2010 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 3: Yes, Hossa is valuable to Hawks

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If the Chicago Blackhawks had lost the first two games of this
series, or even split them, then we might be talking about how Marian
Hossa is undoubtedly cursed.

This is his third straight Stanley Cup finals, and he’s the first
player to appear in three straight series with three different teams. He
was on the losing end in his two previous trips to the Cup finals, and
some thought that the Blackhawks adding Hossa was the kiss of death.

Hossa was almost magical for the Penguins in 2008, acquired at the
trade deadline to provide offensive firepower and he responded with 12
goals and 26 points in just 20 games, as the Penguins eventually lost to
the Red Wings. Last season, he made the switch over to Detroit, and
struggled with his production, scoring just 6 goals in 23 games as the
the Wings lost to his former team.

Hossa started the postseason this year in similar fashion, being
nearly invisible on the scoreboard as his team rolled through the first
three rounds of the playoffs. Thankfully, the rest of his team was
scoring and we were left to wonder if perhaps Hossa was pressing too
much as he fought to finally, finally hoist the Cup at the end of the
postseason.

Coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t worried about his
struggles in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

“We
really like the way he has progressed in the Playoffs as well. I’m
sure he’s excited about the third chance here this year. We really like
his contribution in the first two games. I think that line has been
very effective in a lot of ways.”

In the first two games of the Cup finals, Hossa has awakened. He’s
back to looking like the dominant player he can be and it’s none too
soon; with the top line of the Blackhawks struggling mightily, Hossa was
needed more than ever to step up his game. He has a goal and two
assists in the two games against the Flyers — not earth shattering
numbers but his efforts in other areas of the game that’s made the
difference.

Patrick Sharp is certainly glad he’s on the team this season, as he’s
been the difference maker they needed him to be:

“He’s been a great addition to the team,” Sharp said this afternoon.
“If you ask all 30 teams in the league if they want [Hossa] there they’d
take him gladly. We’re lucky to have him on our team.”

Sharp says that Hossa has made a difference for the Blackhawks, even
if he’s not putting up a ton of goals.

“He brings so much more to the club than just his goalscoring.
Everyone knows him because he scores 40 goals a year, but he’s one of
the best two-way wingers in the league. He’s a great locker room guy and
the fact that he’s been to three Cup finals is a great thing.”

Hossa looked the best he’s looked all postseason on Monday night in
Game 3, as he was a force along the boards and in front of Michael
Leighton. His determination was awarded with the first goal of the game,
as he beat several Flyers players to a rebound.

Despite not putting up big numbers, he’s been incredibly sound
defensively and has been a perfect example for the rest of the team on
how to still make a difference even if you’re shots aren’t hitting the
back of the net. He’s a plus-11 through 18 games, showing that he hasn’t
become overly frustrated despite not scoring at his usual pace.

Quenneville is convinced that Hossa is much, much more to his team
than just a goal scorer, and he allows the coaches flexibility with
their lines and matchups.

“For sure as a coach you have a lot more options with him on the
ice,” the Blackhawks coach said. “I think defensively he really provides
a lot of puck possession and defensive responsibility. Offensively if
he’s got the puck, he can make plays. That line has been a big factor,
and he’s a big part of it. “

Hagelin making ‘significant steps’ in returning to Pens lineup

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It’s been nearly six weeks since Carl Hagelin last suited up for the Penguins.

His return sounds like it’s on the horizon.

Hagelin, out since Mar. 10 with a lower-body injury, was deemed “close” to coming back by Pens head coach Mike Sullivan, just ahead of tonight’s Game 1 against Washington.

“[Hagelin] is a day-to-day decision at this point,” Sullivan said. “He took limited contact this morning. The next step, obviously, will be the full contact approach.

“He is certainly making significant steps in the right direction here.”

The speedy Swede missed the final 16 games of the regular season with his ailment, and all five games in Pittsburgh’s opening-round win against the Blue Jackets. The end result was just six goals and 22 points in 61 games played, down from the impressive stretch he had last season after being acquired from Anaheim.

Pittsburgh is hopeful the 28-year-old can rejoin the team, and provide similar production as last year’s playoff run. Hagelin had six goals and 16 points in 24 games en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Hagelin isn’t the only veteran forward that could make his return this season. Earlier this week, the Pens announced winger Chris Kunitz had been cleared for contact, and is available for the Washington series.

Sweeney shares offseason plans for Bruins

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The Boston Bruins had a relatively successful season, getting back to the playoffs after narrowly missing them the past two years.

But another interesting summer awaits GM Don Sweeney, who has a number of areas he’d like to improve.

From CSN New England:

Sweeney listed the “middle of the [forward] lineup, transition-minded defensemen and the backup goaltender position” as places he had in mind for offseason upgrades. Those were glaring areas of need throughout the regular season and postseason. 

More specifically on Sweeney’s to-do list: a left wing to be paired with David Krejci, a revamping of a third line that underachieved far too often and another top-four defenseman capable of moving the puck to go along with a more dependable backup goaltender situation than the Jekyll and Hyde performance from Anton Khudobin last season.

Boston’s pending unrestricted free agents include Drew Stafford, Dominic Moore, and John-Michael Liles, the latter of whom turns 37 in November.

At some point, the Bruins will need to find a replacement for 40-year-old Zdeno Chara. But the NHL’s oldest defenseman still has one year left on his contract, and he says he’d like to play beyond that.

To start next season, the Bruins could go with a top four of Chara, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Charlie McAvoy, two lefties and two righties. Assuming they don’t re-sign Liles, adding another left shot for the bottom pairing seems an attainable goal for Sweeney. Adding another top-four d-man could be tough, though.

Another situation to watch is the one with Ryan Spooner, the 25-year-old forward who found his way into Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse in the playoffs. Spooner is a pending RFA and arbitration eligible. He can be good offensively, but without the puck he’s still tough to trust.

Sweeney did not share his plan for Spooner with reporters, but it’s safe to say the player’s future with the Bruins is uncertain.

Panthers looking for ‘modern day guy’ as next head coach

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There are just two coaching vacancies left — in Buffalo and Florida, respectively — and on Thursday, Panthers GM Dale Tallon outlined what the club is looking for in its next bench boss.

“We’re looking for a modern day guy, a good communicator and a good teacher,” Tallon said, per WQAM radio. “Someone who is firm, but fair and can think outside the box a little bit, because creativity is important too as far as how you differentiate yourself from other teams playing a similar system.”

To that end, the Panthers have already interviewed one candidate — University of Denver’s Jim Montgomery. Sportsnet reported Florida spoke with him on Monday.

Montgomery, 47, has spent the last three years at Denver, building one of college hockey’s most elite programs. This year’s squad was anchored by Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher, U.S. junior shootout hero Troy Terry and, perhaps most interestingly, freshman scoring sensation Henrik Borgstrom — Florida’s first-round pick at last year’s draft.

Montgomery aside, Tallon and the Panthers sound like they’re casting a wide net to find Tom Rowe’s replacement.

The club reportedly reached out to Vancouver with interest in former bench boss Willie Desjardins. The Miami Herald floated the possibility of bringing in ex-Habs coach Michel Therrien, who resides in South Florida. Montreal radio station 91.9 Sports also connected Therrien to the gig.

Put it all together, and the coaching decision doesn’t appear to be a rush job. Tallon all but cemented that last month, when he said there “are some candidates that are in the playoffs that we can’t talk to,” adding he might wait “until at least mid-June” to make a hire.

Stars re-sign Janmark, who they ‘missed as much as anyone last season’

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Mattias Janmark, the Stars forward that missed all of this season with a major knee injury, has been given a one-year, $700,000 extension, the club announced on Thursday.

“Mattias is a played that we missed as much as anyone last season with the unfortunate injury he suffered,” Dallas GM Jim Nill said in a release. “We look forward to him returning to our group and getting him back for training camp.”

Losing Janmark’s services this year was, as mentioned, a fairly big blow. After surprising onlookers by making the Stars out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Today’s news all but alleviates concerns the 24-year-old’s knee problems might extend into next season, something former head coach Lindy Ruff alluded to last month.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” Ruff said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.