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  • Sharks' Karlsson thanks fans in apparent farewell
    By Field Level Media / Friday, May 24, 2019

    Erik Karlsson doesn't make it sound as if he'll be returning to San Jose next fall.

    • The Sharks' defenseman tweeted his thanks to the team and Northern Californians on Friday but made no mention of a return. He will become a free agent when the Stanley Cup Final is over.

      "Thank you to the entire @SanJoseSharks organization, fans, and especially teammates. It was a great run that ended too early. But lots of great memories [were] created. The entire Bay Area has been nothing but classy and respectful to me and my family. Thank you.

      San Jose traded two draft picks and four players -- forwards Chris Tierney and Rudolfs Balcers, defenseman Dylan DeMelo and prospect Josh Norris - to the Ottawa Senators last September in exchange for Karlsson and AHL forward Francis Perron. If the Sharks re-sign Karlsson, who just finished his seven-year, $45.5 million contract, they will receive a conditional 2021 second-round draft pick.

      Ottawa drafted Karlsson, from Sweden, with the No. 15 overall pick of the 2008 NHL Draft. He is a two-time Norris Trophy winner and a six-time NHL All-Star.

      Limited by injuries, Karlsson played in 53 games in the regular season and scored 45 points on a career-low three goals to go with 42 assists. He also missed Game 6 of the Western Conference final, a season-ending loss that sent the St. Louis Blues to the Stanley Cup Final.

      Karlsson, who turns 29 next week, is expected to have offers from multiple teams.

      --Field Level Media

  • Islanders sign C Nelson to six-year extension
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, May 23, 2019

    The New York Islanders signed center Brock Nelson to a six-year extension through the 2024-25 season on Thursday.

    • The team did not disclose financial details, but The Athletic reported the value of the deal at $6 million per season.

      The 27-year-old scored 25 goals and set career highs with 28 assists and 53 points in 2018-19 while skating in all 82 games for the second straight season.

      Nelson has missed only two games over the past five seasons and enters 2019-20 with 241 points (124 goals, 117 assists) in 480 career contests.

      The Islanders (48-27-7, 103 points) finished second in the Metropolitan Division and advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2018-19.

      --Field Level Media

  • Senators name D.J. Smith as head coach
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, May 23, 2019

    The Ottawa Senators hired D.J. Smith as head coach on Thursday.

    • The 42-year-old former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant signed a three-year contract and replaces interim coach Marc Crawford.

      "D.J. Smith is a winner. We believe he is the best person to drive the development and success of the Ottawa Senators," said general manager Pierre Dorion in a statement. "D.J is a great communicator and an exceptional strategist. His passionate approach, coupled with his ability to teach the game, is exactly what we were looking for throughout the process. We're thrilled to welcome D.J. and his family to Ottawa."

      Smith has been an assistant in Toronto since the 2015-16 season. Before that, he coached the Ontario Hockey League's Oshawa Generals to the 2015 Memorial Cup.

      A second-round draft pick by the New York Islanders in 1995, Smith played in 45 games in parts of three seasons with the Maple Leafs (1996-97, 1999-2000) and the Colorado Avalanche (2002-03). A defenseman, he tallied one goal and one assist.

      Crawford, who also interviewed for the position, took over in March after the firing of Guy Boucher.

      The Senators (29-47-6) posted the NHL's worst record in 2018-19 and missed the playoffs for the third time in four years.

      Others reportedly considered for the job included Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, Providence College coach Nate Leaman, AHL Belleville coach Troy Mann and former Senators coaches Jacques Martin and Rick Bowness.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bruins open as Cup favorites against Blues
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, May 22, 2019

    The St. Louis Blues, who were a 300-to-1 long shot to win the Stanley Cup in early January, have come a long way but still will enter the Stanley Cup Final as underdogs to the Boston Bruins.

    • Boston is -165 to win its seventh Cup in franchise history, meaning a bet of $165 would return $100 in winnings. The Blues are +135 at Bovada, with a bet of $100 winning $135.

      The Blues fired coach Mike Yeo in late November and were 17-20-4 at the midway point in January before finishing the regular season on a 28-8-5 run and carrying that momentum through the Western Conference playoffs.

      Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final will be at Boston on Monday. The Bruins swept the Blues in the 1970 finals -- the last time the Blues made the finals. St. Louis never has won the Cup.

      Boston has won seven consecutive games, taking the final three from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference semifinals and sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the conference finals.

      --Field Level Media

  • Sharks' Karlsson, Hertl, Pavelski all out for Game 6
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, May 21, 2019

    San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Tomas Hertl did not travel with the team to St. Louis for Game 6 against the Blues on Tuesday night, while captain Joe Pavelski was ruled out shortly before the game.

    • Head coach Pete DeBoer had said earlier that Pavelski was a game-time decision. Dylan Gambrell, Tim Heed and Marcus Sorensen were inserted into the lineup.

      None of the three injured players finished Sunday's 5-0 loss to the Blues in Game 5, with Hertl and Pavelski leaving after high hits during the game, and Karlsson playing just 10:32 before departing with an injury that kept him out of parts of Game 4 on Friday.

      San Jose is fighting to stay alive in the Western Conference finals after falling behind 3-2 in the series. The Sharks need a victory to force Game 7, which would be held Thursday back in San Jose.

      "We know the importance of them, I mean obviously all three of those guys are important guys," DeBoer told reporters of the injured trio. "If we have 'em, great. If we don't, then next man up, and we've got to find a way to get the job done."

      Karlsson's injury is believed to be an aggravation of the groin issue that plagued him late in the regular season. He tried to fight through it in Game 5 but did not look like himself.

      Hertl was hit in the head on a first-period check from Ivan Barbashev, a hit that DeBoer argued could have been a five-minute major penalty, but no call was made. Hertl did not play in the third period.

      Pavelski, who missed six games in the second round of the playoffs due to a head injury, was hit high by Alex Pietrangelo early in the third period and did not return.

      Karlsson has 16 points in 19 postseason games, tied for third among all players, while Hertl has 15, including 10 goals. Pavelski has four goals and five assists in 13 games.

      --Field Level Media

  • Hurricanes' Martinook, de Haan undergo surgeries
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, May 21, 2019

    Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook and defenseman Calvin de Haan are both recovering from recent surgeries.

    • General manager Don Waddell confirmed Tuesday that Martinook is out 4-6 weeks after a procedure on a core muscle, and de Haan is out 4-6 months following surgery on his right shoulder.

      The Hurricanes' season ended last Thursday when the Boston Bruins completed a 4-0 sweep in the Eastern Conference finals.

      Martinook, 26, played all 82 regular-season games in 2018-19. He scored a career-high 15 goals and matched his career high with 25 points. He missed five postseason games due to injury and finished with four assists in 10 playoff appearances.

      De Haan, 28, tallied one goal and 13 assists in 74 games in his first season with the Hurricanes. He suffered his shoulder injury against Pittsburgh on March 31 and missed Carolina's first three playoff games.

      Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk is already recovering from surgery to his left shoulder earlier this month. He was also given a 4-6 month timetable.

      --Field Level Media

  • Blues look to finish Sharks, get back to Final at last
    By Field Level Media / Monday, May 20, 2019

    The team that sat dead last in the NHL when the calendar flipped to 2019 is now one win away from the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.

    • That kind of turnaround sounds like a cheesy movie of the week, but it's the scenario before the St. Louis Blues after they blasted the host San Jose Sharks 5-0 Sunday afternoon to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

      "We're close," Blues forward Patrick Maroon told reporters. "We're very close right now. I think the guys know that. It's in the back of their heads, but we know that that's a good hockey team over there, too, and they're not going to give up."

      The Blues will look to close out the best-of-seven series Tuesday at home when they host Game 6. The winner of the series will face the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.

      Coincidentally, the last time the Blues reached the championship round, they lost to the Bruins -- a result forever framed by the famous image of Bobby Orr flying through the air after scoring the Cup-winning goal. St. Louis made the Cup final in each of its first three seasons but hasn't returned since.

      "It's gonna be a lot of emotion and it's important our players keep it in check," Blues head coach Craig Berube said. "Our players have done a pretty good job of ... focusing. I don't expect anything different. It's important at the start of the game you're simple and direct. Keep your emotions in check and not let them get out of control."

      Berube's charges moved ahead in the series with their most dominating performance of the playoffs. Jaden Schwartz recorded a hat trick and goalie Jordan Binnington made 21 saves for his first career playoff shutout as the Blues claimed their seventh win in nine road tilts this spring.

      "If you saw the game, you saw how good everyone on the team played," Binnington told Sportsnet after the game. "Everyone was outstanding, making the right decisions, playing hard and playing disciplined. That's a good team win."

      And a costly one for the Sharks. Not only did they suffer a defeat, but the Sharks suffered through a war of attrition in what may be their final home game of the season. Defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Tomas Hertl didn't play in the third period, while captain Joe Pavelski left early in the final frame after taking a hard check.

      Karlsson and Hertl did not travel with the team to St. Louis for Game 6, and Pavelski is a game-time decision, head coach Pete DeBoer told reporters early Tuesday.

      Karlsson, who appeared to aggravate a groin injury that limited him during the regular season, looked nothing like himself on Game 5's first goal. His poor giveaway resulted in Oskar Sundqvist's game-opening goal before the six-minute mark. From there, it went to downright ugly for the hosts as the Blues took complete control.

      Schwartz's trio of goals gives him 12 in the playoffs, one more than he collected through the regular season, while Vladimir Tarasenko netted a penalty shot goal in a three-point game. Tarasenko has collected at least one point in every game this series.

      Now, the Sharks must find a way to recover and win on the road to force a seventh game at home, which would be Thursday.

      "We've been here before. We had to go and win in Vegas to get to a Game 7," said coach Peter DeBoer, whose team has been outscored 7-1 in the last two games. "You're never comfortable when your back's against the wall like that, but we've been there before and found away. We're confident we can do that again."

      Sharks goalie Martin Jones stopped 35 shots in the loss.

      --Field Level Media

  • Capitals sign Gersich to two-way deal
    By Field Level Media / Monday, May 20, 2019

    The Washington Capitals re-signed forward Shane Gersich to a two-way contract Monday.

    • Gersich will make $700,000 while in the NHL and $115,000 if in the minors. He will receive a guaranteed minimum salary of $125,000.

      The 22-year-old Gersich had eight goals and 16 assists (24 points) in 66 games this past season for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.

      Gersich played in three NHL games late in the 2017-18 season and notched one assist.

      Gersich played college hockey at North Dakota.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bruins D Chara skates, but still not practicing
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, May 19, 2019

    Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara skated before practice Sunday, his first action since sitting out Thursday's Game 4 win against the Carolina Hurricanes with an undisclosed injury.

    • The 42-year-old veteran skated with fellow injured defenseman Steven Kampfer and did some drills with skills coach Kim Brandvold, but he did not participate in the full practice.

      The Bruins swept the Hurricanes and won't play again for more than a week as they await the winner of the Western Conference finals. The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues are tied 2-2 in the best-of-seven series entering Game 5 on Sunday in San Jose, Calif.

      The Stanley Cup Final starts on May 27.

      A seven-time All-Star, Chara has one goal and two assists in 16 games this postseason. He had five goals and nine assists in 62 games during the regular season, his 21st in the NHL.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bruins to ask Patriots about big-game preparation
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, May 18, 2019

    The Boston Bruins are in the midst of 10 days off before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final following their sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference finals. And with the long layoff, they're turning to some local experts for tips on how to stay focused.

    • The New England Patriots.

      According to NHL.com, the organization will contact the Patriots to seek advice about blending preparation and time off. After all, the Patriots have experienced some two-week breaks before the Super Bowl, which they've won six times.

      "There's crossovers that we've all identified that we're going to tap into," general manager Don Sweeney said. "There's a local team I think that's had time (before) they're going to Super Bowls, so we are going to look at different resources that have done it and done it well."

      Even though the layoff presents challenges, Sweeney seems grateful for it, especially given the tough series the Bruins played before the Eastern Conference finals.

      "I think in the short term, it's really beneficial for our group," Sweeney said.

      "The players themselves (after) a seven-game series, six-game series, (we were) fortunate to be able to close out quickly against Carolina, but we've been pedal to the metal here mentally and physically for a while. I do believe in the short term, it will help us a lot."

      --Field Level Media

  • Reports: Senators to interview Roy for coaching vacancy
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, May 18, 2019

    Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy will interview next week for the Ottawa Senators' head coaching position, multiple outlets reported Saturday.

    • Roy, 53, would be the seventh candidate interviewed since the Senators fired Guy Boucher on March 1.

      Roy was the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche for three seasons, leading them to a Central Division title with 112 points and winning the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year in his first season in 2013-14.

      He retired after the Avalanche missed the playoffs for the second straight year in 2015-16, finishing with a 130-92-24 record.

      "Patrick would love to coach in the league again," an unnamed league executive said Saturday, per the Ottawa Sun. "I think he'd be content to be a coach this time around."

      Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has already interviewed interim coach Marc Crawford, Pittsburgh assistant Jacques Martin, Toronto assistant D.J. Smith, Dallas assistant Rick Bowness, Providence College coach Nate Leaman and Belleville Senators (AHL) coach Troy Mann.

      Bowness, 64, served as Ottawa's original coach from 1992-96. Martin, 66, coached the Senators from 1995-2004.

      Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, Roy won four Stanley Cups during a prolific 20-year career with the Montreal Canadiens and Avalanche. He ranks second in NHL history in goalie wins (551) behind only Martin Brodeur (691).

      --Field Level Media

  • Binnington, Blues brace for Game 5 in San Jose
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, May 18, 2019

    A third-round pick who spent five-plus seasons in the minors, Jordan Binnington is hardly an overnight sensation.

    • However, as the St. Louis Blues prepare for their crucial Western Conference final Game 5 against the Sharks Sunday afternoon in San Jose, Calif., Binnington continues to shock the hockey world.

      Thanks to the rookie netminder the Blues are tied 2-2 with the Sharks in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoffs, and Binnington's success has put him in the franchise's history books. He's the first-ever Blues goalie to win 10 playoff games and only the 10th rookie goalie in league history to have double-digit victories in a single playoff year.

      "That's a great honor obviously," Binnington said. "I'm having a lot of fun back here playing with this team. They're doing a great job. ... I just tried to do my job."

      In the first outing after surrendering a late goal and then experiencing a controversial loss in Game 3, Binnington and the Blues could have crumbled. Instead, he was as cool as a cucumber and slammed the door when the Sharks were pushing to again net a late equalizer.

      "Obviously he gives us a ton of confidence," Blues forward Tyler Bozak told NHL.com. "We know he's going to make the right play, make the big saves."

      The West champion will advance to meet the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final, and the battle between the Sharks and Blues has already been a wild one, not only because of the handball goal scored by the Sharks in Game 3. No team has won consecutive games, and a case can be made St. Louis deserved to win the third game while San Jose was the better team last outing.

      And now it's heading toward the always colossal fifth game. When the conference finals are tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 owns an all-time series record of 19-8. How each team copes with the magnitude of the situation will be an interesting case study. The Sharks and Blues were in this exact position three years ago in the Western Conference final, and San Jose claimed the next two games to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

      "We're in the conference final. We've got overtime wins. We've had Game 7s. We've had emotional games for sure," Sharks captain Logan Couture said. "You just lace 'em back up for the next game and get ready to go and you compete. We understand momentum swings get reset each night and you've got to go and earn it."

      Added coach Peter DeBoer: "It's a great spot to be in. This is supposed to be hard. What happened with Boston on the other side, that usually doesn't happen. Usually these are all six, seven hard-fought games, hard-fought series. We're right where I expected we would be."

      But the Blues, who are being backstopped by the calm Binnington - save for his reaction after the controversial goal in Game 3 counted - believe they're ready to take the next step in their franchise's history. The last time the Blues made it to the final round was 1970.

      "We're in a good spot here," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "We feel like we've got some momentum."

      --Field Level Media

  • Sharks: We've been good, not just lucky
    By Field Level Media / Friday, May 17, 2019

    The San Jose Sharks have had their share of breaks in the NHL playoffs.

    • Just don't call them lucky.

      The Sharks, who were up 2-1 in the Western Conference finals heading into Friday night's Game 4 at the St. Louis Blues, rallied to beat the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games in the opening round and survived a conference semifinal matchup against the Colorado Avalanche, also in seven games.

      In all three series, the Sharks have come out on the favorable side of controversial officials' calls.

      Lucky?

      "It irks me when you use words like that, because this team has played four or five elimination games. Not moments -- games," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said, per ESPN.com. "Twelve to 15 periods of elimination hockey against Vegas, against Colorado in Game 7, so I think it's a ridiculous statement.

      "You know what? We've found a way. And we've faced a lot of adversity. We've had calls go against us, and we've had calls go for us, and we're still standing. For anybody to minimize that, I think is disrespectful to our group and what we've done."

      In Game 7 against Vegas, officials gave Knights forward Cody Eakin an excessive five-minute major in the third period; the NHL later apologized to Golden Knights general manager George McPhee for the call. San Jose scored four power-play goals while Eakin was in the penalty box, eventually winning 5-4 in overtime.

      In Game 7 against Colorado, a coach's challenge from San Jose resulted in Colorado's apparent game-tying goal in the second period being overturned. Officials determined that Gabriel Landeskog was offside on the play while changing at the bench, a rare -- if correct -- call.

      And then officials missed an obvious hand pass from the Sharks' Timo Meier that led to Erik Karlsson's game-winning goal in overtime in Wednesday's 5-4 decision in St. Louis. NHL video policy does not allow for hand passes to be reviewed, unless the puck goes directly into the net.

      "I don't know if there's ever been a lucky team who's won," Sharks forward Evander Kane said, per ESPN.com.

      "I think at the end of the day, it boils down to finding ways to win, and every team goes through adversity throughout the course of the playoffs. We've battled throughout these playoffs. There's been a lot of different types of scenarios that haven't gone our way that we've been able to push through and find a way to be successful."

      --Field Level Media

  • Davidson leaves Jackets to become president of Rangers
    By Field Level Media / Friday, May 17, 2019

    John Davidson was named president of the New York Rangers on Friday, shortly after he resigned as president of hockey operations of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    • "Today is the start of a new and exciting chapter in New York Rangers history," Madison Square Garden Company CEO James Dolan said. "John Davidson is one of the premier executives in the National Hockey League.

      "As we continue to build a team that can consistently compete for the Stanley Cup, John's knowledge of the game and his experience and passion for the Rangers logo make him the ideal choice to oversee our Hockey Operations department. I am thrilled to welcome 'JD' and his family home."

