Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Four

Jeff Vinik giving the St Pete Times Forum a facelift for next season

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When Jeff Vinik bought the Tampa Bay Lightning from Len Barrie and Oren Koules, there was a serious need for an owner who would pour time, money, and energy into getting the franchise back on the path towards respectability. A great new general manager, a hotshot young coach, a few good moves, and a run to the Eastern Conference Finals later and the Lightning are regarded as one of the better teams in the East. What a difference 16 months can make. Now that Vinik’s team has made his mark on the league, he’s using his money to make a mark on the building his team plays in. Literally.

In February, the team announced a $35 million renovation project to give the St Pete Times Forum a much needed facelift. The 15-year-old building was ready for a little touching up; but instead ownership is going all out and giving the building a complete makeover. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. From the St. Petersburg Times, Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke shows exactly where the priorities for the renovated building lie as they tore out eight luxury suits to open up the concourse for fans:

“That was a very challenging decision because ultimately, for our long-term viability, we’ve got to make sure we draw more revenue. But we felt the building in some ways needed a soul.”

(snip)

Re: new seats in arena: “It was the more expensive option, but at the end of the day it really underscored for all of us how serious this guy [owner Jeff Vinik] was in serving our fans. It was a six-figure decision, and he was right. I think it was a moment many of us will remember for a long time, his jumping from seat to seat and saying, ‘This is more comfortable. This is the right thing to do.’ “

These are the kinds of things that will endear a billionaire owner to his team’s fanbase. The renovation project is something that is needed to maintain the building as a world-class venue, but it’s not something that Vinik needs to do to keep the Forum as an acceptable place to house the Lightning. Just look at Nassau Coliseum.

From all accounts he’s doing it the right way—rethinking the entire arena to make it a more distinctive place for the Lightning to call home. More importantly, he’s making the fan experience better for the 21,500 people who show up for a home game. The team is ripping out over 500 seats to install a huge pipe organ with a bar that will be one of the arena’s new distinguishing features. As said before, they tore out eight luxury suits so the concourse is opened up for a better fan experience. There will be new, more comfortable seats all over the arena and the sightlines will be reconfigured. The list goes on and on.

On top of the $35 million, Vinik is having one of the entrances rebuilt/reconfigured (West Plaza entrance) to give the arena a “grand entry” point to serve as the face of the building. Again, the new entrance will be fully funded by Vinik in order to make the arena the best possibly location for his team and their fans. A new entrance won’t translate to any more wins on the ice, it probably won’t help lure any free agents, and it certainly won’t help the ratings on television. It just makes the Forum a more appealing place for the Lightning fans.

The moves show that ownership is behind this team for the long-haul. In an environment where the Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg, the Coyotes are in a state of flux, and a segment of NHL fans are calling complaining about just about every sunbelt team, the move is symbolic gesture of permanence. The financial commitment says, “feel free to devote yourself to being a fan, because we aren’t going anywhere.” If you don’t think that’s important, ask a Phoenix Coyotes fans what it’s like rooting for a team when they’re never sure about the future. The Atlanta Thrashers could have used a move like this—but it’s a move that the Atlanta Spirit group never would have made.

Sixteen months ago, who would have ever uttered these words: “Lightning fans are lucky to have the owner they do.”

Avalanche captain Landeskog (lower-body injury) could make upcoming road trip

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche awaits a face off against the Anaheim Ducks at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. the Ducks defeated the Avalanche 5-3. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Placed on injured reserve earlier this week, Gabriel Landeskog may be close to returning to the Colorado Avalanche lineup.

Out with a lower-body injury for the past eight games, including tonight’s home contest against the Dallas Stars, Landeskog reportedly skated briefly with his teammates on Saturday. Head coach Jared Bednar provided more reason for optimism on the condition of the Colorado captain when he spoke to the media.

“He’s been working in the gym the last couple of days,” Bednar told the Denver Post.

“He’s been progressing. He feels better again today. He skated slightly on his own there for a few minutes, and that seemed to go well. I’ve already talked to (trainer Matt Sokolowski) about that. I would expect he’s a guy who’s going to continue to move forward here and probably be on the road trip with us.”

The Avalanche could certainly use their leader in the lineup.

They sit tied for last in the West with the Arizona Coyotes and Bednar, earlier this week, ripped his team for a lack of intensity following a 5-3 loss to Nashville on Tuesday.

The Avalanche begin a four-game road trip on Tuesday, as they face the Predators.

The Predators coughed up a three-goal lead in OT loss to Devils

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 14:  Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators stretches during a timeout against the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena on October 14, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Michael Cammalleri‘s second goal of the game with 18 seconds remaining on the clock in overtime capped New Jersey’s comeback from three goals down in the third period and gave the Devils a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Taylor Hall took a pass from Cammalleri and brought the puck up the right side into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 break, passed it back to Cammalleri cutting up the middle and he fired it past Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.

Cammalleri started the Devils’ comeback from a 4-1 deficit after two as he fired a rebound into an open net 25 seconds into the third.

Andy Greene pulled New Jersey within one 30 seconds later and Adam Henrique tied it with a power-play goal through Rinne’s legs with 7:23 remaining.

