New York Rangers

Jets in tough to make playoffs after ‘brutal’ loss to Rangers

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Lost in all the controversy surrounding Dustin Byfuglien’s crosscheck to the head of J.T. Miller was the fact the Winnipeg Jets lost in regulation last night, falling 3-2 to the Rangers on a goal by Chris Kreider with less than four minutes remaining.

It was the second straight painful loss for the Jets, who fell 4-3 to Chicago on Sunday on a goal by Jonathan Toews with just 31 seconds remaining, and it dealt a serious blow to Winnipeg’s chances of making the playoffs.

“This is brutal, to be honest,” said forward Mathieu Perreault, per the Winnipeg Free Press. “It’s unacceptable, really, at this time of the season. We’ve just got to regroup and put it behind us because it’s going to do us no good to keep thinking about those two games.

“We’ve got to bear down, especially at the end of the games. It’s unacceptable.”

As we noted yesterday, the Jets had a comfortable playoff cushion coming out of the All-Star break. Tomorrow, they could be bumped out of the final wild-card spot if the Kings beat the Oilers at Staples Center. According to Sports Club Stats, their postseason chances have fallen below 50/50 to 48.6 percent.

It’s estimated the Jets will have to go around 3-2-0 in their final five games to get in. They have two home games remaining, versus Vancouver and Calgary, and three road contests left, in Minnesota, St. Louis and Colorado.

Winnipeg is now 13-12-4 since the All-Star break.

source:

Official: Rangers prospect Skjei leaves Gophers, headed to AHL

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University of Minnesota d-man and first-round pick Brady Skjei has passed on returning for his senior season to join the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford, according to Let’s Play Hockey.

Updated:

Skjei, 21, was the 28th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and has spent the last three seasons in Minnesota. A former U.S. National Development Team member, Skjei is a big-bodied rearguard (6-foot-3, 206 pounds) that the Rangers were hoping would turn pro after the Gophers’ season ended last week with a NCAA regional semifinal defeat to Minnesota-Duluth.

Per the Post, Skjei could be eligible to join the Rangers for this year’s playoffs if he shows well enough in Hartford, and there does appear to be a potential spot up for grabs — Kevin Klein is still out injured, Matt Hunwick has struggled, and AHL farmhand Chris Summers recently made his Rangers debut in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Washington.

UPDATE: Terms of Skjei’s deal have been announced. He’s signed on an AHL amateur tryout (ATO) for this season, meaning he’s ineligible to join the Rangers for the postseason. His entry-level contract will kick in at the start of next season.

‘Could’ve broken his neck,’ says Vigneault of Byfuglien cross check on Miller

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Alain Vigneault had some strong words for a nasty Dustin Byfuglien cross check on New York Rangers forward J.T. Miller during Tuesday’s game.

Byfuglien, the towering Winnipeg Jets defenseman, delivered a vicious cross check to the back of Miller’s neck while the forward was sitting on the ice after an opportunity in front of the Jets net. There was no call on the play.

The Rangers did get revenge: A 3-2 victory that saw Chris Kreider burn Byfuglien with terrific speed for the winning goal, assisted by Miller, and Byfuglien penalized in the final minute for a slash, greatly hindering any chance Winnipeg had of a last-minute tying goal.

“Violent, deliberate. Could have broken his neck. It was one of the most vicious cross-checks I’ve seen this year,” said Vigneault, the Rangers head coach, as per Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun.

Video: Byfuglien gets away with ugly cross check, penalized late in Jets loss to Rangers

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Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien wasn’t penalized for an ugly cross check to the back of the head of J.T. Miller during Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers.

The incident occurred with Miller down on the ice, and Byfuglien standing right over top of him before delivering the cross check.

But Byfuglien was called for a slash with less than 40 seconds remaining in the third period and his team trailing the Rangers by a goal, basically nullifying the chances of a last-minute comeback, as Winnipeg lost by a final score of 3-2.

Miller got the last laugh, assisting on the winning goal from Chris Kreider with less than four minutes remaining.

Could the non-call cross check on Miller be an incident the NHL’s safety department looks at for possible supplemental discipline?

Winnipeg’s loss in regulation keeps them at 90 points.

It also keeps them within quick striking distance of the L.A. Kings, who are on the outside of the playoff picture, looking in, only two points back of the Jets for the final Wild Card spot in the West.

Contract stalemate continues between Columbus, prized prospect Reilly

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Doesn’t appear as though there’s been much progress on a deal between the Blue Jackets and star University of Minnesota defenseman Mike Reilly.

First, this report from the Columbus Dispatch:

Then this, from TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

“If he wants to, he can say I’m not going back for my final year [at Minnesota] and 30 days later or June 1st — whatever is later — he can declare himself an unrestricted free agent.

“Columbus thinks the world of this guy. He’s a Hobey Baker candidate, a mobile, puck-handling defenseman, but right now there’s no decision imminent on that front. What he’s going to do is finish his academic year at the University of Minnesota, so that means no decision on his future will be forthcoming until we get into May.”

Reilly, 21, was Columbus’ third-round pick (98th overall) at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. A two-time All-American, he became the first d-man in nearly 20 years to lead the Golden Gophers in scoring and, as McKenzie noted above, is highly coveted by the Blue Jackets.

More on that, from the Dispatch:

[Jackets GM Jarmo] Kekalainen and company have tried hard to woo him.

Last spring, they played host to him at Nationwide Arena for the two home playoff games against Pittsburgh. When the Blue Jackets played in St. Paul, Minn., on Jan. 19, Reilly watched the morning skate with Davidson and Kekalainen. Last week, when the Blue Jackets traded defenseman James Wisniewski, Kekalainen mentioned Reilly as a player who has a clearer path to an NHL job.

“Mike Reilly is having a great year in Minnesota,” Kekalainen said. “He’s a prospect we believe in, and he’ll be stepping into some big shoes with our organization. We look forward to getting him signed.”

Should Reilly balk on signing with Columbus and go unrestricted, he’d be following in the footsteps of Kevin Hayes and Justin Schultz, who spurned the Blackhawks and Ducks to sign with the Rangers and Oilers, respectively.

It’s also worth noting that Reilly’s dad, also named Mike, is a minority owner of the Minnesota Wild, which has led to speculation that the younger Reilly could opt to sign with his hometown team.