Will 'nice guy' Shane Doan finish first, for once?

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NBC Playoff Coverage

Game 3: Phoenix Coyotes at Detroit Red Wings, series tied 1-1

Live on NBC at 3:00 PM ET

Often sportswriters will decry a younger athlete’s “lack of effort” and say that they’re guilty of assuming that they’ll be in a championship situation every year. I wonder how that kind of talk would work with Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan who, at age 33, made the playoffs for the first time since he was 25.

To say that it’s been a challenge for the under-the-radar power forward is probably as much of an understatement as it is to say that the Coyotes’ impressive playoff run has been surprising. There’s some irony (is it irony, or a coincidence? Seriously, thanks a lot, Alanis Morissette.) to this Cinderella season for Doan. While he struggled to his lowest scoring totals since he was 23 – struggles that kept him from making Team Canada after being Captain Canada* – the team he’s suffered in obscurity for is having a record-breaking season.

* – Actually, Ryan Smyth is “Captain Canada” but Doan has been such a reliable annual resource to Team Canada’s World Championship squads that he might as well be deemed “Alternate Captain Canada.”

No doubt about it, Doan is one of those players hockey fans turn to as “good guys.” Sure, his hard hitting style ruffles some feathers from time-to-time, but beyond laundry loyalty, it is hard to find a person who isn’t at least partially rooting for the spirited captain and his band of vagabonds. He’s received plaudits for his down-to-earth demeanor and his check-you-through-walls intensity in equal portions. Heck, he’s even received the odd deification that comes with a Puck Daddy Photoshop contest (laser beams!).

For eight long years – and really, his whole career when you consider the fact that the Coyotes peaked in the Conference Quarter Finals – it’s been easy for sports writers to copy and paste a “Nice Guys Finish Last” story for Doan. Will that happen again to the Coyotes, or will the ultimate underdogs (they might not even have a home, after all) topple the Evil Empire?

This afternoon’s game will go a long way in answering that question.

Lehner’s injury ‘doesn’t look like it’s short term’

Robin Lehner
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Robin Lehner might not be back anytime soon.

Making his debut with the Buffalo Sabres, the 24-year-old goaltender couldn’t complete Thursday’s game against his former squad, the Ottawa Senators, due to what has now been revealed to be a right leg injury.

When he left the arena, he was wearing a walking boot on that nearly went up to his knee.

“It doesn’t look like it’s short term,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma told the Buffalo News. “It’s more than day-to-day at this point, but we need to evaluate further.”

It’s a rocky start to what’s an important campaign for Lehner. He has been given an opportunity to demonstrate that he’s ready to be a starting goaltender after being acquired by the Sabres over the summer, but it looks like that will have to be postponed.

While he’s sidelined, Chad Johnson is likely to be leaned on heavily.

On a new contract, Avs don’t dress Stuart in opener

DENVER, CO - MARCH 14:  Brad Stuart #17 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on as he skates against the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on March 14, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Flames 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Brad Stuart wasn’t on the ice for the first game of his two-year, $7.2 million contract and it had nothing to do with his health.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy felt Stuart simply wasn’t one of the six best defensemen in training camp and consequently he wasn’t in the lineup, per the Denver Post.

“Things could change for the next game,” Roy offered. “Like I said (Wednesday), we’re going to use those eight D all year long. (Last night was) just the first game of the season.”

Perhaps, but it’s still a terrible indicator, especially given that Stuart will turn 36 on Nov. 6. Stuart is a veteran of over 1,000 games, but now the question is if he has enough left in the tank to provide Colorado with much value.

The Avalanche also scratched defenseman Brandon Gormley, who was acquired from the Coyotes in exchange for Stefan Elliott. The hope was that both players would benefit from the change in scenery. Gormley was taken with the 13th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but has only played in 32 career NHL games.