David Booth

Canucks hope Booth can boost second line

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David Booth will make his Vancouver Canucks debut tonight in Edmonton. All eyes will be on the newcomer that came over in a trade from the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Booth is expected to play left wing on a second line with fellow Americans Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins.

Vancouver’s second line, centered by Kesler, has been cause for concern for some time. It’s often been referred to as the “helicopter line,” as in it flies with no wings.

All summer long there were calls for general manager Mike Gillis to go out and get someone to play with Kesler – specifically a power forward that can put the puck in the net. And while Booth might not be the most powerful of power forwards, he’s certainly bigger and stronger than speedy-but-slight Mason Raymond, who’s currently out with a serious back injury. Raymond was one of the more maligned Canucks last season. After breaking out in 2009-10 with 25 goals, he scored just 15 times in 2010-11. His tendency to operate on the perimeter of the play was a major criticism.

Thus, the acquisition of Booth.

“[Booth’s] got good size and obviously a real good skater that doesn’t mind going to those areas you need to go,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said, as reported by NHL.com. “We’re giving him an opportunity to get his game to where he wants it to be, and where we need it to be.”

The Booth-Kesler-Higgins combo is a solid one on paper, though you never know how these things will turn out.

Higgins isn’t just a throw-in either. The 28-year-old who came to the Canucks last season at the deadline in a trade with – yep – the Florida Panthers has impressed with his work ethic and physical play. After bouncing around the league for a couple of seasons, his gritty performance in the postseason earned him a two-year, $3.8-million contract.

For the Canucks, the hope now is that they can get consistent production from the second line, thereby complementing the top line that’s made up of the Sedins and Alex Burrows.

The Sedins were blasted for their lack of production in the Stanley Cup final (and rightly so); however, with Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara (arguably the top shutdown man in the NHL) focusing most of his energy on stopping the twins, the rest of the Canucks team needed to step up and score. But that didn’t happen. Not even close. Kesler had just one assist in seven games versus the Bruins.

True, Kesler was playing hurt. So much so that he required offseason hip surgery. And yes, Tim Thomas played rather well. But the second line’s failure to contribute offensively dated back to the second half of the regular season.

Do the Canucks have a solution in Booth? They’d better. Because they’ve got him until 2015 with an annual cap hit of $4.25 million.

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.