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NHL aims to get more teams involved in outdoor games

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CHICAGO (AP) — Clayton Keller took an eight-hour bus ride from Montreal to Boston for a hockey game at Fenway Park and won’t soon forget the experience of playing outdoors.

”It was pretty cool,” Keller said. He’d love to take the game outside again in the NHL with the Arizona Coyotes but will probably have to wait a while.

This season, the NHL is going back to familiar favorites for the Winter Classic between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium and the Stadium Series game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field.

It’ll be the sixth outdoor game for the Blackhawks, fifth for the Penguins, fourth for the Flyers and third for the Bruins. While eight teams haven’t gotten a chance, those days could be approaching.

”I think we’re getting close to that point,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday. ”Having said that, these are pretty scarce events. You want to position them in a way where they’re going to achieve the most success, however that’s defined. So having a game that’ll generate a bigger rating or being in an iconic stadium or venue, those are things that generate excitement and may get people to tune in. It’s important for these games to do well.”

The Coyotes, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Florida Panthers, Nashville, Tampa Bay and Vegas have yet to be scheduled for one of 26 outdoor games since the debut of the Winter Classic in 2008. Players from those teams understand why big-market counterparts are chosen instead but figure there’s value in spreading the wealth.

”We talk about growing the game, right?” Columbus defenseman Seth Jones said. ”You have to get nontraditional markets and put outdoor games in nontraditional markets in order to grow the game. You don’t need it to be grown in Toronto or Philly because those are already huge markets. But I understand why ticket sales, all that stuff plays a factor and ticket prices and that stuff. It kind of is what it is, but it would be pretty cool to be in an outdoor game.”

The Blackhawks in particular are ratings darlings given their run of success that included Stanley Cup titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Missing the playoffs last season doesn’t even hurt because Chicago and Boston are two of the league’s marquee franchises and Notre Dame’s home in South Bend, Indiana, is an iconic venue.

Boston’s Patrice Bergeron said playing outdoors never gets old. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews always finds himself checking the crowd and the scene during warmups and is looking forward to seeing younger teammates get their first taste of playing outside.

”It’s good to have the young guys, that excitement,” Toews said. ”It’s not like you act all spoiled like you’re not excited to be there. You just recapture that.”

Still, there has been criticism of the NHL for not getting some smaller-market teams involved in the outdoor rotation.

”As a team and as a community, even more than just a hockey game being played, it’s an event where you want to be a part of,” Predators center Ryan Johansen said. ”With the same teams keep playing the same games, I’m sure they look forward to it, but it doesn’t have as big of an impact as it would for Nashville.”

Blue Jackets-Penguins in the Horseshoe at Ohio State, Predators-Blackhawks at the University of Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium in Knoxville and Lightning-Capitals at the Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium would be attractive matchups. The Golden Knights could conceivably host a game at the Raiders’ new stadium when it opens outside Las Vegas in a couple of years, and the Stars could play at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium with the roof cracked open.

The NHL will likely stick to teams with significant national and international appeal. Daly said the goal is to make the Winter Classic annually ”a great rivalry in an amazing venue.”

The Heritage Classic allowed for each Canadian team to get a turn, and the Stadium Series – which could again be staged in multiple places in a season – provides the potential to stretch beyond traditional opponents.

”One of the original ideas behind adding the Stadium Series was really to be able to do that: make those more kind of local events that are big deals in those markets,” Daly said.

The Predators’ run to the 2017 Cup Final and the Blue Jackets’ development into a playoff team help their causes, and the Lightning could make just as strong a case with their ongoing success. The challenge for teams like the Hurricanes and Coyotes is to become perennial playoff contenders to make it worth their inclusions in outdoor games.

”I think if we keep trending upward and start winning some games then we’ll maybe get thrown in that conversation to do that,” Keller said.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

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

Pro women hockey players form union in step toward league

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — More than 200 of the world’s top female players have taken the next step toward a viable professional league by forming a union.

The Professional Women’s Hockey Association said Monday the paperwork was filed Friday.

The women had announced this month their pledge to sit out the upcoming season in North America after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League abruptly shut down this year. That leaves only the National Women’s Hockey League, which took back control of the Buffalo Beauts on May 8.

The PWHPA says in a statement the association will help players coordinate training needs and opportunities and develop sponsor support.

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

Torey Krug putting together impressive postseason

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Over the last few seasons, there’s been a lot of uncertainty surrounding Torey Krug‘s long-term future with the Boston Bruins. It appeared as though they weren’t sure whether or not to give a smaller offensive defenseman a long contract extension. But his performance this postseason may make this picture a lot clearer.

We know that Krug can move the puck and create offense from the back end. Over the last three seasons, he’s put up 51, 59 and 53 points (his points-per-game number has improved in each season). There’s not many defenders that are capable of putting up numbers like that at this level.

Krug has also had a ton of success in the playoffs throughout his career, as he’s posted 40 points in 55 career games in the postseason. Last year, he managed to be a point-per-game player in the playoffs with 12 points in 11 contests. This year his numbers are down slightly (he has 12 points in 17 games), but this year feels different (in a good way).

The Bruins are four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup, and Krug has been a big part of that. Not only has he contributed offensively, but his pairing, with Brandon Carlo, has acted as a shutdown duo for the Bruins. So Krug isn’t just being used in an offensive role.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In 219 minutes of ice time with Carlo this postseason, the 28-year-old has a CF% of 53.62 percent, a HDCF% of 54.17 percent and a SF% of 52 percent. Those are some solid individual numbers for Krug. He’s also had an incredibly positive influence on his young defense partner. Carlo’s overall CF% in the postseason is 51.54 percent. With Krug, that number climbs up to 53.72 percent. When he’s not on the ice with Krug, the number drops to 45.93 percent. So as valuable as Carlo’s been during this run, it’s clear that he’s much more effective when he’s next to Krug (all numbers provided by Natural Stat Trick).

No matter what happens in the Stanley Cup Final, Krug has opened some eyes around the league. Now, can the Bruins get him signed to a long-term deal? He has one year remaining on his current deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020. If he’s making $5.25 million on this deal, you’d have to think that he’s going to get a raise on the next deal.

Both McAvoy and Carlo will need new deals this offseason (McAvoy will make more than Carlo), so it’ll be interesting to see how much money they’ll have left over for Krug.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

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: How Blues turned season around; Questions for Hurricanes

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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.

• How much does sweeping your opponent in the conference final help the team heading to the Stanley Cup Final? (The Hockey News)

• Ryan Dadoun breaks down what went wrong for the Detroit Red Wings this season. (Rotoworld)

• ESPN sheds some light on who the biggest winners of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are as of right now. (ESPN)

• The St. Louis Blues were in last place as of Jan. 2, but here’s how they were able to turn things around. (Sportsnet)

• The Bruins have to find a way to deal with this long break they have before the Stanley Cup Final. (WEEI)

• The Montreal Canadiens should try to sign Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner to an offer sheet this summer. (Montreal Gazette)

• Should the Washington Capitals give Andre Burakovsky a qualifying offer? (Washington Post)

• Many teams should go after Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller including the Philadelphia Flyers. (Broad Street Hockey)

• Here are five big questions surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes this offseason. (News & Observer)

J.T. Miller has emerged as an important piece of the Ryan McDonagh trade. (Tampa Times)

• The TSN Trade Bait board has plenty of potential targets for the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Leafs Nation)

• The Rangers have a lot of depth on defense, so they have to figure out how to break up that logjam. (Blue Shirt Banter)

• What can the Penguins get for Olli Maatta? (Pensburgh)

• If a team decides to offer sheet a restricted free agent, it could easily be the Colorado Avalanche. (Mile High Hockey)

• Taking a goalie in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft usually isn’t a wise move. (Sinbin.Vegas)

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

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.

The Playoff Buzzer: Hats off (again) to Jaden Schwartz

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  • Jaden Schwartz records his second hat trick of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
  • Vladimir Tarasenko keeps producing.
  • Jordan Binnington records his first career postseason shutout to help bring the St. Louis Blues one step closer to the Stanley Cup Final.

St. Louis Blues 5, San Jose Sharks 0 (Blues lead series 3-2)

This game was every bit as lopsided as the 5-0 final score would have you believe. The St. Louis Blues were simply the better team in every single phase of the game and put together what might have been their best performance of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs to this point. They now return home on Tuesday night with a chance to clinch their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1970 and have to be confident given how well they have played over the past two games. Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko both had multi-point games in the win (Schwartz recorded his second hat trick of the postseason), while Oskar Sundqvist started things off early in the first period to continue his strong playoff run. The Sharks were not only on the wrong end of the score, but they also now have some major injury questions heading into Game 6, especially regarding top defender Erik Karlsson who played just 10 minutes on Sunday as he continues to deal with his lingering injury. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded his first shutout of the playoffs in net.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues. His incredible postseason continues. After a disappointing regular season performance that saw him score just 11 goals in 69 games, one of the worst offensive outputs of his career, Schwartz has been a constant force in these playoffs and recorded his second hat trick on Sunday. He is now up to 12 goals for the playoffs, exceeding his regular season total, and is now just one goal away from tying Brett Hull’s franchise record for a single postseason.

2. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues. After a fairly quiet (by his standards, anyway) start to the playoffs the Blues needed their best player to shine in the Western Conference Final. He has. He extended his current point streak to five games on Sunday with a goal and two assists. He now has two goals and five assists in the series, and is up to seven goals and 12 total points in the playoffs. He has always been a big-time performer for the Blues in the playoffs, and he is shining just when they need him most.

3. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues. He did not need to be great on Sunday, especially over the second and third periods when the Blues completely took over the game and dominated, but a shutout in a Western Conference Final game is still a big deal. It his first career shutout in the playoffs.

Highlights of the Day

Sundqvist got things started for the Blues when he capitalized on a bad turnover by Karlsson. It is his fourth goal of the playoffs.

This was just a terrible play by Sharks goalie Martin Jones and it resulted in an easy goal for Schwartz, his first of the game.

Tarasenko’s penalty shot goal in the second period was the first playoff penalty shot goal in Blues franchise history, and it came on a shot that looked to be pretty unstoppable.

Factoids

  • Schwartz became just the third player in Blues franchise history to score at least 10 goals in a single playoff run and the first since Brett Hull during the 1991 playoffs. [NHL PR]
  • The St. Louis Blues have won more games this postseason than in any other postseason in franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • Vladimir Tarasenko scored the first postseason penalty shot goal in St. Louis Blues history in the second period of Sunday’s game. It was only the second postseason penalty shot the team has ever had. [NHL PR]
  • The Blues have won seven of their first nine road games this postseason, something only 17 other teams have accomplished. [NHL PR]
  • Schwartz is the first player in Blues history to have two hat tricks in a single postseason and the first player for any team since Johan Franzen did it for the 2008 Detroit Red Wings. [NHL PR]

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

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.