Jason Brough

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Goalie Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals looks on in the third period of their 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 10, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Capitals’ Braden Holtby to march in Capital Pride Parade

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Vezina Trophy finalist Braden Holtby will represent the Washington Capitals in the annual Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, which the goaltender hopes is just the start of his involvement in the gay-rights movement.

Holtby and his wife, Brandi, were planning to attend the parade anyway, and he was honored when asked by the organization to participate. Holtby and other team representatives will walk in conjunction with the organization You Can Play, which has worked with the NHL to promote tolerance.

“We’ve been wanting to get involved a little bit more and more with that,” Holtby said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Everyone kind of has their charities or their causes that mean something to them and they want to participate in. This is one that’s very high up on the list for us.”

Holtby said he and his wife strongly believe that people should be treated fairly and equally. Brandi Holtby’s Twitter bio features the Harvey Milk quote: “It takes no compromise to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual.”

You Can Play co-founder Patrick Burke noticed it and said the Holtby family has been “a huge supporter” of the organization for years. Burke is the son of Brian Burke, the Calgary Flames director of hockey operations. Patrick started the group two years after his brother Brendan, who was gay, died in a car accident in 2010.

Holtby just finished his second full season as the Capitals’ starting goaltender. He tied Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record with 48, ranked sixth in the league with a 2.20 goals-against average and ranked eighth with a .922 save percentage.

The 26-year-old Holtby is considered the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie when the awards are given out June 22 in Las Vegas.

Holtby, who signed a $30.5 million, five-year contract last summer, is still growing into his role as one of the faces of the Capitals’ franchise. Doing off-ice events like the Pride Parade is just another step.

“It creates more of an opportunity to create good, to do things that means something to yourself and you think that are beneficial to society,” Holtby said. “Hopefully, every year coming we do more and more to create an effect.”

Related: Canucks participate in Vancouver Pride Parade

Credit Sullivan for instilling Penguins with an ‘insatiable appetite to improve’

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PITTSBURGH — No disrespect to Gerard Gallant, Lindy Ruff, or Barry Trotz — they all did excellent jobs this season — but if the Jack Adams Award finalists were named at the end of the playoffs and not before, Mike Sullivan would have to replace one of them.

How could he not? Since taking over for Mike Johnston in December, the Pens have gone from performing damage control on a seemingly daily basis to being one win from hoisting the Stanley Cup.

That’s some progress right there.

Just don’t ask Sullivan to sing his own praises.

“The way I look at it, this is the players’ game,” he said today. “The players are the guys that get it done. They deserve the credit. These guys have played extremely hard. They’ve made the sacrifices that are necessary in order for us to be in a position where we are. That is how we look at it.”

Others see it a bit differently. They see what his team’s done since he became head coach, and they feel he probably deserves a few kudos.

Recall in December that Sullivan’s first order of business was to get the Penguins in a better frame of mind.

“Every coach has their beliefs and convictions that are different from the previous coach,” he said. “But the most important aspect for me is to try and instill a certain mindset that will inspire these guys to be at their best.”

Fast forward to the present and the Penguins have only lost seven times in the playoffs, and all but once they’ve responded with a win. They’ve said it over and over that they believe in themselves, they believe in the process and the game plan.

Now recall the tactical changes that Sullivan intended to make.

“I think it’s important that you have to try to come out of your end zone as clean as you can, and as efficient as you can,” he said. “Preferably, you’d like to come out with the puck and so, we’re going to try to implement some schemes to help us try to do that.”

Whatever schemes he introduced, they worked. Yes, his GM helped the cause by adding some better puck-movers to the back end, but getting from one end of the ice to the other is a team thing. It requires buy-in from the defensemen, the forwards, even the goalies. Nobody can be doing his own thing, otherwise the whole operation fails.

Speaking of buy-in, how ’bout that Phil Kessel?

“I think Phil has made a complete commitment to this team,” said Sullivan. “His offense speaks for itself. He’s dangerous on the power play, he’s dangerous off the rush. But I think what his teammates admire and respect, what his coaching staff certainly does, is his commitment away from the puck and to play at both ends of the rink.”

Look, we’re not going to say that Sullivan has turned Kessel into a Selke Trophy candidate, because he hasn’t. And let’s face it, the single, biggest reason Kessel’s been a great fit with the Penguins is he doesn’t have to be the best player on his team anymore, and he’s getting more favorable matchups as a result.

But let’s not pretend that Sullivan has simply allowed Kessel to do whatever he pleases.

