Sakic’s late-season deals paying off as Avs lead series 2-0

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DENVER — The stat sheet won’t reflect this: Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic actually had a pair of assists on those two goals scored in a 15-second window.

The goal spurt by Artturi Lehkonen and Josh Manson in Game 2′s 4-0 win against Edmonton only illustrated the impactful trade deadline deals orchestrated by Sakic. So far in the postseason, five of the team’s 10 game-winning goals have been courtesy of their newest additions.

Sakic has steadily built this squad into a mirror image of the championship teams the Hall of Famer played on with Colorado — fast-flying forwards and dynamic defensemen who are capable of playing any style necessary. The Avalanche are up 2-0 on the Oilers in the Western Conference finals with the series heading to Edmonton for Game 3 on Saturday.

“One of the best in the business,” Edmonton front-office executive Ken Holland said of his GM counterpart before the series.

The Great One praised Sakic, too.

“If you look at Colorado’s organization, Joe Sakic’s done a really nice job of carefully building that team over the last four or five years,” Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky said. “He’s added, really, some nice pieces.”

Those late moves are coming through in all sorts of ways. Like Lehkonen, who was brought in from Montreal and has five goals in these playoffs. Or Manson, the defenseman acquired from Anaheim who scored the OT winner to open the St. Louis series. Or forward Andrew Cogliano, picked up in a deal with San Jose, who didn’t score over 18 games with Colorado in the regular season but has two goals — both of the game-winning variety — in the postseason.

Sakic had to mortgage a portion of the future for a chance to win now. But it’s all coming together as the Avs advanced to their first conference finals since his playing days in 2002.

“We feel that we addressed the needs that we needed to address,” Sakic said. “You can never have enough depth. Everybody’s contributing.”

Since stepping into his role in 2013, Sakic has worked with two head coaches (Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy and now Jared Bednar). He’s seen some lean years (a 48-point showing in ’16-17) and experienced some frustrations (three straight second-round playoff exits). But it’s led the Avalanche to this point — a chance at capturing their first Stanley Cup title since 2001.

Cogliano counts himself fortunate to be a late addition.

“Very special for me to be traded to a team like this, the caliber that we have and to come in and add something — be a piece of the puzzle,” Cogliano said.

On top of Sakic’s recent deadline deals, there have been his offseason maneuverings. He picked up forward Nazem Kadri in a 2019 trade with Toronto, and acquired defenseman Devon Toews as part of a deal with the New York Islanders in ’20. He also traded for goaltender Darcy Kuemper last summer.

Kadri had a three-assist performance in Game 2 against Edmonton and Toews has helped keep in check Oilers standouts Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane. Kuemper picked up a career-best 37 wins in the regular season, but is dealing with an upper-body injury in this series, with Pavel Francouz filling in. Francouz recorded a 24-save shutout Thursday.

Then there’s Sakic’s draft picks: His first being star forward Nathan MacKinnon with the No. 1 pick in 2013, and later Mikko Rantanen (10th overall, 2015), along with defenseman Cale Makar (fourth overall, 2017).

Sakic has stayed true to his course, too, even after last season when the team earned the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record, only to lose to Vegas in the second round.

A step back that’s led to a big step forward.

“It’s such a fine-line league that you just have to stick with it,” Holland said. “That’s what Joe’s done.”

Sakic prefers to work outside the spotlight and go about his business of building a winner. His approach is similar to that of his mentor, the late Pierre Lacroix, who was the architect behind the two Avalanche Stanley Cup championships featuring Sakic.

Like those teams, this is an Avalanche squad not completely reliant on the top-line players. The offense can come from anywhere.

The blueline is deep, too, with Makar, Toews, Manson, Bowen Byram and veterans Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson (who was brought in on a professional tryout in October).

“Your best players still have to be your best if you want a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup,” Sakic said. “But you also need those (others) contributing and taking some of the pressure off of them.”

2022 NHL playoff schedule: Western Conference Final

Game 1 – Avalanche 8, Oilers 6
Game 2 – Avalanche 4, Oilers 0
Game 3 – June 4: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
Game 4 – June 6: Avalanche at Oilers, 8 p.m. ET (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 5 – June 8: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 6 – June 10: Avalanche at Oilers, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)
*Game 7 – June 12: Oilers at Avalanche, TBD (TNT, SN, CBC, TVAS)

* If necessary

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    Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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    San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer didn’t take part in pregame warmups, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

    Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

    “In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

    Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

    Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

    The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

    “As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

    The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

    “Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

    Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

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    NEW YORK — Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

    Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

    Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

    “When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

    The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

    “Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

    Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

    “This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

    Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

    As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

    Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

    Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

    Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

    New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

    After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

    Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

    “We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

    Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

    “It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

    Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

    “It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

    NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


    Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

    Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

    Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

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    TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

    The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

    Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

    The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

    Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

    The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

    Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

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    CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

    The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

    Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

    Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.