Members of the 'Apatowverse' begin casting for a new hockey movie 'Goon'

Earlier this summer, we discussed Kevin Smith’s potential new hockey movie “Hit Somebody.” Say what you will about the often-vulgar creator of Jay and Silent Bob, it was intriguing to hear that an occasionally deft hand was being put to work on a hockey movie.

Not to be outdone, it sounds like a few celebrity planets orbiting the “Apatowverse” are putting together a puck-based cinematic experience too. Sports and pop culture blog Get to Our Game reports that Jay Baruchel (the nerdy guy in many Apatow projects, including the underrated TV show “Undeclared”) and Evan Goldberg (writer for popular Apatow movie “Pineapple Express”) put together a screenplay based on the story of minor league enforcer Doug Smith. The movie will probably follow the book’s title “Goon.”

The blog discusses the film’s casting call and points out the beyond-eerie resemblance between actor Sean William Scott (aka Stifler from the “American Pie” series and oddly enough, the lead of Smith’s “Hit Somebody”) and former New York Ranger Jay Caufield.

But the key to this whole enterprise — and the factor that could make “Goon” resonate with actual hockey fans — may be the director. Michael Dowse, an Ontario native and rabid Habs fan, should bring a commitment to authenticity that you won’t find in other hockey movies.

The major open question is who will play the role of aging enforcer Ross “The Boss” Reardon, Doug’s antagonist and the most fearsome fighter in the league. Who could pull this off? Do we give Keanu Reeves another shot, or would that lead to too much unintentional comedy? What about an actor’s actor who plays hockey, like Tim Robbins?

One of the toughest calls in sports movies is casting based on “Acting ability vs. athletic ability.” You don’t want to cast someone who cannot even ice skate, but you also want audiences to be riveted by the off-ice scenes too. Finding actors who can act and skate like the wind must be pretty difficult.

(As you may remember, the great hockey movie “Miracle” casted acting newbies who could play some serious hockey in most of the roles and let Kurt Russell knock the Herb Brooks role out of the park. That allowed the hockey scenes to become some of the best ever committed to film … and it also allows me to think, “Hey look, Jim Craig is on a cop show now!” every time I flip past CSI: NY.)

Anyway, a movie being “in production” doesn’t guarantee it will see the light of day (or at least reasonably wide release), but “Goon” sounds like it could be one of the best hockey movies in ages if it works out properly. News might be sporadic on this flick, but I’ll fill you in when (or if) I hear more.

(H/T to Puck Daddy)

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    The Leafs’ remaining schedule is no cakewalk

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs took care of business last night, sending the floundering Florida Panthers to a 3-2 defeat at Air Canada Centre.

    Now comes the hard part for the young Leafs. They have seven games left to book their first playoff appearance since 2013, and their schedule is no cakewalk.

    The Leafs’ next three games are all on the road, in Nashville Thursday, Detroit Saturday, and Buffalo Monday. After that, it’s a four-game home stand to close out the schedule, all against formidable opponents: Washington, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Columbus.

    With a four-point playoff cushion, the Leafs can afford to lose a few games down the stretch. But head coach Mike Babcock doesn’t want his players looking too far ahead.

    “I really believe with our group if we just focus on the day we’re playing and play right, we have a real good chance to win,” Babcock said. “That’s what we talk about and that’s kind of our mantra every day is just play right, play fast and we have an opportunity to be successful. We don’t get all caught up in the race. We know the standings, it’s in the paper every day, so we know that.”

    The Leafs today sent goalie Garret Sparks back to the AHL. That can only mean good news for starter Frederik Andersen, who could play Thursday after missing last night’s victory with an upper-body injury.

    Backup Curtis McElhinney got the nod against the Panthers, calling it the biggest game of his career. The 33-year-old then went out and made 25 saves to earn the win.

    “It was great,” said McElhinney. “Getting a couple of goals in the first period there helped out a little bit and let me settle into it. It was a nice win.”

    Parise ‘pretty black and blue’ after Wilson high stick, but injury not serious

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    Zach Parise looked in bad shape after taking a Tom Wilson high stick to the face in Minnesota’s loss to Washington on Tuesday.

    Thankfully for the Wild, Parise’s early diagnosis is a good one.

    “He can see and is fine as far as that goes,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said on Wednesday, per the club’s Twitter account. “He’s sore in the upper body. I don’t think he’ll be out long.”

    Boudreau went on to add that Parise was “pretty black and blue” and unlikely to play tomorrow, when Minnesota hosts Ottawa. That said, the club expects the 32-year-old to return next week.

    It goes without saying that losing Parise is huge. The alternate captain has 17 goals and 37 points through 64 games this year, and is averaging 17:33 TOI per night. And for a Wild team that’s mired in a horrific slump — just three wins in its last 15 games — being down the services of such a vital contributor is costly.

    Related: Stewart fought Wilson in response to the high stick

    Stamkos ‘getting really close’ to return

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    It probably won’t happen Thursday against the Red Wings, but Steven Stamkos is getting close to making his return for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    “I think we can start putting him in the day-to-day category right now,” said Bolts coach Jon Cooper, per team beat writer Bryan Burns. “I don’t see him playing against Detroit. After that, I’d say it’s getting really close.”

    Stamkos, who hasn’t played since November due to a knee injury, practiced today with his teammates. He took line rushes and even worked with the second-unit power play.

    “Today was probably the best day yet,” the captain said. “Doing better than last time we talked and really feeling better each day now.”

    Tampa Bay’s next game after Thursday’s is Saturday against Montreal.

    The Lightning are three points back of Boston for the second wild-card spot in the East, but they do hold a game in hand on the Bruins.

    A challenging offseason awaits Dean Lombardi

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    For the 23rd time this season — the most in the NHL — the Los Angeles Kings lost a game in regulation after they outshot an opponent.

    It happened last night in Edmonton, where the Kings outshot the Oilers, 35-29, but lost on the scoreboard, 2-1.

    Afterwards, captain Anze Kopitar could only express his frustration.

    “It seems like we’re beating the dead horse every night,” Kopitar said, per LA Kings Insider. “We outshoot teams, we out-chance teams yet we’re on the other side of the winning part, so bottom line it’s just not good enough. Whether that’s offensively or defensively, we’ve got to be better in both areas.”

    It’s mostly offensively. For whatever reason, the Kings have the second-worst shooting percentage (7.6) in the NHL, with only Colorado’s (7.2) being lower.

    Perhaps the Kings aren’t getting enough quality shots. Perhaps they don’t have enough quality shooters.

    Probably a bit of both.

    But it’s something that GM Dean Lombardi will need to address this offseason — assuming he can.

    Roster-wise, the big problem for Lombardi is that the Kings have a pair of veteran wingers, Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik, whose contracts look a lot like anchors.

    Brown, 32, and Gaborik, 35, have combined for just 21 goals this season. Meanwhile, their combined cap hit is north of $10 million, and there’s plenty of term left on each deal.

    Not helping? Both Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are pending RFAs, and they’re in line for raises.

    Oh, and there’s not much in the way of top prospects, either. In the past four drafts, only once have the Kings made a first-round pick. (Adrian Kempe went 29th overall in 2014.)

    Eleven points back of the second wild-card spot in the West, the Kings are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. They’re in Calgary tonight to take on the Flames.

    Related: Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski