Brenden Dillon

Blues’ Dunn remains ‘close’ to return after facial injury

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(UPDATE: Dunn will be in the Blues’ Game 4 lineup.)

ST. LOUIS — Vince Dunn is close. That’s the description St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube has used the last few days to describe the 22-year-old defenseman.

Dunn took a Brenden Dillon wrist shot to the mouth in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final and has been out of the lineup since, missing the Blues’ last six games. He’s been out with an “upper-body injury,” and it’s clear there was plenty concern about whether he’d be back on the ice.

There’s no clarity yet on if Dunn will play during the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Even he isn’t sure.

“It’s hard to say right now,” Dunn said. “It’s obviously a whole other level right now in the Finals and when I come back I want to make sure I was the player that I was when I came out.”

While he’s still part of the team on a daily basis as he recovers, being unable to take part in the games has been difficult for Dunn, who recorded seven points in 16 playoff games prior to the injury.

“There’s nothing you can say or hear right now that’s going to make you feel better,” Dunn said. “At the end of the day, you’re not in the lineup and that really sucks. It’s the Stanley Cup Final and that’s something you dream about when you’re a kid. To not be able to play for something like this is very frustrating for me.”

Dunn said the puck to the mouth didn’t cause him to lose any teeth “yet,” but he has a mouth full of wires at the moment and it’s “going to be a long process.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“There’s a lot of things going on with my face right now,” he added. “It’s just not a pretty scene in there.”

The young defenseman is in his second NHL season and averaged 17:32 of ice time during the regular season. He’s good puck moving blue liner, something the Blues have missed through three games against the Boston Bruins.

Dunn tried sporting a face shield during practices but quickly gave up that idea.

“It’s not easy to see with that thing on,” said Dunn, who couldn’t reveal if he had been medically cleared to play. “I just kind of came to the conclusion that if I can just take that thing off, if a puck’s going to hit me, it’s going to hurt. I’d rather just sacrifice my face for better vision out there. … As easy as I can to make it on myself, that’s what I’ve got to do.”

There have been plenty of supportive messages for Dunn from family, friends and fans as he recovers. He gets the questions about his health every day and while it’s difficult to not reply back saying that he’ll be back to playing in the next game, he’s appreciative of the support.

“At the end of the day, it’s nice that a lot of people are worrying and care about you,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of Tweets and messages, some letters. Just to know that the city’s really worried about you … there’s no shortage of help right now for me.”

Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday (stream here).

MORE BLUES-BRUINS GAME 3:
Bruins blast Blues, take 2-1 lead in Stanley Cup Final
Blues special teams continue to be sour note 
Berube keeping the faith in Binnington after rough Game 3

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Playoff Buzzer: Another shutout for Mrazek; Burns dominates for Sharks

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  • Jordan Staal scores another huge goal for the Carolina Hurricanes as they continue their playoff run.
  • Kevin Labanc scored a beauty of a goal for the Sharks.
  • Brent Burns dominated and made a little bit of history for the Sharks.

Carolina Hurricanes 1, New York Islanders 0 [OT] (CAR leads series 1-0)

If you like defense and goaltending, this might be the series for you. It took a little more than 64 minutes for someone to find the back of the net in this one, but Carolina’s Jordan Staal finally did it for the Hurricanes in their 1-0 win over the Islanders. Petr Mrazek was also outstanding in net by turning aside all 31 shots he faced for the Hurricanes as they continue their magical run.

San Jose Sharks 5, Colorado Avalanche 2 (SJS leads series 1-0)

Even without Joe Pavelski in their lineup the Sharks still have enough depth to beat just about any team on any given night, and they showed that in their 5-2 Game 1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night. The Sharks’ third line of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen, and Kevin Labanc combined to score three consecutive goals in the win, while defender Brent Burns had a huge four-point night. While the offense was a huge part of the win, the Sharks’ penalty kill also came through in the second period as they successfully killed off a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Brenden Dillon to help swing the momentum in their favor. They responded by scoring three consecutive goals over the next eight minutes to take the lead.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks. It was the Brent Burns show for the Sharks on Friday night as he tallied four points in their 5-2 win over the Avalanche. Along with the offense, he also made a couple of great defensive plays, including an outstanding play to break up a 2-on-1 odd-man rush involving Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie in the third period. It is games like this that made him a Norris Trophy finalist for the third time in the past four years. He is just the seventh defender since 2010 to record at least four points in a postseason game.

