Mike Halford

NHL Awards staying in Vegas, but moving to Hard Rock

The annual NHL Awards gala is moving to its fourth different Vegas-based location.

On Monday, the Review Journal confirmed the league will host this year’s ceremony at The Joint, a 4,000-seat venue within the Hard Rock Hotel.

More:

The Palms hosted the Awards Show from 2009 to 2011. Wynn Las Vegas hosted from 2012 to 2014. Last year’s event was held at the MGM Grand Garden.

The NHL was looking to return to the MGM. But there were scheduling conflicts with both the Grand Garden and T-Mobile Arena, so the league explored the Hard Rock, which has The Joint, a 4,000-seat venue.

The show will be held on June 22, which is just days prior to the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. The draft, of course, holds special significance for Las Vegas, as the Bill Foley-led expansion group is expected to hear whether its bid has been accepted or not.

At the NHL’s GM meetings in March, commissioner Gary Bettman said the league will make its decision on expansion by the time of the draft, which will begin on June 24.

Related: Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

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    Duchene, O’Reilly highlight Canada’s preliminary Worlds roster

    Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly, left, celebrates with teammate Matt Duchene after both scored during the shootout against the New Jersey Devils to secure the Avalanche's 2-1 shootout victory in an NHL hockey game in Denver on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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    Former Colorado teammates Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly will once again join forces for Canada at the World Championships — on Monday, the pair were named to the initial roster of 18, per Hockey Canada.

    The remainder of the roster:

    Goaltenders

    Calvin Pickard (Winnipeg/Colorado, NHL), and Cam Talbot (Caledonia, Ont./Edmonton, NHL);

    Defensemen

    Cody Ceci (Orleans, Ont./Ottawa, NHL), Ben Hutton (Brockville, Ont./Vancouver, NHL),Ryan Murray (White City, Sask./Columbus, NHL), Morgan Rielly (West Vancouver, B.C./Toronto, NHL), and Chris Tanev (Toronto/Vancouver, NHL).

    Forwards

    Max Domi (Toronto/Arizona, NHL), Brendan Gallagher (Tsawwassen, B.C./Montreal, NHL), Boone Jenner (Dorchester, Ont./Columbus, NHL), Connor McDavid (Newmarket, Ont./Edmonton, NHL), Brad Marchand (Hammonds Plains, N.S./Boston, NHL) Sam Reinhart (West Vancouver, B.C./Buffalo, NHL), Mark Scheifele (Kitchener, Ont./Winnipeg, NHL) and Mark Stone (Winnipeg/Ottawa, NHL).

    As announced earlier, the GM group is comprised of George McPhee, Brad Treliving and Doug Armstrong. That trio recently named Carolina’s Bill Peters as Team Canada’s head coach.

    Here are five goalie dramas to watch in the playoffs

    at Pepsi Center on December 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.
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    A quick look at some of the most intriguing netminding scenarios for the Stanley Cup playoffs:

    Fleury’s health, Murray’s health

    Marc-Andre Fleury missed the end of Pittsburgh’s regular season with a concussion.

    His backup, Matt Murray, was knocked out of the final game following a collision with Philly’s Brayden Schenn.

    This, of course, is not how the Pens wanted to punctuate an otherwise terrific ending to the year. Third-stringer Jeff Zatkoff was forced to finish off the Flyers game — a 3-1 loss, snapping an eight-game winning streak — and while Fleury did return to practice on Monday, it’s unclear if he’ll be ready when the Pens open their series against the Rangers on Wednesday.

    While his playoff performances have been erratic in recent years, Fleury is still incredibly battle tested — of all active NHL netminders, he sits second in wins (53) to Henrik Lundqvist.

    As such, the Pens are definitely hoping he’s healthy, especially since Murray is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

    Allen vs. Elliott

    In what’s become an annual rite of passage in St. Louis, Ken Hitchcock was forced to choose a Game 1 playoff starter — it’ll be Brian Elliott facing Chicago, getting the nod over the previously-injured-but-now-100-percent-healthy Jake Allen.

    But, in what’s also become a rite of passage for the Blues, things could change.

    In their previous four playoff appearances, the Blues have had four different starting goalies: Elliott, Allen, Ryan Miller and Jaroslav Halak. It’s been something of a revolving door, though Elliott has remained the constant.

    Last year, Hitchcock started Allen over Elliott in St. Louis’ opening-round series against the Wild (even though, a month earlier, Hitch said Elliott would be the guy). The decision came under scrutiny after Allen looked shaky over the final two games of the series, and got hooked in the decisive Game 6.

    The problem for St. Louis doesn’t lie with who’s named the starter, though. It’s what happens afterward. Given the all the mind changing, it’s tough for the No. 1 to not constantly be looking over his shoulder.

    What will Boudreau do?

    For Game 1 versus Nashville, John Gibson looks to be the Anaheim starter.

    But, much like in St. Louis, things can change.

    Back in March, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau might employ a playoff goalie rotation between Frederik Andersen and Gibson.

