Mike Halford

Rangers don’t think Lundqvist’s eye injury is ‘too serious,’ rule out McDonagh for Game 2


Here’s the latest in the wake of New York’s disappointing 5-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series:

Per head coach Alain Vigneault, the club doesn’t think the eye injury that forced Henrik Lundqvist to exit last night’s tilt is very serious. There’s some swelling around the eye and Lundqvist will see a specialist, but today’s recall of Magnus Hellberg was mostly precautionary.

— Still, no word on Lundqvist’s status for Game 2.

— There is a Game 2 status update for captain Ryan McDonagh, who’s dealing with a hand injury. He’s  officially been ruled out of Saturday’s tilt. McDonagh hasn’t played since blocking a shot against Columbus on Apr. 5.

— If there’s a silver lining for the McDonagh situation, it’s that the early schedule for this series is pretty spaced out. There’s a two-day break between Games 1 and 2, and another two-day break between Games 2 and 3.

Vigneault is mulling a change on defense, which could see Dylan McIlrath make his Stanley Cup playoff debut.

Cameron on ‘hurtful’ Melnyk remarks — ‘it felt like I was fired for three weeks’

Ottawa Senators coach Dave Cameron talks to players during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. The Panthers defeated the Senators 2-1 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Since Eugene Melnyk bought the Sens in 2003, the club’s had seven different coaches.

The seventh, Dave Cameron, was fired on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Cameron met with the media to discuss his dismissal. Not surprisingly, Melnyk came up and, also not surprisingly, Melnyk’s remarks from three weeks ago — in which he ripped into Cameron — came up as well.

“That was hurtful,” Cameron said (per the Sun) of his owner’s remarks from late March. “I didn’t feel any need for it.

“It felt like I was fired for three weeks… every day.”

Back on Mar. 22, Melnyk met with the media to discuss Ottawa’s disappointing campaign, one that would ultimately see the Sens miss the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Cameron was forced to shoulder a large chunk of his owner’s critiques. From the Citizen:

Melnyk hasn’t liked what’s happened with the Senators since Day 1. He was mystified by Cameron’s decision to sit starter Craig Anderson in the club’s home opener in October and give O’Connor, a raw rookie the net, in a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. 

He was asked why it went so badly?

“No idea. Bryan [Murray, Sens GM] and I sit there and we just nod our head. We can’t get it. We get it now. I remember back in December some of those games, three in a row that we lost by a goal we were leading. It was inconsistency and some stupidity,” said Melnyk, who then pointed at Cameron’s decision.

“I go back to the very first game. You put in the second goalie. What was that about? On opening night and the guy gets clobbered. It’s not fair to him, not fair to the fans. Just a lot of little tiny mistakes that all of a sudden escalate and get serious and get in people’s heads.”

At that point, it was pretty clear Cameron’s job was in major jeopardy.

Of course, Melnyk later added that nobody was safe in Ottawa and — to be fair — his words rang true. Cameron wasn’t the only fall guy; assistants Andre Tourigny and Jason Smith were also let go, as was goalie coach Rick Wamsley. Murray was replaced as GM by his longtime assistant, Pierre Dorion.

Still, all this begs the question — how desirable is the Sens job? Cameron was fired one year after overseeing the greatest regular season comeback in NHL history. Paul MacLean was fired one year after winning the Jack Adams.

Maybe the problem isn’t behind the bench.

Prized North Dakota d-man Stecher goes pro, signs with Canucks

TAMPA, FLORIDA - APRIL 09:  Keaton Thompson #4,Gage Ausmus #20,Christian Wolanin #24,Paul LaDue #6 and Troy Stecher #2 of the North Dakota Fighting Hawks pose with the championship trophy after the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championships at Amalie Arena on April 9, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.The North Dakota Fighting Hawks defeated the Quinnipiac Bobcats 5-1 to win the national title.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Troy Stecher, the University of North Dakota junior that helped the Fighting Hawks capture this year’s NCAA title, has opted to forgo his senior year and turn pro by signing with the Vancouver Canucks.

Stecher, 22, was named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament team following UND’s 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the championship finale. That award came on the heels of a highly successful regular season, in which Stecher finished sixth among NCAA d-men in scoring, with 29 points in 43 games.

Stecher, who went undrafted largely because of his diminutive (5-foot-10, 190-pound) frame, was listed as one of USA Today’s NCAA’s top potential free agents last March, at the end of his sophomore campaign.

He opted to return to school for one more year, and the move looks to have paid off.

In addition to capturing the Frozen Four, Stecher also drew interest from the Canucks, his hometown team. A Richmond, B.C. native, he spent three years playing for BCHL Penticton before moving to North Dakota.

Report: Coyotes looking to move AHL affiliate to Tucson

PNI coyotes main 0102

From AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan:

The Coyotes will likely have an American Hockey League team playing in Tucson next season. Two sources familiar with the talks confirmed that officials with the City of Tucson had multiple meetings recently with the Coyotes to discuss an AHL team playing its games at the Tucson Convention Center beginning in the 2016-17 season.

The Rio Nuevo district, where the Tucson Convention Center sits, funded nearly $8 million in upgrades to restrooms, concession stands, new seats, lights, a sound system and a new entryway two years ago.

It’s roughly a two-hour drive between Tucson and Glendale — the (temporary) home of the Coyotes — so moving the team makes a lot of sense, especially considering Arizona’s current affiliate is across the country in Springfield, Massachusetts.

This move would also follow in the footsteps of other Pacific Division clubs. Last summer, the Kings moved their AHL affiliate from Manchester to Ontario (California), the Sharks moved theirs from Worcester to San Jose, and the Ducks moved theirs from Norfolk to San Diego.

In speaking with Morgan, Tucson’s city manager wouldn’t comment on reported meetings with the Coyotes.

“What I can tell you is we have looked at what it would take to renovate the facility,” Michael Ortega said. “There were some discussions on what it would take to potentially recruit or respond to a request from a potential pro sports team.”

Currently, the Arizona Wildcats — a Div. I of the American Collegiate Hockey Association — play their home games at the Tucson Arena, which, per Morgan’s report, seats around 6,700 for hockey.


Detroit confirms it’s Howard over Mrazek for Game 1

Steven Stamkos, Jimmy Howard

Same opponent, different starting goalie.

That’s the storyline for Detroit tonight as it opens its Stanley Cup playoff rematch in Tampa Bay — it’ll be Jimmy Howard, not Petr Mrazek, as the starter in goal.

Last year, of course, Mrazek was named the starter just prior to Detroit’s series with the Bolts, a decision that proved a jumping off point for the Czech ‘tender. Even though the Wings fell in seven games, Mrazek impressed onlookers and finished with a sparkling .925 save percentage, propelling him to the starting gig for most of this season.

Most of this season.

With Detroit in danger of losing its consecutive streak of playoff appearances, head coach Jeff Blashill turned to Howard late in the year, starting him in the final seven games.

Howard, to his credit, did enough to get the Red Wings into the dance, but it was hardly a lights-out performance.

In the final two games of the year, losses to Boston and the Rangers, the 32-year-old surrendered seven goals on just 45 shots, an .844 save percentage, and was hooked against the Bruins.

If there is optimism for Howard, though, it could come from his history against the Lightning. He went 2-1-0 with a 2.14 GAA and .925 save percentage versus the Bolts this season — granted, the two victories came in October and November.

Much has changed since then. Just ask Howard!