Ilya Bryzgalov would rather play in Russia than Winnipeg next season

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With the Phoenix Coyotes out of the playoffs and their future as to where they’ll play in the future up in the air, there is one thing they can count on. If the team moves to Winnipeg they can count on impending unrestricted free agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov playing for another team or league next season.

After last night’s 6-3 loss in Game 4 to Detroit, Bryzgalov was asked about his future as a free agent and the prospects of re-signing with the organization. To say he’s not a big fan of Winnipeg would be a wild and hysterical understatement.

“You don’t want to go to Winnipeg, right?” Bryzgalov said after the Coyotes lost to Detroit, Wednesday night. “Not many people live there, not many Russian people there. Plus it’s cold. There’s no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It’s going to be tough life for your family.”

The 30-year-old Russian’s knowledge of Winnipeg comes from a visit or two when he was with Cincinnati in the AHL.

“I’ve been there for just once, maybe twice, when I play in minors. It was really cold,” Bryzgalov said. “I used the tunnels between the buildings to get to the arena. Because it was minus 40-something. Real cold.”

I know things are a bit different in Canada, but I didn’t realize it was a country without parks or entertainment. It’s either that or Winnipeg really is a frontier outpost in the middle of nowhere. I should really shut up when talking about places I’ve never been before.

It’s not the first time Bryzgalov has bagged on the bad weather in a central Canadian city, he sounded off similarly about Edmonton years ago while a member of the Ducks. Bryzgalov has been a bit spoiled in his NHL career having played in Anaheim and Phoenix, that’s some really good weather during the winter to have to call home.

Of course, with free agency coming up for him and a potentially very wealthy owner to sign his paychecks in Winnipeg (should he be open to going there) we’d like to think that David Thomson would build Bryzgalov his own climate controlled biodome should that be what it takes to lure him north of the border.

Would he even listen to an offer from the new owners? It doesn’t sound too likely.

“Probably not. I better go to somewhere in Russia, KHL, to be honest. Because KHL is Russian people, it’s family, friends. Even as a cold place, I can speak to people in Russian language.”

Ah yes, the KHL option. Bryzgalov is an interesting enough character to take seriously on such a threat to go back to Russia but it’s one that didn’t work out too well for guys like Ray Emery and Evgeni Nabokov the last couple years. The comparison to Nabokov is appropriate because he too is Russian and thought he could get paid well and be at home. That didn’t work out too well as he was allowed to leave SKA St. Petersburg to come back to North America and ultimately end up in limbo after being claimed on waivers by the Islanders.

If he wants to go back to Russia that’s more than fine and that’s his decision. Of course, there may be a warm weather team with an opening at goalie next season if things don’t work out with Phoenix. Tampa Bay has Dwayne Roloson and Mike Smith both becoming unrestricted free agents next year. Perhaps Bryzgalov would be interested in some beach front property in Florida instead of a home on the prairie in Winnipeg.

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.