As sports writers, it’s tough not to get sucked in to the latest Sappy Story of Inspiration.
Yet you don’t need to insert blurry camera lenses or mood music to make the story of Ondrej Pavelec inspiring: the 23-year-old goalie’s journey pretty much speaks for itself.
In case you’ve forgotten, Pavelec took a nasty and inexplicable fall during the Atlanta Thrashers’ opening night game against the Washington Capitals on October 8th. At that moment in time, scary questions were asked as people worried about his career … and his life.
While doctors couldn’t determine the cause of the fainting spell, they confirmed that Pavelec suffered from a concussion. The young netminder missed three weeks, with backup Chris Mason doing a solid job of holding down the fort in his absence.
After taking a few games to ramp up, Pavelec is now having one of the best seasons of any NHL goalie, with no “good for a guy who got injured” qualifiers necessary. George Henry of the Associated Press wrote a nice feature on Pavelec’s ascent from that accident to becoming one of the top goalies in the league.
“I guess it wasn’t the nicest thing for him to do to his teammates, to pass out and for us not to know what was going on,” Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien said in jest Wednesday. “But, yeah, he woke up, and he’s been playing well. He’s been good for us.”
Was this some kind of cruel joke usually reserved for cartoons? A guy slams the back of his head against the ice, wins just one of his next seven decisions and then emerges in mid-November as a better goalie?
“It was a scary moment, for sure, but I was back on the ice in 10-14 days,” Pavelec said. “I don’t have any more problems, and that’s nice because you see all the time in sports where something like that happens and the guy doesn’t come back to play the sport they love.”
Pavelec (9-5-2) won’t say if he envisioned having the NHL’s second-best save percentage and goals-against average while he underwent weeks of physical testing and trips to a neurologist.
Check out Henry’s story for more information and insight on Pavelec’s impressive redemption story.
The mumps are back.
Three years after a league-wide outbreak sidelined a slew of players, the Canucks have announced that d-man Troy Stecher has been diagnosed with mumps, while four other players — Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund — have presented symptoms.
More, from the club:
The team has worked from the outset with the Vancouver Health Authority, NHL, NHLPA and BC Centre for Disease Control to minimize transmission of the illness.
In keeping with BC Centre of Disease Control and Vancouver Coastal Health guidelines, players presenting symptoms are immediately being tested and quarantined in isolation for a five-day period from the onset of symptoms or until test results prove negative.
Vaccines are also being administered to minimize further risk of contraction along with universal preventative hygiene measures as recommended by Vancouver Coastal Health including disinfecting all dressing room areas.
Vancouver’s in the midst of its bye week. Saturday’s home date against the Sharks will be its first since a 3-2 loss to Philly on Sunday.
Given that Stecher’s out and the other four are being quarantined, the Canucks project to be severely undermanned tomorrow. There was no immediate announcement for AHL recall plans, or emergency roster replacements.
Following Saturday’s game, Vancouver is back in action again on Tuesday, when it hosts Detroit.
The Anaheim Ducks have acquired winger Patrick Eaves in a trade with the Dallas Stars. The cost was a conditional second-round draft pick in 2017.
Eaves, 32, is enjoying a career year with 21 goals in 59 games. A pending unrestricted free agent, his cap hit is just $1 million. It was expected that he’d be traded prior to next week’s deadline.
Eaves join a Ducks team that could use a few more goals. Of note, Corey Perry has struggled offensively, scoring just 11 times in 62 games.
Below is the condition on the draft pick, which could turn into a first-round selection.
Based on draft position, Dallas will receive the middle pick of Ottawa, San Jose or Toronto’s second-round selections in 2017 per the conditions in which Anaheim acquired the pick from Toronto in a previous trade. Should Anaheim advance to the third round of the postseason and Eaves plays in 50% or more of their games in the first two rounds, the selection becomes the Ducks first-round selection in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Related: The Wild have options in search for forward depth
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Carolina Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell is expected to skate in his first hockey game since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The Hurricanes assigned Bickell to their AHL affiliate in Charlotte on Friday and say he’s expected to play for the Checkers on Saturday night.
The move came a day after he was placed on waivers in a procedural move that allowed the team to send him to the minors.
Bickell, 30, has been out since October, was diagnosed with MS in November and was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 11.
The three-time Stanley Cup winner with Chicago has been practicing with the Hurricanes for the past month.
Justin Schultz‘s career has done a virtual 180 since joining Pittsburgh at last year’s trade deadline, and the Pens have made it clear they’d like to keep him around beyond this season.
“We have not [discussed an extension with Schultz],” GM Jim Rutherford said, per the Post-Gazette. “But he will definitely be a priority for us in the offseason.”
Acquired for a third-round pick last February, Schultz proved to be one of Rutherford’s best moves (part of the reason why Rutherford captured NHL GM of the Year). The former Oilers rearguard had seven points through 18 regular-season games and then thrived once getting into the playoff mix, helping Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup.
He was signed to a modest one-year, $1.4 million extension last summer, which has turned out to be another Rutherford masterstroke.
Schultz has been vitally important for a Pittsburgh defense decimated by injury. His TOI is way up — 19:15 per game — and his offensive contributions have been outstanding. The 26-year-old has nine goals and 39 points through 56 games, putting him tops among all Pens d-men (and tied for seventh among all NHL blueliners).
Schultz is a pending RFA, and in line for a pretty big raise. The Post-Gazette suggested it could cost Pittsburgh $4-$5 million annually to keep him around, meaning Rutherford will have his work cut out. Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino and Trevor Daley are all pending UFAs, while fellow d-man Brian Dumoulin is also restricted come July 1.
Rutherford will also need to deal with the Marc-Andre Fleury issue, specifically how to mitigate Fleury’s $5.75 million cap hit.