2. Jordan Staal, Carolina Hurricanes. Here is a quick look at how Staal’s week has been for the Hurricanes. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 against the Washington Capitals to send the game to a decisive Game 7. In that Game 7 he scored the game-tying goal in the third period to help send the game to overtime where they would eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions. Then on Friday night he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 series lead. He has always been an outstanding defensive center and strong two-way player, and he is having an incredible postseason for the Hurricanes.

3. Petr Mrazek, Carolina Hurricanes. While Staal provided the only offense for the night, Mrazek did his part to keep the Islanders off the board with a 31-save shutout. It is already Mrazek’s second shutout of the postseason and the fifth shutout of his postseason career. That is an impressive number when you remember he has only appeared in 19 NHL postseason games and only has nine career postseason wins.

Highlights Of The Night

This was probably Mrazek’s best save of the night as he shut down New York’s Josh Bailey in the first period with this awesome glove save.

San Jose’s Kevin Labanc got the better of Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen on this play with an incredible move to set up the go-ahead goal for the Sharks.

Robin Lehner was not the problem for the New York Islanders on Friday as he matched Mrazek save-for-save during regulation. This second period stop on Gregg McKegg was his best of the night.

 

Factoids Of The Night

  • Jordan Staal’s overtime goal for the Hurricanes came 13 years to the day of his older brother, Eric Staal, scoring an overtime playoff game-winner during the 2006 playoffs. That was a pretty good postseason for the Hurricanes as they went on to win the Stanley Cup. [NHL PR]
  • This was the seventh consecutive day of playoff hockey that at least one game went to overtime. The longest such streak is nine consecutive days during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. [NHL PR]
  • Burns set a new Sharks franchise record for most career postseason points by a defender. [NHL PR]
  • Big night for Joe Thornton as he became just the 24th player, and only third active player, to record at least 100 postseason assists. [NHL PR]
  • Mrazek became the third goalie in Hurricanes history to record multiple shutouts in a single postseason. [NHL PR]

Saturday’s Games

Game 2: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues, 3 p.m. ET, NBC (Live Stream)
Game 2: Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET, NBC (Live Stream)

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.

Sharks’ PK, third line shine in Game 1 win over Avalanche

When we last checked in with the San Jose Sharks it was their power play taking over and scoring four consecutive goals during a five-minute major in their historic Game 7 comeback to send them to a Round 2 matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.

In their 5-2 Game 1 win on Friday night, it was the other side of their special teams unit — their penalty kill — that helped swing the momentum in their favor.

With the Sharks trailing by a goal early in the second period, defender Brenden Dillon was given a double-minor for high-sticking that gave the Avalanche a four-minute power play that could have padded their lead.

Instead, the Sharks’ PK completely slammed the door shut and killed off the entire penalty, setting the stage for an offensive outburst later in the period that would prove to be the difference in the game.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

It also gave the Sharks one more opportunity to remind everyone about what happened in their Game 7 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.

Ouch, Vegas.

Less than two minutes after that penalty expired, the Sharks’ offense erupted, with all of it coming from their third line of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen, and Kevin Labanc.

It began with Thornton finishing off a 2-on-1 rush to tie the game with his second goal of the postseason.

Six minutes after that, Labanc gave the Sharks their first lead of the night with a highlight reel goal that saw him dangle around Mikko Rantanen at the blue line and then beat Philipp Grubauer with this perfectly placed shot. This goal goes in the books as the game-winner on Friday.

Not even three minutes later, that line struck again when Brent Burns tallied his third point of the night when he scored his second goal of the playoffs on a shot that banked in off of Avalanche rookie defender Cale Makar. He added a fourth point later in the game when he assisted on Timo Meier‘s empty-net goal.

