Leafs to ‘celebrate our team’s history’ with Legend’s Row

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Hey, remember last summer when incoming MLSE president Tim Leiweke drew fire for, among other things, wanting to tear down the old pictures of championship Toronto Maple Leafs teams outside the current team’s dressing room?

“I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962,” Leiweke told Bloomberg. “Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.”

Keep that in mind when you read this latest press release from the Leafs:

Next month at the inaugural Toronto Maple Leafs Fan Fest presented by your Toronto area Ford dealers, the team will officially unveil the first three members of ‘Legends Row’, a public statue in Maple Leaf Square that will honour a number of greats who have worn the iconic sweater during the franchise’s 97-year history. The team announced today that Ted Kennedy, along with two other Leaf legends to be named at Fan Fest, will be the first players to be honoured with bronze statues.

Legends Row will feature a 30-foot granite bench, located just outside Gate 5 at Air Canada Centre that will immortalize many of the biggest names in Toronto Maple Leafs history. It will be a multi-phase project that will unveil different players leading into the team’s Centennial season in 2017 and beyond.

“In addition to our focus on building a winning team for today and the future, there is an important responsibility to celebrate our team’s history and to create opportunities for a strong connection between our fans and that tradition,” said Brendan Shanahan, President and Alternate Governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “Legends Row will be a fitting tribute that honours many of the greatest players to ever wear the Maple Leaf while giving our fans the chance to feel a part of that history. We are thrilled to include Ted Kennedy, a player who always gave everything he had to his team, and two other Leaf greats, as the first three players to be recognized.”

To be fair to Leiweke, he did apologize to those who were offended by his plans to remove the pictures, saying he didn’t mean to “minimize our history.”

“But I think at the end of the day,” he added, “if we want to win a Cup, what we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to find a team that wants to be the guys in those pictures as we walk down the hallway.”

Clearly, given Shanahan’s carefully prepared statement, the Leafs now fully recognize the need to both honor the past and try to build a team worth honoring in the future. Because it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

‘Dialed in’ Hurricanes could add more drama to playoff race

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At first glance, Carolina’s potential playoff push seems like a longshot.

The ‘Canes head into tonight’s action five points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and would need to leapfrog both the Bolts and Isles just to get there.

BUT!

The ‘Canes have a game in hand on both New York and Tampa Bay, and two on Boston. They also get to play six of their last nine at home, and are currently riding a terrific streak in which they’ve collected 17 of a possible 20 points (7-0-3 in their last 10).

“Guys are playing well, guys are dialed in,” head coach Bill Peters said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “You’ve got to continue to keep pace. Around the league everyone seems to find a way to win, so you’ve got to keep pace and then hopefully somebody falters.”

Looking ahead, the next 48 hours will decide if this dream becomes a reality. Carolina begins a crucial back-to-back set against the Red Wings tonight, with both games to be played at PNC.

Tonight’s game, you may recall, is the makeup date for the Dec. 19 postponement due to unplayable ice.

As such, the ‘Canes now get a Red Wings team playing its third game in four nights, following Friday’s 2-1 OT loss to Tampa Bay and yesterday’s 3-2 OT win over Minnesota. Veteran Detroit d-man Niklas Kronwall isn’t expected to face Carolina, and the club is unsure if Darren Helm (lower body) can go.

The ‘Canes, meanwhile, are pretty healthy and firing away. Jeff Skinner has a five-game goalscoring streak, Elias Lindholm has points in each of his last 10 contests and Sebastian Aho in each of his last six. The club has also received terrific netminding from Eddie Lack, who has gone 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage.

If they can get a result tonight, attention will be turned to the out-of-town scoreboard. The Isles are at home to the streaking Nashville Predators (6-1-0 in their last seven), and the Bolts host the Blackhawks, who are coming off an embarrassing 7-0 loss in Florida.

The Bruins aren’t back in action until Tuesday, when they host the Preds.

Report: Coyotes majority owner has a ‘potential new partner’

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The Arizona Coyotes’ ownership group may be getting a new member.

According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, Randy Frankel is a “potential new partner” for majority owner Andrew Barroway.

Frankel, who made his money on Wall Street, is already a part owner of MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Shannon also reported that the Coyotes required a mid-season cash call, to the tune of $20 million, from their ownership group. Arizona has averaged just 13,020 fans at home games this season; hence, the revenue shortfall.

The Coyotes, of course, are trying to get a new arena built in the greater Phoenix area. So far, their efforts have been for naught.

Related: Arizona lawmaker suggests Coyotes pledge more money for new arena

Report: Rangers land Gophers standout Lettieri

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University of Minnesota senior Vinni Lettieri has agreed to join the Ranger organization, per the Star-Tribune.

Lettieri, 22, finished second on the club in goals this year, with 19, and third in scoring with 37 points in 38 games. The Star-Tribune’s Mike Russo reports Lettieri is joining New York’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, and that he and the Blueshirts are closing in on a two-year, entry-level contract.

Lettieri has some interesting bloodlines. His grandfather is former Minnesota North Stars player/head coach/GM Lou Nanne, and his father is former professional soccer netminder Tino Lettieri, who represented Canada at the 1986 World Cup.

The younger Lettieri went undrafted, and was a free agent following Minnesota’s NCAA championship loss to Notre Dame.

Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.