Keenan to coach Rangers in Winter Classic alumni game

TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting via Twitter that Mike Keenan has signed on to coach the New York Rangers…in the 2012 Winter Classic alumni game.

Keenan coached eight NHL teams from 1984 to 2009, but he only won the Stanley Cup once, leading the 1994 Rangers to their first championship since 1940.

But Iron Mike’s Cup-winning season was his first and last with the club. A feud with Rangers GM Neil Smith ended with the coach’s departure to St. Louis.

From a 1997 Sports Illustrated profile of Keenan:

The enmity built to such proportions that by the time New York won the Cup, Keenan and Smith could hardly stand the sight of each other. Still, it was a shock to adoring Rangers fans when Keenan blew off the final four years of his contract and bolted for St. Louis, where for the first time he was given total control. Keenan claimed that the Rangers had breached his contract by sending out his playoff bonus one day late.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman fined Keenan $100,000 and suspended him for 60 days for the “unseemly spectacle” he had created and then issued a gag order forbidding either side from discussing the settlement, but he allowed Keenan to remain with the Blues. “I left the Rangers because, fundamentally, Neil didn’t want me there,” Keenan says. “He intentionally breached my contract, but that’s in the past, and I want to leave it in the past. There are two sides to every story, and the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

The Winter Classic alumni game will take place on Dec. 31 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. With Keenan behind the bench, the Rangers are expected to dress 10 goalies.

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    Point gets Lightning extra point against Kane, Blackhawks

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Chicago Blackhawks – barely – on Wednesday to leapfrog back over the St. Louis Blues for the top record in the NHL.

    The Bolts capitalized on a power-play opportunity in overtime, with Brayden Point scoring the decisive goal in a 3-2 OT win. It was an exciting overtime period, with Point being stopped all in alone earlier in the OT, and the same happening to Patrick Kane on a breakaway.

    Kane had been getting the best of the Lightning earlier in the game, scoring the first two goals of the contest in the first period. Not a lot of players can make plays like this off the rush:

    Then again, few teams can score a goal this pretty, especially while shorthanded:

    Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov collected assists on Wednesday, but the top line (including Nikita Kucherov) failed to score a goal, though they created quite a few chances. The best – at least in regulation – came when Stamkos seized an opportunity against the Blackhawks, but Corey Crawford was game:

    Wow.

    Again, both goalies made some big stops. Here’s that Kane miss in OT, with Andrei Vasilevskiy depriving number 88 from a hat trick:

    So, with that, the Lightning hold a one-point standings edge (34 to 33) over the Blues in the early race for the Presidents’ Trophy, and most importantly, gives them a five-point edge in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay’s impressive start to 2017-18 is especially notable since they’ve played one fewer game than St. Louis and two fewer than the Toronto Maple Leafs (the second-ranked team in the up-and-down Atlantic).

    Check out the logjam at second-to-last in the competitive Central for Chicago, as of this writing, with these three teams all at 21 games played:

    Dallas Stars: 11-9-1, 23 points
    Blackhawks: 10-8-3, 23 points
    Minnesota Wild: 10-8-3, 23 points

    It has to be a little frustrating for the Blackhawks to see a two-goal lead dissolve, but plenty of teams would struggle to secure such an edge against the powerhouse Lightning. Maybe the Blackhawks will gain some confidence in merely sticking with them (and grabbing a point for their troubles).

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Much-needed response from Oilers vs. Red Wings

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    One win can’t cleanse the palate of a bitter 21-game start, but beggars can’t be choosers, and the Edmonton Oilers really needed a W tonight.

    That’s not to say it would be easy, either, as they faced a rested Red Wings team in Detroit to close off a back-to-back after Tuesday’s humiliating loss to the St. Louis Blues. Edmonton got that sorely needed response, chasing Jimmy Howard and beating the Red Wings 6-2.

    While Connor McDavid (two assists) and Leon Draisaitl (one helper) made their typical impacts, it’s especially heartening for the Oilers to see less-obvious names show up in the box score. Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira, Mark Letestu, and Drake Caggiula ranked among goalscorers, while Ryan Strome collected a pair of assists.

    Any bit of confidence gained, particularly for supporting cast members, could be very important for the fledgling Oilers.

    It doesn’t take long to ruin the party; now at 8-12-2, the Oilers’ 18 standings points still leave them at second-worst in the West.

    Still, all the Oilers can do right now is gradually, slowly dig themselves out of the troubling hole they’ve created for themselves. This won’t be easy, and even this early on, they might need a few other teams to hit a wall.

    But, hey, it’s better than the nothing this team showed last night, right?

    Catch up on Edmonton’s struggles

    Why they’re the NHL’s most disappointing team

    The uncomfortable parallels between McDavid and Jack Eichel

    These struggles are the results of some bad moves from Peter Chiarelli

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Scott Darling: Latest goalie beaten from center ice (Video)

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    Here’s a thought: considering an 82-game regular season and about a two-month-long postseason, it’s almost a little surprising that we don’t see more center-ice goals.

    Such a goal can happen in so many ways. A puck can take an odd bounce. A goalie might take his eye off the puck for a second while deciding what to do next, much like an NFL receiver who drops an easy pass while dreaming of those sweet, sweet, yards up ahead.

    So, let’s not be too hard on Carolina Hurricanes goalie Scott Darling, who padded Mika Zibanejad‘s already-robust goal totals with the center-ice flub you can see in the video above.

    If you prefer a GIF form, this one nails the spirit of the thing:

    (Agreed, little emoticon monkey. Agreed.)

    Since we’re on the subject of goals netminders would want back even more than usual, we might as well also consider Tyler Ennis beating Chad Johnson here:

    Ouch. Hey, we’ve all been there (vaguely speaking).

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks – Lightning, Wednesday Night Rivalry

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    The latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” features a rematch of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Chicago Blackhawks.

    During that competitive series, the Blackhawks were the favorites. The tide has turned now, however, as the dynamite duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have propelled the Bolts to the upper crust of the NHL. Chicago, meanwhile, strains to remain a contender.

    But it’s worth noting that the Blackhawks cannot be taken lightly. They still feature Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Corey Crawford, so tonight should provide plenty of entertainment.

    Along with watching on NBCSN, you can also check the action out on online and via the NBC Sports App.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE