DeBoer: Pavelski’s ‘close to breaking out’


The San Jose Sharks’ chances of coming back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins are slim and it’s especially hard to see how they can turn it around unless their best players step up.

Enter Joe Pavelski, who has no points and a minus-three rating in the Stanley Cup Final after being a key figure in getting them this far.

“I thought that last game was his best game,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of Pavelski. “He’s close to breaking out here for us.”

DeBoer also dismissed the notion that the responsibilities of being the team captain have prevented Pavelski from playing his game when everything they’ve worked for is on the line. Meanwhile, despite his personal struggles and the Sharks’ situation, Pavelski presented an air of optimism Wednesday.

“We’re still right here,” Pavelski said. “If we can find a way to win this game, it definitely breathes a little more life into us. This group has always had a lot of fun playing, regardless of the situation. We think we’ve still got a push.”

Pavelski also suggested that they need a little better start, which has been a recurring theme for them in this series. Now they’re almost out of time to change that.

Still, despite Pittsburgh winning three of four games, the final score in each of them hasn’t been big. If one thing goes right for the Sharks in Game 5 that hasn’t earlier in the series, that might be enough to tip the scales. Like, for example, Pavelski breaking out.

Blues have ‘zero issue’ sticking with Elliott-Allen tandem

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An argument could be made that now is the time for the St. Louis Blues to trade either goalie Jake Allen or, more likely, Brian Elliott given that both of them are going into the final season of their respective contracts, but Doug Armstrong is perfectly happy with the current situation.

“I like our goaltending,” Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think Jake is still pushing towards being an upper-echelon goalie. He lost the net this year, Brian took it, Brian didn’t give it up. Kudos to Brian for that. I know what’s happening now Jake is preparing to wrestle it back in September, and we’re going to see how it goes down. But I would have zero issue if both of these guys came back and were asked to compete and fight.”

Having two viable starting goaltenders can lead to headaches when determining who plays in any given game and it can result in a lot of second guessing, but it’s also an ideal insurance policy. Both Allen and Elliott suffered significant injuries during the 2015-16 campaign, which might have been a problem if not for the presence of the other. With the way their injuries split, either Elliott or Allen was still available for each game and that led to St. Louis being one of the stingiest teams in terms of goals allowed.

This arrangement probably won’t last past 2016-17 as Elliott, 31, will be an unrestricted free agent and likely expect a sizable raise from his current $2.5 million annual cap hit. Allen will only be a restricted free agent, but he should similarly be due a raise from his $2.35 million cap hit. As a result, if neither gets traded and both continue to perform as they have been, it’s likely Elliott will be allowed to walk for cap reasons and then Allen will become the team’s clear starter.

Wild hire ex-Thrashers head coach Anderson

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Just a day after hiring Scott Stevens as an assistant coach, the Minnesota Wild announced that John Anderson has also been selected for an assistant coaching role.

Anderson, who had a 814-game NHL playing career, served as the Atlanta Thrashers’ bench boss in 2008-09 and 2009-10. The squad posted a 70-75-19 record over that span. After that he spent two seasons as an assistant with the then Phoenix Coyotes before taking over as the AHL’s Chicago Wolves head coach in 2013.

Stevens and Anderson are replacing Rick Wilson and Darryl Sydor. The Wild parted ways with Wilson and Sydor back in May, giving new head coach Bruce Boudreau the opportunity to hire his own staff. In Anderson specifically, Boudreau is adding someone he’s already very familiar with. The two go back all the way to the Toronto Marlboros when they were teammates in the 1970s. They also played on the Toronto Maple Leafs together.

“We’ve lived together, played together, ran our own golf tournament together. I know the man inside out,” Boudreau told the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.

UFA of the Day: Cam Ward

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Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Cam Ward

As Matt Murray seeks to match Cam Ward’s feat of winning 15 playoff games as a rookie goaltender (joining Patrick Roy and Ron Hextall as the only other netminders to do that), the now 32-year-old Ward might be on the brink of parting ways with the only NHL team he’s ever played for.

That 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy has been the highlight of Ward’s career, but it certainly hasn’t been the only one. While Carolina has made the playoffs just once since winning the Stanley Cup, Ward has had several strong campaigns as the Hurricanes’ starting goaltender. He’s had some pretty bad campaigns too, but in his last two seasons he’s been okay in the defense of a mediocre squad.

“Okay” wasn’t the word the Hurricanes were hoping would be associated with Ward though when he inked his six-year, $37.8 million deal back in 2009. He didn’t justify that salary over the length of his contract and it seems unlikely that he’ll command anywhere near that average annual salary with his next deal.

Assuming him taking a pay cut is a foregone conclusion though, the question then turns to who will give it to him. Although his previous deal didn’t go as hoped, Carolina might be willing to stick with him. Hurricanes GM Ron Francis seemed open to that possibility in May and Ward is interesting in re-signing.

Eddie Lack is signed for two seasons with a $2.75 million cap hit, but he’s coming off a rough campaign, so the Hurricanes will likely want to pair him with a veteran goaltender, be it Ward or someone else. Calgary is another team that needs goaltending help, although James Reimer might be the goalie they target.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.

Holland expects to meet with Datsyuk next week

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We should know soon if Pavel Datsyuk will play for Detroit in 2016-17.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland expects to meet with Datsyuk early next week and the hope is that the 37-year-old forward’s decision will come soon after that, per the Detroit News. Datsyuk has one season left on his three-year, $22.5 million contract, but he’s leaning towards heading back to Russia instead.

That would put Detroit in a difficult position as his $7.5 million cap hit would be on the books regardless because he was already 35 years old when he signed. Detroit is reportedly looking to move that contract.

Another team might be willing to absorb the cap hit, especially if it would help them get to the cap floor. You don’t go far back to see examples of that as Chris Pronger‘s contract was shipped to Arizona and Marc Savard‘s deal was moved to Florida in the summer of 2015. Datsyuk’s contract would have a similar appeal because while the team acquiring him would receive a $7.5 million cap hit, they would still be able to suspend him for failure to report to training camp and consequently not have to pay him a dollar of the $5.5 million in cash he would otherwise be owed for 2016-17, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.

If Datsyuk does decide to stay, then Detroit will have $57.7 million in cap space dedicated to 16 players, not including restricted free agents Riley Sheahan, Teemu Pulkkinen, Danny DeKeyser, Alexey Marchenko, and Petr Mrazek, per General Fanager.

Related: Datsyuk’s agent acknowledges offer from KHL’s SKA, but no deal yet