Milan Lucic; Dan Hamhuis;

Canucks defensive depth may be tested again with Dan Hamhuis banged up

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One of the lasting memories of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals is Dan Hamhuis’ huge hip check on Milan Lucic that sent Lucic going end over end in front of the bench. The hit led to a bit of a scuffle that saw David Krejci go off for cross checking Hamhuis for the hit. Hamhuis came out worse for the wear from it all though leaving the game with what Canucks coach Alain Vigneault kiddingly described as a “mid-body” injury.

After today’s media gather, Vigneault says that Hamhuis is day-to-day (aren’t we all?) with that mysterious “mid-body” injury leaving his starting spot in doubt for Saturday’s Game 2. Much like how things went in the regular season for Vancouver when it comes to defensive injuries, they’ll press on and use their depth to their advantage. With Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, and rookie Chris Tanev waiting in the wings for their shot to play in the finals Vigneault is comfortable with what he’s got.

“Right now we’ve got Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Chris Tanev that have played some big minutes with us this year and they have done a good job,” Vigneault said. “If we need somebody to play minutes, I’m confident that they’ll be able to step in and do a real good job for us.”

During the regular season the Canucks played a total of 13 defensemen thanks to various maladies that kept the Canucks shorthanded along the blue line at different times. The list of names is staggering. You’ve already seen guys like Hamhuis, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, and Aaron Rome start in this series and you’ve seen Alberts, Tanev, and Ballard in the playoffs. During the season they trotted out the likes of Lee Sweatt, Evan Oberg, Ryan Parent, and Yann Sauve to help patch holes in the defense. Many teams that have to go that deep into their minor league well crumble thanks to the lack of depth. Instead, Vancouver has stayed strong and flourished.

While Hamhuis is an important defensive cog in their lineup, if he has to come out each of Alberts, Ballard, and Tanev offer different things to their game. Alberts is a physical player and one who used to play for the Bruins. Ballard was a starter for most of the season before being edged out of the lineup in favor of Rome. Tanev is young but well liked by the Canucks although they’d likely rather not put him in the awkward spot of appearing in the finals. In the Stanley Cup finals veteran credibility is huge, especially to Alain Vigneault.

While Hamhuis’ game is steady, putting either Alberts or Ballard has its risks as they’re both penalty liabilities. There’s also the rust factor involved with guys who don’t see a lot of playing time and that’s something Boston would likely look to take advantage of. If it comes down to that and Hamhuis can’t go, Boston will certainly look to push the issue but if Vancouver doesn’t bend nor break, don’t be surprised… They’re pretty used to this by now.

Former NHLer LaCouture pleads not guilty to assaulting woman

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 19: Dan LaCouture #28 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 19, 2006 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bruins won 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) A former NHL player has pleaded not guilty to charges he assaulted a woman in Massachusetts over the weekend.

The Cape Cod Times reports Daniel LaCouture appeared Tuesday in Barnstable District Court on charges of assault and battery and vandalizing property.

Police responded just after 6 p.m. Saturday to a house in Centerville, where they say the 39-year-old LaCouture hid underneath a vehicle in the home’s driveway before confronting the victim and striking her in the collarbone.

LaCouture is due back in court July 15.

A phone number listed for LaCouture in online public records was disconnected.

LaCouture made his NHL debut with Edmonton in 1999. The forward had 20 goals and 25 assists in 337 career games with six NHL teams.

He is one of dozens of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the NHL over concussion-related injuries.

A better start is key for Sharks in Game 2

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It’s easy to suggest that perhaps the San Jose Sharks got caught up with some nerves during the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After all, this is a franchise that, after well-documented playoff shortfalls, is playing in the championship series for the first time. The Pittsburgh Penguins, on the other hand, well they’ve been here before — seven years ago.

Sharks’ defenseman Brent Burns conceded that his team may have been overwhelmed at first, outshot 15-4 in the opening 20 minutes, before eventually getting back on track in the middle of the game.

The result was a two-goal deficit, as the Penguins jumped into the lead. San Jose fought back, but ultimately lost on a late Nick Bonino goal.

The Sharks, of course, have stressed getting out to a better start, and that what happened Monday can be a learning experience, as they look to even the series in Game 2 on Wednesday.

“We were excited to play. We felt we were ready. Then at the start, we didn’t execute the way we needed to. We try to take that lesson and learn from it,” Joe Pavelski told reporters on Tuesday.

“Hopefully we can have a better start. Obviously it’s exciting to be here. I don’t know if it’s your first time or your fifth time, I’m sure it’s exciting every time. So we’ll learn from that game and hopefully have a better start.”

 

Bears face Monsters for the AHL’s Calder Cup

MILWAUKEE - JUNE 15:  Chris Bourque #17 of the Hershey Bears kisses the Calder Cup after the Hershey Bears defeated the Milwaukee Admirals in game six of the AHL Calder Cup Finals on June 15, 2006 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Admirals 5-1 in game six to win the AHL Calder Cup. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Hershey Bears and Lake Erie Monsters will play for the 2016 Calder Cup, as the American Hockey League’s championship series begins Wednesday.

The Bears, who start with home ice advantage, enter the series having won the Calder Cup 11 times — the most of any franchise in the league’s history. They also enter the final having dispatched the Toronto Marlies — Canada’s remaining hope for an AHL championship, right…? — in the third round.

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Meanwhile, the Monsters have been on a torrid run in the playoffs, losing only twice in 13 games so far. They’ve earned the sweep in two of three series, making quick work of the Rockford IceHogs and Ontario Reign.

Bears forward Carter Camper, a journeyman in the minors with three games of NHL experience with Boston in 2011-12, is second in AHL playoff scoring with 15 points in 17 games.

For the Monsters, Blue Jackets prospect Lukas Sedlak has been on a roll, offensively, and now has 13 points in 13 post-season games this year.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Sedlak was regarded as a smart two-way forward, but his offensive production was minimal, almost non-existent. Players like that tend to drift away after a few seasons, pushed aside by the next wave of young talent and high draft picks.

“I’d say right around Christmas I started wondering what was going to happen,” Sedlak said. “I was asking my agent what Columbus thought of me, and I was prepared for everything — maybe even going back to Europe.

“I knew my contract was up after the season. I thought I was playing pretty well … but you just don’t know.”

 

Stars sign Dowling, Ranford to one-year deals

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The Dallas Stars made a pair of depth moves on Tuesday, announcing the signings of forwards Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford to one-year contracts.

Both players have put up good numbers in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars.

This past season, the 24-year-old Ranford scored 19 goals and 59 points in 76 games — all career highs for him in the minors. He played once for Dallas last season, but didn’t register a point.

Initially undrafted and a Stars’ free agent signing from two years ago, the 25-year-old Dowling was also productive with 11 goals and 46 points in 52 games.