Ducks taking cautious route regarding Heatley’s return

When the Anaheim Ducks signed Dany Heatley, the ideal scenario would be that the faded star would rekindle his scoring touch thanks to all the room provided by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that it’s still unknown when he’ll even debut in the 2014-15 regular season.

The Orange County Register reports that Heatley is hoping to return from his groin injury “sooner rather than later,” one of the few phrases more frustrating than “day-to-day.”

“It’s been getting better,” Heatley said. “Hopefully one day, I’m just going to wake up and be ready to go.”

The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that the timetable for his return is expected to be around Oct. 26 (against San Jose), but it sounds like Heatley and the Ducks are practicing due diligence. Both sides seem to lean toward getting him back at full strength rather than risking re-injury, as head coach Bruce Boudreau noted on Saturday.

“I’m aiming for him to come back when he’s ready,” Boudreau told the OC Register. “We haven’t been playing the game of, ‘Oh geez, it would be nice for the Buffalo game or nice for any game. When he’s ready to play, he’ll come back.

“I’m sure he’s dying … chomping at the bit but he’s not ready. So if he’s not ready, we don’t want to re-hurt you.”

So far, Getzlaf and Perry have lined up most frequently with Matt Beleskey (three goals in five games played) and Patrick Maroon (three assists in three games), according to Left Wing Lock.

Those numbers aren’t bad, really; besides, the Ducks’ 4-1-0 record indicates that they aren’t hurting too badly without Heatley.

More than anything else, the Ducks might just want to know what they have in the winger. Will he be someone who can help them break through in the playoffs are will he be a healthy scratch like he was in Minnesota? The sooner he can get on the ice and start providing Bruce Boudreau & Co. with a sample size of games to work with, the sooner they’ll know if they need to keep searching for other answers.

WATCH LIVE: Blue Jackets-Bruins, Stars-Blues kicks off Round 2

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Game 1: Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. ET
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Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
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Game 1: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET
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Call: Brendan Burke, AJ Mleczko, Pierre McGuire
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Pre-game coverage begins tonight on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and Connected TVs – will live stream all games airing on NBC, NBCSN, USA Network, and CNBC, via “TV Everywhere” throughout the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

PHT’s Round 2 previews
Round 2 schedule, TV info

Questions for the final eight teams
PHT Roundtable
Conn Smythe favorites after Round 1

Golden Knights’ owner says NHL executive apologized for Game 7 penalty

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The owner of the Vegas Golden Knights says a senior NHL executive called him to apologize for a penalty called during Game 7 of his team’s loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Owner Bill Foley says the call came the morning after Vegas lost 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday night to end the first-round series. Foley said at a news conference Thursday the call came from an executive who is ”about as senior as you can get,” but he did not want to identify him.

The penalty in question was a 5-minute major on Cody Eakin of the Golden Knights that Foley described as ”infuriating.”

The owner says the executive admitted it was a ”bad call” and the league does ”acknowledge” it. Foley adds the apology made him ”feel a little better after that.”

San Jose coach Peter DeBoer downplayed the league’s call to Foley, saying his team was also on the receiving end of dubious calls but he now wants to concentrate on his next opponent.

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman needs surgery for torn knee ligament

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TORONTO (AP) Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman has a torn knee ligament and is expected to miss a minimum of six months.

The team said Thursday he injured his anterior cruciate ligament during a playoff loss to Boston and will have surgery Monday.

The 26-year-old Hyman set career highs in goals (21) and points (41) this season. He had one goal during the seven-game playoff loss to the Bruins.

He has 115 points in 251 career NHL games.

PHT Power Rankings: Conn Smythe favorites after Round 1

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The first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs was filled with upsets, crazy comebacks, and incredible individual performances. Now that it is in the books and eight teams still have their Stanley Cup dreams alive, our focus in the PHT Power Rankings this week shifts to taking a look at the early favorites for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have combined to win the award in each of the past three seasons, but with both of their teams eliminated in Round 1 there will be a changing of the guard this year and some new names at the top of the list.

Let’s take a look at who some of them are.

To the rankings!

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche. One of the league’s best players and perhaps the most valuable asset in the NHL right now. MacKinnon was a force in the Avalanche’s Round 1 upset win over the Calgary Flames, finishing with eight points in five games, playing more than 23 minutes per night (more than any other player on the team other than defender Tyson Barrie) and looking as unstoppable as any other player in the league. From start to finish he was the most impressive player in Round 1 on any team.

2. Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks. Hertl scored six goals in the Sharks’ seven-game series win over the Vegas Golden Knights, including at least one in each of the final three games as they erased a 3-1 series deficit. They were huge goals, too. After scoring two goals in the Sharks’ 5-2 Game 5 win, his shorthanded double overtime goal in Game 6 sent the series to a seventh game where he would record two points as part of that insane third period rally. He might be the single biggest reason the Sharks are still standing.

3. Alexander Radulov, Dallas Stars. HIs Round 1 performance is just one more reason for hockey fans in Nashville to hate him as he helped knock out the Central Division champs in six games. Dallas’ big-four of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, John Klingberg, and Radulov were all great in the series, but Radulov was a special kind of dominant. He scored four goals in the series and looked like he was a threat to break the game wide open every single time he was on the ice. He not only helped carry the offense, the Stars only surrendered one goal in his 94 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time (they scored eight).

4. Robin Lehner, New York Islanders. He was a big reason the New York Islanders exceeded all expectations during the regular season, and he was a big reason they swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in four straight games. He allowed just six goals against one of the league’s most dynamic offensive teams and finished the series with a .956 save percentage, tops in the playoffs so far.

5. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes’ defense is by far the strength of their team, and they did a tremendous job in Round 1 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Their best overall performer was Slavin, as he not only finished with nine points (highest on the team) but was also a crucial part of the Hurricanes’ ability to shut down the Capitals offense at even-strength. The Hurricanes were the better team for most of the series during 5-on-5 play, and there was probably no one player that did more to drive that defensively than Slavin. Every member of the Hurricanes’ defense is good, and he is starting to emerge as one of their best.

6. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins. Marchand has been one of the NHL’s most impactful players for about four years now and he continued that in Round 1 for the Bruins. He had three multi-point games in their latest postseason win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, including a pair of three-point games.

7. Matt Duchene, Columbus Blue Jackets. This is exactly what you hope to get from a big trade deadline acquisition. Duchene was a monster for the Blue Jackets in their stunning four-game sweep over the Tampa Bay Lightning, finishing with seven points while averaging just 15 minutes of ice-time per game. He was at his best in Game 2 of the series when he finished with four points, helping to turn the Lightning into “a five-alarm fire.”

8. Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues. After what was probably the worst regular season performance of his career, Schwartz came through at just the right time for the Blues to help ruin the Winnipeg Jets’ season. He scored four consecutive goals for the Blues by not only capping off their stunning Game 5 rally with a game-winning goal with 15 seconds to play, but then recording a hat trick in their 3-2 series-clinching win in Game 6.

9. Jordan Eberle, New York Islanders. In his first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance during the 2016-17 season Eberle failed to score a goal in any of his 13 games. He pulled a complete 180 in Round 1, scoring in all four of the Islanders’ wins over the Penguins. Each one of them proved to be a game-changer.

10. Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars. He is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the third time in his career and showed why in the Stars’ Round 1 win with a sensational performance against the Predators. With his .945 save percentage in the six games, he is now up to a .930 save percentage 42 career postseason games.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.