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Habs prospect Reway: ‘It’s going to be difficult’ in comeback from heart condition

BROSSARD, Quebec (AP) Martin Reway was happy just to be on the ice with other prospects when the Montreal Canadiens opened rookie camp Thursday.

The 22-year-old Slovak missed a full season recovering from a heart problem, setting back the development of one of the most gifted players in the Canadiens’ system.

Reway would not say exactly what the illness was, other than it was a virus that put him in hospital for a month and required most of a year to overcome.

“After a long time, it’s a great opportunity for me to be back,” the 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward said. “I know it’s going to be difficult to get on track again but I’m working hard in practice here, trying to get better and I’m hoping it’s going to go as quickly as possible.”

The Canadiens are just as anxious to see what effect a year off has had on Reway, who dazzled while leading underdog Slovakia to a bronze medal at the 2015 world junior championship.

He was drafted in the fourth round in 2013, while he was putting up 112 points in 90 games over two seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He later played for Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic and had a short stint with Fribourg in Switzerland before falling ill.

Doctors found a problem during a routine checkup a week before Reway was to leave for the Canadiens’ rookie camp last summer.

“I didn’t feel well so they kept me there and found out I had a serious problem with the heart, so I had to rest,” he said. “I had high fever. It happened so quickly I don’t know. I wasn’t able to do any workouts or any movements in the first three or four months. When you’re a hockey player, you know how hard it is to stop doing what you love. I had to rest up for a bit. But when you come back, you’re more excited, I think.”

Reway spent the season resting and resuming the economics studies he’d let slide when he joined Gatineau. He described his year as a “bore,” adding “I hope I’m not going to have to study any more because I’m not interested. I spent more time with my family. That was the positive part of the virus.”

Now he wants to make up for lost time. Reway received the green light by Canadiens doctors to resume skating five weeks ago and was working out with a Slovak team before heading to camp.

On the first day, he didn’t look up to full speed but said his fitness will come gradually. He’s to take part in the main camp next week. It would be a longshot for him to make the NHL club this season, so he’s expected to begin the season with team’s AHL affiliate, which starting this season will be based nearby in Laval.

“I was surprised that my hands weren’t as bad as I expected,” he said. “Obviously, the legs, the cardio, weren’t that good, but that’s understandable after a year of not playing.

“Now I think it’s getting better every day that I’m on the ice. I believed all the time that I was going to come back. Sometimes in life, the things that happen to you, you can’t change. You have to fight it. I’m really happy I came through. It’s a good experience for me and I hope nobody’s going to see the difference.”

Reway said no longer needs to take medication and is confident there should be no further problems with his heart.

Reway was among 23 prospects in camp. They leave Friday for a rookie tournament in Toronto against Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators hopefuls.

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    Erixon will attend Devils training camp on a PTO

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    After spending the last two seasons in the American Hockey League, Tim Erixon will be given a chance to crack an NHL lineup for this season.

    The 26-year-old defenseman has been signed to a professional tryout and will attend training camp with the New Jersey Devils, the team announced Thursday.

    Selected 23rd overall by the Calgary Flames in 2009, Erixon has yet to make the leap to the NHL on a full-time basis. He played with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for each of the last two years, scoring four goals and 17 points in 54 games this past season.

    The Devils have added Mirco Mueller and college free agent Will Butcher to their defensive unit for the upcoming season. However, 23-year-old blue liner and restricted free agent Damon Severson remains without a contract, with training camps set to open next week.

    Erixon has played in 93 career NHL games, with stops in New York, Columbus, Chicago and Toronto.

     

    Sidney Crosby hangs with rookies as Penguins prep for Cup defense

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    CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) Sidney Crosby likes his summers short. Really short. Short summers for Crosby means long playoff runs for the Pittsburgh Penguins, ones that usually end with parades through the city in mid-June, the Penguins captain holding the Stanley Cup aloft.

    There is no other feeling like it. So the question isn’t why would Crosby want to cut the celebration short, but why would he want to put off starting the process all over again?

    So just 88 days after Pittsburgh closed out Nashville in six games to become the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, Crosby found himself out on the ice with assorted prospects, many of whom have little chance of making it to the NHL this season.

    That didn’t stop Crosby and his familiar No. 87 jersey serving as perhaps the most decorated “welcome wagon” in professional sports. For the better part of an hour the face of the game skated with the newcomers. Later in the afternoon the more established players went through a workout of their own, well aware of the message Crosby’s appearance in the building earlier in the day sent.

    “I think that’s where it starts with this team,” said forward Carl Hagelin after a voluntary workout. “Any new guy that comes up or any new guy that gets traded here, they get treated extremely well by Sid first of all and then the organization. You kind of follow his lead. There’s a good culture within this locker room and within this organization. When you get here, you’ve got to follow or you’re going to get left behind.”

    Crosby makes it a point to be the first one to extend a hand, even though it can make for occasionally awkward moments, particularly for players like forward Ryan Reaves. The Penguins acquired Reaves from St. Louis over the summer looking to give their lineup a physical presence. The issue, of course, is that part of Reaves’ responsibilities during his time in St. Louis was making Crosby as uncomfortable as possible whenever the two teams met.

