TORONTO — Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri is a big fan of Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Fortunately for Kadri, he had one of his best games of the season with Bryant in the house to see it.
With the Lakers in town to face the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Kadri had a goal and a highlight-reel assist as well as a couple of big hits to help the Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 at Air Canada Centre on Saturday. His assist on Cody Franson’s first period goal was something straight out of the “Black Mamba’s” bag of tricks.
After the game, Kadri was asked about what it was like playing in front of Bryant, and he couldn’t help but gush.
“He’s one of my favorites, but I didn’t realize he was there till probably the end of the first period,” Kadri said. “I don’t know, maybe I can meet him somehow. But I’m happy he came to watch some hockey.”
Meanwhile, Kobe was busy winding up on the Jumbotron and posing with Leafs CEO Tim Leiweke.
Leafs players couldn’t help themselves in trying to get Kobe’s attention via Twitter.
If Kadri is going to play like that when Kobe is in the building, maybe the Leafs can splurge and get him season tickets whenever he decides to hang it up.
The St. Louis Blues continued to assemble the coaching staff for Mike Yeo on Wednesday when they announced the hiring of former NHL defenseman Darryl Sydor.
Sydor previously served as an assistant on Yeo’s staff for several years when he was the head coach of the Minnesota Wild. Before joining the Blues, Sydor was an assistant coach for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves this past season.
“I am excited to have Darryl back on my staff,” Yeo said in a statement released by the team. “He was an outstanding teacher during our time in Minnesota and will add a wealth of experience and knowledge to our team.”
Before joining the coaching ranks Sydor was a defenseman in the NHL for 18 seasons, playing 1,291 games for the Los Angeles Kings, Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets and Blues. The Blues were his final stop in the NHL, playing 47 games for the team during the 2009-10 season. He was a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams, winning it with the Stars in 1998-99 and then with the Lightning in 2003-04.
The Blues hired Yeo to be their coach-in-waiting to work alongside Ken Hitchcock before the start of the 2016-17 season, but when Hitchcock was fired in the middle of the season Yeo was promoted a few months earlier than expected.
The Blues eliminated the Wild in the first-round of the playoffs this season but were defeated by the Nashville Predators in the second round.
The KHL handed out its awards for the 2016-17 season on Wednesday and it was Magnitogorsk Metallurg forward Sergei Mozyakin taking home the Golden Stick Trophy as the league MVP.
Given the season he had, and the career he has had in the KHL, this should not really be much of a surprise.
Mozyakin turned in one of the greatest performances in the history of the league this season by scoring 48 goals and recording 85 total points (both league records) in only 60 games.
Since the KHL formed in 2008-09 only three different players have won the Golden Stick award. Danis Zaripov won it during the inaugural season, while Alexander Radulov won it four times (three years in a row between 2009-10 and 2011-12, then again in 2014-15).
Mozyakin won it in 2012-13 and 2014-15, then in each of the past two seasons.
The 36-year-old forward was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the ninth-round (No. 262 overall) of the 2002 draft by never played a game in the NHL. He has spent his entire professional career playing in Russia where he has consistently been one of the best, most productive players in the league.
Among the KHL’s other award winners, Vasily Koshechkin was named the league’s top goalie, Oleg Znarok was the coach of the year, while Vladimir Tkachyov is the rookie of the year.
One of the more impressive things about the Nashville Predators’ ability to eliminate the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Finals was the way they won the last two games of the series without the services of their top two centers, Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher.
They will still be without Johansen in the Stanley Cup Final as his postseason has come to an end, but they could get Fisher back when the series begins on Monday night.
General manager David Poile said on Wednesday that he is hopeful Fisher can participate in practice on Thursday and that there is “a real good chance” he will be ready to play in Game 1 of the series. The Predators will play the winner of Thursday’s Game 7 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators. The Predators will open the series on the road no matter who they play.
Fisher suffered an apparent head injury in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final but was able to be on the ice to take part in the trophy celebration following Game 6.
The Predators’ captain has yet to record a point in 14 games this postseason, but did score 18 goals and add 24 assists in 72 games during the regular season.
In other injury news, Craig Smith, who also missed Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, has seen his health improve and could also be getting closer to a return. Smith has only played in four games for the Predators this postseason and has not played since Game 6 in the second-round against the St. Louis Blues.
The Arizona Coyotes announced on Wednesday afternoon that former player Craig Cunningham has joined the team’s front office as a pro scout.
Cunningham’s playing career came to an end earlier this season when he suffered a medical emergency and collapsed on the ice before a game in the American Hockey League. He had CPR and other medical techniques administered on the ice and on the way to the hospital to help save his life. He has made a remarkable recovery since then.
“We’re thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said in a statement released by the team. “Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We’re confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club.”
A fourth-round draft pick by the Boston Bruins in 2010, the 26-year-old Cunningham spent parts of three seasons in the NHL with the Bruins and Coyotes, scoring three goals to go with five assists in 63 career games. He did not play for the big club in Arizona this season. He scored four goals and recorded nine assists in 11 games with the Tucson Roadrunners this season before having his career come to a premature end.