL game?
NY: Well, there was just one advice, really. It came from my teammates and coach. And it was the best possible advice ever. They all came up to me, shook my hand, smiled and said ‘Have fun out there. Have fun from the fact you’re playing in the NHL – the best league in the world. Have fun from playing with your teammates and have fun playing against your opponents’.
I think these are the words that I needed the most. They helped me big time. I took them to the heart and I actually felt much better out there. Just like with any other job – if you love what you’re doing, it’s much easier to get the job done. If you love hockey, it’s easier to play hockey. And if you approach the game with a ‘ugh-that’s-my-job-I-need-to-work-so-I-would-have-the-money’ attitude, everything is going to be very different. I mean, of course, we’re being paid for playing hockey. But it’s much better to enjoy playing hockey, help your team and have fun. Plus, you’re being paid to do that. It’s not a bad deal (laughs).
AO: Earlier this season you managed to score two almost identical goals on the Kings and Coyotes, swatting the puck in out of mid-air. Is it something you work on at practices?
NY: Well, we do have a table tennis set up in our locker-room. We play it every day. Perhaps, I learned something from there? (laughs) I don’t know, really. It just sort of happened. I just really wanted to score so I skated in the slot, because, basically, that’s where the most goals come from. And then I just calculated the trajectory of the puck and scored.
AO: However, it’s not that easy to swing at the puck like that. Have you always had this terrific hand-eye corrdination?
NY: I wouldn’t say that I work specifically on that at practices. Although, I do skate into the slot after every shot and try hard to score any way I can. You just have to really want it.
AO: Tomas Holmstrom used to stand against the half-boards during warm-ups and practice deflections. Do you have any specific drill you like to do during warm-ups?
NY: We do a lot of drills. For instance, I prefer shooting drills. I shoot while standing, while skating – you name it. I try to shoot during games, too. And I do shoot in every game. (laughs)
AO: This season quite a few players who didn’t play hockey during the lockout got injured. Do you feel like playing for Neftekhimik in the KHL gave you a good game-form, which allowed you to getting injuried?
NY: Absolutely. The part of the season that I spent in Nizhnekamsk helped me a lot. First of all, I played in my hometown, which made everything much easier for me. Second of all, the coaching staff trusted me with ice-time so I played a lot. Besides, I also got to play for junior Team Russia. I had a lot of pro and junior games. All of it really helped me to get adjusted to hockey over here. As for getting injured, you have to understand one thing – this is a short season and the schedule is really tight. Usually we play two games in three nights. Some guys can’t recover fast enough – hence the injuries. Certainly, guys who didn’t play hockey during the lockout sometimes may not be ready for it.
AO: The tight schedule must created more problems for you than for some other teams. Even in Nizhnekamsk you didn’t have to fly so much.
NY: Hey, it would be a crime not to fly on our plane. (smiles) It really comfortable. There’s everything on board – food, drinks, chargers, Wi-Fi… If you’re up in the air and you have nothing to do, a two-hour flight may be challenging. But when you have stuff to do, the time flies by. The guys on the team like to joke around, so I never get bored.
AO: Who’s the biggest jokester on your team?
NY: I’d say it’s Eric Belanger. He’s from Quebec. He really cracks me up. He’s got quite a few years under his belt, but I’m telling you – his jokes are the best! You just gotta love him! He’s telling all sorts of stories, does impressions and so on. I love it.
AO: First overall or not – you’re still just a rookie on the team. Somebody must have pulled a prank on you. Give it up – did they cut your shoelaces? Did they hide your stick in the washroom?
NY: (laughs) No, no, no! Nothing like that so far. You know, when I look at my teammates, I can’t even think of one guy who would do something like that. I mean, do something behind your back. They’ve all been nothing but helpful to me since day one. They were always there for me, talking to me, helping me out… this helps to feel yourself as part of the team. I haven’t seen anybody on our team pulling a prank on anybody. Besides, it depends on what kind of a guy you are. If you’re a good guy, this ain’t going to happen to you. But if you’re going to be cocky, there are going to be pranks pulled on you and so on. We’re a good team, every guy on our team is a good guy. And then again – we have so many games! Cutting someone’s shoelaces? Forget about it! There’s no time for it! After practices the only thing on your mind is to get something to eat and get some rest. There’s no time for pranks.
AO: Being a rookie you get lots of powerplay ice-time, which is really important because that’s where you score most of the points. Is it something you expected this past summer?
NY: This past summer I had no idea what to expect. Although, I did talk to the coach about that at the rookie camp. He told me back then that he is counting on me on the powerplay and he’s going to give me ice-time for it. He told me ‘To be honest with you, I’ve never seen such a powerful shot off the rush’. (smiles) That made me feel great! I mean, I was shocked! So, I’m getting some time on the powerplay now. First two games everything worked for me. Now it’s much more difficult. NHL coaches aren’t dumb, you see. They analyze the way you play and come up with counter measures. So now they get in my passing and shooting lanes and it’s a much harder for me to fire it on net. I still shoot it, though, if there’s a chance.
AO: This is hardly new for you, though. People played tight against you in the OHL, the Subway Super Series, the World Juniors and even in the KHL. Does it push you towards being a better player?
NY: I like it. That means you’re a menace. That means you can make the other team pay by either scoring a goal or setting up a play. Your opponents look at you and try to come up with something to keep you off the scoreboard. This makes me feel great. That means I’m worth something. That means, I’ve done something. It doesn’t bother me at all. Besides, it’s not like there’s a guy who skates behind me all the time or something like that. There are a lot of talented guys on our team who can stir things up in every shift. You can’t just shut them all down. You can’t keep an eye on all of them during an entire game. There will be mistakes. And they will get a couple of goals. Most of our games are decided by a single mistake. Whoever makes one mistake less – wins the game.
AO: In your first 10 games you scored eight points and were tied for first in goal-scoring among rookies for sometime with five markers. Were you happy about that or in the back of your mind you still craved for a little more than that?
NY: I don’t even think about that. I can only thank God that I’m able to score. It would be a sin for me to complain. Everything’s great. I just want to keep improving. I want to practice more and play better. I want to help my team win by working hard, scoring goals and getting assists. I don’t this to be my limit. I want to win the Stanley Cup.
AO: Do you have a bet with your fellow Russian rookie Vladimir Tarasenko on who’s going to win the Calder Trophy this season?
NY: I hardly know him, actually. I’ve seen him maybe 3 times in real life. So we don’t really talk to each other.
AO: Would the games against the Blues mean something extra to you?
NY: Oh, it’s going to be a rivalry! (laughs) I mean, for us every game is a rivalry. Just like I said we win and lose games by one or two goals tops and we really need points.
AO: Some people disregard ‘plus-minus’ stat completely. Others – not so much. You are a minus-nine in 19 games. Why?
NY: You’re right. Some think it’s important, some think it’s not. I don’t think about it too much. It’s bad when you’re the reason your team concedes a goal. It’s bad when it was your mistake that led to a goal or you had a bad shift overall. That concerns me, yes. Everybody makes mistakes so I’m not worried too much about my plus-minus. I just want our team to get points and make it to the playoffs. This is what’s important to me. After every game we watch videos. If I made a mistake somewhere, the coach points it out to me. It’s not like he says ‘Hey, you! You are a minus-6! And you are a minus-7!’. It doesn’t work like that.
AO: In the summer you said you liked Edmonton. You took local fans by surprise. They’re not used to hearing this. Why did you like it?
NY: (laughs) You have to understand – there are no skyscrapers in Nizhnekamsk. There are no high-rise office buildings with 50 stories. So when you live in downtown on the 30th floor and you get to see these buildings… I don’t know. I just like it. True, comparing to other NHL cities Edmonton may be small. But I am also from a small town of Nizhnekamsk. I like towns like this – small and quiet. I don’t want anything else! Some people like the lights of big city, but I’m not one of them. I like it when it’s quiet. I like it when nobody’s in any rush.
AO: Fans jokingly said you’re going to change your mind about Edmonton when the winter comes. Well, it is winter. Do you still like it?
NY: Look, the winter in Nizhnekamsk is three times colder than in Edmonton. And even if it was the other way around, it wouldn’t scare me. I have warm clothes and my parents taught me when I was a kid how to stay warm. So wherever I go I don’t feel cold.
AO: Do you know that you offended some media members by not talking to them during the World Juniors in Ufa? There were some who questioned if you should be given a spot on the Oilers roster or simply traded away.
NY: I wish I knew who wrote that. (smiles) Actually, I gave a lot of interviews right before the World Juniors. My face was on every website out there. It was me, myself and I. People have to understand that I’m not the only guy on the team – there are 20 other guys who can also tell you interesting things about the team. That’s one thing. The other thing is that it was my last World Championship on the junior level. I wanted to focus on hockey. I didn’t want to be distracted.
I’m not going to lie to you – it’s a pleasure to talk to some journalists and it’s quite a displeasure to talk to the other. Even Russian reporters, who you’d think would be supportive, tend to focus on the negative. ‘Who was clubbing on your team? Where did they go at night? Could you tell us their names?’ I mean, why would I ever want to talk to you again after these questions, right? I told our media relations officer that I wanted to focus on the tourney and I didn’t want to be distracted.
However, the World Juniors are over. It’s all in the past now. It’s all different in the NHL. The NHL is the ultimate hockey league. There’s no better league out there for you to play in. I knew this myself but I was told when I came here too that the media is going to be around everyday. They come into our locker-room and we talk to them for hours. It’s different. You get to know people better because you work with them everyday. You get to know who does what for whom. They know what to ask. They don’t try to provoke you. It’s more interesting to talk to media in this fashion.
