Joffrey Lupul

Leafs hope to build on ‘pretty close to a must-win’ over ‘Hawks

The Toronto Maple Leafs played one of their best games of the season Wednesday versus the visiting Kings. But they lost, 3-1, with unheralded goalie Martin Jones stealing the show for L.A.

The next day, the Leafs were “totally brain-dead” against the Blues and lost again, this time deservedly so, by a score of 6-3.

But finally, on Saturday versus the defending champion Blackhawks, they both played well and won.

Toronto’s 7-3 victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Leafs, who now face the depleted Penguins tonight in Pittsburgh.

“We really felt we needed a win,” forward Joffrey Lupul said after the Chicago game. “It’s a hard stretch for us, a lot of games in a short stretch of time, so Saturday night at home with a day of rest, we came into the game feeling like it was pretty close to a must-win for us. Things were kind of starting to snowball the other way.”

Toronto’s busy stretch doesn’t end tonight either. The Leafs also play tomorrow at home versus Florida. And the Panthers, in case you hadn’t noticed, have won five of their last six.

Report: Habs’ Holloway signing in KHL

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One of the few bright spots from Montreal’s disappointing campaign could be on his way to Russia.

Per Championat, Bud Holloway — the 28-year-old journeyman that made his storybook NHL debut with the Habs last season — has opted to join KHL powerhouse CSKA Moscow.

Holloway joined the Habs last season after four highly productive years in Europe.

In 2011, he emerged as a Swedish League star — Holloway set a record for most points in a SHL postseason (23 in 19 games) and, in his second season, became just the second player in league history to score eclipse the 70-point plateau.

In ’14-15, Holloway signed in Switzerland and continued to be a productive scorer, with 37 points in 42 games for SC Bern.

His scoring exploits translated over to the AHL, as he led St. John’s with 61 points in 70 games.

Montreal called up Holloway for his first-ever big league game in late November, and head coach Michel Therrien was effusive in his praise.

“This is a great story,” Therrien told ECHL.com. “The guy has showed a lot of resilience through his career to come back after playing a few years in Europe, and he did really well for [St. John’s].

“For him to get an opportunity to play his first game in the NHL, those are great stories and he certainly deserves to finally get a shot in the NHL because he’s had success wherever he goes.”

Seidenberg doesn’t want to think about waiving no-trade

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Another offseason, another round of trade talks surrounding Dennis Seidenberg.

Boston’s veteran defenseman — who, last year, said he wanted to stay in Boston, then told reporters being involved in trade rumors was a “slap in the face” — is now facing another round of questions.

Why?

Seidenberg’s full no-trade clause expires in December. After that, it becomes a modified NTC in which he submits a list of eight teams he’s willing to accept a move to.

More, from the Boston Herald:

“No, nothing was mentioned,” Seidenberg said [of being asked to waive]. “I’m planning to come back here. I’ve got two more years here, so we’ll see.”

And if management came to him sooner asking him to waive his no-trade?

“I haven’t thought about that . . . and right now I don’t want to think about it,” he said.

Seidenberg has said in the past that if the team didn’t want him any more, then he’d be amenable to a move.

Boston’s in a bit of a tricky spot with the soon-to-be-35-year-old.

Injuries have really taken their toll since he signed a four-year, $16 million extension in ’13. Specifically, a torn ACL and last year’s back injury, which cost him the first four weeks of the campaign and seemed to throw his entire season out of whack.

Seidenberg certainly isn’t part of Boston’s future on defense, but could have some value across the league as a veteran depth guy.

If you’re thinking “hey, $4M is a pretty hefty cap hit for a depth d-man,” remember that GM Don Sweeney could facilitate a move by retaining some salary. Financially, it wouldn’t be much different that buying Seidenberg out — something the Herald floated as a potential move — and there could be the potential to net an actual asset in return.

Of course, the B’s could stand pat and hope Seidenberg gets healthy, and contributes.

Do remember that, after returning from that serious knee injury, the German rearguard appeared in all 82 games during the ’14-15 campaign, scoring 14 points while averaging over 22 minutes per night.

Jagr confirms he’s not available for Czechs at World Cup

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14: Jaromir Jagr #68 of Czech Republic looks on in the first period against Latvia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group C game on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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PRAGUE (AP) The Czech Republic will have to do without Jaromir Jagr at the World Cup of Hockey after the star winger confirmed he won’t be available to compete in September.

Czech Republic general manager Martin Rucinsky says Jagr announced his decision in a telephone call over the weekend.

Jagr retired from the national team after last year’s world championship, and was not included in the first 16 players for the Czech’s World Cup squad.

But Rucinsky hoped the 44-year-old Jagr would change his view after yet another decent NHL season. Jagr led the Florida Panthers with 66 points (27 goals, 39 assist) in 79 games in the regular season, and added two assists in the playoffs.

Rucinsky told Tuesday’s edition of the Sport daily he respects Jagr’s decision.

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 19:  Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks fight for control of the puck in game three of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 19, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The “hard lessons” continued last night for Vladimir Tarasenko. For a fifth straight game — i.e. the entire Western Conference Final — the Blues’ sniper went goalless. In his last three games combined, he’s managed just four shots total.

“He’s a guy that’s struggled this series,” conceded coach Ken Hitchcock after Game 5, a 6-3 loss that put St. Louis on the brink of elimination. “He’s struggled offensively. He hasn’t got the looks offensively that he normally gets. But he’s one shift away from breaking it open.”

Tarasenko was a big reason the Blues got through the first two rounds. The 24-year-old had four goals against Chicago, then potted three more versus Dallas. In 14 games, he had 13 points.

Against the Sharks, he doesn’t even have an assist. And if plus-minus still means anything, he’s a minus-four.

Credit to the under-appreciated Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and his defensive partner Justin Braun, for much of that.

“Take away his time and space,” Vlasic said when asked the key to shutting down Tarasenko. “Our forwards have been doing a good job as well supporting us. Good back pressure does not allow them to have one-on-ones with our D.”

Not to downplay the challenges he’s facing, but if Tarasenko doesn’t start contributing offensively, the Blues are going to find it extremely tough to beat San Jose two straight times. During the regular season, he scored 40 of the Blues’ 224 goals. That’s almost 20 percent of them. Yes, some of his teammates need to step up too, but he’s the one with the most goal-scoring talent.

“It’s like any other goal-scorer, when they don’t score, there’s a frustration level that comes in,” said Hitchcock. “It’s my job to make sure and correct the frustration level if I can.”