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.
Team Canada’s veteran lineup was too much for the young Americans to handle today in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where the Canadians rolled to a convincing 5-1 victory as the preliminary round of the World Championship got underway.
The United States actually opened the scoring, on a first-period, power-play goal by Patrick Maroon. But Taylor Hall quickly tied it, and soon after that, Brendan Gallagher gave the Canadians the lead. Matt Duchene, Boone Jenner, and Brad Marchand added the insurance goals for Canada.
Keith Kinkaid was in goal for the Americans, Cam Talbot for the Canadians.
Auston Matthews logged 16:56 in ice time and registered three shots for Team USA, who play Belarus tomorrow.
The Canadians are off until Sunday, when they’ll take on Hungary.
The New York Rangers announced this morning that forward Oscar Lindberg has undergone a “successful simultaneous bilateral hip labral repair.”
That’s a long way of saying he had hip surgery.
The Rangers say the expected recovery time for Lindberg is six months, meaning the 24-year-old is likely to get a late start to next season.
In 2015-16, his first full season in the NHL, Lindberg had 13 goals and 15 assists in 68 games. However, he was a regular healthy scratch down the stretch.
“I thought Oscar was playing well,” head coach Alain Vigneault said in March. “But when Rick Nash came back, we had 13 healthy forwards. It’s just the way it slotted out.”
In the playoffs, Lindberg dressed for just two of the Rangers’ five contests (Games 4 and 5 versus Pittsburgh).
Related: Rangers sign Lindberg
Of all the available coaching gigs, Minnesota’s seems to be the most muddled right now — there’s still no word on the status of interim bench boss John Torchetti, and GM Chuck Fletcher has reached out to both Randy Carlyle and Bruce Boudreau.
Now, the Star-Tribune is reporting Fletcher has also contacted another pair of veteran coaches: Marc Crawford and Guy Boucher.
Crawford, fresh off a four-year stint in the Swiss League — where he coached coveted draft prospect Auston Matthews in Zurich — is gunning for an NHL return, and would even accept an assistant coaching position to get his foot back in the door.
Related: Marc Crawford coaching in Detroit? Hey, could happen…
Boucher, also coming off a stint in the Swiss League, wants back in the NHL as well. He was in the running for a pair of gigs last offseason — Toronto, which ultimately went to Mike Babcock, and New Jersey, which ultimately went to John Hynes.
An interesting wrinkle with the Wild’s coaching search? Per the Star-Tribune, it sounds like coaches might be asking as many questions of Fletcher as Fletcher is of the coaches. The longtime GM has come under fire recently for the club’s current roster makeup, which forced owner Craig Leipold to give Fletcher a public vote of confidence during the playoffs.
College free agent Drake Caggiula is expected to pick a team shortly, possibly even today.
The University of North Dakota winger had originally shortlisted six teams, according to a report. Those teams were Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie said this morning on Edmonton radio that the Canucks are “maybe” the front-runners to land the 21-year-old. Vancouver signed Caggiula’s teammate, defenseman Troy Stecher, a couple of weeks ago, and Caggiula’s linemate, Brock Boeser, was drafted by the Canucks in the first round last year.
Recently, Boeser told Postmedia that he was trying to convince Caggiula to sign with Vancouver, where there will be plenty of opportunities for young forwards in the next couple of years.
If it’s not the Canucks, McKenzie said he’s heard the Oilers have a “puncher’s chance” of getting Caggiula.