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Report: IIHF needs NHL’s Olympic decision by end of April

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The Winter Olympics are less than a year away and time is ticking on the NHL to make a decision — one way or another.

From TSN.ca:

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

For those hoping NHL players will compete in South Korea next year, the situation right now appears bleak, given the recent comments of commissioner Gary Bettman, who told Reuters that “…people should assume we are not going.”

Bettman has also argued the compressed schedule that accompanies the league’s participation in the Olympics is bad for the NHL.

Read more: Fehr: Players won’t negotiate with NHL over Olympics

Meanwhile, a number of players — Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Jakub Voracek and rising star Connor McDavid among them — have publicly lobbied for the opportunity to once again compete in the Olympics, adding that having the world’s best players there is a benefit to growing the game.

(In McDavid’s case, he has never played in the Olympics, but given his stature as arguably the league’s best player right now in only his second season, he’d be a shoe-in to make Team Canada if healthy.)

Voracek recently sounded off the matter, essentially calling the league’s position, “Absolutely ridiculous.”

Tkachuk is a ‘pretty dirty player,’ says Doughty

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The Kings lost to the Calgary Flames on Sunday, a result that is another hit to L.A.’s chances for a playoff berth.

Jonathan Quick was pulled midway through the first period after giving up a pair of goals on just seven shots and the Kings were sloppy with the puck in a 5-2 defeat.

However, one of the bigger stories to emerge from this game was an elbow thrown by Calgary rookie forward Matthew Tkachuk on Kings’ veteran defenseman Drew Doughty late in the first period.

Doughty was hurt on the play but did remain in the game.

So far, the league’s Department of Player Safety hasn’t made any announcement about any potential hearings, however Doughty certainly expressed his opinion of Tkachuk afterward.

“He’s a pretty dirty player, that kid,” said Doughty, per LA Kings Insider.

“To be a rookie and play like that is a little surprising. I don’t know exactly what happened because I got hit in the head, but I thought he elbowed me. I can’t tell you for sure, so I’m not going to really say if I think anything should happen, but whatever it was, it hurt pretty bad, and it’s going to hurt for a little bit.”

When asked about the incident, Calgary coach Glen Gulutzan naturally said he hadn’t seen a replay, but from the bench, it appeared to be what he called a “reverse hit.”

There was no call for the elbow, although Tkachuk and Derek Forbort were given roughing minors for the ensuing scrum.

Meanwhile, the Kings remain six points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with only 11 games remaining on their schedule.

Flyers rookies Konecny, Provorov factor into OT win vs. Hurricanes

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Travis Konecny tied it with 42.9 seconds left in the third period and Brayden Schenn scored 38 seconds into overtime, lifting the Philadelphia Flyers over the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 on Sunday night.

Jordan Staal scored a power-play goal with 8:11 left in the third to put Carolina ahead 3-2, but Konecny scored with Flyers goalie Steve Mason on the bench for an extra attacker, then Schenn ended it by finishing a rebound from close range.

Ivan Provorov had a goal and two assists and Dale Weise also scored for Philadelphia, which pulled within five points of idle Toronto for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia, which has 11 games remaining, would have to pass three teams for a postseason bid.

Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm also scored for Carolina, which is six points out of the playoffs. The Hurricanes have points (4-0-3) in each of their last seven games.

Konecny tied it after Provorov’s shot from the point went to the back boards. Konecny sent the puck toward the net and it deflected off Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce and past goalie Cam Ward.

Staal scored after Sebastian Aho‘s initial shot was stopped by Mason, but the rebound went right to Lindholm. He made a close-range pass to Staal, who fired it past Mason’s left pad from just outside of the crease.

Mason made 19 saves to improve to 9-4-1 in 14 games against Carolina.

Provorov opened the scoring with 57.8 seconds left in the first period with a perfectly placed wrist shot that went over Ward’s right shoulder. It was the sixth goal of the season for the rookie, who entered leading the team in ice time by averaging 21:47 per contest.

Ward, returning to the net after backup Eddie Lack played the last two, made 40 saves.

The Flyers took a 2-0 lead on Weise’s goal with 8:57 left in the second period. Konecny set it up by wheeling around to the far side of the net before sending the puck to the front of the crease. It came out to Weise, who shot high over Ward’s glove.

The Hurricanes scored the final two goals of the period to tie it at 2 heading to the third.

Skinner got his 26th of the season with 7:23 left in the period. Noah Hanifin sent a slap shot off the backboards to the other side of the net, where a wide-open Skinner beat a lunging Mason.

Lindholm extended his points streak to seven games with his ninth goal of the season with 1:04 left in the second. Phillip DiGiuseppe sent the puck to Lindholm, who fired a quick shot from the slot past Mason’s glove.

Tkachuk catches Doughty with elbow to the head

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Anxious moments for the L.A. Kings on Sunday after Drew Doughty was hit in the head with an elbow from Calgary Flames rookie Matthew Tkachuk.

The incident occurred late in the first period behind the goal line, as Doughty went to check Tkachuk, who, with his back turned to the Kings defender, threw up the left elbow, sending Doughty to the ice.

After slowly getting to his feet, Doughty did return in the second period.

Tkachuk has been productive in his freshman campaign but he also plays a sometimes nasty game, too, with 94 penalty minutes heading into this contest. In January, he, along with teammate Sam Bennett, was accused of slew-footing in a loss to Toronto.

There was no penalty for the elbow in this case, however Tkachuk and Derek Forbort each received roughing minors for the ensuing scuffle.

Early indication is this incident could get the attention of the league’s Department of Player Safety.

Snowball effect: Blackhawks rally in third period to defeat Avalanche (Updated)

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Better late than never for the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

Playing an extraordinarily bad Colorado Avalanche team, the Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 deficit to score five goals in the third period — three goals in 34 seconds and four goals in 3:02 — for a 6-3 victory.

They now lead the Central Division by seven points over the Minnesota Wild, who are in a world of trouble after a fifth straight defeat and eight losses in 10 games this month.

That said, there was certainly some controversy with Chicago’s second goal as it appeared Jonathan Toews was offside on the rush about 17 seconds before the goal was actually scored. Colorado coach Jared Bednar challenged the play, and even television commentators were pretty much resigned to the goal being disallowed based on the review, but the goal stood.

Here’s the explanation (with video of the entire review) from the NHL’s Situation Room:

At 10:17 of the third period in the Avalanche/Blackhawks game, Colorado requested a Coach’s Challenge to review whether Chicago’s Jonathan Toews was off-side prior to his goal. 

Review was not conclusive in determining whether Toews tagged up at the instant the puck was on Richard Panik‘s stick when Chicago entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 78.7, “If a review is not conclusive and/or there is any doubt whatsoever as to whether the call on the ice was correct, the On-Ice Official(s) will be instructed to confirm their original call.”

Therefore the original call stands – good goal Chicago Blackhawks. 

(The 3:24 mark of the video is where you’ll find the best angle during the review.)

“I thought it was the right call,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, per CSN Chicago. “It doesn’t trigger the offside until he touches the puck and Jonny gets his skate back on time, right at probably the same time as we touch it. You could say it was a tie. That’s the Minnesota play.”

The decision left Colorado’s coach perplexed.

“I don’t necessarily understand it, but it’s a tag-up rule,” Bednar told the Denver Post. “It wasn’t on his stick. That is what it is. For me, it’s 3-2, nine-and-a-half minutes to go, that gives them a little life. It’s what we do after that that bothers me.”

As noted above, that goal started the Blackhawks rally.

Toews scored twice in the third period and is now up to 20 goals this season, joining some elite company with that franchise.