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Patrick Marleau makes emotional return to San Jose

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The roars were boisterous and the memories were savored as Patrick Marleau made his return to San Jose Monday night as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Marleau, who signed a three-year deal with the Leafs over the summer, said recently he wasn’t sure how he’d react to the reception at SAP Center and the video tribute detailing the best moments of his 20 years in teal. After plenty of cheers during warmups, the Sharks paid tribute to their long-time captain before puck dropped in the first period.

The return of the fan favorite even brought out some beloved Sharks alums.

Marleau played 1,493 games for the franchise after being selected second overall in the 1997 NHL Draft. Over that span he scored 508 goals and recorded 1,082 points in San Jose. He’s currently the franchise’s leader in goals, points, power play goals, shorthanded goals, games played, among other categories.

“It was pretty unbelievable to have that type of ovation,” Marleau said to Sportsnet after the first period. “All the signs out there, all the fans, pretty humbling, to say the least.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Confusion reigns after Jonathan Quick concussion protocol episode

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The end of the first period in Monday’s Maple Leafs-Kings game brought us a big moment of confusion involving LA goaltender Jonathan Quick.

With three minutes to play, Quick took a blow to the head during a scramble in front of his net. He fell backwards into his crease, and grabbed at his mask, clearly shaken up. Play resumed for another 109 seconds before officials notified the Kings that the goaltender needed to leave the game after the independent concussion spotters called in a mandatory evaluation.

After some confusion and hesitance from Quick, he left the game and Darcy Kuemper entered for only 37 seconds before Quick returned.

“I don’t know what the [expletive] happened there,” Quick said via the LA Times. “I don’t know what happened. You have to ask the league.”

Kings head coach John Stevens explained just what happened after the game.

Via Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider:

“[A]s we were getting Darcy ready to go in the net, they said they’ve reviewed it a second time and he doesn’t have to come out, so when we tried to put him back in the net, the referees come over said that if there’s an injury on the ice, he has to come out for one play, and I said, ‘well, he’s not injured. We were doing what we were told from the league,’ and then they came over after and said, ‘you know what? That’s never happened before.’ So that was the read on it, which is respectful. I mean, they were doing what they thought was right. We just didn’t like a guy going in with a minute left in the period. So, everybody was just doing what they were told, and in the end, we wanted to put Jonny back in because we were told he could, but then they deemed at that point that he was an injured player and had to come out for one play.”

Stevens added that Quick wasn’t evaluated for a concussion because once the spotters determined the goaltender didn’t have to come out there was no need to look at him. He also said that the entire situation was “disruptive” and the Kings want to know why he wasn’t pulled immediately if the spotters saw something.

Here’s the official wording from the NHL/NHLPA Concussion Evaluation Management Protocol:

“Removal and evaluation of a Player will be required if the Central League Spotter determines that a mandatory evaluation is warranted, even if the In-Arena League Spotter and/or Club personnel disagree that a visible sign or a mechanism of injury has occurred or been exhibited. If the Central League Spotter communicates a visible sign triggering an evaluation in the discretion of the Club’s medical personnel, and the Club’s medical personnel did not see the event, such Club medical personnel shall, as soon as reasonably possible following the communication (for example, during the next television time-out or intermission if the next break in play is the intermission), check in with the Player or review the video clip of the event, or both, to determine if an acute evaluation is warranted.”

Dive deeper into that protocol and you’ll see that Quick’s clutching of his head was an immediate trigger for the spotter to call down for a removal.

A source told Sportsnet that the reason why Quick didn’t need an evaluation was that it was determined he was hit in the head by either Zach Hyman or Derek Forbert’s stick on the play. Maybe a glancing blow to the head from a stick isn’t the same as an elbow, forearm or shoulder, but it’s still a hit to the head, no? And wouldn’t that be worthy of at least some sort of evaluation, especially given the goaltender’s reaction?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Sharks dominate at MSG; Leafs edge Kings

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Player of the Night: Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks netminder stood tall Monday night during a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. Jones stopped 33 shots as San Jose won their fourth consecutive game. Logan Couture recorded two points, which included his 200th career NHL assist. He now has six goals and nine points in four games.

Highlight of the Night:

Lovely shorthanded finish here by Trevor Lewis to help the Los Angeles Kings cut the Toronto Maple Leafs lead to 3-2 late in their game:

MISC:

• Congrats to Tim Heed for scoring his first NHL goal.

