AP

After finally winning a playoff series, expectations are ‘even higher’ for Islanders

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Coming off their deepest playoff run in 23 years, the New York Islanders open training camp hoping to build on that success and go even further.

The Islanders overcame injuries down the stretch last season to earn a playoff berth for the second straight year, and third in the past four, while reaching the 100-point mark in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1982. New York then beat Florida to win a postseason series for the first time since 1993 before losing to Tampa Bay in five games in the second round.

“It was frustrating but you learn from it and you move on,” defenseman Travis Hamonic said at the team’s media day Thursday. “It was good for our team, for our fan base to see that and have an opportunity to win the first one in a long time. It sets our bar and our expectations even higher.”

The Islanders open camp Friday as a different group from the one that dispersed in May after their loss to the Lightning. Free agent signees Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera and P.A. Parenteau are here, replacing departed longtime stars Kyle Okposo (Buffalo), Frans Nielsen (Detroit) and Matt Martin (Toronto).

Ladd, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, totaled 25 goals and 21 assists last season in 78 games for Winnipeg and Chicago. The 31-year-old left wing has 210 goals and 256 assists in 12 seasons. Chimera, 37, had 20 goals and 20 assists for Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington and has 163 goals and 206 assists over 15 seasons. Parenteau, back for his second stint with the Islanders, had a career high-tying 20 goals and 21 assists for Toronto last season. For his career, the 33-year-old Parenteau has 101 goals and 167 assists in 424 games spanning eight seasons in the NHL.

“I think everybody’s excited to get on the ice together and start practicing and start the season,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “We’ve made the playoffs two years in a row and obviously want to get the third year and do better.”

The Islanders will be missing some key faces at the start of camp with coach Jack Capuano, captain John Tavares (Canada), goalies Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss (Europe), and veteran forward Nikolay Kulemin (Russia) playing in the World Cup in Toronto. Capuano will likely be back soon with Team USA having played its final game Thursday night after failing to advance to the semifinals.

“We’ve known for a while that they’d be gone,” Hamonic said. “I’m sure it’s going to have a different feel to it but this time of year everyone’s pretty excited to get out there. There’s a lot of coaches, a lot of people and things are going a hundred miles an hour. Just kind of roll with the punches.”

The Islanders just finished a weeklong rookie camp for their top prospects, and some of the veterans and newcomers also held informal workouts on their own.

“At this point just skating on your own and informally is starting to get old,” Ladd said. “So, it’s exciting to get going, get the group together and start working toward that goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”

 

REPLACING MARTIN: With Martin’s departure, there’s a void on the Islanders’ vaunted fourth-line, and Cal Clutterbuck knows his former teammate will be hard to replace.

“It’s tough to have Matty gone,” Clutterbuck said. “I don’t think there’s a physical presence like that, as big a presence in the league as Matty is. That’s a loss but I think there’s some guys Casey (Cizikas) and I will be able to play with that’ll be able to do some of the same things.”

YOUTH ON DEFENSE: After bringing in veterans like Lubomir Visnovsky and Marek Zidlicky to round out the defensive pairings the last few years, the Islanders will likely be going with a younger player this year. Hamonic, Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey and Calvin de Haan are the established stalwarts on the blue line. The leading candidates for the sixth spot include Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech – all of whom have made contributions when given a chance.

 

The Buzzer: Cirelli, Lightning cruise past Jets; Crosby tallies OT winner

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Getty Images
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Three Stars

1) Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning

Cirelli recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Lightning steamrolled the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening. The 22-year-old scored twice in the opening period as the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Cirelli hammered a feed from Ondrej Palat 9:27 into the game and then converted a nifty forehand-backhand maneuver to close out the first 20 minutes. Cirelli would complete the hat trick midway through the third period.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin recorded two power-play assists to set up Pittsburgh’s two goals in its 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings. Sidney Crosby has received a lot of attention since returning from a 28-game absence earlier this week and added the game-winning goal Friday. However, it was Malkin who looked off the defender and delivered a perfect pass to set up the Penguins captain. Malkin has recorded 10 points in the previous six games.

3) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 26-year-old winger scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win. Cirelli and Kucherov alternated goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead, including three in the opening period. Kucherov buried two tap-in opportunities to record goals 21 and 22 on the season. The Russian winger has five goals in his previous three games and the Lightning improved to 12-2-0 in the previous 14 games.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to three games when he buried a pretty feed from Malkin to propel the Penguins in overtime.

Sam Steel fired the OT winner after Andrei Svechnikov‘s costly turnover.

Stats of the Night

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Winnipeg Jets 1

NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
• All-Star Game rosters
• Rosters for Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Revealed
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Predators’ Arvidsson fined $2,000 under NHL diving policy

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NEW YORK (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment.

NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

League officials said Arvidsson received a warning following an incident Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh. His second citation occurred during an incident in the first period of a Jan. 7 game with Boston that resulted in coincidental minor penalties on Arvidsson and Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Fine proceeds go to the players’ emergency assistance fund.

Fans troll with Tkachuk billboard, charities end up the big winners

Tkachuk billboard Kassian Flames Oilers
via CJAY 92
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Matthew Tkachuk‘s trolling made a great impact, and not just by earning the Flames a power play. Thanks to enterprising Flames and Oilers fans, a drive to put up a Tkachuk billboard in Edmonton morphed into something much more, raising a ton of money – more than $50K overall, it seems – for charitable causes.

It’s the sort of thing that might even make Zack Kassian smile.

[Catch up on the feud: Kassian threatens Tkachuk after suspension; witness the carnage]

This began with a modest Tkachuk billboard meant to gently torment

The ball really got (t)rolling when Mohamed Elsaghir (self-proclaimed “second most-hated man in Edmonton after Matthew Tkachuk) started a GoFundMe drive to put up Tkachuk billboards to torment Oilers fans.

CTV’s Glenn Campbell chronicles how that amusing idea morphed into something much bigger. Not only are Tkachuk billboards going up, but the process looks like it will raise at least $20K for ALS research.

The viral sensation drew the attention of Calgary radio station CJAY 92, which is owned by Bell Media. That connection made the billboards happen, and oh are the designs ever glorious:

With the billboards taken care of by CJAY 92/Bell Media, Elsaghir instead shifted the focus of that $10K donation drive to combating ALS. Elsaghir noted that proceeds will be donated to Snowy Strong for ALS in honor of Flames assistant GM Chris Snow’s battle with the disease. To make it even better, entrepreneur W. Brett Wilson pledged to match that $10K, pushing the money raised to $20K and counting.

Oh, and even that doesn’t cover the extent of the money raised by the raised ire between Tkachuk and Kassian.

Oilers fans get into the charitable, trolling spirit, too

Edmonton resident Samantha Costa made about a $25 donation to Calgary charity Brown Bagging It “in honor of Kassian.” That charity seeks to serve needy children with lunches. With that in mind, Costa ended her tweet with a nice barb:I chose @BrownBaggingIt so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”

Well, Costa’s tweet went viral, too.

To make this all more delightful, Brown Bagging It has been sharing updates that indicate this side of “The Charitable Battle of Alberta” will be competitive, too.

Wow.

Flames and Oilers meet again soon, and will get to see the Tkachuk billboard

Other NHL trash-talkers need to step their games up now, to be frank. Brad Marchand needs to lick this one now, is what I’m saying.

The Tkachuk billboard notes that the Flames – Oilers “the friendship tour” continues in Edmonton on Jan. 29. After that, the two teams meet in Calgary on Feb. 1. They also close out the regular season in Calgary on April 4.

Kassian vs. Tkachuk Part II already ranked as must-watch hockey, and a potential mess for the NHL. Following this inspiring charitable drive, it’s even more exciting. Honestly, “The Battle of Alberta” just keeps piling on reasons to cross our fingers for a playoff series.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Pass or Fail: LA Kings’ 2020 Stadium Series jerseys

adidas / Kings
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One day after the Colorado Avalanche showed off their jerseys for next month’s Stadium Series game, the Los Angeles Kings revealed what they will wear when they hit the ice at at Falcon Stadium on Feb. 15 (8 p.m. ET; NBC).

As is tradition for Stadium Series games, the design is very unique and out there. The black, white, and silver is there along with the LA from their regular jerseys “taking flight” since the game will take place on the campus of the Air Force Academy.

adidas / Kings

Now while you’re maybe distracted by the black and white of the jerseys and the sweet white gloves, do not overlook one neat feature: the shiny silver helmets.

adidas / Kings

Some additional notes from adidas:

Crest: A new L.A. crest takes flight on diagonal bisected blocking, inspired by aircraft battle stripes.

Design: The architecture of the venue’s Air Force Academy, coupled with a pilot’s ambition to push to the edge, inspired the oblique angles used to shape the jersey’s typography and numbering. A checkerboard design graphic is implemented along the neckline.

What do you think? The black, white, and silver against the burgundy, blue, and white will be an interesting look on the ice.

MORE: Avalanche reveal 2020 Stadium Series jersey

The 2020 Stadium Series game between the Avalanche and Kings will take place Feb. 15 at Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.. The game will air on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.

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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.