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Stastny leaves game with lower-body injury, Blues prevail over Maple Leafs in OT

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TORONTO (AP) Vladimir Tarasenko strode through the neutral zone, dipped around a Toronto forward, deked out another and fired a shot past Frederik Andersen for another victory for the surging St. Louis Blues.

The Blues improved to 4-1-0 under new coach Mike Yeo, beating the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night. St. Louis has allowed only six goals in five games under Yeo – including one in the last three outings – with goaltending from Jake Allen primarily taking a big leap forward.

Allen stopped 31 shots against the Leafs after posting a 30-save shutout two nights earlier.

“I think guys are all just jumping on board, playing hard for each other and doing the little things,” the 26-year-old Allen said about the energy around the group since the coaching change that saw Yeo replace Ken Hitchcock last week.

An assistant coach with the club previously, Yeo was due to take over the St. Louis bench next season, getting a head-start when the 65-year-old Hitchcock was dismissed amid a shaky first few months this season. The Blues had the third-best record in the NHL last season and went all the way to the Western Conference final, unable to hit those notes consistently this year.

“I really appreciate the mindset of our players right now,” Yeo said. “We recognized that that was an area of our game that we needed to improve. You can see that the commitment’s there as far as how we’re blocking shots, how we’re paying a price and doing the little things.

“But I’m going to keep saying this: we’re not there yet, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Among the better defensive clubs in hockey last year, the Blues were surrendering more than three goals per-game at the time of Hitchcock’s firing. The worst goaltending in the league – from Allen and backup Carter Hutton – was largely to blame, though players have noted an uptick in defensive details along with some strategic tweaks from Yeo, who served as Minnesota’s head coach for five seasons.

“I think just more commitment, more discipline,” Allen said.

Playing their third game in four nights, the Blues persisted without Paul Stastny for much of the game, the 31-year-old center leaving the game with a lower-body injury after one shift in the second period. The team had no update on his status after the game.

Yeo was pleased not only with Allen’s performance but his team’s response to a “little adversity”, namely losing Stastny, who leads the team’s forward group in ice-time at nearly 20 minutes per game.

Patrik Berglund also scored for St. Louis. Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto, and Andersen made 38 saves.

The Blues outshot Toronto 17-4 over the first 20 minutes, grabbing the first goal from Berglund. The 6-foot-5 Swedish center pounced on a blocked shot in the high slot and whipped a shot under Andersen’s glove.

The Leafs finally got one past Allen with 1:04 left in the second. Nazem Kadri drove down the right side and fired a shot at Allen, the rebound trickling off William Nylander toward the weak-side to Rielly.

It was only the second goal of the season for Rielly and the first since Nov. 11.

Markov, Habs officially part ways

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Andrei Markov‘s run of 17 consecutive seasons in Montreal is over.

On Thursday, the Habs announced that Markov — who’s played all 990 of his career NHL contests with the Canadiens — wouldn’t be brought back for the 2017-18 campaign.

The news comes after months of rumblings about Markov’s contractual status. It was initially believed the 38-year-old UFA was looking for $12 million over two years, and there was a brief flirtation with the Flyers (which, it later turned out, was simply Markov’s interest in going to Philly, not the Flyers actively pursuing him).

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin stated on several occasions he wanted to bring Markov back, but only at the right price and term. That’s because Bergevin knew Markov still played an important role — despite appearing in just 62 games last year, the Russian rearguard was offensively productive, with six goals and 36 points, and averaged nearly 22 minutes per night.

That said, Bergevin also knew the financial realities. He dished out big bucks this offseason — a combined $154.8 million for Carey Price, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Galchenyuk and Karl Alzner — and just didn’t have the money left to give Markov a big ticket.

Instead, Bergevin played it conservative in rounding out his defense, which included Tuesday’s one-year, $700,000 deal for Mark Streit. Some saw that deal as the writing on the wall for Markov in Montreal.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see where Markov ends up. If he lowers his asking price, there’s no doubt an NHL team would be interested. If he doesn’t, he could angle for a KHL deal and the opportunity to represent Russia in the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Malkin wants to see Ovechkin win a Stanley Cup

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Evgeni Malkin‘s career is far from over, but he’s already accomplished so much.