      A goalie, Davidson played 222 games over eight seasons (1975-83) for the Rangers, then spent 19 years as a color commentator for the Rangers and national networks before becoming the president of the St. Louis Blues in 2006. He joined Columbus in 2012.

      The Blue Jackets were 285-209-46 in his time there and won at least 45 games in each of the past three seasons. They advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time this season, upsetting the No. 1 seed Tampa Bay Lightning in a series sweep.

      "When we hired John Davidson in October 2012, I said I thought he was the perfect person to lead our hockey operations efforts," Blue Jackets owner John P. McConnell said. "Nearly seven years later I believe I was right. He joined our team at a very difficult time and led a transformation that has resulted in consistent winning and appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs."

      Davidson, 66, joins a Rangers organization that has not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2016-17 season.

      "I have come to love this organization and the city," Davidson said in a statement about his time in Columbus. "There was only one opportunity that I would've considered leaving for, and the one before me now is that opportunity as I spent 30 years with the Rangers as a player and broadcaster and have strong ties to that team and the city of New York."

      --Field Level Media

  • Blues focus on task at hand ahead of Game 4
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, May 16, 2019

    The sting of their Game 3 overtime loss will once again test the mettle of the St. Louis Blues. Fortunately for them, the Blues have overcome enough adversity already this season to have a chance.

    • As the Blues look to rebound from a 5-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday when they continue the series Friday in St. Louis, it's with the confidence that they regrouped from being the league's last-place team when they awoke on Jan. 3 to reach the Western Conference finals -- a journey that includes a head coach firing and reliance upon a rookie goalie to turn the corner.

      The motivation of knowing they received the short end of the stick when Timo Meier's hand-pass resulted in Erik Karlsson scoring the game-winning goal in Game 3 to give the Sharks a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series provides the Blues extra fuel for their underdog tale.

      "We did in the last series," captain Alex Pietrangelo told NHL.com. "We were down against Dallas and came back (to win the second-round series in seven games). We were down 2-0 (Wednesday night) and came back. We know how to look in the mirror, and we know how to get better. We felt we had control of a lot of the game, so we'll use that recipe for next game."

      Lost in the controversial goal that will likely prevent referees Marc Joannette and Dan O'Rourke and linesmen Jonny Murray and Matt MacPherson from many more assignments this spring is the fact the Blues had all kinds of opportunities to close out the game long before Karlsson's handball goal.

      St. Louis led 4-3 after two periods, and golden chances to score the much-needed insurance goal were thwarted by Sharks goalie Martin Jones, and a couple of opportunities to hit an empty net were missed. Throw in Pietrangelo's late icing infractions and porous team defense on the tying goal with 61 seconds left in regulation, and the Blues can find plenty to focus on instead of the botched call.

      "We've got to close that game out in my opinion," said head coach Craig Berube, who will do all he can to keep his players focused on moving forward and not looking back. "We should have won it 4-3."

      Blues forward Alexander Steen added, "That's (the) playoffs. Got to get ready for Game 4. Mental toughness. This is the Stanley Cup playoffs. You're going to get some bounces. Some bounces aren't going to go your way, so you've just got to move forward."

      Which is what everyone involved in the game will attempt. The Blues will try to avoid getting caught up in what might have been, and the Sharks will look to build on the momentum of a win that came because they recovered from their own blown lead. San Jose was ahead 2-0 after the first period Wednesday.

      "It's the playoffs," Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said. "We've won stunningly. We've lost stunningly. When you get three rounds deep, you've seen it all. It's just reset and get ready for the next one. It's going to be harder than this one."

      --Field Level Media

  • Blues D Dunn questionable for Game 4
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, May 16, 2019

    St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn is questionable to play Friday in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the San Jose Sharks.

    • Dunn was injured Wednesday in the Blues' 5-4 overtime loss when he was hit in the mouth by the puck off a shot from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon. Dunn was bleeding from the mouth and needed to be helped to the locker room.

      Dunn has seven points (two goals, five assists) in 16 postseason games.

      "He's very important," St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "He's a guy that plays a lot of different situations, always on the power play. [At full strength], he's a guy that can skate and move the puck, helps to get it out of your end pretty clean.

      "I don't know how long he'll be out or what the deal is yet, but he's a guy who's played really well for us all year. When something like that happens, it's never good, but it's something you can rally around and it's going to be an opportunity for someone else."

      San Jose holds a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

      Dunn, 22, registered 35 points (12 goals, 23 assists) in 78 games during the regular season.

      --Field Level Media

  • Stars D Lindell signs six-year, $35M extension
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, May 16, 2019

    The Dallas Stars signed defenseman Esa Lindell to a six-year, $34.8 million extension through the 2024-25 season on Thursday.

