radulov

On those “Radulov returning to Nashville” rumblings…

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There’s some interesting scuttlebutt making the rounds about former Predators forward Alex Radulov.

Radulov, 25, infamously bolted from Nashville to the Kontinental Hockey League in 2008. He’s since gone on to become one of the KHL’s most elite talents (Preds GM David Poile called him “the best player not playing in the NHL”) and led the league in scoring this season.

He’s currently in the midst of Gagarin Cup play with his team, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, down 3-2 in the opening round to AK Bars Kazan. It’s been a contentious series, evident by this Game 3 recap (brilliantly translated on the KHL website):

In the 30th minute of the Game 3 between Salavat Yulaev and Ak Bars a shot from visitors’ forward Evgeny Bodrov triggered a controversial passage of play which could only be resolved with the aid of the video goal judge.

Despite close and detailed scrutiny of the episode using all the technology available, the video goal judge was still unable to determine beyond doubt whether the puck had crossed the Ufa men’s goal line and therefore the referee made the decision not to award a goal.

ANYWAY, the point is Radulov’s season is close to being over — and that’s where things get interesting.

  • According to Sovietsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov, Radulov could go back because he “has the contract” with Nashville. When he left for Russia, Radulov also left a year on his entry-level deal and the NHL essentially “froze” his deal. That means if he comes back to the NHL, he’s bound by that remaining year with Nashville.
  • Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov followed up on Lysenkov’s tweet by reporting Radulov’s Russian agent wouldn’t deny his client’s interest in returning to the NHL this year, but also didn’t want to comment on it.
  • TSN’s Bob McKenzie furthered the intrigue by tweeting that if Radulov was inclined to return to North America he would be eligible, pending NHLPA approval.

Given the Predators got royally shafted in 2008 (Radulov’s KHL deal survived on a technicality, because it was signed days before the NHL reached an agreement with all international hockey leagues to respect players’ existing contracts), it stands to reason there won’t be much objection to him returning to Nashville, given he owes a year of service.

Of course, several things have to happen before that becomes an issue. Salavat needs to get eliminated (Game 6 of the series goes Friday) and Radulov needs to actually decide he wants to play in North America.

Until then, it’s all idle speculation — but also intriguing speculation. Given how aggressive Poile has been this year in “going for it,” the potential of adding Radulov is quite enticing.

Video: Brian Elliott takes a blast off the mask, stays in the game

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A bit of a scary moment in the third period of Game 2 between the Stars and Blues.

Less than five minutes into the third period, Jason Spezza took a shot that caught Blues goalie Brian Elliott square in the mask. Play was halted as Elliott remained down. It appears as though the shot to the mask also made Elliott lose one of his contacts.

Thankfully, Elliott wasn’t seriously injured on the play. After being examined by the team doctor, he was allowed to stay into the game. He did need a new mask though (he got his original one back a few minutes later).

You can watch the play by clicking the video at the top of the page.

The Blues currently lead 3-2 late in the third period.

Here’s some Twitter reaction:

 

Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

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Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.

Dupuis, Jagr, Zuccarello are Masterton Trophy finalists

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18:  Pascal Dupuis #9 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in action against the New York Rangers during their game at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis, Florida’s Jaromir Jagr, and the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello have been selected as the three finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes “the National Hockey League player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” In 2015 it went to Devan Dubnyk, who struggled mightily in 2013-14, but dramatically turned his career around the following season and led the Minnesota Wild to the playoffs in the process.

Dupuis attempted to play in the 2015-16 campaign while taking blood thinners, but on Dec. 8 he announced that he would stop playing “because of a medical condition related to blood clots.”

Jagr celebrated his 44th birthday in February, but despite his age he managed to score 27 goals and 66 points in 79 contests this season. With that, he became the oldest player to reach the 60-point mark in a single NHL campaign.

Zuccarello played in 81 games and set career-highs with 26 goals and 61 points this season after suffering a skull fracture and brain contusion during the 2015 playoffs that left him temporarily unable to speak.

Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

“We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.