Capitals, Penguins reflect on Crosby’s ‘gut-wrenching’ injury

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PITTSBURGH — The main talking point to come out of the Washington Capitals’ 3-2 overtime win on Monday night isn’t going to be the result, or the fact Kevin Shattenkirk made up for some of his postseason struggles by scoring the winning goal.

It is going to be the play that knocked Sidney Crosby out of the game in the first period, what will happen to Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen as a result of it, and when we might see Crosby back on the ice.

As for the latter point, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan had no update on Crosby’s status after the game only to say all of the Penguins injured players will be evaluated overnight and that they will “go from there.”

But for everything else there were no shortage of opinions.

First, Niskanen himself answered for the play and insisted that he was not trying to cross-check Crosby in the head.

Or at all, really.

“Absolutely not,” said Niskanen when asked if he was trying to hit Crosby in the head.

“It wasn’t intentional. I’ve seen the replay, and the super slo-mo looks really bad. I caught him high, I think he’s coming across, trying to score. As he is doing that, he’s getting lower and lower, and when it’s happening that fast, my stick and his head collided. I wasn’t extending, trying to hit him in the head. It happened quickly.”

He was asked a follow-up question about trying to cross-check him elsewhere and then ended up catching his head as Crosby fell.

“I wasn’t even trying to cross-check him with a serious amount of force,” said Niskanen. “A collision was gonna happen there in the crease. When the play first starts, I think my stick is at about his arm level. Right about where the numbers are on the side of his jersey. Because he’s trying to make a play, he’s getting lower and lower, because he’s getting pressured trying to score. So the collision happened.”

Penguins forward Chris Kunitz, naturally, saw it a completely different way.

“It’s obviously gut-wrenching,” said Kunitz.

“A guy that is the best player in the world, playing in his prime, just dominating games. It’s one of those things that you look at it once and you see what actually happened and I think the next thing is watching how it deliberate it was when the guy cross-checks him in the face. I thought all of that was kind of out of our league, but I guess not.”

He also added, “I like Nisky as a person, but I don’t think it’s a very nice hit. I don’t think it’s something this game is looking for.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz called it a “hockey play,” and said it was unfortunate that Crosby ended up getting injured as a result of it.

He was then challenged by a reporter asking if the initial hit from Alex Ovechkin that knocked Crosby off balance was also “a hockey play,” resulting in a somewhat testy back-and-forth exchange.

“Was there a penalty?” Said Trotz regarding that portion of the play. “I am not going to defend anything. You want me to defend Alex? Then is Kunitz’s predatory hit on Oshie okay? Or the one on Backstrom? Is that Okay? I am not going to debate all of that stuff.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, meanwhile, refused to get involved by saying, “I would rather not share my opinion on that play.”

Sullivan was then asked if it was harder than usual for him to sell his “just play” message after seeing his team’s captain and best player get knocked out of the game.

“No,” said Sullivan. “That’s what this team does. We are going to play the game hard and we are going to do what we can to win hockey games. That is what we did tonight.”

Game 4 of the series is on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins hold a 2-1 lead in the series.

AP sources: Capitals to host Maple Leafs in outdoor game at Naval Academy

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Two people with knowledge of the situation say the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs will play an outdoor game at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, next season.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Saturday because the NHL had not announced the event. The game is scheduled to be played March 3 at the 34,000-seat Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that hosts Navy football games.

It will be the first NHL outdoor game at a U.S. service academy, though quite possibly not the last. The league has explored doing games at the Army’s home at West Point and at the Air Force Academy.

It’s the third outdoor game for the Capitals and Maple Leafs and the first in the Washington area since the 2015 Winter Classic downtown at Nationals Park.

Capitals-Maple Leafs at the Naval Academy will be one of at least three outdoor games next season. The Ottawa Senators will host the Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic on Dec. 19, and the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres will play in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Citi Field in New York.

NHL Network revealed on air that the league would announce a game at Navy on Monday.

Trio of Red Wings prospects ‘making a statement’ in AHL Calder Cup playoffs

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The Detroit Red Wings saw their playoff streak come to an end earlier this spring, but their farm team in Grand Rapids continues its postseason run, qualifying for the Calder Cup final.

