Lebron James, Ilya Kovalchuk make us wait, but Kovalchuk might want to change course


lebron.jpgWhile July 1 was “Lebron James Day” for many sports fans, hockey-crazed people thought they’d finally get some answers about the NHL’s big free agent fish Ilya Kovalchuk. Thursday was supposed to be a day of closure regarding the two soon-to-be-huge-earners, but both basketball and hockey fans will have to wait to see the end of all the speculation.

The two players have quite a bit in common, although Lebron James has had far more success in the playoffs and Kovalchuk isn’t generally considered to be at the top of the NHL ladder (although some might say he’s just behind Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby). They both bring a unique set of offensive skills to the table, each player rejected offers to stay with the teams who drafted them* and people often make excuses when they lose based on the quality of their teammates.

* – Of course, Lebron might actually return to the Cleveland Cavaliers while the odds of Kovalchuk returning to the Atlanta Thrashers hover around zero percent.

James seems to have the NBA world at his fingertips, with plenty of options on where he’d like to land and whom he wishes to play with. Kovalchuk, on the other hand, seems like he’s in a cat-and-mouse game with the Los Angeles Kings being by far the most viable suitor outside of the KHL. While insiders point to market size, quality of teammates and perhaps even desirable climates when talking about factors in Lebron’s decision, many feel that money is the main sticking point for Kovalchuk and Kings GM Dean Lombardi.

Helene Elliott paints a not-so-promising picture regarding the Kings’ negotiations with the Russian left wing.

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They have the resources and cap space and face little competition for the two-time 50-goal scorer. But they didn’t reach an agreement Thursday and General Manager Dean Lombardi, through a team spokesman, declined to comment on the state of the talks.

Word from various corners of the hockey universe was that Kovalchuk is aiming high – think $10 million a year for 10 to 12 years – and the Kings are uncomfortable with that. The deal isn’t dead, but its pulse could be less than robust. The New Jersey Devils might be hovering, ready to remind Kovalchuk that travel in the East is less taxing on the body and worth taking a slightly lower payday.

It all comes down to priorities with Kovalchuk. He needs to answer some tough questions, such as “Do I really want to play in the NHL or just make the biggest impact possible on my bank account?” and “Can I accept the fact that playing for a contender often means taking less money?”

I’ve already written that Kovalchuk isn’t worthy of a big pay raise and I think the first day of contract talks reveals that to be a league-wide sentiment. There is no doubt that he’s talented and steadily put up big goal totals. Yet who is going to give a $100 million contract to a player who – either because of a lack of quality teammates, his own shortcomings or a combination of the two – never really won anything or even excelled on a big stage?

While Lebron James can keep his head in the clouds and continue to picture decadent dream sequences in which he gets to have his basketball cake and eat it too, Kovalchuk might want to keep his feet on the ground before visions of a big payday turn into a hockey nightmare.

Dubinsky to have hearing for cross-check on Crosby

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Brandon Dubinsky and the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will have a chat about his cross-check on Sidney Crosby.

The hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, per beat reporter Aaron Portzline.

As you can see in the above video, Dubinsky delivers a two-handed cross-check to Crosby’s neck, so the fact that he’s getting a hearing is no surprise.

“There’s no secret. I try to play him as hard as I can,” said Dubinsky. “That being said, I don’t try and do anything dirty. I felt like my stick ride up his back a little bit. He’s kind of bent over there in front. But again, that’s not the type of player I am. I’m going to play hard, but try and play fair and play in between the whistle.”

Crosby isn’t willing to give Dubinsky the benefit of the doubt.

Anyone who follows the NHL knows that Dubinsky and Crosby aren’t fans of each other.

The two have engaged in some serious battles, including this fight last February:

Report: Habs will be Price-less for the next month

Carey Price
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It looks like the Canadiens will be without star goaltender Carey Price for the next month, per RDS.

“We still don’t know what the nature of the injury is, but we’re convinced it’s his right knee,” hockey analyst François Gagnon said on a french television show on Friday. “The Canadiens are preparing for him to be out for more than a week. They’re preparing for him to be out for a month.”

Price missed nine games with a lower-body injury between Oct. 30 and Nov. 19.

The 28-year-old won all three of his starts since returning, but he was forced from Wednesday’s game against the Rangers leading some to believe he came back too soon.

After Friday’s win over the Devils, Michel Therrien denied the validity of the report.

The Canadiens will have to provide an update on Price’s injury at some point, but their camp doesn’t typically give many details when it comes to this sort of thing.