Sorensen and Thornton each picked up an assist on Burns’ goal, giving each of them two points on the night.

Game 2 of Avalanche-Sharks is on Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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.

Kane’s spying sparks big Penguins, Sharks scrum

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PITTSBURGH — It turned out to be a pretty lousy Thursday night for Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.

Not only was his team completely outclassed and outmatched in a decisive 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks, but he also ended up getting himself ejected late in the third period after a line brawl nearly broke out during a commercial break.

The entire ordeal started at center ice and seemed to be the result of Sharks forward Evander Kane trying to sneak a look at the Penguins’ white board as they were drawing up a play after pulling goalie Casey DeSmith for an extra attacker.

We know this is what started it because Kane admitted as much after the game.

“I was just standing there, looking at their bench, just looking at their board that they were using and one of their players, not really sure who it was, jumped over and tried to do something about it and it just kind of escalated,” said Kane when asked about what happened.

He was then asked if that is something he normally does.

“Well they were about to pull their goalie, right?” Just like to think that is little bit of a savvy veteran thing to do. If you can see it, why wouldn’t you do it?”

Touche.

The result of that was a heated scrum at center ice involving all of the players that were on the ice at that time.

Things really started to escalate when Sharks defender Brenden Dillon punched an unsuspecting Marcus Pettersson in the face, infuriating Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. Crosby, Kris Letang, Dillon, and recently acquired Sharks forward Michael Haley were all involved in the altercation.

While that was happening, Kane ended up getting the better of a fight with Penguins forward Tanner Pearson.

The next thing everyone knew, Sullivan was exiting the Penguins’ bench after being seen screaming at the officials.

For the Sharks, Haley and Dillon both received 10-minute misconducts for their roles, while Kane was given a five-minute major for fighting.

On the Penguins’ side, Crosby and Pettersson were both given 10-minute misconducts,

Pearson was given a five-minute major for fighting, and Sullivan was given a game misconduct.

The Penguins’ coach had absolutely zero interest in discussing the matter after the game, highlighted by this exchange that took place during an uncharacteristically short and tense press conference.

Reporter: “Mike can you describe as best you can what happened there at the end?”

Sullivan: “No.”

Reporter: “Or what led to your ejection…”

Sullivan: “No.”

Maybe it was the events that preceded the brawl, or the ejection itself, or just his overall disappointment with the way his team played in what should have been a measuring stick game that soured his mood.

Or perhaps it was the way the Penguins’ meltdown continued after the brawl with Phil Kessel taking an offensive zone penalty right off the ensuing face-off, which was quickly followed by Kris Letang going off for cross-checking Tomas Hertl after the latter took a late swing at Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith. That sequence resulted in an extended two-man advantage for the Sharks that produced Brent Burns‘ 12th goal of the season, turning the game into a rout.

All four of the Sharks’ goals on Thursday came as a result of their special teams, scoring three power play goals and a shorthanded goal.

The Penguins still occupy the third playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division but are just one point ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes (winners on Thursday night) and only two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are currently on the outside of the playoff picture.

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.

Puck and player tracking gets TV test at All-Star Weekend

Twenty-three years after Fox’s glowing puck made its debut, the NHL’s next big technological advancement will be on display this weekend during All-Star festivities.

NBC will showcase puck and player tracking as part of its broadcast of the skills competition Friday night and then as the centerpiece of a digital-only broadcast of the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament Saturday night. It’ll be the first chance for American hockey fans to get an up-close look at the system that could be in place as soon as next season.

With each player and puck fitted with a microchip, the amount of available information could be overwhelming. Look for everything from bubbles over players’ heads to skating and shot speed to ice time and even a small trail behind the puck as NBC takes tracking technology in hockey for a test drive.

”Eventually it’ll go to possession time and more advanced (data), but right now it’s mainly focused on speed, shift time, distance traveled, mph on the shot and virtually connecting players on a goal,” NBC Sports producer Steve Greenberg said. ”We’re scratching the surface here, and what we’re able to display this weekend is not what we’re going to be able to display next year and in the future, but it’s going to be able to be a really good first look at what these chips are going to be able to give us.”