    Andersen was the guy for Anaheim last spring, playing every minute of every game en route to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. Yes, his play in that Conference Final was spotty — he gave up 18 goals over the final four games versus Chicago, and finished the series with a .901 save percentage — but that experience could prove invaluable.

    There’s little doubt Gibson is the club’s goalie of the future, but he’s still just 22 years old and doesn’t have a huge postseason resume. Boudreau went to him during the ’14 playoffs for a brief spell, four games all told, and Anaheim was bounced in the second round by L.A.

    Crease conundrums are nothing new in Anaheim, of course.

    During that ’14 run in which Gibson made his postseason debut, Boudreau started three different goalies — Andersen, Gibson and Jonas Hiller — which proved to be an awkward situation in the blue paint.

    Crease conundrums are nothing new for Boudreau, either.

    His penchant for flip-flopping predates his time with the Ducks. In Washington, he yanked Jose Theodore in favor of Semyon Varlamov during the 2009 playoffs; a year later, after vowing “there is no short leash” for Theodore, Boudreau yanked him in favor of Varlamov.

    Again.

    What will BB do this time around?

    Crawford’s health

    In Chicago, there’s some concern about the health of Corey Crawford. The two-time Stanley Cup champ returned from a three-week absence — believed to be a head injury — to play in Saturday’s season finale, a sloppy 5-4 OT loss to Columbus in which Crawford allowed five goals on 25 shots.

    Which begged the question: Is Crawford ready for the playoffs?

    Head coach Joel Quenneville says yes.

    Despite that assertion, Crawford will be one to watch. Do remember that, last year, he was hooked and briefly replaced by Scott Darling in the opening round against Nashville.

    Of course, Crawford then reclaimed the No. 1 gig in that same series, and went on to backstop the ‘Hawks to the title.

    Howard vs. Mrazek

    Last year, Petr Mrazek was named starter for Detroit’s opening-round playoff series against Tampa Bay.

    This year?

    Head coach Jeff Blashill wasn’t confirming anything on Monday, but all signs pointed to Jimmy Howard:

    This isn’t a huge surprise, given Howard was the man for Detroit down the stretch, starting the final seven games.

    But one has to think the door is open for Mrazek. Howard did close out the year with consecutive losses, and Mrazek’s big coming out party happened against the Bolts last year, when he finished the series with a .925 save percentage.

    Bonus 6th drama: Dallas!

    This one is still TBD, as Stars head coach Lindy Ruff hasn’t decided between Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi. From the Dallas Morning-News:

    On if he’s decided yet on a starting goalie for Game 1

    “I like the way both our goalies have played. Right now I don’t have a bad decision. There’s not a wrong decision, but these guys have both played well and they’ve both played well down the stretch. There’s probably a chance both guys will play.”

    On if he’ll name a starting goalie prior to Game 1

    “No.”

    Neither goalie has been great this year, but Niemi could get the nod based solely on postseason experience. He has a Stanley Cup and over 60 games on his resume, while Lehtonen has never been out of the first round and has just eight playoff games to his credit.

     

    Sharks sign goalie prospect Armalis, who had ‘a number of NHL suitors’

    STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - FEBRUARY 18: Mantas Armalis #59 of Djurgarden Hockey skates against Linkoping HC at Hovet Arena on February 18, 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Interesting move out of San Jose on Monday, as the Sharks announced they’ve inked Mantas Armalis to an entry-level contract.

    “Mantas had a number of NHL suitors and we are excited that he chose San Jose,” GM Doug Wilson said in a statement. “We’ve been following his progression up the ranks in Sweden over the last few seasons and he has consistently performed at every level.

    “He has a history of playing above his age group internationally, and we’re looking forward to him joining our organization.”

    Armalis, 23, is an intriguing figure.

    Aside from his work as a Versace model, he made waves for Swedish Hockey League club Djurgardens this year, posting the sixth-best save percentage in the league.

    He’s also done well internationally, helping his native Lithuania capture bronze at the 2015 World Division 1B championship, while capturing Best Goaltender honors.

    That San Jose landed Armalis — ahead of a number of reported suitors, including the Leafs — is also intriguing.

    The club’s depth behind No. 1 netminder Martin Jones consists of minor leaguers Aaron Dell, Joel Rumpel and Troy Groenick. Wilson, of course, hasn’t drafted many goalies — just three (Mike Robinson, Jake Kupsky, Frederik Bergvik) in the last seven years — and has a history of success prying talent out of the Swedish and Finnish leagues, like Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson.

    The Armalis signing could also mean the Sharks’ current backup, James Reimer, will opt to test free agency and try to land a starting gig elsewhere next season, rather than battle Jones for minutes.

    Let’s look at the many, many key injuries heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) reacts after the New York Rangers scored a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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    Over the next few months, you’ll be subjected to a litany of stories — some written by PHT! — about players getting hurt during the exhausting, physical Stanley Cup playoff grind.

    So why not get out in front, and look at all the players hurt heading into the postseason?

    Because there are a lot of them.

    A lot.

    • Let’s start in Tampa, where captain and former 60-goal scorer Steve Stamkos is out 1-3 months following vascular thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. The procedure, which removed Stamkos’ upper right rib, was conducted on Apr. 4 and, according to the doctor that performed the surgery, Stamkos would be re-evaluated “in about two weeks.”

