Jason Brough

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Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

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Stan Bowman promised there’d be changes, and today those changes began.

The Chicago Blackhawks have fired longtime assistant coach Mike Kitchen. A member of Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010, Kitchen spent seven seasons in Chicago, winning two championships along the way.

“We believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward,” said Bowman, the general manager. “Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen was in charge of the Blackhawks’ penalty kill, which finished 24th after a terrible start to the regular season.

Though the ‘Hawks only surrendered one power-play goal in four losses to the Predators, Quenneville’s staff was bound to change in the wake of such a disappointing postseason performance.

Quenneville’s other assistant, Kevin Dineen, is still on the staff.

Five impressive stats from the first round

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.976Pekka Rinne‘s save percentage in four games against Chicago, all of them victories, two of them shutouts. Rinne only allowed three goals on 126 shots by the Blackhawks, who had all sorts of trouble generating quality scoring chances against the tight-checking Predators. Though Rinne may not have had the toughest saves to make, he kept the mistakes to a minimum, and he was a big reason for the sweep.

11 — Points for Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, who had two goals and nine assists in five games against Columbus. Malkin is now just seven points shy of the 18 he registered in last year’s playoffs, and that took 23 games. His career high in the postseason is 36 points, which earned him the 2009 Conn Smythe Trophy.

29.4% — Washington’s power play in six games against the Maple Leafs. That’s not the highest success rate in these playoffs — Calgary’s was 37.5 percent, Pittsburgh’s 33.3 percent — but in a series that saw five games go to overtime, the Caps could’ve easily been eliminated if they hadn’t converted five times with the man advantage. Alex Ovechkin scored twice on the PP, while T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, and John Carlson got the other three.

9 — Different goal-scorers for the Edmonton Oilers, who showed they can be more than just Connor McDavid in defeating the Sharks in six. True, McDavid led the Oilers with four points (2G, 2A). But it was bottom-six winger Zack Kassian who played the hero early on, with back-to-back winning goals in Games 2 and 3. Then David Desharnais notched the winner in Game 5, followed by Anton Slepyshev in Game 6.

5 — Points for Ducks rookie defenseman Shea Theodore (2G, 3A) in four games against the Flames. Only Erik Karlsson has more points (6) among d-men in these playoffs, and Karlsson played six games against the Bruins. Theodore downplayed his postseason production, telling reporters, “You get good bounces every once in a while.” But the 21-year-old put up piles of points in junior, and he did the same in the AHL. So really, we shouldn’t be all that surprised that he’s doing it in the NHL now.

Pending free agents, Radulov and Zaitsev won’t play for Russia at Worlds

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Montreal’s Alexander Radulov and Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev will not play for Russia at the upcoming World Championship, even though the Canadiens and Maple Leafs have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Both Radulov and Zaitsev are pending free agents, and it would be a risk to play ahead of contract negotiations.

Zaitsev just recovered from an upper-body injury, possibly a concussion. It may, in fact, have been the Leafs who refused to let him go.

Radulov, 30, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Zaitsev, 25, will be of the restricted variety, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension first. 

Read more: Radulov denies he wants eight-year extension

They aren’t the only players skipping the Worlds due to their contract situations. Chicago’s Richard Panik and Vancouver’s Bo Horvat will not be taking the risk either.

Elliott would be ‘first to admit’ playoffs went poorly: Treliving

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The Calgary Flames were not blown out of the water by the Anaheim Ducks.

They were swept, yes, but all four games were close. The Flames should’ve at least won Game 3, which they led 4-1 before losing, 5-4, in overtime. In the first two games, it was penalties that hurt them.

Goaltending hurt them, too, as much as GM Brad Treliving was loath to pin the loss on one player.

The reality is, Brian Elliott finished the postseason with an .880 save percentage, the lowest of the 16 starting netminders in these playoffs. He played well at times during the regular season, but his first year in Calgary was ultimately a frustrating one.

“I think everyone would agree, Brian would be the first one, that he’s capable of playing much better,” Treliving said today. “The playoffs didn’t go the way he would like them to go. He’d be the first one to admit it.”

Read more: Flames are back to square one in search for starting goalie

Elliott and backup Chad Johnson can both become unrestricted free agents this summer; however, Treliving would not say what he intended to do about the position. Other potential UFAs include Ben Bishop and Scott Darling. Perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury will be available, too.

Before making any decisions, Treliving wants the sting of the playoff loss to wear off first.

“Emotion and frustration, I haven’t seen them ever be helpful in decision-making,” he said.

Like his two goalies, Treliving doesn’t have a contract extension either, and naturally there’s been talk he could land elsewhere if the Flames don’t buck up to keep him. The Buffalo Sabres have an opening at the GM position, if you didn’t hear.

Treliving was quiet about that as well.

“My situation, that’ll get dealt with when it gets dealt with,” he said. “That’s not for today.”

Looking back on the season as a whole, the Flames did make considerable progress, going from 77 points to 94 and a spot in the playoffs. Things didn’t go well against the Ducks, but that doesn’t cancel out all the positives.

“As difficult as the last 48 hours have been, there’s lot to be proud of and there’s a lot to look forward to,” said Treliving. “I think this organization, this team, is on the cusp of being there.

“But our message to the players is, ‘It doesn’t happen because we think we are. It doesn’t happen because we’re going to be a year older or a year wiser. It happens because we’re going to put the work in.'”

Bettman confirms two options for ‘more hockey friendly’ home for Isles

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The New York Islanders intend to submit a proposal to build a new arena on land at Belmont Park.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed it this morning, per Newsday, adding that land next to Citi Field in Willets Point is another option for a new rink.

“I believe that everyone thinks there is a terrific opportunity [at Belmont Park], if not at Willets Point, to create a more hockey friendly environment for the Islanders,” Bettman said.

The Isles currently call Brooklyn home; however, Barclays Center is a basketball-specific arena that is not “hockey friendly.”

Read more: How Isles can leave Barclays

Bettman also reiterated today that the Isles are unlikely to return to a renovated Nassau Coliseum.

“I don’t know if it’s a short-term option,” he said, “but I know it’s not a long-term option.”

Related: Bettman says Isles will explore their options re: new arena