Boudreau: Flames ‘making mountains out of molehills’ after Gaudreau injury

Bruce Boudreau says the Calgary Flames are exaggerating the Minnesota Wild's actions and intentions in the aftermath of Johnny Gaudreau suffering a significant hand injury the last time the two teams played.

"I think they're making mountains out of molehills quite frankly because every game you watch, there's little slashes on the hands," the Wild head coach told Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.

"I don't know, but I've got to believe we're one of the least penalized teams over the years in the league, so if they think we're targeting people's hands, they're nuts."

Gaudreau was slashed 21 times when the two clubs last met on Nov. 15 - the last of which came courtesy of Wild forward Eric Staal - and he was later ruled out for six weeks after having surgery to repair his fractured finger.

"Eric Staal has never been accused of being a goon or anything, so you've got to believe it wasn't intentional," Boudreau said. "As to what they think, they can think what they think."

Three days after the game, Flames general manager Brad Treliving said, "This wasn't a unicorn" that broke Gaudreau's finger, emphasizing the repeated blows to his star winger's hands.

Calgary captain Mark Giordano said Thursday that the Wild took some "unnecessary whacks," but that the Flames plan to prepare for Minnesota's top players the same way they would against any other team.

"I certainly hope there wouldn’t be instances where they’d be targeting (Gaudreau) directly, but it’s part of hockey. It’s part of playing sports," Flames forward Troy Brouwer said.

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Report: Senators eyeing TD Place Stadium as 2017 outdoor game venue

An outdoor game on Ottawa's Parliament Hill is no longer in the cards after the Canadian government shut down the idea, but the Senators still have designs on braving the elements in 2017.

The Senators and the NHL are planning for an outdoor game to be played at TD Place Stadium - home of CFL Grey Cup champions the Ottawa RedBlacks - on Dec. 19, 2017, reports the Ottawa Citizen's Bruce Garrioch.

The game would be part of the NHL's 100th season celebrations, with the Montreal Canadiens the visitors.

In early November, it was reported that an outdoor game at a football stadium in Ottawa was "unlikely," as the Sens "wanted to go big or go home." It appears the club's had a change of heart.

Discussions between the league and the Senators are continuing, TSN's Darren Dreger wrote Friday.

TD Place Stadium is set to host the 2017 Grey Cup, and capacity for that game - and the Senators' outdoor game, if it happens - is 35,000.

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Gudbranson isn’t going to kill Matt Martin: ‘That’s insanity’

Erik Gudbranson is downplaying an apparent threat uttered about Matt Martin in advance of Saturday's game between the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Following a rather contentious first meeting between the two clubs on Nov. 5, Gudbranson was heard saying, "Matt Martin is dead."

Now, Gurbranson says that kind of talk isn't all that uncommon, and obviously not meant to be taken literally.

From Dan Murphy of Sportsnet:

It was wrong, but the number of times I've said that is probably higher than most would expect. But do I mean it? No. That's the honest truth.

No I'm not going to kill the guy, that's insanity.

I was just frustrated at that point and unfortunately it got taken to a level that I didn't expect.

Gudbranson's threat was made in light of a series of violent acts during the first game, with the teams combining for 171 penalty minutes.

The possibility of further action is being taken seriously by the NHL, to the point where NHL senior vice president of Player Safety Stephane Quintal will be in Vancouver to watch the game, as confirmed by Canucks general manager Jim Benning:

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Toews to miss 5th straight game with reported back injury

Jonathan Toews isn't ready to return just yet.

The Chicago Blackhawks' captain won't travel to Philadelphia for Saturday's game against the Flyers, according to Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.

He's missed the last four games with a back injury, a source told Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, after exiting Chicago's Nov. 23 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Toews said Friday that the second-period collision many thought felled him during his last shift wasn't the first time he was hurt in that game, reports CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers

"(It's) just something that started to aggravate in the first (period)," Toews said. "(I) tried playing in the second (period) and that instance ... went down like a ton of bricks."

The Blackhawks will likely place Toews on injured reserve, retroactive to his last game, in order to activate defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Toews skated before practice Friday, and Quenneville said his star center will be re-evaluated Sunday.

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Crosby, Ovechkin in tight race for most goals in 2016

After all this time, it's still all about Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

A decade after breaking into the NHL at the same time as two of the most-hyped rookies of all time, and with less than a month remaining in 2016, the two superstars sit atop the goals list this calendar year, and it might not be settled until New Year's Eve.

Watch: Crosby continues to find new ways to score

Here's a look at where the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar center and the Washington Capitals sniper stand as of Dec. 2:

Player Games Played Goals Games Remaining
Sidney Crosby 62 43 14
Alex Ovechkin 65 41 13

Based on these numbers, it would appear as though the unofficial honor is Crosby's to lose, especially when you consider he's scored more goals per game than Ovechkin and has one more date on the schedule to work with.

It would be an impressive feat for a player not known for eye-popping goal totals, and one that Ovechkin would have had locked up were it not for Crosby's 16 goals in 18 games this season.

Ovechkin, however, is known to score in bunches, and can't be counted out by any stretch.

The players with the next three highest goal totals are likely all but out of the running.

Crosby is also on pace to finish first in total points, and has won both the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in 2016.

It's quite possible that Edmonton's Connor McDavid - who's on Crosby's heels for the title of "best player in hockey" - and Winnipeg's Patrik Laine will finish first in points and goals respectively by the end of the 2016-17 regular season, confirming their status as the ones to take over from Crosby and Ovechkin moving forward.

For the time being, however, this dynamic duo continues to perform at the highest of levels, and will battle it out for the top goal-scorer of 2016 over the rest of the month.

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3 reasons why the Blackhawks are back atop the standings

The Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Edmonton Oilers have made the majority of headlines through the season's first quarter, but a look at the standings Friday reveals a new points leader: the Blackhawks.

After a 4-3 overtime win Thursday, Chicago leads the pack with 35 points on the back of a 10-1-2 record at home.

Here are three reasons why the Blackhawks are - again - the toast of the NHL.

Criminally underrated Crawford

Corey Crawford's quietly doing it again. While Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, and Devan Dubnyk make noise in the crease, Crawford's won 12 games and has an impressive .927 save percentage.

Among goalies who have played at least 20 games, only Sergei Bobrovsky (.929) has been better.

Crawford's often overlooked when it comes to Chicago's success, but he's integral to it. After back-to-back seasons with a .924 save percentage, the 31-year-old continues to play at an elite level. His .954 even-strength save percentage trails only Price and Dubnyk.

There's more: Crawford's stopped eight of nine shootout attempts.

Disciplined hockey

Chicago has one problem: It can't kill penalties.

The Blackhawks rank last in the league with a laughable 70.1 success rate on the kill, but until the club figures it out, it helps that Chicago doesn't make a lot of trips to the box.

Joel Quenneville's crew averages only 7.40 penalty minutes per game, fourth-fewest in the league. The club's 185 penalty minutes are eighth-fewest.

If you can't kill penalties, stay out of the box - simple as that. Chicago remains one of 15 teams with a positive possession rate, and key to its success over the years has been the fact it has the puck more often than not.

Interestingly enough, the Blackhawks lead the NHL in hooking infractions with 21. Can't imagine that'll be the case for long with Quenneville behind the bench.

Hossa and Anisimov are lighting it up

Patrick Kane is doing Patrick Kane-type things, producing at almost a point per game (24 in 25), but the club's second-leading scorer is Artem Anisimov, who has half as many points in 24 games as he had last season.

Season GP Goals Assists Points
2015-16 77 20 22 42
2016-17 24 10 11 21

Anisimov's shooting 25 percent, so regression is guaranteed, but for now, the Blackhawks are riding the wave and enjoying it.

Marian Hossa, meanwhile, is reborn as he approaches 38.

The veteran struggled last season, scoring only 13 goals in 64 games, thanks to a career-low 6.8 shooting percentage - and the hockey gods are now giving back.

Hossa's got 12 goals and 18 points in 24 games, firing at 21.4 percent. Four of his goals are game-winners, three of them in overtime. As for the non-overtime GWG, it came with under three minutes to play in a 2-2 game. Clutch.

Sleep on the Blackhawks at your peril. A perennial Stanley Cup contender, Chicago remains just that.

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Red Wings’ injury woes mount as Abdelkader out 2-4 weeks

The Detroit Red Wings are experiencing more than their fair share of injuries this season.

The latest victim is Justin Abdelkader, who will miss two-to-four weeks with a slight MCL sprain, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reported Friday.

He joins the following players who have already been placed on injured reserve:

Heading into the month of December - prior to the injury Abdelkader suffered Thursday - Detroit had already experienced the most man games lost due to injury in 2016-17 so far.

Abdelkader, who's in the first season of a seven-year, $29.75-million contract, has recorded four goals and four assists in 22 games.

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On the Fly: 6 players that should get ready to pack their bags

Every Friday this season, theScore's NHL editors are debating a hot-button issue in 'On The Fly,' our roundtable series. This week, we look at six players that could soon be on the move, and should be ready to pack their bags.

Bishop gets the boot

Hagerman: While the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to take the majority of the heat in regards to goalie limbo leading up to the expansion draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning are actually in the same - if not an even worse - position.

Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy have shared the crease this season with Bishop getting the slightly larger workload, but his numbers pale in comparison to his younger counterpart.

Since Bishop - who will become an unrestricted free agent at season's end - also currently costs the Lightning just under $6 million, he's the obvious choice to be shipped out.

With the draft and free agency upcoming, the Lightning face not just one, but two scenarios in which they could lose the former Vezina Trophy finalist for nothing. They might be better served by making a move at the trade deadline, and unless an unthinkable injury strikes Vasilevskiy in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, it's hard to imagine a situation where the Lightning don't flip Bishop to a team in goaltending need (cough, cough, Dallas).

Minor-league fix

Cuthbert: Having whirled with centers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl, and, more recently, Connor McDavid, Jesse Puljujarvi has been afforded every opportunity to be a productive member of the Edmonton Oilers as an 18-year-old in the NHL.

But that just hasn’t been the case through 20 games.

Without a goal since opening night, Puljujarvi's stuck on seven points and being denied access to the club’s power-play units. And since Drake Caggiula and Matt Hendricks became able bodies, he's been relegated to fourth-line rotation duties at practice, and the press box Thursday night in Winnipeg.

The clock officially started on his entry-level deal a few weeks back - and this wasn't necessarily a mistake. But given the opportunity for him to acquire big-league polish in the AHL with 20 minutes a night, and the added incentive of preserving a season of unrestricted free agency, the Oilers shouldn't have Puljujarvi in Edmonton beyond game No. 40.

Desert departure

Wilkins: Martin Hanzal is on borrowed time in the desert. The Arizona Coyotes center is a pending unrestricted free agent, and while the two sides informally talked extension around training camp, not much materialized. That makes Hanzal a prime target to be moved at the deadline, especially considering Arizona's spot in the standings.

Hanzal is a monstrous pivot who excels at both ends of the rink, in the dot, and in front of the net on the power play. He'd be a significant addition to any Cup contender. As for the Coyotes, things are a bit crowded up the middle with young centers like Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak expected to take on bigger roles in the next season or two, making an extension for Hanzal less of a priority. As such, the veteran's 10-year run with the Desert Dogs will end sooner rather than later.

O Captain, Bye Captain

O'Leary: The Montreal Canadiens want to stabilize their blue line beyond Shea Weber, and with the emergence of Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov, suddenly Max Pacioretty has become expendable.

On the heels of three consecutive seasons eclipsing 30 goals, Pacioretty has only five so far, and has bounced around the Habs' top three lines.

His friendly $4.5-million cap hit, however, could gather a decent haul for Marc Bergevin. Whether Bergevin values his captain's presence more than fixing the team's most glaring need as the season carries on remains to be seen, but the GM has already shown he isn't scared of a little scrutiny.

Fleury out, Murray in

Gold-Smith: Matt Murray hasn't completely wrestled the Pittsburgh Penguins' crease from Marc-Andre Fleury, but it's time to hand it over to the kid.

Murray's role in the Penguins' championship run and stellar play this season have made Fleury disposable, and the veteran hasn't done himself many favors, posting pedestrian numbers through 16 games.

Fleury is on the books for 2016-17 and then two more seasons at $5.75 million, while Murray counts for less than $1 million now before his three-year, $11.25-million extension begins in 2017-18.

The Penguins need to trade Fleury before his value evaporates. He's on Pittsburgh's protected list for the expansion draft by virtue of his no-movement clause. He'll be exposed if he waives it, but the Penguins shouldn't let it come to that point and risk losing him for nothing.

Spooner reaches fork in the road

McLaren: The additions of David Backes, Riley Nash, and Dominic Moore created a glut of forwards capable of lining up at the center spot for the Boston Bruins, and the odd man out early this season appears to be Ryan Spooner.

The 24-year-old came into his own last season while centering the third line, and broke out to the tune of 13 goals and 49 points. Recently, due to a crowded platoon of forwards, Spooner's been relegated to the fourth line.

But here's the thing - it's no secret the Bruins have been looking to add on defense, and Spooner makes a ton of sense as a literal centerpiece going the other way in a potential trade, despite his dip in production.

As such, it would not be surprising to see general manager Don Sweeney send Spooner packing at some point prior to the trade deadline.

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Teams can’t retain salary on Golden Knights’ expansion draft picks

George McPhee got an important clarification from the NHL recently that should be noted by every general manager in the league.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Vegas Golden Knights GM that other teams will not be allowed to retain salary on players selected in the expansion draft, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun.

Salary retention on expansion-draft picks would've made it easier for McPhee to choose players with large or simply unfavorable contracts, but the Golden Knights can still explore that route in trades.

Once the franchise has made its final expansion payment, it could be given the go-ahead to begin making deals, according to LeBrun.

That's expected to happen around March 1 - coincidentally the trade deadline - which would give the Golden Knights a much earlier trade window than previous expansion clubs.

The expansion draft is scheduled to run June 18-20, and selections will be announced June 21.

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Watch: Nick Foligno falls prey to faulty water bottle

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno received an unexpected dousing during Thursday's game against the Colorado Avalanche.

Foligno's response?

He may have lost that battle with the bottle, but the Blue Jackets won the game, so balance was indeed restored.

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Remember, we are all Canucks!