Blues’ trip to Yale to support Schwartz all ‘about family’

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In the dressing room of the Yale women’s hockey team, No. 17 still hangs in its proper stall. One day a year, the jersey is brought out rinkside and hung behind the home bench at Ingalls Rink, a reminder that Mandi Schwartz is always present at her team’s hockey games.

Friday night in New Haven, the Schwartz family presence was never greater. For the first time, Mandi’s brother Jaden was there in the rink his sister loved – and the kid brother brought a posse. Every one of Jaden’s St. Louis Blues teammates, along with coach Ken Hitchcock and GM Doug Armstrong, took a timeout from their four-game road trip to attend the “White Out for Mandi,” the annual Yale game that honors Jaden’s late sister, a Bulldog hockey player who died in 2011 following a 28-month fight with a rare form of leukemia.

Call it an unconventional way for St. Louis to celebrate an important bounceback win at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, or to prepare for a road-trip finale at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. All that seemed almost trivial to the Blues players who perched in a corner section of Ingalls, wearing their road white jerseys for the White Out and chatting up awestruck youth hockey players – many of whom had been at the rink for hours after watching the Blues practice there in the afternoon.

Whether those youth players or the Blues were more pleased to be there, it was sometimes hard to tell.

“It’s fun to have these little breaks in the season, break the routine a little bit,” said defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, the New Rochelle, N.Y., native who scored the tiebreaking goal to beat the Rangers on Thursday, and who played youth hockey himself at Ingalls Rink. “But more than anything, to be here for [Jaden] and help him out and help his family out – really, we’re not doing much, we’re just trying to be a great supporting cast for Jaden.”

Jaden Schwartz was drafted by St. Louis in June 2010, some 10 months before his sister succumbed to acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells for which Mandi needed, but never could find, a donor match for a bone marrow or stem cell transplant.

This season, Jaden, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound winger, has 16 goals and 35 points as a 21-year-old – Thursday’s was his 100th NHL game – for a Blues team that is by all indications a Stanley Cup contender. So when the NHL schedule came out last summer, his parents, Rick and Carol, set out to plan the fourth annual White Out – which raised funds for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation – around the Blues’ visit to the three New York-area teams. (New Haven is about 70 miles from New York City.)

“We expected maybe two or three buddies to come and join us for a game,” Rick Schwartz said. “But when Doug Armstrong said the whole team’s coming, and they’re going to be supporting Jaden … I see them here together, I’m glad they’re here by Jaden’s side today. This is a tough day for him.”

Jaden, meanwhile, was “shocked” by his teammates’ gesture. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I knew I was going to come, and maybe I’d bring some teammates, but it just kind of escalated, and one day, the whole team is coming. Yeah, shocked. And it means a lot.”

In between the Blues’ practice and the Yale game (a 2-2 tie with Brown), Jaden spent his first trip to Mandi’s campus on a Rick-and-Carol-guided tour of his sister’s dorm, and some of her classrooms. While the attention drawn to Mandi’s foundation, as well as the marrow donor drives she inspired, in conjunction with the “Be The Match” registry, is welcome, Jaden said he was looking forward to a bit of quiet reflection, to sit by Mandi’s locker that the team still keeps intact, “to get away and walk around.”

The Blues’ own getaway takes them to Long Island on Saturday, where a victory would give them a 3-1-0 road trip and help wash away the taste of Tuesday’s 7-1 thumping in New Jersey. Or maybe that sour taste is already gone.

“I think all of us, we get used to the [NHL] lifestyle, and at times you lose sight of other factors that are important in life,” Armstrong said while his Blues practiced before about 300 fans. “To get to come here, you realize what this is for, what this means.”

“You know, we first started looking at [Jaden] when he was 17 years old,” Hitchcock said. “We watched him play at Colorado College, we’ve watched him grow up in the organization. He’s a teammate, he’s a friend. This is about family.”

(Photo credit: Sam Rubin, Yale Sports Publicity)

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.