Joey MacDonald

Joey MacDonald could have been playing for Lokomotiv

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There have been plenty of stories that have filtered out since Wednesday’s horrific crash that devastated the hockey world. From bone-chilling tales detailing the ill-fated flight’s last few minutes, to imagining families being notified, to the stories of players and coaches that left us too soon, it’s been surreal to be a hockey fan over the last few days. After hearing so many tragic stories, it’s welcomed reprieve to hear something positive surrounding such a devastating story.

For Joey MacDonald and his family, they know just how close they came to being part of the “darkest day in the history of our sport.”

The back-up goaltender in Detroit revealed to reporters after practice that he had been contemplating a move to the KHL. More specifically, he was seriously considering a move to play with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. Sitting as an unrestricted free agent, MacDonald knew he had to keep his options open this summer. He had to weigh two-way contracts, a season or two with Grand Rapids in the AHL, and even the possibility of playing overseas.

If Detroit hadn’t agreed to make the second year of his contract a one-way deal, he likely would have been on that plane with ex-Red Wings Brad McCrimmon and Ruslan Salei:

“It’s tough, especially with me talking to them. If I would’ve known the guys (former teammate Ruslan Salei, Detroit assistant coach Brad McCrimmon) that were going over there, I probably would’ve signed with them.

“Knowing Rusty (Ruslan Salei) was going there… fortunately Detroit stepped up. This is where I always wanted to play and stay as long as I can.”

(snip)

“I was going over there. I talked to a few teams and there were a couple two-year deals pretty much figured out.

“I talked to them (Yaroslavl) early, before the end of the season. I know they are a great organization.

“No one wants to think about that (how close he came to being on the plane).”

(h/t to Kukla’s Korner)

While all of us grieve the tragedy, MacDonald and his family appreciate just how lucky they are—something that has nothing to do with hockey whatsoever. He even went as far to say that he’d have second thoughts if he was confronted the same decision in two years when his current contract expires. MacDonald explained that other players in the same situation may be hesitant as well:

“I don’t know (if I’d go in the future). Probably not, because my wife is kind of freaked out about it, especially when it was one of the teams I had talked to.

“It would be a tough decision. As of now, I’m here for two years and I don’t have to worry about anything.”

(snip)

“I’m sure it will (affect players’ decisions to play in Russia). I’m sure a lot of players that were thinking about playing in Russia, their decisions will be made a little easier now.”

For now, MacDonald will battle for his place on the Red Wings. In 15 games with the Wings last season, MacDonald put up some of the best numbers of his career. Despite a pedestrian 5-5-3 record, he had a .917 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average. He gave up three or less goals in 14 out of 15 appearances; just imagine what his numbers would have looked like if he could have avoided the 7 goals against St. Louis in his last appearance of the season.

With Chris Osgood stepping away from the game (as a player), it leaves MacDonald and Ty Conklin to fight for the back-up spot behind Jimmy Howard this season. Looking ahead, Conklin is only signed for one more season before his contract runs out. If MacDonald can hold off former first rounder Thomas McCollum, the back-up job is his to lose in 2012-13.

But today, all of the hockey stuff is secondary. MacDonald is just grateful that he didn’t end up signing that contract to play in the KHL this season. In this case, real life trumps hockey.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.