New scrutiny for Avs’ Kadri after collision with Binnington

New scrutiny for Avs' Kadri after collision with Binnington
Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post/Getty Images

DENVER (AP) — That water bottle tossed toward Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri hardly came out of nowhere.

For two straight postseasons, Kadri has been the agitator that makes Colorado go and the pest that drives the St. Louis Blues crazy.

In Saturday night’s 5-2 victory, Kadri’s collision with Blues defenseman Calle Rosen ended with him in the lap of St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington, who left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury and is now out of the playoffs.

Binnington was the most likely candidate among those who might have pitched a water bottle in Kadri’s direction while he was doing an on-camera postgame interview.

The controversial collision, the water bottle, the series-ending injury to Binnington — all of it comes almost exactly 52 weeks after Kadri’s hit on Justin Faulk, who missed the rest of that playoff series and resulted in an eight-game suspension for Kadri.

There’s no love lost in St. Louis for Kadri.

“Look at Kadri’s reputation,” said Blues coach Craig Berube, whose team trails the second-round series 2-1. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”

The Blues were turning the page Sunday after learning Binnington was done for the series and goaltender Charlie Lindgren was recalled from the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL “under emergency conditions.” Ville Husso stepped in after Binnington left.

“You don’t focus on just him,” Blues center Brayden Schenn said of Kadri. “You focus on going out there and winning a hockey game. That’s all you can control.”

Kadri has been on his best behavior all season and into the playoffs. Maybe even to the point of shying away from plays that might land him in trouble given his past.

“Listen, reputation, it doesn’t mean anything: It’s either a legal play or it’s not,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, whose team lost defenseman Samuel Girard (broken sternum) for the playoffs on a check from Ivan Barbashev into the boards. “We’ve talked about this with Naz and the way he’s trying to change his reputation, making sure he’s playing through checks. … They’re both going after the puck the same way. They collide. Again, unfortunate.”

More unfortunate may be what the Avalanche called “threats” made toward Kadri. The team said in a statement it’s aware of the situation and is “working with local law enforcement to investigate.”

Former player Akim Aliu said on Twitter earlier Sunday he had spoken with Kadri.

“Naz has been subject to so many racist attacks and threats since last night that police had to be brought in,” said Aliu, who is Nigerian-Canadian. “Racist attacks like this have no place in hockey and should be investigated and reported on.”

On the ice, Kadri brings a physical presence to an Avalanche lineup filled with speed. He plays with an edge that has on occasion gotten him into hot water.

Last season, Kadri delivered a blow to the head of Faulk in Game 2. Kadri missed the final two games as Colorado swept the Blues and then the entire Vegas series, where Colorado was eliminated in six games.

That hit, missing a physical Vegas series, led to some sleepless nights for Kadri. He addressed the situation in an essay recently published in the Players’ Tribune titled “I Am Who I Am.”

“I hate letting people down, I really do. And when I looked up from the ice and saw Justin lying there … I knew what was coming. I knew,” Kadri wrote. “It was a bang-bang play and I made a mistake. I’m never trying to hurt anyone out there. I know people might not want to hear any of this, or they’ve already made their minds up about me. I get that.”

Fair or unfair, the incident Saturday becomes the latest chapter. On the TNT broadcast, longtime NHL referee Don Koharski termed it a hockey play.

St. Louis fans certainly didn’t agree, booing Kadri each time he touched the puck. There could be even more venom in Game 4 on Monday night; the Blues’ Robert Bortuzzo, asked about the Binnington collision, said only that “a guy like that knows what he’s doing there.”

“I’m just trying to go out there and try to win and compete,” said Kadri, who was momentarily distracted by the water bottle tossed in his direction during the interview and indicated it may been from Binnington. “If people take that personally, that’s on them. For me, what happens on the ice, kind of stays on the ice. I’m a competitor. I want to win and that’s it.”

Nashville players tried to agitate Kadri in Colorado’s first-round sweep. In Game 1, the Predators pushed him from behind at the end of the second period. Kadri got up furious and ready to square off. Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson took up the fight for him, drawing a roughing call.

“I’m not going to let them step in against Naz,” Manson explained. “I don’t want to see a guy drop his gloves against Naz and Naz have to fight him in the playoffs.”

Especially given his playoff track record. While with Toronto, he was suspended the remainder of the first round in 2019 for cross-checking, which turned out to be five games, and three games for boarding in 2018. The Maple Leafs dealt him to Colorado in the summer of 2019.

This season, he’s been an integral part of a Stanley Cup favorite. Kadri led the Avalanche with 59 assists in the regular season and scored 28 goals.

“He’s been a great player for us all year,” Avalanche forward Logan O’Connor said. “Obviously, there’s some animosity between the Blues fanbase, and maybe the team, and him. He definitely elevates his games in those environments. He sort of relishes it.”

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. ST. LOUIS BLUES (COL leads 2-1)
Game 1 – Avalanche 3, Blues 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Blues 4, Avalanche 1
Game 3 – Avalanche 5, Blues 2
Game 4 – May 23: Avalanche at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 5 – May 25: Blues at Avalanche, TBD
*Game 6 – May 27: Avalanche at Blues, TBD
*Game 7 – May 29: Blues at Avalanche, TBD

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    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

    Andrei Kuzmenko
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

    The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

    Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

    His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

    Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

    He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

    He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

    A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

    Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.

    Hurricanes top Stars in OT to win matchup of 1st-place teams

    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS – Martin Necas scored 1:34 into overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in a matchup of division leaders Wednesday night.

    Sebastian Aho had a short-handed goal and Brent Burns also scored for the Hurricanes, who lead the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. The game-winner was Necas’ 19th goal this season.

    Dallas is still atop the Western Conference, and the Central Division, after its second consecutive 3-2 overtime loss at home. Jason Robertson scored his 33rd goal for the Stars, and 19-year-old rookie Wyatt Johnston got his 13th.

    Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen didn’t return after the first intermission because of an upper-body injury, soon after a strange sequence that ended with Robertson scoring on a shot from what seemed to be an impossible angle.

    The puck was bouncing on the ice behind Andersen and settled against the post after Tyler Seguin‘s shot before the goalie was able to swipe it away to his right. Robertson then shot from behind Andersen, and the puck apparently ricocheted off him and into the net for a 2-1 Dallas lead. Robertson’s 33rd goal matched his assists total.

    Antti Raanta replaced Andersen and stopped all 15 shots he faced – none in overtime – after the starter had four saves. Raanta had to shake off getting struck in the head by Mason Marchment‘s stick when the Stars forward was behind the net fighting for the puck midway through the third period.

    Stars goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 22 shots, including a glove save of Andrei Svechnikov‘s wrister with just more than five minutes left in regulation.

    Aho’s 200th career goal put Carolina up 1-0 midway through the first period. The Stars got even just more than two minutes later when Johnston scored unassisted after a faceoff.

    Johnston also had a shot ricochet off the post with just under six minutes left.

    In between the first two goals, Oettinger went into a fully extended split, with his right skate against the post, to deny Paul Stastny‘s attempt to knock in a loose puck.

    Burns tied the game at 2 in the second period, getting the puck after a faceoff, then skating over the top of the circle and scoring top shelf over Oettinger’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Marchment was coming out of the penalty box at the same time Carolina made an errant pass in the second period. He had a breakaway attempt, but couldn’t get enough control of the puck to get off a quality shot. … Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce and Stars center Luke Glendening both got five-minute penalties for fighting in the second period.

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Will play San Jose on Friday night in the first of three consecutive home games.

    Stars: Host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in their last game before the All-Star break.

    Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry out until after the All-Star break

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry‘s on-again, off-again season is now off again.

    Coach Mike Sullivan said that the two-time All-Star will miss at least two games with an upper-body injury.

    Jarry was scheduled to start against Florida but reported an upper-body issue when he arrived at PPG Paints Arena. Casey DeSmith got the last-second start as the Penguins pulled out a wild 7-6 victory over the Panthers.

    Jarry is out through at least the All-Star break. Pittsburgh plays at Washington and then hosts San Jose before getting a full week off.

    The 27-year-old Jarry has played well when he’s been in the lineup, posting a 16-5-5 record with a 2.65 goals-against average in 27 games. His availability, however, has been an issue of late. He missed more than two weeks earlier this month after being injured against Boston in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

    The Penguins are not as sharp when Jarry is out. Pittsburgh is 8-10-3 with DeSmith or Dustin Tokarski in goal this season. The Penguins recalled Tokarski from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to back up DeSmith during Jarry’s absence.

    Letang scores twice in return, Penguins beat Panthers 7-6 in OT

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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    PITTSBURGH – Amid a nightmarish season off the ice, Kris Letang has been searching for joy. A sense of normalcy.

    He found a little of both.

    The veteran Pittsburgh defenseman scored twice in his return from a lower-body injury, the second with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 7-6 victory over Florida.

    “I was just happy to be out there,” Letang said. “Be in the atmosphere of the team.”

    Letang’s 17th season with Pittsburgh has been pockmarked by health issues and a profound sense of loss. He missed two weeks after suffering the second stroke of his career shortly after Thanksgiving. He then tweaked something in a loss to Detroit on Dec. 28.

    His father died unexpectedly a few days later, and Letang spent an extended amount of time with his family in his native Montreal, with his teammates making an unexpected stop to join Letang for his father’s wake at the end of a West Coast swing earlier this month.

    The Penguins activated him off injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon. Letang responded with four points in a rollicking game that featured 13 goals, the last Letang’s one-timer from just above the left circle on the power play that gave Pittsburgh just its fourth win in 12 overtime games this season.

    “It was kind of surreal, you know?” Letang said. “I didn’t know what to think or how it was going to go. These guys supported me for the last month… it’s just great to be back.”

    The Penguins, currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, opened up a small bit of breathing room over the ninth-place Panthers by beating Florida for the 18th time in its last 21 trips to Pittsburgh.

    Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Danton Heinen each had a goal and two assists for The Penguins. Rickard Rakell and Drew O'Connor also scored for the Penguins.

    Casey DeSmith struggled in place of Tristan Jarry, a late scratch with an upper-body injury. DeSmith stopped 33 shots, including both he faced in overtime, to win for the third time in his last 10 starts.

    “That was a huge two points for us,” DeSmith said. “Obviously we’re battling with them in the standings. Character win at home.”

    Carter Verhaeghe scored twice for Florida, including a tying goal with 2:32 left in regulation. Aaron Ekblad had a goal and two assists. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart each had a goal and an assist. Colin White‘s sixth goal of the season 4:10 into the third gave the Panthers the lead but Florida couldn’t hold it.

    Alex Lyon made 42 saves after getting the start when Spencer Knight was unavailable for reasons head coach Paul Maurice would not disclose. The Panthers are 7-3-2 since January 1 to surge back into the fringe of contention.

    “We’re so much more of a different hockey team than we were a month ago at this time,” Maurice said. “Rallied around each other, battled as hard as they could to get a point on the road in the circumstances that we’re in. I couldn’t be more proud.”

    Neither Lyon or DeSmith – who got the heads up he was playing less than an hour before the opening faceoff – appeared quite ready to play on short notice. They gave up a six goals – three by each team – during a frantic first period that included Letang’s first goal since Dec. 15 and Tkachuk’s 25th of the season.

    Things settled down in the second. Ekblad’s short-handed goal put the Panthers in front but Crosby knotted the game at 4-4 with a pretty backhand through Lyon’s legs with 40 seconds to go in the period to set up a hectic third in which both teams squandered one-goal leads.

    “It wasn’t pretty but you need to find ways to win sometimes,” Crosby said. “We did a good job of that here today.”

    UP NEXT

    Panthers: Host Angeles on Friday night.

    Penguins: At Washington on Thursday night.