Sabres’ McCormick to retire due to blood clot issue

After sitting out the entire 2015-16 season due to a blood clot issue, Buffalo Sabres forward Cody McCormick will be forced to retire, general manager Tim Murray told reporters during a season-ending press conference.

Murray did indicate that though his playing career is over, the 32-year-old may have a role within the organization, according to Paul Hamilton of WGR.

McCormick played parts of five seasons with the Sabres. Over his 10-year career, he recorded 21 goals and 44 assists in 405 career games.

He still has one year remaining on his contract.

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Coyotes’ LeBlanc reiterates desire to keep Ekman-Larsson

The departure of Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney appears to have no baring on the future of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Related: Coyotes relieve Don Maloney of GM duties

Following the announcement that the club relieved Maloney of his duties, president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc went on record to once again put to bed any trade rumours involving the club's top D-man.

According to LeBlanc, "there is absolutely no potential" that Ekman-Larsson will be dealt for a draft pick.

With that, Ekman-Larsson can be expected back with the club next season as well as captain Shane Doan, who will be welcomed back if that's what the 39-year-old wants.

"If Shane Doan wants to come back, we're thrilled," LeBlanc said, according to NHL.com's Dave Vest. "We're going to let him dictate the time frame on that."

With the team not expected to make a significant run at moving up in the draft, LeBlanc also went on record suggesting the team will push hard in free agency.

"I do anticipate we're going to be active (in free agency)," LeBlanc said, according to ABC 15 Sports. "We're just not going to spend money for the sake of spending money, that's for sure."

Arizona should enter free agency with a lot of money to spend, with roughly $40 million in cap space at their disposal, according to capfriendly.com.

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Coyotes relieve Don Maloney of GM duties

The Arizona Coyotes have relieved Don Maloney of his duties as general manager.

"On behalf of our ownership group and the entire Arizona Coyotes organization, I would like to sincerely thank Don for all of his hard work and the many contributions he made to our organization during his tenure," said Coyotes President and CEO Anthony LeBlanc.

"The Coyotes had some success with Don, but we believe a change in leadership is needed in order to move our franchise forward in a new direction."

The search for a new GM will begin immediately, with assistants John Chayka and Chris O’Hearn taking care of hockey operations in the interim.

"We thank Don Maloney, but this is a day about our future and changing our overall philosophy," Leblanc said at a press conference following the formal announcement.

"This decision is not being made because of the fact that this is the fourth straight year of not making the playoffs," he added

"This wasn't a decision we came upon quickly. This is something we've been thinking about."

Maloney had been with the team since 2007, managing the team to a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2012.

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VIDEO: Draft prospect Laine snipes last-second goal in Finnish playoffs

Patrick Laine continues to prove the 2016 NHL Draft runs far deeper than Auston Matthews.

The 17-year-old Finnish forward sniped a last-second goal for Tappara during a Liiga Seminfinals game Monday.

Laine now has eight goals and two assists in 11 playoff games in the Finnish Elite League, and is expected to be a top-three pick at the draft in June.

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Making a case for, against the Western Conference playoff teams

Attention, poolies: The NHL's fan-friendly bracket is now available for your filling needs.

So to help, up first is the case for and against the eight postseason teams that will make up the Western Conference gauntlet.

Dallas Stars

For: Some 2,600 shots for an NHL-best 265 goals, 12 double-digit goal-scorers, 15 players with at least 20 points, and the most efficient point producer over the last two years. The Stars can outscore any team on any night, much like they've done more often than not all season. It will take a tremendous defensive effort to mute this team.

Against: Unfortunately, the Stars' colossal output isn't without similar intake. They'll enter having swallowed more goals than any team in the tournament, and with a rotten .904 overall save percentage that has them exclusively in the company of lottery hopefuls. To that end, the choice in net comes down to a flip of the coin, as Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen own similarly inadequate numbers.

Minnesota Wild

For: Devan Dubnyk hasn't been the saving-grace stopper of last season, but does give his team an all-important edge in goal heading into the first round's greatest mismatch. That is, at least on paper. The Wild can hang tough should he travel back to March, when he went 10-2-1 with a .927 save rate, and the Wild maintain their marked discipline.

Against: It's hard to believe that an average even-strength team with horrific special teams, which fired its head coach in-season and lost its final five games could qualify out West, but the Wild accomplished just that.

St. Louis Blues

For: Scoring hasn't ever really been an issue for the Blues; their 695 goals over the last three 100-plus-point seasons ranks ninth. But as they head into the postseason for a fifth straight time, the Blues have perhaps never been so potent. Before clicking into cruise control over the weekend, they had totaled 64 goals in 17 games (or 3.76 per), and hadn't lost a game in which they scored more than four times.

