All posts by Brandon Maron

Rutherford open to NHL return: ‘I still got the bug’

A month after surprisingly resigning as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jim Rutherford has his eyes set on a potential return to hockey.

"I still got the bug," Rutherford told The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

"I can tell you that I feel good, I have a lot of energy, I love the game. I’ve watched as many games as I can every night to stay in the loop. I have an emotional connection to the Penguins for obvious reasons, but I still have the bug to be with a team and try to contribute and make it better."

The 72-year-old still hasn't elaborated on why he left his position with Pittsburgh, simply citing personal reasons. Shortly after his resignation, the club hired Ron Hextall as general manager and brought in Brian Burke as president of hockey operations.

Rutherford had been general manager of the Penguins since 2014, helping lead the club to back-to-back Stanley Cup victories in 2016 and 2017.

While a return to Pittsburgh doesn't seem to be in the books, Rutherford added he won't necessarily be actively looking for a front-office position and instead will wait to see if an opportunity comes his way.

"I’ve done this long enough, and I have a lot of friends in the game and a lot of respect for everybody, and I’m not looking to take somebody’s job," Rutherford said. "So I’m not going to be making phone calls and saying that I’m looking for a job that somebody already has.

"It’s a place where most people would like to get to in their life. You can work if you want, but you don’t have to. I don’t have any more things to accomplish in the league, but I do think I have a lot to offer to a team in the right situation."

Rutherford won the Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award in 2016 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019. He also previously spent 20 years as general manager of the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.

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Zucker departs game with apparent leg injury

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jason Zucker was forced out of Tuesday's 3-2 victory against the Washington Capitals after suffering an apparent leg injury late in the game.

Zucker had to be helped off the ice by trainers and didn't appear to be putting any pressure on his leg. Head coach Mike Sullivan didn't have an update on Zucker's status postgame, only saying he's being evaluated for a lower-body injury.

The 29-year-old has recorded four goals and three assists in 18 games this season.

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Babcock responds to criticism: ‘Some of this doesn’t pass the smell test’

Mike Babcock has received his fair share of criticism from around the NHL, but the bench boss doesn't necessarily believe it's totally warranted.

"I'm not a big media guy, following what's going on. You know if you're getting whacked or not," Babcock said on "The Rod Pedersen Show" Tuesday when asked what it's like getting criticized by the media for the last year and a half.

"I know who I am, I know what I've done. Some of this doesn't pass the smell test at all."

After spending 17 seasons in the NHL as a head coach, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired Babcock in 2019, and he hasn't returned behind the bench since.

The 57-year-old came under scrutiny after being dismissed for what was deemed by many as controversial coaching tactics. Babcock recently said he made a "major mistake" when he asked then-rookie Mitch Marner to rank himself and his teammates based on their work ethic during the 2016-17 season.

Babcock owns an impressive head-coaching resume featuring a Stanley Cup victory and two Olympic gold medals. He believes his experience and connections in the hockey world reflect his actual character.

"When you look at my career, I've always been hired by people that knew me - it's not like we had a Zoom meeting.

"When I went to Detroit, I had worked with Jim Nill and Ken Holland, we had shared a farm team together, they knew everything about me, so they knew me for four years. I worked with them for 10 years. Steve Yzerman played for me, he hired me to coach two Olympic teams, he worked with me for four years in the office. Then (Brendan Shanahan) hired me to coach (in Toronto).

"Something doesn't add up."

The Saskatoon native was recently named the new head coach of the University of Saskatchewan's men's hockey team.

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Movie based on David Ayres in the works at Disney

David Ayres' miraculous victory as an emergency backup goaltender with the Carolina Hurricanes last year is being made into a movie with the help of Disney.

The 43-year-old said comedian James Corden called him shortly after the win to discuss making a movie about it, according to Sportsnet's Luke Fox. Ayres then connected Creative Artists Agency, and at least 24 different production companies apparently expressed interest in the idea.

"(CAA) said to me, 'You wouldn't believe the amount of production companies that have come to us already asking to do this film. It's insane,'" Ayres said. "They narrowed it down to 24 at one point, and then we narrowed it down to 12. We listened to 12 pitches from all the different people."

He added: "That's how the whole Disney thing came about. So, we'll see what happens. A little slow now with COVID, but once we get the ball rolling, it'll be fine. Once we start writing it, I think they'll go two years from there."

Ayres said he was told he'll be a producer and help with writing the script.

On Feb. 22, 2020, Ayres was called into action against the Toronto Maple Leafs after both of the Hurricanes' goalies went down with injuries. He was a Zamboni driver for the AHL's Toronto Marlies at the time and helped backstop Carolina to a 6-3 victory in front of Toronto's home crowd.

When reflecting on the moment a year later, Ayres shared his biggest takeaway from the experience.

"It just lets you know, anything you try in life, you can achieve it," Ayres said. "You put a lot of hard work and get a couple lucky bounces here and there, and things will go your way - as long as you stay positive."

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Merzlikins out week-to-week with upper-body injury

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins is considered week-to-week with an upper-body injury, the club announced Sunday.

Merzlikins suffered the ailment during Saturday's contest against the Nashville Predators. He left the game after apparently hurting his left arm while making a save at the beginning of the third period.

