Jason Brough

DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 21:  Ryan Oulahen #25 of the Detroit Red Wings skates in a pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on September 21, 2007 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The Red Wings won in overtime 1-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Former Wings prospect Oulahen named head coach of Flint Firebirds

Former Red Wings prospect Ryan Oulahen has been named head coach of the Flint Firebirds.

The Ontario Hockey League, which has taken control of the junior club due to the actions of owner Rolf Nilsen, made the announcement this morning.

In addition to the hiring of Oulahen, former Flyers prospect Eric Wellwood was named associate coach.

“Today’s announcement is a further piece in putting together a strong hockey operations staff for the Flint Firebirds,” said OHL commissioner David Branch in a statement. “Their combined knowledge and experience will help develop the Flint Firebird players both on and off the ice.”

Oulahen is only 31, but he’s spent the last six years as an assistant coach of the Brampton/North Bay Battalion.

Wellwood is even younger, just 26, but has been as assistant coach for Oshawa the past two seasons.

“Ryan and Eric are both young yet experienced, bringing tremendous enthusiasm, leadership and a strong foundation in junior hockey to the Firebirds’ bench,” said Flint GM George Burnett.

Enthusiasm and leadership will be key. Because the challenge now will be to turn around a team that not only struggled badly on the ice, but also had major issues off of it.

The Firebirds franchise moved from Plymouth to Flint for the 2015-16 season, after it was sold to Nilsen by Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, Jr.

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    Bruce Boudreau threw a backdoor breaking ball for a strike at last night’s Twins game

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 19: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild delivers a ceremonial pitch before the game between the Minnesota Twins and the Toronto Blue Jays on May 19, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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    We already mentioned in the Morning Skate that new Wild coach Bruce Boudreau threw out the first pitch at last night’s Twins game at Target Field. However, we didn’t provide any video, which you can now see below.

    In his typical self-deprecating style, Boudreau called the experience “more nerve racking than coaching a Game 7.” (Because, you see, he does not have a very good record coaching Game 7s.)

    But credit to the crafty lefty because he shook off the nerves and got the ball across the plate.

    And as you can see, he even put “a little stuff on it”:

    It’s official: Coyotes’ AHL affiliate will move to Tucson

    19 Sep 1998:  General view of the scoreboard and skyline during a game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 35-11. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport
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    The Arizona Coyotes have cleared the final hurdle in order to relocate their AHL affiliate to Tucson.

    From the Coyotes’ press release:

    The AHL’s Board of Governors approved the sale of the Springfield Falcons AHL franchise to the Coyotes on May 10; Tucson City Council approved a 10-year arena lease agreement between the Coyotes and the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) on May 17; and the Coyotes closed on the purchase of the franchise on May 18. The Coyotes’ AHL affiliate will play its home games at the TCC beginning in October.

    The Coyotes’ top farm team will play in the AHL’s Pacific Division. In 2015-16, the Pacific Division featured the AHL affiliates of the Anaheim Ducks (San Diego Gulls), Calgary Flames (Stockton Heat), Colorado Avalanche (San Antonio Rampage), Dallas Stars (Texas Stars), Edmonton Oilers (Bakersfield Condors), Los Angeles Kings (Ontario Reign) and San Jose Sharks (San Jose Barracuda).

    The Vancouver Canucks are now the NHL’s only Pacific Division team not to have its minor-league affiliate in the AHL’s Pacific Division. (The Canucks’ is in Utica.)

    “We are absolutely thrilled to relocate our AHL team to Tucson,” said Coyotes’ president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc. “The Coyotes were part of the initial discussion to form a Pacific Division in the AHL but we were unable to secure a franchise prior to last season. We are extremely excited and proud to bring AHL hockey to a first class city like Tucson. This further proves that the Coyotes ownership group is committed to Arizona and to growing the Coyotes brand and the great game of hockey in our state.”

    The new AHL team has yet to be named. Click here to make a suggestion.

    According to the Coyotes, the Tucson Convention Center has a capacity of approximately 6,700.

    Related: Coyotes are ‘well aware that our spending needs to rise’

    Blues need to eliminate ‘reactionary penalties’: Hitch

    ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 17:  Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates with Joe Thornton #19 and Joe Pavelski #8 after scoring a second period goal against Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues in Game Two of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 17, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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    SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) When Peter DeBoer took over as coach in San Jose one of the first tasks he wanted to complete was making sure the Sharks were more than just a power-play team.

    Improved depth and 5-on-5 play helped get San Jose back to the postseason after missing it a year ago, but come playoff time that power play has served as an impressive weapon and a barometer for the team’s success.

    One game after getting shut out on the man advantage, the Sharks struck twice following St. Louis penalties in a 4-0 win Tuesday night that tied the series at one game apiece heading into Game 3 on Thursday in San Jose.