The NHL privately tested puck and player tracking in two regular-season games in Las Vegas earlier this month, but this will be the first time the data is available for public consumption. While other types of tracking technology were tested at previous All-Star games and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, this is something of a dry run for the radio frequency system the NHL has been working with developers to perfect.

Much like the glowing puck was criticized by purists, there’s the danger of overloading fans with too much, too fast. NBC will experiment with how much puck and player tracking data can and should fit onto a TV broadcast.

”It’s a balancing act,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said. ”Think about years ago when the yellow line came in for the first down in football. It’s now universal. There are going to be elements that’ll become universal in hockey telecasts based on what we learn over the next period of time.”

Kenny Albert, who will call the puck and player tracking-heavy telecast available on NBC Sports’ app and online, likens this to the kind of ball-tracking technology that has become ubiquitous in golf coverage. He was with Fox in the 1990s when the glowing puck was perhaps ahead of its time but thinks fans are ready for puck and player tracking on TV.

”We live in an age of information overload and people want stuff like ice time and the mph on a shot for example or how fast a player’s skating,” Albert said. ”I have two teenage daughters and I don’t think anybody in that generation now just sits there and watches TV. They want information, whether it’s looking at their phone, their iPad, their computer, and there’s so much information out there.”

Eventually, once the NHL implements player and puck tracking, fans will be able to take a deep dive into all the numbers and there will be an element of real-time sports gambling. But Commissioner Gary Bettman and other league executives have pointed out that the first goal was always to make it TV-ready.

”The most obvious thing that (viewers will) probably notice is just sort of the correlations tied to speed,” NHL senior vice president of business development David Lehanski said. ”It’s kind of the thing everybody talks about: how fast the game is, how fast the players are, how fast the puck moves.”

KARLSSON CONUNDRUM

Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson missed the final three games before the break with a lower-body injury, but there’s somehow still a chance he takes part in All-Star Weekend in San Jose. Obviously, coach Peter DeBoer said, the organization would love to have Karlsson on the ice in its home arena, but not at the risk of making it worse.

”If there’s more damage to be done, no one in their right mind would play,” DeBoer said. ”So I think it’s pretty simple.”

Karlsson returned to California for tests, and defenseman Brenden Dillon said it’s a positive for the team to play it safe with the two-time Norris Trophy winner. Karlsson has fit in well with San Jose after an offseason trade from San Jose and gives the Sharks the look of a Stanley Cup contender with the deepest blue line in the league.

”He’s an unbelievable talent and a guy that’s fit in our locker room great too,” Dillon said. ”It’s something where collectively as a group we realized that it was going to be a little bit less whether that’s in minutes or situations … I think for everybody it’s kind of been a little bit less is more and understanding the kind of common goal. So far, so good.”

SINKING CAPS

The defending champion Washington Capitals have lost six in a row for the first time since the disastrous 2013-14 season that led to the firing of general manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates. After players-only meetings didn’t solve the problem, the latest gut punch was allowing a goal with 1 second left to cough up a two-goal, third-period lead to the Sharks on Tuesday in what turned into an overtime loss.

”I think it doesn’t matter how many meetings we have,” captain Alex Ovechkin said after his hat trick against San Jose wasn’t enough. ”It’s all about us and we know how to play hockey. We know when we play the right way we’re going to get success.”

GAME OF THE WEEK

The Buffalo Sabres get an early test in the second half of the season when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday in each team’s first game after the All-Star break.

LEADERS (through Tuesday)

Goals: Ovechkin, 36; Assists: Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), 56; Points: Kucherov, 78; Ice time: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), 26:41; Wins: Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas), 27; Goals-against average: Robin Lehner (N.Y. Islanders), 2.02; Save percentage: Lehner, .931.

The 2019 NHL All-Star Skills will take place on Friday, Jan. 25 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2019 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 26 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

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