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Columnist: Lockout “could not have come at a better time for Burke”

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Four years ago today, Brian Burke was named president and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Suffice to say, things have not gone as planned.

With Burke in charge, the Leafs have failed to make the playoffs and are still without many of the aspects they were lacking before his much-ballyhooed arrival – most notably, a No. 1 center, reliable goaltending and, perhaps most galling, “proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence.”

With that in mind, the National Post’s Michael Traikos argues that the NHL lockout “could not have come at a better time for Burke.”

The longer it goes, the more time he buys. Prospects such as Morgan Rielly, Tyler Biggs and Stuart Percy might be one step closer to being NHL-ready. And salary-cap dead weights such as Tim Connolly (US$4.75-million) and Matthew Lombardi (US$3.5-million) would come off the books.

At the same time, Joffrey Lupul and Clarke MacArthur would also be free agents, but maybe that is not such a bad thing. Maybe the Leafs try to re-sign Lupul for less than his current US$4.25-million salary. And with another year in the minors under their belts, maybe Matt Frattin or Nazem Kadri simply takes MacArthur’s spot on the second line.

Or maybe Burke takes a look at what’s available in free agency. Last year’s crop of free agents were limited, but with teams unable to talk to their players during a lockout, there potentially could be more names on the market in 2013.

Would Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry reunite with Burke and head coach Randy Carlyle in Toronto? Would the Leafs take a run at Boston’s Nathan Horton, New Jersey’s Travis Zajac, San Jose’s Ryan Clowe or Florida’s Stephen Weiss?

Another summer also means Burke has another opportunity to hammer out a trade for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo. Or maybe Burke signs free agent Tim Thomas, Niklas Backstrom or Mike Smith.

Many observers believe Burke will be fired if the Leafs miss the playoffs for a fifth straight time under his watch. And hey, you can’t be blamed for missing the playoffs if there aren’t any.

By that logic, Burke may indeed have a better shot of keeping his job if the NHL were to cancel the entire season.

Which somehow seems wrong.

Fight video: Zack Kassian racks up penalty minutes, faces Brian Strait

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Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”

The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.

Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.

It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.

Could there be more?

Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

Ovi scores 30th as Caps beat Flyers for third straight victory

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Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.

Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.

The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.

It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).

But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.

Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:

Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.

Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.

The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.

 

Jets’ Stafford to have disciplinary hearing after high-sticking Holden

Colorado Avalanche's Nick Holden (2) hits Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) during first period NHL hockey action in Winnipeg, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Winnipeg forward Drew Stafford will meet with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Colorado’s Nick Holden on Saturday night, the DoPS announced this afternoon.

There was no immediate video of the incident available. Stafford wasn’t penalized on the play, which occurred during the third period; Holden finished the final frame with 10 shifts for 6:46 of ice time.

Stafford, 30, has a clean disciplinary history and hasn’t been fined or suspended during his 10-year NHL career.