First Flyers-Lightning game has potential for fireworks

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Circle Wednesday, Nov. 27 on your calendars.

That will mark the first matchup of the season between the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, two teams that — despite not having a great traditional rivalry — could produce one of the most heated battles this year.

A few things to keep an eye on for the 27th, when the two teams meet at Tampa Bay Times forum…

Vinny comes home

Heading in, there’ll be plenty of emotion regarding the return of longtime Bolts captain Vincent Lecavalier.

Bought out of his 11-year, $85 million deal in July, Lecavalier — the Lightning’s all-time leader in games played (1,037), goals (383), power play goals (112) and game-winning goals (60) — quickly signed with Philadelphia, saying he wanted to play in a passionate hockey market and preferred playing the Flyers’ style as opposed to “staying on your heels.”

Those quips aside, Tampa’s response should be overwhelmingly positive.

Lecavalier was a beloved figure in the area and was known for his community involvement — in 2007, he pledged $3 million to a pediatric cancer center (that bears his name) at the All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

The Rinaldo thing

Saying the Lightning dislike Zac Rinaldo is putting it lightly.

The Flyers forward was a thorn in the Bolts’ side throughout last season — cold-cocking BJ Crombeen in a fight, taking out both Victor Hedman and Ryan Malone — which led to Tampa players suggesting retribution is in order.

“Obviously, when he’s hurting guys, you want him to be accountable for his actions,” Crombeen told the Tampa Bay Times. “There’s always a time and place, and it will come.

“You just have to wait for it.”

Crombeen’s sentiment was echoed by Lightning winger Pierre-Cedric Labrie.

“Sometimes [Rinaldo] just doesn’t think,” he explained. “At some point he has to pay for his bad behavior.”

In case you’re unaware of Rinaldo’s history with the Lightning, let’s go to the video.

First, here’s the incident with Crombeen from Feb. 5:

Both combatants had distinctly different views on the fight.

“Typically when I’ve gotten into fights with guys in that position, you stop throwing,” Crombeen said after the game. “I mean, guys fight different ways, so I’m not really going to say if it was dirty or not.”

When asked about the scrap, Rinaldo said he finished it properly.

“I hit him until he was down,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to hit nobody no matter who they are or what they done, I’ll never hit someone when they’re down. I hit him until he was down. I made sure he was down and that was it.

“I kind of felt bad in case I didn’t stop myself, but I’m pretty sure I did.”

Then — on Mar. 18, when the Bolts beat the Flyers 4-2 in Tampa — Rinaldo landed big hits on Hedman and Malone, with the latter ending up on injured reserve (shoulder).

Here’s the hit in question:

On Wednesday, Malone addressed the hit in a rather cryptic fashion.

“I don’t need to elaborate on that,” Malone told the Tampa Bay Times. “It all works itself out later.”

Other stuff

— The Flyers and Lightning were engaged in the infamous “trap game” of 2011.

— The Lightning pried Matt Carle away from Philadelphia during last year’s free agent period.

Looks like Coyotes dodged a bullet with Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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The Arizona Coyotes’ defense really rose up the NHL ranks during this summer, but how impressive would that group look with star Oliver Ekman-Larsson out of the lineup?

There was fear that another Coyotes young blueliner would face a setback as far as knee injuries go, yet the news seems positive for “OEL.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka considers him day-to-day with a knee injury, and it doesn’t sound like there’s any structural damage.

No kidding.

In other Coyotes news, the team made Pierre-Olivier Joseph (the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft) one of their training camp cuts. So not all good news for prominent Coyotes with hyphenated names, although you could argue that POJ(?) might be better off receiving additional seasoning.

Donald Trump tweets about Penguins’ White House visit

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Earlier today, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they would accept an invitation to visit the White House. You can read all about that here, including the Penguins’ brief statement on the matter.

On a day in which NFL teams are drawing attention for how players (and owners) are acting during the national anthem, Donald Trump took a moment to confirm the Penguins’ visit, and also to praise them on Twitter.

Trump issued this tweet on the matter:

This came about four minutes after he addressed the NFL once again, finishing with this tweet:

While NHL players haven’t been as outspoken as athletes in other sports, there have been some reactions to Colin Kaepernick and the situation as a whole.

A year ago, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said he would bench a player who sits during the anthem, something Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones stated was not a problem. Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown, however, did have an issue with Tortorella’s stance.

Of course, those comments surfaced about a year ago, so it’s plausible one or more of those opinions might be different, in either large or small ways, as of today.

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler (one of the standouts of the 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s team) criticized Trump on Twitter last night:

The 2017-18 regular season kicks off on Oct. 4, so we’ll see if there are any larger protests or statements from teams and/or players.

For more on how this situation is playing out with other sports, check Pro Football Talk (including this post), Pro Basketball Talk (Mark Cuban’s comments are the latest there), Hardball Talk (noting that Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem), and other sites under the NBC umbrella.

Bruised Blues: Add Robby Fabbri to a worrisome list for St. Louis

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It sure looks like the St. Louis Blues are going to limp into the 2017-18 season (sometimes literally).

The team announced that promising young forward Robby Fabbri will miss the remainder of training camp after injuring his surgically repaired left knee. The Blues say that they will re-evaluate Fabbri, 21, in 10 days.

It’s difficult to say how bad this issue is, but knee injuries – particularly involving knees that are already problems for athletes – can be tricky.

Even if this is a mere short-term setback, it’s staggering how long the Blues’ injury list is even before their season-opener.

Alex Steen was ruled out of training camp (and possibly beyond) just days ago because of a hand injury. Zach Sanford‘s push toward being an NHL regular is on hold thanks to being sidelined for multiple months with a shoulder issue, while a fractured ankle puts Jay Bouwmeester‘s 2017-18 season in some question, too. (More on Sanford and Bouwmeester here.)

Patrik Berglund might not be back until late 2017 or even into 2018 with his own shoulder issues.

While such injuries open up opportunities for younger players to make even temporary jumps, it’s tough to stomach as Mike Yeo preps for his first full season behind the Blues bench.

In Fabbri’s case, this is a considerable disappointment, as he was starting to show the zip at the NHL level that’s made him such a prolific scorer in the OHL. Here’s hoping he gets over these issues, as considering his size, a significant loss in speed could be a serious problem for Fabbri.

Coyotes want to retire Shane Doan’s number in the future

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After more than two decades the Arizona Coyotes and Shane Doan parted ways this offseason, ultimately resulting in the 40-year-old forward retiring from the league.

The decision to part ways with Doan was part of a massive overhaul that dramatically changed the outlook of the team, ending a lengthy chapter in its history.

The Coyotes would eventually like to honor Doan by retiring his number “at a time that is right for him.”

That is what team owner Andrew Barroway said at a Coyotes’ town hall meeting, via Sarah McLellan.

“The relationship with Shane Doan has improved,” Barroway said. “We’ve reached out. We’ve spoken with Shane. Everyone loves him. He’s a class act, great guy.”

There are no plans for any sort of an official announcement this season, but Barroway said the Coyotes will revisit it next summer.

Doan spent is entire career playing for the Coyotes organization dating back to its days in Winnipeg (he played one season with the original Jets). During his career he appeared in 1,540 regular season games, scoring 402 goals, 570 assists and 972 total points. He is the team’s all-time leader in games played, goals, assists, total points, even strength goals, power play goals, and shots on goal.