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Former Leafs, Predators enforcer Wade Belak found dead at age 35 in Toronto

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With the tragic deaths of tough guys Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien coming just months apart, the hockey world already fought through plenty of grief during this summer. The NHL’s nightmare off-season continues today, though, as QMI reports that former enforcer Wade Belak was found dead in a Toronto Hotel room at age 35 Wednesday afternoon. The cause of Belak’s death hasn’t been revealed yet, but we’ll keep an eye out for details tonight and beyond.

Belak was beloved for his sense of humor and kind off-ice demeanor during his lengthy NHL career. Although he enjoyed stints with the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators, he will probably be best known as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He spent parts of seven seasons in Toronto, where he charmed many fans along the way. Belak was scheduled to appear on the popular CBC game show “Battle of the Blades” this year, another indication of his popularity.

Belak scored eight goals and 25 assists for 33 points while collecting 1,263 penalty minutes in 549 regular season games spread over 14 seasons. Belak also played in 22 playoff games – all with Toronto – scoring one goal and collecting 36 penalty minutes. Belak was involved in 136 fights in his NHL career, according to “fight card” information at Hockey Fights.com.

It’s been a brutal four months for the league, as Boogaard (28) died on May 13 while Rypien (27) passed away on August 15. The NHL and its players association already announced plans to examine and improve upon their support programs, but Belak’s death will probably do more to force that issue – regardless of the cause of death.

This is a tough blow to take, especially since Belak leaves behind a wife and two young daughters. You can read more about Belak’s life and career here. Our hearts go out to his family on another dark day for the sport.

Update: Belak’s final NHL team the Nashville Predators released this statement regarding his death.

“The entire Nashville Predators organization and family is shocked and saddened by the sudden and untimely passing of Wade Belak. Wade was a beloved member of the organization, a terrific teammate and wonderful father and husband who will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Jennifer and children Andie and Alex. We offer our full support to them at this very difficult time.”

Update (7:44 p.m.): NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr issued this statement:

“All Players and NHLPA staff are sincerely saddened and shocked by the passing of former member Wade Belak. His affable personality made him popular with teammates, fans and media, and he was a hardworking, respected member of the Association. He will undoubtedly be greatly missed throughout the entire hockey community. Our deepest condolences go out to Wade’s family and friends during this very difficult time.”

Update (7:45 p.m.): NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement mourning Belak’s passing:

“The National Hockey League family mourns the passing of Wade Belak, who competed to the utmost every minute of his NHL career. Our hearts go out to Wade’s loved ones, his friends, his former teammates and to all who feel the horrible void left by this tragedy.”

Update (9:15 p.m.): Unfortunately, the Toronto Sun is reporting that according to their sources, Belak’s cause of death: suicide

More as it becomes available.

Capitals manage OT win after coughing up lead to Bruins

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 03: Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals looks on against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period at Verizon Center on November 3, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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It wasn’t pretty, and they might have lost key defenseman Matt Niskanen to injury, but at least the Washington Capitals managed a win against the Boston Bruins.

For a while, it was looking pretty ugly.

After going up 3-0, the Capitals went more than a period’s worth of time without even managing a shot on goal. Whether you lean more toward giving the Bruins credit for fighting back or beating up the Capitals for “sitting on a lead,” it’s staggering that such a dangerous offense could be held in check for so long.

Luckily for Washington, Nicklas Backstrom salvaged the night with an overtime goal to give the Capitals a 4-3 overtime win.

Both teams have had a knack for extending games beyond regulation lately, by the way:

Capitals over the last three games:
Shootout loss to the Lightning
Overtime win against the Sabres
Overtime win tonight against the Bruins

Bruins over the last five games:
Shootout loss against Flyers
Shootout win against Hurricanes
Regulation win against Sabres
Overtime win against Panthers
Overtime loss to the Capitals

Maybe that’s what gets it done in 2016-17: finding ways to carve out wins and shake out rough patches, like the Caps did tonight.

Matt Niskanen injured by Patrice Bergeron boarding hit

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Patrice Bergeron doesn’t have a reputation for dirty hits, but he drew the Washington Capitals’ ire for a hit on Matt Niskanen.

The Capitals consider Niskanen “probable” to return to Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins with what they’re calling an upper-body injury. Bergeron received a two-minute boarding penalty for the infraction.

(Check out video of the hit above.)

The Capitals’ Twitter acknowledged the brewing bad feelings.

Does Bergeron deserve supplemental discipline for that boarding hit?

Washington currently leads the game 3-2.

Ouch: NHL official helped off ice after puck to knee (Video)

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There are plenty of hazards on an NHL rink even if you’re not a player.

Barry Trotz ranks among the coaches who’ve been hit by pucks, though he’s one of the tiny sliver of humans who would shake off a puck to the forehead. It can be dangerous for officials, too, whether it means a wayward puck or wayward player.

The latest example comes in the form of linesman Steve Miller needing help off the ice after a puck hit him in the knee area. As you can see from the video, it looked like he was in serious pain.

Yikes:

Video: Tyler Bozak with some saucy moves on this goal

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It’s refreshing that hockey fans have, for the most part, moved on from debating Tyler Bozak‘s merits.

The general feeling is that the Toronto Maple Leafs use him in appropriate ways these days, so we can simply enjoy his work as a pretty spiffy hockey player.

Speaking of spiffy, check out the sweet moves he made against the Minnesota Wild for the goal above. Feels like you could dub over a Chris Berman “whoop” or two in there, right?

(If you’re into that kind of thing.)

Here’s that gaudy move in isolation and in GIF form: