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.

Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.