Thomas Vanek

Vanek leaves Austrian team, returns to Buffalo

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Thomas Vanek is coming home — and ready to play in the NHL again.

That’s the word out of Austrian on Monday as Vanek left the Graz 99ers after his monthlong contract expired.

The Sabres sniper notched 15 points in 11 games for the 99ers and praised the level of play in the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, calling it “good, fast hockey” — yet was noncommittal about returning, saying he’s hopeful CBA negotiations have taken a turn for the better.

“I get asked if I’ll return after the international break all the time,” Vanek said on his website. “That may well be, but certainly not right after the break. I want to wait how the negotiations between league and PA are going.

“It seems as if things are going forward a bit.”

The international break covers the first two weeks of November and is often used by a number of NHLers to return home (like Boston’s Tyler Seguin.)

That said, most go home with the intention of returning to Europe.

Oh, and since we profiled Matt Duchene’s displeasure with Swedish League officiating earlier, here’s an interesting note — Vanek took time to rip Austrian league referees in his farewell post.

“What I certainly will not miss are the referees,” he said. “Their performance was… well, let’s just say that I’d rather forget about them.”

Now, this isn’t meant to be a “grass isn’t always greener” post. Far from it. Vanek was hugely complimentary of his time in Austria, calling it a once in a lifetime experience — but at the same time, it’s hard to ignore successive complaints about poor European officiating…from two fairly noteworthy NHL stars.

It’s just another reminder that, at the end of the day, these guys clearly miss playing in the best league in the world.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.

Video: Beagle’s perfect shot dogs Murray for early Caps lead

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Matt Murray was just on another level in Game 3, giving the impression that the Washington Capitals would only beat him with perfect shots.

Jay Beagle got that memo … and maybe added a little element of surprise on top of that.

As you can see from the video above, Beagle beat Murray from an unexpected angle with a pretty resounding goal. It was one of those “Wait, did that just happen?”-type moments.

The Capitals saw their lead go away moments before this post was completed, so it’s now 1-1.