Montreal prepares to welcome back former captain Saku Koivu

What happens when a much beloved team leader and former captain returns to the city he once called home for 13 seasons? In the case of Saku Koivu, we’re about to find out. Koivu’s current team, Anaheim, is making a trip through the East Coast and after duking it out with Toronto on Thursday night, the stage is set for Saku Koivu to make his first appearance in Montreal on Saturday night since leaving via free agency in the summer of 2009.

As for how Koivu’s adapting to life in Southern California, he tells Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail that life is pretty good now but he still keeps an eye on his former team and teammates from afar.

“We see a lot of their games here before our games because of the time difference,” explained Koivu. “I still have friends that I talk to in Montreal, but Montreal’s team is so different in a very short time, that there are only two or three guys that I know, plus the training staff. that’s about it. But I still follow them and (Craig) Rivet plays in Buffalo so I talk to him quite a bit about what’s going on in the Eastern Conference.”

With all the time Rivet has had off you’d figure these two do a lot of talking.

Koivu leaving town was a point of contention for fans in Montreal. After all, Koivu spent his entire career to that point in Quebec as a member of the Habs, continuing as captain for 10 years from 1999 until he was not retained by former GM Bob Gainey. Making things awkward in Montreal was the Habs acquiring Scott Gomez from New York as a means to help fill the center spot vacated by Koivu’s departure. Gomez has struggled a bit to adapt to life in Montreal and while his stats might not be the same as what Koivu put up in his time there, they do share a common bond. They both wore #11 in a Habs sweater.

Koivu’s departure hit home with the Habs so hard that the team didn’t issue the number last season as a means to let time heal all wounds. Before the start of this season, Gomez switched from 91 to 11, something that upset many of the faithful in Montreal. If you’re thinking that the fans will rally behind Gomez on Saturday night over Koivu… Think again.

Some fans in Montreal are trying to rally support to get Koivu voted the #1 star of the game no matter what. Since fans in Montreal have the power to do such things, the possibility is sky high that it could happen. It’s so rare these days to see fans continue their love affair with a player after they’ve left town but in the case of Saku Koivu it’s remarkable to see such an outpouring of emotion. While there was contention when Mike Modano played his first game in Dallas this year, there’s virtually no ill-will in the air for Koivu. For as contentious as Habs fans can be, this is truly wonderful to see.

Crosby: Penguins ‘probably deserved better’ vs. Senators in Game 6

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If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.

The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.

Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?

Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.

” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.

That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.

Anderson puzzles Penguins as Senators force Game 7

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Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?

The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.

The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.

The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.

Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.

With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.

Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.

You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.

Report: Avalanche get permission to speak with Leafs assistant GM Dubas

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Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?

It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?

One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.

This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.

Video: Senators score twice to take 2-1 lead in Game 6

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The Ottawa Senators have defied odds during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’ve done so with what’s often been an ice-cold power play.

They finally struck gold on the man advantage on Tuesday, and at a key moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating much of the game and pressing for an even bigger edge after Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0.

Maybe the Penguins got overzealous, or maybe officials … finally started making some calls. Either way, the Senators ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for almost a minute-and-a-half. With that opportunity, Bobby Ryan scored a huge goal for Ottawa on a shot that was both oddly and perfectly placed.

Moments later, Kyle Turris narrowly missed a golden opportunity, so the contest remained tied 1-1.

Despite a late push by the Penguins to finish the second, Game 6 will enter the third period with a 1-1 score.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE COVERAGE FOR GAME 6

Update: Mike Hoffman‘s booming shot gave the Senators a 2-1 lead in the third. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can tie it up.