Penguins hold off late Sens’ surge to win Game 4

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A pair of unlikely sources provided scoring for the Penguins on Friday, as they evened the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators at two games apiece.

Earlier in the day, coach Mike Sullivan made his decision to start Matt Murray in place of Marc-Andre Fleury. It was a move certainly open to debate but what was more pressing for the Penguins was a need to regain their ability to score goals. They had fallen behind in the series and had only three goals through its first three games.

Credit to the Senators for their tight checking and defensive trap, which helped neutralize Pittsburgh’s speed and offensive capabilities. Hoping to avoid moving within one loss of elimination, the Penguins were able to solve the Senators and Craig Anderson before just barely holding on for a 3-2 victory in Ottawa.

Sidney Crosby scored Pittsburgh’s second goal and had an assist. He also led his team in shots on goal, but is obviously not the unlikely source for scoring. That title on Friday belonged to both Olli Maatta and Brian Dumoulin, who each scored their first goals, respectively, of these playoffs.

Maatta went short side on Anderson, who was cheating to the middle of the crease, and Dumoulin’s shot from the point deflected in off the skate of Ottawa defender Dion Phaneuf. Suddenly, the Penguins had matched their total offensive output from the three previous games.

For the Penguins, it’s a step in the right direction.

“I saw a lot of urgency on the part of the opponent, which was to be expected. You know, Stanley Cup champions, and they bounce back in every series. So that was to be expected,” said Senators coach Guy Boucher.

“I found that we fumbled a lot of pucks, and we didn’t look sharp at all in the first two periods.”

The Senators made a game of it, reducing Pittsburgh’s lead to just one goal late in the third period. But they couldn’t complete the comeback, failing to convert on a late power play despite a flurry of chances off the stick of Erik Karlsson after the Penguins were called for too many men on the ice with 34.3 seconds remaining.

The Penguins won this game while playing the majority of it with five defensemen.

Yes, more injury concern for the blue line.

Chad Ruhwedel left the game and didn’t return after he was hit into the boards by Ottawa forward Bobby Ryan in the final seconds of the first period.

The Penguins began this game already without defensemen Kris Letang (who hasn’t played in these playoffs) and Justin Schultz.

Murray made 24 saves for the win.

Game 5 goes Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Looks like Coyotes dodged a bullet with Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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The Arizona Coyotes’ defense really rose up the NHL ranks during this summer, but how impressive would that group look with star Oliver Ekman-Larsson out of the lineup?

There was fear that another Coyotes young blueliner would face a setback as far as knee injuries go, yet the news seems positive for “OEL.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka considers him day-to-day with a knee injury, and it doesn’t sound like there’s any structural damage.

No kidding.

In other Coyotes news, the team made Pierre-Olivier Joseph (the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft) one of their training camp cuts. So not all good news for prominent Coyotes with hyphenated names, although you could argue that POJ(?) might be better off receiving additional seasoning.

Donald Trump tweets about Penguins’ White House visit

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Earlier today, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they would accept an invitation to visit the White House. You can read all about that here, including the Penguins’ brief statement on the matter.

On a day in which NFL teams are drawing attention for how players (and owners) are acting during the national anthem, Donald Trump took a moment to confirm the Penguins’ visit, and also to praise them on Twitter.

Trump issued this tweet on the matter:

This came about four minutes after he addressed the NFL once again, finishing with this tweet:

While NHL players haven’t been as outspoken as athletes in other sports, there have been some reactions to Colin Kaepernick and the situation as a whole.

A year ago, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said he would bench a player who sits during the anthem, something Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones stated was not a problem. Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown, however, did have an issue with Tortorella’s stance.

Of course, those comments surfaced about a year ago, so it’s plausible one or more of those opinions might be different, in either large or small ways, as of today.

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler (one of the standouts of the 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s team) criticized Trump on Twitter last night:

The 2017-18 regular season kicks off on Oct. 4, so we’ll see if there are any larger protests or statements from teams and/or players.

For more on how this situation is playing out with other sports, check Pro Football Talk (including this post), Pro Basketball Talk (Mark Cuban’s comments are the latest there), Hardball Talk (noting that Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem), and other sites under the NBC umbrella.

Bruised Blues: Add Robby Fabbri to a worrisome list for St. Louis

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It sure looks like the St. Louis Blues are going to limp into the 2017-18 season (sometimes literally).

The team announced that promising young forward Robby Fabbri will miss the remainder of training camp after injuring his surgically repaired left knee. The Blues say that they will re-evaluate Fabbri, 21, in 10 days.

It’s difficult to say how bad this issue is, but knee injuries – particularly involving knees that are already problems for athletes – can be tricky.

Even if this is a mere short-term setback, it’s staggering how long the Blues’ injury list is even before their season-opener.

Alex Steen was ruled out of training camp (and possibly beyond) just days ago because of a hand injury. Zach Sanford‘s push toward being an NHL regular is on hold thanks to being sidelined for multiple months with a shoulder issue, while a fractured ankle puts Jay Bouwmeester‘s 2017-18 season in some question, too. (More on Sanford and Bouwmeester here.)

Patrik Berglund might not be back until late 2017 or even into 2018 with his own shoulder issues.

While such injuries open up opportunities for younger players to make even temporary jumps, it’s tough to stomach as Mike Yeo preps for his first full season behind the Blues bench.

In Fabbri’s case, this is a considerable disappointment, as he was starting to show the zip at the NHL level that’s made him such a prolific scorer in the OHL. Here’s hoping he gets over these issues, as considering his size, a significant loss in speed could be a serious problem for Fabbri.

Coyotes want to retire Shane Doan’s number in the future

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After more than two decades the Arizona Coyotes and Shane Doan parted ways this offseason, ultimately resulting in the 40-year-old forward retiring from the league.

The decision to part ways with Doan was part of a massive overhaul that dramatically changed the outlook of the team, ending a lengthy chapter in its history.

The Coyotes would eventually like to honor Doan by retiring his number “at a time that is right for him.”

That is what team owner Andrew Barroway said at a Coyotes’ town hall meeting, via Sarah McLellan.

“The relationship with Shane Doan has improved,” Barroway said. “We’ve reached out. We’ve spoken with Shane. Everyone loves him. He’s a class act, great guy.”

There are no plans for any sort of an official announcement this season, but Barroway said the Coyotes will revisit it next summer.

Doan spent is entire career playing for the Coyotes organization dating back to its days in Winnipeg (he played one season with the original Jets). During his career he appeared in 1,540 regular season games, scoring 402 goals, 570 assists and 972 total points. He is the team’s all-time leader in games played, goals, assists, total points, even strength goals, power play goals, and shots on goal.