Tampa Bay Lightning v Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis optimistic about Luke Schenn and Matthew Lombardi

Even with the limitations of a salary cap ceiling, the NHL’s richest teams still enjoy some advantages thanks to their superior resources. When it comes to the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, they have the money to make their worst contract choices (such as Cristobal Huet, Wade Redden and Chris Drury) go away. The Toronto Maple Leafs and their GM Brian Burke haven’t taken frequent advantage of CBA loopholes like some of their deep-pocketed peers, but they enjoy the unusual advantage of employing a handful of former NHL general managers as assistants.

That group includes former Atlanta Thrashers executive Rick Dudley and former Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis, who discussed two important issues on TSN 1050 today: Luke Schenn’s contract negotiations and the status of recently acquired center Matthew Lombardi.

Nonis said that he expects the team to come to terms with Schenn before Toronto’s training camp begins on September 16. Schenn is represented by agent Don Meehan, whose clients have been the focus of many of this off-season’s critical contract talks.

“Contracts sometimes take a little longer to get done,” Nonis said in the one-on-one interview. “This isn’t the first one that’s gone into late August.

“When [your] starting point is the player wants to be here and the team wants to have him, usually you find a way to get it done.”

For a little more about Schenn’s negotiations, check out his optimistic outlook on the discussions and another update that focuses on his contributions to the Maple Leafs.

As usual with players dealing with concussion-related injuries, Nonis didn’t give a clear timeline for Lombardi’s return to NHL action (he played just two games in the 2010-11 season). That being said, he seemed optimistic about the situation and even downplayed the concussions issues, pointing to the other issues Lombardi is dealing with.

“We’re very comfortable that he’s on his way back, that the concussion isn’t an issue at this point,” explained Nonis. “But there’s a lot of things that happen when you have that kind of injury; there’s neck issues, there’s nerve issues and those all have to be addressed.

“With Matthew, there is no timetable. He’s getting better. He’s been feeling very good. His workouts have increased in duration and intensity, but he won’t be playing for us until he’s ready to play. So whether that’s a month or six months, who knows when that’s going to be. We’re not going to rush him, but we’re going to be pushing as hard as we can to get him ready and prepared.”

Lombardi might not be a star player, but he’s a speedy, versatile center. His murky health is one reason why the Leafs’ group of centers seem primed to be both fragile and exciting in 2011-12. Keeping their sturdy young defenseman Schenn in the picture wouldn’t hurt, either.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.