Ryan Malone

Ryan Malone hoping to turn back the clock in more ways than one after shoulder surgery

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You could say that last season for Ryan Malone was one he’d rather not let linger in his memory. Injuries piled up on him and held him to just 54 games played, a career low. By missing 28 games he registered a career low in goals scored with 14 and had his second worst points output in his seven year career.

While the Lightning didn’t appear to miss him too much last year after finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference and making it to the Eastern Conference finals, heading into this season they’re going to need Malone to be at his best. After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Malone will look to have a throwback kind of season starting off with the number he’ll be wearing. After wearing the number 6 last year giving deference to Simon Gagne, with Gagne in Los Angeles now Malone is switching back to his trusty number 12.

With his number back in place, Malone hopes a healthy shoulder can return him to his previous 20+ goal scoring form as Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune shares.

When the Lightning’s season ended, rest and recovery was the expected route for Malone, but while doing some off-season training, he said he felt something wasn’t right behind the shoulder.

“It was just kind of nagging, so I went to get it looked at it and it was still kind of separated so we had to go get it fixed,” Malone said. “After the season there was still all the swelling so after everything went down, that’s when we found some other stuff that had to be taken care of.”

The procedure was performed by Dr. Daniel Buss, the team physician for the Minnesota Twins, who specializes in shoulder and elbow injuries. While initial reports suggested that Malone could miss up to six months, he said on Sunday that he expects to be ready for the start of the regular season when Tampa Bay opens up at Carolina on Oct. 7.

Before last season, Malone had posted three straight 20+ goal seasons going from 27 goals in 07-08 to 26 during his first season in Tampa Bay in 08-09 to 21 in 09-10. Life as a power forward in the Eastern Conference isn’t generally as difficult as it is in the West, but Malone’s found a way to be effective around the net. With Steve Stamkos emerging as the Lightning’s top gun and with Martin St. Louis being their most dependable scorer, getting Malone going once to help out Vincent Lecavalier and either Teddy Purcell or Steve Downie would give the Lightning a frightening top six.

To do that Malone is going to need to be healthy, something he’s had a tough time doing since joining Tampa Bay. Malone has missed 53 games over three seasons in Tampa and while his absence last year allowed Purcell to see more ice time, having him out there harassing goalies and scoring dirty goals in front of the net is what they’d like to see more often. If Guy Boucher can have his full arsenal of toys all season long, the Lightning might just be able to go a bit further than they did last year.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada look on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.