Jason Brough

Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist dives to deflect a shot on goal by Switzerland in the first period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Blinch, Pool)
AP

Lundqvist hopes NHL will remain committed to Olympics

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Henrik Lundqvist is a supporter of the World Cup.

“I’m excited,” he told NHL.com in September. “I think it’s going to be a great tournament.”

Just don’t confuse his excitement for a belief that the World Cup could replace the Olympics. Because the Swedish netminding star doesn’t believe anything could do that.

“Being at the Olympics is just an amazing feeling to have, with all the other athletes there, and the energy that’s there,” Lundqvist told Reuters. “To see them in action, it’s so inspiring. I love it, it’s very pure. It’s all about the sport.”

Granted, it might be a stretch to call the Olympics “all about the sport.” Money is a big driver of the Olympic movement, make no mistake.

But the World Cup’s purity, for lack of a better word, has also come into question. With the inclusion of Team Europe and an under-23 Team North America, the co-production of the NHL and NHLPA is not truly best-on-best, country-versus-country. Neither, for that matter, is the World Championship, since many of the best players are busy with the NHL playoffs when that tournament is on.

As it stands, only the Olympics is that. And the NHL has yet to commit to participating in the next Winter Games, in 2018 in South Korea.

“We had a meeting with the IIHF in November or October,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said this weekend, per the Pioneer Press. “They said we have about a year, give or take.”

A deal to send NHLers to Sochi in 2014 wasn’t reached until July of 2013, less than a year before those Games began.

Related: Ovechkin will ‘definitely’ go to South Korea for 2018 Winter Olympics

With trade for Polak and Spaling, Wilson sends message to Sharks

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Sometime in the future, the San Jose Sharks will try to replace the pair of draft picks they traded away today to get defenseman Roman Polak and forward Nick Spaling from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Those two picks aren’t until 2017 and 2018, so there’s “ample time” to do so, according to GM Doug Wilson.

For now, the Sharks are focused on making the playoffs, then going on a deep run once they get there.

“Very important that those picks were in the future, two and three drafts from now,” Wilson said, per CSN Bay Area. “The other part of it is, it adds to our team without taking anybody out of the lineup or taking any of our young players or prospects that we drafted from the last two years, because we’re really pleased with our prospects.”

Wilson didn’t say how, exactly, the Sharks would “replenish those picks,” but trading Patrick Marleau before his contract expires could be one way. The 36-year-old is signed through next season. As of January, his trade request had reportedly not gone away.

In the meantime, head coach Pete DeBoer likes the message that management sent with the acquisition of veteran Polak and Spaling, both pending unrestricted free agents.

“I think the message is that we think we have a chance,” he said. “Management is going to do what they can to try and help the group out. Now it’s on us to get them together on the ice and deliver the proper results.”

The Sharks have quietly been one of the NHL’s hottest teams in the new year. Since Jan. 9, they’ve gone 13-3-3.

San Jose plays in St. Louis tonight before finishing off its five-game road trip Wednesday in Colorado. Both games can be seen on NBCSN.

Related: Marleau won’t say he wants to remain a Shark

Wild, Lightning were the big winners over the weekend; Devils, not so much

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Four wins in a row under new head coach John Torchetti — combined with a couple of losses by the Colorado Avalanche — have seen the Minnesota Wild’s playoff chances jump from 33.4 percent on Feb. 13 to 74.2 percent, according to website Sports Club Stats.

The Wild won their fourth straight on Sunday, blasting the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-1, outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium. A few hours later, the Avs dropped a 5-1 decision in Vancouver, where the Canucks hadn’t won since Jan. 11.

Barring the unexpected, the Wild, Avalanche and Predators will compete for the two wild-card spots in the West. Arizona and Vancouver have each seen their playoff hopes plummet in recent weeks.

standin

Meanwhile, in the East, the New Jersey Devils were the big losers of the weekend. They lost 1-0 to the Isles on Friday and 4-3 to the Caps on Saturday, dropping their playoff chances to just 26.0 percent.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were the big gainers, earning victories Saturday and Sunday in Pittsburgh and Carolina, respectively. The Bolts, after winning just once in five outings, have now won three straight, increasing their playoff chances from 78.9 percent early last week to 93.2 percent today.

standings

The Red Wings might be the most vulnerable team currently in a playoff spot. They’re 1-2-3 in their last six, though they still have a 69.9 percent chance of appearing in their 26th straight postseason.

Sabres call up Cal O’Reilly after brother Ryan injured

New Jersey Devils center Jacob Josefson (16) takes the puck away from Buffalo Sabres center Cal O'Reilly (19) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday Dec. 15, 2015 in Buffalo, N.Y.  New Jersey won 2-0. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)
AP

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) With top-line forward Ryan O'Reilly out, the Buffalo Sabres have recalled his older brother from the AHL.

Cal O’Reilly was promoted from Rochester on Monday. The move comes a day after coach Dan Bylsma announced Ryan O’Reilly would miss between three and four weeks with a lower-body injury.

Bylsma did not reveal any details of the injury. O’Reilly was hurt in a 4-0 win at Columbus on Friday.

The Sabres signed Cal O’Reilly in free agency last summer shortly after acquiring his brother in a multi-player trade with Colorado.

O’Reilly has six goals and 22 assists in 44 games with Rochester. He also has an assist in five games with the Sabres during a previous call up.

Buffalo opens a three-game California road trip at Anaheim on Wednesday.

The Leafs are piling up the draft picks, just like they promised they’d do

Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan, left,  and Lou Lamoriello smile at a news conference to announce Lamoriello has been named the new general manager of the Maple Leafs NHL hockey team in Toronto, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP)
AP
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The more bullets, the better.

That, in a nutshell, is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ draft strategy under the new regime led by Brendan Shanahan.

In today’s trade with the Sharks, the Leafs added a couple of more second-round picks to their stockpile, these ones in 2017 and 2018.

“I think the picks are the most important thing that we’ve got in these transactions,” GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters in a conference call.

The Leafs had already piled up twelve picks for the 2016 draft, as per General Fanager:

Leafs

The strategy is a stark departure from the years when Brian Burke was in charge. Back then, the mantra was “July 1 will be our draft” — a philosophy that, for a number of reasons, didn’t work out so well.

Consistent with their embracing of analytics, the Leafs under the new regime have made the draft as much about playing the percentages as talent evaluation. I.e., if a second-rounder has a 20 percent chance of panning out, then two second-rounders make it 40 percent they get themselves a player. (Or whatever the exact probability, it’s higher.)

Though the Leafs are still a long ways from competing for the Stanley Cup — in fact, their current roster is arguably the worst in the NHL — management is steadfastly executing its long-term plan, which includes “pain” now for, hopefully, gain later.

Toronto already has a well-regarded group of prospects, led by Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Lamoriello also noted that the Leafs, in the future, could trade some of their picks for players.

Related: Trade target: P.A. Parenteau