Wild sign Aaron Boogaard, honor Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra with helmet sticker

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From a pure on-ice perspective, the Minnesota Wild hope to turn the page in 2011-12.

They traded away two 2011 All-Stars (Martin Havlat and Brent Burns) to make over their offense with volume shooter Devin Setoguchi and sniper Dany Heatley. The hope is that last season’s unusually porous defense will get at least a slight boost from under-the-radar additions such as Mike Lundin, although that seems like a long shot with Burns out of the picture. GM Chuck Fletcher’s biggest move might be in his coaching staff, however, as he fired head coach Todd Richards in favor of Mike Yeo.

As much as the franchise wants to put several unsuccessful seasons in its rear-view mirror, Monday involved some bittersweet nods to their past.

On the sad side, people will only need to look at a the team’s helmets to see that the Wild rank among the NHL’s hardest-hit teams when it comes to this summer of tragedy. The Wild will wear a commemorative “24/38” sticker on their helmets this season to honor Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra, two former Minnesota Wild players who died in heartbreaking ways this summer. Boogaard accidentally overdosed from a lethal mixture of painkillers and alcohol while Demtira died in the horrific Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash. Boogaard wore number 24 while Demitra donned the 38 during their days with the Wild.

Speaking of the Boogaard family, they received some promising news today: Derek’s brother Aaron signed a two-way contract with the Wild today. Minnesota picked him in the sixth round (175th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but Boogaard bounced around a bit while never playing a regular season game in the NHL. He racked up 172 penalty minutes in just 53 games with the CHL’s Laredo Bucks in 2010-11.

Aaron received two charges related to his alleged role in his brother’s death: third-degree sale of a controlled substance (a possible felony) and interfering with a death (gross misdemeanor if convicted). It’s unclear if that situation has been completely settled yet, but Michael Russo reports that he shouldn’t have visa issues.

The Wild plans to sign Aaron Boogaard to an AHL two-way contract, meaning with Houston or a lower-level team, like the East Coast or Central Hockey League. Boogaard landed in Houston this afternoon and arrived in time for the start of training camp. This has been in the works for some time but was held up due to a visa issue because of the legal trouble he’s in for allegedly giving an illegal, controlled substance to his brother, Derek, prior to his death and interfering with a scene of death.

The visa issue has since been cleared up.

“We want to give Aaron an opportunity to continue his hockey career,” Houston GM Jim Mill said. “We’re trying to help him out.”

Who knows if Aaron could ever crack an NHL lineup as an enforcer like his brother Derek, but it’s nice to hear that the Wild organization is willing to give him a chance to keep his hockey career alive after that devastating event.

Andrew Hammond to start Game 5 for Avalanche

AP
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When the Colorado Avalanche hit the ice in Nashville on Friday night they will be facing elimination. They will also need to rely on their third-string goalie to help get them a win if they are going to extend their season.

The team announced on Thursday that Andrew Hammond will be getting the start, replacing Jonathan Bernier who had to leave Wednesday’s game after two periods with a lower body injury. Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Bernier’s injury has been a nagging one and that he could still be available off the bench on Friday if needed.

The Avalanche had been starting Bernier because their regular starter, Semyon Varlamov, is out for the remainder of the season due to a lower body injury of his own.

Obviously, this puts the Avalanche in a pretty tough spot. Not only because they have to go on the road against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators, but also because they have to turn to a goalie that, including Wednesday’s brief relief appearance, has appeared in just eight NHL games over the past two years. He has faced only 127 shots in those appearances and managed only an .874 save percentage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

 Hammond’s career has been a fascinating one to this point.

Late in the 2014-15 season he came out of nowhere as a 25-year-old rookie to lead the Ottawa Senators on an improbable late season run (where Hammond put together a 20-1-2 record) to qualify for the playoffs. Nicknamed “the Hamburglar,” his initial run in Ottawa was highlighted by fans throwing hamburgers on the ice to celebrate his wins.  That run earned him a contract extension with the Senators and a bunch of free hamburgers from McDonalds. It was a crazy year.

After that, though, injuries and a decline in his production have limited him to just a handful of appearances in the NHL.

The Avalanche acquired him from the Senators earlier this season as part of the Matt Duchene trade.

Now he has to jump into the crease in an elimination game.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Predators’ Ryan Hartman to have hearing after illegal check to the head

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Ryan Hartman had a tough night at the office on Wednesday night and will have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety because of it.

Hartman’s hearing stems from a charging penalty he was assessed after lining up Colorado Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg‘s head with his shoulder at the 4:42 mark of the third period.

Soderberg was forced to leave the game after the play.

Earlier in the game, Hartman tried to line up Sven Andrighetto from a mile out in the second period but missed, prompting the latter to come and give Hartman some business, which included a stick below the belt to Hartman.

The Predators took Game 4 by a 3-2 margin, holding off a third-period comeback attempt from the Avalanche to take a 3-1 series lead.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Seinfeld’s Puddy attends Devils game to ‘support the team’

NJ Devils on Twitter
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The man known affectionately as Puddy (aka actor Patrick Warburton) was in New Jersey last night trying to rile up the Devils prior to Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You’ll remember Puddy, the face-painted Devils fan from the hit TV show Seinfeld, for such lines as, ‘We’re the Devils… The Devils’ and ‘Don’t mess with the Devils. We can beat anybody.’

That’s pretty much it, but he didn’t need to say much else to become an instant cult classic among Devils fans.

Warburton resurrected the character on Wednesdat night, doing his best to get the Devils and their fans amped up prior to the game.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the tactic didn’t pay off as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead on the back of a 3-1 win.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks wake-up call; Crosby passes Lemieux

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.
• For Ducks, getting swept should be a wake-up call (Los Angeles Times)

• Takeaways: an unlikely hero emerges as Sharks sweep Ducks (San Jose Mercury News)

Sidney Crosby passes Mario Lemieux for Penguins’ playoff points lead (USA Today)

• The Penguins are still too much for the Flyers (SB Nation)

• Hey, Saint Patrick. It’s a sin you missed how Avs refused to quit in 3-2 loss against Nashville. (Denver Post)

• In defying odds, Golden Knights’ success is not so good for sports books (USA Today)

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s ex-teammates with Penguins happy for his success in playoffs (NHL.com)

• Bodog: Golden Knights are Cup favourites (TSN.ca)

• Foligno brothers savouring first simultaneous NHL post-season (Toronto Star)

Blake Wheeler‘s path to being an elite player in the NHL took a winding road (Winnipeg Sun)

• How a financial advisor became the NHL’s only active black official (Sportsnet)

• Bill Peters has the inside track in Calgary, but there’s a lot of local blood to consider (The Hockey News)

• Von Miller just discovered hockey and he is WAY into it (The Loop)

• Humboldt Broncos tribute concert aims to bring in NHL players, alumni (Sportsnet)

• Town puts ‘giant hockey stick on our porch’ in Humboldt tribute (CBC)

• The case for each Vezina Trophy finalist — and a few snubs (The Hockey News)

• Why the Stanley Cup gets names removed every 13 years (Sportsnet)

• Up top, watch how the Penguins are coming alive in the postseason and the energy being displayed by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should be worrying their opponents.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck