Darcy Kuemper

Should Minnesota keep starting Kuemper?

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Heading into this year, Darcy Kuemper was the No. 3 goalie in the Minnesota organization, parked firmly behind Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding in AHL Iowa.

Today, he’s the club’s No. 1 — and feeling the pressure that comes along with it.

Kuemper suffered his second poor outing in a row in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to St. Louis, which came 24 hours after he was hooked in favor of Ilya Bryzgalov for allowing three goals on 12 shots against Vancouver. Suddenly, the Wild — who were in good shape for the first wild card berth in the West — are just one point up on eighth-place Phoenix, and six up on ninth-place Dallas.

“I’ll be honest, I feel bad for [Kuemper]. I do,” head coach Mike Yeo told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “This is a guy, we wouldn’t even be sitting here in the position that we’re in if he didn’t give us the stretch of hockey that he’s given us.”

On the year, Kuemper’s numbers are solid — 12-8-4, .915 save percentage, 2.43 GAA — but his recent performances have been bad. He’s allowed at least three goals in each of his last four starts, all losses, while posting a ghastly .851 save percentage.

Unsurprisingly, the heat of the playoff chase seems to have gotten to Kuemper. At 23,  he’s got a very limited body of NHL work — just six games last year, 26 this year — and it’s important to remember that two years ago, he was in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears.

The inexperience might be starting to show. On Thursday, Kuemper appeared somewhat flustered after a series of altercations with Blues captain David Backes.

From the Star-Tribune:

[Backes] cross-checked little Jared Spurgeon, crushed little Mikael Granlund and ruthlessly trash-talked goalie Darcy Kuemper from the bench.

Kuemper initiated things with Backes by cross-checking him at the goalmouth, then got in his face.

“That’s where I’ve played a long time,” Backes said. “When I feel disrespected, I’m going to stand my ground and see if there’s any response.”

Backes’ verbal abuse of Kuemper wasn’t done there, either:

The issue Minnesota’s facing now is much more than a question of whether Kuemper or Bryzgalov should start for the rest of this season and the playoffs.

If Kuemper’s the goalie of the future — and by the way people within the Wild organization talk, they believe he is — there has to be some consideration to protecting him, and keeping his confidence from getting shattered.

Wild, Schroeder settle on two-way deal

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 24: Jordan Schroeder #10 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 24, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The Wild defeated teh Islanders 2-1 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Jordan Schroeder might be a depth player for the Minnesota Wild – at least when he’s with the big club – yet his situation provided a decent dollop of drama.

The two sides avoided salary arbitration by settling on a deal on Saturday, but not before the Wild “sent a message” by putting him on waivers.

That message was received, as Schroeder’s one-year contract is a two-way deal.

CBC’s Tim Wharnsby has the details regarding how the salary works out:

Schroeder has 107 regular season games under his belt, yet he’s played more games with the Iowa Wild than the Minnesota Wild since joining the organization.

He might not like it, but a two-way deal makes sense considering his standing with the team.

Granted, there’s the outside chance he’ll flourish under Bruce Boudreau; Schroeder is still just 25 and was the 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft.

If he unexpectedly blossoms, then he’ll have a lot more leverage next time around.

McDavid says Lucic gives Oilers ‘that swagger’

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 09:  Milan Lucic #17 of the Los Angeles Kings looks on during the second period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on February 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Sure, being close to home doesn’t hurt, but Milan Lucic cited Connor McDavid‘s presence in Edmonton as a big reason why he signed with the Oilers.

” … To have that opportunity to play with a player like that doesn’t come around so often,” Lucic said of McDavid.

It’s to the point where Lucic almost looked like a run-of-the-mill fan himself:

The good news for Lucic and the Oilers: the feeling seems mutual.

McDavid expressed his excitement to NHL.com that Edmonton added a big, intimidating presence earlier this week.

“It means so much,” McDavid said. “It kind of gives us that swagger, that meanness that we have been looking for …”

The towering winger does tend to make an impression. Just consider what happened in his first game with the Los Angeles Kings:

He also gave Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse something of a welcome to the NHL, as this was the blueliner’s first fight:

Look, in a brutal sport like hockey, just about everyone wants to be feared. Just look at the Montreal Canadiens’ polarizing off-season direction.

When the adrenaline wears off after a big hit or violent fight, fans will want to see results on the scoreboard and in the standings. It remains to be seen if the Oilers truly made strides in that regard during a summer of change.

On the bright side, their wunderkind star and expensive new addition are at least on the same page.

Report: Las Vegas NHL team asked permission to speak with Capitals assistant GM

NEW YORK - APRIL 20: George McPhee, VP and GM of the Washington Capitals speaks with reporters following the National Hockey League Board of Governors meeting at the Westin New York Hotel on April 20, 2005 in New York City. Representatives from all 30 NHL teams met in New York for the second time in seven weeks. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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It’s been 10 days since George McPhee was officially announced as general manager of the expansion Las Vegas franchise.

Based on a report Friday, it appears he’s looking to possibly add a familiar face from the Washington Capitals to his staff.

Building a front office beyond his position is among the top priorities on his list of things to get done, as that franchise prepares for key dates like next year’s expansion draft.

There is a long history between McPhee and Mahoney from their days with Washington.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

Ross Mahoney was hired by McPhee to be the director of amateur scouting for the Caps which he did for 16 seasons before becoming assistant general manager. If you thought the team drafted well during McPhee’s tenure, Mahoney is a major reason why.

The Caps are in a tricky position here. Denying employees the chance to seek other opportunities looks bad, but then again the Capitals don’t want to see their entire office raided by Vegas.

Related: McPhee wants Las Vegas team to compete right away; history says it won’t be easy

Fore! NHL referee makes the cut at PGA Tour’s Canadian Open

OAKVILLE, ON - JULY 22: Garrett Rank hits his second shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club on July 22, 2016 in Oakville, Canada.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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There has always seemed to be a connection between hockey players and the game of golf. Some are better than others when it comes to the links.

Take NHL referee Garrett Rank, for example.

Rank, also an amateur golfer, has made the cut at the 2016 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club just south of Toronto. He’s currently tied for 36th at even par heading into the weekend. He also sits seven shots behind the leader, Dustin Johnson, the future son-in-law of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

Rank, who joined the NHL Officials Association in 2014, has split his time between officiating in the NHL and the American Hockey League. But, according to the PGA Tour website, he was hired as a full-time NHL ref the day before the opening round of this week’s Canadian Open.

“I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t take my clubs with me when I was on the road,” he told the PGA Tour website. “I think it helps me and makes it a little easier for me because I know that this isn’t the end of the world, whether I shot 65 or 75.”

Rank, 28, is also a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011, after initially feeling discomfort while officiating a game.

“When I got the news I tried to maintain a positive attitude,” he told the Toronto Sun. “And you know what, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. You never want to have cancer wished upon someone but I think it gave me a little better outlook in terms of a bad call on the ice wasn’t as bad. Or hitting a bad shot on the golf course wasn’t the end of the world.

“It has allowed me to stay patient and be grateful for the opportunities and things I have in life.”

Related: PHT Morning Skate: James Wisniewski caddies for PGA Tour golfer Jason Day