Frustrated Muller rips ‘Canes: ‘Losing is for losers’

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The Carolina Hurricanes are primed to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season — the second under head coach Kirk Muller — and, on Monday, Muller voiced his frustration about the lack of winning.

From the Raleigh News & Observer:

At the end of the team practice at Raleigh Center Ice, Muller gathered his players around him on the ice for a few words. He was loud and his message clear.

Muller talked of “wanting guys who want to make a difference.” He said “losing is for losers” and that too many of the players were cheating and “playing their own way.”

Too many, he said, were “playing for the scoresheet” and worried about getting theirs. Some were more worried about new contracts, he said, and others about somehow holding on and playing another year in NHL.

Carolina has been one of the NHL’s biggest disappointments over the last two seasons, especially given all the money GM Jim Rutherford has spent on talent acquisition. Nearly $130 million was committed to the Jordan Staal, Alex Semin and Jeff Skinner trio and while all three have had their moments, it hasn’t been enough to keep the ‘Canes in the playoff hunt.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the players Muller suggested were playing for new deals.

Carolina only has 13 players under contract for next season, and has decisions to make on a number of key UFAs — including veteran defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Ron Hainsey, and veteran forwards Manny Malhotra and Radek Dvorak.

There are also a number of RFAs the team will need to decide on as well: Jiri Tlusty, Andrei Loktionov, Drayson Bowman, Nathan Gerbe, Brett Bellemore and, most importantly, Olympic defenseman Justin Faulk, who figures to be in line for a sizable raise on the $840,000 he made this season.

For all the players with uncertain futures, one thing is clear — Muller and the ‘Canes are using the final few games of this season as an audition for next year and beyond.

“We’re moving forward,” Muller said. “If you want to fit in, show it. Do it with work. I don’t want guys who don’t show up, who have bad body language. We’re going to practice hard, we’re going to play hard and we’re going to win games.”

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Sutter won’t retire from coaching, willing to join a rebuild

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Given he turns 59 this summer, has won a pair of Stanley Cups and coached over 1,000 NHL games, Darryl Sutter probably could’ve called it a career after getting fired by the Kings earlier this month, and done so comfortably.

But that’s not happening.

In speaking with TSN’s Gary Lawless, Sutter said he has no plans to retire from coaching. What’s more — and, perhaps more interesting — is that Sutter said he wouldn’t limit his next job solely to a contending team.

Currently, there are just two vacant coaching gigs in Buffalo and Florida. We wrote about the Panthers’ search earlier today (more on that here). The situation in Buffalo is more complex, as the Sabres need to hire a new general manager and coach. Logic suggests the GM will be hired first, then spearhead the new bench boss hire.

In that regard, Buffalo is pretty intriguing.

Though the Kings have yet to be contacted for an interview request, ex-GM Dean Lombardi has been tied to the Sabres gig. And Lombardi, of course, is forever tied to Sutter — he was the one that hired Sutter after a five-year coaching exodus to join the Kings, and the pair went on to achieve great success together.

That five-year coaching exodus does need to be mentioned, though.

History suggests that Sutter isn’t joking when he says he’ll be picky about the situation and won’t rush to find the right fit. After being dismissed in Calgary in 2006, he returned to work on the family farm in Viking, Alberta and seemed fairly content doing so.

That said, hockey always seems to draw him back.

“The game has given us everything,” Sutter told Lawless. “We still have lots to give.”