    That would put the re-evaluation around Apr. 18, and Game 4 of the Bolts’ opening-round series with Detroit is on the 19th. There is hope a speedy recovery process would allow Stamkos to return at some point during the postseason, possibly as early as the second round.

    • Let’s stick in Tampa, where veteran defenseman Anton Stralman is out indefinitely with a fractured left leg. A 22-minutes-per-night guy that’s among the Bolts’ best possession d-men, Stralman is a valuable right-handed shot, on a blueline that doesn’t have many. So needless to say, it’s a big loss.

    Neither the club nor Stralman has ruled out a return, but there’s no timeline for it.

    “Who knows? There’s definitely going to be a few weeks, it’s a fractured bone,” he said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “It has to heal. I hope I’ve got good healing powers, otherwise I’ll blame my dad.”

    • Pittsburgh’s also dealing with injuries to a star center and valuable defenseman.

    Evgeni Malkin, out with an upper-body injury, is expected to miss the first two rounds. While Malkin is a major loss — the former Hart and Conn Smythe winner has 111 points in 101 career playoff games — the Pens have thrived in his absence, and won eight of nine to close out the regular season.

    On defense, Olli Maatta (lower body), who hasn’t played since mid-March, was back on the ice at practice Monday, a good sign for his pending return. And in equally good news, starting netminder Marc-Andre Fleury was also at practice. Fleury’s been out of action since Mar. 27 with a concussion.

    • In Dallas, star center Tyler Seguin remains sidelined with a lacerated Achilles. The injury occurred in mid-March and forced him to miss the final 10 games of the season. Seguin has said he’ll be back for the playoffs, but the “when” remains unknown — last week, he resumed skating in a limited fashion, but head coach Lindy Ruff said it was too early to comment on whether Seguin could play in Game 1 versus Minnesota.

    • The Isles are dealing with a number of injuries at the moment. Starting goalie Jaroslav Halak‘s been out since early March with a groin ailment and, while he’s on target to return by mid-April, it’s hard to envision him getting thrown back into the mix after so much time off.

    Minutes-munching defenseman Travis Hamonic is out with a knee injury, versatile forward Anders Lee is out with a broken left fibula and veteran Mikhail Grabovski hasn’t played since Mar. 17 due to a concussion. Of those three, Hamonic seems most likely to return, as he resumed light skating last week.

    • The Rangers will reportedly be without captain Ryan McDonagh to start their series against the Pens. McDonagh, who suffered a broken right hand last week, was thought to possibly be out for the entire first round but, over the weekend, Blueshirts head coach Alain Vigneault listed McDonagh as “day-to-day.” Stay tuned…

    • Nobody’s really sure what’s going on in St. Louis. Captain David Backes and goalie Jake Allen were shut down for the final three games of the regular season (both lower-body) back in early April. Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock has since named Brian Elliott the Game 1 starter against Chicago, and Backes wasn’t at practice on Monday.

    • It’s unclear if the Panthers, back in the playoffs for the first time in four years, will have captain Willie Mitchell available for selection. Mitchell, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, has been out since January with post-concussion symptoms, but did practice with the team on Monday. There’s also uncertainty about key forward Vincent Trocheck, who is still in a walking boot after injuring his foot on Mar. 30. Trocheck had 26 points in 27 games prior to getting hurt, so his loss is a big one.

    • More unknowns out of Anaheim. Veteran d-man Kevin Bieksa hasn’t played since Mar. 24 due to a lingering upper-body issue, while shifty forward Rickard Rakell (appendicitis) has been out since Mar. 28. Rakell is expected to be ready for Game 1, but the outlook for Bieksa is less clear. David Perron, who had 20 points in 28 games after being acquired from Pittsburgh, is out longer term with a separated shoulder.

    • Minnesota will open its series with Dallas minus the services of Thomas Vanek, who will be out “more than a week” with an upper-body injury (per interim head coach John Torchetti). Vanek, who finished fourth on the team with 18 goals this year, is expected to miss at least the first two games of the series.

    • San Jose has been without shutdown d-man Marc-Edouard Vlasic since Mar. 17. Vlasic, who’s dealing with a MCL sprain, is expected to be ready to start the opening round against the Kings — though there could be a rust factor, given he sat out the final 12 games of the regular season.

    • Los Angeles is relatively healthy, but there are some players to monitor. Top-four defenseman Alec Martinez is day-to-day with an undisclosed ailment, yet he did skate on Sunday. Veteran winger Marian Gaborik, out since mid-February with a knee injury, was originally thought to be on track for a playoff return, but now he could miss some of the first round. Tough guy Jordan Nolan had back surgery in early March, and could be done for the year.

    • Chicago was without the services of Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa and Andrew Shaw down the stretch, but all returned to practice on Monday.

    • What about Washington, you ask? Oh, the Presidents’ Trophy winner heads into the playoffs at 100 percent health, now that Jay Beagle appears ready to dress for Game 1 versus Philly.