Matthew Lombardi, Dany Sabourin

Brian Burke says Matthew Lombardi is concussion symptom-free

By almost every account, the Toronto Maple Leafs won their trade with the Nashville Predators simply by unloading Brett Lebda in exchange for useful offensive defenseman Cody Franson. That being said, Matthew Lombardi’s health will determine if Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke hit a single or a home run.

The speedy and versatile center is trying to fight back from concussion problems that sidelined him from all but two games last season. While Lombardi still has a long way to go – Burke admits that he probably won’t be ready for the first day of training camp – The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran reports that Lombardi has been declared symptom-free.

Again, it’s important to temper some of the excitement with realistic expectations. Lombardi isn’t skating yet – he’s just been cleared for full activity on an exercise bike. Going from the bike to skating alone to being subjected to full-contact regular season hockey requires quite a few steps.

Still, it’s heartening to hear that he’s at least making progress.

“He is cleared for full activity on the bike,” Burke said in a phone interview. “The last report I got he was doing 20-plus minutes without symptoms. He has been declared symptom-free and now it’s about getting the workload back up.”

(snip)

With concussions, teams know there are no guarantees. Penguins star Sidney Crosby had advanced further than Lombardi — skating at about 90 per cent — but recently is reported to have suffered a setback. Lombardi is not skating.

“I don’t believe he will be there for the first day of training camp,” said Burke. “He may, but it’s not clear he will. But we’re very pleased with his progress.”

In other Maple Leafs news, Burke spoke a bit about Luke Schenn’s prolonged contract negotiations. McGran reports that the restricted free agent’s representative Don Meehan said that he expects to meet with the Leafs later this week while Burke is optimistic about a deal getting done.

Burke said fans shouldn’t be concerned that Schenn hasn’t yet inked a deal.

“We’ve had some discussions,” said Burke. “We remain optimistic that we’ll sign him before camp.”

A training camp deadline is a wise one to set for Schenn and other noteworthy RFAs, such as Drew Doughty. The Maple Leafs have reasons to be optimistic going into training camp in a September, but getting Schenn under contract and Lombardi closer to 100 percent health would make the future that much brighter.

(H/T to On the Forecheck.)

PHT Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby eyes more history

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks to face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Bob McKenzie shares his memories of Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie, who apparently was a big hockey fan. (TSN)

Don Cherry discusses John Brophy’s toughness after the former Leafs coach recently passed away. (Sportsnet)

 

A look at Vincent Lecavalier‘s career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

The perils of flip-flopping goalies in the playoffs … although it worked out for the Penguins at least last night. (The Hockey News)

Speaking of which, will the Blues get burned for switching back to Brian Elliott in Game 6 tonight? Here’s a preview:

Sidney Crosby has a chance to join a very rare club of clutch goal-scorers if he can win it for Pittsburgh in Game 7:

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.