Canucks GM Mike Gillis not pleased with hit on Mason Raymond, speaks out on injury

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The discussion of Mason Raymond’s neck injury has dominated today’s off day before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Raymond left Game 6 after taking a crunching hit from Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk and the hit left Raymond with fractured vertebra in his neck, an injury that had the medical staff sending him off to Mass General Hospital to be treated and examined further. Raymond will likely miss the next three to four months of action thanks to the injury.

Today, Canucks GM Mike Gillis spoke with the media in Vancouver after Canucks practice and explained his view of the hit and vented his frustration with the situation plainly. When asked if he spoke with the league about the play, Gillis let loose.

“I haven’t had any discussion with them after last night. All I can tell you is my observations of the hit. I didn’t see the puck around him. I thought the Boston player used a can opener and drove him into the boards with enough force to break his back. That’s what I saw.”

The “can opener” move is a quick and subtly dirty one so Gillis’ description of the hit is eyebrow-raising on its own. When pressed to compare this play with that of what happened to Nathan Horton thanks to Aaron Rome’s major interference penalty that saw Horton knocked out of the playoffs with a concussion and Rome suspended for what amounts to be the length of the series, Gillis didn’t quite take the bait.

Q. Mike, given that, then, and given the suspension earlier to Aaron Rome and the heavy hand the league brought down, are you expecting any kind of supplementary discipline, and if there isn’t, will you be disappointed that there isn’t?

MIKE GILLIS: I’m not in charge of supplementary discipline, so I’m not the right person to ask about that.

I think when you see the severity of that injury, the way our doctors described it to me, very, very dangerous, and, you know, I’m always disappointed when you see any player get injured. I was asking Lawrence when the last time we saw a broken back occur in the NHL. I can’t recall it other than an incident here a number of years ago.

But it wasn’t a chipped vertebrae or cracked vertebrae. It’s broken through the belly of his vertebrae, so it’s a very serious injury. You never want to see any player on any team have an injury like that.

One of the curious sights through that entire situation last night was seeing Raymond helped off the ice without the assistance of a stretcher or a backboard or anything else meant to help keep the neck safe. Gillis did have an explanation of sorts for that.

“I don’t know why. I’m unsure. I think because he began to move his feet and he had feeling. We wondered about that as well, but I haven’t had the chance to ask Mike. But our trainers are excellent trainers, so I’m sure they felt there was no risk at that point because of what he was saying and what he was doing on the ice,” Gillis said.

We’re not about to play armchair doctor here but given how serious the injury is (Raymond is still at the hospital in Boston waiting to be fitted with a corset and cleared for travel so he can fly home) it’s stunning to know that he was able to get up and do that. At the very least, we’re glad to hear that the prognosis is good for Raymond and while he may be out of action until November, it looks like he’ll be all right to play again at some point.

The Canucks are going to miss him in Game 7 and Jannik Hansen will likely have his hands full trying to replicate what Raymond brings to that line with Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler. As for the the Canucks being upset that the league isn’t taking a look into taking action against Boychuk, it’s a tough play to go wild about as a person with no ties to either team.

Canucks fans and brass want Boychuk to sit down and that makes sense for them, but it’s hard to come up with a reason for doing so in this case. The result was ugly but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something illegal happened.

Laila Anderson meets bone marrow donor

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Laila Anderson has made us shed a tear or two (or several) over the last year, and she was involved in another touching moment on Thursday night.

It was special to witness the 11-year-old’s journey. We got to see her ups with the St. Louis Blues and we also got to see the emotion behind her battle with a rare auto-immune disease, HLH. Last night, Anderson got to meet the person who helped her get better, as she got to interact with Kenton Felmlee, who ended up being her bone marrow donor.

“I felt a bond with her before we ever met. I think the second I look at her on the stage and saw her face,” Felmlee, who is a sophomore at the University of Kansas, said, per Fox 2 Now St. Louis. “Every emotion that I was feeling all exploded into so much more.”

As you can tell from the above video, their first interaction was incredibly emotional.

“I don’t care if we go to dinner or if we go to Disney World. I don’t care what we do, I just want to spend time with you,” Laila told her new friend on Thursday night.

And, of course, Anderson and Felmlee will be attending Saturday’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Calgary Flames sign deal for new downtown arena

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — The Calgary Flames have a deal for a new downtown arena, a 35-year agreement that keeps the NHL club in the city for that time.

The team, the city and the Calgary Stampede rodeo signed an agreement Thursday to replace the 36-year-old Scotiabank Saddledome.

The 19,000-seat arena is to cost more than $417 million. Construction is expected to begin in 2021, just north of the Saddledome. The arena will be demolished between 2024 and 2025.

The project is part of a downtown revitalization. The building will become the home of the Flames and part of a planned entertainment district bordering the Stampede grounds.

