Hockey world pays respects to Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch

Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch died on Friday evening at 87, and throughout the remainder of the evening and into Saturday morning the rest of the hockey world paid its respects to the long-time Detroit Red Wings owner.

Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

Yzerman spent his entire playing career with the Red Wings with Ilitch as team owner, winning three Stanley Cups with the team.

“Both Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, as well as their entire family, have had an immeasurable impact on not only my career, but my life,” Yzerman said in a statement. “Going back to the age of 18 when I arrived in Detroit, the guidance, generosity, concern and love Mr, Ilitch had always shown me and my family are things I will forever be grateful for.

“I was extremely fortunate to have played my entire career for a man who’s love of hockey and burning desire to win were the catalysts which drove the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanley Cup Championships after purchasing the team in 1982.

“Mr. Ilitch has left an incredible legacy in baseball, hockey and Metropolitan Detroit. He will forever be remembered for all the ways he enriched our lives.  Mike Ilitch will live on vividly in my mind and heart forever.”

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. The Red Wings acquired Shanahan from the Hartford Whalers during the 1996 season. He would play nine seasons in Detroit and was a part of the three Stanley Cup winning teams alongside Yzerman.

“Mike Ilitch and his family made every player that had the good fortune of playing for him feel like a new member of his family. We saw the joyful tears in his eyes when Stevie Y first handed him the Cup in 1997. We watched him sit bedside with Vladimir Konstantinov after his tragic accident a week later. He was more than a team owner. It was personal. We were all his adopted “boys” and he helped us all become men. His passing is extremely painful to all those who knew him and loved him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Marian and the rest of his family. His legacy in hockey will live on. Thank you Mr. I. Rest in peace.”

Former Red Wings defenseman Jiri Fischer. Fischer, who is currently employed by the Red Wings in player evaluation, played for the team until a heart issue ended his career.

“Mr. Ilitch was a very special man in my life. The family is the first and only employer I’ve had. It’s been 19 years. From being drafted to being a player to rehabbing as a cardiac patient to working in the front office, they’ve been special in my life.”

Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs: “Mike Ilitch was first and foremost a great personal friend. He was also a tremendous partner in the NHL, and someone who always put the interests of the league before his own. His legacy in hockey will be defined by the indelible mark that he has left on the NHL, as well as the immense impact that he has had on growing the sport in Michigan and throughout the United States.

The Red Wings and Tigers are so much a part of the history and identity of Detroit, and both teams have thrived under his careful stewardship. He led a great physical transformation of his beloved home city that will endure for many years. But perhaps most importantly, he shared his passion for sports and talent for business with his children, who will carry on his legacy.

We will miss him, and we extend our condolences to his wife Marian, the entire Illitch family, the Red Wings and Tigers organizations, and the city of Detroit.”

Bettman on Ilitch: Red Wings have lost the consummate owner

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    A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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    William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

    Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

    Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

    Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

    Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

    — Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

    Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

    “They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

    “We have lots of good players.”

    In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

    Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

    “We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

    Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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    WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

    Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

    Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

    Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

    A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

    Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

    “When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

    Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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    The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

    Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

    Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

    “His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

    Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

    The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

    NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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    The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

    In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

    Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

    In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

    Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

    Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.