Jason Brough

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 12: Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks is congratulated by Brent Burns #88 and Joonas Donskoi #27 after Couture scored in the second period against the Nashville Predators  in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Couture says Sharks have been ‘under-appreciated all season’


Last May, when Pete DeBoer was named the new head coach of the San Jose Sharks, he predicted a “big bounce-back” from the team that had missed the playoffs in 2014-15.

“You’ve got a lot of proud people here that aren’t too happy about where they were sitting at the end of last season,” he said. “My history with that is, if you’ve got character and you’ve been through that, you’re ready to push back. And I think we’re going to see that.”

Many were skeptical. And by January, almost halfway through the season, the Sharks still hadn’t bounced back. They were 18-18-2 after 38 games, not even good enough for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division.

It was then that they finally took off. Buoyed by the return of Logan Couture, they went 28-12-4 to finish the regular season, and now they’re just two wins from reaching their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

“Our team has been, I think, under-appreciated all season,” Couture told reporters last night after Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, a 3-0 Sharks victory over the beleaguered-looking Blues.

“We found our game the second half of the year and started playing the kind of hockey that Pete was preaching when he came to training camp. It took a little while for us to get used to the system and for injuries to heal. And we’ve been great the second half and in the playoffs.”

In hindsight, perhaps the Sharks should’ve been considered stronger contenders heading into the postseason. After all, they did have a great second half, and it wasn’t like their roster lacked star power.

But then, the Ducks also looked pretty good down the stretch; and the Kings had won two Stanley Cups in the last four years; and let’s face it, it was hard to ignore San Jose’s history of playoff flops.

Now, the Sharks still have to beat the Blues twice, and that won’t be easy. But DeBoer’s prediction has already been proven correct. The Sharks have indeed bounced back, and they’ve done it in a “big” way.

“I’ve been around here where the Sharks have been that team that’s expected to go out and win the Pacific and roll through teams,” said Couture. “We faced a lot of adversity this season and last summer and I think it really helped us come together as a group.”

Related: Young Sharks forwards have ‘answered a lot of questions regarding our depth’

Yep, there’s a bottle of Cool Mint Listerine atop Kessel’s dressing-room stall


Apparently, Phil Kessel‘s teammates aren’t quite finished enjoying his post-game interview with NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire.

Per the Penguins’ Twitter feed, a bottle of Cool Mint Listerine has been placed atop Kessel’s dressing-room stall at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.

There also appears to be some Winterfresh gum in there.

We all know the backstory by now. Following Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday, McGuire asked Kessel, “How’s your breath?” To which Kessel replied, “It’s not good, eh?” To which McGuire said, “No! I meant in terms of conditioning.” Kessel laughed, hid his face in his towel for a second, then earnestly answered the question. When the interview was over, he chuckled again and said he couldn’t believe what just happened.

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said the Penguins “had a good laugh” about the awkwardness of the whole thing.

“First of all, I think it was funny, it was awesome,” Crosby told reporters. “I think that anyone being asked that question, I think we’ve all probably thought to ourselves, ‘How do you answer that?’ It’s kind of a tough one to answer and he handled it great. It was pretty funny. It’s probably perfect that it was Phil because he’s probably the one to handle it as good as that.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was asked this morning about the Listerine bottle.

“That’s part of being part of a close-knit team,” he said. “These guys, they don’t miss much. So when they have opportunities to have some fun with one another, I think that’s a good thing. I think it brings our team even closer together, and that’s an example of it.”

Game 4 goes tonight. The happy-go-lucky Pens lead the series, 2-1.

Former Wings prospect Oulahen named head coach of Flint Firebirds

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)

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.

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

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’