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Video review, lots of goalie discussion expected for NHL GMs’ meeting

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When a collision knocked off Mike Smith‘s mask, the Arizona Coyotes goaltender was less than pleased upon being told a few minutes later he had to leave the game.

One of the NHL’s central spotters in New York made that call to trainer Jason Serbus, and in accordance with the league’s concussion protocol, Smith’s departure was mandatory.

“Mike didn’t want to come out, but that’s what was going to be done,” coach Dave Tippett said. “I’m interested to see how that one goes in an overtime in playoffs or something like that. We’ll see how teams react to that one.”

The playoffs are still a month away, and teams already are not reacting well to concussion protocol for goalies, which is why it’s one of the topics that general managers are expected to discuss at their annual March meeting beginning Monday in Boca Raton, Florida. Smith and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist are among those who have been critical of the rule.

Other issues as GMs try to refine rules they’ve put in place in recent years include the offside rule, coaches’ challenges, goalie equipment and goalie emergencies.

Video review is among the hottest topics, especially the time it takes. Major League Baseball recently instituted timing guidelines for umpires, and that could soon happen for hockey officials.

“That’s probably maybe the No. 1 discussion,” Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said via phone Sunday. “Other than getting the call right, it is the time frame. It’s something we can’t go seven, 10, 12 minutes to get it right. … It is something where I think the call has to be done within a certain time frame to keep the game going.”

GMs also will discuss some controversial coach’s challenges where a player’s skate is off the ice and the play is ruled offside. It came up during a playoff series last year between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues and has been a subject of discussion at previous meetings.

Updates to the league’s concussion protocol will be under the microscope after Smith and Lundqvist blasted the system as flawed. Connor McDavid and other skaters have expressed concerns that the rules could have a major impact come playoff time – and goalies are at the center of the debate.

“If there is an instance that takes place where you think there is a possible concussion, I think we need to look after that,” Nill said. “When you do that, there’s a risk of a player coming in cold. I guess the answer to that for me sometimes, it’s no different than if a goalie hurts his knee, he’s coming out and the other guy’s coming in cold.”

Goalie equipment and emergencies – where teams have to sign players to tryout contracts to back up for a game – are also on the agenda. After missing the past two meetings, George McPhee will attend as GM of the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time; owner Bill Foley’s final expansion payment went through last week.

GMs said criteria for the June 21 expansion draft have been made clear, so there’s no need for further clarification. Blind-side hits, which were discussed at the November meeting, and playoff formats aren’t on the official agenda but may be brought up over the course of the three-day meeting.

Ken Holland of the Detroit Red Wings has suggested expanding the playoffs to nine or 10 teams in each conference with play-in games similar to MLB, and the strength of the Metropolitan Division this season – where the fourth-place team has more points than the Atlantic Division leader – has generated some questions.

“I don’t know that they want to keep changing it, but this has got to be an impetus for at least a discussion when something happens like this where there’s so many good teams in the one division,” said Brian MacLellan of the league-leading Washington Capitals, who acknowledged it would be self-serving to propose a change.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.Twitter.com/SWhyno .

Trouble for Ducks: Lindholm and Vatanen need major shoulder surgeries, will miss months

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Not a great week for the Anaheim Ducks.

After being eliminated in Game 6 of the Western Conference final — the toughest loss of Ryan Kesler’s career, apparently — the Ducks broke more bad news on Friday as GM Bob Murray announced d-men Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen both require torn labrum surgery, and will be out an awfully long time.

The timeline on Lindholm is 4-5 months, while Vatanen’s recovery will extend beyond that because his injury was more serious.

Looking at the calendar, four months would run Lindholm up to the end of September, meaning he’d miss a good chunk of the preseason. If it’s five months, he could miss the first three weeks of the regular season.

Murray didn’t even put a timetable on Vatanen, only saying it would be longer.

This adds to what was already going to be a pretty stressful summer in Anaheim. As we wrote earlier, Murray has some big decisions on his hands.

