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The New York Rangers were without assistant coach Lindy Ruff for the team’s Wednesday night game after he suffered a concussion during Tuesday’s practice.

Ruff was injured when he fell and hit his head on the ice. In addition to the concussion, the veteran coach had a large cut on the back of his head.

“We’re not sure if he stepped on a puck or a puck hit him, but he hit his head on the ice,” Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. “We had to take him off the ice. He went to the hospital. He’s got a pretty big gash with some stitches in the back of his head. He’s been diagnosed with a concussion, so he’s going to be out for a couple of days. He should be back [Thursday] and fine. I talked to him [Tuesday] night. I talked to him again [Wednesday].

“He’s back to his perky self. He was just a little dazed yesterday. It was just an unfortunate accident.”

Ruff, a defensive assistant with the Rangers, had previously spent 15 years as the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres and four years as the Dallas Stars’ head coach.

The Rangers lost at the Washington Capitals 3-2 in overtime.

New York will return home for Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning before closing out the regular season on a four-game road trip.

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The Arizona Coyotes didn’t realize they had scored a goal against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward on Thursday night. Then again, Ward had no idea, either.

In one of the most bizarre scoring sequences in NHL history, the puck became lodged in Ward’s right skate before he stuck his leg entirely inside the net to position himself to make a save. Play was stopped when the puck was clearly missing. A linesman came over and poked the puck from Ward’s skate.

The Coyotes were awarded a goal at 8:27 of the first period in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The sequence was reviewed by the NHL situation room, and a goal was awarded to the Coyotes.

“Upon review of the play, the puck is caught in the goaltender’s skate. His skate crosses the line completely. So we have a goal,” referee Dan O’Rourke announced.

Defenseman Alex Goligoski was credited with the unassisted goal, having sent the puck around the boards before it became wedged in Ward’s skate.

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Not missing a beat from his starring roles with the U.S. Olympic team and Harvard University, Ryan Donato had a goal and two assists Monday night in his NHL debut for the Boston Bruins, who fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-4, in overtime.

Donato’s slap shot at 14:19 of the second period tied the game at 1-1, as he one-timed a pass from Torey Krug.

Ryan Donato celebrates after assisting Riley Nash's goal.

Ryan Donato celebrates after assisting Riley Nash’s goal.

Donato then got his first career assist on Riley Nash’s power-play goal later in the second period, and added another on David Krejci’s third-period goal that tied the game at 4-4 just 20 seconds after Columbus had taken a lead.

“During warm-ups, it kind of felt like a dream,” said Donato, who played left wing on the No. 2 line alongside Krejci and right wing Danton Heinen. “I didn’t really get that warmed up because I was too focused on everything else and just kind of the whole situation.”
He had originally been penciled in for third-line duty, but when right wing Rick Nash was scratched with an upper-body injury, Donato was moved up to the second line and Anton Blidh was recalled from Providence.

“It was so much faster than what I’ve ever seen,” said Donato. “But at the end of the day, it’s something you can get used to. When you’re playing with great players like that, it’s something that will come along fast.”

Coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t pleased with the game result but had no complaints about Donato’s debut.

“What’s not to like tonight?” said Cassidy. “(He was) on the puck, making plays as advertised.”

Donato finished with six shots on goal and played 19:40, third most among Bruins forwards behind Brad Marchand and Riley Nash.

A 2014 second-round draft pick, Donato, 21, is from the Boston area and is the son of former Bruin and current Harvard coach Ted Donato, who didn’t score his first career goal until his second game with the Bruins.
Ryan Donato, who signed a two-year contract Sunday, tied for the lead in goals among all Olympians with five goals in five games and led Team USA with six points. Coincidentally, the Bruins honored US Olympians from New England before the game, with Donato taking part in a ceremonial puck drop.

As a junior, Donato led Harvard with 26 goals and 43 points in 29 games this past season and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player. He became available to sign after the Crimson were eliminated in the ECAC semifinals by Clarkson 5-4 in overtime Friday night.

Patrice Bergeron, out with a broken foot, said he remembers beginning his career playing with Ted Donato.

“Doesn’t make me feel any younger. When I was an 18-year-old coming in I was playing with his dad,” said Bergeron, 32. “That first year (Ryan) was skating in practice out there as a young kid. Now he’s in the locker room and he’s gonna be part of the team; it’s definitely different.
“Comes from a great family . . . his dad was so nice to me from training camp on. I felt pretty lucky to have great veterans like I did and I’ll try to do the same thing for them.”

The Bruins have been hit hard with injuries, with several forwards sidelined in addition to Nash and Bergeron, who was back on skates at Monday’s practice and could travel with the team on the upcoming road trip.

Jake DeBrusk has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury. David Backes took 18 stitches to his right leg after being hit by a skate blade Saturday night.

The Bruins, who are second in the Eastern Conference with 99 points, have also been missing rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy (knee injury) and captain Zdeno Chara (upper-body injury). Another defenseman, Adam McQuaid, left Monday’s game in the third period with an injury.

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with his second concussion in less than a year.

Okposo was hurt when he and Senators forward Bobby Ryan didn’t see each other and collided early in the second period of Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout victory at Ottawa on Thursday.
Coach Phil Housley on Friday said he was encouraged by how Okposo looked on the team’s flight home.

“Just seeing him last night, I thought he was in a good place,” Housley said. “Obviously there’s things that can happen down the road. But from my perspective, he was in good spirits, so that was a good sign.”

A head injury was an issue for Okposo last year when concussion-related symptoms nearly derailed his career. Okposo lost weight and had difficulty sleeping and spent a week in the hospital after sustaining a concussion during what he called a routine hit in practice.

The 11-year veteran is tied for third on the Sabres with 38 points (11 goals and 27 assists) in 65 games this season.

Center Ryan O’Reilly described seeing Okposo lying on the ice as “awful,” understanding what his teammate went through last year.
“You’re just praying that he’s OK,” O’Reilly said. “It’s tough. He’s been through a lot, and hopefully it’s a speedy recovery and he’s back soon.”

The injury is the latest to affect the Eastern Conference’s last-place team. Leading scorer Jack Eichel has missed nearly a month with a sprained right ankle.

The Sabres, who host Vegas on Saturday, filled Okposo’s roster spot by recalling forward Justin Bailey from their AHL affiliate in Rochester, New York.

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NEW YORK — The Rangers face an unfamiliar challenge after stockpiling picks for the June draft: maximizing a franchise-record 10 selections, including three in the first round.

Rebuilding means keeping options open for trades while also targeting players who best fit the team’s goals.

Assistant general manager Chris Drury says the team’s priorities are adding young, competitive players with speed and skill and “a premium on high character.”

“It’s one thing to have all these great picks … you have to be ready and be prepared to make the right picks,” Drury said.

The 10 picks are a high for the Rangers under the draft’s current format of seven rounds. The team also has nine picks in the 2019 draft, including a conditional first-round selection from Tampa Bay it received in a trade-deadline blockbuster for defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

New York also dealt Nick Holden and Rick Nash to Boston, plus Michael Grabner to New Jersey in four separate deals, bringing back eight players and six draft picks.

General manager Jeff Gorton said the picks give the Rangers flexibility and currency.

“We have to look at both scenarios,” he said when asked if he would be willing to trade picks for current NHL players.

“We’ll look at different positions and see what’s available. When you have three first-round picks and you’re on the draft floor, opportunity will be there,” Gorton said.

The playoffs and draft lottery will shape the value of the first-round selections. Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the consensus pick among experts as the top overall draft pick this year, and New York’s other first-round picks will depend on how Boston and Tampa Bay perform in the playoffs. Both could be serious Stanley Cup contenders.

Team officials like the early returns, even for an organization that has been known to sacrifice its future for the present.

“Certainly a lot of energy moving forward to prep between now and getting to the stage in Dallas,” Drury said of the site of June’s draft.