“I try to challenge him in areas of his game where we think he can improve, get better, help our team win,” said Sullivan. “Those are the types of conversations that I’ve had with him over the last four or five months.”

It’s never an exact science, measuring the impact a new coach has had on his team. After all, we’re not in the room, so we don’t know what’s been said during video sessions or in one-on-one conversations with the players. The only things we can use to judge are what’s said publicly, and of course how the team is playing now compared to how it was playing before.

Even today Sullivan was talking about the need to get better.

“I don’t think you ever arrive,” he said. “I think it’s that insatiable appetite to improve and get better that has allowed this team to get to the point where it’s at. We’re going to keep pushing until we achieve our ultimate goal.”

Sounds like a well-coached team.

Related: Sullivan pushing all the right buttons

Sens announce Kleinendorst will coach Binghamton (again)

MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 13:  Center Jason Spezza of the Binghamton Senators smiles before the start of the American Hockey League All Star Skills Competition on February 13, 2005 at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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The Ottawa Senators announced today that Kurt Kleinendorst has signed a two-year contract to coach their AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

It’s a job he’s done before, with one great result.

From the release:

Kleinendorst, 55, returns to the city where he delivered the franchise’s only Calder Cup championship in 2011. In two years with the B-Sens, Kleindendorst posted a 71-70-8-7 regular season record and went 16-7 during the championship 2011 post-season. Assistant coach Steve Stirling has also agreed to return to the B-Sens coaching staff, reuniting the pair of coaches that led the team to the Calder Cup championship.

Kleinendorst jumped around a bit after leaving Binghamton in 2012. First he was the head coach of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Then he was the head coach of the AHL’s Iowa Wild. Last year, he coached ERC Ingolstadt in Germany.

The Wild fired Kleinendorst just 12 games (and 10 losses) into the 2014-15 AHL season. He was replaced by John Torchetti.

Related: Luke Richardson leaves Binghamton

UFA of the Day: Alex Goligoski

Alex Goligoski, Boone Jenner
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Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Alex Goligoski

Goligoski had 37 points in 82 games last season. He logged almost 24 minutes per contest. So yeah, letting him walk would be a risk for the Stars.

But it could happen.

“We had a great season, but we’re still in our infancy,” GM Jim Nill told Sportsnet recently. “We’re going to get younger, yet. Bigger and faster.”

Goligoski, 30, is one of three Dallas d-men that could hit the open market on July 1, with Jason Demers, 27, and Kris Russell, 29, being the others.

If the Stars don’t re-sign Goligoski, expect a team like the Boston Bruins to set their sights on him. They’re in the market for a d-man that can move the puck, and Goligoski does that well.

Consider what former Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said when Dallas acquired Goligoski from Pittsburgh in 2011.

“I think when you add a guy like Alex Goligoski it really improves your defense,” said Nieuwendyk. “He’s a two-way defenseman that is really going to help getting the puck to our forwards.”

Goligoski’s expiring contract was for four years and $18.4 million, which gave him a cap hit of $4.6 million.

Given the market, his production, and his age, he’ll be expecting a raise, and should get one.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

Four games, no leads for the Sharks — ‘We’ve got to find an answer for that’

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SAN JOSE — It’s been four games of the Stanley Cup Final now, and the Sharks have yet to hold a lead in regulation. Their only win came in overtime of Game 3, and they had to fight back to tie that one late.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” said veteran defenseman Paul Martin after Monday’s 3-1 loss at SAP Center. “We haven’t been able to get out and get a lead and we’re a different team when we do that. It’s been tough for us. We’ve got to find ways to produce when they get the first goal.”

Or, just score first. That’s an even better idea.

“I think when you have the lead, you can play differently,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “You feel a lot more comfortable getting in a four-line rhythm, putting your guys out there, trusting them. There’s not that pressure that we have to create a scoring chance or score a goal.”

Deboer added, “We’ve got to find an answer for that. I don’t know what it is.”

After losing the first two games on the road, the Sharks never did convert their crowd’s energy into the kind of starts they’d hoped to get when the series shifted to San Jose. They definitely didn’t make “like gorillas coming out of a cage,” as the saying went that one time.

And it won’t get any easier in Pittsburgh, where Game 5 goes Thursday. Lose that one and it’s over.

“You have to stay positive,” said Martin. “We have a lot of good leadership in this room, a lot of character guys who have been through a lot. We really believe in the group we have here and that everyone’s capable of chipping in.”