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Philadelphia Flyers hope that James van Riemsdyk will use benching as motivation

The Philadelphia Flyers might have issues here and there, but they’re an Eastern Conference powerhouse thanks to an expensive defense, the out-of-left-field great play of potential Calder Trophy candidate Sergei Bobrovsky and an incredibly deep offense.

Of course, with all that depth among forwards, someone usually gets lost in the shuffle. At different points in this early season, Daniel Carcillo and Nikolai Zherdev found themselves on the healthy scratch list.

Now, it seems like James van Riemsdyk is the latest forward to get the healthy scratch treatment. In 13 games, the budding power forward hasn’t scored a single goal, notching four assists and a +2 rating while averaging 14:06 minutes per game. Apparently the Flyers want to light a fire under van Riemdsyk by keeping him out of games, even if he might have to wait a while to return. Here is the story from Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

There are no immediate plans for James van Riemsdyk’s return, but when he does come back, coach Peter Laviolette wants the young Flyers winger to take his benching personally.

“When James gets back in there, you hope it burns him a little bit to be out of the lineup and he comes back with revitalized energy, like Z [Nik Zherdev] did, and makes it a point to show he shouldn’t have come out of the lineup – and shouldn’t come out anymore,” Laviolette said this week in a conference call with reporters.

Getting back in the lineup, however, won’t be so simple. Andreas Nodl’s strong play could keep the 21-year-old van Riemsdyk sidelined for a while. He has been a healthy scratch the last two games.

“There are tough decisions to be made,” said Laviolette, whose Flyers play his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, on Thursday. “You’re trying to win hockey games every night. James got caught in a numbers game. He’s got to continue to practice hard, and when he gets that opportunity and gets get back in there . . . you want to make it a point to let everyone know that [a benching] is not going to happen again.”

Van Riemsdyk comes in with a considerable amount of pressure, as he was the second pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft behind Patrick Kane. It seemed like he was beginning to live up to that hype – he had a solid year last season, with 15 goals – but the 6’3″ 200 lbs. forward has plenty of room to improve.

Don’t be surprised if the Flyers reap the benefits from the negative reinforcement-based motivation ploy of sitting van Riemsdyk.

Sharks flip the script, tie Penguins heading into third period

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after scoring a second period goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.

Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.

The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.

Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:

Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:

Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.

Report: Blues will bring back Hitchcock with one-year deal

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.

That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.

Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:

When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”

“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.

Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.

That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.

While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.

If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.

Crosby, Rust and Sheary lead Penguins’ early charge

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Evgeni Malkin #71 after scoring a first period goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.

It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.

Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.

Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.

First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.

Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.

There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.

Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.