• New York’s power play failed on all six opportunities.

• The Rangers have won only twice in eight home games this season.

Frederik Andersen stopped 36 shots and Patrick Marleau recorded his fourth of the year as the Maple Leafs edged the Kings 3-2.

• Marleau’s goal stood as the game-winner and was the 99th of his career, good for eighth all-time.

• A weird sequence in the first period saw Jonathan Quick take an elbow to the head and be briefly forced from the game due to a concussion spotter’s call. Oddly, it took several minutes for Quick to be removed from the game, and then he was only off the ice for whistle.

Factoid of the Night: 

Monday’s scores:

San Jose 4, New York Rangers 1

Toronto 3, Los Angeles 2

Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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‘Young Mario’ Matthews continues to reinvent ways to score

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Auston Matthews is drawing comparisons to Mario Lemieux and getting noticed by Bryce Harper amid a hot start to his second NHL season.

Last season’s Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year, Matthews went into training camp seeking to be more assertive on the ice. That has translated to five goals and three assists in his first six games and the kind of improved all-around play that makes the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs a superstar already at age 20.

”He’s got a skillset that ranges from just about everything,” Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri said Tuesday. ”The ceiling’s the limit for Matts, and he knows he can be a great player and he already is. It’s crazy to think he’s (still) at such a young age.”

Even though Matthews remains in the shadow of Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby on hockey’s pantheon of top players, he already has filled up the highlight reel thanks to some tweaks and adjustments. The Scottsdale, Arizona, native was the first rookie to score 40 goals since Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06 and is conscious of the pressure to keep up that pace.

”You’re always reinventing yourself,” Matthews said. ”The league’s always adjusting and you’ve got to adjust right back to it.”

The league hasn’t adjusted yet. Matthews showed that by scoring goals so many different ways this season.

Matthews scored an overtime winner against Chicago by taking the puck off a carom off the back of Patrick Kane‘s right skate and going down the ice. Against Montreal, he scored one goal by flipping the puck past a Canadiens defender and knocking it down at full speed before firing through a screen, and then another on the rush by shooting short side on 2015 Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Carey Price.

”For me, the first (Montreal goal) was probably a little more impressive just how he handled the pass and you see how much he changed the angle,” Toronto winger James van Riemsdyk said. ”He’s really good at changing the angle, getting it off quick, things like that. He’s got a lot of different shots that he’ll try within his toolbox. It makes him pretty unpredictable when he’s going to shoot it.”

Matthews has only played 88 regular-season and six playoff games and yet has admirers far and wide.

Harper wore a brand new blue No. 34 Matthews jersey out of the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse after their season-ending Game 5 loss to the Chicago Cubslast week. Matthews said he doesn’t know Harper, who’s from Las Vegas, but called the honor ”awesome.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz has been watching Matthews’ growth and likened him – already – to a Hockey Hall of Famer and one of the best players in history.

”Auston Matthews, I’ve been saying it: He’s a young Mario Lemieux,” Trotz said. ”He’s (big), he can skate, he’s ultra-skilled, he’s very, very competitive, he makes plays.”

Matthews’ rookie success earned him another believer: himself. He said last month he was aiming to trust his skills more and want the puck more. With the season underway he said ”you just want to be the best player you can be,” and that’s evident with how much the line of Matthews, Zach Hyman and William Nylander have had the puck.

”We’ve been able to create offense, which is important, and that leads to chances,” Nylander said. ”That’s always a positive.”

At even strength, Matthews has been on the ice for 80 Leafs shots and 64 by opponents, evidence of just how much his evolving defensive game benefits the Maple Leafs.

”When you play well defensively, you feel like you get the puck more,” Matthews said. ”We’re offensive guys. We want to create offense so when you have the puck it feels good and you feel like you can create chances.”

Those chances are coming, and Matthews is cashing in on them. No wonder he has earned coach Mike Babcock’s trust.

”He’s a good player trying to get better each and every day,” Babcock said. ”What I like about him is how hard he works and how competitive he is and how much he wants to get better. The best players in the league, the superstars, they love hockey more than everyone else, so they can work at it harder and longer than the next guy.”

Matthews downplays his own improvements but sounds like a perfect Babcock-type player when discussing his early-season success.

”I feel good,” Matthews said. ”Just a couple weeks in, so you want to find that consistency individually, with your linemates, with everybody. You just want to continue to get better every day.”

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