Mike Halford

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 30:  Tyler Motte, 121st pick overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, poses for a portrait during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center on June 30, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Report: Motte to sign with ‘Hawks as University of Michigan exodus continues


Zach Werenski, Michael Downing and now, Tyler Motte.

Those are the three underclassmen that have left the University of Michigan to sign with NHL teams and begin their professional careers — on Wednesday,Wolverines head coach Red Berenson told Michigan Daily that Motte will skip his senior year to ink with Chicago.

Motte, a 21-year-old forward, was taken by the ‘Hawks in the fourth round in 2013, and just wrapped a wildly successful junior campaign at Michigan, in which he scored 32 goals and 56 points in only 38 games.

He’s a former U.S. National Development teammate of Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, as well as J.T. Compher — another U of M underclassman that might go pro.

Looking ahead, all eyes will now be on fellow junior Compher, who’s rights are held by Colorado, and freshman sensation Kyle Connor, who was taken in the first round of last year’s draft by Winnipeg.

Motte, Connor and Compher were the Wolverines’ three leading scorers in ’15-16 and, just over a week ago, Berenson acknowledged he could be losing all three of them — after having already lost two prized d-men in Downing (Florida) and Werenski (Columbus).

“As soon as they start waving the flag, some of these kids can’t say no,” Berenson said, per the Detroit Free Press. “They’re so enamored and swayed. It used to be the players would ask me, ‘What do you think?’ They don’t ask anymore.”

Related: Another Wolverine goes pro, as Florida signs Downing

With injuries mounting and playoffs looming, ‘Hawks recall Bickell

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell, left, controls the puck against Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker during the second period  of Game 2 in the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoffs in Chicago, Sunday, May 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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All it took for Bryan Bickell to get back in the mix was an injury to Andrew Shaw.

And Marian Hossa.

And Artem Anisimov.

And, probably, the pending commencement of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

On Wednesday, Chicago announced it had recalled Bickell from AHL Rockford, getting him back into the rotation with the Blackhawks just two games away from starting their postseason.

The timing probably isn’t coincidental.

Though the aforementioned injuries did open the door for Bickell’s return, it was expected he’d be in the mix in some capacity once the postseason began, given there’s no salary cap in the NHL’s second season.

With money no longer part of the equation, Chicago was free to dig up Bickell’s buried $4M cap hit, and try to coax another strong playoff performance out of him.

Bickell, who hasn’t played with the ‘Hawks since Jan. 8, has done reasonably well in Rockford this season, scoring 15 goals and 31 points in 44 games.

That production never translated to the NHL, though — zero goals, two assists in just 23 games — but there is hope he can replicate some of the form that saw him score nine goals and 17 points in 23 games en route to the ’13 Stanley Cup.

Related: Hawks blow out Coyotes, but lose Anisimov to injury

Roy: ‘Unacceptable’ Avs missed playoffs — ‘our core needs to show more leadership’

Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy looks on intently against the Vancouver Canucks in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The day after being eliminated from the playoffs for the second straight year, Colorado head coach Patrick Roy went on Denver’s 104.3 The Fan and — in a lengthy, occasionally contentious interview — had some pretty harsh assessments of his team.

“I think our core needs to show more leadership,” Roy said, echoing remarks made after Sunday’s ugly 5-1 loss to the Blues. “It was like this when I played for Montreal, it was like this when I played for the Avs.

“The core are the ones that have to carry the team. They’re the ones where, when you lose a game, it has to hurt from the inside. You should want more.”

Leadership, or a lack thereof, has been a recurring topic in Colorado.

Back in ’13-14 — when the Avs racked up 52 wins and 112 points en route to the playoffs — the team was exciting, but incredibly inexperienced. Gabriel Landeskog was fresh off being named the youngest captain in NHL history, and the club’s top four scorers — Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O'Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon — were all 23 or younger.

Roy said the club has since made a conscious effort to bring in veterans like Jarome Iginla, Francois Beauchemin and Blake Comeau, but noted those additions are peripheral — support guys, if you will. The difficulty for Roy and GM Joe Sakic still lies with the core.

“The first thing, and it’s been our challenge, is to change the culture,” Roy explained. “It’s kind of funny — I read some articles that said ‘enough babying these guys, you gotta be tougher.’

“Then I’m tougher, and people are mad at me. And if I’m too soft, people are mad at me.”

Things really boiled over for Roy in the aforementioned loss to St. Louis, during which Duchene whooped it up after scoring his 30th goal of the year — a goal that came with the Avs trailing 4-0.

Roy said he had a “hard time” with the celebration, saying it’s “not the [reaction] we want from our guys.”

The Duchene incident led to more talk about Colorado’s leadership dynamic, and Roy got after it again on Wednesday morning, going so far as to suggest changes still needed to be made within the Avs’ room.

“My belief is our mindset needs to change,” he explained. “That’s the conversation I have with [Sakic] when we’re talking about ‘we need to be stronger mentally,’ and ‘we need to bring character players inside of this dressing room.’ That’s what we’ve been trying to do.”

At this point, it’s probably worth noting two things: 1) Even though head coaches are hired to be fired, Roy swings a pretty big hammer in Colorado. He and Sakic are tight, dating back to their playing days together with the Avs.

That ties into, 2) Roy’s front office role. Though his coaching duties are first and foremost, he’s still the VP of hockey ops and has a say in personnel decisions. Which means the above comments loom large.

Know what else looms large? Roy’s reply, when 104.3 The Fan asked what his emotions were right now.

“I’m very disappointed and very frustrated,” he said. “It’s unacceptable that we didn’t make the playoffs.”

Tall order: Isles give Gibson first career start, against NHL-leading Caps… in Washington

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 23: Christopher Gibson #33 of the New York Islanders tends net against the New Jersey Devils at the Barclays Center on September 23, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Devils 2-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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From the “throw him into the deep end, see if he can swim” file: Chris Gibson, he of the 29 minutes of NHL experience, will make his first big-league start tonight when the Isles take on the Caps at Verizon.

That’s the NHL-leading Capitals, who’ve scored the second-most goals (237) in the league.

And that’s at the Verizon Center, where the Caps are 29-7-2 this year.

And yes, Gibson’s start comes with the Isles in the second of a back-to-back, having played the Bolts last night.

Have fun!

As for Gibson, here’s the skinny — he’s 23, from Finland, and was taken in the second round of the 2011 draft (by Los Angeles). He never signed with L.A., though, and caught on with the Leafs organization in ’13. After spending time in both ECHL Orlando and with the AHL Marlies, he was part of the package Toronto sent to the Isles in exchange for Michael Grabner last September.

Ordinarily, he’d be New York’s No. 4 netminder on the depth chart, behind Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube. But with Halak and Berube hurt, head coach Jack Capuano doesn’t have a ton of choices at the moment — Greiss played last night, so Gibson gets to play Washington.

In 42 games with AHL Bridgeport this year, Gibson’s posted a 2.70 GAA and .909 save percentage. He did look sharp in his first-ever NHL action, though — in the Isles’ 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh back in January, he stopped 16 of 17 shots after coming on in relief of Greiss.

Related: Greiss’ numbers have been slipping lately

Goalie nods: After Cherry’s ‘can’t stop a beach ball’ remark, Rask starts for B’s

A shot by New Jersey Devils center Reid Boucher enters the net of Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask for a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Newark, N.J. The Devils won 2-1. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

No shortage of storylines at play tonight in Boston.

The B’s have just three games left in their regular season. They’re fighting for their playoff lives. And with crucial points on the line, they’ll start Tuukka Rask when they host the ‘Canes at TD Garden.

Rask, of course, is coming off a disastrous outing in Chicago, in which he was hooked after allowing four goals on 22 shots.

That, of course, came after a leaky performance in St. Louis, in which he got the win — but still allowed five goals on 30 shots.

All those goals against prompted a stinging criticism by Hockey Night in Canada personality and ex-B’s coach Don Cherry, who on Monday tweeted out that Rask “can’t stop a beach ball.”

While the beach ball remark was a bit much, this definitely hasn’t been a banner year from the Finnish netminder. Rask’s .915 save percentage and 2.60 GAA are well off his career averages (.924 and 2.25, respectively), but that’s a byproduct of a depleted Boston blueline, one that’s been whittled down over the last few years and is currently Dennis Seidenberg and Kevan Miller.

Rask will need to get better, in a hurry, if Boston wants to get back into the postseason after missing a year ago. Defensive issues or no, he’s posted three straight games with ugly save percentages (.867 versus New Jersey, .833 versus St. Louis, .818 versus Chicago) and can’t afford a fourth against the ‘Canes.

For Carolina, Cam Ward starts in goal.


Cory Schneider makes his second start after returning from injury when the Devils host the Sabres. Chad Johnson goes for Buffalo.

Thomas Greiss played, and won, last night against the Bolts, so we don’t know who will go for the Isles tonight in Washington. It’s Braden Holtby for the Caps.

Matt Murray once again fills in for the ailing Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh. The Sens will start Andrew Hammond.

Roberto Luongo takes on Mike Condon as the Panthers face the Habs in Montreal.

— Neither the Bolts nor the Rangers had morning skates (both played last night), so no word on who’ll be in goal.

Semyon Varlamov hopes to keep Colorado’s meager playoff chances alive in Nashville. Looks like Pekka Rinne will go for the Preds.

— The in-form James Reimer gets another start for the Sharks, who are in Minnesota. The Wild are starting Devan Dubnyk.

Louis Domingue versus Scott Darling as Arizona invades Chicago.

— No word on a Kings starter in Calgary yet, but Joni Ortio, fresh off a shutout against Edmonton, is in goal for the Flames.

— In the late game, the Jets will go with Michael Hutchinson in Anaheim. The Ducks are still waiting on Frederik Andersen to get back to full health, so John Gibson starts once again.