AO: There was a meeting between reporters and hockey players in Moscow a few weeks ago. They discussed why players don’t like to talk to the media. If only you were there…
NY: Look, there are some reporters out there you can talk to everyday. They’re fine. But there are some who only looking for dirt. Their goal is to dig up a little thing and make a big deal out of nothing. Why? Who needs that? What shocks me – often it’s Russian reporters who look to dig up some dirt on Team Russia. I would understand if a Canadian reporter would do that. But a Russian? I don’t get it.
AO: Russian players of your generation want to play against the Red Wings, since they grew up watching the Russian Five. Is it something you can relate to?
NY: Not quite. I have the same sentiment about the Dallas Stars. You’ve a picture of me and Jagr when I was a kid, right? I was coming back from a morning skate and remembered I had this picture. I was just a kid back then and Jagr was in town with Avangard to play Neftekhimik. I’m surprised he played at the rink. It was an old rink and it was really cold! (laughs) Anyway, he played there, and now I get to play against him here! So many years have gone by… I was shocked when I got to play against him. Moreover, I was standing next to him on the face-off. I was on the right wing and he was on the left. I remember standing there just going ‘Holy smokes!’.
I have special feelings for the Red Wings, too. When I played in Sarnia every next weeekend I’d go to Detroit to catch an NHL game. Visa wasn’t an issue and it’s like a one-hour drive from Sarnia. I watched a lot of games there. I was even there when they played the Oilers! Now I have played at the rink myself. I think it’s pretty cool.
AO: Could you tell a little more about this picture with Jagr? Where was it taken exactly?
NY: Right after their morning skate. I just came back from school. My dad called and said ‘Get to the rink ASAP. You’re taking a picture with Jagr’. I told him ‘So Jagr… whatever. Why do I need to take a picture with him?’. My dad goes ‘Are you dumb? Get changed and go to the rink’. I go ‘Why? My practice is in 5 hours!’. Dad said ‘I’m telling you to come here this instant’. So I grabbed my stuff and went over there. I met my dad and he told me ‘Right. Jagr is on his way. You’re going to take a picture with him. And put on your equipment!’. I told him ‘Why would I put it on? I don’t want to take a picture with him! The practice is 4 hours away!’. In the end, he made me put it on. I took a picture and went back to change. The next day I saw him play and he played great. It dawned on me that I did the right thing taking a picture with him. All in all, I didn’t want to take a picture with him at first. Jagr… whatever. What about him, right? (laughs)
AO: You should taken another picture with him. You know, sort of a ‘before’ and ‘after’.
NY: I wanted to do that after the first game but my plate was full at the moment. He scored a goal and was really happy and I… well, let’s just say I wasn’t exactly in the mood.
AO: Do you think a shortened season gives the Oilers any advantages or disadvantages?
NY: Tell you what, full season or not, you get just two points for a win and one point for a loss in overtime. So the gap between the teams is always tight. Only if you would lose like 10 or 20 games in a row. I can tell you that every guy on our team loves playing hockey. I haven’t heard a single guy complaining about how difficult the schedule is and whatnot. Nobody is crying over it. Although, I wish we had all the injured guys back and healthy as soon as possible. I want our team to win more often and make it to the playoffs. If we can stay healthy, we’re a very good team. We can beat any team in the league. Besides, we have got an excellent coach. He’s great not only as a coach but on a personal level too. I have never met a coach like him. He’s always there for us. You want to go out there and win games just because of him.
Kristoff Kontos with Aly Post Greyhounds Match-up
Seguin goal vs Tampa Bay
Tyler Seguin Postgame Interview
Loktinov’s tying goal vs Buffalo
Devils notes: Andrei Loktionov surging (Larionov)
Devils center Andrei Loktionov continues to make key contributions, scoring the tying goal with 8:38 left in regulation Saturday. Loktionov, who was acquired from Los Angeles and called up from Albany (AHL) on Feb. 17, has points in five consecutive games (three goals, two assists).
“It’s nice to score goals, but if we win it would be much better,” Loktionov said.
In his two weeks with the team, Loktionov has emerged as an important player. He has played the past two games on the top line with Ilya Kovalchuk.
“Right now, anybody that can consistently create offense for us is important, and he’s the one guy the last five or six games that’s been doing that,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said.more
Ty Ulmer: Making the Biggest Save of His Life
Biggest Inspiration – No Pun Intended
Tyler Beskorowany was a high draft pick for the Dallas Stars in 2008. Since then, he’s bounced back and forth between the AHL and ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads. The 6’5″ goalie is the main reason Ty decided to give goaltending the green light.
As Ulmer explains, ”He was just a down to earth kind of guy, for being so young and talented, it kind of made me think that anything is possible. For a guy who is 6’5” and could move as fast has he did, and was as talented as he was, I don’t know…I’m amazed. When I first met him, he brought out this kid in me; talked to me like I was a friend, not a fan. He made me feel like I’d known him for a while. I guess I wanted to be like him, that’s why I wanted to play goal.”
Beskorowany reciprocated the comments by saying, “I’m just happy I was able to impact a person by being who I am and by my ability to play hockey. Ty and I have become quite close. We chat on social networks, and when I see him around the rink and other events it isn’t just another fan coming to the game, it’s a friend who brightens my day whether we are winning or losing, whether I’m in a bad mood or good mood. I always have time to chat and hang out with Ty and other people I’ve met along my journey.”
The bond between goalie and fan was solidified a few years back when Ulmer found a keepsake belonging to Beskorowany.
Ulmer started, “We had volunteered to clean the apartments that the players stay in through out the season, and upon doing so, I found a puck in one of the rooms. On the puck were the words “Grand Rapids Griffins Hockey Club” along side the teams logo. Knowing that the Griffins were in the AHL, I went through the list of players that had been called up from Idaho to Texas that year. Beskorowany had been one of those players. So I contacted him through social media and came to find out, it was his puck from his first AHL win which happened in Grand Rapids. I told him that I’d keep it till next season and I would give it to him in person in exchange for his autograph on his jersey that we had bought after the season was over.
The next season comes and Tyler doesn’t play in Idaho. Not one game. He had been called up to the AHL, playing for the Texas Stars and played the whole season with them. Another season I kept his puck, and another season of an un-autographed jersey. Following the lockout this season, we were really looking forward to the start of the Steelheads season. Being season ticket holders, we can attend every home game. At the start of this season, I attended another meet and greet, and finally Tyler was there. I gave him his puck along with a ‘congratulations’ – in a joking manner. He was very grateful, and just a couple games into the season, was the first post-game autograph session, and Tyler signed the jersey, with what seemed like a big sigh of relief. I look forward to seeing Tyler in many more successful seasons, be it in the ECHL with Idaho, or in the AHL with Texas, or hopefully with Dallas of the NHL.”
And since then, the relationship has been as strong as ever.
“It was an amazing gesture! You know not every kid who sees a puck would go through that trouble to get it back to me. That puck means a lot to me and for him to do this was just amazing,” Beskorowany stated appreciatively.
Goldobin Making Strides In His Rookie Year – Junior Hockey News (Larionov)
Over the last few short years, the Sarnia Sting has sent high profile players to the NHL. Steven Stamkos was selected first overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2008 NHL Draft. Then last summer, Nail Yakupov became the second Sting player in five years to go first overall as he was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers. Two spots later, the Montreal Canadiens took Alex Galchenyuk third overall.
There is an up-and-coming star in the Sting organization that could follow suit. Nikolay Goldobin, a 17-year old right winger from Mockobckar, Russia, has been turning heads around the OHL in his rookie year with his play-making ability.
In an interview with JuniorHockey.com and with the aid of interpreter and Sting teammate Daniel Nikandrov, Goldobin reflected on the value of playing on a team that has featured three highly-drafted NHL stars. “It’s a good feeling. I’m going to try to play better than they did.”
So far, Goldobin has fared very well in the ‘O’ as he ranks fourth in team scoring with 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points. It’s not bad considering that he trails Galchenyuk (who is now with the Canadiens), and current linemates Reid Boucher, the league leader in goals with 51, and Charles Sarault, who leads the league in assists with 67. Playing on the team’s top line with Boucher and Sarault has meant that the Sting coaching staff has plenty of confidence in his ability. Goldobin also ranks second behind Erie Otters’ forward Connor McDavid in rookie scoring.
After selecing him 36th overall in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft last summer, the Sting organization weren’t the only team that took notice on Goldobin’s talents. After putting up 13 goals and nine assists in 50 games for the Russkie Vityazi Chekov of the Minor Hockey League (MHL) last season, the Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the Kontinental Hockey League selected him eighth overall in the 2012 KHL Draft. On why he decided to come to North America instead of playing in his home country, he said “My agent [which is former NHL player and Hall of Famer Igor Larionov] helped me out and it gave me a better opportunity to play in the NHL.” On asked who he would like to pattern his game after, he said smiling and without the help of Nikandrov, “[Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Patrick] Kane.”
He has shown on many occasions this season that he has the rare on-ice ability that scouts drool over. Case in point: On New Year’s Day at London’s Budweiser Gardens, Goldobin scored four goals, including the game-clincher in overtime that halted the London Knights’ 24-game winning streak in a 6-5 win. “I had a good game and the team played very well and it was important for our team and organization to break the streak,” Goldobin said. In four games against the defending OHL Champions, Goldobin has slayed the Knights by scoring seven goals and adding two assists. Playing in London seems to be his favorite OHL rink outside the RBC Centre. The other game he played at Budweiser Gardens came on February 7 where he had a goal and two assists and was once again the team’s best player.
Since he isn’t eligible for the NHL Draft until 2014, there are some things that Goldobin wants to improve on. “I want to work on my speed, my physical ability to battle and to work on my shot.” With his size (he’s listed at 5’11″, 165 lbs.) along with his drive and determination, there’s room for him to grow into one of the top players in the OHL next season.
Coming to a different country and being thrown into a new environment with hopes of playing in an NHL rink is never easy, but one of the players who have overseen Goldobin’s transition is Nikandrov. “I think he’s progressed a lot… He’s worked really hard and he seems to be skating much better now than he did before.”
If he continues to excel, he could very well be next in line, following the trail of Stamkos, Yakupov and Galchenyuk, as the next player from the Sarnia Sting franchise who could go straight to the NHL.
Christian Thomas’ Goal vs Manchester
MacDermid gets the call for ailing Bruins
WILMINGTON, MA – With the Bruins in the middle of a flu bug that’s coursing through their dressing room, the team promoted tough guy winger Lane MacDermid back up from the AHL prior to their road swing through Florida and Long Island.
MacDermid was on loan to the Providence Bruins for a conditioning assignment and skated in five games for the P-Bruins while notching both a goal and a fighting major during that time. He was back up with Boston for Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena and skating in a Merlot practice jersey along with Shawn Thornton, Chris Kelly and Jay Pandolfo.
MacDermid got very limited ice time in the handful of games he played in Boston when Thornton suffered his concussion, so the winger was happy to get a more expanded role down in Providence.
“I obviously got more ice time down there, so it was good to get regular shifts,” said MacDermid. “You get back to playing in game situations as well, so that’s good. I just wanted to play well for my team when I did play, and I wasn’t worried so much about coming back up here.”
MacDermid has skated in three games for Boston this season with 10 penalty minutes — earned in a pair of fights against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the same game at the Air Canada Centre — and averaging 3:34 of ice time. The forward has four goals, two assists and 82 penalty minutes in 37 games with Providence this year.
With seven players — including four forwards — missing from practice on Tuesday afternoon extra forwards like MacDermid and Pandolfo could very easily be getting the call during the three-game road swing if the flu persists in the Black and Gold dressing room.
Hershey Bears forward Peter LeBlanc talks about playing in his hometown of Hamilton
Whale’s Version of “The Smurfs” Comes up Huge
The Herb Brooks-coached 1982-83 New York Rangers got big playoff performances from an undersized line featuring Mark Pavelich and Rob McClanahan, both of whom had played for Brooks on the famous 1980 U.S. Olympic team, along with canny Swedish import Anders Hedberg.
That line was known as “The Smurfs”, and it led the Blueshirts, a .500 team during the regular season, to a stunning first-round sweep of the Patrick Division-champion Philadelphia Flyers.
Some 30 years later, a Connecticut Whale front line evoked images of the Smurfs this past weekend, as a grouping of Kelsey Tessier centering Micheal Haley and Christian Thomas helped the Whale to a pair of convincing road victories in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The Whale beat the St. John’s IceCaps 4-1 on Saturday night, and then posted a 7-3 triumph on Sunday afternoon, equaling their biggest offensive output of the season. The Haley-Tessier-Thomas line scored on the Whale’s first shot in both games, and combined to generate five of the 11 goals the team scored in the two contests.
The majority of that offense came off of strong play down low in the offensive zone, too, despite the fact that Haley, the tallest of the three on the line, measures only 5-10, and Tessier and Thomas check in at 5-9, 177 and 5-9, 170, respectively.
Haley joked before Sunday’s game that, “I’m not usually the tallest on a line,” but dismissed the suggestion that physical size should have bearing on whether a player can exert impact as a forechecker.
“Size doesn’t mean too much to me,” Haley, who packs a compact 204 pounds on his 5-10 frame, said Wednesday. “As long as you’re in (on the opponent’s defense) and you’re hitting and disrupting, that’s a good forecheck.”
Whale head coach Ken Gernander agreed, saying, “Tess (Tessier) is a pretty stocky player, Hales (Haley) has some beef, he’s not afraid to mix it up, and a lot of times it’s more about anticipation and body position than actually having to physically outmatch somebody or overpower somebody. If you can beat them to the puck and get body position, more times than not you’ll be OK.”
“It’s a pretty eclectic mix,” Gernander added about his new vertically-challenged combination, “when you’ve got Haley, he’s got a little bit of beef, and he’s kind of underestimated as far as his scoring, he can put the puck in the net, given opportunities. Christian Thomas isn’t near the same player he was two months ago, he’s really come on. He’s using his speed to recover pucks, or to be first on pucks, he’s drawing penalties, bumping people off pucks with body position, then he’s able to make plays. And Tess has, for large part, been a third, fourth (-line) role player and penalty-killer, and now he’s getting a little bit of taste of some offensive opportunities, and making the best of things.”
The sixth-year pro Haley has always been known as a physical player, the kind who can use strength and will to disrupt opposing defensemen in the Whale’s offensive zone. He is quick to point out, however, that his two physically slighter linemates deserve full marks for using their quickness and smarts to give the IceCaps fits.
“They don’t need to crush people, but as long as you’re separating them from the puck and stealing the puck, that’s a forecheck,” Haley said. “Not everybody’s going to be the guy that hits them (enemy defenders) hard, but as long as you’re on them quick, they don’t have time to think.”
Thomas, the rookie and second-round 2010 New York Ranger pick, won a number of important puck battles during the Whale’s successful Newfoundland weekend, and echoed Haley’s thoughts about how to make a forchecking impact as a smaller player.
“Big or small, you just have to get there, make contact and interrupt their progress, the bigger guys, take away their hands and you can get that puck,” Thomas said.
Thomas had his first three-point game as a pro in Saturday’s win, with a goal and two hard-earned assists, and then helped set up Haley for a goal only 68 seconds into Sunday’s game, giving the Whale a lead they would never relinquish. That continued a dynamic uptick in Thomas’ play, which he credits to making consistent use of his excellent foot speed.
“I just try to tell myself to keep moving my feet out there,” Thomas said. “Smaller guy, you move your feet, you’re hard to handle out there. I think I’m a pretty quick guy, so when I get my feet moving I can get to pucks first, and get some space and make some plays.”
The entire line did a good job of making plays in the two wins over the IceCaps. It is one thing to generate chances with eager puck-hawking, but quite another to turn them into scores, and the line was opportunistic in finishing the chances they created. In Haley’s battle-tested view, that’s more a matter of better luck than anything else.
“They’re (goals) just going in now,” he said. “Ride the wave as long as you can, I guess.”
Indeed, the Haley-Tessier-Thomas threesome has only been together for two games, and the way things go in the AHL, it’s certainly not unlikely that it won’t stay together long enough to acquire an enduring nickname like “The Smurfs”. With the four points the Whale grabbed up in St. John’s being so key in the team’s playoff drive, though, whether or not it remains intact, the smallish unit has undoubtedly made an outsized impact on the Whale’s fortunes.
Yakupov pre-game availability (Larionov)
Galchenyuk leads Habs to fifth straight win (Larionov)
NEW YORK – Brandon Prust’s return to the Big Apple was a success as he capped a strong effort by setting up Alex Galchenyuk for the winning goal as the Canadiens defeated the New York Rangers 3-1 Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Lars Eller set the winning goal in motion when he blocked a shot by Marc Staal. Galchenyuk gave the puck to Prust at the side of the net and then went to the crease to take a return pass.
What it means: It was the fifth consecutive win for the Canadiens and they moved into first place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points, one more than the idle Pittsburgh Penguins.
Al Bello, Getty Images
Jimmy Lodge Making Strides in his Draft Year
Anytime a team trades their best player, the assumption is made that said team is entering a rebuild. When the Saginaw Spirit traded their captain, Vincent Trocheck, to the Plymouth Whalers on January 10th, many figured that this symbolized the white towel being thrown for the 2012/2013 season. At the time they were a .500 hockey club, battling it out with the Windsor Spitfires for the 8th spot in the Western Conference. In a somewhat miraculous turn of events, the exodus of their captain has sparked the Spirit. 10-5 since the trade, Saginaw has distanced themselves from Windsor (11 points up). They’re playing incredible hockey and are putting themselves in a position to surprise people in the OHL playoffs. Saginaw still has the opportunity to move up as high as 5th in the Conference too. Many would agree; this was not the expected result following the trade.
So what, specifically, has sparked this team? A valid argument could be made that said spark has been the exceptional play of second year forward Jimmy Lodge. “It hurt to lose Trocheck, since he was probably our best player,” says Lodge. “But we needed guys to step up and score goals in his absence.” Lodge, the Pennsylvania native and former 3rd round draft pick of the Spirit, has certainly done that. In the 15 games since the big trade, Lodge has 26 points (11 goals, and 15 assists). He’s vaulted himself into contention for the top 20 in league scoring, and is second to only Max Domi (of the London Knights) in scoring among 1995 born players in the OHL. Considering Lodge started the season with only 2 goals and 2 assists in his first 10 games, this feat tells you how brilliantly he’s been performing of late.
Lodge is being modest when he’s quick to point out that he’s been a product of how well his line has been playing. I’m of course referring to one of the hottest lines in the entire CHL, consisting of Lodge, Eric Locke, and Garret Ross. “They’re fantastic players,” says Lodge. “We’re just really clicking right now. And that’s giving me more confidence to go out and play well.” I’d say that’s an understatement. In February alone (8 games), those three players have combined for a total of 26 goals. That’s more than the Erie Otters have scored as team this month (25).
It’s Lodge’s ability to see the ice and make those around him better that has helped to elevate the abilities of his line and his team, a trait which he considers his best asset as a player. Lodge’s size, speed and skill package allows him to be the perfect compliment to the tenacious Locke, and the feisty Ross. We should expect nothing less from a player who grew up idolizing Peter Forsberg in his time with the Philadelphia Flyers.
