Martin St. Louis, Chris Kreider

Rangers Game 5 win an emotional one for St. Louis

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PITTSBURGH — The New York Rangers won Game 5 for Martin St. Louis.

The Rangers’ 5-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins came a day after St. Louis’ mother passed away. After an emotional past 24-48 hours, St. Louis was happy he could honor his mother and help his team avoid elimination to force a Game 6 back in Manhattan.

“You don’t expect these things. It was a tough couple days for my family,” St. Louis said. “I know deep down my mother would’ve wanted me to play this game. She’d be proud of me coming here and help as much as I can. The boys have been so supportive. The support I’ve gotten from the New York Rangers, my teammates, my friends and family, friends around the league, old friends has been unbelievable. I’m glad that we’re able to get this win and stay alive.

“She was a great lady; the best human being I’ve ever known in my life. I owed it to her to do it. I know she would want me to. It’s been a tough day for everyone, but we’re going to keep pushing.”

St. Louis had a lot to debate with himself about whether to play or not. A talk with his father helped ease his mind.

“I’m excited that I got to be there last night and actually saw her before they took her away which I’m thankful to the New York Rangers organization to get all that and rush me over there,” St. Louis said. “I was able to spend some quality time with my father and that conversation [about playing or not] came about. I think he needed that too, for me to play. I know he’s proud and I know my mom’s proud right now.”

While St. Louis didn’t have a point in Game 5, but his presence on the ice and in the locker room after such a difficult time was enough to motivate his teammates.

“Seeing Marty show up after what happened yesterday, it doesn’t surprise you in the game of hockey,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said. “There’s just so many hockey players that have gone through things like that. It’s kind of the way it’s done in our culture. It still means a lot to see him walk into this locker room and know that he stepped away for a few hours to battle with his teammates.

“We thanked him for doing it and we wanted to put in a big effort and make it a memorable night for him because obviously he won’t forget this game.”

The Rangers snapped out of a playoff-long power play drought in Game 5 scoring twice with the man advantage. The five goals scored were also a playoff-high. St. Louis gave credit to his teammates for stepping up, but it’s a situation some players couldn’t imagine being put in.

“I can’t say enough about the guy,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. “He doesn’t want to leave himself out to dry, he comes in, shows up and wants to compete with us and try to win a hockey game. I can’t imagine what he’s going through, what he’s feeling like. It’s emotional. You want to play hard for a guy like that who’s coming from such a tragedy. You want to rally around it and I thought he played a great game tonight.”

With the team coming together like this when facing elimination, they’ll head back to Madison Square Garden hoping to force a Game 7.

“Obviously in a tough time like this, the support I’ve gotten… I didn’t want to be a distraction, I just wanted to pull out a gutsy win and the boys played tremendous,” St. Louis said. “Some guys stepped up really big tonight and that’s how you stay alive.”

Andreychuk confident that Stamkos will re-sign in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Former Tampa Bay Lightning player Dave Andreychuk is now a member of the club’s senior management team, and he’s confident that the Bolts won’t lose Steven Stamkos to unrestricted free agency this summer.

“Steven is going to come back. He’s going to be fine,” Andreychuk told Hockey Central today, per Sportsnet.ca.

“I still believe that Steve Yzerman is trying whatever he can do to sign Steven Stamkos, and I believe it will happen.”

Andreychuk — whose official title is VP Corporate & Community Affairs — is not part of the Lightning’s hockey operations, but presumably he speaks with Yzerman, the general manager, from time to time.

Of course, the challenge for Yzerman goes well beyond re-signing the captain. Even with an owner that’s willing to spend to the cap, it simply may not be possible to keep Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Jonathan Drouin.

All eight of those players need new contracts this summer or next.

Stamkos, Hedman, and Bishop are pending UFAs, while the other five are pending RFAs.

Report: Forsling signs with Blackhawks

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A report out of Sweden says that defenseman Gustav Forsling has signed an entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

For the past two seasons, Forsling has been with Linkopings HC of the Swedish Hockey League. In 2015-16, the 19-year-old had six goals and 15 assists in 48 games.

A fifth-round pick of the Canucks in 2014, Forsling was a star at the 2015 World Juniors, where he had eight points (3G, 5A) in seven games for Sweden. He was traded to Chicago in return for Adam Clendening.

“He’s an offensive defenseman that plays very well on the power play and has a big shot,” said Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman upon Forsling’s acquisition.

Assuming the report is accurate, Forsling can probably count on starting his North American career in the AHL.

The Blackhawks are hoping to graduate Rockford d-man Ville Pokka to the NHL next season.

Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks

Hendricks to captain U.S. at Worlds for second straight year

OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 01:  Matt Hendricks of USA celebrates goal of his team-mates during the IIHF World Championship group B match between USA and Finland at CEZ Arena on May 1, 2015 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
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Last year, Matt Hendricks captained Team USA to bronze at the World Hockey Championships, marking just the second time in the last 11 years the U.S. had medaled.

So, why not go back to Hendricks again?

That’s what USA Hockey opted to do on Wednesday, announcing the Edmonton forward would reprise his role as team captain for the 2016 tournament, to be held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Columbus’ Nick Foligno and Arizona’s Connor Murphy were named alternate captains.

Hendricks had a pretty solid tournament for the U.S. last year, scoring two goals and three points in 10 games — an effort made more impressive by the fact it was his first time representing the U.S. internationally.

The U.S. gets its ’16 Worlds campaign underway on Friday, with a game against Canada at 11:30 a.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on NBCSN, and a live stream will be available on NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

Prized Flyers prospect Provorov says he’s NHL-ready

Ivan Provorov
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Philly had one rookie defenseman burst onto the scene this year, as Shayne Gostisbehere‘s stellar play earned him a Calder Trophy nomination.

Next year, another freshman blueliner will look to make his own mark.

Ivan Provorov, the club’s first-round pick (seventh overall) at the 2015 draft, says he’s primed to make the Flyers’ roster for 2016-17 — despite the fact he’ll be just 19 years old when the campaign begins.

“I think I’m ready,” he said, per the Inquirer. “But we’ll see what happens. I think I’m going to have another good summer and come ready in September.”

The Flyers have been high on Provorov from the minute they drafted him. He signed his entry-level deal a week after being selected, and impressed onlookers during his time at prospect and training camps.

“He showed us his play is efficient in all areas with and without the puck,” head coach Dave Hakstol said, per CSN Philly. “I thought his competitiveness was very good throughout the two days.

“He was focused and relaxed. He is a composed young man with maturity and confidence. Those are very good traits in a young player.”

This year, Provorov — who’s still playing with Brandon in the WHL playoffs — racked up a whopping 21 goals and 73 points in just 62 games. The potential of adding Provorov’s offensive abilities to a blueline that already features a pretty skilled guy in Gostisbehere is tantalizing.

But, as Flyers GM Ron Hextall points out, Provorov is going to have to beat out an incumbent, and won’t just be gifted a spot on the Philadelphia roster.

“They have to come in and be better than someone else that’s here,” Hextall said of young players looking to crack the lineup. “If that happens, we proved last year that we’ll make room in our roster for a young player that proves to us that he’s ready to play at this level and make our team better.”