Mike Halford

Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, right, celebrates with Niklas Kronwall (55), of Sweden, and Tomas Tatar (21), of Slovakia, after a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in an  NHL hockey game Friday, April 1, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Goalie nods: Wings stick with Howard for crucial clash against Flyers


It’s a light night on the NHL calendar — just three games all told — but it’s an evening loaded with playoff implications, as the Red Wings host the Flyers in a key battle for Eastern Conference wild card positioning.

Philly’s decision in goal was relatively easy. It’ll be Steve Mason making his 10th straight start. With Michal Neuvirth hurt and the untested Anthony Stolarz backing up, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol didn’t really have an alternative option.

His counterpart, Detroit’s Jeff Blashill, had a more challenging decision.

The choice was either to stick with Jimmy Howard — who’s started four straight and won two in a row — or go back to Petr Mrazek, who played at a Vezina-caliber level through the first half of the season.

The choice?

Howard, who is coming off a stellar game against Toronto in which he stopped 32 of 34 shots, good for a .940 save percentage.

While it’s a massive contest for both teams, Detroit has a bit more on the line. The Wings have just two games left after this — both on the road, in Boston and New York — while the Flyers have three games left: Thursday versus Toronto, Saturday versus Pittsburgh and their season finale on Sunday, in Brooklyn.

Oh yeah, Detroit also has its streak of 24 consecutive playoff appearances on the line. Forgot to mention that one.


— Big night in Edmonton, as the team and fans bid farewell to Rexall. Jacob Markstrom is expected to play for the visiting Canucks, while Cam Talbot is likely to start for the Oilers.

— It’s Sergei Bobrovsky versus Garret Sparks as the Blue Jackets take on the Leafs in Toronto.

Drury joins Team USA management group for Worlds

Rangers Sign Chris Drury And Scott Gomez
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Chris Drury’s transition into the managerial side of hockey will begin in a fitting place.

One of USA Hockey’s most decorated international competitors, Drury has been named to the management group that will oversee the American entry at the 2016 World Championships, the organization announced on Wednesday.

Drury, 39, appeared in three Olympics and three World Championships for the U.S., helping the team capture silver at the ’02 games in Salt Lake, and the ’10 games in Vancouver.

A Stanley Cup winner with Colorado in 2001, the former Boston University star enjoyed a lengthy NHL career that included stints with the Avalanche, Flames, Sabres and Rangers, serving as captain in both Buffalo and New York.

USA Hockey has certainly made a splash in advance of the ’16 Worlds.

In addition to naming Drury to its management group, the organization also made waves in late March when it named Auston Matthews as the first player — and, so far, the only player — to the roster.

Report: Motte to sign with ‘Hawks as University of Michigan exodus continues

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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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.”