Charles Barkley, Michael Strahan ‘hold court’ at Minnesota Wild rookies dinner

Former NBA star Charles Barkley and future NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan weren’t just among the best players of their eras, they were also at the top of the heap in their respective sports when it came to speaking their minds. (This probably explains why they’re currently staples on TV for the NBA and the NFL.)

If you had to pick an NHL team’s dinner for the two to crash, the Minnesota Wild probably wouldn’t be high on that list. Yet Wild center and former New Jersey Devil John Madden still has some ties to Strahan since the two lived in the same neighborhood, which opened the door for an unexpected night of fun during the Wild’s rookie dinner last weekend.

Michael Russo reports that Strahan and Barkley regaled the young players with stories (and sometimes cautionary tales) while taking in the delightful sight of watching the rookies go through time-honored hazing rituals.

“Suddenly, Charles started getting all these crazy ideas in his head. I was just like, ‘Oh man, here we go,'” rookie defenseman Jared Spurgeon said.

Yup, the rookie hazing of Spurgeon, Cody Almond and Clayton Stoner began.

“We gave a speech, told a joke, did three skits and sang a song,” Almond said, laughing. “All the boys were howling pretty good and [Barkley and Strahan] were loving it, too,” Almond said.

Spurgeon, who made his NHL debut on his 21st birthday Nov. 29, sang Travis McCoy’s “Billionaire,” where Spurgeon wants to be “on the cover of Forbes magazine, smiling next to Oprah and the Queen.”

Guess the teammates’ reaction on that one. “It was the first song that popped in my head, and the lyrics are pretty easy,” Spurgeon said.

Almond, 21, did a scene from “Step Brothers” where Will Ferrell sings Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” — the scene where John C. Reilly tells him, “You’ve got to know, that’s a voice of an angel … a combination of Fergie and Jesus.”

It’s a little disappointing that Almond didn’t perform another popular “song” (NSFW) from that movie, but chalk that up to a rookie mistake. Russo reports that the dinner set Spurgeon back $5,000, which might not sound like much, but it’s almost 10 percent of the $526K he makes if he stays at the NHL level.

The rookie maximum has been a great thing for NHL teams, but it makes these hazing rituals pretty tough on these young players’ wallets. Then again, can you really put a price on a night of unedited stories from two greats (and great talkers) like Barkley and Strahan?

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.