Basebrawler Nyjer Morgan used to be a Regina Pat, teammate of Derek Boogaard

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nyjermorgan-whl.jpgIn case you hadn’t heard around the Internet today, baseball player and Washington Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan caused a bit of a stir last night against the Florida Marlins by charging the mound and then getting his clock cleaned by Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez while charging after pitcher Chris Volstad.

While we’re certainly not Hardball Talk over here, there’s actually a tie-in to hockey and one that helps make Sanchez’s blindside takedown a bit easier for Morgan to handle. You see, Nyjer Morgan wasn’t always a baseball player, he used to play junior hockey for the WHL Regina Pats.

If you’re wondering if Morgan was able to pick up any of his hot temper hints from his teammates back in his 1999-2000 season with the Pats, you better believe he did as he was teammates with current  NHLers  Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, former Blue Jackets and Sens defenseman Filip Novak and a guy by the name of Derek Boogaard. Don’t suppose that Nyjer Morgan learned how to keep his head up in Pats practice though given the way he got cleaned out by Sanchez. Doing that in practice with the Boogie Man on the ice might’ve ended any career attempt for him.

Of course, as one might suspect, there’s always one writer who will take everything out of context in hilarious fashion and try to blame Morgan’s recent wrestling-heel behavior and blame it on hockey. Enter the Phanatic Magazine saying it was Morgan’s hockey upbringing that made him violent.

That’s why it should come as any surprise to any baseball fan who knows the game of hockey that the Morgan-Volstad meeting which sparked the brawl played out the way it did. Though clearly at a size disadvantage, Morgan faced bigger and more motivated kids in Moose Jaw and Red Deer than Volstad, so, of course he wasn’t going to back down.

He came in with elbows up and right hand cocked in battle position, like smaller players are taught when facing a fight. So what if he didn’t land it the way he wanted? He got the only shot in. He took care of the situation the way he was trained.

Well that’s just crazy. If you’re going to go out on the precarious limb to call a baseball fight to be anything similar to a hockey fight you better have the video evidence to back it up. Frankly Nyjer Morgan’s dust up with the Marlins is nothing at all like a hockey fight. The only time I can recall seeing that kind of take down on the ice during a line brawl was March 26, 1997 when Brendan Shanahan of the Red Wings intercepted Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy at center ice to prevent him from getting mixed up with Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux.

Nyjer Morgan might have some issues, but growing up a hockey player isn’t one of them. It just makes him a much more interesting person to follow in baseball as far as us hockey-minded people are concerned. After all, we never saw former Kings draft pick and Braves all-time superstar Tom Glavine ever throw a punch before.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson