Simmonds, Hamonic named NHL Foundation Player Award finalists

The NHL announced Tuesday that Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds and New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic were named the finalists for the NHL Foundation Player Award.

The award is given to the player "who applies the core values of hockey - commitment, perseverance, and teamwork - to enrich the lives of people in his community."

The winner will be presented with $25,000 toward a charity of their choosing.

Simmonds has been instrumental in raising money for kids in his native Scarborough, Ontario by hosting Wayne's Road Hockey Warriors for the past five years. The program - which aims to help children learn the fundamentals of hockey - has raised over $100,000.

Hamonic, meanwhile, continues to work with his D-Partner Program that helps children who have lost a parent at a young age. Hamonic has hosted children at Islanders' games and also conducted meet-and-greets and other events with program participants.

The award will be announced Tuesday, June 20 at the 2017 NHL Humanitarian Awards.

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Chara would like new contract after next season

Don't expect a farewell tour from Zdeno Chara next season.

The Boston Bruins captain confirmed at the team's locker clean-out Tuesday that he would like to sign a new contract after his current seven-year deal concludes next season, according to WEEI.com's Ty Anderson.

The 40-year-old is coming off his 11th season with the Bruins and 18th in the NHL. He posted 10 goals - his highest total of the past three years - and 29 points in 75 games. Despite his age, he still led the team in ice time, playing an average of 23:20 a night.

Chara will make $4 million next season, and if he can continue to to produce at his current clip, he should be welcomed back with open arms at a similar rate.

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Thornton undergoes successful surgery, expected to be ready for next season

A day after admitting to playing with a torn MCL and ACL, San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton underwent successful surgery Tuesday to repair both ligaments, the team announced.

The 37-year-old is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the 2017-18 season, according to the Sharks.

While the news is encouraging, it will be interesting if the injury impacts where he plays next season. Thornton will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and while his 50 points were impressive, he managed just seven goals (with three of them empty-netters).

Still, wisdom would suggest if the Sharks aren't eager to bring him back, another suitor will quickly emerge.

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Bruins’ Bergeron played all season with sports hernia

The Boston Bruins' top center fought through a serious malady all season long.

Patrice Bergeron revealed he was playing with a sports hernia throughout the 2016-17 campaign and may require surgery, according to Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com.

A sports hernia, per OrthoInfo, is "a painful, soft-tissue injury that occurs in the groin area that most often occurs during sports that require sudden changes of direction or intense twisting movements."

Bergeron was still able to appear in 79 regular-season games - earning a Selke Trophy nomination as one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL - but the hernia may explain why he recorded only 12 points from October until the end of December.

In six playoff games, Bergeron scored two goals and added two assists while logging almost 23 minutes a night.

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Look: Sharks’ Couture undergoes post-playoff dental work

With his season now done, Logan Couture went to the dentist.

The San Jose Sharks forward was struck in the face with a puck late in the regular season, and took some time Monday to start fixing things up after being eliminated from the playoffs by the Edmonton Oilers.

A face only my mother could love

A post shared by Logan Couture (@loganc89) on

"They’re all damaged," Couture said of his teeth back on April 4. "A lot of these teeth are going to be taken out at some point once the season is over. They’ll have to remove a lot of them from my mouth."

Couture, who likely won't be grilling up any steaks early on this summer, was able to appear in all six playoff games, recording two goals and an assist.

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Kings’ Toffoli, Gaborik, Martinez, Forbort underwent medical procedures

The Los Angeles Kings were hurting at the end of the season.

The club announced Tuesday that four players - defensemen Derek Forbort and Alec Martinez and forwards Marian Gaborik and Tyler Toffoli - have already undergone offseason medical procedures.

Player Procedure Body Part
Forbort Minor surgery Left knee
Gaborik In-depth medical procedure Left knee
Martinez Minor medical procedure Chronic groin issue
Toffoli Minor surgery Left knee

Forbort, Martinez, and Toffoli are expected to be ready for training camp, while new GM Rob Blake announced Monday during new head coach John Stevens' presser that Gaborik won't be ready to open camp, and that the oft-injured forward will not have his contract bought out.

The Kings cleaned house earlier this month, firing general manager Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter, with Blake and Stevens taking over.

Gaborik, 35, is signed through 2020-21, and that he's hurt again has to be extremely disappointing for the Kings. It appears they're going down with this ship.

Forbort and Martinez are big contributors on defense, where the Kings excel, finishing third and fifth on the team in ice time per game, with each playing more than 20 minutes.

Toffoli followed his breakout 31-goal and 58-point 2015-16 season with a dud, scoring only 16 goals in 63 games. On a team that couldn't score, however, his goals ranked third and his 36 points tied for sixth.

A second-round pick of the Kings in 2010, Toffoli turned 25 on Monday and is a restricted free agent ahead of July 1. He's going to be a top priority for the Kings in what has already been a busy offseason.

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Holtby edges Crosby, McDavid as Conn Smythe favorite

Braden Holtby is the betting favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP - which means Vegas believes the Washington Capitals are going to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins for only the second time in 10 playoff series.

Bodog issued its Conn Smythe odds Tuesday, and the Caps' star goalie is slightly favored over those Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid guys.

Place your bets:

Player Odds
Holtby (WSH) 11/1
Crosby (PIT) 14/1
McDavid (EDM) 15/1
John Gibson (ANA) 16/1
Evgeni Malkin (PIT) 16/1
Pekka Rinne (NAS) 16/1
Jake Allen (STL) 18/1
Nicklas Backstrom (WAS) 18/1
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR) 18/1
Alex Ovechkin (WSH) 18/1
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) 20/1

Feeling lucky? Mike Hoffman, Roman Josi, and Bryan Rust are your plays, each coming in at 60/1.

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Babcock: Leafs still not good enough

On the heels of a wildly successful season wherein the Maple Leafs not only advanced to the playoffs, but gave the first-place Washington Capitals all they could handle in an eventual first-round loss, head coach Mike Babcock acknowledged a roster that finished 30th just last season still needs work.

"We have to improve our hockey club. We understand that and that's what we will go about doing," Babcock added at Tuesday's press conference. "... In order to be consistent as a team you have to build something that has enough depth that you can do it time in and time out."

As for 2017-18, Babcock warned that repeating this year's success is no guarantee in today's NHL.

He maintained the team won't deviate from the plan laid out by president Brendan Shanahan and implemented by general manager Lou Lamoriello, saying all three will work together to improve the team over the summer.

In the immediate future, Babcock will head to France and Germany to take in the World Championship, with an eye on players the team might look to add in free agency or via trade.

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Oilers-Ducks Preview: 3 players who could tip the scales

The Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers are set to duke it out for Central Division bragging rights in a second-round playoff series.

Here are three players who could make a huge impact and give their team the edge.

Rickard Rakell

In case you missed it, someone other than Corey Perry led the Ducks in goals this season for the first time in five years, and by a wide margin. That would be Rakell, who broke out to the tune of 33 goals in 71 games, with Jakob Silfverberg coming in a distant second with 23.

Rakell has remained productive in the postseason, recording two goals and three assists in Anaheim's four-game sweep of the Calgary Flames.

A big factor in the Swede's surge has been the shift from center to the wing, where he's found success playing alongside Ryan Getzlaf, who drew the primary assists on both of Rakell's goals against the Flames. It's not his natural position, but he's taking advantage.

"Playing more on the wing this year gives me different looks and more opportunities to score," Rakell said in late March, per Jared Clinton of The Hockey News. "It gives me more of a chance to find rebounds and have the puck closer to the net. It’s obviously easier to score from there."

Credit goes to head coach Randy Carlyle for making the adjustment and helping Rakell find his wings.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

It might sound odd to pump the tires of a player who failed to record a single point in the opening round, but here we are.

In truth, Nugent-Hopkins was one of the most important contributors in the Oilers' series win over the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks.

Flanked by Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins led Edmonton with 17 shots over the six games, and created several other chances that just didn't click. But for head coach Todd McLellan, the center's contributions at the other end of the ice have been equally important.

"He has the tools to be a tremendous two-way player. When you’re chosen at that spot in the draft (first overall in 2011), you often come in as a one-dimensional, offensive-type player," McLellan said, per Reid Wilkins of CHED 630.

"In his situation here, he was thrust into that role, and he produced, and that’s the way he was going to go. He had some good years, but the team didn’t win a lot. It’s always about the team. He’s been able to adjust and learn a few things."

While paying in that two-way role and being counted on to shut down the opposition, Nugent-Hopkins was a positive possession player against the Sharks, meaning he was on the ice for more shot attempts for than against.

If his line can start finishing its scoring chances, and if Nugent-Hopkins starts putting up points - thereby relieving some pressure from Connor McDavid - these Oilers could be a force.

John Gibson

When the Ducks traded Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer, it was with the intention to give Gibson - who's long been thought to be the heir apparent in Anaheim - the starting job.

In his first full season in that starting role, Gibson impressed with a record of 25-16-9 and a .924 save percentage, but was slowed through March with a lower-body injury. Backup Jonathan Bernier, who was indirectly acquired in the Andersen move, filled in admirably, but Gibson was always tabbed as the main man in net when healthy, and largely proved himself worthy against the Flames.

In three of the four games, Gibson stopped 101-of-106 shots against, good for a save percentage of .953. His series numbers were brought down by a poorer showing in Game 3, in which he was yanked after allowing four goals on 16 shots.

Provided that one start was a blip, Gibson appears ready to backstop the Ducks to new heights, fully justifying the decision to anoint him as the team's goalie of the present and future.

Betting Line

Team Moneyline
EDM +110
ANA -140

Prediction

The Ducks have flown under the radar in Carlyle's second tour of duty behind the bench, but there are reasons why Anaheim rose to the top of a competitive Pacific Division and earned home-ice advantage in this series.

For one, and as mentioned above, this isn't just Getzlaf and Perry's team, as the Ducks boast the kind of veteran savvy and youthful exuberance that takes teams deep into the playoffs.

On the blue line, for example, the likes of Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour have stepped up and in for the injured Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen. The latter two could return any day, giving the Ducks seemingly impenetrable depth on the back end.

And up front, the scoring of Rakell and Silfverberg is balanced out by the shut-down ability of Ryan Kesler, who recently earned a nod as a Selke Trophy finalist, as well as Antoine Vermette, who remains a force in the faceoff circle. And Patrick Eaves, by the way, is looking like the best trade deadline pickup of them all at this point.

Make no mistake, the Oilers are an up-and-coming force, but these Ducks are skilled, tough, and hungry, and their experience will thwart Edmonton's surge - for the time being at least.

Ducks in six.

Schedule

Game Date Time Home Away TV
1 Wed. April 26 10:30 pm Ducks Oilers NBCSN / Sportsnet / TVA Sports
2 Fri. April 28 10:30 pm Ducks Oilers NBCSN / Sportsnet / TVA Sports
3 Sun. April 30 7 pm Oilers Ducks NBCSN / Sportsnet / TVA Sports
4 Wed. May 3 10 pm Oilers Ducks NBCSN / Sportsnet / TVA Sports
*5 Fri. May 5 TBD Ducks Oilers TBD
*6 Sun. May 7 TBD Oilers Ducks TBD
*7 Wed. May 10 TBD Ducks Oilers TBD

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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‘Exhausted’ Matthews won’t play for USA at World Championship

Auston Matthews needs a break.

The Toronto Maple Leafs center and likely winner of the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie decided against representing Team USA at the World Championship, saying he's "exhausted" from the grind of a long season, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.

Here's what his year has looked like:

Matthews is expected to spend some time with his family before getting back to work in the offseason.

The 19-year-old led all rookies with 40 goals and 69 points this season, and recorded an additional four goals and one assist in six playoff games.

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