Malkin was hoping to play with Jagr this year

Courtesy the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, here’s audio from today’s media scrum with Penguins center Evgeni Malkin. Most of the focus is on tomorrow night’s big game against Philadelphia, which will mark Jaromir Jagr’s first time in Pittsburgh as a Flyer.

Like most young Eastern European players, Malkin speaks about Jagr with reverence. They first crossed paths in the KHL during the 2004-04 lockout (Malkin played with Metallurg, Jagr with Avangard Omsk), then for two years as divisional rivals (with Pittsburgh and New York.)

Malkin said he was excited about potentially joining forces with Jagr this season.

“Good player. I read newspaper and I hope he’d sign because…it’s Jagr,” he explained. “He’s a good player and if he signed in Pittsburgh of course he’d help us.”

As for Jagr, he was — as expected — hounded by reporters today on the eve of his return to Pittsburgh. The exchange got a bit testy at times; here are some of the more acrimonious snippets (courtesy the Post-Gazette):

Q – Have you thought about how you’ll be received by fans who used to be fans of Jaromir Jagr when he played for the Penguins?

A – What kind of question is this? Everybody knows how I’m going to (be) received.

Q – In the past when you’ve come back, has the crowd reaction affected you on the ice?

A – I couldn’t play. [Editor’s note: That was sarcasm.] Please don’t boo me.

Q – Are you excited about coming back here and playing and showing that you still have it?

A – That would be the worst thing that could happen, if you wanted to show somebody that you still have it. (That) would show my ego. I don’t want to prove anything to anybody. I don’t think I would play my game if I wanted to show somebody. Plus, I don’t have it any more.

Q – How do you think you’ve fit in so far with the Flyers?

A – I don’t know. You tell me. What do you think?

Q – I’d rather hear it from you.

A – I cannot talk about myself. I don’t know. You have to ask somebody else who can answer better.

Here’s video of the interview. Full marks to Jagr for conducting the entire Q&A under a gigantic orange hoodie.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”