Jason Brough

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele celebrates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)
AP

A pending RFA, Scheifele wants ‘to be with Winnipeg for a long time’

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One of the NHL’s top pending restricted free agents doesn’t know — and says he doesn’t really care — what’s happening with his contract negotiations.

Instead, Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele is focused on representing Canada at the world championships in Russia.

“I don’t even know what’s going on with (the negotiations),” Scheifele told the Winnipeg Sun. “That’s not my job. My job is to play hockey and I’m over here to win a gold medal. My agent can take care of the rest. Obviously my goal is to be with Winnipeg for a long time. We’ll see what all transpires this summer.”

Scheifele, 23, had an outstanding 2015-16, scoring 29 goals with 32 assists in 71 games. His growth is a big reason to be optimistic about the Jets’ future. (Another reason? The second overall pick they won in the draft lottery, with which they’re expected to get Finnish phenom Patrik Laine.)

As for Scheifele’s next contract, it remains to be seen if the Jets will push for a long-term pact, like the Panthers did with Aleksander Barkov, or if they’d prefer a bridge deal, like the Blue Jackets did with Boone Jenner.

The Jets have another notable pending RFA in defenseman Jacob Trouba, so no shortage of things on GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s plate this summer.

Related: Michigan star Kyle Connor turns pro, signs with Jets

With Stars loss to Blues, the Calgary Flames also lose

ST PAUL, MN - APRIL 20: (L-R) Jason Demers #4, goalie Antti Niemi #31 and Kris Russell #2 of the Dallas Stars celebrate a win against the Minnesota Wild of Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 20, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Stars defeated the Wild 3-2. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars weren’t the only disappointed team when the St. Louis Blues advanced to the Western Conference Final last night.

The Calgary Flames also lost something in the Blues’ victory, since part of the return they got for trading defenseman Kris Russell to Dallas at the deadline was dependent on how the Stars did in the postseason.

If the Stars had advanced to the conference final, the Flames would’ve received Dallas’ first-round pick in this summer’s draft. Instead, the Flames will have to settle for the 55th overall selection, in the latter stages of the second round.

The Stars’ first-round pick will be the 25th overall.

Russell, 29, can become a pending unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t re-sign with Dallas by July 1.

Related: What’s next for the Dallas Stars?

Another bank merger, another name change for Sabres arena

BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 26: Fans of the Buffalo Sabres pose for the camera as they cheer during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at First Niagara Center on November 26, 2014 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres home arena is undergoing yet another name change, and will soon be referred to as KeyBank Center.

Sabres President Russ Brandon announced the pending change on Wednesday after federal regulators approved KeyBank’s merger with First Niagara Financial Group.

It’s the latest name change for the downtown arena that was first called Marine Midland Arena when it opened in 1996. The name has since been altered to keep up with a series of bank mergers and takeovers.

The arena eventually became the HSBC Arena in 2000, before becoming the First Niagara Center in 2011.

The Sharks have rediscovered home-ice advantage

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) All season long the San Jose Sharks faced questions about why they could be so dominant on the road but struggle to win at home.

In the biggest game yet of their season, the Sharks hope their playoff home success carries over to Game 7 of their second-round series against Nashville on Thursday night (9 p.m. EDT, NBCSN) when a spot in the Western Conference final is on the line.

“I love our game at home. I really do,” center Joe Thornton said. “I know it was a big part of the story going into the postseason how our home record was. But I’ve loved our home game and I love the energy the crowd has been giving us. It’s been great.”

The Sharks led the NHL with 28 road wins this season but had a losing record at home, where their 18 wins in 41 games were the fewest of any playoff team. But after losing their first home game of the postseason to Los Angeles, the Sharks have rolled off four straight home wins as the Shark Tank has once again become an imposing building for opposing teams.

The Sharks find themselves in a must-win Game 7 because they were unable to win any games in Nashville this series. The Predators took all three home games, including a triple-overtime thriller in Game 4 and an overtime win in Game 6 on Monday night.

That was San Jose’s ninth loss in its past 12 games with a chance to eliminate an opponent.

“Past experiences or not, it’s about what’s in this room right now and about us,” captain Joe Pavelski said. “We kind of said that early. This is a different team.”

The Game 6 win sent Nashville on its ninth flight between California and Tennessee this postseason after winning the first round in seven games in Anaheim. Like they did before that seventh game, the Predators packed extra clothes in hopes they would win and head to either Dallas or St. Louis for their first conference final appearance in franchise history instead of home for the summer.

“Everyone knows what’s at stake, and we’re going to be ready to go,” captain Shea Weber said. “Big point in a lot of guys’ careers. It’s time guys step up.”

Here are some other things to watch in Game 7:

TOP LINE: San Jose’s top line of Thornton, Pavelski and Tomas Hertl have led the way all season and for much of the playoffs. But those three were completely outplayed, generating just three shots on goal and being on the ice for Nashville’s first goal. With a last chance at home, the Sharks may be able to get that top line more ice time when Nashville’s top defensive pair of Weber and Roman Josi aren’t on the ice.

“This is bigger than one line or on one or two guys,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “We’ve talked all year about depth and I think it’s on everybody to bring their AA-plus game tomorrow.”

WHERE’S FORSBERG?: Nashville F Filip Forsberg tied the franchise record scoring 33 goals during the regular season, but he has been held to only one goal in this series and two through 13 games of the postseason. Forsberg wasn’t the only one struggling to score in this series. Nashville defenseman Roman Josi had taken 38 shots before scoring his first postseason goal in Game 6, the most of any player in these playoffs who has yet to score.

POTENT POWER PLAY: The Sharks have one of the game’s top power plays led by a top unit that features Thornton’s playmaking, Brent Burns‘ big shot from the point and Pavelski’s goal-scoring. That power play has been a barometer for San Jose’s success this postseason with the team converting 9 of 24 chances in seven playoff wins and just 2 of 15 in four losses.

PLAYOFF Colin Wilson: The Predators left wing now is only a goal away from matching the six goals he scored in 64 games during the regular season. He’s already set a franchise-record with a seven-game points streak. Wilson has scored a goal in three of the past four games, three of those Nashville victories.

NIETO’S HEALTH: Sharks F Matt Nieto left Game 6 in the first period after crashing into the net and did not return. Nieto did not practice Wednesday and his status for Game 7 is in doubt. If he can’t play, the Sharks will miss his speed but will put Tommy Wingels back in the lineup after scratching him the past two games.

 

Albany d-man Kelly gets 10-game suspension for ‘sickening’ head shot on Toronto prospect

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Albany Devils defenseman Dan Kelly has been suspended 10 games “as a consequence of a match penalty for an illegal check to the head” of Toronto forward Andreas Johnson during an AHL playoff game on Tuesday.

From the AHL press release:

Kelly will miss Albany’s next 10 games, beginning with Game 5 of the North Division Finals vs. Toronto tonight (May 12). If Albany is eliminated before the suspension can be served to completion this postseason, remaining games would carry over to the next time Kelly is active on an AHL club roster.

Johnson, 21, was taken to the hospital with a suspected concussion as a result of Kelly’s elbow.

“He was in pretty rough shape leaving here,” Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe said Wednesday, per the Toronto Sun. “He didn’t remember anything and there was pretty good cause for concern when he went off to the hospital.

“A member of our training staff and our captain, Andrew Campbell, stayed with him there. (After his release) we took care of him through the night. He came to breakfast late this morning in good spirits and that made me feel a lot better after watching that hit over and over. It was sickening.”

Kelly, 26, is a pending unrestricted free agent. He’s spent the past six seasons with Albany, after going undrafted out of the OHL.