Mike Keenan to coach Latvian national team?

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There are few hockey coaches that can say they are as well traveled as Mike Keenan. Over the course of his career, he’s coached eight teams in four time zones (and two countries) over three decades. Besides the NHL, he’s coached in juniors, college hockey in Canada, and in the American Hockey League. He’s coached a team to the Stanley Cup Final and won—he’s coached a couple of teams to the Stanley Cup Final and lost. He’s coached Team Canada to a couple of Canada Cup victories and even served as an advisor to the Swedish Ice Hockey Association. The man gets around.

Apparently he’s not done. There are reports out of Latvia that the coaching search for the Latvian national team has been narrowed down to two final candidates. Both candidates would agree to coach not only the national team, but also the under-20 team that would participate in the World Junior Championships. Latvian officials are interested in the 61-year-old Keenan, but think they think the other candidate may be more “realistic.” Here’s what the President of the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation (LHF), Kirov Lipman, had to say to the newspaper Diena about the decision-making process:

“A more realistic prospect for the Latvian national team coach is a Canadian specialist. If the coming days we will agree on the details of the contract, already a week late Canadian would arrive in Riga on the signing of the contract”

Lipman went on to say the other Canadian candidate has NHL experience but does not have a Stanley Cup—which narrows it down to about, oh, 100 candidates or so. The good thing for any potential candidate is that Latvia was able to avoid relegation at the World Championships and is still in IIHF’s top grouping. Aside from being competitive, their job at next year’s World Championships and at the 2014 Olympics will be to make sure they remain in the top grouping.

Keenan may be in his 60s and his best coaching years are probably in the rearview mirror, but wouldn’t Iron Mike behind the bench make a Latvia vs. Canada game just a little more watchable? It certainly beats the alternative: watching the game to see if Team Canada will set any offensive records.

We’ll keep you posted as the Latvian Ice Hockey Federation makes their choice.

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.