I think it’s certainly unfair to suggest that Lodge’s accomplishments this year were expected. However, nor are they surprising. With the losses of Brandon Saad, Josh Shalla, and Michael Fine, it was plainly obvious that the Spirit’s solid collection of young players (like Lodge, Justin Kea, and Nick Moutrey) would have to step up their game. Lodge came into the season given more responsibility and increased ice time after playing a bit role as a 16 year old. He also donned the Stars and Stripes for this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament, an event which brought together the top ’95 players in the world. Needless to say, the pedigree for success was there. However, Lodge does credit last year’s veteran squad with helping him learn to play at this level. “One of the biggest things that I took away from last year’s rookie season was just seeing guys like Saad and Trocheck. You know, watching them and learning about the game. Things like having proper work ethic, how to workout and how to eat,” says Lodge.
All things considered, there’s no question that the trade of Vincent Trocheck forced Lodge into a role he could have struggled with. It’s not an easy task to take on the offensive responsibilities of your former captain; a player many experts consider a candidate for the Red Tilson this season. Sink or swim; and Lodge swam. So why isn’t he getting more exposure for this year’s draft? Quite frankly, that’s a damn good question.
As mentioned, Lodge is currently the second highest scoring ’95 in the league; and the fourth highest draft eligible player (behind Domi, Kerby Rychel, and Sean Monahan). Yet, he doesn’t even crack TSN expert Craig Button’s latest Top 75 for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Lodge goes up against the opposition’s best every night (at least for the past two months) and he consistently comes out ahead. We’re looking at a 6’2 forward who skates well, can put the puck in the net and who makes others around him better. That’s the definition of a prospect I want come June 30th.
Vince Lombardi once said. “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.” Whether he knows it or not, the trade of Vincent Trocheck forced Jimmy Lodge into a leadership role. But he was put into that role because he had earned it. Along with the likes of Garret Ross and Eric Locke, Lodge has put Saginaw on his back and delivered. Sooner or later, likely sometime soon, NHL scouts are going to realize; Jimmy Lodge has elevated Saginaw’s spirit.
Keevin Cutting sets Attack games-played record
OWEN SOUND – From the bluelines to the thin red ones, no one has been more at the forefront of the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Owen Sound Attack than Bracebridge native Keevin Cutting.
The 20-year-old, five-year player with the Attack set a new record for the major junior club Feb. 13, appearing in his 313th game with the team, breaking a record set by former teammate Marcus Carroll in 2010.
“It’s not something you ever really think of, especially as a rookie; I just wanted to go out and play my hardest and concentrate on that,” Cutting said after a ceremony that night when he was handed a framed jersey to commemorate the occasion. “But I guess the time came and it does feel great.”
A left-handed defenceman, towering over six-feet tall, Cutting’s coaches call him a grinding play stopper, who’s fearless when it comes to putting his body on the line to break up a play or block a shot in front of his goal.
“The thing about Keevin is his character; he puts his team, teammates and coaches ahead of himself all the time,” said Cutting’s head coach Greg Ireland, who took over that post in the 2011-12 season. “The first thing you notice about him is he is such a gentleman and has such solid moral fibre; secondly is his commitment to everyone around him.”
It was those qualities that earned Cutting the captain’s C this season, his last year of eligibility for the OHL.
“He’s a physical player and a real shut-down type of player; he’s been such a big part of helping a lot of the younger players along and they truly look up to him as the leader of this club,” Ireland added.
Cutting says he can’t take all of the credit for helping the younger players along.
“We’ve got a really good club and really the players around me make it pretty easy to lead,” he said.
The team still has about a month to go in the regular season, so although this is his last run with the OHL club, there will be a new record every time he laces up. He was with the club in the 2010 season when they won a championship and said this year’s team isn’t that much different in make up and stands a good chance of making a push into later rounds.
“Just like that team, we’ve got good depth, good speed up front and can move the puck around,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be a long playoff season for us and I can wear the jersey a little longer.
“A little more consistency and I think we could really find our peak,” he added.
Unfortunately his special night was marred by a 2-0 loss to the Guelph Storm, but he added the ceremony was a special occasion and one he won’t forget.
Cutting, who played for the former Bracebridge Bears up until novice and joined a triple-A team in Rama prior to signing on with the Attack, is overage to be drafted now into the NHL but still has the avenue to try-outs with the big-league clubs.
“We’re hoping and pulling for Keevin that there’s bigger and better things for him in hockey in the future,” Ireland said.
“Certainly if any (NHL try-out) opportunity ever came up, I’d jump on it in a heart beat, but I have a pretty good back up plan too: Europe (hockey leagues),” he said.
In his five seasons on the bluelines for the Attack, Cutting has amassed 17 goals and 56 assists for 73 points.
“He will be a difficult player to replace next season, but he works hard with those younger players and you can see his work ethic rubbing off,” Ireland said.
Kitchener Rangers’ captain moves up to Hurricanes
KITCHENER — The Kitchener Rangers have lost their captain.
Defenceman Ryan Murphy was recalled by the injury-depleted Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday afternoon as a stop-gap until their starters make their way back into the lineup.
“It’s a huge loss,” said Rangers’ head coach and general manager Steve Spott. “He’s our captain and plays 20-plus minutes a night.”
The ’Canes have been hit hard by the injury bug and are without veterans Joni Pitkanen (lower body) and Tim Gleason (lower body) in the back end.
Carolina assistant GM Jason Karmanos told the Rangers that the team was looking for help and the coaches wanted Murphy, their first round pick from 2011 and a late cut at this year’s training camp.
“Karmanos said it’s the first time in 15 years that they’ve had to do this,” said Spott.
The Rangers’ bench boss called Murphy into his office and told the rearguard he had some good news and bad news.
“The bad news was that he wasn’t going to play this weekend,” he said. “The good news was that he is going to the Carolina Hurricanes.”
Murphy, who left Wednesday night, is third in team scoring with eight goals and 31 assists in 46 games this season.
It’s expected that the Aurora native will be back in Kitchener once Carolina’s regulars return, but there is no guarantee. If he plays well, he may just stick in the NHL.
The ’Canes have at least five games to test Murphy. After that, the first year of his entry level contract will kick in.
“It caught me off-guard,” said Spott. “Murphy was surprised and shocked in a good way.”
In 2008, the Rangers lost goalie Steve Mason to an injury recall with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mason, who had yet to play a game for the Rangers since being acquired at the trade deadline that year, was eventually sent back to the OHL.
Kitchener rookie Owen Stewart will jump into the lineup in Murphy’s absence and the team will likely use four forwards on their first power play unit to fill the gap.
Carolina takes on the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night. The Rangers face Saginaw at home Friday.
Frontenacs’ DiPerna scores first OHL career goal at home
MISSISSAUGA — Most players who score their first Ontario Hockey League goal will remember the experience for the rest their lives.
On Monday, Mississauga’s Dylan DiPerna was fortunate enough to achieve that milestone in his own backyard.
The Kingston Frontenacs rookie defenceman recorded his first goal, the eventual game winner in a 7-4 win over the Mississauga Steelheads at the Hershey Centre.
“It’s obviously been a while since I scored my last goal,” said DiPerna, a member of last year’s OHL Showcase Cup-champion Mississauga Rebels. “To get that first one in my home town in front of my friends and family is pretty special.”
DiPerna, 16, blasted a point shot past Steelheads goalie Tyson Teichmann in the third period. It took him 35 games to notch his first goal. He also has five assists in that span.
DiPerna was drafted in the second round of the 2012 OHL Priority Selection Draft and is one of four rookies Kingston picked up with the first 25 picks.
DiPerna said having a lot of young players on the team creates a lot of enthusiasm for each game.
“With team success, individual success follows,” DiPerna said. “Having so many young guys, including myself, all being in the same boat makes us work together and it’s a great feeling.”
The Frontenacs are in the midst of a tight playoff race. They hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 12 games remaining.
Monday’s win brought them to within two points of the seventh-place Steelheads, but they only sit four points ahead of the ninth-place Peterborough Petes.
In addition to learning how each point can be vital in the league standings, DiPerna said he’s also learned to be a more patient defender in his rookie campaign.
“With the Rebels, I was more of an offensive defenceman, but here I have to be more calm and stay back more,” said DiPerna, who tallied 31 points in his final season of minor hockey last year. “I think as I get older, I’ll get more (scoring) opportunities.”
Storm Stories-Brock Beukeboom
Professional. Leader. Team player.
These were some of the terms Guelph Storm general manager Mike Kelly used to describe newly acquired Brock Beukeboom when I sat down with him around the holidays this past December.
“We knew that we were getting a good solid defender in the trade,” he said. “But what we didn’t know was that Brock is a real leader on and off the ice. He’s been great in the locker room and he’s been a steadying influence on some of the younger players.”
Five minutes into my interview with Beukeboom and I can see why. He’s well spoken, confident but considerate, too. You can tell right away that he respects the game and appreciates the opportunities that have come his way.
“Playing for the Storm has been great so far,” Beukeboom says about his time in Guelph. “I’ve tried to come in and be a leader and help some of the younger guys, teach them some of the things I’ve learned during my five years in the Ontario Hockey League.”
Earlier this season, Guelph sent a trio of draft picks to the Niagara IceDogs in exchange for the veteran shutdown defenceman. The Storm are the third OHL club that Beukeboom has suited up for, having spent three seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at the start of his junior career.
Needless to say, his impact on this team has been a positive one.