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Nashville's P.K. Subban and Dallas' Tyler Seguin would bring star power to a potential Predators-Stars playoff series.

Nashville’s P.K. Subban and Dallas’ Tyler Seguin would bring star power to a potential Predators-Stars playoff series.

If the season ended today, the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs bracket would look like this. Which matchup would be a must-see — and which series would be most skippable?

Greg Wyshynski: While it doesn’t have the traditional rivalry gravitas of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs or the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings — both must-see series in their own right — that Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars series is the one I’m gluing myself to the screen to watch.

The Predators got a taste of the Stanley Cup Final last season and seem to be living each day to earn the chance to taste it again. Nashville GM David Poile is already all-in with that Kyle Turris trade — and one assumes he’s not done. P.K. Subban, that Filip Forsberg line, the catfish-tossing fans … yes, please.

But on the other side of the ice, you’d have a Stars team with a few must-see players — Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, John Klingberg and Alexander Radulov — playing for a coach, in Ken Hitchcock, who won the franchise’s lone Stanley Cup almost 20 years ago. It would be a battle between a team seemingly destined to win a championship vs. a team that desperately tried to reconfigure itself to contend for one again. Ben Bishop, a money playoff goalie, was part of that reconfiguration. His duel with Pekka Rinne could be the best of the first round.
Just a fascinating series, and two franchises that have never met in the playoffs.
The series I’d probably skip? Honestly, the Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets. Maybe I’ve already spent too many hours of my life watching John Tortorella glower at the Capitals from behind the opposite bench in a playoff series. Or maybe these are two teams that both qualify for “lemme know which one of you gets to the second round in case the Pittsburgh Penguins make it through again” status. Because things will only get really interesting for the Jackets or Capitals after the opening stanza.

Emily Kaplan: The Winnipeg Jets vs. St. Louis Blues. I am so here for it. Really, this matchup could be the Jets vs. any of the Central Division teams lurking in the wild-card hunt and it would excite me. But Winnipeg and St. Louis would be especially entertaining. The Jets are a fun team to watch — their depth of young talent, from Mark Scheifele to Patrik Laine to Nikolaj Ehlers, is an embarrassment of riches — but they don’t get the attention they deserve here in the States. A competitive, seven-game series in the first round could change that.

Speaking of the casual fan, this can be a coming-out party for Scheifele, one of the more underrated stars in the game. And then there are the Blues, everyone’s darling for the first quarter of the season. As I wrote Monday, the Blues have a particularly tortured playoff history — they haven’t won the Cup since they entered the league in 1967-68 despite a plethora of superstars donning St. Louis jerseys and plenty of sustained success. The latest superstar is Vladimir Tarasenko, who I’m forever convinced is criminally underrated despite, you know, scoring the most even strength-goals since the beginning of the 2014-15 season. Most people wrote the Blues off this season after their flood of injuries in the offseason. So it would be fitting if this is the year that Tarasenko and his band of scrappy sidekicks — Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo, who is continually praised by his peers for being elite — finally break through.

As for skippable? I don’t have a ton of interest in New York Islanders-Tampa Bay Lightning. The Islanders have been so streaky this season, and even with their redeeming qualities (John Tavares’ dominant season, Josh Bailey’s renaissance, being in awe of rookie Mathew Barzal), I don’t have faith in their playoff chances. Of course, a lot of that stems from deep-rooted goaltending issues. But I also feel they will be exploited by a superior opponent, and let’s be honest, the Lightning are the elite team everyone is scared to face come April. One particularly lopsided matchup? The Lightning’s potent power play against the Islanders’ penalty kill, which ranks 29th in the league.
Chris Peters: The one I’d be watching with the greatest interest would probably be the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s a pretty even matchup based on their performances this season, but you also never quite know what to expect with either team. Also, a Patrice Bergeron-Auston Matthews head-to-head goes a long way in my watchability valuations.
There are a lot of other factors at play, too. We all remember the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series between the two teams — one of the most memorable playoff battles of the past decade, as far as I’m concerned. The Bruins still have plenty of key players from that team, but the Maple Leafs are a completely different team. Things have changed so much for both teams in seemingly different ways. The Bruins and Leafs also are in unique positions in their franchise development. Boston still has some stalwarts from its Stanley Cup core in Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara, while the Leafs are very much leaning on the new wave of players such as Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. It is going to be fascinating to see how that all plays out.
If we’re judging by what has happened so far in the regular season, it’s anyone’s guess who would have the upper hand in this series. Toronto has won two of three in the head-to-head so far, with one of those victories coming in overtime. Meanwhile, both teams are top 10 in goals for per game, and in both power play and penalty kill. I think it would be an awfully tense series that could go the distance, which would be a lot of fun.