The 26-year-old stopped 35 of the 39 shots he faced prior to exiting. He's appeared in nine games this season, owning a 3-3-1 record alongside a .917 save percentage.

The Blue Jackets recalled goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks from the AHL and added him to the club's taxi squad earlier Sunday. He'll likely share the crease with Joonas Korpisalo in Merzlikins' absence.

Korpisalo has struggled out of the gate this season, recording a .889 save percentage and a 3.46 goals-against average through 13 appearances.

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Look: 10 incredible photos from Vegas-Colorado game at Lake Tahoe

The Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche hit the ice Saturday surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Lake Tahoe. After a rocky first period with players struggling to see and the ice taking a beating, the league made the decision to delay the rest of the game until midnight ET.

Let's take a look at some of the best snapshots from the game that took nearly 12 hours to complete from start to finish.

Vegas' mascots hit the beach

Jeff Bottari / National Hockey League / Getty

The ice troubles are real

Brian Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty

What a backdrop

Brian Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty

Colorado gets on the board

Brian Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty

Doesn't get much better than this

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Fleury leads 'em back out

Brian Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty

Playing under the lights

Brian Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty

Get out of MacKinnon's way!

Brian Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty

Celebration at Lake Tahoe

Brian Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty

All eyes on Saad

Brian Babineau / National Hockey League / Getty

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Watch: Penguins honor Crosby’s 1,000th NHL game

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby appeared in his 1,000th NHL game Saturday night against the New York Islanders. Prior to the game, his club and teammates celebrated the milestone.

When the team hit the ice pregame, everybody was wearing the famous No. 87 sweater with the "C" on it.

Throughout his career, Crosby's been known for his extremely specific pregame superstitions. A part of his routine is to undo his laces and retie them while on one knee, so the rest of the team joined in on the ritual.

The team also put together a video for Crosby, including messages from Steve Yzerman, Bill Guerin, Steven Stamkos, and Mario Lemieux.

Crosby's parents chipped in with a video congratulating their son.

Longtime teammate Evgeni Malkin also chimed in with some kind words for Crosby.

Finally, Malkin and Kris Letang both presented Crosby with a special stick and picture to commemorate the feat.

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Ownership ‘angry and confused’ by Predators’ struggles

The Nashville Predators have a roster seemingly built for success, but as the team continues to struggle, ownership is looking for answers.

"Whether you’re an owner of the team, if you’re (general manager) David Poile, if you’re me, if you’re a player, it feels the same way. Everyone’s angry and confused," team president and CEO Sean Henry said to The Athletic's Adam Vingan. "We all believed that this roster would produce more."

The Predators currently sit in seventh place in the Central Division with a 6-10-0 record. The team finished fourth in the division last season but ultimately failed to make the postseason after losing in the play-in qualifying round.

Poile has made quite a few big moves over the last few years and has earned a reputation around the league as a general manager not afraid to shake up his roster. Most recently, he made a big splash in free agency in 2019 by reeling in Matt Duchene and signing him to a seven-year, $56-million deal.

Despite some moves that may have not played out as expected, Henry reaffirmed the organization's faith in Poile moving forward. When asked if ownership has the appetite to make significant changes, including potentially moving along from Poile, he was quick to dismiss the notion.

"He is not afraid to make moves, but he doesn’t make them just to make them," Henry said. "He makes moves to be calculated, and it’s been a pretty good run that we’re on.

"If any of us weren’t seeing things the same way, we’d obviously have to look at different changes, but there is no discussion about, 'Oh, let’s get an axe right now,' because that’s what we’re seeing on Twitter."

Poile has been Nashville's only general manager since the team began playing in 1998.

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Daly confident NHL can finish full season amid wave of postponements

The NHL has faced numerous hurdles with COVID-19 since the season's start just over a month ago. The league has postponed more than 30 games so far, and nearly a hundred players have appeared on the COVID-19 protocol list from 27 different teams.

Despite the setbacks, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly is confident the league will complete its 56-game schedule and finish the campaign on time.

"We have postponed and had to reschedule 35 games. We've been able to do that fairly seamlessly," Daly told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan on Monday. "I hope that the number of postponements and rescheduling goes down as we go forward, but we haven't even really eaten at all into the buffer period we built into the end of the schedule."

Prior to the beginning of the season on Jan. 13, the NHL announced that the regular season would end on May 8, with playoffs starting May 11. The Stanley Cup is expected to be awarded by July 9.

The league has yet to reschedule some postponed games, and the postseason may get pushed back to make up contests at the end of the regular season. Daly said the league prepared for this scenario and included some flexibility when it created the schedule.

"We've always said we want to be done by the middle of July," Daly said. "Whether that's July 10 or whether that's July 20, I couldn't tell you. As I sit here, we have some flexibility. But that's certainly the zone that we're targeting."

Eighteen teams have already played at least a quarter of their season (14 games), while a club like the New Jersey Devils has hit the ice for just nine contests.

With a wave of players being affected by COVID-19 since the season's start, Daly added he isn't shocked by the numbers given the league's size.

"Quite frankly, we have a lot of players involved, right? We have a lot more than the NBA - around 725 players on active rosters plus taxi squad players plus AHL players. There are just a lot of players around," Daly said.

"Would I have hoped for less cases and fewer outbreaks among clubs? The answer to that is yes. Whether I can say it was a surprise to me, I'm not sure it necessarily is."

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