Hall had a goal and two assists, Travis Zajac also had two assists and Green added one for the Devils, who were 0-4-2 in their previous six road games. Keith Kincaid stopped 38 shots to improve to 3-1-2.

Kevin Fiala had two goals and P.K. Subban and Roman Josi also scored for the Predators, who fell to 9-1-2 at home. Rinne, a five-time All-Star, gave up five goals on 22 shots.

New Jersey evened its record to 6-6 in games beyond regulation, and Nashville fell to 0-4.

Fiala gave the Predators a 1-0 lead when Matt Irwin‘s point shot appeared to bounce off him into the net with 3:46 left in the first.

Hall tied it 1:17 later when he swatted a rebound out of the air past Rinne.

Nashville went back ahead on Subban’s wrist shot from the slot with 39 seconds left in the opening period. Five of Subban’s six goals have come at home.

Fiala’s second goal increased the Predators lead to 3-1 on a tic-tac-toe play from Craig Smith and Mike Ribeiro at 6:02 of the second period.

Josi extended the Predators’ advantage to 4-1 when he blasted a one-timer from just inside the center of blue line past Kinkaid with 5:29 left in the second.

Oilers lose Nurse for the ‘long term’ with a lower-body injury

Edmonton Oilers v Arizona Coyotes
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Tough news for the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

The Oilers have lost sophomore defenseman Darnell Nurse for the ‘long term’ with a lower-body injury, coach Todd McLellan told reporters. In 25 games this season, the 21-year-old Nurse has three goals and five points.

Another update is expected at a later time from general manager Peter Chiarelli, although it was speculated in the Edmonton Sun that the injury could be a broken foot. McLellan said the injury occurred against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

From the Edmonton Sun:

With Nurse going on injured reserve, Mark Fayne, who was on waivers a week ago but was recalled when Eric Gryba was hurt in practice, will play his first game since injuring his knee against Carolina Oct. 18. He only played 2:27 in that game. Fayne will likely play with Oscar Klefbom. Matt Benning will be with Andrej Sekera.

The Oilers also recalled defenceman Dillon Simpson from the Bakersfield Condors as a seventh guy. Brandon Davidson (shoulder) is skating and practising but is a week to 10 days from playing. He could find his way into the top six when deemed ready, too.

The Oilers host the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. These two teams are tied with 28 points in the Pacific Division. The winner tonight takes over sole possession of second in the division.

Will the bad blood between the Canucks and Maple Leafs spill over into tonight’s rematch?

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There will be plenty to keep an eye on tonight when the Vancouver Canucks host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

— There are the extra curricular activities:

Tempers boiled over in the last meeting on Nov. 5. It started when Toronto forward Nazem Kadri delivered a controversial hit to Daniel Sedin, resulting in a fight between Kadri and Jannik Hansen.

There was no suspension to Kadri, which obviously disappointed the Canucks.

Alex Burrows speared Morgan Rielly.

That third period turned into a throwback to a much grittier era in hockey, with Derek Dorsett fighting Leo Komarov and then Matt Martin grabbing rookie blue liner Troy Stecher in the corner, prompting goalie Ryan Miller to leave his crease and grab Martin, resulting in a heated skirmish. The two teams combined for 171 penalty minutes that night.

Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson also made a threat to Martin once the game was over. His words were overheard by reporters.

It’s no surprise the league and its department of player safety is paying extra attention to this game.

“It was wrong,” Gudbranson told the Vancouver Sun. “But the number of times I’ve said that (on the ice) is probably higher than most would expect. But do I mean it? No. That’s the honest truth. No, I’m not going to kill the guy. That’s insanity. I was just frustrated at that point, and unfortunately it got taken to a level that I didn’t expect.”

— Two teams with apparently different philosophies of how to build a winning team:

The Maple Leafs are in a rebuild. And while the consistency hasn’t been there this season, they’ve proven on a number of occasions to be an exciting team with a very talented, promising crop of young players.

Auston Matthews is the face of this rebuild.

The Canucks, meanwhile, don’t seem to want to venture down the path of an aggressive rebuild. Did we mention they sit 28th in the overall standings? Did we mention they’ve had difficulty scoring? They’re 29th in that category. Did we mention they’ve had their struggles in goal? They have the 29th-ranked save percentage at five-on-five.

Canucks president Trevor Linden discussed the notion of a rebuild in a wide-ranging interview with Sportsnet, but it still appears the Canucks aren’t in favor of such a drastic step.

“What people fail to realize is the older group of players we had here—the Garrisons and Keslers and Bieksas and Higgins and Hamhuises—which are no longer with us, these are good people. These are leaders. Perhaps in Toronto that wasn’t the case,” said Linden.

“We have Daniel and Henrik Sedin here, who are very important to this organization and icons in the city. They’re not going anywhere. I don’t know how I walk into the room and tell these guys, “Strip it down.” I’m not sure it’s fair to these guys. There’s different circumstances, be it in Toronto or Carolina or Vancouver, that require different routes. It’s not perfect, but I’m encouraged by the young players we’ve introduced, and we’ve got some young prospects.”

Indeed, plenty to keep an eye on between these two teams tonight. Plenty to debate, too.