Staal, Ward say they want to stay in Carolina


After missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season, the ‘Canes know there are likely to be major changes this summer — changes that could include two of the most prominent faces from the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning team, Eric Staal and Cam Ward.

From the Associated Press:

Ward has been the subject of persistent possible trades after he was beaten out by Anton Khudobin. The team carried three goalies for the final month of the season, a rarity in the NHL.

“I definitely want to be a Hurricane moving forward,” Ward said.

He and Staal are the only remaining links to the Carolina team that won the Stanley Cup in 2006. They’ve only made the playoffs once since then, reaching the Eastern Conference final in 2009.

Asked if he could see himself going to another team, Staal said he has “never thought that, dreamed that or wanted that.

“I’ve been here a long time, I love it here and I’ve had success here and I know and I believe that we can again and I can be a part of that,” Staal said.

In late February, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that all three Carolina netminders — Ward, Khudobin and Justin Peters — were made available via trade, but that narrative shifted after Khudobin signed a two-year, $4.5 million extension just prior to the deadline, leaving Carolina’s financial situation in goal looking like this:


When Ward wasn’t moved at the deadline, the possibility of a compliance buyout came up. Carolina has yet to use one of its two and would save considerable cap space by utilizing it on the former Conn Smythe winner.

As for Staal, he was put on notice earlier this week in a piece from the Raleigh News & Observer, which claimed the captain acknowledged he’d lost the support of some ‘Canes fans:

It wasn’t anything Eric Staal said Tuesday, as he autopsied the Carolina Hurricanes’ failure for the fifth straight time as captain, that touched on the real problem. It was something he said Thursday night, after a heartless, soulless loss to the Washington Capitals that encapsulated every complaint fans have about this team.

“Whether people think that or not, I’m out there competing as hard as I can,” Staal said.

So there are no secrets here. Staal is aware the fans aren’t happy with what they perceive as a lack of effort and leadership, correctly or incorrectly, and he acknowledged Tuesday there’s work to be done to rebuild that relationship.

Compounding matters is Staal’s gigantic contract which, at $8.25 million, carries the NHL’s fifth-largest annual cap hit. Staal is a quality player but has seen his star power diminish over the last few seasons — as evidence, consider that he was named to the gold-medal winning Olympic team four years ago, yet failed to make the cut, even as a replacement, for the ’14 team that won it all in Sochi.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?

Hellebuyck debuts with victory as Jets best Wild

Connor Hellebuyck
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 14 saves to win his NHL debut and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled left winger Zach Parise‘s return from a knee injury by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday.

Mathieu Perreault added his second goal in two games and Nikolaj Ehlers‘ goal late in the third put the game away.

The Jets won on the road for the first time in their last seven tries and for just the third time in their last 11 games.

Ryan Carter scored for Minnesota, finally getting a shot past Hellebuyck that made it 2-1 midway through the third period.

Hellebuyck was college hockey’s top goalie in 2013-14 and the goaltender on the U.S. team that won a bronze medal in the 2015 world championships.

Minnesota finished with a season-low 15 shots, which was also a season low in shots allowed for the Jets.

Wild fans at the Xcel Energy Center let out a roar when it was announced before the game that Parise would start, but not even his return could spark Minnesota.

After Jason Zucker was whistled for an elbowing penalty behind the net, Perreault took a pass from Byfuglien and zipped it past Devan Dubnyk to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead with 3:34 left in the second period.

Byfuglien made it 2-0 early in the third when his odd-angle shot hit Dubnyk in the back of the skate and went in for his seventh goal.

Carter’s goal bounced off of Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart and past Hellebuyck to give Minnesota some momentum.

The rookie didn’t get rattled, however, stopping a big shot from Jason Pominville with 3:11 to play.

Just 11 seconds later, Ehlers got loose on a breakaway and put the game away.

Winnipeg’s defense came into the game ranked 29th in goals allowed, but had little problem preventing Minnesota from generating quality scoring chances.

The Wild have just one win in their last six games. Parise was Minnesota’s leading scorer when he sprained a knee ligament on Nov. 5.

NOTES: Wild F Justin Fontaine missed his 11th game with a sprained MCL, but has a chance to return for Saturday’s game against Dallas according to coach Mike Yeo. … The Wild went 4-3-1 without Parise. … Jets RW Blake Wheeler had an assist and now has points in 18 of 24 games.

Blackhawks baffle Ducks with late magic; Kane’s streak at 18 games


The Chicago Blackhawks may not be at peak-level right now, but they’re still a tough team to finish off.

For most of Friday’s game, it seemed like the story would be about John Gibson possibly elbowing into the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 1 role, continuing that franchise carousel.

Instead, it was about yet another tremendous comeback for Chicago, as the Blackhawks scored two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Artem Anisimov than scored the OT GWG.

Stunning stuff … though definitely not unprecedented.

With less than 30 seconds remaining, Patrick Kane grabbed an assist on Duncan Keith‘s 2-2 goal. Kane extended his point streak to 18 games, tying a record for America-born players.

For the Ducks, it’s yet another gut punch, one that makes you wonder how they’d fare in another playoff series against Chicago (if they can even get there … a big if).

Bruce Boudreau is bummed:

Tyler Johnson’s injury: One of several ominous signs for Tampa Bay

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The gloom only seems to lift from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s cloudy season in small drizzles.

Sure, they’re on a three-game winning streak, but the Washington Capitals seem to be on the verge of ending that with a thud (they’re currently up 3-0 going into the third period).

Update: Washington managed a 4-2 win, giving the Capitals a four-game winning streak.

That’s the least of the Bolts’ concerns right now, really, as Tyler Johnson left Friday’s game seemingly injured.

The word seemingly comes into play because details are scarce, as reporters note.

/ominous music plays

If you look at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule, things could get downright stormy.

They face the Islanders at home, but they do so tomorrow so they won’t be well-rested. It gets worse from there.

Dec. 2 – 6: Three-game road trip against the California teams

Dec. 10 – 12: Two home games (one vs. Ottawa, one vs. Washington)

Dec. 14-18: Another three-game road trip

Long story short, they close up a back-to-back set at home tomorrow and then play six of eight on the road.

/even more ominous music

The end of 2015 looks friendlier, but for a team that seems to be cratering here and there … things look a bit morbid.

We’ll see if they can keep fighting, perhaps with a comeback tonight?