    “I would say me and Sid’s relationship before this was rocky,” Reaves said with a laugh. “But I don’t know many people that like me on the ice though. But we’ve hung out a couple times. Really nice guy for sure.”

    Reaves joined some of his new teammates in a fantasy football draft over the weekend. Reaves believes he has an eye for talent. He also has an eye for leadership. He wasn’t exactly surprised when he arrived at the rink and Crosby was already out there working with kids who may never actually play alongside him.

    “That’s why he’s the best in the world,” Reaves said. “He does things like that and he makes the younger guys better and he pushes everybody to be the best. He’s the best in the world for a reason.”

    One intent on guiding the Penguins to a third consecutive Cup, something that hasn’t been done since the New York Islanders ripped off four straight in the early 1980s, long before the salary cap came around, a move designed to level the playing field both financially and competitively. It didn’t look like that last spring as the Penguins raced by Columbus, outlasted Washington and Ottawa then pulled away from the upstart Predators in the final.

    “Last year everyone said it was impossible to do, winning two in a row,” said Hagelin, whose empty-net goal in the final seconds of Game 6 quieted the “Smashville” crowd and clinched Pittsburgh’s fifth Cup. “Everyone is going to come after you. Now we’re used to that and we’re expecting the same thing this year. There’s going to be no surprises this year obviously.”

    Doing it means enduring training camp, a six-month regular season followed by eight more weeks in the crucible of playoff hockey. The Penguins were supposed to be too tired from the Cup run in 2016 to do it again. And yet they did. As the official opening of camp looms, the lure of history is giving even established players like Hagelin a dose of adrenaline.

    “Usually this time of year, you have such a short summer, maybe you’re kind of dreading it a little bit,” Hagelin said.

    Not Hagelin. He missed a chunk of the regular season and the playoffs with injuries but returned in time to make an impact in the final, his legs a blur as he sped away from the Predators to flip in the goal that secured his name on the Cup for a second time.

    “Focusing on coming out and getting a good start, that’s usually the tough part, to have every guy on the same page in the beginning of the year to really dig down and make sure you win those games,” he said. “That’s our goal. After that we just keep playing and keep getting better, that’s the type of team we’re trying to be.”

     

    Report: Blackhawks sign Franson to PTO

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    Two years ago, Cody Franson didn’t get a contract signed until Sept. 10,  finally inking a deal with the Buffalo Sabres.

    On Thursday, with the summer once again almost completely over and one week remaining until training camps open up, the 30-year-old defenseman signed a professional tryout with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, which added that Franson turned down offers from other clubs in favor of this opportunity with the Blackhawks.

    Playing on a two-year deal worth a total of $6.65 million for the Sabres, Franson had three goals and 19 points in Buffalo last season. He had 17 points the previous season.

    With the losses of Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Johnny Oduya, there has been significant change to the Blackhawks blue line throughout this offseason.

    That said, there will be competition for spots on defense.

    Prospect Gustav Forsling looks to maintain a full-time position on the roster after impressing during camp and splitting his time last season between the NHL and the minors. Same goes for Jan Rutta, who has spent the last few years playing professionally in the Czech Republic before he made the decision to come to North America.  He signed with Chicago in June.

    Parros to crack down on slashing, will seek supplemental discipline for certain incidents

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    NHL commissioner Gary Bettman vowed this summer that the league would crack down on slashes this upcoming season after a rash of incidents occurred in 2016-17.

    On Thursday, George Parros, the newly appointed senior vice-president of the Department of Player Safety, echoed support for that initiative, while stating he wants longer suspensions for players that commit non-hockey infractions, according to a report from NHL.com.

    From NHL.com:

    “I’ve always thought that they could have been a bit harsher on certain plays that I felt where clearly someone intended to do something that was away from the play, had nothing to do with the game and no benefit other than to disable or hurt a person,” Parros said. “Just trying to go a little bit harder on those, because I felt it’s been soft in some instances.”

    Slashing will be a point of emphasis for the referees this season. It is common, and not every slash will result in supplemental discipline. But Player Safety will address serious incidents and look for patterns with individual players and within the League.

    “If they seem to be intentful or directed at the fingers and hands with greater force, we’re going to be looking to do something — fines, suspensions, whatever it might be,” Parros said. “We’re going to try to change player behavior.”

    As the report pointed out, slashing is a common occurrence throughout the course of the game and it would be difficult — if not impossible — to find a player that has never delivered a whack to the back of the legs or to the hands and fingers of an opponent.

    But there were a number of incidents last season that put the act of slashing under intensified public scrutiny. Sidney Crosby shattered the finger of Marc Methot with a slash to the hand and didn’t receive any supplemental discipline, much to the frustration of the Ottawa Senators. Methot was forced to miss the remainder of the regular season due to the gruesome injury suffered from the incident, but he did return for the first round against the Boston Bruins.

    Calgary’s star scorer Johnny Gaudreau missed time earlier in the season due to a finger injury, which, the Flames allege, occurred on a slash from Eric Staal.

    “It’s an unfortunate circumstance,” said Flames forward Troy Brouwer at the time. “I know in my game I give a lot of top players good whacks and stuff. You obviously don’t want to let it be happening to your team, but star players are going to be keyed on.

    “It’s no different than what we do (to the opposition).”