Author: Jason Brough

MacKenzie Blackwood
AP

Devils prospect Blackwood suspended for ‘stick incident’; will miss first two games of World Juniors

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New Jersey Devils prospect Mackenzie Blackwood, currently a goalie for the OHL’s Barrie Colts, has been suspended eight games for trying to chop a Sudbury Wolves player into firewood.

No, not literally. But click here for the video. It was a pretty aggressive chop. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

Suffice to say, Blackwood did not choose the greatest time to show off his Paul Bunyan impression. The 18-year-old was recently named to Team Canada’s World Juniors selection camp roster.

From TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

Calgary prospect Mason McDonald was the only other goalie named last week to Canada’s camp roster.

Blackwood was selected 42nd overall by the Devils in 2015. He was the second goalie taken in the draft, after Washington chose Ilya Samsonov 22nd overall.

Canada’s first two games in Helsinki are against the United States and Denmark.

Update: 

Here’s the video so you don’t have to click on that link:

Iginla bemoans Avs’ record in one-goal games

Ryan Suter, Jarome Iginla
AP

If only this, if only that.

In the NHL, the difference between making and missing the playoffs can be extremely small.

Take the Colorado Avalanche. Two years ago, they won the Central Division thanks in large part to their NHL-best 28-4-8 record in one-goal games. The Avs were decent in games decided by two or more goals — they went 24-18 — but not great.

Last year, the Avs went 21-11-12 in one-goal games (16th) and finished last in the Central.

This year, they’re 5-7-1 (25th) and sit last again.

“I feel like right through the league there are not many teams that are powerhouses, and we look at ourselves and what we look at is our one-goal games,” veteran winger Jarome Iginla told NHL.com. “If we could pull out a few more here and there — I know that is what-ifs — but it makes it so we feel like we’re not so far behind a big group of teams.”

Iginla’s frustration is understandable. Colorado has 25 points and an overall goal differential of minus-4. St. Louis, meanwhile, has 34 points and an overall goal differential of plus-1. The Blues, not surprisingly, have been more successful in one-goal games (8-1-4).

The way Iginla sees it, the Avs just need to bear down when it counts.

“We’ve had too many this year that we’ve let slip away, too many of those types of games where you’re playing pretty well and then it just falls apart for us or we don’t get at least one point out of it,” he said.

He’s right about that. The Avs have lost two games in regulation that they’d led after two periods. They’re the only team that’s done that more than once. Sixteen teams have yet to do it at all.

Of course, in reality, the Avs’ biggest problem is not that they’ve struggled in one-goal games; it’s that they’ve not been good enough to dominate their opponents on a consistent basis.

In other words, it’s all well and good to bear down and win the close ones, but to cite an extreme example, the very best aim for this:

On the bright side, Colorado’s luck in one-goal games seems to be improving. Their last three wins have all been by that margin, including Monday’s 2-1 overtime decision over the Wild.

The Avs host Pittsburgh tomorrow (on NBCSN).

Pascal Dupuis will ‘step away from the game’ due to blood clots

Pascal Dupuis
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The Pittsburgh Penguins announced today that forward Pascal Dupuis will no longer play hockey “because of a medical condition related to blood clots.”

From the release:

Dupuis, 36, had played 18 games this season while taking blood thinners but experienced several recent medical incidents possibly related to his condition. He had to be removed from several games – most recently on December 1 at San Jose – and each time had to undergo a series of tests.

“Despite playing on a medical protocol that has worked for other players in the NHL, we feel that the risk of Pascal playing with his condition and the side effects of the tests to monitor him are just not in the best interest of his long-term health,” said Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, the Penguins’ team physician.

Dupuis called it a “very difficult decision” to “step away from the game,” but that his family is his “first priority, and playing with my condition has become a constant worry for all of us.”

Dupuis has played 871 NHL games and scored 190 goals during his career. He won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.

Of note, this is not technically a retirement announcement. The Pens intend to place Dupuis on long-term injured reserve. He’s signed through next season for a cap hit of $3.75 million.

His playing career is effectively over, however.

NHL hires big-time producer to ‘help bring to life a number of major events’

Nationals Park, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks
AP

The NHL has hired longtime producer Steve Mayer and given him the title of Executive Vice President and Executive Producer, Programming & Creative Development.

Mayer joins the league from IMG Productions, where according to his bio he was “the producer of network variety specials like the Miss Universe (USA), NBA All-Star All-Style (TNT), Hall of Game Awards (Cartoon Network), Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular (CBS), Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials (CBS), Tony Awards Preview Show (CBS), World’s and Year’s Funniest Commercials (TBS) and Christmas at Rockefeller Center (NBC),” among other shows.

“I am thrilled by the opportunity to join the NHL and help bring to life a number of major events for fans across North America,” Mayer said in a statement.

The press release doesn’t say specifically which events Mayer will “help bring to life” for the NHL, but the timing of the hiring is interesting in that it coincides with last month’s departure of COO John Collins.

Collins, of course, was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Winter Classic. While Mayer may have a different job title, it stands to reason that some of Collins’ former responsibilities will now be Mayer’s.

Mayer has won nine Emmys and been nominated 23 times, per his bio.

In search of new arena, Coyotes are in ‘very progressed talks with the city of Phoenix’

AP
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Just over a month ago, things were “moving pretty quickly” in the Arizona Coyotes’ search for a new home in the Phoenix area.

We can upgrade the status to “very progressed.”

“We’re in very progressed talks with the city of Phoenix and as well we forged a tight alliance with Arizona State University and we’re having discussions with them about the potential for a facility,” Coyotes co-owner and president Anthony Leblanc told NHL.com.

“We’re exploring those pretty aggressively.”

The Coyotes don’t have much time to dither. Their lease in Glendale expires after next season. Even if they can extend it a year or two, Gila River Arena doesn’t seem to be a long-term option anymore.

That may be a blessing in disguise.

“People tend to forget that when this team played in what was then America West Arena, the games were almost always sold out, there was an incredible vibe in the building,” Leblanc said.

In fact, people never did really forget that. There were myriad pessimists when the club announced it was moving to Glendale, a sleepy suburb with cheap land and expensive dreams. And the more the team struggled financially in its new home, the more those pessimists crowed.

Why else, according to Leblanc, has there been such a “strong voicing from our fanbase and from our sponsors that if we had an opportunity they’d really like to see us back in downtown Phoenix or in the east side of the Valley”?

It’s because the best place for the Coyotes has always been downtown. Or, if not there, the East Valley, which includes the ASU campus and also the city of Scottsdale, where wealthy tourists (including many Canadians) flock to during the hockey season.

The key now is getting a deal done.

And this time, make it the right deal.

Related: Coyotes hire consultant to ‘explore arena options in the Valley’