AHL

Eakins gets another NHL shot as Ducks head coach

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A favorite from the start, Dallas Eakins has finally been named head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.

The 52-year-old Eakins replaces Randy Carlyle, who was fired in February, though technically he takes over from general manager Bob Murray, who assumed the head coaching duties after Carlyle was canned.

“Dallas is an outstanding head coach who has worked well with our players since joining the organization four years ago,” said Murray in a statement. “He is a tremendous leader and strategist, and deserves this opportunity.”

Reportedly also in the mix for the position were New York Islanders assistant Lane Lambert, Dallas Stars assistants Rick Bowness and Todd Nelson, and University of Minnesota-Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin.

Murray took his time in finding a replacement for Carlyle. The Ducks were the last team to fill their coaching need and the GM eventually decided to keep it in-house, hiring Eakins after he spent the past four seasons coaching the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in San Diego.

Eakins’ chance in Anaheim comes nearly five years he was fired by the Edmonton Oilers after a season and a half behind the bench. The Oilers were 36-63-14 during his 113 games in charge and the disastrous results of that 2014-15 NHL season helped the franchise win the draft lottery and select Connor McDavid No. 1 overall.

While coaching the AHL Gulls, Eakins guided the team to three playoff appearances in four seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference Final in 2019. This season’s job was an impressive one when you consider the amount of injuries the Ducks had to deal with and how often Eakins’ roster was affected by NHL call-ups.

The transition phase will continue into 2019-20 with a Ducks roster in makeover mode. Ryan Kesler is out for the foreseeable future and Corey Perry could be on the move. It’s time for the kids to take over and many of them — like Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Jones — have been coached by Eakins at some point.

It’s clear by the results with the Gulls and the player development that’s happened that Eakins has been nothing but a positive influence on the franchise’s youth.

“If I was stressed out or something was going on or I was having a hard time, I wouldn’t hesitate to go talk to him about it,” said Terry in March via the OC Register. “He’s just very approachable. He just served as a mentor. I owe a lot of the success I’ve had this season to him.”

With their situation being what it is, Eakins is the right choice to shepherd the roster forward as Murray attempts to further a youth movement.

MORE ANAHEIM DUCKS COVERAGE:
Examining the Ducks’ options with Corey Perry
Kesler ‘unlikely’ to play next season after hip surger

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

Nearly 30K stuffed animals fly during Calgary Hitmen’s Teddy Bear Toss night

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The WHL’s Calgary Hitmen fell short in their quest to reclaim the Teddy Bear Toss world record.

One week after the AHL’s Hershey Bears saw 34,798 teddy bears fly to their ice and break the Hitmen’s 2015 record, the crowd inside the Saddledome made it rain with fur Sunday afternoon after Kaden Elder’s first period goal. The 18,015 fans, many of whom brought large plastic bags filled with stuffed animals, helped break a franchise Teddy Bear Toss record with a total of 29,635, up from the 28,815 collected three years ago.

“It was an awesome experience and something I’ll never forget,” Elder said via the Hitmen website. “The atmosphere in the rink was unbelievable with all the fans and the teddy bears. It was definitely an adrenaline rush and when it went in I was thinking about the celebration and kind of zoned out because I was trying to just take in the moment and enjoy every second of it. It just a surreal moment.”

After a 41-minute cleanup delay, the Hitmen went on to win 6-3 over the Kamloops Blazers.

The Hitmen have now collected a total of 377,583 stuffed animals since their first Teddy Bear Toss promotion in 1995.

The event helps benefit 70 local agencies, including the Salvation Army, Calgary Food Bank, Siksika Nation and Hospice Calgary. The Hitmen will spend Monday delivering some of stuffed animals to Alberta Children’s Hospital.

MORE: Teddy Bear Toss season is the best season

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

Teddy Bear Toss season is the best season

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Once U.S. Thanksgiving comes and goes and the holiday season arrives, that can only mean one thing in the hockey world: Teddy Bear Toss time.

If you’re not familiar with the event, teams encourage fans to bring stuffed animals to the rink and when the home team score their first goal of the night they let the fur fly. It’s a promotion that’s taken place in junior and minor hockey since the early 1990s and has taken off in the last decade.

On Saturday night, the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors hosted their Teddy Bear Toss Night and Joseph Gambardella was the one to get the party started in the second period.

The count took place on Monday and, according to the Condors, there were 8,415 stuffed animals tossed onto the Rabobank Arena ice, the second-highest total in team history. In the 20-year history of the event, the team has donated nearly 130,000 stuffed animals to dozens of organizations through the United Way of Kern County.

That was just the warmup.

In two weeks, the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen will host their Teddy Bear Toss Night, and if you haven’t seen what the atmosphere is like inside Scotiabank Saddledome when the fur gets flying, it’s something special. The team has set the bar for this promotion with their fans delivering every year. Last season’s event saw 24,605 stuffed animals collected, just 4,000 shy of the all time record of 28,815 they hit in 2015.

It’s truly the greatest promotion in sports.

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

This Texas Stars goal was the result of a comical sequence of events

AHL

The Texas Stars edged the Tucson Roadrunners 5-4 in overtime Monday night to take a 2-1 series lead in the second round of the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs.

It was the Stars’ third goal, scored by Brian Flynn, that was the most unique of the evening. The sequence leading to his AHL-leading sixth goal of the postseason can only be described as eventful.

So let’s go through all of this.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Roope Hintz zooms through the neutral zone between two Roadrunners players, who then proceed to collide with one another. Hintz then attempts to dump the puck into the opposite corner, but instead it goes off of Tuscon defenseman Dakota Mermis’ face. Flynn then seizes the opportunity and pounces on the loose puck and beats Adin Hill on his second attempt.

Just how they drew it up!

Mermis summed it up pretty perfectly afterward. “Certainly that was one of the most bizarre goals that’s happened,” he told the Arizona Daily Star. “But that’s playoff hockey and that’s the bounces that happen.”

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

Jarome Iginla skates with AHL Providence, still wants to play

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Jarome Iginla is still without a team but isn’t giving up hope just yet on one last ride in the NHL.

The 40-year-old Iginla, who last played in 2016-17 with the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, was spotted on the ice at Providence Bruins practice on Tuesday, but there’s nothing in the works as far as a deal anywhere, he told the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver.

Iginla’s name popped up in contention for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team this fall, but a hip procedure cost him time on the ice and ultimately a place in GM Sean Burke’s final roster for PyeongChang. (The Canadians are doing just fine without him having reached the semifinals of the tournament.)

Now living in the Boston area after buying a house last spring, Iginla, who played 78 games with the NHL Bruins during the 2013-14 season, was simply taking advantage of a favor from the team. He’s expected to skate with AHL Providence again on Thursday as he continues to see where his body is physically.

Iginla — and for that matter, U.S. Olympian Brian Gionta, who’s also looking to continue playing — can sign with any NHL team, but to be eligible to play in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs a deal needs to be inked before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline next Monday.

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