Former NHL player Wayne Gretzky shakes hands with Dustin Brown #23 of the Los Angeles Kings after the ceremonial opening faceoff as Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils looks on prior to Game Three of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
(June 3, 2012 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America)

Gretzky thinks last lockout eliminated “the big hurdle” to labor peace

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Whenever Wayne Gretzky talks hockey, it’s hard not to listen. His achievements as a player have earned him that much.

Lately though, Gretzky has also been one of the few optimistic voices during a lockout that that has led to fan frustration and anger.

Earlier this week he said that he still thinks we’ll have a 2012-13 NHL season. Part of the reason for that is because he believes the greatest gulf between the players and owners is already gone.

“I thought that in 2004 when we changed the structure and went to a salary cap, I thought that was the big hurdle,” Gretzky told Brian Shactman of CNBC Sports Biz. “So, it seems to me that the big hurdle is behind us or sort of in the rear-view mirror.”

Gretzky thinks this lockout has already cost the NHL fans, but he added, “it’s such a great game and these athletes are so good, hopefully we can win back some of those fans that aren’t happy with the current situation.”

Repairing the damage from the lockout is something that the players and owners will focus on eventually, but the first step towards recovery is agreeing to a new CBA.

Hopefully Gretzky’s prediction will come true and a deal will be done in time to salvage the 2012-13 campaign.

Report: Coyotes shut down Vitale (concussion) for the season

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Joe Vitale will not play again this season.

The Arizona Coyotes have shut Vitale down for the remainder of the 2015-16 campaign due to “concussion-related issues,” according to a report from Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports on Wednesday.

Vitale, a 30-year-old veteran center, appeared in only one game for the Coyotes this season. That was back on Oct. 17, when he suffered a concussion and broken orbital bone in a fight with Kevan Miller of the Boston Bruins.

Sens announce Frattin, acquired in Phaneuf deal, will stick with AHL Marlies

Matt Frattin
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Matt Frattin was traded by the Leafs to Ottawa yesterday as part of the Dion Phaneuf blockbuster.

But for now, he’s staying in Toronto.

On Wednesday, Sens GM Bryan Murray announced that Frattin will remain with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate — the Toronto Marlies — on loan, but will be available for selection should Ottawa require his services down the road.

Frattin, 28, has spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 22 points in 47 games. His last NHL appearance came during the ’14-15 campaign, with the Leafs.

Prior to that, the former North Dakota standout had spent time in Los Angeles and Columbus.

 

Gaudreau, Monahan, Bouma express remorse after benching

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One day after getting benched for showing up late for practice — following an “epic” Super Bowl party, per Sportsnet — Calgary forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma apologized for their actions.

“We want to apologize to the organization, the coaches, our team especially, and the city of Calgary and the fans,” Gaudreau said, per the team’s Twitter account. “For us not to show up like that, and miss a game like that, it’s not professional on our part.”

“I’m a young guy and I’m a leader on this team,” Monahan added. “I’ve got to step up and take that back and earn that respect again.”

More on what transpired at Tuesday’s practice, from Sportsnet’s Mark Spector:

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley did his best to keep an epic Super Bowl party under wraps. But two of his players — Lance Bouma and Sean Monahan — arrived at the Saddledome at 10:15 am for a 10:30 Monday morning practice, and those two barely beat Johnny Gaudreau in the Saddledome doors.

Then practice started, and in the words of Calgary winger David Jones: “It’s a little embarrassing when we’re not (making) five-foot passes.”

“I think (Hartley) was pretty pissed off.”

The trio was then subsequently benched for last night’s game against Toronto, which the Flames won 4-3.

Afterward, Hartley downplayed the incident, saying “it’s not like they robbed a bank,” before adding “they’re great kids.”

WATCH LIVE: Rangers at Penguins on Rivalry Night

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Three
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Tonight, the New York Rangers are in Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins at Consol, in a rematch of the ’14 and ’15 playoffs (the Blueshirts eliminated the Pens from each of the last two postseasons, you’ll recall.)

You can catch the game at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, or watch live online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s tilt:

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers, Penguins renew acquaintances on Rivalry Night

Rangers ‘are doing a lot of good things’

‘I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Malkin (lower body) to miss rest of week

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week