Sullivan had no problem with the Malkin and Kessel bench argument

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PITTSBURGH — Before Phil Kessel scored another huge postseason goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night he was getting plenty of attention for a very different reason.

Specifically, for what appeared to be a heated exchange on the bench with linemate Evgeni Malkin.

It was, without question, one of the biggest talking points after the game. Even more than Kessel’s goal. Even more than the Penguins’ ability to scratch out a 1-0 win while losing two more players (Justin Schultz and Bryan Rust) to injury early in the first period while already playing without Kris Letang, Patric Hornqvist and Trevor Daley. Even more than Marc-Andre Fleury‘s shutout.

It was all Kessel and Malkin, all the time.

Every member of the Penguins that was asked about it completely downplayed it as one of those things that happens during the course of an intense, emotional game.

Especially when it comes to Kessel.

Said defenseman Ron Hainsey, “I’m sure he yelled at me at one point. He wanted the puck back. I think. You can’t really hear him out there.”

Chris Kunitz, the third member of that line, seemed to be laughing on the bench as the exchange took place next to him.

He was asked about that after the game, saying “Lots of things amuse me out there,” while also adding that “Phil is always talking. He just always wants the puck.”

But there was nobody that was more vocal about shooting down the “controversy” than Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. And he seemed to get more and more annoyed with each question, at one point finally saying “I think there are too many cameras on the bench.”

“I think you guys take things out of context,” snapped Sullivan. “You have no idea what conversation goes on on the bench. It’s an emotional game out there. They are heated. They are heated for all the right reasons. It is because they are invested. They want to win.

“Phil is an emotional guy, when he comes back to the bench, and he wants a pass, and he doesn’t get it, he lets a guy know. I have no problem with that. I don’t think our team has any problem with that. I think that is how we make progress, that is how we come together as a team, I think it brings energy to our bench and for me that is a good thing. It tells me we have a bunch of guys that are invested and want to win.”

Still, the conversation did not go away and Sullivan again had to keep talking about it.

“We encourage it,” said Sullivan. “First and foremost. we are encouraging our players to talk to one another. That is a good thing. I think communication is healthy. We are playing a game that is emotional. Sometimes a conversation can get a little heated.”

Sullivan insisted that he and his coaching staff are tuned in to the conversations taking place in front of them and know when they have to step in.

“Trust me when I tell you this, our coaching staff is very well aware of what is happening,” said Sullivan. “We monitor everything. We are tuned into the conversations in front of us. We believe they are productive. If we think they are not, or a distraction, that is usually one of us steps in. And these guys are respectful. They get it. They understand it. They are a mature group. They move by it.”

From there, he went on to talk about how it is not only something he is willing to accept and encourage, but how that type of emotion is an essential ingredient for a winning team.

“I think it’s hard to win and be ultra competitive with the absence of emotion,” said Sullivan.

“I think emotion is the fabric of our game. I think that is part of what makes our game as great as it is. As a coaching staff we don’t want to discourage that, we want to encourage that as long as it is channeled the right way. Let’s make sure we keep it above the line and that it’s productive. But I think it gives our team personality and that is what makes our team productive.”

Kessel’s goal on Monday was his sixth of the playoffs and allowed him to maintain his point-per-game average this postseason.

Since joining the Penguins before the start of the 2015-16 he has 36 points in 38 playoff games. Malkin is the only player on the team that has recorded more during the past two postseasons.

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.”