Mike Halford

Mike Sullivan

Pens hire Donatelli to replace Sullivan as AHL coach

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On Tuesday, Pittsburgh announced that longtime minor league coach Clark Donatelli has been named the new bench boss of its AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Donatelli, 50, takes over for Mike Sullivan, who was promoted to head coach with the Penguins after Mike Johnston was fired on Dec. 12.

“Clark Donatelli brings a wealth of head coaching experience and has been with the organization for five years,” Pens assistant GM Jason Botterill said, per the club’s website. “Donatelli has helped develop 11 players in [ECHL] Wheeling that are currently on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster.

“Coach Donatelli and Associate Coach Jay Leach will make a dynamic team that will continue the path set by Mike Sullivan.”

Leach was the interim head coach following Sullivan’s move to the parent club.

A former NHLer with Minnesota and Boston, Donatelli was the coach in Wheeling for the last four seasons. He was the only coach in Nailers history to take the team to consecutive playoff appearances.

Wild could be key players at trade deadline

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7
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The Wild made news yesterday by inking defenseman Jared Spurgeon to a four-year, $20.75 million deal.

The contract itself was a story — in ’16-17, Spurgeon will be the club’s second-highest paid d-man next to Ryan Suter — but the ramifications of the deal were also newsworthy.

Specifically with regards to trade talks.

The Wild’s issues at center have been well-documented.

Prior to the start of the year, Thomas Vanek said “we don’t maybe have the strongest depth in the middle” and, last week, the club claimed struggling veteran Jarret Stoll off waivers after he was cut loose by the Rangers.

Minnesota’s a spend-to-the-cap team that has to believe its Stanley Cup window is open.

And in a Western Conference loaded with high-end centers — including Jonathan Toews, whose Blackhawks have eliminated the Wild in three straight playoffs — GM Chuck Fletcher knows his team might need more down the middle.

So what about a defenseman-for-center swap?

“Our defense is the strength of our team,” Fletcher explained, per the Star-Tribune. “It gives us depth and may give us the opportunity to look at different options down the road.”

More, from Sportsnet:

Minnesota’s top four blueliners are at a cap number of $21M next season, and this kind of move was rumoured even before Spurgeon’s extension.

It would not be a huge stunner to see Fletcher make a run at [Ryan] Johansen, as Columbus is looking for defence.

Now remember, Fletcher has a history of bold moves at the deadline.

In 2013, he swung big to get Jason Pominville out of Buffalo and, a year later, acquired Matt Moulson in time for the club’s playoff run.

Last season, the acquisitions weren’t as big — Sean Bergenheim and Chris Stewart — but Fletcher did make a noteworthy move well before to the deadline, rescuing the Wild’s goalie situation by acquiring eventual Vezina nominee Devan Dubnyk from Arizona.

With all this said, orchestrating a deal won’t be easy.

The Wild are tight to the cap ceiling, and Fletcher needs to decide if this is his “go for it” moment — will he go the rental route? Can he even afford it?

Or will he instead try to find a more long-term fix down the middle?

After two games, Habs send prized prospect McCarron back down to AHL

Michael McCarron’s time with Montreal is over — for now.

McCarron, the hulking forward that’s regarded as one of the Habs’ best prospects, has been demoted to AHL St. John’s, per TVA.

The demotion means McCarron, who was recalled last week, won’t get a chance to face the Wild when the Canadiens play in Minnesota tonight (NBCSN, 8 p.m. ET).

The decision to send him down comes after the 20-year-old played 12:10 in his NHL debut against the Stars — taking four penalty minutes in a 6-2 loss — and then playing just 5:58 in last night’s 5-1 loss in Nashville.

McCarron only played three shifts for 1:50 TOI in the final period against the Preds.

At 6-foot-6 and 231 pounds, McCarron — the 25th overall pick in 2013 — has utilized his size to great success, most notably with the IceCaps.

He has 13 goals and 24 points in 28 games this year, leading the team in goals while sitting second in scoring.

 

 

Columbus’ Werenski named Team USA captain for World Juniors, Matthews an alternate

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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The highest-drafted player on the U.S. roster has been chosen to wear the “C” at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships.

Zach Werenski, taken eighth overall by Columbus at the 2015 draft, was named team captain on Tuesday.

He’ll take the reins of a leadership group that includes Minnesota prospect Louie Belpedio, Ottawa prospect Colin White and the guy who will likely go higher at this year’s draft than Werenski did last year — Auston Matthews, the projected No. 1 overall selection for 2016.

“We’re excited about our leadership group here in Finland,” head coach Ron Wilson said, per USA Hockey. “Zach, Louie, Auston and Colin have led by example since day one in Lake Placid this August and have the respect of everybody in the room.”

Werenski, 18, is the second-youngest player to ever captain the American juniors. Last year, Jack Eichel became the youngest captain in the program’s history.

Canucks won’t dress Miller against Bolts, recall Cannata

Erik Karlsson Ryan Miller
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Ryan Miller won’t be in goal tonight when Vancouver takes on the Lightning in Tampa Bay.

Heck, he won’t even be on the bench.

After exiting Sunday’s shootout loss to Florida with cramps, Miller will be held out of tonight’s tilt entirely — on Tuesday, the Canucks announced that Jacob Markstrom would start, while recently-recalled Joe Cannatta will back up.

If this was a scheduled start for Markstrom, giving Miller a night off isn’t a huge story. The 35-year-old has been one of the NHL’s busiest netminders through the first three months of the year, sitting tied for second in starts (28) and third in minutes played (1664:53).

Markstrom, who missed time with an injury earlier this season that forced Miller into extra action, is 1-3-2 with a .911 save percentage and 2.76 GAA.