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.

Couture wants Sharks to re-sign Thornton, Marleau

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The San Jose Sharks 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night was not only the end of their 2016-17 season, it could have also been the end of an era.

With veterans Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1, their future with the team remains uncertain, and neither one seemed prepared to talk about it in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s defeat.

Sharks forward Logan Couture was asked if he wants to see the two players return next season and made it pretty clear that he does.

“You’re asking a guy who’s played with those guys for eight years,” said Couture, via Paul Gackle of the Mecrury News. “I love those guys. They play hard. If you guys only knew what they play through. The respect level that I have for those two guys is just through the roof.”

There are a number of variables that are going to play a role in whether or not the two leading scorers in franchise history will be back.

Along with their willingness to return is the fact that both players will be entering their age 38 seasons and already showed some signs of slowing down this season. How much cap space are the Sharks going to be willing to invest in the duo when they already have $55.7 million in salary cap space committed to 16 players for next season, especially given their ages.

If this does turn out to be the end for Thornton and/or Marleau in San Jose their time will be remembered more for not winning a Stanley Cup and probably not for how much success they have actually had on the ice, both individually and as a team. Not only have Thornton and Marleau been two of the NHL’s best and most productive players over the past decade, but the Sharks have been one of the NHL’s best teams. Since the 2005-06 season, when Thornton first arrived in San Jose, the Sharks have won a league best 547 regular season games (11 more than the team with the second-most wins, the Pittsburgh Penguins) while their 64 playoff wins are tied for the fourth most (Anaheim Ducks) behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Red Wings.

WATCH LIVE: Maple Leafs, Bruins facing elimination on Sunday

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It is a win or go home situation for the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, as both teams enter their respective Game 6s facing elimination in their first-round playoff series’.

The Bruins need to beat the Ottawa Senators to force a Game 7 on Tuesday night, while the Toronto Maple Leafs need a win to extend their series against the Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals to a decisive seventh game on Wednesday.

Both games will be shown on the NBC Networks and streamed online.

Here is all of the information you need for Sunday’s games.

Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream Online Here)

David Krejci out again for Bruins; Matt Beleskey will play

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The Boston Bruins will once again be without forward David Krejci on Sunday afternoon when they face the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series, coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed.

It will be the third game that Krejci has missed in the series due to a lower-body injury.

Matt Beleskey, who has only played in two of the first five games of the series, will draw into the lineup in his place.

Krejci’s absence still leaves the Bruins shorthanded as they are still without defensemen Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Cassidy said on Sunday that Krug has resumed skating but is still not ready to return to the lineup.

The Senators have a couple of lineup questions of their own. Forward Viktor Stalberg is a game-time decision, while Guy Boucher is making one change on defense with Chris Wideman coming out of the lineup for Fredrik Claesson.

Kings hire John Stevens as next head coach

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The Los Angeles Kings moved fairly quickly when it comes to replacing Darryl Sutter, and they did not have to go very far to do it.

The Kings announced on Sunday that John Stevens will take over as the team’s next head coach. The team will have a press conference on Monday.

Stevens has been an assistant coach with the Kings since the start of the 2010-11 season and spent four games as an interim head coach with the team during the 2011-12 season after Terry Murray was fired, and before Sutter was hired. Following the arrival of Sutter, Stevens went back to his role as an assistant, remaining in that position until now.

“John and I had very productive dialogue this last week in relation to his head coaching philosophy and specifically how he would implement a strategy to activate our players offensively while maintaining the defensive philosophies we have come to be known for,” general manager Rob Blake said in a statement released by the team.

“I am confident that we are both in agreement on how that can be executed. With that said, we believe John has the ideal qualities to lead our hockey club. His wide array of coaching experience, including success as an NHL head coach and his inherent knowledge of our players and those in our development system, is very appealing to us. We are confident he is the best person to lead our hockey club forward.”

Prior to his time with the Kings, Stevens served as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers between 2006-07 and 2009-10, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2007-08 season.

He has a 122-111-34 record as an NHL head coach.

The fact the Kings are promoting from within (something they already did with the general manager role) is a pretty clear sign that even though they are seeking a different direction, they are maybe not quite prepared to go through a complete teardown of the organization.

They have missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons, and have not won a postseason series since 2014.