Avs’ Bednar longs to swap spots with Lightning’s Cooper

DENVER (AP) — Jared Bednar is four wins shy of becoming hockey’s first head coach to win the Kelly Cup, the Calder Cup and the Stanley Cup.

“Yeah, well, I mean, my focus is on this cup. I want to add it, I want our team to finish the job,” Bednar said as he primed the Colorado Avalanche to face the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in a star-studded Stanley Cup Final.

Bednar isn’t necessarily one to go down memory lane, not when there’s a wide-open highway to hockey heaven ahead.

He does allow, however, that the philosophies that propelled him to titles in the ECHL and American Hockey League are the same ones he has used to navigate his way from a 48-point season in 2016-17 to the cusp of Colorado’s first championship in 21 years.

“What’s been consistent? Just my approach to the game and focus on the process of what I feel we need to do to be successful,” he said.

That includes deep dives into the pain of coming up short like they have the last three years with second-round playoff exits “and just trying to find ways to get incrementally better in all situations,” Bednar said.

“The heartbreak over the last couple of years in the playoffs has led our whole team sort of into that same mentality,” Bednar said.

After winning just 22 games his first year, taking over after Patrick Roy stepped down abruptly in August 2016, Bednar has led the Avalanche to the playoffs the last six seasons.

They finally began to fulfill their promise this year with sweeps of Nashville and Edmonton sandwiched around a six-game series win over St. Louis.

[Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

“He’s done an awesome job,” Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon said. “He’s super even keeled. He’s an easygoing guy, but has that switch when he needs it. So obviously, we’re very lucky to have a guy like that.”

Added center J.T. Compher: “He’s definitely a really good hockey mind and makes sure we’re prepared for any opponent that we face: video and in practice. He just keeps it level-headed, and I think that’s what our room has tried to be. Whether it’s going good or going bad, we’re staying in a good spot that we’re just focused on what’s coming next.”

If the Avalanche can dethrone the Lightning, Bednar will swap places with Jon Cooper, who’s aiming to lead Tampa Bay to a third consecutive title, something that hasn’t happened in the NHL since the New York Islanders won four titles in a row in the 1980s.

Cooper and Bednar had similarly successful careers in the lower tiers of hockey with Cooper winning the United States Hockey League’s Clark Cup as well as the Calder Cup before joining the Lightning in 2013.

Cooper led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final in his third season, losing to the Blackhawks in six games in 2015. In 2019, the Lightning set a league record for points, won the Presidents’ Trophy and promptly got swept by Columbus in the first round.

Just like Colorado GM Joe Sakic has stuck with Bednar after earlier-than-expected playoff punch-outs, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois said he never considered changing coaches after that debacle.

“It never crossed my mind to make any drastic changes,” BriseBois said. “The whole 2019 thing, it was a really, really bad seven, eight days. It was out of character for our group. Our group had gone far to the playoffs before with Jon as the head coach with this core. … So, there was never any doubt in my mind that we had what it took to win. It just it didn’t happen for us that year.”

Like the Avalanche are trying to do this year, the Lightning in 2020 had that extra motivation — which BriseBois called “one additional, very painful experience in our backpacks that we could lean on going forward and learn from it and come back stronger.”

The Lightning beat Dallas in 2020 and Montreal last year in the Stanley Cup Final.

Sakic had Bednar’s back, too, trusting he had the right man in place to take that next step with an ever-improving roster and lessons learned the hard way.

The Avalanche are aiming to turn their anguish into joy like the Lightning did.

“Certainly a lot of lessons have been learned over the last five, six years from myself, from our team going through some heartbreak in the playoffs,” Bednar said. “Even the last couple years I think has made us a stronger group, a more resilient group, a team that’s been mentally tough.”

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    Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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    San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer won’t take part in pregame warmups Saturday night, 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.”

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

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

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    NEW YORK (AP) 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.

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

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

    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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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.