Report: Murray, Leblanc to make season debuts for Habs tonight

Montreal defenseman Douglas Murray and forward Louis Leblanc will play their first games of the year tonight, according to various reports.

Murray, 33, has missed all 11 games this season due to an upper-body injury suffered in the preseason. The veteran Swede, who signed with the Habs as a depth defenseman in August, will be counted upon more than first thought with Alexei Emelin (knee) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder) out of commission.

The Habs have also sent young defensemen Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi to AHL Hamilton, paving the way for Murray to jump right into the mix.

Leblanc, 22, will make his debut after a curious exhibition campaign.

The club’s first-round pick (18th overall) at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, he was something of a surprise cut early in training camp, a decision that drew the ire of his girlfriend, Canadian tennis player Aleksandra Wozniak.

Wozniak took to Twitter to blast the Canadiens, calling it “the worst excuse ever,” adding “this is wrong!”

Shortly thereafter, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien defended the move to send Leblanc down.

“He came into camp with a good attitude and he was in better shape, but we know Louis Leblanc and we wanted to get to know some of the other players better,” Therrien said, per the Montreal Gazette.

Leblanc has fared well in Hamilton, scoring four goals and six points in seven games. He’s set to play on a line with David Desharnais and Rene Bourque.

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.

Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

(Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

For more on the three finalists, click here.