Morgan Rielly

Prized prospect Rielly: ‘My goal is to make the Leafs this year’

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Morgan Rielly has lofty aspirations heading into this season.

“My expectations for myself are pretty high,” Rielly told CBC.ca. “Obviously my goal is the make the Leafs this year. I’ve been training hard and I’ve been on the ice a lot.

“My goal is to play in Toronto this year.”

Rielly, 19, was the club’s first-round pick (fifth overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, putting him among the elite in the deepest defensive draft the league has seen in years.

Eight blueliners went in the first 10 picks, with only Columbus’ Ryan Murray (second overall) and the Islanders’ Griffin Reinhart (fourth) going higher.

Rielly also got a taste for NHL hockey during Toronto’s abbreviated training camp last season before being sent back to WHL Moose Jaw. Leafs GM Dave Nonis praised Rielly’s play, but said the youngster’s lack of game experience (there were no exhibitions last season) and Toronto’s defensive depth were the deciding factors.

The latter part of that explanation, though, has changed.

Several of the guys ahead of Rielly last season are now gone. Mike Kostka signed in Chicago, Mike Komisarek was bought out, Ryan O’Byrne jumped to the KHL and Cody Franson remains unsigned.

At the time of writing, Toronto had seven defensemen under contract for next season — Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, Mark Fraser, Jake Gardiner, Korbinian Holzer, John-Michael Liles and Paul Ranger.

Holzer fell out of the rotation last year and didn’t dress after Mar. 16; Liles only played 32 games and was a healthy scratch in the playoffs; Ranger hasn’t played an NHL contest since 2009-10.

So you can see why Rielly — who played 14 regular-season and eight playoff games with the AHL Marlies — is now gunning for a gig with the Leafs.

“I’ll just try to play my game, play with confidence,” he explained. “Hopefully I’ll be able to make a good impression.”

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

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Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

“I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

(Not as unlikely, but still.)