Galchenyuk scores a beauty in comeback win over Devils

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The Canadiens drafted Alex Galchenyuk to be the big, skilled center they’d been lacking for years.

Most of his first three NHL seasons were spent at left wing, but over the summer the Canadiens decided it was time to put him down the middle.

The transition to center wasn’t always smooth. Galchenyuk struggled to find the back of the net, and his line, which is supposed to be Montreal’s second line, didn’t generate a ton of offense.

But something’s clicked for Galchenyuk over the last week or so.

The 21-year-old has arguably been the Canadiens’ best forward over the last three games and that’s coincided with the arrival of Sven Andrighetto.

The two youngsters were up to their old tricks, again, on Friday night as they led the charge in Montreal’s 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Devils.

Andrighetto got Montreal on the board late in the second period when he beat Cory Schneider with a wrister that cut the deficit to 2-1.

With the Canadiens down by one in the third period, head coach Michel Therrien decided to move Galchenyuk to right wing on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty.

And with under nine minutes remaining in the final frame, he stole the show:

Galchenyuk has scored in three straight games, while Andrighetto has found the back of the net in back-to-back contests.

Both players added goals in the shootout to complete the comeback over the Devils.

These two teams will face-off in Montreal on Saturday night.

Tippett wins 500th game as ‘Yotes bury Flames in overtime

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes grinded their way through the tough stretches, relied on great goaltending and won it on a big goal at the end.

Call it a Dave Tippett special.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in overtime, Mike Smith stopped 25 shots and the Arizona Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 Friday night for coach Tippett’s 500th career victory.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of ugly games in that 500, so it’s probably fitting that was an ugly game,” said Tippett, who has 229 wins with Arizona and the rest with Dallas.

It certainly was right out of the Tippett playbook.

The Coyotes played a solid first period and both teams scored goals in the second on caroms: Martin Hanzal early for Arizona, Mark Giordano late on a power play for Calgary.

Arizona followed with a series of penalties, but Smith was sharp for the second straight game to send this one to overtime.

The Flames had the edge early in the 3-on-3 overtime, leaving the Coyotes gasping for air. Arizona flipped the ice for the final stretch, leaving Calgary’s players winded and scrambling.

Arizona won it with 39 seconds left on the clock when Brad Richardson sent a pass from behind the goal to Ekman-Larsson, and he one-timed it past Karri Ramos.

After the game, the Coyotes handed their championship belt, awarded to the player of the game, to their low-key coach after his milestone victory.

“Coaches don’t have many milestones, but that’s a big one,” Smith said. “Players have milestones all the time, but coaches only have winning, which is all that matters, really.”

The Flames certainly had their chances to win.

Calgary had a rare power-play goal when Giordano scored his fifth of the season, but the Flames failed on five other chances with the man advantage to lose to Arizona for the first time in six games.

Ramos stopped 18 in his first loss in five career games against Arizona and the Flames lost for the first time in six 3-on-3 overtimes.

“It was a good road game,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “We played smart, we played hard, it’s just the result, we wish we could change it.”

The Flames were coming off one of their worst performances of a disappointing season, blowing an early two-goal lead and a one-goal lead in the third period for a 5-3 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday night.

The Flames went straight to Arizona, where they watched the Coyotes beat Anaheim 4-2 on Wednesday night.

They played well and so did the Coyotes in a crisp first period.

Arizona needed 29 seconds of the second to take the lead, when a sharp-angle shot by Tobias Rieder hit the far post and caromed off Hanzal into the goal.

Smith stopped 29 shots against the Ducks and was sharp again, turning away some tough chances when the Flames picked up the pressure after Hanzal’s goal.

The Coyotes took a series of penalties, though, and Giordano scored late in the period by wristing a loose puck through Smith’s legs to tie the game at 1-all. That ended a 0 for 16 streak on the power play for Calgary.

Arizona kept sending players to the penalty box in the third period. The Coyotes killed off one penalty early and were called for another 8 seconds later but killed off both to get the game to overtime.

“Obviously, we’d like to score on those power plays and grab some momentum, but we did some good things,” Flames defenseman Kris Russell said. “I thought we played a good game throughout, but at the end of the day, on special teams, we get one there, that’s the difference in the game.”

NOTES: Coyotes captain Shane Doan missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … The Flames entered the game 29th on the power play with eight goals in 58 chances (13.3 percent). … Calgary C Jiri Hudler returned after missing two games with an illness.