Jason Brough

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  J.T. Brown #23 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on February 21, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Lightning defeated the Coyotes 4-2.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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J.T. Brown explains his criticism of Tortorella’s anthem stance

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Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown has “no ill will towards John Tortorella,” but he does want to explain the tweet he published on Tuesday that was critical of Tortorella’s promise to bench any of his players that “sit on the bench for the national anthem.”

“I responded to a story on Twitter with my opinion and that was how I saw it,” Brown said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “He sees the situation through his reality and I see it through mine, as a black athlete in the NHL. I know I’m not on the United States World Cup roster, but I have had a chance to represent my country on other occasions. My Tweet was a hypothetical. What if I took a stance to promote awareness for one of the many injustices still occurring in our country and was punished despite there being no rule or law against it? My Tweet was a response to that question.

“I could have been quiet and just kept my opinion to myself, but I don’t want young minorities who love the game of hockey to think that what’s going on in America today is going unnoticed by the hockey community. I love America and thank the military for protecting our freedoms, as well as law enforcement for protecting and serving our communities, but that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge that there is still racism today. I am glad my Tweet provoked a discussion, because we need to start having a conversation about racism if we want to work towards a better America.

“While I don’t plan on sitting during the national anthem, I will look for more opportunities to positively impact my community and bring awareness to racial issues.”

Tortorella, the head coach of Team USA at the upcoming World Cup, expanded on his stance yesterday.

“We are in a great country because we can express ourselves,” he said, per the Toronto Sun. “I’m not against expressing ourselves. That’s what is great about our country. We can do that.

“But when there are men and women who give their lives for the flag, for their anthem, continue to put themselves on the line, families that have been disrupted, traumatic physical injuries, traumatic mental injuries with these people, who give us the opportunity to do the things we want to do, there is no chance an anthem and a flag should come into any type of situation where you are trying to make a point.”

Related: Seth Jones has ‘no problem’ with Tortorell’s anthem stance

After a lengthy recovery from a knee injury, Carey Price to start Friday for Canada against USA

MONTREAL, QC - APRIL 17:  Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens watches play during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals  of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 17, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Canadiens defeated the Senators 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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Carey Price will make his long-awaited return to the net on Friday in Columbus when he starts for Team Canada against Team USA in a World Cup pre-tournament game.

Price missed the majority of the 2015-16 NHL season with a knee injury. His last game for the Montreal Canadiens was on Nov. 25.

He says he’s 100 percent healthy now. So, deep breaths, Habs fans.

Price is expected to play the entire 60 minutes on Friday. Canada’s two other goalies, Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford, will split Saturday’s pre-tournament rematch against the Americans in Ottawa, according to head coach Mike Babcock.

Canada closes out its pre-tournament schedule next Wednesday in Pittsburgh against Russia. Its first preliminary round game is Saturday, Sep. 17, against the Czech Republic in Toronto.

Related: Price is healthy and ready to go

Pavelski named Team USA captain, has huge responsibility as first-line center

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Joe Pavelski #8 of the United States handles the puck against Jonathan Toews #16 of Canada in the second period during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Joe Pavelski will captain Team USA at the World Cup. Patrick Kane and Ryan Suter will be the alternates.

Pavelski, 32, is coming off a fantastic 2015-16 for the Sharks. He had 38 goals during the regular season, then added 14 more in the playoffs as San Jose made it first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

In pre-tournament practice, Pavelski has been centering wingers Kane and Max Pacioretty on Team USA’s first line.

Suffice to say, centering the first line is a huge responsibility for the Wisconsin native — especially on a team that many feel is lacking down the middle, at least compared to the favorites from Canada.

“The fairly obvious biggest thing is the middle doesn’t have the top [guys],” USA GM Dean Lombardi conceded in an interview with ESPN.com. “That said, a guy like Joe Pavelski is one of the top players. He finally got his recognition this year. If you were playing against him, you know how good this guy is. It’s not totally fair to say this guy is not a No. 1 center.”

Team USA opens its pre-tournament schedule Friday versus Canada in Columbus.

George Parros joins Department of Player Safety

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 07:  George Parros #16 of the Anaheim Ducks throws a punch at Jared Boll #40 of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period at the Honda Center on January 7, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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George Parros, who racked up over 1,000 penalty minutes in 474 NHL games, has joined the league’s Department of Player Safety.

Stephane Quintal, the senior vice president of the department, made the announcement today, noting that Parros, in addition to being a retired hockey player, is also a graduate of Princeton University, i.e. a pretty smart guy.

It’s an interesting hire, mostly because Parros is a former enforcer and there aren’t many of his ilk left in the league. The 36-year-old also suffered multiple fighting-related concussions during his career. He retired in 2014, and now he’ll join in the DoPS a Hall of Famer whose career was famously cut short by a concussion, Chris Pronger.

“It’s definitely something that will come into play later on down the line, I think,” Parros said of his head injuries in a 2014 interview with the Montreal Gazette. “But right now my head has held up pretty well, all things considered. I’ve been bashing it against skin and metal and ice and glass and boards and everything for a long time. I’m doing OK now, we’ll see. Ask me again in 10 years or so. … I know the consequences of this life, I could have some painful days ahead of me, but I’ll deal with it then.”

It’s official: Panthers sign Huberdeau, ‘another important piece of our team’s young core’

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  Jonathan Huberdeau #11 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New York Islanders in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 24, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders won the game 2-1 in double overtime to win the series four games to two.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers made Jonathan Huberdeau‘s six-year contract extension official today. The 23-year-old forward will have a cap hit of $5.9 million starting in 2017-18 and all the way through 2022-23.

“Jonathan is a highly talented and dynamic player who is another important piece of our team’s young core,” said Panthers president of hockey ops Dale Tallon in a release. “In each of his last two seasons he has posted over 50 points and has developed into a key component of our team’s offense.”

Huberdeau was the third overall draft pick in 2011. He joins Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Reilly Smith, and Aaron Ekblad in the group of young Panthers that’s been signed long term. Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, Roberto Luongo, and James Reimer are also locked into long-term deals.

Now it’s time to match all the hype with some postseason success. The Panthers are clearly on the rise, but they still haven’t won a playoff series since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

“There’s a core of players here that know: we’ve given you great teammates, we’re going to add people as the opportunities arise,” co-owner Doug Cifu told Yahoo Sports in July, “but it’s up to you guys to come together as a team and win multiple Stanley Cups and that’s the plan.”