Manny Malhotra

How Manny Malhotra’s comeback game went

Manny Malhotra’s comeback for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals after suffering a terrible eye injury in mid-March tonight  is going to be one of the lasting memories we’ll have regardless of how things turn out for his Vancouver Canucks. Given that Malhotra very nearly lost the eyesight in his left eye thanks to taking a puck in the eye in a game against Colorado, seeing him play tonight was something truly special.

Malhotra played just 7:26 of tonight’s game but compared to the ice time the guy he replaced, Alexandre Bolduc, got in Game 1 (less than two minutes) it’s a virtual eternity for a guy playing his first game in nearly three months. While it’s just one game he had the jitters going big time tonight but settled in fast.

“I was excited I was going to have the chance to play, but probably the most nervous I’ve been in my entire career,” he said.

“I guess I really didn’t settle down ’til after my first shift,” Malhotra said. “It was obviously a great feeling, the ovation I got for my first shift. I think it kind of put a little bit more nerves on me, wanting to do something out there, execute. Once I got out there, I felt a little bit better, started to skate.”

As for how he played, coach Alain Vigneault said before tonight’s game that he’d specialize in faceoffs and play on the fourth line. He did both of those things and did wonders in the faceoff circle going 6-7 (86%) on the draws he took tonight. The lone man to beat him on a faceoff? Rich Peverley. Malhotra took his draws against seven different Bruins and beat each of Greg Campbell, Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder, Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci once apiece.

While Malhotra didn’t score any points, that’s not his job out there. Defending and winning faceoffs is his game and while he’s not logging the big ice time he did during the regular season (he averaged 16:10 of ice time this year) it’s a good first game back for him. The Canucks can’t expect that he’ll come back immediately and play the same way, but tonight was encouraging especially for coach Vigneault.

“It was a real happy moment for our whole group to be able to put Manny in the lineup and to have him play the way he did. He did exactly what we all expected. He was real good on face-offs. He was good on the ice. He created a scoring chance. That line played more minutes than throughout the San Jose series and I think obviously more than in the first game against Boston,” Vigneault said.

“So I’m excited to have him back and I think he’s only going to get better as we move forward here.”

If Vigneault is that encouraged by things, seeing how he’ll respond on the road in Game 3 will provide a major league test for him. As Malhotra has shown in his comeback from this injury, you can never count him out. As for the Bruins, they have to be worried that the Canucks are getting a major contributor to their cause back and in fine playing form. That sort of thing happening for the team up two games to none can be disarming.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.