Mike Halford

Brent Burns

Sharks give Norris love to Burns, ‘one of the best defensemen in the league right now’

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As the regular season winds down, awards chatter heats up — and no trophy has garnered more debate this season than the Norris, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman.

If you talk to enough pundits, you’ll come to the conclusion this year’s hardware will go to one of two guys: Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, or Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty.

But from the Bay Area, a third suitor is getting a push from his teammates — Brent Burns.

“He’s an animal,” James Reimer said of Burns, per the San Jose Mercury News. “He’s arguably one of the best defensemen in the league right now and probably not getting the recognition he deserves.”

Burns, who represented San Jose at this year’s All-Star Game, is enjoying a quality campaign. He sits second among all blueliners in scoring, with 74 points — only Karlsson has more, with 79 — and his eye-popping 344 shots on goal are something of an anomaly from a defenseman, as only three in NHL history have fired that many in a single season:

Dustin Byfuglien, Ray Bourque, and Bobby Orr.

Despite that, most concede that Burns is unlikely to bring home the Norris this year. Part of that could do with his, ahem, occasionally reckless style of play, which often leads to turnovers.

The other part could be his history. Despite being a good, quality rearguard for quite some time, Burns has never finished higher than 12th in Norris voting.

It’s something his head coach, Peter DeBoer, can’t make sense of.

“I can’t understand why he’s not in those conversations more for (the Norris Trophy),” DeBoer explained. “He’s a version of (Nashville’s Shea) Weber and Doughty.

“He plays well in both ends for us, plays against other team’s best lines. They’re big guys a lot of nights, and he brings a physical element too, which some of those guys don’t. For me, he should be in that conversation all day long, and I don’t understand why I don’t hear his name more.”

 

Rangers beat Jackets, clinch sixth straight playoff berth

New York Rangers' Derek Stepan, left, is congratulated on his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets by teammates Marc Staal, center, and Dan Girardi during the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio. The Rangers beat the Blue Jackets 4-2. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
AP
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan each scored their 20th goals and had an assist, and the New York Rangers hung on to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 Monday night to earn a sixth-consecutive playoff berth.

Dan Boyle and Mats Zuccarello also scored for the Rangers, who snapped a three-game skid and moved three points behind second-place Pittsburgh. They remain two points ahead of the fourth-place Islanders in the Metropolitan Division.

The Rangers clinched playing down a defenseman most of the way. Captain Ryan McDonagh was injured blocking a shot early in the first period and left the game.

Henrik Lundqvist made 27 stops for his 34th win.

Nick Foligno scored twice for Columbus, which pulled within one with 9:15 remaining before conceding an empty-net goal.

The Blue Jackets were again without former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovksy, who was a healthy scratch by coach John Tortorella in favor of impressive rookie Joonas Korpisalo. The 21-year-old made 26 saves.

The Rangers finally got off to a good start, scoring the first two goals of the game. On the attack with speed, Kreider took a drop pass from Stepan – who picked up his 300th career point – in traffic and fired a low shot that Korpisalo couldn’t control. Sliding on his knees and with Dalton Prout on his back, Kreider was able to get the rebound and score on the backhand at 6:17 of the first period.

Early in the second, Columbus had trouble clearing its own zone. The puck came to Boyle and he glided to the net before sneaking a shot under Korpisalo at 5:28 0.

Foligno cut the lead to one at 14:41, deflecting David Savard‘s shot in front of Lundqvist for his first goal in 16 games.

Four minutes later, Kreider forced a turnover to create an odd-man break and found Zuccarello, who scored from the slot for his career-high 26th goal to make it 3-1.

Columbus made it interesting late in the third period when Foligno scored his 11th on a nice individual effort around Kevin Klein before tucking the puck behind Lundqvist with 9:15 remaining.

Zuccarello was sent off for high-sticking Foligno with 2:03 remaining, but Stepan scored into an empty net with 1:11 left to end the Blue Jackets’ comeback bid.

NOTES: The Rangers host Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and then play the visiting Islanders and Detroit to finish the season. … Tortorella also scratched 15-year veteran Scott Hartnell for the third time this season. Hartnell has one goal and is a minus 10 in his last 13 games. … New York swept the four-game season series. … Blue Jackets C Gregory Campbell played his 800th career game. … Lundqvist earned his fourth assist of the season on Kreider’s goal to tie his season high. He has 21 career assists. … Columbus D Cody Goloubef left the game in the first period with an oblique injury.

Isles lose another d-man, this time it’s de Haan (knee)

Pittsburgh Penquins v New York Islanders
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The last thing the Islanders needed tonight was to lose the services of another blueliner.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Tonight’s victory over the Bolts was clouded by news that Calvin de Haan suffered an injury after blocking Nikita Kucherov‘s first-period shot. De Haan tried to return for the second period but, eventually, the Isles ruled him out — and following the game, the tone didn’t sound great with regards to de Haan’s status:

The Isles, of course, are already without the services of d-man Travis Hamonic, who’s out for the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury.

Its unclear when — or, if — Hamonic will return, which is especially troubling.

Hamonic, a steadying presence on the blueline, missed all of last year’s opening-round playoff loss to the Caps with a knee injury (grade-3 MCL tear). Without him, the defense was thinned out and the Isles ultimately bowed out in seven games.

The 25-year-old, who has been in the news quite a bit this season because of his earlier trade request, was averaging a career-high 24:04 TOI per night and tied a career-best in goals, with five.

As for de Haan, he doesn’t play as large a role as Hamonic, but remains vital to the Isles. The 24-year-old averages just under 21 minutes a night and leads the team in blocked shots this year, with 189.

Related: Pelech (vascular) may be back in time for the playoffs, though

Video: McDonagh suffers apparent hand injury versus Jackets, won’t return

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Could be a pretty blue Monday at MSG.

During tonight’s game against Columbus, the Rangers announced that captain Ryan McDonagh had been knocked out of action with an apparent hand injury, and wouldn’t return.

The incident occurred during the first period, when McDonagh blocked a Brandon Dubinsky shot with just over five minutes remaining.

Needless to say, losing McDonagh’s services for any length of time would be a huge blow for the Blueshirts. The club came into tonight’s action with just four games left in the regular season, and just two points up on the Islanders for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

McDonagh, who entered Monday as the Rangers’ leader in ice time per game (22:33), has 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists) in 72 games this season.

After recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome, Pelech could return for Isles in playoffs

Adam Pelech, Lee Stempniak
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Back in late January, we passed along word that promising New York defenseman Adam Pelech was lost for the year with an undisclosed upper-body ailment.

Well, things certainly have changed.

Pelech, who was later diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome — the same ailment that recently sidelined Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos — has since undergone successful vascular surgery and, somewhat amazingly, is ready to get back into action, as he’ll soon join the Islanders’ AHL affiliate.

More, from Newsday:

Following surgery in California to remove part of the uppermost rib and some muscle on Pelech’s right side, he’s ready to resume his season. He’ll play for Bridgeport this weekend and, incredibly, could be a real option for Jack Capuano and the Islanders in the playoffs, which start next week.

“That would be amazing,” he said. “If you’d told me when it happened I might have a chance to play in the playoffs this year, it’d be hard to believe.”

Pelech credits the Islanders’ medical training staff, which reached out immediately to its counterparts with the Bruins and Lightning — Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid and Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy both had TOS and returned to play.

Pelech, New York’s third-round pick at the ’12 draft, was diagnosed with his ailment just weeks after getting recalled from Bridgeport. He averaged 16:42 TOI in seven games at the NHL level, recording two points.

His return could be a real boon for the Isles, who are currently without an important blueline piece in Travis Hamonic. Another d-man, Calvin de Haan, was hurt blocking a shot in Monday’s game against Tampa Bay, but did return for the second period.