Vatanen and Lindholm are huge parts of the team. Both averaged over 21 minutes per night this season, and both broke the 20-point plateau. They’re also locked in long term — Lindholm at $5.2 million annually through 2022, Vatanen at $4.8M through 2020.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen for the expansion draft, the defense will definitely be worth watching. Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. There are already reports that extension negotiations are going well but, after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

Add it all up, and the Ducks will certainly be worth watching this offseason.

In a surprise, Blues name Steve Ott assistant coach

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Pretty wild last few days for St. Louis on the coaching front.

After gutting Mike Yeo’s staff of four assistants, then hiring hiring Darryl Sydor, the Blues went totally off the grid on Friday by announcing longtime NHLer Steve Ott would become Yeo’s new assistant.

“Steve was a competitor on the ice as a player and I expect him to bring that energy in this role,” Yeo said in a release. “He was highly respected as a player and a person among his teammates and I believe he will be a huge asset to our staff.”

The decision caught many off guard given Ott, 34, has no prior coaching experience and was playing as recently as last month, suiting up for Montreal in its opening-round playoff loss to the Rangers.

Ott is familiar with the Blues organization, having played there for three seasons.

“I am very proud of my playing career and will devote the same work ethic to my coaching career,” said Ott. “The Blues organization is very special to me and my family and I’m excited to take the next step in my hockey career with this franchise.”

Blues GM Doug Armstrong signed Ott to a three-year deal. It’s fitting that Armstrong was the one to engineer this move, as he’s been behind unorthodox coaching moves in the past. Last summer, he defied convention by hiring Yeo as Ken Hitchcock’s assistant, with the understanding that Yeo would inherit the head man position next season.

It didn’t go exactly to plan. Armstrong fired Hitchcock in February, accelerating Yeo’s ascension.

Kesler calls Game 6 loss to Nashville the ‘toughest’ of his career

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Ryan Kesler has lost some big games in his career.

He was on the United States team that lost to Canada in the gold-medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

He was on the Vancouver Canucks team that lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

But apparently neither of those losses were as bad as the one his Anaheim Ducks experienced on Monday.

“This was the toughest loss of my career,” Kesler said of losing Game 6 of the Western Conference Final to Nashville. “This stings. It still stings. We left everything out there.”

Kesler had a particularly tough game, finishing minus-4 in the 6-3 loss. In the series, he only had one assist, failing to score on any of his 19 shots.

At 32 years old, Kesler is running out of time to win his first Stanley Cup.

And perhaps that’s why this latest loss was especially tough for him. The Ducks had a great chance to eliminate the Predators once Ryan Johansen was lost for the series, and then they would’ve faced either Pittsburgh minus Kris Letang or the underdog Ottawa Senators.

That’s gonna sting every time.

Related: Johansen wishes he was there to shake Kesler’s hand after Predators won

Fisher returns to Preds practice, but still not cleared

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Given the injuries Nashville’s sustained at center this postseason, Mike Fisher‘s presence at today’s practice was a welcome sight — regardless of his availability for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“I feel pretty good,” Fisher told NHL.com after practicing for the first time since May 18. “I skated a few days here. Still not cleared, but it felt good to get out there with the guys.”

Fisher was knocked out of the Western Conference Final in Game 4, after taking a Josh Manson knee to the head. That, combined with the loss of Ryan Johansen to season-ending thigh surgery, whittled Nashville’s center depth down to Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissions, Vern Fiddler and Frederick Gaudreau.

Even though Fisher is pointless through 14 playoff games, his return would still be massive. In addition to serving as team captain, he was averaging just under 17 minutes per night prior to getting hurt, while winning 52 percent of his faceoffs.

He said his undisclosed injury feels “a lot better than it was a few days ago,” adding that his goal is to return for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.

Fisher took minimal contact at today’s skate, and worked on a line with James Neal and Harry Zolnierczyk.