Graham James

Graham James pleads guilty to sex assaults

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Today in a Winnipeg courtroom, former junior hockey coach Graham James pleaded guilty to repeatedly sexually assaulting two of his former players, including ex-NHL star Theoren Fleury.

Via Postmedia:

Appearing via video link to a Winnipeg court room, James admitted he repeatedly molested Fleury between Sept. 1, 1983 and Aug. 31, 1985 in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

He also admitted he repeatedly molested the other victim, who cannot be named under a publication ban, between May 1, 1989 and April 30, 1994 in Winnipeg.

James was imprisoned for 3 1/2 years in 1997 after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting another former NHL player, Sheldon Kennedy, and another unnamed player about 350 times over 10 years.

Amazingly, James was pardoned by the National Parole Board in 2007, after which he moved to Mexico. But when new charges arose in 2010, a warrant was issued for his arrest and he returned to Canada.

Following today’s guilty plea, Fleury ripped the Canadian justice system in a statement.

“Graham James pled guilty years ago,” said Fleury, “and then he was granted a pardon, after he was found in Mexico and brought back to Canada on these charges he was given bail, then plea bargained for 14 months — this is what the mighty Canadian justice system allowed a previously convicted child rapist to do.”

Fleury also warned that James would reoffend again if given the opportunity.

“There is no changing a monster like that,” he said. “Defence lawyers can package up their clients in fancy words and lengthy legal maneuvers, but how they sleep at night knowing they are aiding and abetting a rapist is beyond me.”

The Winnipeg Free Press has a more detailed look at the life of Graham James.

According to CBC, James will be sentenced on Feb. 22, 2012.

Leon Draisaitl continues hot streak with silky smooth goal (Video)

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Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”

Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).

Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.

Read more about his rise here.

Video: Kuznetsov sets table for Vrana’s first NHL goal

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 27:  Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals poses for a portrait during the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 27, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).

Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.

See it for yourself:

Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.

He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.

Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.

Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:

Kulikov returns to increasingly healthy Sabres lineup

CALGARY, AB - OCTOBER 18: Dmitry Kulikov #77 of the Buffalo Sabres in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on October 18, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.

The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?

He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.

Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.

With Foligno out sick, Columbus gives Bjorkstrand another shot

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 13:  Oliver Bjorkstrand #28 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Boston Bruins on October 13, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.

The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.

He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.

With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.

Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?

Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: