With Kesler on the mend, Ducks need more from Rakell

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) The Anaheim Ducks have stayed the course, even as a second Stanley Cup title has eluded them.

They have stuck with their core players, staying true to a philosophy of building from within and only adding via trade or free agency without making undue sacrifices of future flexibility. It is an approach the Ducks believe will be rewarded, perhaps as soon as next spring.

The Ducks won another division title last season and outlasted the surging Edmonton Oilers in a fantastic seven-game series before falling to the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference final. Injuries decimated the Ducks as they lost in six games, playing without top goal-scorer Rickard Rakell and midseason addition Patrick Eaves, while others dealt with the usual postseason bumps and bruises.

Those sorts of ailments would seem to be the only thing that can keep the Ducks from reaching the playoffs for the sixth straight year. Center Ryan Kesler could be sidelined until January because of hip surgery, though it didn’t impact his sense of humor during the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, where he joked that he would abscond with the motorized scooter Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson was using to get around after his own offseason medical procedure.

“It’s going to take a while,” Kesler said in June. “It sucks, but it had to be done. It was a struggle all year.”

With Kesler out, Rakell has been working at center in training camp. The Swede scored a career-high 33 goals last season but the hope is that featuring him as more of a playmaker can offset the loss of Kesler’s offensive production. As for Kesler’s ability to frustrate the opposition’s top line, there are few players in the sport capable of so consistently mucking things up.

Rakell hasn’t exactly been gung-ho about the switch, preferring to play alongside captain Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf had 73 points last season, notching a point in 17 of the Ducks’ final 22 regular-season games, and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

“He’s got to get over the personal view of it that he wants to play with Ryan Getzlaf. So do I, if I was player, but that’s just not the way it’s going to be right now,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “We don’t have that luxury.”

Still, the mix of rising talents like Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg and established veterans Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Andrew Cogliano could vindicate the Ducks’ calm and cautiousness.

Here are more things to know about the Ducks:

DEFENDERS DOWN: D Hampus Lindholm (shoulder) and Sami Vatanen (shoulder) could miss the first month of the season as they recover from offseason surgeries. However, the Ducks have plenty of options until they return. Francois Beauchemin, who spent nine years with the Ducks in two previous stints, is back for a third go-round. Brandon Montour came up big in the playoffs as a rookie. And Cam Fowler will get more opportunities to justify the eight-year, $52 million extension he inked in July.

MILLER TIME: After three seasons in Vancouver, G Ryan Miller signed a two-year deal with the Ducks to back up John Gibson. At age 36, Miller started 54 games and allowed 2.80 goals with a .914 save percentage, and should be more effective as a spot starter with an upgraded supporting cast. Gibson started a career-high 49 games last season, and then manned the net for 16 playoff games.

LEAVING MONEY IN VEGAS: The Ducks got the Vegas Golden Knights to take D Clayton Stoner and his pricey $3.25 million cap hit in the expansion draft, helping give them the flexibility to re-sign Eaves on a three-year contract. The man with the mighty beard scored 11 goals in 20 regular-season games after being acquired from the Dallas Stars in a trade, and added two goals and two assists in seven playoff games before being hampered by a high-ankle sprain. But the Ducks had to give up promising D Shea Theodore to get the Knights to take Stoner and pass on one of the many other youngsters on the roster.

PACIFIC POWERS: The streak of nine consecutive division titles by the Colorado Avalanche, including one from their final season as the Quebec Nordiques, seems unlikely to ever be matched in the salary-cap era. But the Ducks are making a solid push, having won the Pacific Division five years in a row.

For more AP NHL coverage:

The Buzzer: Kopitar scores four, McDavid’s four-point night and Olczyk cancer-free

Associated Press
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Players of the Night:

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Two words: career night. Kopitar scored four goals, becoming the first Kings player in 25 years to do so, and thus, setting his own career-high in the process. The Kings decimated the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 in the process.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: Bobrovsky made 33 saves en route to a shutout victory, the Blue Jackets’ 10th in a row in a 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers, who have been red-hot themselves.

Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals: Grubauer has been solid in relief of Braden Holtby down the stretch as the Capitals’ No. 1 gets some rest before a playoff push. He won his fourth start out of his past five since March 10, stopping all 39 shots that came his way in the shutout.

Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: He’s not playing for a playoff spot, and he shouldn’t get too many votes for the Hart Trophy. But McDavid still has his eyes set on Mr. Art Ross. McDavid had two goals and two assists in a 6-2 win for the Oilers over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. McDavid’s 94 points  (36 goals, 58 assists) are now just one shy of Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead.

Highlights of the Night:

Above all else, this:

Hard work pays off:

Kopitar’s fourth:

Not everything is pretty when it comes to the Canucks. This is though:

Factoids of the Night:

Things you don’t see very often:

Poor Cam Ward:


Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 0

Hurricanes 6, Coyotes 5

Flyers 4, Rangers 3

Lightning 7, Islanders 6

Capitals 1, Red Wings 0

Maple Leafs 5, Predators 2

Oilers 6, Senators 2

Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

Kings 7, Avalanche 1

Sharks 2, Golden Knights 1 (OT)

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sharks drop Golden Knights 2-1 in overtime

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If the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s fixing to be one hell of a series,

Thursday’s meeting cemented that. The game had all the ingredients that make up that playoff feel — tight play, tight checking, great goaltending and low scoring. There was urgency from both teams, despite both being near locks to make the postseason.

And it came right down to the last shot of the game.

Logan Couture scored 39 seconds (ironically, Couture’s jersey number) into overtime to clinch a 2-1 win for the Sharks on Thursday night.

The Sharks gained a single point on the Golden Knights and are seven points back of Vegas for first in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining. Perhaps most important, they remained four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings, who leapfrogged the Anaheim Ducks with a 7-1 win against Colorado. San Jose owns a game in hand on L.A.

Catching up to Vegas seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. The two teams play each other for the last time next week.

The loss was bittersweet for the Golden Knights, who set record No. 2321778 for a club in their inaugural season.

Malcolm Subban made 42 saves, a career-high after being thrust into action following an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury.

Tomas Tartar got the ball rolling in the game 3:47 into the first period to give the Golden Knights an early lead.

That lead lasted for roughly a period.

Brent Burns tied the game 1-1 at 3:27 of the second period with the slickest of wrist shots from the point.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Eddie Olczyk declares he’s cancer-free


It’s the news every hockey fan wanted to hear.

On Thursday night’s Chicago Blackhawks broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago, Eddie Olczyk, who was diagnosed last summer with colon cancer, told the hockey world some great news.

“I got the call on March 14 at 5:07 p.m. letting me know my scans were clear,” an emotional Olczyk said as he stood next to long-time broadcast partner Pat Foley. “I’ve never heard a better phrase in my life. I’m now 10 days on with the rest of my life.”

Olczyk, 51, had surgery after his diagnosis and had his last chemotherapy treatment on Feb. 21.

“All the cancer is gone – we beat this thing,” Olczyk said, thanking a handful of people, from colleagues at NBC to the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL to his family members, wife and four kids. “And I say ‘we’ because it has been a team effort. We all beat this and I’m so thankful for all the support and prayers. They worked. I’m proud to stand here before everybody and say we beat this thing.”

Foley called Olczyk’s battle with cancer, “heroic.”

Olczyk was scheduled to have a scan in April to see how his chemo treatments had gone, but that scan was moved up due to emergency hernia surgery, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“I’ve had enough crying to last me a lifetime,” Olczyk said. “I can’t emphasize enough just the support out there… just the texts, the email, the letters. I’ve received thousands and thousands of mail. I won’t be able to thank everybody, but I just want everybody to know on behalf of Eddie Olczyk and his family, we’re forever grateful for the support and the prayers and well wishes we received over the past seven months.”

Olczyk said one thing he realized through his battle is that he found out he was way tougher than he thought he ever was.

“If I can inspire one person to stay away from this, then I guess it was well worth it going through it,” he said.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings

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If you were looking for a barn-burner, this game wasn’t that.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders combined for 13 goals, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes scored 11 in total, the Washington Capitals and their hosts, the Detroit Red Wings, played 60 minutes with just one goal between them.

It wasn’t nearly as exciting in the goal-scoring department, but the win for the Washington Capitals put a bit of separation between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, who the Caps (93 points) lead by four points now.

Brett Conolly’s third-period marker at 6:41 was all the Capitals needed for their

Andreas Athanasiou appeared to make it 1-0 in the first period on a nice wrister, but a goaltender interference challenge by Washington was successful after Tyler Bertuzzi was judged to have made contact with Grubauer. This one was pretty cut and dry, as far as GI calls go.

The loss for the Red Wings meant they were officially eliminated from playoff contention, something that had been known for a while but hadn’t happened in the mathematical department.

Grubauer was solid, making 39 saves for his third shutout of the season. At the other end of the rink, Jimmy Howard wasn’t too shabby either, stopping 25-of-26. All he needed was a bit of run support.

Prior to puck drop, the Red Wings announced that defenseman Mike Green, who was hampered by a neck injury back in February, will go under the knife, ending his season.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck