The redemption of Tim Connolly

connollygwg.jpgPeople want to believe that they can control most of things that happen in their lives, but let’s face it, there are times when it all comes down to luck. Few hockey players can relate to that sentiment quite as much as oft-injured Buffalo Sabres center Tim Connolly.

The slickly skilled center scored a thrilling game winning goal in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers last night, a moment that some might have found unthinkable just a year ago. Despite showing plenty of skill (and averaging close to a point per game) when he managed to get on the ice, injuries have hampered his career on a level that only the likes of Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra can understand.
Even Wile E. Coyote would cringe at his lengthy injury list; since 2006 he’s dealt with a variety of knee, hip and groin injuries, broke some ribs and missed 80 games because of concussions. Rafael Ladysz put it well when he wrote:
“Whatever happens in the near future, nobody can doubt the genius that is a healthy Tim Connolly. His stick-handling can’t be matched by many, his vision opens up the ice for others, and he can fire home the puck when he has the chance.”

Could a healthy season (57 points in all 63 of Buffalo’s games) be a sign that Connolly could be the player Sabres fans have been hoping for? Who knows, but I’m certainly hoping that luck will be on his side from now on.

Scroll Down For:

    Report: U.S. women to vote on deal to avoid worlds boycott

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    USA Today, citing a person with knowledge of the situation, is reporting that USA Hockey has struck a tentative four-year deal with members of the U.S. women’s national team that would avert a boycott of the upcoming world championship in Plymouth, Michigan.

    The players are expected to vote on the deal today. No financial details were reported. The players have been seeking a living wage.

    The U.S. is scheduled to play Canada on Friday at USA Hockey Arena.

    Read more:

    USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage

    U.S. women say they’ll boycott worlds

    Selanne: Ducks want Kariya back in fold, but he’s ‘very bitter about hockey’

    Getty
    7 Comments

    Paul Kariya hasn’t played hockey in over seven years, since a series of concussions forced him into retirement.

    He’s been out of the limelight, too.

    After sharply criticizing the league during his retirement announcement — he said every hit that ever knocked him out was an illegal one — Kariya has virtually disconnected from the hockey world, save the occasional report alluding to his bitterness towards the NHL.

    But there have been efforts to connect with him.

    Including those from the team he rose to prominence with.

    In a recent interview on Ray Ferraro’s Pulp Hockey podcast, Teemu Selanne — Kariya’s longtime running mate in Anaheim — shed some light on how the Ducks would welcome Kariya back… and how Kariya’s consistently rebuffed the idea.

    More:

    “It was kind of a shame how his career ended. He’s very bitter about that. He always thought that the NHL was not looking after the players the way they should. So that’s why he doesn’t want to be involved with hockey at all, and he almost kind of like disappeared from the hockey world, which is very sad.

    “What he has done for hockey, and especially here in Anaheim and California, it’s unbelievable. He was an unbelievable hockey player, and I had a great time with him. It hurts me that he doesn’t want to be part of hockey, because I think he has a lot to offer and give. Hopefully one day he will come back, for some reason. I know the Ducks have really tried hard to get him back and into the program.

    “But he’s very bitter about hockey, which is very sad.”

    Drafted fourth overall by the Ducks in ’93, Kariya was the franchise’s first true superstar. He scored 50 goals and 108 points in his sophomore campaign and, the year following, finished second in Hart Trophy voting for league MVP.

    In 2003, he led Anaheim to its first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance. That series, of course, is perhaps best remembered for the lethal hit Kariya took from Devils d-man Scott Stevens.

    The Stevens hit was just one in a series that derailed Kariya’s career. There was the infamous Gary Suter crosscheck to the head in ’98 — Suter received a two-game suspension — and the last one, an elbow to the head from Patrick Kaleta.

    Kaleta avoided suspension entirely.

    Many have wondered where Kariya would’ve ranked among the greats had he stayed healthy. He finished with 989 points in 989 career games, and was still a really productive player at the end — despite the concussion problems, Kariya, then 35 years old, scored 18 goals and 43 points in 75 games during his final season in St. Louis.

    With the annual Hall of Fame debates and the recent NHL 100 list, Kariya’s name has come up quite a bit. Which again circles back to Anaheim.

    Selanne’s number is already in the rafters (Kariya wasn’t in attendance for the ceremony), and the organization has close ties with alumni, as both Scott Niedermayer and Todd Marchant both have front-office gigs. So one would think Kariya, who served as team captain for five years, would be embraced with open arms.

    PHT reached out to the Ducks for comment on Selanne’s remarks. They replied that Kariya is always welcome in Anaheim, and he’s aware of that.

    Keller debut garners praise from coach Tippett

    Getty
    Leave a comment

    Clayton Keller didn’t score — in fact, he didn’t even register a shot — but his NHL debut last night in St. Louis garnered high praise from Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett.

    “He looks like a good player,” Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “He’s got good skill. He’s certainly not worried about getting into any confrontations. He plays hard along the wall. He’s not a big guy, but he competes hard. He looks like a hockey player. He’s got great hockey sense. You watch how he manages a game between line changes, just managing the puck, it was a good start for him.”

    The Coyotes lost the game, 4-1, but Keller finished with an even rating in 12:21 of even-strength action. The 18-year-old also logged 1:48 on the power play.

    Keller grew up in suburban St. Louis, so debuting against the Blues at Scottrade Center was doubly special.

    “It’s pretty cool growing up coming to games here,” he said. “It was really special to have the first one here.”

    Related: Coyotes ready for prized prospect Keller to go pro

    Rask will start, Krejci a game-time decision for Bruins

    Getty
    2 Comments

    Tuukka Rask will be back in Boston’s net tonight when the Bruins host the Nashville Predators.

    Rask missed Saturday’s game in Brooklyn with a lower-body injury. And though Anton Khudobin backstopped the B’s to a 2-1 victory over the Isles, coach Bruce Cassidy said yesterday that Rask was the “No. 1 goalie” and would play as soon as he was healthy.

    “Tuukka is healthy,” Cassidy confirmed today, per CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty. “That’s what he indicated to me and that’s all I needed to hear. He’ll be our starter tonight.”

    Rask has struggled since mid-January, registering an .886 save percentage in his last 25 appearances. Thursday against Tampa Bay, he allowed five goals on 28 shots in one of his worst performances of the season.

    Read more: Cassidy says Bruins “overused” Rask early on

    Another pressing issue for the B’s? The health of center David Krejci, who left practice early yesterday with an upper-body injury.

    Krejci will be a game-time decision tonight. If he can’t play, Ryan Spooner will center Drew Stafford and David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins are just one point ahead of the surging Lightning for the second wild-card spot in the East. Both teams have seven games remaining. The B’s hold the ROW tiebreaker, 37 to 33.