League shoots down return of Hartford Whalers

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To say that the defunct Hartford Whalers franchise still has something of a cult following is, I think, fairly reasonable. So when people see remnants of the team (since moved to Carolina as the Hurricanes) and its distinct logo, the nostalgia comes rushing back. On occasion, a lot of wishful thinking joins that nostalgia.

Unfortunately, despite former owner Howard Baldwin’s use of a Whalers-like logo to promote an outdoor rink – and all the assumptions and excitement that can come from such a move – NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly dismissed the probability of the team’s return. James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail shares Daly’s thoughts on the subject.

“I haven’t given a lot of thought on the Hartford front, but I guess what I would say is I’m not sure we’re aware of any potential ownership groups that want to own a team in Hartford. I know there continues to be a passionate fan base in Hartford — I do hear from them on occasion. Ultimately, some of the reasons we left Hartford still exist: They don’t have a state of the art building and you need to have an owner who’s willing to own a club in the market.

“The club did well in Hartford given the circumstances and ultimately those circumstances conspired to make it not viable there and I don’t know if that’s changed.”

It’s hard not to love scrappy little markets such as Hartford, Winnipeg and Buffalo, but there’s no doubt that they often fight uphill battles in big-money pro leagues. Especially when they don’t have “state of the art” facilities like Daly mentioned. The Penguins were very lucky that Crosby and Malkin helped make their team one of the hottest tickets in the NHL or the soon to open Consol Energy Center – a probable profit machine – may not have been built.

Still, despite the sobering lameness of reality, it would no doubt be gorgeous to see those silly/awesome jerseys and “The Whale” ride high again. Even though, um, they rarely rode high in the standings.

Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.