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NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 09: Ray Whitney #13 of the Dallas Stars skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 9, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Stars 1-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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‘He knows all about pressure’: Retired NHLer Ray Whitney to caddie for Graham DeLaet at Rio Olympics

Former NHL forward Ray Whitney has made it to the Rio Olympics. As a caddie for Canadian golfer and ardent Calgary Flames fan Graham DeLaet.

The opening round of the men’s golf competition begins Thursday, with DeLaet teeing off at 7:30 a.m. local time in Rio with Adilson da Silva of Brazil and Byeong Hun An of South Korea.

NHL players, past or present, caddying for pro golfers has been done before, including James Wisniewski on the bag for his friend and world No. 1-ranked Jason Day.

DeLaet doesn’t seem hesitant about relying on Whitney to relay some of his experience in high-pressure situations.

“He’s one of the most competitive people I know. He’s a Stanley Cup champion (in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes) and he knows all about pressure,” said DeLaet, as per TSN.

“I will lean on him a little bit more for support than advice maybe a lot of times, but he knows my game well enough and he knows when to kind of give me a little shove and say, ‘Let’s get going,’ and when to maybe let me blow off some steam.”

DeLaet has been a Flames fan for years, dating back to the days of Theo Fleury.

“I grew up in Moose Jaw when (Theo) Fleury was playing there for the Warriors,” DeLaet told the Calgary Herald last year. “He got drafted (by the Flames in 1987), won a Cup there in his rookie year, so I was pretty much hooked. I was seven years old in ’89.

“I was pretty much locked in from there on.”

Prior to Rio, the last time golf was part of the Olympics was in 1904.

At the age of 42, Whitney officially retired from pro hockey in January of 2015. He scored 385 goals and 1,064 points in 1,330 career NHL games.

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    Edmonton, Las Vegas to showcase new arenas during NHL preseason

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    After ending their time at Rexall Place in style, the Edmonton Oilers will open up their new state-of-the-art arena, Rogers Place, with four exhibition games before the beginning of the regular season.

    On Wednesday, the NHL announced the exhibition season schedule, highlighting the debut of two new arenas — Rogers Place in Edmonton and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas — in the league.

    The Oilers will play four exhibition games in their new arena, beginning on Sept. 26 with a split-squad game against the Calgary Flames. They will then host the Anaheim Ducks (Oct. 4), Winnipeg Jets (Oct. 6) and Vancouver Canucks (Oct. 8), before opening the regular season at home against the Flames on Oct. 12.

    It was only a month ago that the ice surface at Rogers Place was put in.

    From Global News in July:

    Crews were working on a test sheet of ice, about half the height of a normal NHL sheet. They’ve been busy testing the cooling systems in the ice slab for the past couple of weeks.

    The L.A. Kings will play a pair of exhibition games at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. They’ll play the Dallas Stars on Oct. 7 and the Colorado Avalanche the following night.

    Installation of the ice surface at T-Mobile Arena began at the end of last month.

    More from the NHL:

    Kraft Hockeyville has become a staple of the preseason schedule, and this year Canada winner Lumby, British Columbia, and United States winner Marquette, Mich., will be in the spotlight. The Oilers and Kings play at Kal Tire Place in Vernon, British Columbia on Oct. 2 (9 p.m. ET; SN), and the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes play at Lakeview Arena in Marquette on Oct. 4 (7 p.m.. ET; NBCSN).

    There will be two preseason games played on college campuses. The Minnesota Wild play the Sabres at Pegula Ice Arena at Penn State University in State College, Pa., on Sept. 26, and the New Jersey Devils play the Florida Panthers at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., on Oct. 8.

     

    Devils sign RFA Boucher to one-year, two-way deal

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    The New Jersey Devils and restricted free agent forward Reid Boucher have put pen to paper on a new one-year, two-way contract worth $715,000 at the NHL level, the club announced Wednesday.

    Boucher, selected by the Devils in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Draft, turns 23 years old in September.

    He has split each of the last three seasons between New Jersey and its AHL affiliate in Albany.

    With good offensive numbers in the minors, Boucher scored eight goals and 19 points in 39 games with New Jersey last season.

    However, his 2015-16 season didn’t get off to a great start, as Boucher was diagnosed with a concussion while playing for the Devils in the Buffalo Sabres Prospects Challenge last September.

