Ryan Kesler will be cover star for NHL2K11

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This has been quite a year so far for one of my new certified hockey man crushes, Ryan Kesler. His fantastic Olympic performance was given a highlight reel exclamation point when he scored quite possibly the most exciting empty net goal I’ve ever seen against Team Canada (in the teams’ first game). His “coward” remark toward Andrew Ladd brought him into the headlines again.

Now he can add another interesting accomplishment: Kesler will be the cover star of the next (and now Wii-exclusive) NHL 2K game, NHL 2K11.

I have to say I’m a little surprised by this. Don’t get me wrong, Kesler is my hero, but there’s no denying that this marks a big star power drop-off from last year’s cover star (goal scoring machine Alex Ovechkin). One could be snide and say that the struggling series is trying to save money, but there are a few reasons – aside from Kesler being super cool – that the company made such a non-traditional choice. (Also, they’ve had role players on their cover before. See: Chris Drury. Zing!)

Perhaps part of the strategy is that avid hockey fans from Canada like him since he’s a member of the Vancouver Canucks while he can appeal to American fans as a gritty player who represented the U.S. in the Olympics. The 2K brand has done something similar with its NBA2K series, putting a defensive-minded player named Ben Wallace on a cover of one of their editions. (That being said, Wallace had an awesome afro and you know what they say, “Fros sell.”)

The most likely reasoning, though, is that he developed a relationship with the company already. Last year, he helped the company motion capture hockey moves for the sake of authenticity and also appeared in their commercials (I’m still not sure if I’m amused or annoyed by those spots, by the way). Anyway, regardless of all the small details, congratulations are in order. Well done, Mr. Kesler.

(H/T to Nucks Misconduct.)

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    WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild

    Dallas Stars center Jason Spezza (90) and Minnesota Wild right wing Justin Fontaine (14) chase the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    The Minnesota Wild hope to turn things around, yet facing the Dallas Stars certainly ratchets up the degree of difficulty.

    On the other hand, sometimes that’s the best way to regain confidence: overcome an especially formidable obstacle.

    Whether the Wild flounder or rebound, you can watch the action on NBCSN and stream it via the link below.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    After 8-1 loss to Isles, Oilers send Reinhart to AHL, make Schultz healthy scratch

    Edmonton Oilers' Justin Schultz (19) and New York Rangers' Dominic Moore (28) fight for control of the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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    Not surprisingly, Edmonton’s 8-1 loss to the Islanders on Sunday didn’t pass without consequences.

    The Oilers announced this morning that defenseman Griffin Reinhart had been sent down to the AHL. Additionally, defenseman Justin Schultz is expected to be a healthy scratch tonight in New Jersey.

    Reinhart was a team-worst minus-4 versus the Isles.

    Schultz, whose name has been coming up in trade rumors…

    …was a minus-2.

    “He needs to watch a game and reflect on his play and what his impact is offensively and defensively,” coach Todd McLellan told reporters of the decision to sit Schultz against the Devils.

    Darnell Nurse and Adam Clendening, scratches in Brooklyn, will replace Reinhart and Schultz in the lineup.

    Turris understands Drouin’s situation, says requesting trade out of Phoenix ‘saved’ him

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    Kyle Turris was far from an accomplished NHLer when he requested a trade out of the Coyotes organization. In fact, when he was dealt to the Senators in 2011, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft had just 46 points in 137 NHL games.

    Since then, Turris has emerged as Ottawa’s top center, with the promise of a big payday in the summer of 2018 when his current $17.5 million deal expires and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

    It’s for that very reason that he can understand Jonathan Drouin‘s position with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    “It’s tough,” Turris told the Tampa Bay Times. “Everyone has mixed feelings, and especially not being an established player. Then people are doubting that you’re doing the right thing, you really have to have confidence in yourself and your ability to do it.”

    Though Turris, now 26, took a “lot of heat from the media…and people within the organization” and recalls the time after his trade request was made public as a “tough, tough go,” he believes the opportunity he received with the Sens “saved” him.

    As we’ve written in the past, you don’t have to agree with how Drouin is handling things — maybe it ends up hurting him; he still has a lot to prove — but there have been young players who have chosen similar paths, and it’s worked out well for them.

    Drouin, by the way, has 40 points in 89 NHL games.

    Simmonds tells AV ‘I’m not a dirty player,’ says he had ‘no intention of hurting’ McDonagh with punch

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    Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds has taken exception to criticisms from Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault, in the wake of Simmonds concussing Blueshirts captain Ryan McDonagh with a punch over the weekend.

    “Vigneault can say whatever he wants. He’s the coach, that’s his opinion,” Simmonds said, per CSN Philly. “I don’t really care. I’m protecting myself; guy comes to cross check you in the head. I didn’t know what he expected. I had no intention of hurting him and I feel bad about that. That’s not what I want.

    “I may play physical and I like to take the body. I fight occasionally. But by no means am I a dirty player, trying to run around and injure guys.”

    Simmonds was tossed from Saturday’s game after punching McDonagh, but wasn’t suspended by the league. McDonagh missed New York’s next game — Monday’s 2-1 win over the Devils — and the lack of supplemental discipline incident irked Vigneault, who had words for both the officials and Simmonds.

    “An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said following the Flyers game, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences?”

    At this point, it’s probably worth noting the Flyers and Rangers play each other on Sunday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

    Worth circling that one on the ol’ calendar, methinks.