Jason Brough

AP

Wild send Alex Tuch back to AHL

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After three game and no points, Alex Tuch is headed back to the AHL. The Minnesota Wild reassigned the 20-year-old winger to Iowa this morning.

Tuch made his NHL debut Saturday in Vancouver, logging 14:39 of ice time and registering two shots in a 6-3 win.

Afterwards, head coach Bruce Boudreau was asked about Tuch’s performance.

“I thought it was okay,” said Boudreau. “I mean, he had some chances to score. He’s a big, strong guy. Obviously, there are things he’s going to have to learn about this league, but everybody who ever came into this league had to learn those things.”

Tuch played two more games after that, including last night’s 4-3 overtime loss to Chicago.

The Wild’s next game is Friday at home to Tampa Bay.

 

Report: Coyotes toured arenas in Seattle and Portland

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The Arizona Coyotes are denying it, but according to the Glendale Star newspaper, representatives of the team have toured arenas in Seattle and Portland in the past three months.

“The destinations appear to have been the KeyArena in Seattle and the Moda Center in Portland, Ore,” the Star writes, citing officials in Seattle and Portland.

The report comes just days after the Coyotes’ plans to build a new arena in Tempe fell through, and though the team has publicly committed to remaining in Arizona, it won’t quell the speculation that the club could be on the move.

“Unfortunately, it appears the ASU deal will not being moving forward,” said Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. “We will continue to explore other options that will ensure a successful future for the team and our fans. We’re a determined bunch — on the ice and off the ice. We intend to do everything we can to keep NHL hockey here in Arizona.”

Seattle and Portland have long been rumored as potential landing spots for the Coyotes, and the NHL has made no secret its interest in putting a team in the Pacific Northwest.

Though Seattle does not yet have a suitable arena, the city is exploring a renovation of KeyArena, the old home of the NBA’s SuperSonics. There is also a competing bid to build an arena in the SoDo part of town.

Portland does have a suitable arena, the Moda Center being home to the NBA’s Trail Blazers. Back in 2013, there was reportedly “serious” interest in bringing the Coyotes to Oregon.

Related: Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle

Pre-game reading: Beantown columnists put the boots to the B’s

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— Up top, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones delve into the dismissal of Claude Julien, as well as the general state of the Bruins.

— Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy ripped into the B’s for firing Julien on the same day the New England Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl victory. Shaughnessy writes: “Do the Bruins think we are stupid? Did owners Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs, and hockey bosses Cam Neely and Don Sweeney, think nobody was going to notice if they axed the coach during the parade? … The Bruins held their coach-firing news conference Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., minutes after the Duck Boats started rolling up Boylston Street. NESN, the Bruins’ team-owned flagship station, televised the Patriots parade while the team was firing its Stanley Cup-winning coach.” For the record, Sweeney blamed the schedule for the timing. (Boston Globe)

— More criticism of Bruins management from Mike Loftus of The Patriot Ledger, but this is about the roster that Julien was forced to coach. “With all due respect to players like Riley Nash, Tim Schaller, Dominic Moore – players acquired last off-season, after being deemed expendable by other teams – and Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey, who were among those added in the summer of 2015, they’re role players, and rarely difference-makers. Some are the sorts who can plug holes on an established, contending team, but the Bruins have been slipping from that designation for years. And they’ve been losing that status because too many role players have been added while better, more established players – some dispatched by Peter Chiarelli, Sweeney’s predecessor and mentor, and some by Sweeney himself – have been subtracted.” (The Patriot Ledger)

Read more: Sweeney says Bruins’ core deserves chance to ‘win now’

— It’s not quite time for Canadiens fans to panic, writes Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette. But the way things are looking down the middle, there’s definitely reason for concern. “Phillip Danault, who moved into the No. 1 spot after Alex Galchenyuk went down with a knee injury, has one goal in his last 12 games. Tomas Plekanec has one goal in his last 11. David Desharnais, who missed 24 games with a knee injury, has one goal in his last 12 games and fourth-line center Torrey Mitchell hasn’t scored in 27 games and has only two goals in his last 44, both in the same game Dec. 8 against New Jersey.” For more on this topic, see: Martin Hanzal trade rumors. (Montreal Gazette)

— Pierre LeBrun wonders if the Dallas Stars, as their playoff hopes keep fading, will start selling their pending free agents soon. “Topping the list would be cagey veteran Patrick Sharp, whose Stanley Cup experience and creative hands could help any contender. … Forward Patrick Eaves, another pending UFA, is a smart player who can play up and down on forward lines and help a second-unit power play, so he would be a useful addition to a contender.” (TSN)

— Elliotte Friedman published his must-read “30 Thoughts” yesterday, and he included this tidbit on the 2018 Winter Olympics, which may or may not include NHLers. “For the 2018 Olympic hockey tournament, Canada and the USA are in different pools. Local game times are noon, 4:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. That’s 10 p.m., 2:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. Eastern time. It is expected that the Canadians and Americans will never be scheduled for that 2:30 a.m. (ET) game. It is hoped that will alleviate one of the NHL’s concerns, that the two marquee North American teams will never play in the middle of the night for this continent’s viewers.” (Sportsnet)

Enjoy the game!

Chara ‘under the weather,’ will be game-time decision tomorrow

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In Bruce Cassidy’s first game as interim coach of the Boston Bruins, he may not have Zdeno Chara in his lineup.

Chara missed his second straight practice today with an illness. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to play tomorrow against the Sharks at TD Garden.

“He’s still under the weather, so he’ll be a game-time decision tomorrow,” Cassidy said today, per CSN New England.

Read more: As Patriots paraded, Don Sweeney defended Bruins coaching change

Without the 39-year-old defenseman, Cassidy had Torey Krug paired with Adam McQuaid; Kevan Miller with Colin Miller; and John-Michael Liles with Chara’s regular partner, Brandon Carlo.

In Saturday’s 6-5 loss to Toronto, the last game of the Claude Julien era, Chara had three assists and was plus-2 in 18:05 of ice time.

Liles was a scratch against the Leafs. 

 

A rebuilt third line has been key for the Caps

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The Washington Capitals are on quite a roll, and it’s not just the usual suspects who are filling the net.

Though Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov have, indeed, been piling up points since the Caps caught fire after Christmas, the third line of Brett Connolly, Lars Eller, and Andre Burakovsky has been pretty potent itself.

“You’re getting guys who’ve got double-digit goals on that line,” head coach Barry Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “We didn’t have that on that third line last year. We do now. We’re getting scoring from the third line, no question. We’re getting scoring from all lines. That’s good for us. It makes us a hard team to play.”

The Caps did not get the balanced scoring they so desperately needed in last year’s playoffs. And so GM Brian MacLellan added Eller and Connolly in the offseason, lauding both for their size, skating ability, and skill.

“We’ve been looking to fill that (third-line center) spot for a little while now,” he said after acquiring Eller from the Montreal Canadiens, who received a couple of second-round draft picks in return.

Connolly, meanwhile, was a former sixth overall draft pick who was running out of chances to stick in the NHL. He signed a one-year, $850,000 deal with the Caps on July 1, after the Bruins chose not to extend him a qualifying offer

“He just hasn’t seemed to put it together yet consistently,” said McLellan. “Talking to him, I think in hindsight he probably started in the league as too young a guy so his game hasn’t fully come around or matured and I think he’s got a good awareness of where he’s at and so do we. We’re going to try and fulfill his potential and he’s trying to do the same thing.”

Of course, all of this success will be forgotten if the Caps don’t keep rolling in the postseason. That’s the burden this team will carry into the spring. Washington is now in the second year of what McLellan has deemed a “two-year window.” Win or lose in the playoffs, some tough decisions will need to be made this summer, and the balanced scoring the Caps are currently enjoying may take a hit.

But that’s a worry for another day.

“It’s fun to play right now,” said forward Marcus Johansson, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “The confidence in the group is outstanding.”

Capitals goal-scoring since Jan. 1

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