    ‘Willie Watch’ could start early if Canucks can’t turn around losing ways

    Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins yells from the bench during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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    This post is part of Canucks Day on PHT…

    Things were almost too good to be true for Willie Desjardins for much of his first season as head coach of the Canucks.

    For starters, he was the antithesis of his predecessor John Tortorella. In the span of a year, the Canucks emerged from a total regime change to a 101-point playoff team, with players buying into Desjardins’ approach of rolling four lines and making sure everyone felt they were contributing in some way.

    Good times — until an opening-round playoff loss to the Calgary Flames and subsequent criticism toward Vancouver’s bench boss for player deployment in that series, specifically playing time for Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

    That began the transition to the hot seat for Desjardins. ‘Willie Watch’ quickly became a thing in Vancouver.

    Following a disastrous 2015-16 campaign that saw the Canucks fall to 28th in the overall standings, unable to score (29th in the league in Goals For per Game) and unable to play a strong puck possession game (27th in Corsi For at five-on-five), Desjardins’ future with the club is very likely to again be a focus for media and fans in the upcoming season.

    The Canucks, as an organization, had unrealistic expectations last season.

    They tried to sell the idea of getting younger and being competitive at the same time, and it was clear right away they weren’t capable of the latter.

    Desjardins was given the task of trying to be competitive while introducing younger players — rookies Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann and Ben Hutton — into the lineup. Injuries also hurt the Canucks, who were without Brandon Sutter for much of the season, as well as defenseman Alex Edler. The absence of Sutter forced sophomore middle man Bo Horvat into a second-line center spot, a difficult role for a player who just turned 21 years old.

    Given the circumstances, president Trevor Linden saw fit to keep Desjardins. In March, Linden told The Province there was “no reason” to make a change. He reiterated that to reporters following the end of the season, saying Desjardins would “definitely be back next year.”

    The Canucks and GM Jim Benning have clearly made it a point of being as competitive as possible next season, which is sure to annoy fans who would right now prefer a rebuild.

    With that in mind, the Canucks this offseason sent McCann to Florida for defenseman Erik Gudbranson and signed scoring forward Loui Eriksson as a free agent.

    Desjardins has also thrown down the challenge to the younger players for next season.

    (It’s worth pointing out that Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in 2014, will be eligible to play in the AHL next season, so his roster spot at right wing isn’t a guarantee.)

    “When you have development and winning as two goals, they’re different. The NHL isn’t a development league,” Desjardins told TSN 1040 in the spring.

    “I think now (the younger players) they’re in a spot where they’ve got to help us win. I think our goal is going to be clearer. We’re focused on winning. The young guys can come in and help on that. I’ve always felt that just giving things to players doesn’t help them. They have to earn it.”

    OK. Winning is the goal.

    If the Canucks are completely healthy at the beginning of the season and they still get off to a poor start, that could put even more pressure on Desjardins, as well as the organization.

    There is also this to consider: The Canucks have a coach in Utica, Travis Green, that appears close to making it to the NHL. Green believes he’s ready for the NHL. He apparently was given a long look from the Anaheim Ducks, before they hired Randy Carlyle.

    For Desjardins and the Canucks, winning could put all this on the back burner rather quickly.

    If the losing continues in October and November, “Willie Watch” might begin early.

    It’s Carolina Hurricanes day on PHT

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    The Carolina Hurricanes are talking about the playoffs, and there is a belief they have a legitimate shot at making the Stanley Cup tournament next season.

    In their plight to get back into the post-season, the Hurricanes have managed to revamp their roster, both up front and on defence, with younger players, including the acquisition of 21-year-old forward Teuvo Teravainen from the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a move that included having to take on the remaining year of Bryan Bickell’s contract, which includes a cap hit of $4 million.

    Teravainen joins a group of young, talented forwards that includes Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Elias Lindholm, and Sebastian Aho, who signed an entry-level deal in June. Julien Gauthier, taken 21st overall in June, is also signed to an entry-level deal.

    But the changes have also meant the end of an era in Raleigh.

    Eric Staal, who hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in just his second season back in 2005-06, was traded prior to the deadline. Before the deal that sent him to the New York Rangers, Staal had played 909 games of his career in Carolina.

    The Hurricanes also committed once again to goalie Cam Ward for two more years at a $3.3 million cap hit, meaning they’ll go with Ward and Eddie Lack in net again next season. The duo experienced difficulties at points last season.