Mike Halford

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B’s turf another assistant — Jarvis out, Pandolfo and Cassidy in

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Boston continued to shake up Claude Julien’s coaching staff on Monday, as GM Don Sweeney announced that longtime assistant Doug Jarvis would not be back next season.

Longtime NHLer Jay Pandolfo and Bruce Cassidy — who had spent the last five years as the head coach of Boston’s AHL affiliate — have been named as Julien’s new assistants, joining Joe Sacco and Bob Essensa on staff.

Earlier, Sweeney had dismissed Julien’s longtime right-hand man, Doug Houda. Houda has since landed an assistant’s gig in Detroit.

In Cassidy, the B’s get an experienced bench boss. He served as the head man in Washington from 2002-04, then as an assistant in Chicago before moving on to a lengthy stint in the American League.

One would think Cassidy is an at-the-ready replacement for Julien, should the team struggle and Sweeney is forced to make a more significant coaching change next season.

In Pandolfo, Boston gets a local guy — he’s a Massachusetts native that played collegiately at Boston University. At the tail end of a lengthy career that included two Stanley Cups with New Jersey, Pandolfo wrapped up his playing days with the Bruins, then moved into a player development role.

In another hire, Sweeney announced that announced the club has hired Paul Whissel as the Bruins Director of Sports Performance and Rehab.

Related: Julien will be back behind B’s bench, Sweeney has ‘work to do’

Devils’ O’Neill, former AHL MVP, signs with KHL Jokerit

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Brian O'Neill is headed overseas.

O’Neill, the former American League standout that made his NHL debut for New Jersey this season, has opted to sign on with Finnish-based KHL team Jokerit, the club announced on Friday.

O’Neill, 27, was acquired from L.A. prior to the start of this season and appeared in 22 games for the Devils, but only managed to score two points.

That’s a far cry from the production he had in the AHL, especially during the ’14-15 campaign — he scored 78 points in 69 games for the Kings’ farm club to earn MVP honors, then posted another 20 in 19 playoff games en route to a Calder Cup championship.

O’Neill is just the latest ex-NHLer to join Jokerit. Colorado’s Joey Hishon also recently came aboard, joining the likes of Niklas Hagman, Linus Omark, Peter Regin, Niko Kapanen, Jesse Joensuu and Ossi Vaananen.

 

Cooper praises Pens, but still expects ‘long, tough’ series

AP
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Few NHL teams have the quickness, speed, skill and depth to overwhelm the Tampa Bay Lightning, which the Pittsburgh Penguins have done through three games of the Eastern Conference finals.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and a talented supporting cast that includes the sizzling line of Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino have outplayed the speedy Lightning for significant stretches of each game to gain a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.

Game 4 is Friday night at Amalie Arena, and the Penguins are looking to turn up the pressure even more.

“When you’re playing such good teams at this point, you know you can’t afford to look past the game in front of you,” said Crosby, who’s scored the past two games after going eight straight without a goal.

Malkin assisted on Crosby’s power-play goal that proved to be the winner in Game 3 on Wednesday night, Malkin’s first point since Game 2 of Pittsburgh’s second-round victory over Washington.

While the Penguins’ biggest stars were trying to get back on track, Kessel, Hagelin and Bonino heated up at precisely the right time.

The trio had a huge impact Wednesday night, as well, with Kessel delivering his team-leading seventh goal of the playoffs off a nifty pass from Bonino after earlier setting up Hagelin’s goal that snapped a scoreless tie.

“You don’t win consistently without (depth). That line’s been great all playoffs long,” Crosby said. “You look at the way Phil’s playing … he creates so much. Haggy’s got a ton of speed. And Bones is a really smart player. He works really well with those two guys. They’ve given us a lot of momentum.”

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper acknowledged line has been tough matchup for a team that’s accustomed to wearing opponents down with its own deep roster.

“You look at their team, Phil Kessel probably doesn’t get near the respect he deserves. I mean, he’s scored a ton of goals in this league. Bonino’s kind of one of those underrated players. … You look at the teams he’s playing, and there’s always been named stars ahead of him. Hagelin’s won everywhere he’s gone, the teams he’s played on. But they get overshadowed by the big name guys,” Cooper said.

“When you can go three and four lines deep – and something we’ve been able to do – it’s a tough matchup for teams,” the coach added. “They’re just another case – and plus they’re feeling it, too. They’re in one of those playoff runs where they’re feeling it, and when you are going like that, good things are going to happen for you.”

The Penguins have outshot Tampa Bay 124-70, a trend the Lightning can’t allow to continue if they expect to win the series.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has filled in admirably since replacing the injured goalie Ben Bishop during Tampa Bay’s victory in Game 1. In addition to generating more scoring chances, Cooper stressed the Lightning also have to play better in front of Vasilevskiy, who faced 41 shots in Game 2 and 48 Wednesday night.

“That’s unacceptable. I just feel bad for the kid that he’s keeping us in there and we’re not finding a way to bail him out,” Cooper said. “The way things have gone these (last) two games, it doesn’t matter who’s in net. You know, we could have Bish and Vasi both playing at the same time, and they might have squeaked a couple in.”

Tampa Bay won all three regular seasons meetings between the teams before taking Game 1 of this series on the road, so coaches and players say there’s no need to panic.

Cooper reunited the “triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat during the third period of Game 3, and the trio that was instrumental to Tampa Bay’s run to the Stanley Cup final a year ago produced two late goals.

Bishop practiced Thursday and said he remains hopeful he’ll return at some point in the series. Cooper said he doesn’t expect it to be for Game 4.

With Vasilevskiy playing as well as he has, and Tampa Bay’s track record as a resilient team, the coach remains confident this still will be a “long, tough” series.

“It’s not something where we’re sitting here saying: `Oh, we can’t beat this team.’ We couldn’t beat them in the last two games, and that’s the way we’re looking at it,” Cooper said.

“But in saying that, Pittsburgh’s put us in a position to be like that,” the coach added “Now it’s we served, they volleyed back. Now it’s our turn to send it back to them.”

Datsyuk’s agent shoots down reported KHL deal

AP
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The agent representing Pavel Datsyuk says reports from Russian “sports portal” Sportfakt.ru — ones claiming Datsyuk will sign in the KHL after playing in the world hockey championships — are false, adding that his client still intends to meet with Red Wings management following the tournament.

The Sportfakt report claimed Datsyuk had agreed in principle to a two-year deal with SKA Saint Petersburg. It was believed the club wanted to get Datsyuk’s deal done now, amid rumblings that two of its top scorers — Vadim Shipachyov and Evgeny Dadonov — were asking to be released from their contracts, in order to secure new deals elsewhere.

(Shipachyov, currently tearing it up at the worlds for Russia, is receiving a ton of NHL interest, per Eilliotte Friedman.)

Earlier this month, we passed along news that Datsyuk would, as his agent said, return to Detroit following the worlds and discuss his playing future with Wings GM Ken Holland.

Based on today’s development, that plan still appears intact.

Hornqvist (hand) in Pens lineup for Game 4

AP

First-line winger Patric Hornqvist will be back in the mix tonight as the Pens look to take a 3-1 Eastern Conference Final lead on Tampa Bay.

Hornqvist, who was shook up after getting hit in the left hand by a shot on Wednesday night, was declared “available” for Game 4, per head coach Mike Sullivan (by way of the Post-Gazette).

Hornqvist has six goals and nine points through 14 games this postseason, and is Sidney Crosby‘s running mate on the top unit. So needless to say he’s an important contributor for Pittsburgh.

The 29-year-old Swede was especially good in the opening round against the Rangers, with five points in five games.