The 30-year-old has won three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies and a Calder Trophy.

Fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin has also won a number of individual awards, but he hasn’t been as fortunate when it comes team awards and playoff success.

There always seemed to be a rivalry between the two Russian forwards, but that doesn’t mean Malkin isn’t rooting for Ovechkin to take home a championship before his career is over.

“I was a bit luckier than (Ovechkin), that’s why I won those cups,” Malkin said, per Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko. “He has everything ahead of him. I wish him to win the cup.”

How do Penguins fans feel about that?

Malkin was also one of the more controversial omissions on the NHL’s “Top 100 Players” list. The Pens forward was disappointed about being left off the list, but hoisting Lord Stanley again seems to have erased that sting.

“I was a little bit disappointed when I wasn’t included in the list of 100 greatest players,” added Malkin. “But I won the cup and am happy.”

PHT Morning Skate: 9 rookies that could win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18

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–This year’s offseason is a lot more quiet than last year’s offseason (P.K. Subban for Shea Weber and Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson were two major stories last summer). So Sean McIndoe dug up seven storylines that still need sorting out. Somehow, the Avs have failed to trade Matt Duchene, John Tavares hasn’t signed an extension with the Islanders, and the Golden Knights still have a lot of defensemen. (Sportsnet)

–Sam McCaig of The Hockey News put together his free agent All-Star team, and there were some pretty big names to chose from. Mike Fisher, Jaromir Jagr and Thomas Vanek were all on McCaig’s first line, while Andrei Markov and Fedor Tyutin were on the top pairing. (The Hockey News)

–The San Jose Sharks lost Patrick Marleau to the Maple Leafs this offseason which means that they’ll need to replace his production. Don’t be surprised if players like Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen and Tomas Hertl are asked to do more in 2017-18. (NHL.com)

–Devils rookie Nico Hischier has to be considered one of the front runners to win the Calder Trophy in 2017-18, so NJ.com came up with a list of eight other players that will push him for that crown. Fellow 2017 draft pick Nolan Patrick could be a legitimate contender for top rookie too, but so can Coyote prospects Clayton Keller and Dylan Strome. (NJ.com)

–The person running the Golden Knights’ Twitter account has been incredibly funny throughout the summer, and that didn’t stop yesterday. The account took a nice little jab at some Canadian friends:

–Here are some interesting numbers from last season regarding scoring by defensemen. Obviously, Brent Burns played a big part in San Jose being at the top of list:

Penguins’ Letang gains more than just funny videos from Terrell Owens

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Off-season training is probably tedious at times … maybe even more tedious than the hockey-free months of the summer. Perhaps that explains why athletes love to mix things up, even if it means bringing in stars from other sports (and even if that calls for an embarrassing moment or two).

Kris Letang provided some background information surrounding that “ankle breaking” moment with former NFL star receive Terrell Owens during an NHL Network interview, which was transcribed by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Josh Mackey. Letang also noted that others were faked out to an even greater degree.

The most important stuff, really, comes from what he looks to gain from these workouts … and also how close Letang might be to full-strength.

“I’m trying to get better all the time,” Letang said. “I think I found that I can improve my footwork.

“We have that at the gym twice a week. We have a sprinting coach. ‘TO’ has been working out with us. He’s an unbelievable guy to be around. He’s teaching us a lot of little things.”

Later on, Letang stated that ‘we’re on the path to starting training camp and being fully healthy,” according to Mackey’s transcription.

That sounds great, though that doesn’t sound like an outright guarantee that he’ll be ready by September. If nothing else, the Penguins and their star defenseman are used to this kind of thing.

Now, in case you missed it in the Morning Skate, here’s that bit of schooling from Owens:

And here’s “the proof” that Letang wasn’t alone in getting beat:

Now to solve the mystery of the other fakee