Panthers captain Jovanovski planning to play next season

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Ed Jovanovski doesn’t know what the future holds, but one thing is for certain — he isn’t going to just walk away from the game of hockey.

“I have a year on my contract and I plan on fulfilling it,” the Panthers captain said, per the Miami Herald. “It’s going to be a really important summer to concentrate on an 82-game schedule.”

Jovanovski, 37, made an unprecedented comeback in January, returning to the Florida lineup after undergoing hip resurfacing, a procedure consisting of placing a metal cap over the femur and a matching metal cup in the pelvic socket.

It’s less invasive than a complete hip replacement (because more of the femur is left intact), but still a significant procedure.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, returning from said procedure is uncharted territory:

It’s believed that no athlete from any of the four major professional sports has ever come back successfully after this relatively new procedure.

Former Lightning center Tim Taylor underwent hip resurfacing at 37 after the 2007 season and never played another NHL game. Bo Jackson, an NFL and MLB star, had a hip replacement in 1991 and was forced to retire at 29.

“I don’t think it’s ever happened,” said Dr. Audie Rolnick, a Plantation hip replacement surgeon, who doesn’t do resurfacing.

“Hockey of all sports, has a huge amount of stress on the joint and the hips, so I think it’s going to be pretty rough for him at 37 to come back. His skating will be fine, but it’s the crashing into the boards and other players crashing into him. The crashes will loosen up the prosthesis and cause pain.

“I would never let anyone go back to playing a sport like this.”

(Here’s a piece on Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis trying to come back from the same procedure.)

Jovanovski has returned in fine form, amazingly enough, scoring five points in 32 games while averaging over 16 minutes a night. On Mar. 25, he played a season-high 20:19 against Ottawa, firing three shots on goal while registering one hit and a blocked shot.

So why the questions about coming back next year?

Well, Jovanovski will turn 38 in June, for starters. There’s also the possibility of a compliance buyout which, according to CapGeek, could save the Panthers some cash and cap space — next year will be the last of Jovanovski’s four-year, $16.5 million deal with a $4.125 million cap hit; if he was to retire, Florida would be on the hook for the entire amount as he originally signed the deal as a 35-plus player.

All the financial analysis might be moot, though, as JovoCop certainly sounds like someone that wants to keep playing — and Tallon might find it extremely difficult to stop from happening.

“At the end of the day, do what you love to do,” he explained. “We play a game. It’s hard, a lot of the things that go unnoticed. The travel; yes we do fly on charters, but it’s a grind getting in at 2, 3 in the morning and have to get ready in the morning. It tests you that much more.

“But it killed me not being around the guys and that’s something that bothers me when it’s all going to be over.”

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.