In a year of hockey tragedy, fans and players will look to the game to heal together

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The hockey community whether it’s that amongst the players or the fans is a very tightly knit one. The players’ bond with each other is as strong as any in professional sports and the fans’ love for the players and for each other is one that’s rivaled by very few in the sports community. Having a year like the hockey world has had this year is one that would test the limits of most anyone.

First there was the saddening suicide of minor league Sharks forward Tom Cavanagh in January. In May, Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was found dead in his Minnesota apartment having died from a toxic mix of painkillers and alcohol. In the last few weeks we’ve had the gut-wrenching deaths of tough guys Rick Rypien and Wade Belak to sort through and try to figure out what it is that’s causing guys so young to either die or take their own lives too soon.

While many were still grieving over those terrible deaths, a disaster in Russia comes out of nowhere with a horrifying plane crash that takes the lives of virtually every member of KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl; A team made up of many former NHL players famous and otherwise as well as other Russian professionals and junior stars.

So much tragedy, so much sadness, and so many questions left unanswered or ones we’d rather not have to hear the answers for. How can a family of hockey players, families, and fans cope with so much sadness? With so many awful things happening while there’s nothing going on on the ice, the answer for so many will be to turn their attention back to the game itself.

The cries always go up in August about how fans cannot wait until it’s October again to have the NHL, and hockey in general, back on the ice. This is the first time in a long time where hockey being played might be the only thing that helps put people’s minds at ease. While we try to stomach the unfathomable catastrophe in Russia and think of those lost and affected, their loss came while attempting to get to Minsk to begin their KHL season. Numerous lives lost all while trying to do what they love and support those who love them. It’s heartbreaking news of the highest order.

What we can all take away from this summer of horror is to appreciate all that we do have. Times like these even outside this realm of hockey are hard for a lot of people and hockey can provide their escape from the harshness of reality. Events like these remind us that we’re all trying to live the dream one way or another.

Embrace every day as a new and beautiful one and be thankful for what you do have and the people you do have in your life. Tell your loved ones that you’re thinking about them. Wish someone well on a new endeavor and hope that they’ll come away better for it. Tell someone important to you that you love them. We can be thankful that we’ll have an escape from all this sadness and unbelievable tragedy soon enough, but the players are people just like we are just the same and they’ll be in mourning just as we are.

We’re all feeling the pain again today and this summer is one that won’t be forgotten, but perhaps we can all grow together stronger through all of this. Making an already close-knit hockey family even stronger can’t be a bad thing.

‘Dialed in’ Hurricanes could add more drama to playoff race

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At first glance, Carolina’s potential playoff push seems like a longshot.

The ‘Canes head into tonight’s action five points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and would need to leapfrog both the Bolts and Isles just to get there.

BUT!

The ‘Canes have a game in hand on both New York and Tampa Bay, and two on Boston. They also get to play six of their last nine at home, and are currently riding a terrific streak in which they’ve collected 17 of a possible 20 points (7-0-3 in their last 10).

“Guys are playing well, guys are dialed in,” head coach Bill Peters said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “You’ve got to continue to keep pace. Around the league everyone seems to find a way to win, so you’ve got to keep pace and then hopefully somebody falters.”

Looking ahead, the next 48 hours will decide if this dream becomes a reality. Carolina begins a crucial back-to-back set against the Red Wings tonight, with both games to be played at PNC.

Tonight’s game, you may recall, is the makeup date for the Dec. 19 postponement due to unplayable ice.

As such, the ‘Canes now get a Red Wings team playing its third game in four nights, following Friday’s 2-1 OT loss to Tampa Bay and yesterday’s 3-2 OT win over Minnesota. Veteran Detroit d-man Niklas Kronwall isn’t expected to face Carolina, and the club is unsure if Darren Helm (lower body) can go.

The ‘Canes, meanwhile, are pretty healthy and firing away. Jeff Skinner has a five-game goalscoring streak, Elias Lindholm has points in each of his last 10 contests and Sebastian Aho in each of his last six. The club has also received terrific netminding from Eddie Lack, who has gone 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage.

If they can get a result tonight, attention will be turned to the out-of-town scoreboard. The Isles are at home to the streaking Nashville Predators (6-1-0 in their last seven), and the Bolts host the Blackhawks, who are coming off an embarrassing 7-0 loss in Florida.

The Bruins aren’t back in action until Tuesday, when they host the Preds.

Report: Coyotes majority owner has a ‘potential new partner’

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The Arizona Coyotes’ ownership group may be getting a new member.

According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, Randy Frankel is a “potential new partner” for majority owner Andrew Barroway.

Frankel, who made his money on Wall Street, is already a part owner of MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Shannon also reported that the Coyotes required a mid-season cash call, to the tune of $20 million, from their ownership group. Arizona has averaged just 13,020 fans at home games this season; hence, the revenue shortfall.

The Coyotes, of course, are trying to get a new arena built in the greater Phoenix area. So far, their efforts have been for naught.

Related: Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

Report: Rangers land Gophers standout Lettieri

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University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri has agreed to join the Ranger organization, per the Star-Tribune.

Lettieri, 22, finished second on the club in goals this year, with 19, and third in scoring with 37 points in 38 games. The Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo reports Lettieri is joining New York’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, and that he and the Blueshirts are closing in on a two-year, entry-level contract.

Lettieri has some interesting bloodlines. His grandfather is former Minnesota North Stars player/head coach/GM Lou Nanne, and his father is former professional soccer netminder Tino Lettieri, who represented Canada at the 1986 World Cup.

The younger Lettieri went undrafted, and was a free agent following Minnesota’s NCAA championship loss to Notre Dame.

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.