“When I got here I thought that the room was pretty quiet,” Beukeboom says. “I’m an outgoing guy, I have an outgoing personality, so I thought I could help make a difference in the locker room and help turn the volume up a little bit.”
Whether it’s in the OHL or the NHL, Beukeboom is no stranger to moving around. A third round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2010, he was traded last year to the St. Louis Blues as part of a deal for veteran defenceman Eric Brewer. And when he didn’t sign with the Blues this past off-season, he returned to the O for his last season of junior hockey.
“I’m a free agent right now,” he says. “So we’ll see what happens. My agent has talked to a few teams about me so hopefully I can catch on with an NHL club next season.”
“But you know, I’m only 20 years old, and we’re in a fight right now to make a go of this thing here in Guelph. So I’m focused on that. The other stuff can come later; I’m not in a rush.”
Beukeboom has plenty of options for the future, and he’s quick to point out that he has a fully paid-for University education waiting for him if he so chooses, something he knows can’t be taken for granted.
It’s no secret that Brock comes from a hockey family. His father Jeff Beukeboom played parts of 15 seasons in the NHL as a member of the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers in the 1980’s and 90’s. he won cups with both teams, four in total, and now coaches the New York Rangers minor league affiliate Conneticut Whale in the American Hockey League.
Brock’s “Cousin Joe”, as in Joe Niewendyk, is the current general manager of the Dallas Stars. When I ask Beukeboom if Dallas might be a potential destination for him, he laughs and shrugs it off as if to say “you never know”.
When asked if he feels pressure to live up this last name, Beukeboom says, “I did early on in my career. I put a lot of pressure on myself to live up to my dad’s name and my dad’s expectations. But after a while I realized that he and I are two different types of players. And he’s not just a former NHL’er, he’s my dad first. So I’ve learned to live without that burden on me”
“Obviously, my dad has had a big impact on my hockey career,” he says. “He’s always been there for me. He’s a great resource, and he taught me how to be a team guy and how to act like a professional.”
“I’ve also had a lot of coaches help me along the way,” Beukeboom says when talking about the difference makers in his life. “But definitely, the unsung hero of the whole thing has always been my mom. She put in just as much time as my dad and was always there to support me and to help me get where I needed to be.”
It’s obvious that Brock Beukeboom has a bright future ahead of him, and what appeared on the surface to be a depth move by the Guelph Storm has turned out to be much more. If the Storm are headed for any kind of playoff run, Beukeboom will undoubtedly have a key role to play.
And he’ll do it like a pro.
Whale’s Thomas Finding His Scoring Touch
After scoring 129 goals in three seasons in junior hockey, Christian Thomas came to the AHL with a reputation.
Thomas, a 2010 second-round draft pick, was considered a top prospect by the Rangers. With speed, skill and an NHL bloodline — his father Steve spent 20 seasons in the league — Thomas was seemingly on the fast track to Madison Square Garden.
But his road to New York began in Hartford, and it took some time for Thomas to find his footing. He had eight goals and 14 points in his first 40 games and was scratched Jan. 20.
But in the past month, Thomas has flourished. He notched 10 points in the past 12 games and seven in six games, displaying the offensive skill that earned him attention in the Ontario Hockey League.
“I think I’m just moving my feet out there, forechecking and working hard,” Thomas said. “Starting off this year, it was a lot different than juniors. Guys are bigger, stronger, faster. You have to make plays quicker. So I think having played  games here, I’ve adjusted for the most part. Starting to feel out there.”
His transformation has coincided with being placed on a line with veterans Micheal Haley and Kelsey Tessier. Like Thomas (5-feet-9), Haley (5-11) and Tessier (5-9) are smaller in stature but are high-energy players.
“Smaller guys, we work hard and create chances out there,” Thomas said.
Thomas joined the Whale at the end of last season and played in the AHL playoffs, but he faced a different league at the start of this season. The NHL lockout enabled teams to stock their AHL affiliates with better, more experienced players.
For rookies such as Thomas, the jump from junior hockey was immense.
“It’s all the best guys from your junior league,” Thomas said. “Every defenseman is good, every forward you have to watch out for. When you’re out there, you can’t take a shift off. You have to work hard out there or stuff is not going to happen.”
Thomas also saw less ice time in the AHL than in juniors, so there was plenty of time to watch from the bench and learn. For a guy who scored 54 goals in one season for the Oshawa Generals, the perspective was different.
“As a rookie, you can’t expect to play the same minutes you did in juniors, so it’s tough to get going and tough to get points,” Thomas said. “Now I’m getting more of an opportunity. Pucks are starting to go in the net and I’m starting to get chances out there.”
Having a resource like his father helped Thomas navigate his slow start. Steve Thomas played for six teams from 1984 to 2004, including the Islanders and Devils. He scored 421 goals in 1,235 games.
These days, Steve Thomas works in the Tampa Bay Lightning front office. He watches Whale games on the Internet and is in constant contact with his son.
“I would say it’s a big advantage for me,” Christian said. “He played 20 years in the league, he was undrafted, he played in the NHL as a 21-, 22-year-old. Through all his experiences, he helps me so much, on and off the ice. If I have any problem, if I’m feeling down, he helps me out.”
Murphy not fazed in first NHL start
R. Cory Smith
RALEIGH — On a day when one rookie defenseman went down with what appeared to be a very serious injury, another impressed in his first game of his young career.
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Zach Redmond was cut severely during morning practice Thursday in a fluke accident and had to be rushed to a hospital, where he had surgery for a laceration to his right femoral artery and vein.
That night, an admittedly nervous Ryan Murphy not only skated in his first game as a Hurricane, but earned the start. The Jets won 4-3.
“I was a bit (nervous) for the first couple of shifts stepping out there with guys like Evander Kane and guys that I watched on TV,” Murphy said. “But as the game went on you just figure out that they’re hockey players just like me and you move on.”
Less than 48 hours before his first NHL start, Murphy was on the ice with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. The rookie defensemen joked about hearing he would be called up for the first time.
“I walked off the ice in Kitchener from practice and coach (Steve) Spott called me over and told me he had bad news,” Murphy said with a laugh. “I’d be missing the games in Kitchener that weekend … it was good news and a bit of hectic travel but it was worth it.”
He was a bright spot for the Hurricanes on an otherwise dreadful night defensively. After finishing with two shots on goal and two blocked shots in 23 minutes and 51 seconds on the ice, Murphy was commended by coach Kirk Muller.
“I thought he was great,” Muller said. “For a young kid he moves the puck well and makes great decisions. He joined the rush at the right time and I was really happy with him.”
Murphy goes coast to coast for scoring chance
Andrew Campbell Media Scrum
Stockton goalie knows how to lend hand
Stockton goaltender Olivier Roy stopped 38 shots and had an assist on a goal as he remained unbeaten since returning to the Thunder.
Matt Bergland and Tony DeHart scored within a 2-minute span in the second period for Stockton, which beat the Bakersfield Condors 4-1 on Thursday in front of a crowd of 8,023 at Rabobank Arena. The Thunder has won four of five games.
Roy, who was assigned to the Thunder (28-21-9) on Feb. 12 from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League, is 3-0 with a 0.66 goals against average and a .981 save percentage. The Condors (18-34-5) outshot Stockton 39-26, but could only get a second-period score by Evan Trupp.
“He played very well; they put a lot of pucks on him,” Thunder coach Matt Thomas said. “Olivier was real good and we were able to solve (Condors goalie Brian) Stewart, who has also been hot recently.”
Roy earned an assist on Bergland’s goal. With a Condor bearing down on him, Roy charged the puck at the top of the circle to start the play that ended with Bergland’s ninth goal of the season.
“It’s just a really good read, and you can’t hesitate on a decision,” Thomas said. “He didn’t hesitate. They almost had a breakaway there, and he turned it around.”
DeHart scored 1:58 later on a power play, one of two goals in four power-play opportunities. Stockton went 0 for 6 on the power play in a 4-1 loss to Ontario on Wednesday.
“That was one of the things we really needed to address from the night before, and I’m happy we did a good job of addressing it,” Thomas said. “We needed to do better, and we really worked at it.”
Matt Reber and Shawn Weller also scored for the Thunder, and Eric Hunter had two assists. It was Weller’s first goal since joining the team Feb. 15.
Oliver Roy Interview
Ruperts gunning to shut down Cousins
London Free Press
Forget the two-hand slash and the “loser” label.
Matt and Ryan Rupert really know what would make Nick Cousins squirm Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.
That would be a big goose egg beside the pesky Soo Greyhounds star’s name on the stat sheet, jamming his pursuit of the OHL scoring crown.
“If we come out with a win and he’s off the scoresheet or very minimal, I think it would be very rewarding,” Ryan Rupert said. “Even if we don’t get any points, that’s not the big deal. It’s getting the two points and the win.”
The twins practised this week with Bo Horvat. They don’t know if they’ll draw the Cousins assignment, but that’s a prime shutdown line if ever there was one.
“We don’t want him (Cousins) to get points,” Matt Rupert said, “especially since he’s out there chirping our guys and slashing them . . . ”
Matt stopped himself, then grinned.
The brothers don’t take prisoners on the ice and won’t suffer off it.
A few weeks ago, Matt referred to Owen Sound’s Cameron Brace as a “whiny baby” after the Attack forward suckered him into an untimely penalty.
“It’s the way we are,” Matt said. “We’re not going to lie. We’re honest players.”
There were times during London’s four-game losing skid when the Ruperts’ rambunctiousness led to crucial goals surrendered.
But weigh those against the moments their aggressive qualities turn the tide for the Knights.
“We’re going to keep playing the way we’ve played these last three years in London,” Matt said. “There’s probably a few bad bounces with the referees here and there, but I don’t think we’re going to change anything.”
