2010 Stanley Cup Finals: Michael Leighton's long journey back to Chicago

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Michael Leighton’s journey to become a starting goaltender in the
Stanley Cup finals is nothing short of amazing. Since being drafted by
the Chicago Blackhawks, he’s spent time with the Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim
Ducks, Nashville Predators, Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina
Hurricanes. Many times he was claimed off waivers, as he was deemed
expendable by his team.

He was even claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007 before once
again being put on waivers. The same team that relies on him so much now
couldn’t find a place for him on the team just three years ago.

Michael Leighton may be a relatively new name to some, but at 29 he’s
just now coming into his own as a goaltender. There were good reasons
that he wasn’t able to ever stick with a team, as he never proved on the
ice he deserved to stay.

Yet when the Philadelphia Flyers were facing a goaltender crisis in
the middle of the season, they picked Leighton up and never looked back.
He hit the ice for the Flyers playing the best of his career, not
losing in regulation in his first 10 games and putting up a stellar
16-5-2 record. He led the Flyers away from the brink of destruction
midseason, gave them a chance to compete for the postseason, and then
once again and to sit back and watch after being hurt in March.

The Flyers tried to secure a goaltender at the trade deadline, but
Leighton’s play gave them faith that they needn’t sell the farm for a
goalie as they had a solid one already in net.

He finally had proven himself, had finally given his team a reason to
keep him and he was injured at the most important time of the season.

Yet Leighton would get one more chance, being called upon as soon as
he returned from injury to replace Brian Boucher, himself lost with a
knee injury. He responded by leading the Flyers out the Bruins series
and post three shutouts against the Canadiens.

So here he is, ready to take the ice in Chicago, playing against the
team that drafted him in a battle for the Stanley Cup.

“It’s unbelievable to come where I’ve come from, to be here right
now,” Leighton says of this chance.

Despite the time he’s spent bouncing around the NHL, Leighton is
still a wholly unproven goaltender. He has just 103 NHL games under his
belt and when you look at his career the number he’s put up in
Philadelphia are a bit unexpected. Yet there’s no doubting his ability
in net at this moment, as he gears up for the Stanley Cup finals.

That is, unless you’re Patrick Kane.

“Their defence is the reason he played so well,” he said. “Not taking
anything away from him, he obviously played really good and shut them
out. But there were games I was watching where Philly outshot them 13-2
in periods, 12-1 and different things like that. Hopefully we’re a
better test for him.”

Until the Sharks came around, you could say the exact same thing about
Antti Niemi. The Blackhawks also know a bit about being outshot in a
game, allowing the Sharks to unleash an incredible amount of rubber in
their direction. So while Leighton has been helped by his defense,
perhaps Kane should focus on his own.

Datsyuk ‘wants to make sure the Wings have options,’ says his agent

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 21:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings checks his stick before a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 21, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.

His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.

As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.

From the Detroit Free Press:

“He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”

Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.

At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.

He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.

Allen or Elliott? Another goalie decision looms for Hitchcock

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues tends goal against Nick Spaling #16 of the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.

Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.

But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.

“I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.

“I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”

Feeding frenzy: Sharks send Blues to the brink of elimination in Western Conference Final

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The San Jose Sharks won a back-and-forth Game 5 to take back the lead in a back-and-forth Western Conference Final, moving one victory away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.

After scoring the tying goal late in the second period, Joe Pavelski notched his 12th of the playoffs to give San Jose the lead for good just 16 seconds into the third period.

The Sharks earned a 6-3 victory on the road, in a bounce-back effort from Saturday.

Twice, the Blues grabbed the lead. Troy Brouwer gave them the advantage in the first period, showing off his baseball skills by batting the puck into the net on a rebound. Robby Fabbri gave them another lead in the second period, making Roman Polak pay for snapping on Dmitrij Jaskin along the boards.

But the Blues couldn’t hold on. The Sharks scored twice on three power play opportunities and can now clinch the Western Conference on home ice in Wednesday’s Game 6.

As for the Blues, will Ken Hitchcock change up his starting goaltender again? It’s certainly an aspect of this series that will once again be up for debate leading up to Wednesday’s game.

After Brian Elliott had backstopped the Blues through the first two rounds and started the first three games of this series, Hitchcock decided to start Jake Allen in Game 4.

Allen recorded the win Saturday, and was called upon again in Game 5 as expected, but gave up four goals on 25 shots Monday.

Video: Sharks’ Polak snaps, Blues make him pay on the power play

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San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak took serious issue with St. Louis Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin during the second period, as the two eventually threw off the gloves off in a fight in the corner.

In the process, Polak let his emotions get the better of him — he snapped — by also taking a roughing minor to give the Blues a power play.

The Blues made him — and the Sharks — pay on a blast from Robby Fabbri, who was a game-time decision for Monday’s contest.

The Sharks tied the game at 3-3 before the end of the second period on Joe Pavelski‘s 11th of the playoffs. Pavelski struck again in the third period, giving San Jose the 4-3 lead.