Josh Green, Ray Emery

Ray Emery wins his Blackhawks debut

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After making the Chicago’s roster on a professional tryout in training camp, Ray Emery made the most of his first start with the Blackhawks en route to a 4-3 win in front of a sold-out United Center crowd.  The win helped the Blackhawks improve to 2-1 on the young season; while dropping the visiting Winnipeg Jets to 0-2.

Things didn’t exactly start off on the right foot for the Hamilton, ON native. The Jets jumped out to a 2-0 lead as they scored two quick goals in the first eight minutes on Emery. But the team settled down and had four straight goals that led to Emery’s first win in a Blackhawks’ sweater. By the end of the night, Emery has stopped 27 of 30 shots against Winnipeg and held off the pressing Jets as they tried to tie the score in the waning minutes.

Joel Quenneville liked what he saw from his new goaltender in his first start:

“He was rock solid in the third and it was a great test to see how he responded to some dangerous opportunities.”

It certainly helps having the star-studded Blackhawk forwards in front of him to bail the team out of the 2-0 hole. Patrick Kane continued his evolution into an NHL center with a goal and a pair of assists, Marian Hossa chipped in a goal and an assist as he skated on Kane’s wing, and Andrew Brunette scored his second goal of the season with his new team. Primetime performers like that have a way of making a .900 save percentage and 3.00 goals against average look a little better. Besides, the only statistic that matters at the end of the night: one win.

Emery knows that he’ll need to keep his foot on the gas if he wants to solidify his spot on the Blackhawks for the rest of the season. Corey Crawford looks like he’ll be the starter for the rest of the season, meaning Emery will be fighting with Alexander Salak for the rest of the season for the right to wear a baseball hat on the bench in Chicago. Emery got a little more good news earlier in the day when Salak was assigned to Rockford in the AHL before the game.

It’s a great story to see Emery’s success early in the season. He was a finalist for the Masterton Trophy for “exemplifying the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey” last season after coming back from a career threatening hip injury. For people who are root for the good human interest story, look no further than Emery for a guy who is thriving in the face of some pretty long odds.

Still, if he falters, he could be replaced by the promising Salak faster than you can say “Marty Turco.” Our advice to Emery: just keep winning. It’s hard to waive an undefeated goaltender.

Flames’ Jokipakka (hip) might not play for Finns at World Cup

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Jyrki Jokipakka #3 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.

“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”

Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.

Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).

So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.

Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.

‘Yep,’ Letang will play tonight

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.

Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.

He was asked if he was playing.

“Yep.”

So, no problems?

“Nope.”

And that was that.

No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.

“Very confident,” said Sullivan.

Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.

Former NHLer Bulis calls it a career

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 23:  Center Jan Bulis #38 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on against the Washington Capitals on December 23, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington D.C. The Capitals won 4-2.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.

Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.

Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).

 

 

Report: Semin will stay in KHL for 2016-17

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 11:  Alexander Semin #13 of the Montreal Canadiens skates during the NHL game against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on October 11, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-1.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.

Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.

At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.

After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.

He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.