All posts by Brandon Maron

Horvat proud of Canucks’ success: ‘This franchise has been through a lot’

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat is happy to see how far the franchise has come after his team defeated the Minnesota Wild to advance to the round of 16 on Friday.

"This franchise has been through a lot," Horvat said, according to NHL.com's David Satriano. "These last four years, not making the playoffs, we've taken it to heart. We wanted to come out and prove ourselves, play hard. We have a great group of guys here, and to finally get a playoff win under our belt in a playoff series, it definitely feels great, but we've got a lot more work to do."

The Canucks have made the playoffs three times in the last eight seasons and haven't advanced past the first round of the postseason since they were one win away from capturing the franchise's first Stanley Cup in 2011.

Horvat, who was selected ninth overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, has been a big part of the Canucks' rebuild. He leads the team in games played (446), goals (120), and points (275) since his rookie season.

The 25-year-old pointed to goaltender Jacob Markstrom as one of the biggest reasons behind the Canucks' regular-season success and their qualifying series win.

"He's been a brick wall for us all year," Horvat said. "He might want a couple back or one of them back tonight, but you know what, he's been our rock ever since Day 1, and we wouldn't be in this position right now without him."

Markstrom was superb through the first three games of the series, allowing five goals on 92 shots, including a shutout in Game 3. He stopped just 25 of the 29 shots he faced in Game 4.

Vancouver will face the loser of the final round-robin game between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues in the first round of the NHL's traditional playoff format.

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Kraken hire Everett Fitzhugh as NHL’s 1st Black full-time team broadcaster

The Seattle Kraken named Everett Fitzhugh as their team broadcaster Friday. He's now set to become the league's first Black full-time team play-by-play announcer when the Kraken begin play in the 2021-22 season.

"As someone who's worked in hockey for more than a decade, to be named a part of the broadcast and content for a brand-new NHL franchise - particularly one with an organization as strong as the Kraken - is a dream come true," Fitzhugh said. "Getting to the NHL has always been my goal. I look forward to representing the Kraken organization throughout the greater Seattle community."

Fitzhugh spent the last five seasons as the radio play-by-play announcer for the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones. He also served as the Cyclones' director of media relations and broadcasting, as well as the team's official spokesperson.

"Everett has established himself as a unique and leading voice for hockey," Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said. "He's going to bring tremendous energy and talent to our broadcast and content team, and we can't wait for our fans to get to know him."

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Blue Jackets rolling with Merzlikins for Game 4 vs. Leafs

The Columbus Blue Jackets will give goaltender Elvis Merzlikins his first start of the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday, according to team reporter Jeff Svoboda.

Merzlikins entered Game 3 of the series midway through the second period on Thursday with his team facing a 3-0 deficit. The rookie netminder dazzled, stopping all 21 shots while steering the Blue Jackets to an impressive comeback victory.

Joonas Korpisalo got the nod for the first three games of the series, and played extremely well for the most part. He stopped 76 of 81 shots through two and a half games, including one shutout. Overall, he put together a 2.05 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

During the 2019-20 season, Merzlikins managed a 13-9-8 record with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage. After starting the season with eight straight losses, the Latvian goalie caught fire later on. He put together a dominant stretch of play in the new year that included eight straight victories in which he collected five shutouts.

Columbus will take on the Maple Leafs in Game 4 of their qualifying series on Friday at 8 p.m ET. Columbus leads the best-of-five series 2-1.

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Cooper: Stamkos out indefinitely, but ‘injuries are unpredictable’

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper provided an update Friday on injured star Steven Stamkos, indicating his return isn't imminent but emphasizing the situation could change.

"Injuries are unpredictable, and if there's somebody that's working harder than him, I have not seen it in trying to get back," Cooper said, according to team reporter Bryan Burns. "He's rehabbing. Our staff has been working with him on a daily basis, and in situations like this, you never know."

Cooper confirmed that Stamkos will not play in Tampa Bay's third and final round-robin game Saturday and added that the forward remains out indefinitely.

The 30-year-old suffered a lower-body injury during Phase 2 of the league's return-to-play plan. He's managed to join some practices and skate on his own since.

Stamkos recorded 29 goals and 37 assists in 59 games during the 2019-20 season.

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Tristan Jarry to start must-win Game 4 vs. Canadiens

The Pittsburgh Penguins will switch starting goaltenders for their do-or-die Game 4 against the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.

Goaltender Tristan Jarry will suit up after teammate Matt Murray started the first three games of the series, the team announced.