    • Lindell, who turns 25 next week, played all 82 regular season games and posted 11 goals and 32 points in 2018-19.

      Lindell led the Stars in blocked shots (161) and ranked second in average ice time (24:20), third in hits (143) and plus/minus (plus-14), and tied for fifth in assists (21).

      "Esa is a consummate professional who has proven himself dependable in every situation and is just an absolute workhorse," general manager Jim Nill said in a statement. "When you combine his strength, conditioning, hockey IQ and skill, he has become an integral part of this team."

      In parts of four seasons with the Stars, the Finland native has recorded 77 points (24 goals, 53 assists) in 239 career games.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bruins locked in, eyeing sweep of Hurricanes
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, May 15, 2019

    RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Boston Bruins have been in some binds in the postseason, but they don't want the luxury of a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals to distract them from the mission.

    • The Bruins will try to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final when they go for a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at PNC Arena.

      "It's a good spot to be in," Bruins left winger Brad Marchand told reporters of the 3-0 lead. "But it's far from being over. ... It's all about the next one."

      Boston was forced to seven games against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, then trailed the best-of-seven series against the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 before winning in six.

      Now, the Bruins have won six straight games, delivering the Hurricanes a home loss for the first time in the playoffs with Tuesday night's 2-1 victory in Game 3.

      "This year we feel like we really have each other's backs," Boston goalie Tuukka Rask said. "We've been in some tight games."

      If the Bruins fail to sweep the series, the teams will go back to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday night.

      Rask has stopped 85 of 90 shots faced (.944) in the series.

      "Guys have played with Tuukka for a while now," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "They know what he's made of. ... (Since the playoffs began), he hasn't really had a poor night."

      The Hurricanes haven't been quite as settled in the net. Curtis McElhinney made his first appearance of the series by playing Game 3 after the Bruins posted 11 total goals (one into an empty net) in the first two games with Petr Mrazek in net for Carolina. The team has yet to officially announce a Game 4 starter.

      The Hurricanes won two elimination games against the Washington Capitals last month. They'll need four of those in this round.

      "It's frustrating, for sure," Hurricanes left winger Warren Foegele said of the situation. "Just take it day by day. We believe."

      The Hurricanes made progress in Game 3, something they'll aim to build off as they attempt to extend their season.

      "I think you can feel good about the fact that we at least gave them a game," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "To me, we hadn't given them a game yet."

      That was accomplished in Game 3 -- in which Carolina outshot Boston 36-31 but left without the desired result -- for the first time in a series the Hurricanes entered riding a six-game winning streak.

      Yet the Bruins won't take anything for granted for Game 4.

      "It's a tough place to play," Boston right winger David Backes said of the road venue. "It's a tough place to win."

      The Bruins' six-game win streak is the franchise's longest in the postseason since 1978.

      One glaring difference between the teams has been power-play production. The Bruins own a 31.9 percent success rate (15 of 47) this postseason on power plays compared to Carolina's 10 percent (5 of 50).

      Boston has relied heavily at times on veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara, who played extended stretches. His penalty killing was crucial again in Game 3, as Carolina went scoreless in five power-play opportunities.

      "He relishes those situations, he's going to give it his all," Cassidy said. "Really tough minutes for him. He was a rock for us."

      The Bruins will be without right winger Chris Wagner, who sustained an arm injury when he was hit by slap shot late in Game 3.

      --Field Level Media

  • Blue Jackets sign G Merzlikins to one-year deal
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, May 15, 2019

    The Columbus Blue Jackets signed goaltender Elvis Merlikins to a one-year deal on Wednesday, giving the Latvian a chance to compete for the team's starting job in 2019-20.

    • Merzlikins, a third-round pick by Columbus in 2014, has yet to make his NHL debut. The 25-year-old is currently playing for Latvia at the 2019 IIHF World Championships and has played for Lugano of the Swiss National League since 2013.

      This season, he went 22-18-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and five shutouts in 43 games.

      The Blue Jackets are expected to let starter and two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky depart in free agency this offseason. Joonas Korpisalo and Keith Kinkaid -- who was acquired midseason from New Jersey -- are also set to be free agents.

      --Field Level Media

  • Sabres name Krueger fifth head coach since 2013
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, May 15, 2019

    Named Buffalo's fifth head coach since 2013 on Wednesday, Ralph Krueger takes on the task of ending the Sabres' eight-year Stanley Cup playoff drought.

    • General manager Jason Botterill believes the 59-year-old former Edmonton Oilers coach and English Premier League executive is uniquely qualified to handle the job.

      "Throughout his career, Ralph has shown the ability to adapt to a variety of high-pressure environments while leading some of the world's elite players," Botterill said in a statement. "His strong communication skills, leadership and diverse background make him a uniquely qualified candidate to lead our team going forward."

      The last time Krueger coached hockey was in 2016, when he led Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey. He also coached Switzerland in international play for more than a decade. Krueger posted a 19-22-7 record in his 2012-13 stint with the Oilers and drew praise for his work with younger players.

      From 2014 until last month, Krueger served as chairman of the Premier League club Southampton FC. He told The Athletic last month that his experience there will translate to the NHL.

      "Now I've had the opportunity to be that person who creates a culture where you try to have it that everybody can really find their potential and find out what they're made of," Krueger said. "So my evolution has been neat that way. Now six years into this, if someone is asking me about the NHL, your brain goes to a similar role."

      The Sabres finished with the NHL's fifth-worst record in 2018-19, winning just 16 of their final 57 games.

      The most critical tasks facing Krueger and Botterill this offseason include re-signing center Jeff Skinner and preparing for next month's draft, where Buffalo has the No. 7 overall pick.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Sabres hire ex-soccer GM Krueger as head coach
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, May 14, 2019

    The Buffalo Sabres will name Ralph Krueger as their next head coach, according to a report from TSN.

    • Krueger, 59, has a versatile resume that spans both hockey and soccer. He served as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers during the 2012-13 campaign before heading to the English Premier League, where he became chairman of Southampton FC.

      The last time Krueger coached hockey was in 2016, when he led Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey. He also coached Switzerland in international play for more than a decade. Krueger posted a 19-22-7 record in his stint with the Oilers and drew praise for his work with younger players.

      The Buffalo News reported that Krueger wrote a book in German about leadership and motivational tactics. He also served on the World Economic Forum's council on new leadership models, according to the newspaper.

      The Sabres sought a replacement for Phil Housley, who was fired last month. Buffalo has missed the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons.

      --Field Level Media

  • Sharks face familiar scenario in Game 3 at St. Louis
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, May 14, 2019

    The comforting factor for the San Jose Sharks is they've been here before. "Been there, done that" always provides a calming feeling for professional athletes.

    • What remains to be seen is where the journey goes from this point.

      As the Sharks prepare to visit the St. Louis Blues for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night, it's with a sense of deja vu. In all three of their Stanley Cup playoff sets this year, the Sharks opened with a big victory but dropped Game 2 with a disappointing performance.

      "The one thing I take comfort in is our character, our ability to bounce back and ability to recognize what we've got to fix it," Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said after his team's 4-2 loss in Game 2. "We've done that the entire playoffs.

      "Hey, this isn't going to be easy. It's not supposed to be easy. We're down to the last four teams. Look at their record since January, and they're the best team in hockey."

      In the opening round of the postseason, the Sharks fell behind the Vegas Golden Knights three games to one before winning three in a row -- capped by a one-for-the-ages comeback in Game 7, when they erased a three-goal, third-period deficit and won in overtime.

      Their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche was a win-one, lose-one clash in which the Sharks won every odd-numbered game, the benefit of home-ice advantage.

      San Jose's experience is on the plus side of the ledger, but there are some disturbing elements in play right now, too. The biggest is the lack of offensive production from their depth players. Sure, the top two lines are producing -- especially Logan Couture -- but their bottom six forwards, especially the third line of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc, have gone missing.

      "I don't think we've played up to our capabilities in a while now," said Couture, who leads the league in playoff goals (13) and points (19). "We did just enough to beat the Avalanche, but we haven't played our best hockey since that Vegas series. It's discouraging. It's frustrating because we're going to need everyone here if we're going to beat these guys, because they're a very good hockey team."

      Yet, it's the Blues who are receiving depth production these days, while many of their big guns -- notably Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko -- are misfiring, a big reason St. Louis is 1-for-26 on the power play over the past eight games.

      "That's how we're built," Schenn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's kinda been like that all year, whether the back end's scoring or guys are stepping up. We didn't have too many 20-goal scorers, and we had 99 points on the season."

      The most consistent producer for the Blues has been Jaden Schwartz, who netted just 11 goals in a disappointing regular season but has a team-high nine in the playoffs.

      "It's definitely the funnest time of the year," Schwartz said. "I had some struggles earlier that I haven't really had before, but once playoff starts ... I don't know (if) you just embrace the games, have fun with it. I don't really try to think too much about it."

      --Field Level Media

  • Leafs president Shanahan signs 6-year extension
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, May 14, 2019

    Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan signed a six-year extension through the 2024-25 season on Tuesday.

    • Shanahan joined the organization in April 2014. The Maple Leafs have reached the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, including back-to-back 100-point campaigns in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

      "Brendan's positive impact on this team has not only been felt on the ice, where the team is on an impressive path, but throughout the league, with the Leafs alumni, and in the community," chairman of the board for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Larry Tanenbaum said in a statement. "We look forward to continued success for the Maple Leafs under Brendan's leadership over the next six years."

      Shanahan thanked his coaches, trainers, office staff and players "for the professionalism and dedication they display every day."

      "I'd also like to thank our incredibly loyal fanbase," the Ontario native said. "The trust and passion they've shown is truly inspiring and drives us to never quit until we reach our ultimate goal."

      Toronto finished third in the Atlantic Division in 2018-19 and lost a seven-game first-round series to the Boston Bruins.

      Shanahan, 50, is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The three-time Stanley Cup winner and three-time All-Star played 21 seasons with five teams from 1987-2009, tallying 656 goals and 1,354 points.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bruins expect Hurricanes to fight back in Raleigh
    By Field Level Media / Monday, May 13, 2019

    RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Boston Bruins see no reason for significant changes with the way the Eastern Conference finals are going against the Carolina Hurricanes.

    • At the very least, the venue will be different for Game 3 as the Bruins look to put a stranglehold on the series Tuesday night at PNC Arena. Boston won each of the first two games at home.

      "We know that they play well there (in Raleigh)," Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "Refocusing, resetting and getting ready to play in a hostile environment, and we just plan to play to our standards and our culture."

      The Hurricanes returned home for the second time in this postseason facing a 2-0 deficit. They overcame that in the first round against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

      "We've done it before," Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said. "Experience, that's what we lean on right now."

      Yet they didn't like the way they played in the two games at Boson. The six-game winning streak that Carolina put together vanished as the Bruins won twice by a combined 11-4 score.

      One of the priorities for the Hurricanes is to put the Bruins through some adversity.

      "We're certainly going to make it as tough as we can on them, and it won't be easy," Williams said. "Our identity hasn't been established in this series, so far."

      The Bruins are aware that the Hurricanes haven't come this far just to fade away. So that's the part that's a bit of the unknown for Boston.

      "Teams don't make it to this round if they don't have their tough group of guys," Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said. "It's 2-0, that's good. We took care of business at home, which is what we wanted to do, now try to transfer that on the road."

      Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek has a similar outlook.

      "It's 2-0. We've been in this situation before," Mrazek said. "We know what we can do at home."

      Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour has been vague about his goalie situation for Game 3, though he has pointed out multiple times that the core of the problems in Boston weren't related to goaltending.

      Mrazek was injured in the second-round series against the New York Islanders, and Curtis McElhinney played in Carolina nets in the final two-plus games as the Hurricanes produced a four-game sweep.

      Now the Hurricanes must deal with Boston's onslaught of offense. The Bruins have secured contributions up and down the lineup in the postseason.

      "Depth scoring is so crucial for playoffs," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "Most of the time when you see a matchup, the two big lines are going head to head, that kind of washes each other out typically over a series, and then you have the depth scoring that comes into play, and that's what wins you games. ... We want to bottle that up and continue to use it to our advantage."

      The Bruins have had 21 players post at least one point in this spring's playoffs.

      "I think this year because we've scored a lot more up and down the line," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. "It's just a little easier to roll lines and look for your matchup but roll lines and not have to overextend skill guys."

      The Bruins are expecting to see an improved Hurricanes team.

      "You don't get here by accident, so we know that they are going to be better next game," McAvoy said.

      --Field Level Media

  • Playing future in doubt for Ducks' Kesler after hip procedure
    By Field Level Media / Monday, May 13, 2019

    Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler underwent right hip resurfacing surgery, the team announced on Monday.

    • Kesler underwent the procedure on Thursday. He will likely miss the entire 2019-20 season and his playing future is in jeopardy.

      It marks the second time Kesler has undergone hip surgery. He had a major procedure performed after the 2016-17 campaign.

      "At this point in my career, this surgery was the best option for my quality of life," Kesler said in a statement. "The pain I was suffering has been greatly reduced since the procedure, and I'm grateful for that. While my playing future is unknown, I'm in a good place."

      Kesler has 258 goals and 315 assists (573 points) in 1,001 games during 15 NHL seasons with the Vancouver Canucks (2003-14) and Ducks. He has scored 20 or more goals in a season nine times.

      The Ducks said Kesler's resurfacing surgery was designed to "provide pain relief and increase function in normal activities of daily living."

      General manager Bob Murray said the team will be supportive of whatever decision Kesler makes regarding his future.

      "As we all know, Ryan has been fiercely battling his condition for quite some time," Murray said in the news release. "I've been extremely impressed by his determination to play despite being significantly injured.

      "At this point, Ryan needs to think about his life and family. The pain he felt was significant and we agree with his decision to have this surgery."

      A two-time All-Star, Kesler had just eight points (five goals, three assists) in 60 games last season.

      Kesler has three seasons remaining on a six-year, $41.25 million contract he signed in July 2015. He is scheduled to make $6.675 million in each of the next three seasons.

      --Field Level Media