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Yeo: Wild ‘certainly loaded up’ top PP unit

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When it comes to discussing his top-heavy power play, Wild head coach Mike Yeo isn’t beating around the bush.

“I think that we certainly loaded up that top unit,” Yeo told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “That’s a very talented group.”

The Wild opened camp with Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley up front, joined by Ryan Suter and Jason Pominville on the points (the latter having played that role during his time in Buffalo.)

It’s a skillful quintet, to say the least.

Heatley’s a former 50-goal man, Parise’s a former 40-goal man, Suter finished sixth among all NHL d-men in power play assists last year, Koivu led the Wild in PP assists in 2008-09 and Pominville led the Sabres in PP assists in 2007-08.

If it sounds like the Wild are putting an extra emphasis on the man advantage this year, well, that’s because they are.

Minnesota operated at a 17.9 percent clip last season — 16th in the league — and that number was a disappointment considering the club added two key fixtures in the offseason in Suter and Parise.

Suter led the Wild in power play time on ice per game average (3:46) and Parise was third, with 3:25.

To pick things up, the club promoted Andrew Brunnette to a power-play consultant role in August.

[Brunette’s] an invaluable resource,” Yeo explained. “Our power play had the opportunity to be a lot better last year than it was.

“We were sixth in the league in total power-play shots on goal. That tells you we’re just not doing enough to score goals.”

Brunette is highly qualified for the PP gig. He was already working in Minnesota’s hockey ops department and is  barely removed from playing (was with Chicago in 2011-12).

He also made his mark during his playing career as a PP specialist.

Brunette scored 114 power play goals during his career and was a deft setup man as well, tying Joe Sakic for Colorado’s team-lead in power play assists in 2006-07, with 27.

With all these changes in place, Yeo figures the Wild are ready to become a great PP team.

“I think we’re ready to take a step,” he explained. “Let’s improve on top of that, let’s be one of the elite teams in the league. If you can do that, then that would be a huge contributing factor to the success of the team.”

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.