Murray has played adequately, but was only able to lead the Penguins to one win. He stopped 85 of 93 shots he faced overall, and put together a 2.50 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

Jarry, who appeared in 33 games during the 2019-20 season, put together a great year and was named to the All-Star Game. He went 20-12-1 and had a 2.43 goals-against average with a .921 save percentage.

The Penguins' backs are against the wall, with Game 4 of the series kicking off at 4 p.m.

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Maurice: No ‘long-term concerns’ with injuries to Scheifele, Laine

After getting eliminated from the postseason by the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice offered some encouraging news about some of his injured stars.

"No, we don't think there's any long-term concerns. Mark (Scheifele) finished with a second opinion today. We don't think there is any Achilles damage so he'll heal," Maurice said postgame. "Patrik (Laine) sprained his hand and it's the top hand on his stick, so he couldn't hold his stick, and Mason Appleton suffered a shoulder injury. None of those are long term, but they're all two-to-three weeks minimum."

Maurice offered some caution with his description of Scheifele's injury, saying the forward needs to "get more imaging done."

Scheifele and Laine were both injured in Game 1 and never returned to the ice during the series. Winnipeg managed to win Game 2 without them, but their absence proved to be too much to overcome in Game 3 and 4.

With the 2020-21 season not expected to begin for several months, the Jets will have plenty of time get healthy.

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NHL Draft Lottery to determine No. 1 pick set for Monday

The NHL announced Thursday that it will move forward with the final phase of its draft lottery on Monday, Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. ET.

In the initial draft lottery in June, a placeholder team won the first overall selection. The second phase of the lottery will be a draw involving the eight teams that are eliminated during the qualifying play-in round to determine which team gets the top pick.

The only team that has been eliminated from the qualifying round as of Thursday morning is the New York Rangers.

Each team will have an equal 12.5% chance at the No. 1 selection.

The seven teams that do not win the top pick will be assigned 2020 NHL Draft positions 9-15 in inverse order of their points percentages at the time the regular season was paused.

The projected top pick of the draft is QMJHL phenom Alexis Lafreniere.

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Maurice: Tkachuk hit on Scheifele ‘could have ended’ his career

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice isn't happy with how one of his team's best players, Mark Scheifele, was injured in Saturday's 4-1 loss during the first day of the NHL's return.

Scheifele left the contest versus the Calgary Flames minutes into the opening frame after he got tangled up with Matthew Tkachuk along the boards. The Flames forward's skate appeared to nick the back of Scheifele's leg, sending him to the ice writhing in pain.

In the eyes of the Jets bench boss, the move was certainly no accident.

"It was intentional. It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg," Maurice said, per Sportsnet. "You can't see it on the program feed, but you take the blueline feed and you zoom in. He went after the back of his leg. Could have cut his Achilles. Could have ended the man's career. It's an absolutely filthy disgusting hit."

While Maurice may have deemed the move intentional, Tkachuk quickly denied that idea when speaking after the game.

"I feel terrible. Such a great guy," Tkachuk said, according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. "It’s not good for the game when someone like that isn’t in the game. It was an accident and I feel terrible about it."

It isn't just the one injury that Maurice needs to worry about going forward, as the head coach added that Patrik Laine, who injured his hand late in the game, will join Scheifele in seeing a specialist on Sunday to be evaluated, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

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Maurice: Tkachuk hit on Scheifele ‘could have ended’ his career

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice isn't happy with how one of his team's best players, Mark Scheifele, was injured in Saturday's 4-1 loss during the first day of the NHL's return.

Scheifele left the contest versus the Calgary Flames minutes into the opening frame after he got tangled up with Matthew Tkachuk along the boards. The Flames forward's skate appeared to nick the back of Scheifele's leg, sending him to the ice writhing in pain.

In the eyes of the Jets bench boss, the move was certainly no accident.

"It was intentional. It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg," Maurice said, per Sportsnet. "You can't see it on the program feed, but you take the blueline feed and you zoom in. He went after the back of his leg. Could have cut his Achilles. Could have ended the man's career. It's an absolutely filthy disgusting hit."

While Maurice may have deemed the move intentional, Tkachuk quickly denied that idea when speaking after the game.

"I feel terrible. Such a great guy," Tkachuk said, according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. "It’s not good for the game when someone like that isn’t in the game. It was an accident and I feel terrible about it."

It isn't just the one injury that Maurice needs to worry about going forward, as the head coach added that Patrik Laine, who injured his hand late in the game, will join Scheifele in seeing a specialist on Sunday to be evaluated, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

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