Joe Yerdon

Panthers to announce new ownership tomorrow

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The rumors about the Florida Panthers sale are apparently true.

The team has called a press conference for Friday morning to announce the sale of the team. It’s believed New York businessman Vincent Viola is the man set to buy the franchise.

The Panthers became the team many suspected would be next on the relocation rumor mill after the Phoenix Coyotes were sold this summer, but with new owners as well as a sweetheart lease in Broward County, Florida the Panthers aren’t going anywhere.

The biggest step for Viola will be to get the Panthers back to relevance in South Florida. While the team made the playoffs two years ago, their last deep run in the postseason came in 1996 when they were swept by Colorado in the Stanley Cup Final. As it is, the team has made the playoffs just four times in 19 seasons.

Ovechkin to be first Russian torchbearer for Sochi Olympics

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Alex Ovechkin’s dream to carry the Olympic torch will come true.

The Washington Capitals announced Ovechkin will head to Europe to be the first Russian torchbearer for the 2014 Games in Sochi. The ceremony is set to take place on September 29 in Olympia, Greece. As you might expect, Ovechkin is very excited by the honor.

The date makes things interesting as that’s just two days before the Capitals open the season in Chicago against the Blackhawks. Team owner Ted Leonsis gives Ovechkin full leeway to go and represent his country at the ceremony.

“This is a huge honor and we are so proud, and excited for Alex and his family,” he said. “This is a very special event and we are thrilled that he was recognized for his past achievements and his dedication to his craft and his country.”

For those concerned, yes, he will be back in time for opening night.

As for Ovechkin, he could barely contain himself announcing the honor on Twitter.

Shanahan responds to Vlasic’s complaints on Kessel punishment

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San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic now knows everyone is listening when he speaks, especially the NHL.

Head of player safety Brendan Shanahan heard Vlasic’s complaints about the punishment handed down to Phil Kessel and offers up an explanation for his decision. David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News dug in and got the story.

“My door is always open to any player. If he truly wants an explanation, he can reach out to me anytime and I will give him an explanation. That is an easy route and not something that he necessarily needs to do through the newspaper.

“On each incident, we dissect the details. We use our experience to try to establish intent, degree of recklessness. For someone to say the judgment is too lenient of the judgment is too harsh, that’s perfectly acceptable because this is a subjective job and we respect that other people have other opinions.”

Shanahan teaches him a lesson and lets him know he should do it man-to-man instead of through the media. Safe to assume Shanahan didn’t like reading complaints from another player about how he’s doing his job. He even went so far as to explain past actions involving Vlasic.

People may not agree with how Shanahan doles out punishment, but he’s owning every bit of it.

EA Sports predicts St. Louis Blues as 2014 Stanley Cup champions

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The creators of NHL 14 simulated how their game sees the upcoming season playing out and fans in St. Louis are going to love the results.

EA Sports’ simulation sees the Blues knocking off the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games to win the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup. NHL 14 producer Sean Ramjagsingh explains how the Blues came out on top.

“The St. Louis Blues are the personification of NHL 14,” he says. “They’re tough, fast and have one of the deepest lineups in the League, making them a favorite to finish on top this season.”

It’s tough to argue with that. They’re deep in goal, they’ve got plenty of great players on defense, and they can score a little bit. They’re heavy favorites to make the playoffs and have solid odds to win the Stanley Cup already.

As for how the Blues get there, they do it by beating the simulation’s Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Chicago Blackhawks. Knocking off the Penguins in the Final would make it all the sweeter for St. Louis. After all, getting to see captain David Backes hoist the Cup would be all worth it, right?

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As for other results in EA’s simulation, they see a couple of familiar names taking home scoring awards.

They project Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby as the Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner with 109 points while Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos comes away with the Rocket Richard Trophy scoring 64 goals, edging out Washington’s Alex Ovechkin with a mere 53.

Meanwhile, Stamkos’ Lightning teammate, Jonathan Drouin, takes home the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year.

One potential surprise in their simulation sees the Edmonton Oilers beating out the Anaheim Ducks by four points for the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division race ending their seven-year playoff drought. Los Angeles, Vancouver, and San Jose join the Oilers in the playoffs while the Central race has Chicago, St. Louis, Minnesota, and Dallas emerging.

Curiously enough in the East, EA has the Ottawa Senators on the outside looking in while Boston, Detroit, Montreal, and Toronto make the playoffs in the Atlantic. The Metropolitan race sees Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, and New York Islanders make the playoffs.

As for the race for the No. 1 pick in the draft, EA has the Florida Panthers finishing with the fewest points with 73. No word if they had Tim Thomas factoring into that fun. The rest of the bottom has Carolina (74), Calgary (75), Colorado (76), Buffalo (77), and Winnipeg (77) all finishing with fewer than 80 points.

EA’s simulations have been pretty good about getting the participants nailed down in recent years. Fans in St. Louis hope they’re definitely on the mark this time around.

Blues sign Brenden Morrow — one year, $1.5 million

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Brenden Morrow has a new place to call home, and he’s got a pair of familiar faces there to help make things a bit easier.

ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reports Morrow has signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the contract is worth $1.5 million.

In St. Louis he’ll be playing for former Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock as well as former GM Doug Armstrong. Having connections like that there helped open the door for an opportunity for Morrow. The big question for the Blues is: How much does he have left?

Last season with Dallas and Pittsburgh, Morrow tallied 12 goals and 13 assists with 37 penalty minutes. In the playoffs with Pittsburgh, he had four points in 14 games while playing just under 14 minutes a game.

If the Blues are just looking for veteran forward help, they’ve got it. If they’re hoping Morrow can dig deep and be a 30-goal guy again, those expectations may not be met.