The rest of the series, as they stand right now, come with a lot of intrigue and good storylines. In terms of matchup, the one that looks the most lopsided is probably the Lightning-Islanders one. The two teams have actually split their regular-season matchups, but in a race to four wins, I have a hard time believing the Isles would be any match for Tampa’s high-powered offense.

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Mike Fisher has decided to end his retirement from the NHL and rejoin the Nashville Predators, with whom he played in the Stanley Cup Final last season.

Fisher signed a professional tryout contract in order to begin working out with the team, and he expects to sign a contract for the rest of the season ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline, when postseason rosters must be set. He practiced in full Predators gear on Wednesday morning at Bridgestone Arena.

“Bear with me, I’m still a little out of breath from the skate this morning,” Fisher joked. “It’s great to be back.”

Fisher, 37, said he considered this decision for weeks.

“It always kind of bugged me when guys came out of retirement. I didn’t really think it was a possibility,” he said. “I just thought about the opportunity. How good this team is. About the run last year, and what could be. I got a blessing from family and my wife.”
Fisher said his wife, country music star Carrie Underwood, encouraged his return to the NHL.

Mike Fisher will be back in yellow and black after deciding to end his retirement and return to the Predators.

Mike Fisher will be back in yellow and black after deciding to end his retirement and return to the Predators.

“Carrie asked me every few days if I was going to do it. She wanted me to do it. And she’s usually right,” said Fisher, the fifth-leading goal scorer in Predators history (109).
Predators general manager David Poile said Fisher will not return to being team captain, an honor that was given to defenseman Roman Josi. Poile said the team debated internally if Fisher would want to return to the NHL. Coach Peter Laviolette had discussions with Fisher, and a meeting with Josi clinched the deal. Laviolette said the team leaders are excited for Fisher’s return.

“[We're] getting a terrific person back in our locker room, and a terrific player,” Laviolette said.

Fisher said he has worked out “a little bit” in retirement, but that it will take some time to get into game shape.

Fisher announced the end of his 17-year NHL career on Aug. 3, both at a news conference and via a letter to fans. “Knowing we were so close to winning it all in June only makes it more difficult to leave it behind, but I do so with hope. Endings are always tough, but I believe when something ends, there are new beginnings, new opportunities and new things to be excited for, too,” he wrote.

Fisher said at the start of the season that he was still navigating through a post-NHL life. “I want to take some time away to figure out what it’s like not to play, just figure out what daily life’s going to be like,” he told The Tennessean.

Poile said there’s no timetable for Fisher playing in games.

“He made the decision. He has the fire and the will to come back. Every time he sets a challenge for himself, he gets it done,” Poile said.
The return of Fisher bolsters the Predators’ already strong group of centers — including Ryan Johansen, Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino, who was signed to replace Fisher in the offseason. Fisher also will help address issues the Predators (29-12-7) are having at even strength among their bottom six forwards, as Bonino (minus-92), Austin Watson (minus-82) and Calle Jarnkrok (minus-73) are among the worst Predators in shot attempt differential.

Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games for the Predators last season, skating 16:37 per game. He had four assists in 20 playoff games. Fisher said the team’s potential to win the Stanley Cup, having lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games last June, was one factor in returning to the NHL.

