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Mark Bell returns to the NHL, signs one-year deal with Anaheim Ducks

For those who believe in second chances, this is the story for you. The Anaheim Ducks, the same team that caught lightning in a bottle by signing Ray Emery last season, will hope to do the same as they signed Mark Bell to a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000. Bell hasn’t stepped foot on NHL since his 35 game stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2007-08 season. That year he managed 4 goals, 6 assists, and 60 penalty minutes in 35 games. The next season he split time between the Toronto Marlies and Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL before heading to Kloten in the Swiss League for the last two years.

He put up respectable totals over the course of the short Swiss League seasons (29 goals over the last two seasons), but statistics in Europe are only a footnote to Bell’s story.

In 2006, Bell pled no-contest to driving under the influence charges in Northern California. A judge ordered the former San Jose Sharks forward to serve six months of jail time; a sentence that ended up being reduced to two months of work in a California jail and a 15-game suspension from NHL commission Gary Bettman. He played that final season with the Maple Leafs after the conviction, but ended up falling off the NHL radar afterwards. Today’s signing with the Ducks signifies a second-chance.

A year after the incident, Mark Bell spoke to the Toronto Star about the accident and how it affected his career and his outlook on life:

“Sometimes it takes something like that (accident) to change your life and it has. I’m taking the negative that happened a year ago and turning to a positive. The decision I made one year ago has changed my life in many ways.”

(snip)

“It’s been a learning experience this whole past year. I feel I’ve really grown as a person. I’m very confident in the way I live my life now. It’s taking one step at a time,” he said.

“Now, every day I wake up I realize I’m living a dream. It’s taken a while for me to understand that. Now that I have, I’m going to grab it. My fun now is at the rink.”

(s/t to Eric Stephens for the link)

The next step in Bell’s evolution will be to actually make the opening night roster for the Ducks. As it stands now, he will compete for a bottom-six role at the NHL level or will provide leadership with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse. If he’s grown as much as he says, Bell could be the second success story in as many years for the Ducks. Ray Emery overcame a career threatening hip-injury and a stint in the KHL to put up a 7-2 record and help launch the Ducks into a playoff spot last year. Honestly, Anaheim would be pleased if Bell has half of Emery’s success. The first step is proving that he can hang with on an NHL roster on an everyday basis; anything beyond that would be icing on the cake for the 30-year-old Ontario native.

One thing is for sure—he’ll appreciate it this time around.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…

Parise rehabbing back injury without surgery, ‘no question’ he’ll play in World Cup

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 17:  Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 17, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Wild 7-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.

Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.

Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.

Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Penguins, Game 7

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning falls to the ice at the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Not much more to say than this:

GAME 7.

Puck drop is at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, but you can also catch the game online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

It’s been a ‘roller coaster’ — Pens, Bolts ready for Game 7

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

Video: Johnson pays the price for Tampa Bay