They are learning how to walk the line. If they hurt their team, they won’t play as much — if they let the Soo frustrate them, the Knights are in tough.
“We’ve got to be careful with Cousins and (Colin) Miller can shoot it, too,” London head coach Dale Hunter said. “We have to keep out of the box. Just like against (Niagara’s Ryan) Strome (in St. Catharines last Sunday). You hear the NHL coaches talking, we can’t take any (penalties). (Toronto’s Randy) Carlyle has been saying it. Power plays swing the momentum of the game.”
So does a massive hit, a shot block and a big goal — all of which the Ruperts are more than capable of providing.
Ryan didn’t get off to the best start this year, but he’s no longer discouraged about his numbers. He has reverted back to last year’s mindset.
“We’ve got to realize that’s our job in the playoffs, shutting down their No. 1 line,” Ryan said. “That’s going to be a successful night for us to show Cousins and his line it’s going to be a tough road in the playoffs if we happen to get them.
“Playoff hockey is what I thrive in so once that comes around, I think you’ll see the best of my game.”
It worked last year. They rode shotgun with Austin Watson, all the way to the Memorial Cup final.
“(Dale Hunter) knows we can play defence,” Matt said. “Regular season, you don’t have to check as many lines, but playoffs, their top lines, we’re going to have to shut them down as best we can.”
These days, shutting down Matt Rupert has become a tall order.
He has 26 goals so far. Dale Hunter has entrusted him with more power play time and he has taken advantage of the opportunity to be more offensive.
“He’s a year older and a year better and he shoots the puck harder,” Hunter said. “They’re getting stronger every year.”
That wasn’t by accident. About three summers ago, the Ruperts went into their Grand Bend backyard and put down some wood and plastic so they could blast pucks any time they wanted.
“It’s kind of like ice, so we can shoot off it and keep our shot going,” Matt said. “I don’t know why I’m scoring (like this). It might have been a lot of hard work in the summer.”
Last summer was short, which is just the way the Ruperts intend it. They want to plant seeds in players like Cousins, and Saginaw on Sunday, that they’re in this for the long haul.
“We want to come out strong where we left off last weekend,” Ryan said, “They’re (Saginaw) our number one contender to face in the playoffs right now but you never know. We don’t know who it’ll be, it could be the Soo, but we want to show the rest of the league we’re here to play and not messing around.”
NY Rangers recall Christian Thomas
The banged-up Rangers just keep getting younger.
Late Friday night, the club recalled right winger Christian Thomas, 20, and he is expected to make his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (7 p.m.).
Thomas, the Blueshirts’ second-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft (40th overall), has 13 goals and 24 points in 52 games for the Connecticut Whale this season.
To make room for Thomas on the 23-man roster, the Rangers put ailing forward Rick Nash on injured reserve (IR). Nash will go on IR retroactive to last Sunday, however, since he already has sat out two games, so despite being on IR, he will be eligible to come off and play any time after Saturday night.
Christian Thomas makes his debut for Rangers
MONTREAL — Instead of playing for the Connecticut Whale in Wilkes-Barre Saturday night, Christian Thomas became the 10th player to debut as a Ranger this season. He wore No. 58, becoming the first Ranger to do so.
Thomas, who is 5-8, was summoned after 52 games this season in Hartford and arrived in the afternoon after plane issues in Philadelphia. He had four goals and three assists in the last six games. In the OHL, he had 137 goals and 120 assists in 244 games over four seasons with the Oshawa Generals and London Knights.
His father, Steve, a 20-year NHL veteran who is a player development consultant with Tampa Bay, made it to Saturday night’s game, arriving from Carolina in the middle of the first period.
“I felt more comfortable as it went on,” said Thomas, 20, who played 12:46, including 1:35 on the power play, and had two shots and three hits. “Third period, I felt it was just another game out there. It was hard to get a ton of stuff going. Montreal was playing well defensively. It was a great experience.”
Coach John Tortorella said before the game: “I know he’s a hard-working kid and scored a lot of goals along the way, and has played better and better with our minor-league team. We just hope . . . that he gives us a little bit of spark, and then we’ll slowly get to know him.”
Thomas first NHL game
Galchenyuk’s goal vs NY Rangers (Larionov)
Galchenyuk post-game (Larionov)
Loktionov sets up Kovalchuk (Larionov)
OJ scores vs Flyers
Yakupov sets up Eberle (Larionov)
Jets centre Olli Jokinen makes serious improvment
PHILADELPHIA – This was more like the Olli Jokinen that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff expected to see after signing the Finnish centre to a big-ticket deal last summer.
After battling through a nine-game pointless streak, Jokinen found his form on Saturday afternoon, scoring a goal in the Winnipeg Jets 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jokinen finished with six shots on goal, won 73% of his draws and was skating much better.
Following the 5-3 loss, Jokinen took little solace in discussing the shot he was able to bury with a nifty 360 degree turning wrister that snuck through the five-hole of Ilya Bryzgalov at 2:34 of the second period.
“I would rather take a win. At the same time, it’s always okay to score,” said Jokinen, who has three goals and five points in 17 games. “You try to stick with the plan and do your best every time. I’ve got to try to keep getting better.”
Jimmy Lodge aiming to become next Saginaw Spirit great
SAGINAW, MI — Jimmy Lodge doesn’t come from a hockey heritage.
When it comes to his passion, he’s had to forge a trail all on his own — and lately its been blazing.
The 17-year old Saginaw Spirit forward has come into his own in his second season in the league, taking over a spot in the No. 1 line for the Spirit that has resulted in game-changing play from Lodge and resurgence for Saginaw.
“He’s playing with two players who are outstanding and experienced players,” Spirit coach Greg Gilbert said. “They make him up-tempo his game, and they teach him things as he goes along. It’s the perfect scenario.”
Those two players joining Lodge on the top line are leading scorer Eric Locke and captain and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Garret Ross, and the trio led Saginaw to a six-game winning streak in January and wins in 9 of 10 to end the month.
“I think it helped me out a ton,” Lodge said of moving to the No. 1 line. “It helps playing with those guys, I definitely am putting up better numbers playing with goal scorers and playmakers.
“It’s also more confidence. They help me out whenever I need it, but I have confidence now that I’m starting to score and confidence that I can keep producing and keep playing consistent.”
Since joining Locke and Ross, Lodge — 6-foot-2 — has caught fire to the tune of eight goals and 16 assists, with three three-assist games in that time, pushing his season totals to 18 goals and 28 assists for third on the team.
“He’s got vision,” Gilbert said. “He’s really creative and slippery. He has the good skill you need to play this sport. He can get himself out of tight situations often, and he sees playing happening and makes things happen before other players do.”
A native of Downingtown, Penn., Lodge is being billeted with Jim and Cathy Jesko as a senior at Heritage High School in Saginaw Township. And though he said he’s been on the ice skating since he was 5 years old, Lodge said he doesn’t come from a long lineage of hockey players.
“My dad and mom started me out in the game, but no one in the family played,” he said. “I’m pretty much the first one.”
But that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the best up-and-coming players in the OHL.
In the last six months, Lodge has been ranked as one of the Top-20 NHL draft prospects in the OHL, in addition to skating in the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo, N.Y., which featured the top 40 NHL draft eligible U.S. born players.
He also played in the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
“He has to get stronger, there’s no two ways about it,” Gilbert said. “At 165 pounds, he wouldn’t last long in the NHL, so he has to invest over the summer to become a stronger player.
“But (the team that drafts him) gets a guy who has what the game is about now — skill and vision. … He has those abilities, and he’s going to be a dynamic player at the next level.”
Lodge should find out where the next level takes him in the 2013 NHL Draft that takes place June 28-29 in Newark, N.J.
The lifelong Philadelphia Flyers fan is in his first season of eligibility for the NHL Draft.
“It’s definitely a good feeling to have NHL teams interested in me,” Lodge said. “I’m closer to my dream of playing in the NHL, which is a really good feeling.”
Devils acquire Loktionov from Kings (Larionov)
The New Jersey Devils have acquired Andrei Loktionov from the Los Angeles Kings for a fifth-round choice in the 2013 NHL Draft, the Devils announced Wednesday.
Loktionov was a fifth-round pick by the Kings in the 2008 draft. He has seven goals and 14 points in 59 career NHL games, including 39 during the 2011-12 season. He appeared in two Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Los Angeles Kings during their march to last season’s championship.
This season, Loktionov has played only for the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, with seven goals and 22 points in 37 games.
Andrew Campbell Recalled – Practice Quotes
Andrew Campbell took part in his first practice with the Kings at Bridgestone Arena today, and considering his size and the attributes he brings as a stay-at-home defenseman with a long reach, it wouldn’t be a major surprise if he made his NHL debut against Nashville Thursday evening, as the team is looking to gain a sense of what the former third round pick can provide.
On his first practice:
“It’s exciting, obviously – my first call-up here. I’m just trying to enjoy it all and do all the work I can and just get better.”
On where he was when he found out he had been promoted:
“I was at the grocery store, and I got a call from Hubie, our team personnel guy, so it was pretty exciting.”
On who he called when he heard the news:
“They asked me to keep it quiet for a while, just because of the whole process. But I called my mom and dad. I had to let them know. They’ve been so important to me over the years, so I let them know right away.”
On his attributes as a defenseman:
“I’m just a pretty defensive guy. I like to take care of my own end, make the first pass and be gritty, compete hard and be tough to play against.”
On relationship with players who have come through L.A.’s system:
“I lived for a full year with Kinger, Noley and Muzz. We all lived in a house together. The four of us are pretty familiar with each other. I played with Marty, played with Wiske, played with Bernie. I’m trying to think of whom else. I worked out with Cliffy in the summer before, so I have a lot of familiarity with a lot of guys.”
On how the Monarchs coaching staff has prepared players to transition to the NHL:
“They’ve done a lot of work on making sure that the system is the same system that’s being worked on up here. PK, five-on-five, they try to do everything the same so it’s a seamless transition when you bump up.”
Alex Galchenyuk earns Molson Cup honours for January (Larionov)
MONTREAL– Forward Alex Galchenyuk is the Molson Cup recipient for the month of January.
Galchenyuk was selected once as the first star of the game (January 22 against Florida), and on one occasion as the second star (January 29 against Winnipeg). Galchenyuk finished ahead of teammates Brendan Gallagher and Carey Price.
The 18-year old forward appeared in six games in January, including his first career game in the NHL on January 19 against Toronto, recording five points (1 goal, 4 assists) and a +3 plus/minus differential. Galchenyuk served four penalty minutes while playing an average of 12:24 per game.
Alex Galchenyuk will be presented with the Molson Cup during a ceremony prior to the Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre.
Tyler Seguin ties the game 2/6/13
Photo by CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS
Kristoff Kontos: The Masked Man scores 2 vs. Kingston
Nikolay Goldobin centre stage in another overtime shocker (Larionov)
London Free Press
The player who, these days, is most immune to the Dale Hunter defensive bible was standing next to the Sarnia bus, wearing an oversized toque and preparing to dig into a postgame meal he certainly earned.
Nikolay Goldobin is London’s new hockey bogeyman.
The slight 17-year-old Russian torched the OHL-leading Knights again for a goal and three points in the Sting’s shocking 4-3 overtime victory before 8,924 Thursday night at Budweiser Gardens.
This time, he set up defenceman Anthony DeAngelo’s winner 33 seconds into the extra session. On New Year’s Day, he scored four times, including OT magic, to snap the Knights’ 24-game winning streak.
Beware this bee.
“He slows the game down to a crawl,” Sarnia GM and coach Jacques Beaulieu said. “He reminds me of (Pavel) Datsyuk of the Red Wings. He’s got great hands and a great hockey sense.”
The Knights have shut out mighty Owen Sound twice in their old building. They usually have a grasp on the OHL’s brightest offensive stars.
But this guy is something.
Goldobin has seven goals and nine points in four games against the Knights. He made a ridiculous highlight-reel pass early in the third period to captain Charlie Sarault to spark the Sting’s comeback.
“That’s a pro pass and we don’t see many plays like that in junior hockey,” said Beaulieu, a former Knights assistant. “To see that, it wowed us on the bench and I’m sure it wowed 9,000 fans too.”
Most of them were left scratching their heads.
The Knights have played 28 games this season with the lead after two periods. They have lost two of those — both to Sarnia, both in overtime, both with Goldobin the star.
You face Sarnia and worry about Reid Boucher while breathing a sigh of relief Alex Galchenyuk is staying in Montreal for good.
Then, this kid emerges.
“They have a few dangerous players we have to be careful with,” London defenceman Olli Maatta said. “We’ve got to be better defensively. We need to play better.
“It’s going to be a hard game (against Owen Sound Friday).”
The Attack, who can’t beat the Knights for the life of them, should try calling ol’ Goldy for advice.
“For him to step up in a building like this two times in a row, we need that stuff,” DeAngelo said with a grin. “I know they (the Knights) wanted a piece of us after ending their streak, but it’s nice to come in here and get a win. We know we can beat London. The guys in our room believe we can play with anyone in our league if we play our game.”
They are officially looking like the team London should try to avoid in the playoffs.
They have been impervious to the usual Knights magic at home. Maatta tied it late on a long slapper, his first goal since Nov. 10, and, from there, you figured the Knights would go on to win.
“It was a big goal for me and our team (and it secured a point), but we just couldn’t get the last one,” Maatta said.
The Sting kept coming. They bite late.
“We got back to our plan a bit (in Kingston last week),” Beaulieu said. “It’s great they get up for these games, it’s a fun building and it’s nice to come here and get two points.”
The Sting saddled big London goalie Anthony Stolarz, 4-0 to start, with his first OHL loss. They have won both games at the Bud and they’re back in on March 1. They haven’t swept the Knights on their own rink since Steve Stamkos slapped in 58 goals in 2007-08.
There were some positives for London. Max Domi, back from illness, scored, and so did Seth Griffith.
But they ran into a buzz-saw.
“I don’t think there’s any team that’s going to be easy this year,” Maatta said. “For me, I don’t care who we play in the first round of the playoffs. I just want us to play at our own level and things should be good.”
They got some more work to do to be as good as Goldobin has been against them.
10 Tidbits on new Kings defenseman Andrew Campbell
Yesterday, the Kings swapped Andrews – sending Bodnarchuk back to Manchester and calling up Campbell.
Although he’s not expected to play in Nashville tonight, Campbell will likely see game action on the team’s current road trip. So, we thought we’d help introduce you to the 6-foot-3 defenseman using our popular 10 Tidbits format…
- Kings GM Dean Lomabrdi solidified his reputation as ‘Dealer Dean’ at the 2008 NHL draft when he swapped picks in the first, second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. In that third round, he moved up from 84th to 71st so he could select Campbell out of the OHL. For trivia buffs, the third round pick traded away originally came to Lombardi in February 2007 when he sent Sean Avery to the New York Rangers.
- Offensively speaking, Campbell has never come close to the numbers he put up his final year of junior hockey. While playing for the legendary Soo Greyhounds, he posted 13 goals and 35 points (second best among the team’s defensemen). Since turning pro the following season, three goals has marked his best campaign. However, his point totals have crept up during his time in Manchester, topping out at 19 last season.
- Plus-minus is an area where Campbell, known more as a stay-at-home defenseman, has shown tremendous improvement. His five year stat line with the Monarchs reads as follows: minus-15, minus-16, plus-12, plus-14 and most recently, plus-11 (which led Manchester at the time of his call-up).
- His three-year entry level contract expired in the summer of 2008. Campbell then signed a one-year deal and re-upped with the Kings for two more years this past July. He now requires waivers though. So, if the Kings try to send him back to Manchester, he’ll be exposed to the other 29 NHL clubs first – [corrected] with two excpetions. there is a ’30-day / 10-game’ exclusion. Last month, Campbell cleared waivers when the Kings had to put several players there after the new CBA was ratified (of course, they lost Thomas Hickey and Rich Clune at the time). So, if he is sent back before February 15 or before he plays 10 games, Campbell will not require waivers to go back down.
- Campbell participated in Jordan Nolan’s ‘Day with Stanley Cup’ – as shown here, in some pics supplied by his former roommate, Ray Kaunisto.
- During his time with the Greyhounds, Campbell was a teammate of – and often paired with – fellow Kings blueline prospect Jake Muzzin. With his arrival, this marks the fourth former Soo player on the Kings’ current roster, joining Jeff Carter and Jordan Nolan.
- Also from his time in the OHL: Campbell played against several of his new teammates – including Nolan, Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford.
- Campbell turned 25 this past Monday. Other players born that day include Brad Richardson and a pair of former Kings – Manny Legace and Jerred Smithson. Also celebrating the same day was Hall of Famer Denis Savard, a long-time teammate of Darryl Sutter with the Chicago Blackhawks.
- His professional debut came against the Springfield Falcons on October 19, 2008 and Campbell played his 250th AHL game vs the same team on December 10, 2011.
- Campbell’s teammates awarded him the Mark Bavis Unsung Hero Award each of the last two seasons. During those campaigns he served as one of the Monarchs’ alternate captains and suited up for all 76-games both years.
Andrew Agozzino’s All Star Thoughts
Jesse Blacker Goal – 02/09/2013
Rupert twins turn full focus on London Knights and hockey
The twins are on the loose.
London Knights brothers Ryan and Matt Rupert are done their studies at Saunders Secondary School.
“It felt good,” said Matt — through a toothless grin — referring to the completion of his last exam on Tuesday. “School is not my favourite thing to do, so it’s a really happy day for me.”
The scrappy pair from Grand Bend doesn’t plan on pursuing post-secondary education in the near future. Which means more time to dedicate to fulfilling their gritty roles on the 39-9-1-2 Knights.
Ryan was sidelined this past weekend after the Ontario Hockey League handed him a three-game suspension for verbal abuse of an official. Matt picked up the family slack, however, scoring a couple, including the game-winner in a 3-2 victory in Kingston on Sunday.
The Knights demolished the Ottawa 67’s, 11-1, in the opening game of its three-game eastern swing, but dropped a 3-1 decision to the Belleville Bulls on Saturday.
“Sitting in the stands is tough, but two out of three we will take,” said Ryan, a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick. “Our work ethic and play wasn’t where we want it to be, so we’ll fix that up this week.”
The last two times London has been on the positive side of a blowout — a 10-5 win over Ottawa on Jan. 11, and the whooping of the same team last Thursday — they’ve stumbled the next time out. This includes the loss to Belleville, a game in which the squad mustered a mere 23 shots on Malcolm Subban.
“Realistically, we’re in first so it would be easy to coast. But, we want to turn it around,” said Matt of the club’s mediocre 3-4 record since the trade deadline. “We had a bad January, so we want to start pumping it up before playoffs.”
London got 15 goals from eight players in three games last week. Now at 208, the Knights are the first team to hit the 200-goal plateau this season.
Unlike the beginning of the year, they’ve been getting plenty of production from its secondary scoring lines lately. The truculent Ruperts are a huge part of that, having recorded 15 (Ryan) and 12 (Matt) points each in their last 10 times in the lineup.