    “It creates momentum for us,” DeBoer said Wednesday. “I think that’s what you’re looking to do with your special teams both ways, is create momentum. I think when our power play scores, that creates momentum. I think when we kill penalties like we did last night, like that four-minute penalty, I think that creates momentum the other way for us. That’s what you’re looking to do as a coach, is get momentum out of your special teams. I think that does that for us.”

    The Sharks lead the NHL with 15 power-play goals this postseason and their 30 percent success rate is tops among all teams that have played more than one round. San Jose is 13-for-32 on the power play in nine playoff wins, compared to 2-for-18 in its five losses.

    With a five-man top unit that has years of experience together, San Jose is a finely tuned unit. Joe Thornton is the playmaker, spending most of his time along the half-boards or behind the net. He has plenty of options.

    Brent Burns scored both power-play goals in Game 2 off one-timers that St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott had little chance to save. Captain Joe Pavelski led the team with 12 power-play goals in the regular season, with many coming on deflections in front of the net or rebounds. Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau bring versatility with the ability to create plays for teammates or score on big shots of their own.

    “Our power play’s pretty free-flowing,” Thornton said. “Really just can’t key on one guy. We got five guys that can hurt you. I think for us it’s just the way you move around, it’s really hard to defend.”

    The Blues managed to neutralize the Sharks in Game 1 when they killed all three power plays in a 2-1 victory. They were short-handed five times in Game 2, including a slash behind the play by Troy Brouwer that led to the Sharks’ second goal of the game and an interference call on Steve Ott for hitting Pavelski from behind when the puck was not in the area.

    “The penalties you don’t like at this time of year are reactionary penalties,” coach Ken Hitchcock. “We had two reactionary penalties yesterday, one in the first game. Those are the ones you don’t like. Doesn’t matter who takes them, veterans, rookies. That’s a sign that the other team has a little bit of an advantage, they’re making you react to anything happening on the ice. Those are the ones you don’t like.”

    The other big difference in Game 2 was that the Blues failed to take advantage of their power-play chances. After getting a man-advantage goal from captain David Backes to open the scoring in Game 1, St. Louis went 0-for-6 on the power play Tuesday night, including a weak four-minute chance early in the third period when Marleau was called for a high-sticking penalty and the Sharks lead was only 2-0.

    San Jose used 13 of its 18 skaters for more than a minute of penalty-killing time with top defensive pair Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun each spending more than 5 minutes on the ice with the Sharks short-handed.

    The Blues managed 12 shots on the power play but were unable to beat Martin Jones as the Sharks did a good job controlling rebounds and keeping St. Louis to the outside.

    “You want to use the power play to get momentum,” forward Robby Fabbri said. “Last night we didn’t execute on any of them. Just the way some games go. We got to stay confident and go with our next chances.”

    RelatedThe Sharks have ‘got their A game going right now’

    The Penguins are playing Schultz to his strengths

    NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 06:  Justin Schultz #4 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on before a face off against the New Jersey Devils on March 6, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    On Jan. 20, 2013, Justin Schultz made his NHL debut and played 20:52 for the Edmonton Oilers. By his third game, his ice time was up to 26:51, the most on the team.

    In hindsight, it was too much, too soon, and with way too little structure and support. In February, the offensive defenseman — the same one that former Oilers GM Craig MacTavish once said had “Norris Trophy potential” — was traded to Pittsburgh for a measly third-round draft pick.

    Still just 25, Schultz is currently in a bottom-pairing role for the Penguins. He replaced Olli Maatta in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final. In Game 3, he registered an assist on Sidney Crosby‘s power-play goal, but barely skated 10 minutes at even strength.

    Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said the goal with Schultz has been to put him in positions where he can succeed.

    “We like to see our players for what they can do and not what they can’t do,” said Sullivan. “It’s our responsibility to try to put them in situations where they can play to their strengths. And all of our guys have different strengths, and that’s what makes good teams good, I think.

    “Justin’s a guy that, when we acquired him, we thought he could help us play the identity or the type of game that we want to play. He’s a very good puck mover. He has good offensive instincts. He has good mobility. He can really shoot the puck. And so we’ve tried to put him in positions where he can play to those strengths, and he’s done a real good job for us. He doesn’t try to do too much. He plays within himself.”

    Looking back on the summer of 2012, it may have been better for Schultz to pick a more established team, one that wasn’t so bereft of quality defensemen, one that didn’t really need him. The supposedly up-and-coming Oilers wooed Schultz, then a highly sought-after college free agent, with calls from Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. When he signed, he insisted he was never guaranteed ice time, but the top-four opportunity in Edmonton was obvious. 

    Of course, there’s no sense in dwelling on the past. Schultz has been given a fresh start in Pittsburgh, and it appears he’s making the best of it.

    “We’ve tried to offer him feedback from what we see or what our expectations are in trying to define his role with our group, and I think he’s embraced that with our team,” said Sullivan. “So when we do put him in the lineup, we know what we’re getting. We know how we think he can help us win.”