“I believe this team is built to win, and has a very good chance. So that’s part of the reason I want to come back,” Fisher said. “But we didn’t win last year, and that was the best part of my career.”

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Marc Savard has officially retired from the NHL, seven years to the day of his final appearance in an NHL game.

Savard, 40, last played with the Boston Bruins on January 23, 2011, before having his career cut short because of concussion-related symptoms.

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“I think the biggest thing is that I’m happy where I am in my life. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a long time. I didn’t want it to linger on any more. My contract is up and I wanted to get it out there and head off in a different direction to pursue a coaching career,” said Savard, via the NHLPA.

Savard suffered a concussion in that Jan. 22, 2011 game against the Colorado Avalanche on a hit along the glass by defenseman Matt Hunwick. That followed a catastrophic concussion in March 7, 2010 on a blindside hit from Pittsburgh Penguins winger Matt Cooke, which knocked Savard out for 29 seconds.

Savard would only play seven playoff and 25 regular-season games after that 2010 incident, which was cited as a catalyst for the NHL tightening its rules for targeting an opponent’s head on a check as well as increased supplemental discipline penalties.

Savard was placed on long-term injured reserve in 2011, in the first year of a seven-year contract. Later, his $4,021,429 average annual salary became a commodity, with the dead cap space helping low-budget teams reach the salary cap floor. The Bruins sent Savard’s cap space to the Florida Panthers in a July 2015 deal. It was traded again by the Panthers to the New Jersey Devils in June 2016.

Beginning in 1997, Savard scored 706 points in 807 games with the Bruins, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and New York Rangers, who drafted him No. 91 overall in the 1995 NHL draft. Savard had 22 points in 25 playoff games, all with the Bruins.

Despite only playing 25 regular-season games for them, and not appearing in the playoffs, Savard’s name was etched onto the Stanley Cup after the Bruins’ 2011 victory.

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Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers

 
We are now two days away from the Florida Panthers taking the ice at the BB&T Center on Friday against Gerard Gallant and the Vegas Golden Knights.

A mixed bag of scoreboard watching last night as the Panthers went from eight points from the second wild card spot to nine as the New York Rangers whipped the Philadelphia Flyers 5-1 to jump the idle Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders, who were beaten 4-1 by the New Jersey Devils.

The Rangers and Penguins each have 51 points with the Rangers having played one less game. Florida has three games in hand on Pittsburgh, so they could close the gap if they can come back from their break and build a winning streak.

Back to Vegas, the Golden Knights dropped a tough 1-0 decision to the Predators in Nashville last night. The Knights will come to Sunrise after taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

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Chicago Blackhawks Jerseys

Chicago Blackhawks Jerseys

 

The Chicago Blackhawks have the greatest uniform in NHL history as voted on by nearly 6 million votes casted on NHL.com. Votes were tallied from No. 28 through Dec. 31 in online balloting.

The Blackhawks jersey took the top spot over the Hartford Whalers (1979-92), Anaheim Mighty Ducks (1993-2006), Quebec Nordiques (1979-95) and Minnesota North Stars (1978-81).

According to NHL.com’s Dave Stubbs this is how Chicago’s jersey came about:

“The legendary Blackhawks jersey was designed for the 1956-57 season by Dorothy Ivan, wife of then-team vice president and general manager Tommy Ivan.

The team opted to modify the Blackhawks sweater not long after Ivan’s arrival in Chicago from the Detroit Red Wings in 1954. To that point, it had featured a small Native American head inside a circle with the team’s city and nickname above and below it.

Dorothy Ivan, a former golf champion in Detroit, had an artistic flair that she applied to her redesign of the Blackhawks’ uniform, adding the double tomahawk shoulder patches that still appear.”

It’s no surprise the Blackhawks jersey has taken the top spot. And it wouldn’t be surprising to see it ranked at the top among all North American sports jerseys.