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True North confirms Rick Dudley will not be retained as GM of Winnipeg team

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True North’s eventual purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers is set to come with big changes to the front office staff and the first step in that process is reportedly set to happen.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that general manager Rick Dudley will not be kept on in that position when the team moves to Winnipeg. The Star Tribune’s Michael Russo followed that up finding out that Dudley’s contract, which runs for the next four years, will be bought out and paid over the next eight years and puts Dudley back on the market as a free agent of sorts for other organizations.

On Sunday morning, True North confirmed these reports and did not say who would be representing the team at the GM meetings on Wednesday in Boston at the Stanley Cup finals.

The decision by True North to go away from Dudley isn’t too shocking as this is customary for owners to want their own people on the job, but considering Dudley’s track record in the NHL and his ability in helping get the Thrashers on the road to recovery this past season it’s a curious choice nonetheless for the new owners. Of course, they may already have a guy they’re counting on to step in and are familiar with in the form of Blackhawks assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

We speculated here the other day about True North’s interest in Cheveldayoff and according to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, he very well could be the man they’re after as both True North’s Mark Chipman and Craig Heisinger have ties to him already.

Both Chipman and Heisinger have a relationship with Cheveldayoff that dates back to the International Hockey League and Heisinger was actually the equipment manager for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League when Cheveldayoff was playing junior hockey.

Cheveldayoff’s record with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL is outstanding and the added bonus of that being the Thrashers minor league team helps add to the allure as he’d have a great idea already of what he’s working with. The catch here with figuring out who the GM is in Winnipeg ties into what happens with other members of the organization from the front office to the scouts to the coaches and on down to the players. These are key choices for the fledgling ownership group and they have to do what’s right right off the bat. Making bad decisions now means the team gets off on the wrong foot and then things can get ugly moving into the future.

While losing Dudley can be seen as questionable, as long as they’re bringing in other good, smart people they’ll be all right. Of course, if and when Dudley moves on to another position and if he has great success there people will be keeping close tabs on how Winnipeg does with the brain trust they’ve chosen.

Sharks flip the script, tie Penguins heading into third period

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with teammates after scoring a second period goal against Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins (not pictured) in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.

Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.

The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.

Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:

Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:

Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.

Report: Blues will bring back Hitchcock with one-year deal

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 21:  Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues walks on the ice in game four of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 21, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.

That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.

Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:

When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”

“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.

For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.

Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.

That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.

While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.

If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.

Crosby, Rust and Sheary lead Penguins’ early charge

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Evgeni Malkin #71 after scoring a first period goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.

It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.

Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.

Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.

First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.

Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.

There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.

Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.