New Coyotes owners envision mixture of changes, status quo

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While 2013 was a tough year, the combo of GM Don Maloney and head coach Dave Tippett have managed to make the Phoenix Coyotes competitive despite an array of off-the-ice headaches. It appears that notion hasn’t been lost on IceArizona, the team’s new ownership group.

Tuesday represents the official press conference, yet the group rolled out their vision for the team that boasts some key changes – and some important similarities – for the Coyotes’ future.

Putting the team together

Principle owner George Gosbee told Fox Sports Arizona’s Craig Morgan that the team expects a budget increase in each of the next four seasons. Tippett seems pleased with that development, although he warned that the team must use that influx of cash wisely (or else they might become “shackled” by bad decisions).

While the money is likely to change, the people spending it stays the same, as the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reports that the ownership group raved about Maloney and Tippett.

Not too surprisingly, more money doesn’t mean that the Coyotes will rank among the NHL’s biggest spenders; the group stated that they won’t spend to the cap.

Promoting the team

The Phoenix Coyotes will eventually become the Arizona Coyotes, although that reportedly won’t happen any sooner than 2014-15. Alternate governor Anthony LeBlanc seems excited about beefing up the team’s staff outside of hockey operations, although those tweaks might take some time.

“This has been an operation that has been running on a skeleton crew for years,” LeBlanc said.

Keeping the team

IceArizona is saying all the right things, yet they didn’t totally deny the threat of the five-year out clause, either.

Still, improving the team’s marketing – and possibly the group of players on the ice – might pave the way for the Coyotes to find their niche.

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If nothing else, the commentary seems pretty celebratory, as the Coyotes can finally focus their attention on seeking on-ice triumphs more than anything else.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.