After being booed by Ducks fans for years, can Paul Kariya play for Anaheim again?

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kariyaasaduck.jpgMost of the discussion regarding Paul Kariya’s possible return to the team he once starred for focuses on two questions: 1) do the Anaheim Ducks want him back? and 2) does Paul Kariya even want to play hockey anymore?

But people outside the California area might not realize that there are some fresh wounds to heal between Kariya and Ducks fans. After all, Kariya has been booed during every Ducks game he’s appeared in since his messy divorce from the team after the 2003 season.

Matt Reitz of the great blog View From My Seats brings up the strong point that Kariya might not have deserved such treatment in the first place.

For 7 years, the former Ducks superstar has been booed every time he’s touched the puck inside The Ponda Center. Yes, the very same guy whose last home game saw him do this is booed every time he touches the puck in Orange County. To be honest, it was always something that struck me as confusing. I understand when Kariya’s getting booed at Staples Center-that much seems obvious. But in the city that he meant so much to the organization for 9 seasons, there has to be something deeper there.

The common misconception amongst booing fans at Honda Center is that he somehow screwed the Ducks after the 2003 season. He screwed the Ducks and chose to sign in Colorado with Selanne for far less and left the Ducks to hang out and dry. Would the Ducks really want to bring back that kind of guy to the organization? He’s greedy. He’s had no loyalty. That pretty much sums it up.

What that short story doesn’t tell is that it was the Ducks who chose not to offer Paul Kariya a qualifying offer, which made him a free-agent. When he was a free-agent, he took an offer with his friend to try and win a Cup. Don’t we usually applaud a player when he chooses the opportunity to win over money? What about when we see players around the league forgo extra money so they could play with one of their friends (like Saku Koivu)? Isn’t that something we usually praise as a guy who has his priorities in order? So when Paul Kariya does it, why does it make him different?

Thumbnail image for 100810_Kariya_Selanne.jpgReitz makes a great point about Kariya being booed unjustly (although it’s a little uneven to compare a hockey player taking a 30 percent pay-cut from $10 million to $7 million to someone being paid less money for an office job). Fans can be pretty fickle, although every once in a while they get things right; Los Angeles Kings fans were fairly reasonable for booing Rob Blake and Edmonton Oilers fans should never hesitate to boo Chris Pronger.

My guess is that very fickle nature could make it possible for Kariya to return to Anaheim, though. Sure, fans might be quicker to turn on him if he falters, but chances are the nostalgia machine will be in high gear if Kariya and his former running mate Teemu Selanne skate together again.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.