Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks

Despite signing two-way contract with Senators, Lee Sweatt decides to retire

For many, defenseman Lee Sweatt’s retirement is little more than the death of a few hundred sweat-related puns. It’s hard not to feel bad for the defenseman whose career shattered with the foot he used to block shots last season, though.

Jason Botchford’s hopeful late-July piece about Sweatt’s strange 2010-11 season now seems like a sad epitaph for Sweatt’s career. Some injuries opened the door for Sweatt to earn a bit of playing time with the Vancouver Canucks and he cashed in quickly, scoring a game-winning goal in his first-ever NHL game against the Nashville Predators on January 26. The goal was so unlikely that his teammates chanted “Rudy!” when he entered the locker room.

Everything started so well, but the ride wouldn’t last long. Right after scoring that goal, Sweatt blocked a howling shot by Predators defenseman Shea Weber.

“On my very next shift, Shea Weber took a slap shot and I blocked it with my foot. I finished the game but I could barely walk,” Sweatt said.

“Everyone knows he has basically the hardest shot in the league. What are the chances?”

The X-rays showed severe bruising hours later, but no break. It’s possible the foot was too swollen to detect a fracture. Sweatt rested his injured [foot] during the all-star break and was well enough to play two more games before the Canucks were set to send him down to the AHL.

But the morning before he was to be on a plane headed for Manitoba, he blocked another shot in practice with the Canucks and the foot was shattered. So was his season.

And now it’s clear that those two blocked shots probably claimed his career. Sweatt’s agents Norton Sports announced his retirement, which comes despite signing a two-year, two-way contract with the Ottawa Senators.

Maybe scoring one goal and one assist for two points in three career games constitutes overachieving for a player of Sweatt’s low profile, but it’s still sad that it all ended so quickly. Then again, his story reveals the dangers of blocking shots and how a little luck can make and break a non-star’s career.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champions this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, three off his college career high set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, bumping the number of players from that program’s junior class to turn pro to four since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, a 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.

 

Video: Roussel opens the scoring for Dallas and Elliott wasn’t happy about it

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The Dallas Stars grabbed the all-important first goal in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues on Friday. And it was agitating forward Antoine Roussel who capitalized in the second period.

Roussel buried a rebound at the end of a pretty passing play from the Stars. Blues goalie Brian Elliott was furious, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester slid into the crease in an attempt to block the shot.