Obama honors ‘Hawks at White House: ‘A great example of what Chicago is all about’

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On Monday, President Obama honored the Chicago Blackhawks for their 2013 Stanley Cup championship over Boston with a formal ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

“Now, since I took office, we’ve hosted a lot of championship teams — from Boston and New York; Pittsburgh and Miami,” Obama said. “But since I’ve been President, only one team has brought a world championship to my hometown of Chicago. And now the Blackhawks have done it twice. Twice!”

Obama also praised the ‘Hawks for their resilience, toughness and off-ice work, mentioning that the team visited wounded warriors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center prior to visiting the White House.

“This team is a great example of what Chicago is all about,” Obama said. “These are not just good hockey players, they’re good guys.”

Attended by Chicago owner Rocky Wirtz, Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the ceremony included ‘Hawks captain Jonathan Toews presenting an “OBAMA 13” jersey — the ‘Hawks had to come up with a new idea for the ceremonial sweater this year, after giving Obama a No. 44 jersey following the 2010 Cup win (honoring him as the 44th President of the United States.)

The ceremony also featured several lighthearted moments.

Perhaps the best came at the expense of goalie Corey Crawford in response to his, ahem, “spirited” speech at Grant Park during the Stanley Cup parade:

“Two million Chicago fans came out to Grant Park to celebrate bringing home the Cup,” Obama said. “Speaking of Grant Park, we were originally going to let Corey Crawford say a few words today,  but we thought we’d keep this family event family-friendly.

“You guys have been hanging out with Rahm Emanuel too much.”

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy

Extension talks on hold between Radulov, Habs

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Here’s what Alex Radulov wants you to know about his contract negotiations with Montreal.

No, he did not ask for an eight-year extension.

Yes, he and the club had preliminary talks about a new deal.

No, those talks aren’t still going on.

From Sportsnet:

Radulov, who has 16 goals and 49 points in 71 games, told Sportsnet negotiations on a new deal between himself and the team are currently on hold, and that while there had been previous talks, they never got to the stage where a formal offer was presented by the club.

“When it happens, I’m sure you guys will be the first to know,” he said.

The topic of Radulov’s extension came to the forefront about two weeks ago, when a report from TSN 690 in Montreal claimed he asked for an eight-year extension from the Habs.

TSN’s Insider Trading panel then discussed the report later that same evening, adding to the fire.

Radulov quickly, and emphatically, shot down the report.

“It’s not even close, what they saying,” he said, per TSN’s John Lu. “I don’t even know how this — I just don’t even want to discuss that because it’s nothing I can really control.”

Radulov, who turns 31 in July, returned to the NHL this year after four-year stint with KHL powerhouse CSKA Moscow. The Habs rewarded him handsomely for coming back — one year, $5.75 million — and Radulov has responded, emerging as one of the club’s top offensive performers.

He’s also been lauded for his passionate play and become one of Montreal’s most dependable forwards. Radulov’s averaging over 18 minutes a night, and trails only captain Max Pacioretty in terms of scoring.