PHT Morning Skate: On Jordin Tootoo inspiring others to get sober

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–Blackhawks forward Jordin Tootoo has been sober for a few years. Not only is he feeling better now because of it, but Tootoo’s also inspiring others to get their lives in order. “I took the same approach he did,” said friend Troy Aksalnik. “I went to rehab for 30 days and straightened my life out. I did it because I knew he did it.” (Chicago Tribune)

–As soon as he took over ownership of the Detroit Red Wings, Mike Ilitch did everything he could to turn the team around as quickly as possible. He had a vision and he stuck to it. “What I noticed right from the start, as soon as he bought the team, he was hands-on,” said Jim Rutherford. “You could see it right from the start, he was going to get that franchise turned around.” And boy did he ever get them turned around. Under his watch, the Red Wings became the model franchise in the NHL for many, many years. (ESPN)

–The Montreal Canadiens may have been flat in last night’s loss to the Boston Bruins, but the officiating crew sure seemed to have some jump. NHL referee Wes McCauley was pretty fired up when he announced Andrew Shaw and Torey Krug‘s five-minute penalties for fighting. This was pretty funny. (The Score)

–The Boston Bruins improved to 3-0 under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy with their 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. You can watch the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky had contacted an Uber to give him a ride to his destination. When he got into the car, he realized that he had hopped into the wrong vehicle. Oops! (BarDown)

–Chinese billionaire Zhou Yunjie is committed to growing the game of hockey in China. Earlier this month, Zhou attended the All-Star Game over in Los Angeles. Zhou’s company, ORG, already has partnerships with the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals, and the NHL is hoping to keep this relationship going. “We are thrilled with the relationship we and our clubs have established with Mr. Zhou and the interest he has shown, and the investment he has made, in the NHL,” Billy Daly said.“Certainly it is helpful to have that relationship as we attempt to broaden and deepen our ties with the Chinese business community.” (The Hockey News)

–Wayne Gretzky played many different sports when he was growing up, but he absolutely loved baseball. He was a huge fan of the Detroit Tigers too. Thankfully, he realized that he was never going to go pro, so he decided to stick with hockey.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.