Mike Halford

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)
AP

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

12 Comments

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.

Flames parting ways with Hiller

Jonas Hiller
AP
11 Comments

No huge surprise here, but it is official — veteran goalie Jonas Hiller won’t be back with the Flames next season, per the Calgary Sun.

Hiller, 34, struggled mightily this season after a ’14-15 campaign in which he backstopped Calgary to the playoffs a year ago. He went 9-11-1 with a 3.51 GAA and .879 save percentage, getting sporadic playing time.

In the last of a two-year, $9 million deal, Hiller could be in tough finding NHL work next season. He was largely panned for his body of work this year and — following an ugly 8-3 loss to Anaheim, in which Hiller allowed three goals on five shots — head coach Bob Hartley offered a frank assessment.

“You give them a few freebies from the start, and you know it’s going to be a long game,” Hartley said, per Yahoo. “Our goalies had a tough night. Nothing to take away from the Ducks, but in order to beat them you need a few saves here and there.”

As for Calgary, moving on from Hiller figures to be part of a major overhaul in goal.

Karri Ramo, who suffered a torn ACL in February, said he’s spoken with management — “we’ll see which direction the organization is going to go,” he said — but, given he turns 30 in July and is coming off a major knee injury, he doesn’t look like a long-term option.

Niklas Backstrom, acquired in the David Jones trade, is gone, which leaves Joni Ortio to (presumably) battle with whomever the Flames acquire via trade, or free agency.

The club has been tied to San Jose’s James Reimer (pending UFA) and Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen (pending RFA). But it sounds as though Calgary’s options might expand beyond those two — in March, Flames GM Brad Treliving said the club will “cast a wide net” to find a goalie.

Tavares, Kane, Ovechkin named NHL’s three stars of the week

John Tavares
AP

Star-studded release from the NHL today as the Isles’ John Tavares, the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane and the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin were named the three stars for the week ending Apr. 10.

More:

Tavares led the NHL with 4-5—9 in four games to power the Islanders (45-27-10, 100 points) to seven out of a possible 10 standings points and the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Kane shared second in the League with 3-3—6 in three games to guide the Blackhawks (47-26-9, 103 points) to four out of a possible six standings points and the No. 3 seed in the Central Division.

Ovechkin led the NHL with five goals in three games, including his 50th of the season, to help the Capitals (56-18-8, 120 points) close their Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign with a 1-1-2 record in the final week.

Pretty nice finish from Tavares, who played well in March (11 points in 16 games) and April (nine points in five games) to springboard himself into the playoffs.

He and the Isles, of course, are looking to win their first playoff series since 1993 when they take on the Panthers — a series that, due to some scheduling quirks, will feature three games in four nights, including a back-to-back on Thursday-Friday.

Tributes pour in for Snider, ‘the soul and the spirit of the Flyers’

Chairman of Comcast-Spectacor Ed Snider, right, speaks at an NHL hockey news conference with Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren and newly-hired head coach Craig Berube, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP
12 Comments

The passing of Flyers owner Ed Snider has been met with an outpouring of emotion, sadness and respect for what many are calling not just a Philadelphia hockey icon — but a hockey icon, period.

“Ed Snider was the soul and the spirit of the Flyers, who have reflected his competitiveness, his passion for hockey and his love for the fans from the moment he brought NHL hockey to Philadelphia in 1967,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a release. “On a personal note, I have valued Ed’s counsel, I have admired his philanthropy and truly have cherished his friendship. Ed was an unmistakable presence and an unforgettable personality.

“Like most people who had the pleasure of knowing Ed, I will miss him terribly.”

Clubs across the league — including two of Philadelphia’s fiercest rivals — tweeted out their condolences:

Great story here from the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Frank Fitzpatrick, about a lunch with Snider that ended with Snider demanding the author “have some goddamned shrimp!”

As you’d expect, a number of current and ex-Flyers shared their memories:

Snider had been battling bladder cancer for the last two years and, prior to the start of this season, his ailing health prevented him from being in the Flyers’ team picture for the first time in 47 years.

Fittingly, the club rallied down the stretch to make the postseason — the 38th time Philly qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs during the Snider era.

Report: Coyotes to part ways with GM Maloney

Don Maloney
Getty Images
19 Comments

Is the NHL’s sixth-longest tenured GM about to be fired?

Per Sportsnet, yes.

That’s from Nick Kypreos, who on Monday morning tweeted a “shake-up” was coming out of Arizona, which reportedly includes Don Maloney — who’s been the club’s general manager since 2007 — being relieved of his duties.

Maloney, 57, trails only Garth Snow, Dean Lombardi, Doug Wilson, David Poile and Ken Holland on the list of longest-serving GMs. He captured the league’s General Manager of the Year award in 2010 — making him the first-ever winner — and, under his guidance, led the Coyotes to the playoffs three times, including the club’s first-ever Conference Finals appearance in 2012.

Arizona has struggled in recent years, however.

The club has failed to make the postseason four straight times and, over the weekend, reports began to surface that Maloney was in danger of losing his job.

In 2013, Maloney had signed a “long-term” extension with the Coyotes. But that contract was negotiated and inked prior to the current ownership group — led by Andrew Barroway and Anthony LeBlanc — taking control of the organization later that year.

Should Maloney ultimately be relieved of his duties, he’ll leave an interesting legacy. He presided over one of the most tumultuous franchises in league history, going several years without an owner while being constantly hamstrung by an internal (read: low) salary cap budget and incessant relocation rumors.

Despite this, he managed to procure some quality young players via the draft and trades, including prized rookies Anthony Duclair and Max Domi. In the pipeline are some tantalizing prospects, including Dylan Strome, Brendan Perlini and Nick Merkley.

Maloney also hired and basically worked in lockstep with Dave Tippett for the duration of his time in Arizona, during which Tippett emerged as one of the NHL’s most well-respected coaches.