The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp., which owns the Flames, and the city will split the costs. The Stampede is a not-for-profit community group.

These are Wild times in Minnesota

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Expectations surrounding the Minnesota Wild were pretty low heading into this year. They were old, fired general manager Paul Fenton after he was allowed to sign players last summer and they missed the playoffs by seven points in 2018-19. So, forgive the hockey world if they didn’t expect them to play much of a role in this year’s playoff chase.

The season started off the way everyone expected. Minnesota dropped their first four games to Nashville, Colorado, Winnipeg and Pittsburgh. They also lost six of their first seven games. During that opening seven-game segment of the season, they allowed at least four goals in all six of their losses.

They managed to tighten up a little bit after that point, but their season really took off when they returned home from their West Coast road trip on Nov. 14. That day, they beat the Arizona Coyotes, 3-2. They followed that up by losing to Carolina in overtime, beating Buffalo and Colorado and losing to Boston in overtime. They suffered an OT loss to the Rangers in New York, beat the Devils in New Jersey and took down the Senators and Stars in Minnesota. They’ve hit the road for back-to-back games in Florida and managed to beat the Panthers and Lightning on Tuesday and Thursday of this week.

Add it all up and the Wild have won five games in a row and they’ve collected a point in the standings in 11 consecutive contests. Yeah, that’s an impressive accomplishment for any group, especially this one.

A lot has gone right during this 8-0-3 run. Their big free-agent signing, Mats Zuccarello, has started producing with a lot more regularity. The veteran had a three-point effort in last night’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and he’s picked up nine points in his last nine contests.

Who saw Alex Stalock emerging as a quality starting goalie for the Wild? Since starter Devan Dubnyk has been away from the team for personal reasons, Stalock has gone 5-0-2 and he’s held the opposition to two goals or fewer in four of those outings.

And it’s not like the Wild haven’t had to overcome even more adversity throughout this streak. For example, on Tuesday night against Florida, they were down 2-0 in the first period and lost both Mikko Koivu and Jared Spurgeon to injury. Instead of folding, they came back and won the game in regulation.

Last night, they were down 1-0 in the first period and they blew 3-1 and 4-3 leads, but still managed to take down the Bolts in the regulation.

This team clearly believes in itself right now.

“You haven’t seen that with this team for a while, but I think it’s the belief in them right at this point,” Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau said after the win over Tampa, per NHL.com. “Instead of saying, ‘Oh, woe is me,’ they’re saying, ‘Let’s go, let’s get these guys right away.’ It doesn’t work all the time. When you’re winning and things are going good, it works. They’ve dug deep and [are] really playing for each other. When you do that, good things happen.”

This lengthy unbeaten streak has allowed the Wild to climb back into a playoff spot, as they’re currently in the second Wild Card position. Sure, Vancouver, San Jose and Calgary are all breathing down their neck, but they shouldn’t care about that. They need to keep this run going for as long as they can.

One thing that jumps out when looking at Minnesota’s home and road splits, is the amount of games they’ve played away from Xcel Energy Center. The Wild have an awesome 7-1-2 record at home. They’ve also won seven games on the road, but their record away from home is 7-10-2. We’re less than three months into the season and they’ve already played nine more road games than home games. The fact that they’re in such a good position is even more remarkable when you consider all that.

After Sunday’s road game in Carolina, the Wild will get to enjoy a week at home, as they’ll take on Anaheim, Edmonton and Philadelphia before embarking on another three-game road trip.

If they can stay within striking distance of a playoff spot, does new GM Bill Guerin pull the trigger on a trade for a rental?

This will be an intriguing situation to follow.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Devils should clean house; Could Hall go back to Oilers?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Bruins are the best team in the NHL right now, but their fortunes may change soon enough. (Sportsnet)

• The NHLPA is covering up a theft of over $100,000 union funds. (TSN)

• The Devils should clean house after this season. (All About the Jersey)

Marcus Johansson is frustrated by the struggles he’s been having this season. (Buffalo Hockey Beat)

• Snoop Dogg is making an appearance in the NHL 20 video game. (Operation Sports)

• How has Sheldon Keefe changed the Maple Leafs? (The Score)

• There’s a few reasons why the Flyers had so much success in November. (Yahoo)

• The Edmonton Oilers are interested in Taylor Hall, but they will probably be outbid. (Edmonton Journal)

• The St. Louis Blues are gaining strength through injury adversity. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

• The Habs have lost nine of their last 10 games. Is it time for them to rebuild? (Spector’s Hockey)

• What is the true value of a fifth-round draft pick? (Japers Rink)

• Gus Katsaros explains how defensemen are evolving with the times. (Rotoworld)

• The Red Wings are looking to have fun during this tough stretch. (MLive)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.