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Craig Ramsay will not coach Winnipeg next season, search narrowed to Noel and Haviland

The writing must have been on the wall when Craig Ramsay was told that he’d have to interview for his own job, but Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made it official when he told Ramsay he would not be retained for next season. The move isn’t terribly surprising as the team has already opened the interview process for a new coach. In fact, it was rumored that Cheveldayoff was going to bring in his own coach from the day he was hired. Still, the decision must hurt as Ramsay still had a year on his three-year contract.

Bringing in a lame-duck coach for an interview sounded uncomfortable to say the least. If the GM wasn’t happy with the direction of the team, they why would he bring in the former coach for an interview? The always classy Ramsay expressed that it was an awkward process for all involved, but respected the way Cheveldayoff handled an extremely difficult situation:

“The whole situation was pretty awkward. Kevin handled his part well. They just didn’t feel they could make a significant commitment to me. He must have had other coaches in mind.”

“It was tough on everybody. It’s too bad it took so long. … I’ve been in the league for 40 years. I don’t want to stop coaching. Hopefully, something pops up. It will work out.”

The second part of Ramsay’s quote is certainly worth noting. Even though most of the head coaching vacancies stayed open for an extended period of time, most of the openings were filled last week amidst a flurry of hirings. Now Ramsay is left without a chair as the music is about to stop in the NHL coaches’ annual game of musical chairs. If he were given his walking papers when Kevin Cheveldayoff took over the GM role on June 7, Ramsay could have had the opportunity to apply for openings in Minnesota, Dallas, or Ottawa. As of today, only New Jersey and Winnipeg have head coach openings.

Then again, this was a different situation that called for different solutions. It’s normal for a new GM to want to bring in his own guys to make it “his team.” Since it’s a new team with a new GM in a new city—it’s natural for the team to be led by a new head coach as well.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the search for a new head coach has been narrowed down to Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland and Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel. Included in the same article is speculation that a final decision could be made this week before the NHL Draft in Minnesota this weekend.

Both of the remaining candidates have ties that could give them the inside track to the job in Winnipeg. Haviland has been an assistant with the Blackhawks over the last three seasons. For the last two seasons, he’s worked with Cheveldayoff who had been the assistant GM under Stan Bowman. On the other hand, True North is familiar with Claude Noel since they also own the Manitoba Moose.

Neither applicant has ever held a permanent head coaching position at the NHL level—a fact that could change as early as this week.

The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

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In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.

Video: Zatkoff robs Condra with sprawling paddle save

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All Erik Condra had to do was lift the puck off the ice.

He didn’t, and as a result, he was robbed by sprawled out Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made a spectacular desperation save with the paddle of his stick on the Lightning forward.

The save occurred just past the midway point of the third period. That kept the Penguins in the game, down by a goal at the time.

However, the Penguins couldn’t get the equalizer. The result was a 6-3 loss for Pittsburgh, as Tampa Bay scored twice later in the period.

Defending Eastern Conference champion Bolts continue hot streak

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Remember those distractions the Tampa Bay Lightning had to endure?

— The future of captain Steven Stamkos, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and whose contract situation has been an ongoing discussion point for months now.

Jonathan Drouin‘s camp publicly requesting a trade, then having the 20-year-old forward sent to the minors and then suspended by Tampa Bay, etc.

Well, through it all, the defending Eastern Conference champions have emerged and are now one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League . Since the start of January, the Bolts have lost twice. In 13 games.

They continued their hot streak Friday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins — another of those teams on an impressive streak — by a final score of 6-3, with Tyler Johnson leading the way with three points. He was one of six Tampa Bay players to record a multi-point night.

Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

Tampa Bay is now five points behind the Florida Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division.

For the Penguins, the loss keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble for now. They remain one point back of New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games. He also has goals in five straight and is one point shy of 900 for his career.