James O'Brien

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Caps extend AHL affiliate agreement with Hershey Bears

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The Washington Capitals announced that they’ve signed a one-year extension to keep the Hershey Bears as their AHL affiliate. With that, the 2015-16 season will mark the 11th straight season that the Bears have been Washington’s affiliate.

Hershey has enjoyed ample success, for the most part. Bruce Boudreau won a Calder Cup with the team back in 2005-06, and they added two more with back-to-back titles in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Much like their parent franchise, the Bears missed the playoffs in 2013-14, only to hire a new coach and fall in the second round this past season.

“We are extremely pleased to extend our affiliation with the Hershey Bears,” Capitals team president Dick Patrick said. “In our view, Hershey is a top franchise in the American Hockey League, and we look forward to our top prospects continuing to develop in a successful and winning culture in Hershey.”

The Washington Post points out that the Capitals and Bears were also affiliated with each other from 1977 to 1984, so it’s obvious that this relationship has been long-lasting (and fruitful) for both sides.

Video: Killorn’s impressive deflection gives Lightning quick 1-0 lead

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Three
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The Tampa Bay Lightning sure don’t look out of place during the (very) early goings in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Instead, they’re forcing some scrambling from the Chicago Blackhawks, which opened up opportunities like Alex Killorn’s 1-0 goal early in the first period. The Ivy League grad showed some brilliant hand-eye coordination on this one:

As you can see, the Bolts have been great when scoring first in these playoffs.

Update: The period ended 1-0, with the Lightning playing very well early on:

New dad Versteeg replaces Bickell for Blackhawks in Game 1

Florida Panthers v Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks will see one significant lineup change heading into Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, as Kris Versteeg steps in for Bryan Bickell.

It could amount to a tired player replacing a possibly hurt one.

Versteeg’s wife gave birth to Jaxon James Versteeg on Monday, forcing Versteeg to scramble to Toronto. As USA Today’s FTW reports, he’s already been through a “whirlwind” as he plane-hopped back and forth. Luckily, he was at least able to spend some time with his newborn boy, and he already has a strategy for handling a possible baby-in-the-Cup situation.

Of course, the Blackhawks need to win four huge games for that to even be a consideration.

Update: Blackhawks assistant Mike Kitchen said on NHL Network that Bickell’s missing Game 1 for “precautionary reasons,” according to NHL.com.

No doubt about it, it would be a great story if Versteeg can be a difference-maker on the ice.

Here’s how the lines shake out early on:

Meanwhile, it looks like the Bolts are sticking with 11 forwards and seven defensemen:

Lemieux doesn’t exactly shoot down Penguins sale rumors

Gary Bettman, Mario Lemieux
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There may be an official statement coming soon, but in the meantime, Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux didn’t totally dismiss rumors that he may sell his stake in the team (to some extent).

“Our goal all along was to solidify the franchise both on and off the ice,” Lemieux said. “Our star players are signed to long-term contracts and they’ve got a deep and passionate fan base to support them, and I believe the Penguins are well-positioned for the future.  Regardless of what happens,  I plan on staying involved with the team in some capacity, and Ron and I plan to retain an ownership stake.”

Seems like Lemieux is leaving the door open for a partial or even total sale of his piece of the team, doesn’t it?

DK on Sports’ Josh Yohe also contributed to the report, stating that Lemieux’s plan all along – from all the way back in 1999 – was eventually to get out as an owner (though he’s indeed likely to stay involved with the team).

That same joint report goes further from the earlier word that Lemieux is more interested in selling his equity stake to stating that co-owner Ron Burkle isn’t looking to sell at all.

If you’ve followed ownership situations in the past – including the Penguins’ quest to get Consol Energy Center built – you’re likely aware that these situations can feature many twists and turns. There can also be a lot of conjecture and behind the scenes talk. These processes can change at the drop of a hat, sometimes moving quickly and sometimes starting and stalling in baffling ways.

Click here for the full press release from the Penguins.

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final – Blackhawks at Lightning

Patrick Kane

For many hockey fans, it’s something of a dream series. Whether you lean toward the proven Chicago Blackhawks or the promising Tampa Bay Lightning, you’re unlikely to lament a lack of speed or skill in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Really, it feels like puckheads are getting spoiled here. On one side, you have Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and a bevvy of other talented Blackhawks. Few would dismiss the Lightning’s chances, however, as they boast Steven Stamkos, “The Triplets” and Victor Hedman. Ben Bishop vs. Corey Crawford also makes for an intriguing goalie matchup.

The buildup might have been agonizing for some, but the plus side is that the two teams couldn’t be much more rested this deep into the postseason. Game 1 kicks off in Tampa Bay, so you can soak up the electric atmosphere on NBC and also via NBC Sports Live Extra. Coverage before and after the contest takes place on NBCSN, but you can stream also stream that footage via the links below.

Pre-game stream (NBCSN)

Game 1 stream (NBC)

Post-game stream