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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.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below:

Stamkos close to game shape, but return might be weeks or months away

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Steve Stamkos began to practice again on Tuesday and he was back out there on Wednesday and Thursday, which some might interpret as him being close to returning. It seems premature to say that definitively.

“It could be weeks. It could be months,” Stamkos said of his timetable, per ESPN. “That’s the tough part.”

The problem isn’t getting back into game shape after undergoing vascular surgery in early April. He feels he’s already close to reaching that objective. The issue is that Stamkos is on blood thinners, which prevents him from taking any contact. It remains to be seen how long he’ll be on blood thinners.

For what it’s worth, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent the same surgery and was out for two months and the original timetable provided on April 4 for Stamkos was one-to-three months. So based on that, it sounds like it would be surprising if he returned anytime soon.

Bergeron, Kesler, Kopitar named Selke finalists

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Will Patrice Bergeron join Bob Gainey as the only players to have ever won the Selke Trophy four times?

That’s a distinct possibility after the Bruins center was named as a finalist along with Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar.

The Selke Trophy honors the league’s top defensive forward and for three of the last four years, that distinction has gone to Bergeron. However, Kesler and Kopitar have been popular with the voters of this award as well.

Kopitar has finished second in the voting in each of the previous two campaigns while Kesler won back in 2011, though he finished outside of the top-five in each of the last three years prior to the 2015-16 campaign.

Among the trio, Kesler excelled this season on the draw with a 58.5% success rate, which was good for second in the league among forwards who took at least 200 faceoffs. Bergeron was up there too, winning 57.1% of his draws while Kopitar posted a 53.5%. Meanwhile, Bergeron ranked seventh in the NHL with 67 takeaways compared to Kesler’s 39 and Kopitar’s 43. Where Kopitar stood out was in plus/minus as he finished second in the league at plus-34. Kesler was plus-five and Bergeron was plus-12.

Kopitar similarly led the trio with a 57.4% Corsi For versus Bergeron’s 55.9% and Kesler’s 52.9%.

Capitals get Orpik back for series opener

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik missed half of Washington’s first round series, but he’s back in time for the opener against his former team.

Orpik last played on April 18 and was regarded as questionable going into tonight’s contest against Pittsburgh. He’s expected to be paired with John Carlson throughout the contest.

Washington’s other projected pairings are Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen as well as Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt.

Orpik was limited to 41 games during the 2015-16 regular season, but when he did play he averaged 19:48 minutes per contest. He also recorded 125 hits and 102 blocked shots despite missing half the season. The 35-year-old blueliner got his start with Pittsburgh and played in 703 regular season contests with them and an additional 92 postseason contests. This is his second season with Washington.