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New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard found dead tonight

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The New York Rangers announced that enforcer Derek Boogaard passed away, with Michael Russo reporting that family members found him dead in his apartment today. No other details have emerged at this time.

It’s difficult not to think about the death of fellow enforcer Bob Probert in this situation, especially since Boogaard – known around the NHL as “The Boogeyman” – was the most feared fighter in the post-lockout NHL. He most recently skated for the Rangers this season, but spent most of his career with the Minnesota Wild organization. He appeared in 277 NHL games from 2005-2010.

It’s also difficult not to wonder if Boogaard’s most recent injury issues had something to do with his untimely death. His 2010-11 season was cut short because of concussion issues suffered while doing what he did best: fighting during hockey games. Update: the latest reports indicate that his autopsy results might not be released for about two weeks, so it could be a while before the cause of his death is known.

This sad situation might bring up some questions about fighting in the sport along with maintaining the seriousness of the league’s concussion issues, but at this time we must think of Boogaard’s family and friends. They are dealing with a shocking loss, especially considering the fact that Boogaard was so young.

Russo gathered a quick quote from Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom, one of Boogaard’s former teammates:

Niklas Backstrom on Derek Boogaard: “Unreal guy. Just a really big teddy bear. Outside the rink, he didn’t want bad for anyone.”

Here is a bit more about Boogaard, via the Rangers’ press release.

“Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual,” said New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather.  “He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him.  We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time.”

(snip)

Throughout his career, Boogaard sought to make a difference in the communities he played in, taking part in numerous charitable endeavors.  Boogaard was a supporter of the Defending the Blue Line Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation whose mission is to ensure that children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in the great sport of hockey.

While with the Rangers, he created “Boogaard’s Booguardians,” hosting military members and their families at all New York Ranger home games.  In addition, he made multiple appearances with partner organizations of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the non-profit charity that works closely with all areas of Madison Square Garden, including the New York Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, MSG Media, MSG Entertainment and Fuse “to make dreams come true for kids facing obstacles”.

Update: here’s a statement from NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr.

“The NHLPA is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Derek Boogaard. Derek was a well-liked and respected member of the NHLPA, and his passing is a great loss to the entire hockey community.  Our sincere condolences to Derek’s many friends and family during this difficult time.”

Finally, as a tribute to Boogaard, here’s a video clip of the amazing goal he scored on November 9, 2010.

NBC and NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day in America

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With two games on NBC and then two more on NBCSN, your Sunday should be jam-packed with Hockey Day in America action. A look at the hockey hotbed of Warroad, Minnesota adds a delectable cherry on top, too.

If you need a guide to this party of pucks and patriotism, look no further than this post.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and the dominant Capitals take on Ryan McDonagh and the Blueshirts. The Metropolitan Division represents some of the NHL’s upper crust, so don’t be fooled by the Rangers being the first wild card while the Caps are tops in the East; both of these teams can go. Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher will be there to call the action.

MORE: For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will be in the booth for this battle between teams that met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009. Along with usual suspects like Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, these teams feature American scorers such as Dylan Larkin and, of course, Phil Kessel.

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres, 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The action shifts to NBCSN as Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks hope to teach Jack Eichel and the upstart Sabres a lesson or two. The Blackhawks are in playoff position, as usual, while Buffalo is rallying to try to make a push of its own. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti will be your guides.

MORE: Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s journey from Warroad to the NHL

Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Hockey Day in America’s coverage closes off with this matchup between David Backes‘ Bruins and Joe Pavelski‘s Sharks. Randy Hahn, Andy Brickley and Bret Hedican will take you through this match between the Pacific Division’s top team and a Bruins team fighting to stick in the East playoff picture.

Barkov’s beautiful goal pushes Panthers into playoff position

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers circles the net with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers just won’t be denied as they end the night in the East’s top eight.

It’s fitting, then, that Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be denied on his game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Barkov bursts beyond multiple Kings, fights off what would have been an obstruction penalty and then beats Peter Budaj by the narrowest of margins to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead 15 seconds into the third period. They would never relinquish that edge to Los Angeles, winning their fourth game in a row.

In the process, the Panthers – a team that seemed to be fledgling when it fired Gerard Gallant – now find themselves in the East’s top eight. Heck, they’re actually above the wild card fray by a hair.

Before we get to that … just bask in the glow of this Barkov goal:

Again, it was such a small window to beat Budaj, too:

(If the Panthers’ place in the standings doesn’t sway you into taking them seriously, maybe note plays like that and the fact that Barkov has 20 points in his last 17 games.)

OK, so with this win, the Panthers did some serious leapfrogging. They now rank third in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a game in hand on Boston) and have more points than Toronto as far as wild card concerns go, anyway.

Atlantic Division rankings

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games

Bruins – 64 in 58
Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Sabres – 62 in 59
Lightning – 58 in 57
Red Wings – 56 in 58

From a wild card perspective

Third in Atlantic – Panthers – 64 points in 57 games
Second wild card – Bruins – 64 in 58

Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58
Devils – 60 in 58
Lightning – 58 in 57
Hurricanes – 56 in 54
Red Wings – 56 in 58

Everything’s so close that the Panthers can’t pop champagne bottles, but they’re also very much in control over their hopes. While it never hurts to see your competitors stumble, the Panthers can take care of business. They “control their own destiny,” to use silly sports parlance.

And considering how they’ve been playing lately, they might be as tough to handle in the playoffs as Barkov was to stop on that outstanding 3-2 goal.

Stars made Dave Strader’s return to the booth special

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It was a special night as the Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime, but the most memorable moment wasn’t the win or Antoine Roussel‘s hat trick.

Instead, it was how the team embraced Dave Strader’s return to the broadcasting booth as he continues to fight cancer.

Don’t be ashamed if his comments to the Dallas Morning News leave you emotional:

“This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” Strader said after the game. “Maybe it was the adrenaline high, but I really, really feel great right now.”

Again, the team really did some great things to welcome him back, but the highlight was saluting him after the game. Incredible stuff.

“What a gesture by the boys … meant so much to me and my wife! Thank you.” Strader tweeted after the game.

As this post notes, Strader is expected to do play-by-play for four more Stars games.

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.