Cam Tucker

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Frustrating times in Florida for struggling Panthers

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After making the playoffs last season and a busy offseason with many important personnel moves, the Florida Panthers entered the 2016-17 campaign with much higher expectations.

But this season has been one giant and constant struggle for the Panthers.

Jonathan Huberdeau hasn’t even played a game because of an injury in pre-season. Aleksander Barkov has been out for a month and the timeline for both key players remains murky. Injuries have plagued this team for months.

They’ve gone through a coaching change and the subsequent controversy following the dismissal of Gerard Gallant.

So after all of that, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that putting results together on a consistent basis has been a difficult, if not impossible task. Despite the plethora of circumstances that have factored into Florida’s disappointing first half, the Panthers are still right there. Still right in the thick of a post-season race in the Eastern Conference.

“I think frustration is probably the main thing going through all of our heads in Florida right now and the more frustrated you get the more it kind of spirals downhill,” Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck told the Sun Sentinel following Sunday’s All-Star Game in L.A.

“It’s something we got to knock out of our heads. We’ll use this All-Star break, and we got a bye coming up, so use these two to kind of clear our heads.’’

The Panthers are just four points back of Philadelphia for the final wild card position, and four points back of Boston in the Atlantic Division. With 32 games left in their season, there is still time, plenty of it, in fact, to climb the standings. They entered the break on a winning note, but had previously dropped all four games on a Western road trip.

The All-Star weekend is over and the Panthers will resume their schedule at home against the Ottawa Senators, an Atlantic Division foe, on Tuesday.

Blackhawks place Rozsival on IR, recall Forsling from AHL

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Gustav Forsling is back in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The 20-year-old defenseman originally made the big club out of training camp but was then sent to Rockford in the AHL earlier this month. He was recalled on Sunday. In a corresponding move, Chicago placed forward Michal Rozsival on injured reserve retroactive to Jan. 25.

Per the Chicago Sun-Times, the injury to Rozsival occurred during practice.

In 14 games this season, the 38-year-old Rozsival has just one assist.

Forsling, originally a draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks before he was dealt to Chicago, has played 32 games for the Blackhawks this season.

After making a strong impression on the coaching staff during training camp, he went on to score one goal and four points with the Blackhawks before being sent down.

The Blackhawks are four points back of Minnesota for the Central Division lead. They visit the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

Wayne Simmonds is your All-Star Game MVP

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Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers has captured the NHL All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award.

Originally drafted by the L.A. Kings, Simmonds wins the award in the same city and arena where his NHL career started. In Philly, he has blossomed into an impact power forward for the Flyers and there is the potential for this season to be his most productive. He’s up to 21 goals and 38 points this season.

Simmonds scored twice in the Metropolitan Division’s win over the Atlantic Division to reach the final, putting himself at least into the conversation for the MVP award.

Against Connor McDavid and the stars of the Pacific Division, Simmonds scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the second half of the main event Sunday. The Metropolitan, with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, won 4-3 to earn the $1 million grand prize. 

Simmonds buried a perfect pass from Taylor Hall, who immediately broke into the zone from the faceoff following the Cam Atkinson tying goal.

Sid the Kid to the Great Eight: Crosby sets up Ovechkin

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The typical discussion is usually Sidney Crosby versus Alex Ovechkin.

On Sunday, it was Sidney Crosby to Alex Ovechkin.

The two superstars, often in the middle of an intense debate about who is the best player in the game, will get back to their Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals rivalry in due time. But for one day, they suited up and played on the same line for the Metropolitan Division in Sunday’s All-Star Game in L.A.

Crosby set up Ovechkin — Sid the Kid to the Great Eight — with one second remaining in the second half of their game versus the Atlantic Division.

The Metropolitan’s victory now sets up a Sidney Crosby versus Connor McDavid match-up in the final, with $1 million in prize money on the line.

Not even close: The Pacific Division will play for the All-Star Game title

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Connor McDavid scored his first career NHL All-Star Game goal. Johnny Gaudreau had a team-high two goals. And the Pacific Division stars will have a chance to play for $1 million later today in L.A.

The Pacific Division got off to a quick start and never relented in a very, very lopsided 10-3 victory over the Central Division in the first three-on-three game Sunday. They’ll play the winner of the Metropolitan Division-Atlantic Division game immediately after.

Poor Corey Crawford, right?

He faced numerous odd-man rushes, breakaways and two-on-oh chances in the first half of the opener. By the time his 10 minutes were up, the Pacific had a commanding 5-1 lead and it could’ve been much worse.

Cam Fowler started the scoring — fans with allegiances to the host L.A. Kings might’ve been conflicted about that one — before Jeff Carter, McDavid, Brent Burns and Drew Doughty piled on for the Pacific in the first half.

It’s hard to narrow down a list of possible MVP candidates after a game that one-sided, but the list would have to include Fowler (four points), Carter, Doughty, Gaudreau and McDavid, who each had three points.

We all know McDavid is fast. Scary fast. But that’s not restricted to his skating. He displayed his quick hands to restore the Pacific’s two-goal lead.

The onslaught continued from there. Come to think of it: Poor Devan Dubnyk, too, right?