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Detroit and Tampa affiliates meet again in Calder Cup Final

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For the second time in four years, the Syracuse Crunch and Grand Rapids Griffins will battle for the AHL championship.

The 2017 Calder Cup Final gets underway tonight in Grand Rapids, and it promises to be an engaging affair.

Why? Well based on history, the series could be a jumping off point for a number of NHLers.

Four years ago, the Rapids defeated the Crunch four games to two to capture the first Calder Cup in franchise history. Here’s a list of the now-notable players that appeared in those playoffs.

Grand Rapids: Gustav Nyquist, Petr Mrazek, Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco.

Syracuse: Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas, Brett Connolly, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Andrej Sustr, Mark Barberio.

Now, granted, Tampa and Detroit are two of the more — how should we put this — AHL-enthusiastic clubs in the league. Detroit is renowned for letting its prospects spend extensive time in the minors, while Tampa’s had tremendous success transitioning individuals from the AHL, including current head coach Jon Cooper.

So, who to keep an eye on this year?

In terms of prospects, 22-year-old Grand Rapids forward Tyler Bertuzzi — the 58th overall pick in 2013 — has enjoyed a breakout postseason. He’s scored 13 points in 13 games and, according to Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill, will be gunning for a spot in Detroit next season.

The same can be said of Evgeni Svechnikov, the club’s first-round pick in 2015. He’s been close to a point-per-game player as well, with 11 in 13 contests.

For the Crunch, 23-year-old Matthew Peca — who made his NHL debut earlier this year — has been terrific, with 12 points in 16 games. Ben Thomas, the defenseman taken in the fourth round in 2014, has been solid in his rookie campaign and sits second among d-men in scoring.

Here’s the entire Calder Cup Final schedule:

Game 1: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Friday, June 2

Game 2: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 3

Game 3: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7

Game 4: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Friday, June 9

Game 5: at Syracuse, 7 p.m. Saturday, June 10 (if necessary)

Game 6: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 13 (if necessary)

Game 7: at Grand Rapids, 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 14 (if necessary)

Canucks name new head coach of AHL affiliate

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The Vancouver Canucks have finally settled on a head coach for their AHL affiliate.

Today, Trent Cull was named new bench boss of the Utica Comets.

Cull replaces Travis Green, the new head coach of the Canucks.

“Trent is a passionate head coach with significant AHL experience,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in a release. “He understands the development path of a young player, including the challenges they face, and has been a part of many successful organizations. Trent is a teacher with a positive, energetic work ethic. We’re excited to welcome him and his family to our organization.”

The past four seasons, Cull has been an assistant coach for AHL Syracuse. The Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final, where they lost to Grand Rapids.

Cull, 43, has never been a head coach in the AHL, though he did hold that role for three years with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves from 2010-13.

It’s believed the Canucks’ first choice for the Utica job was Rocky Thompson. However, Thompson chose instead to become head coach of Vegas’ AHL affiliate in Chicago.

Construction worker dies after fall at Detroit arena

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DETROIT (AP) A worker has died after falling 75 feet at the Little Caesars Arena worksite north of downtown Detroit.

Deputy Detroit Fire Commissioner David Fornell says the 46-year-old man was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Other workers had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation which first responders continued. The man was taken to a Detroit hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Fornell says officials were told the man was an electrical worker and may have fallen from a catwalk. He says the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration likely will investigate.

The arena will be home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons. It is scheduled to open this fall.

More on the story from the Detroit Free Press

Habs extend De La Rose — one year, $725,000

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Montreal secured some forward depth on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Jacob De La Rose.

De La Rose, 22, was taken 34th overall at the 2013 draft and has appeared in 64 games for Montreal over the last three seasons. He had a nice debut for the club in ’14-15 — appearing in 33 regular-season contests, and 12 playoff games — but has since spent the majority of his time in AHL St. John’s.

That might not be the case moving forward, however.

De La Rose’s deal is worth $725,000 (per TSN) and, importantly, is of the one-way variety. There could be more opportunities at forward next season. Montreal has already said it’ll pass on bringing back UFAs Brian Flynn and Dwight King, and it’s unclear if the club will get a deal done with Alexander Radulov.

It’s also unclear what GM Marc Bergevin plans to do with Alex Galchenyuk, who’s been the subject of numerous trade rumors.

Even after bad season in Buffalo, Kulikov generating strong interest as UFA

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Dmitry Kulikov had a bad season in Buffalo. There’s no debating that.

Not only did the defenseman struggle statistically, finishing minus-26 with just two goals and three assists, he also had trouble staying healthy, appearing in just 47 games for the Sabres.

But despite all that, Kulikov seems to be generating plenty of interest as an unrestricted free agent. Presumably, the hope among his many suitors is that he can bounce back, so long as he’s put in a better situation.

Kulikov is still just 26. And before he was traded to Buffalo a year ago, he’d had a number of respectable seasons with the Florida Panthers.

It’s why the Sabres were so happy to get him.

“He’s a good player,” then-GM Tim Murray said last June, per NHL.com. “I like guys that are honest, I like guys that are hard to play against, I certainly like guys that can make a tape-to-tape pass, and with our forwards, I think if he can make a tape-to-tape pass, good things are going to happen in transition with the skill and speed we already have here, so he’s just a great fit.”

Of course, it wasn’t a great fit, and Murray is no longer the GM.

As for Kulikov, there’s “about a dozen” interested teams, according to his agent. Ottawa and Winnipeg are believed to be among them.