Olli Jokinen’s First Goal with the Jets
Seguin scores twice in Shootout
Galchenyuk, Gallagher bring promise, excitement to Canadiens (Larionov)
The Hockey News
MONTREAL – When Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk both cracked the roster of the Montreal Canadiens this season, it presented the players with an intriguing problem. NHLers will never be accused of being hyper creative in nicknaming their teammates, so having two players nicknamed ‘Gally’ created a vexing dilemma.
Luckily, they were able to work it out without any gunplay or hard feelings. The way Gallagher sees it, he’s the older guy so he has proprietorial rights to the moniker.
“I’ve kind of self-proclaimed that I’m taking it already,” Gallagher said, “and (Galchenyuk) has accepted it and he’s going to take ‘Chuckie’. It was very nice of him to accept that and he didn’t put up a fight, so I appreciate that.”
After just five games, the ‘Gally and Chuckie Show’ is playing to rave reviews in Montreal, no more so than Tuesday night when Gallagher was named first star and Galchenyuk second star in the Canadiens 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. With a combined age of 38, they’re one year older than veteran defenseman Francis Bouillon. Galchenyuk is so young that he’s the only player in Canadiens history since they won their first Stanley Cup in 1916 to not have been alive for a single Canadiens championship. After the game against the Jets, Galchenyuk headed to the team bus for the trip to Ottawa with nothing but a Nike knapsack on his back. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think he was a kid from McGill or Concordia going to Sociology 101.
But that youth of both players has been vital in injecting some real energy in the Canadiens lineup, to go along with a high modicum of skill.
After a game in which Gallagher scored his second goal of the year on a shot that no goalie in the league could have stopped, he was standing in the Canadiens dressing room directly under a photograph of Hall of Famer Steve Shutt. The irony was inescapable, at least to these eyes. You watch how quickly Gallagher gets the puck off his stick and it looks an awful lot like the way No. 22 used to do it.
“For me, my shooting used to be a weakness and it’s something that I’ve been working on and I need to continue to work on,” Gallagher said. “To score on these goalies, you need to be a good shooter and find a way to get your shots through. That was one of the things I learned last year playing those exhibition games. You don’t have a lot of time in this league.”
If the two players continue to develop at the same rate, there is certainly the possibility they could develop into a dangerous scoring duo, with Galchenyuk playing the part of set-up man and Gallagher taking the shots. To be sure, the two have developed a real chemistry together, dating back to when they roomed together during training camp.
“We’re obviously the youngest guys on the team and we’re good friends off the ice,” Galchenyuk said. “And that maybe translates a little to on the ice. He’s a young guy, I’m a young guy and we have fun out there. We’re excited to play every new team because we’ve never played against them.”
Five games is certainly not a huge body of work and the road will undoubtedly get much harder, but it wasn’t supposed to come this easily this quickly for them. Just last season, Galchenyuk was limited to two games in the Ontario League because of a serious knee injury and it was thought he would probably need another junior year to continue his development. Even though Gallagher had an outstanding training camp in 2011 and is a three-time 40-goal scorer in the Western League, this is only his first pro season.
The real test for these two will be when Canadiens coach Michel Therrien begins to lean on them more heavily and give them more and harder minutes. The Canadiens have done a good job of shielding their third line from opposing shutdown units and have placed both players in situations where they can succeed. In fact, they were going so well against the Jets, that Therrien moved Erik Cole onto the unit to replace Brandon Prust.
But Prust has been a valuable member of that third line, both providing some veteran experience and some protection for two players who are neither particularly big or physical – although Gallagher doesn’t seem shy about hitting above his weight class.
“I told them, ‘Play physical. Go to the net hard and hit guys,’ ” Prust said. “ ‘While I’m out there with you, I’ve got your backs. Maybe they’re playing a little bigger than usual.’ ”
Figuratively speaking, their impact on the Canadiens has been enormous. And it should keep growing.
Yakupov’s OT Winner (Larionov)
Game Day: David Savard (1-31-13)
Thiessen named Goaltender of the Month
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Brad Thiessen of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins has been selected as the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for January.
In seven appearances during the month, Thiessen was 5-2-0 with a 1.36 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage and three shutouts for the Penguins.
Coming off a winless December (0-4-1), Thiessen allowed two goals or fewer in six of his seven starts in January, beginning the month with a 30-save blanking of Worcester on Jan. 5, his first shutout since Nov. 4, 2011. Following a 2-0 loss to Connecticut on Jan. 6, Thiessen earned another shutout, this time with 23 saves in a 1-0 decision over Hershey on Jan. 11. He was on the winning end of a 2-1 decision vs. Adirondack on Jan. 12 and a 4-2 win at Norfolk on Jan. 15, and he posted his third shutout of the month with 26 saves in a 3-0 triumph over St. John’s on Jan. 23.
A 26-year-old native of Aldergrove, B.C., Thiessen has made 18 appearances for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, going 8-8-1 with a 2.62 goals-against average, a .903 save percentage and three shutouts. A fourth-year pro out of Northeastern University, Thiessen has a career record of 80-45-5 with 16 shutouts in 135 games with the Penguins, and was the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender in 2010-11. Thiessen made his National Hockey League debut with Pittsburgh last season, going 3-1-0 in five appearances.
In recognition of his achievement, Thiessen will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Penguins home game.
Lane MacDermid Ready, Willing To Answer Bell For Bruins
WILMINGTON – Now that he’s healthy, Colton Orr – all 6-foot-3, 222 pounds of him – has become a fixture in the Toronto lineup again. If the Leafs really want to beef up their squad Saturday night against the Bruins, they could dress recent waiver claim Frazer McLaren, who bests Orr’s bulk at 6-foot-5, 222 pounds.
Boston forward Lane MacDermid, the man most equipped to pick up the slack for the injured Shawn Thornton, has already fought McLaren twice in the American Hockey League this season. Orr, a veteran of nearly 400 games, would be a whole different beast for MacDermid to handle. Nonetheless, Boston’s 6-foot-3, 205-pound fourth-liner says he’s not worried. There might be just one person a little concerned heading into the Bruins-Leafs tilt.
“Maybe my mom worries if there’s a big guy on the other team, maybe she won’t want me to fight him,” MacDermid said after practice Friday at Ristuccia Arena.
MacDermid’s mom has gotten used to worrying. From his junior days into his pro career, he’s been a consistent 100-PIM guy with double-digit fight totals. With Thornton around, MacDermid could be a secondary option for opponents that want to rile things up or for the Bruins to look to for a life. Now even on a team with several ruggedindividuals, MacDermid should be the focal point of those situations that would normally include Thornton.
MacDermid broke into the NHL last season with a bout against New York Rangers giant Mike Rupp in his NHL debut. MacDermid survived to tell the tale, and this season he cracked the Bruins’ opening night roster after a solid season with the Providence (AHL) farm club. His fight totals have decreased every season since he turned pro – from 21 as a rookie to 20 the next season to 13 last year – but that’s not due to any drop-off in his aggressiveness.
“It’s just the way it goes sometimes because I’m not really planning on it. … As a young guy, guys might not know you as well, so they maybe thought I was an easier fighter,” said MacDermid, who had seven AHL fights this season. “And when I was younger I guess I was trying to prove myself a bit. So I was asking guys a little bit more. It’s always going to be part of the game.”
Thornton’s concussion could be a cautionary tale for guys in his and MacDermid’s line of work. However, MacDermid said he’s not letting the risk get in his way of living his dream in the NHL.
“It’s just part of the game,” he said. “Fighting or not fighting, head injuries are just part of the game. It’s just a matter of being smart and taking care of those injuries.”
While his mom might admit to worrying about him, MacDermid’s dad Paul – a NHL lunch-pail player for more than a decade – accepts the non-hockey aspects of his son’s job. MacDermid, however, said his dad limits his advice to the hockey and not the punching.
MacDermid might need a tip or two heading into the showdown with the Leafs, who will want to flex their muscle after the Bruins swept the season series last season. He might lean on his teammates for advice, but he’s also not shy about checking out the videos on hockeyfights.com to devise a scouting report. Orr and McLaren might both have a size edge, but they might also be completely different types of pugilists.
“You have to change your approach to each fighter,” he said. “Each fighter’s different. Even two guys that are the same size, they’ll fight different. You have to approach that in a different way.”
After making his season debut in a game that lacked any fighting after Thornton was downed by John Scott, MacDermid will have to change his approach starting against the Leafs. As part of the game, challenging the biggest guy with the largest PIM total will always be on opponents’ to-do lists, and that puts MacDermid at the top of that list.
Forward Peter LeBlanc Acquired for Mathieu Beaudoin
HERSHEY, Pa. – The HERSHEY BEARS, in conjunction with the Washington Capitals, announced today that the club has acquired forward Peter LeBlanc from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forward Mathieu Beaudoin. The announcement was made by BEARS President/GM Doug Yingst.
LeBlanc, 24, has appeared in 34 games with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs this season, and has recorded 12 points (four goals, eight assists). 2012-2013 was LeBlanc’s third season with the club. The 5-11, 200-pound native of Hamilton, ON is coming off of his best year on offense last season, in which he led the IceHogs with 24 goals and finished second with 44 points.
Prior to turning pro, LeBlanc finished a four-year career at the University of New Hampshire (HE), where he racked up 85 points (34 goals, 51 assists) in 153 career games.
LeBlanc was originally selected by the Blackhawks in the seventh round (186th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Beaudoin, 28, was in his second stint with HERSHEY, having also played seven games with the club during 2007-2008. The 5-11, 178-pound native of Rock Forest, PQ appeared in 32 games this season and recorded 10 points (three goals, seven assists) along with a plus-six efficiency rating.