Braden Holtby

Rookies shine in their Stanley Cup playoff debuts

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Lost among the major storylines of this postseason (violence, suspensions and upsets, predominantly) is the fact several playoff rookies have broke onto the scene in style, performing like grizzled vets.

They include…

Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

Key stats: 4-3, 2.00 GAA, .940 save percentage

After appearing in just seven games this season, the 22-year-old out-dueled Tim Thomas (you know, the reigning playoff MVP and Vezina winner) in a seven game stunner over the Bruins.

In doing so, Holtby joined Montreal’s Ken Dryden (1971) and Calgary’s Mike Vernon (1986) as the only rookie goalies ever to defeat the defending Cup champions in a playoff series.

Adam Henrique, C, New Jersey Devils

Key stats: 2G-1A-3PTS

Averaging over 16 minutes a game, the Calder Trophy nominee was a clutch performer for the Devils in Round 1. Henrique opened and closed the scoring in New Jersey’s series-clinching win over Florida, becoming the second rookie in NHL history to score an OT winner in Game 7.

The other? Montreal’s Claude Lemieux, in 1986.

Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers

Key stats: 1G-0A-1PT, 1 GWG

Kreider made history in Game 3, becoming the first player to win an NCAA title and make his NHL debut in the same year — in the playoffs — since Tony Hrkac did it in 1987 with the University of North Dakota and St. Louis Blues.

As New York’s opening-round series versus Ottawa progressed, so too did Kreider’s role. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 6, then received over 18 minutes of ice time in Game 7 — the only New York forwards that played more were Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards and Derek Stepan.

Brayden Schenn/Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia Flyers

Key stats: (combined) 5G-5A-10PTS.

Schenn, 20, was a point-a-game player in the opening round against Pittsburgh (2G-4A-6PTS in six games.) Couturier scored a hat trick in Game 2, becoming the youngest player (19 years, 128 days) since Toronto Hall of Famer Ted Kennedy accomplished the feat in 1945.

Gabriel Bourque, LW, Nashville Predators

Key stats: 3G-1A-4PTS

The 21-year-old — who only made his NHL debut on Dec. 28 — was huge in the opening round, leading all Predators with three goals and finishing second in scoring (4PTS). Bourque also tied for the club lead and for third in the NHL overall with a +5 rating.

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Sharks – Game 6

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues, Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks, and Joe Thornton #19 argue with a referee during the second period in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The San Jose Sharks can make franchise history on home ice tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Win, and the Sharks clinch their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Lose, and it’s back to St. Louis for a deciding Game 7 in the Western Conference Final.

You can catch tonight’s Game 6 on NBCSN (9 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Tarasenko needs to start ‘playing within the system’: Hitch

On the brink of elimination, Blues turn back to Elliott

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday

 

‘There’s still lots of room for growth’: Stars GM preaches patience with Nichushkin

Valeri Nichushkin
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Valeri Nichushkin has the tools — listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 205 pounds with devastating speed. He has the skill.

However, now at the end of his entry-level contract, the 10th overall draft pick for the Dallas Stars in 2013 has endured the highs and lows associated with a young player trying to make his mark in the National Hockey League after a promising rookie campaign.

For starters, his sophomore 2014-15 season was essentially wiped out — he played only eight games for the Stars — by a hip injury that required surgery. He also didn’t get off to the greatest start this season, and coming back from surgery likely played a factor as to why, as he found his way into Lindy Ruff’s doghouse early on.

As a result, was made a healthy scratch.

His bottom line offensive numbers included nine goals and 29 points in 79 games played, and one assist in 10 playoff games for the Stars, as they were eliminated in the second round.

Still, he’s just 21 years old. When playing with top players like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, he was able to get on a bit of a roll offensively.

Stars GM Jim Nill, speaking on SiriusXMNHL, referenced the difficulty for a young player coming back off surgery, but remains confident in Nichushkin.

“We’re happy with Val,” he said (at around the 5:30 mark).

“Came back this year, got off to a slow start because of that. We thought the last five games of the playoffs, he really started to look like himself. He started to dominate down low and in the corners.

“He is only 21. I know there’s still lots of room for growth, so we’re going to be patient with him. We think he’s a big part of our future.”

 

Coyotes hire new COO

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 09:  Fans line up outside of Gila River Arena before the NHL game between the Arizona Coyotes and the Winnipeg Jets on October 9, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Jets defeated the Coyotes 6-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes have hired Anaheim Ducks executive Ari Segal as chief operating officer.

The move was announced by the team on Wednesday.

Segal previously served as a special assistant to Anaheim CEO Michael Schulman and as president of business operations for the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in San Diego.

Segal helped with preparations for the new AHL club and recently worked with the NHL in the league’s broadcast media strategy group, evaluating league and team broadcast rights and distribution deals.

Segal previously worked as an associate in the sports practice at McKinsey & Company, a New York-based management consulting firm.

Related: The Coyotes are going in a ‘new direction,’ and that’s an understatement

Jackets re-sign Sedlak, AHL affiliate’s leading playoff scorer

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lukas Sedlak #85 of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for the pass during the game against the Winnipeg Jets on September 20, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio.  The Blue Jackets defeated the Jets 5-1.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Columbus farmhand Lukas Sedlak, who currently sits tied atop AHL Lake Erie’s playoff scoring leaderboard, has signed a one-year, two-way deal, the Jackets announced on Wednesday.

Sedlak, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2011 that’s spent the last three years in the American League. This season was by far his most successful — in addition to potting a career-best 14 goals, he’s become close to a point-a-game producer in the playoffs, with 11 through 12 games.

“Sedlak has been on a run for us with goal-scoring,” Lake Erie head coach Jared Bednar said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “He’s not a guy who does it for us every night. But he works so hard in all the other areas.”

Sedlak has yet to make his NHL debut, but could be in the mix for a recall next season.