Yaroslavl Lokomotiv might play in second-tier league; Czech league postpones opener for funeral

At this point, you may already know that Yaroslavl Lokomotiv will not play in the KHL next season after the entire team fell victim to that horrific plane crash. That doesn’t mean that Lokomotiv will go away altogether, though; The Associated Press reports that a rebuilt version of the team might actually play in a second-tier Russian league this season.

Lokomotiv could play in the Major Hockey League by December, according to club president Yury Yakovlyev. The team will receive an automatic playoff bid this season to make up for the months of hockey that they’ll miss.

The original plan was for Lokomotiv to play in the KHL next season, with the team consisting of some of their junior league players along with players made available from the league’s other teams. That plan was eventually dashed with the hopes of putting together less of a quick fix.

Mutko said the rebuilding of Lokomotiv would take place in a series of stages.

The first step will be transferring the team to the Major Hockey League. After that, youth players from other clubs will be permitted to transfer to Lokomotiv, Mutko said.

Yakovlyev said Lokomotiv’s farm team of young and up-and-coming players would be used as the base on which to create a new squad. He added that before next season, Lokomotiv would seek to attract players with expired contracts and have the quota for foreign players increased to six — one more than for other teams.

That seems like a pretty reasonable plan, even if it will be difficult – both emotionally and from a hockey standpoint – to go through that process. If Lokomotiv does make its return, it will be tough for anyone to root against them.

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In related news, the Czech hockey league decided to postpone the opening day of its season from Friday to Monday to accommodate Jan Marek’s funeral. Marek was one of three Czech players who died in that plane crash, along with Karel Rachunek and Josef Vasicek.

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.