Brandon Yip

Preseason pain: Avalanche lose Jan Hejda and Brandon Yip to injury

The St. Louis Blues topped the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in a preseason game at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Unfortunately for the Avs, the loss on the scoreboard was the least of the team’s worries. In addition to losing a meaningless preseason game, they also lost Brandon Yip during the game, and announced that Jan Hejda will also be out for an extended period of time. Suddenly, the one-goal loss in September doesn’t seem so important.

It was revealed after the game that Yip broke his forearm while blocking a shot against the Blues. Obviously broken bones are bad for any player in the preseason, but the setback will be especially tough for Yip to swallow. After an impressive rookie season in 2009-10, Yip took a few giant steps backwards last season as he bounced around the lineup. He played left wing. He played right wing. He played on scoring lines. He played on energy lines. No matter where they put him, he never was able to capture that magic that excited so many fans after his inaugural campaign.

As the fine folks over at Mile High Hockey put it, he was caught in between on Colorado’s roster last year:

“We’ve said over and over again here that Yip appears to be in that Marek Svatos no-man’s land. He doesn’t contribute enough offensively to land a spot on the top two lines (come on…10 assists? Really?) and he doesn’t seem to have any of the intangibles – drive, hustle, toughness or defense, for example – to have any impact on the lower lines. Actually, there was an impact…just not a positive one.”

That surely doesn’t sound like a guy who can afford to get off to a slow start this season. Whether the Avalanche are looking for him to fill a scoring role, or more likely an energy role, they need to see him as much as possible before making a final determination.

More bad news came out after the game when it was announced that Jan Hejda will miss 2-4 weeks with a knee injury that was probably sustained in a scrimmage on Tuesday. The Avalanche signed the 33-year-old defenseman to a 4-year, $13 million contract on the first day of free agency. Hejda was brought in from Columbus to provide veteran leadership on the blueline and play an important role on the penalty killing unit. The worst part of the situation, is that the team isn’t really sure when the injury occurred during the scrimmage. As it stands, the Avalanche aren’t expecting him to be ready for the season opener against the Red Wings on October 8.

Most teams will tell you that it’s nice to win, but there are other aspects to preseason games that are more important than the final score. Teams are looking to evaluate their young prospects. Towards the end of training camp, they’re even looking to develop some chemistry between linemates and defensive pairings. But at the end of the day, as long as the teams can escape without any injuries, they’ve succeeded in a preseason game.

By that measure, the Avalanche were big losers on Friday night.

Former NHLer LaCouture pleads not guilty to assaulting woman

PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 19: Dan LaCouture #28 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 19, 2006 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Bruins won 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) A former NHL player has pleaded not guilty to charges he assaulted a woman in Massachusetts over the weekend.

The Cape Cod Times reports Daniel LaCouture appeared Tuesday in Barnstable District Court on charges of assault and battery and vandalizing property.

Police responded just after 6 p.m. Saturday to a house in Centerville, where they say the 39-year-old LaCouture hid underneath a vehicle in the home’s driveway before confronting the victim and striking her in the collarbone.

LaCouture is due back in court July 15.

A phone number listed for LaCouture in online public records was disconnected.

LaCouture made his NHL debut with Edmonton in 1999. The forward had 20 goals and 25 assists in 337 career games with six NHL teams.

He is one of dozens of plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the NHL over concussion-related injuries.

A better start is key for Sharks in Game 2

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It’s easy to suggest that perhaps the San Jose Sharks got caught up with some nerves during the first period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After all, this is a franchise that, after well-documented playoff shortfalls, is playing in the championship series for the first time. The Pittsburgh Penguins, on the other hand, well they’ve been here before — seven years ago.

Sharks’ defenseman Brent Burns conceded that his team may have been overwhelmed at first, outshot 15-4 in the opening 20 minutes, before eventually getting back on track in the middle of the game.

The result was a two-goal deficit, as the Penguins jumped into the lead. San Jose fought back, but ultimately lost on a late Nick Bonino goal.

The Sharks, of course, have stressed getting out to a better start, and that what happened Monday can be a learning experience, as they look to even the series in Game 2 on Wednesday.

“We were excited to play. We felt we were ready. Then at the start, we didn’t execute the way we needed to. We try to take that lesson and learn from it,” Joe Pavelski told reporters on Tuesday.

“Hopefully we can have a better start. Obviously it’s exciting to be here. I don’t know if it’s your first time or your fifth time, I’m sure it’s exciting every time. So we’ll learn from that game and hopefully have a better start.”

 

Bears face Monsters for the AHL’s Calder Cup

MILWAUKEE - JUNE 15:  Chris Bourque #17 of the Hershey Bears kisses the Calder Cup after the Hershey Bears defeated the Milwaukee Admirals in game six of the AHL Calder Cup Finals on June 15, 2006 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Admirals 5-1 in game six to win the AHL Calder Cup. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Hershey Bears and Lake Erie Monsters will play for the 2016 Calder Cup, as the American Hockey League’s championship series begins Wednesday.

The Bears, who start with home ice advantage, enter the series having won the Calder Cup 11 times — the most of any franchise in the league’s history. They also enter the final having dispatched the Toronto Marlies — Canada’s remaining hope for an AHL championship, right…? — in the third round.

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Meanwhile, the Monsters have been on a torrid run in the playoffs, losing only twice in 13 games so far. They’ve earned the sweep in two of three series, making quick work of the Rockford IceHogs and Ontario Reign.

Bears forward Carter Camper, a journeyman in the minors with three games of NHL experience with Boston in 2011-12, is second in AHL playoff scoring with 15 points in 17 games.

For the Monsters, Blue Jackets prospect Lukas Sedlak has been on a roll, offensively, and now has 13 points in 13 post-season games this year.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Sedlak was regarded as a smart two-way forward, but his offensive production was minimal, almost non-existent. Players like that tend to drift away after a few seasons, pushed aside by the next wave of young talent and high draft picks.

“I’d say right around Christmas I started wondering what was going to happen,” Sedlak said. “I was asking my agent what Columbus thought of me, and I was prepared for everything — maybe even going back to Europe.

“I knew my contract was up after the season. I thought I was playing pretty well … but you just don’t know.”

 

Stars sign Dowling, Ranford to one-year deals

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The Dallas Stars made a pair of depth moves on Tuesday, announcing the signings of forwards Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford to one-year contracts.

Both players have put up good numbers in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars.

This past season, the 24-year-old Ranford scored 19 goals and 59 points in 76 games — all career highs for him in the minors. He played once for Dallas last season, but didn’t register a point.

Initially undrafted and a Stars’ free agent signing from two years ago, the 25-year-old Dowling was also productive with 11 goals and 46 points in 52 games.