The Griffins clinched a spot in the championship series with a 4-2 win against the San Jose Barracuda on Saturday.

It has been during this playoff run that a trio of prospect forwards seem to have left quite an impression on Detroit’s coaching staff, led by Jeff Blashill.

Tomas Nosek, Tyler Bertuzzi and 2015 first-round pick Evgeny Svechnikov have all been productive for the Griffins throughout this AHL postseason. This could help put them into the conversation for NHL roster spots in the fall, and present something of a youth movement in Detroit after years and years of chasing the playoffs.

Nosek is the oldest of the three at 24 years of age. Bertuzzi is 22 years old, and Svechnikov is only 20.

“I don’t know what all the pieces will be for us next season, but certainly Nosek made us confident he can be an effective NHL player,” said Blashill, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Bertuzzi and Svechnikov, they are making a statement as well. They are becoming elite players in the AHL playoffs, and those are statements you want to make. We’ll look at them in camp and make our decisions based on who is going to make us better.”

The team’s general manager, Ken Holland, has in the past expressed his hesitation about a full-on rebuild, but after missing the playoffs, the Red Wings have an important few weeks ahead of them and the future of their franchise. They currently have the ninth overall pick in the NHL Draft following April’s lottery, and, after a busy trade deadline, four third-round picks, according to CapFriendly.

With six picks in the first three rounds, and 11 picks in total, Detroit should be able to help further stockpile their organization with a number of promising young prospects. It’s been suggested that the areas of concern for the Red Wings heading into the draft are up the middle and on the blue line.

Up front, all three aforementioned forwards — Nosek, Bertuzzi and Svechnikov — spent some time with the Red Wings this past regular season. Nosek and Bertuzzi each improved their overall point totals this season compared to 2015-16, and have been able to maintain a point-per-game pace in the playoffs. In Nosek’s case, he’s just over a point per game. Svechnikov had 20 goals and 51 points in 74 regular season games — his first full AHL campaign.

“Certainly part of us getting better next year is the young people on the (Red Wings) taking a step,” Holland told MLive.com. “And, hopefully, there is a player or two or three here that can push their way onto the team.”

Coyotes’ Rieder undergoes ankle surgery, expected to be out 8-12 weeks

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Tobias Rieder underwent ankle surgery after suffering an injury at the recently concluded World Hockey Championship, the Arizona Coyotes announced on Saturday.

Per the Coyotes, the operation was successful and he is expected to make a full recovery. However, the 24-year-old right winger is expected to be out eight to 12 weeks, as he goes through rehab.

With that timeline, he should be ready for training camp in September.

For the second straight year, Rieder was injured while playing for Germany in the IIHF tournament. Initially, it was reported that the Coyotes didn’t believe this latest injury was serious.

This past season, Rieder scored a single-season career best 16 goals in 80 games. He’s about to enter the final year of his two-year contract, which has an annual cap hit of $2.225 million.

Despite concussion history, Clarke MacArthur says ‘I’m going to play if I can’

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Ottawa Senators forward Clarke MacArthur has again emphasized his desire to continue his playing career, despite another regular season derailed by a concussion.

It will, however, depend on what doctors tell him.

MacArthur missed all but four games in the regular season because of a concussion suffered during training camp. In January, it was reported that this latest concussion would keep him out of the lineup for the remainder of the season — more bad news that followed a 2015-16 campaign in which he played only four games.

In a surprising development, MacArthur was cleared and returned to the Senators lineup late in the season, just before the playoffs started. During Ottawa’s impressive postseason run, which ended Thursday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final versus Pittsburgh, the 32-year-old forward had three goals and nine points in 19 games.

On Saturday, he revealed to the Ottawa Citizen that he had been dealing with discomfort in his neck during the playoffs. He was also adamant it was nothing else other than a neck ailment, and that he will get an MRI to see what it could be.

As for his playing future?

“I don’t know what the play is,” said MacArthur, per the Ottawa Citizen. “I just want to take a week or two and see how I feel. I still love playing the game. I’ve got to talk to the doctors and take a week or so and see where I go.”

Despite a history of concussions, MacArthur has in the past stated that he wants to continue playing. He is about to enter the third year of a five-year, $23.25 million contract.

“If everything works out, then I’m going to play if I can.”