Against: Having the defending champions waiting ominously in the queue is a harsh reality for a 107-point team. But despite the Blackhawks earning at least one point in each clash this season - and of course defeating the Blues in six games in 2014 - St. Louis actually fared well in recent years. Instead, its foremost concern should center around perhaps its greatest strength - an ultra-talented, persistently banged-up goaltending tandem that will enter the playoffs on the limp.

Chicago Blackhawks

For: How do you game plan for a team with near-flawless construction and a title pedigree? Sure, the Blackhawks haven't commanded their 82-game schedule after a 105-game championship season with an iron fist. But trust that teams aren't lining up around the corner to meet Coach Q and Co. When all things are equal, and in many cases when the ice is tilted against them, Chicago's mystique will help it maintain a competitive advantage, being a menacing, more experienced entity.

Against: For the first time in its seven-year proliferation of Cups, Chicago will carry a negative even-strength goal differential into the tournament. The club has still outscored the competitive by a wide margin, of course, thanks in part to the second-best power play in the league. This dependency, however, is troubling heading into the playoffs when called infractions tend to decline.

Anaheim Ducks

For: For a time there, the Ducks, and not the Warriors, were the hottest team in California. There's so much to like about a team that took 73 points from 49 games after Christmas and overcame a 16-point deficit over the final three months to clinch its fourth straight division title, but we'll keep it to a few. Anaheim is the highest-scoring playoff team in the West since finalizing its roster at the deadline, has the NHL's best goal differential over the last 12 weeks, and finished with the best power play and penalty kill.

Against: The last three months worth of data suggests the Ducks solved their scoring woes, but this team was no offensive juggernaut. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have to capitalize on what few opportunities they may have against a stingy Predators team with Rickard Rakell out and Ryan Kesler's line shifting to shutdown mode.

Nashville Predators

For: Nashville has allowed the fifth-fewest shots at even strength, but its greatest success was limiting quality looks from the opposition. The Predators allowed fewer scoring chances than any Western Conference team and the fewest high-danger opportunities league-wide - a trend that continued even after the Seth Jones trade.

Against: It turns out that a collective clampdown was critical, as Pekka Rinne had a career-worst season despite being sheltered. He finished with a .908 save percentage (which ranked outside the top 50), dragging down the team's overall rate into the bottom third along with him.

Los Angeles Kings

For: The Kings controlled possession better than any other team for a fourth straight year, as their heavy, downhill shot-suppression style once again yielded a postseason berth. More importantly, though, Los Angeles allowed the fewest even-strength goals, produced the second-most per-game shots, and has a more talented top six than in years past with the addition of Milan Lucic and continuing emergence of Tyler Toffoli.

Against: Los Angeles' defense has held up, but beyond all-world defender Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin, it's a heavy, plodding, almost rag-tag group that won't succeed if the opposition is successful in taking their brand to the Kings.

San Jose Sharks

For: After a down season, the Sharks' enduring core proved it remains in the discussion as one of the most talented attacking units in the league. No team produced more high-danger scoring chances than the Sharks (also allowing the fourth fewest), who finished as the second-highest-scoring team in the West.

Against: Martin Jones will carry near-identical numbers into a matchup against the Kings' Jonathan Quick after a largely successful first season as a starter. But most pundits would view the goaltending comparison as a mismatch. How Jones handles, or fails to handle, the magnitude of the situation will go a long way in determining San Jose's fate.

- stats courtesy war-on-ice.com, stats.hockeyanalysis.com.

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Canucks prospect Brock Boeser returning to North Dakota next season

Vancouver Canucks fans will have to wait a bit longer for the services of Brock Boeser.

Fresh off winning a national championship, Boeser announced he will return to the Fighting Hawks for his sophomore season.

Boeser was outstanding in his first season at North Dakota, scoring 27 goals and chipping in 33 assists in 42 games. He also scored the game-winning goal in the national championship game against Quinnipiac.

The Minnesota native was selected 23rd overall by the Canucks in the 2015 draft.

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Canadiens GM: Therrien to return as coach, no ‘intention’ to trade Subban

Michel Therrien is getting a chance to turn things around in Montreal.

At the end of a disappointing season marred by an injury to star goaltender Carey Price, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin confirmed the head coach's retention at a press conference Monday.

"Michel (Therrien) will be behind the bench on opening night," he declared.

On top of that, Bergevin will not be looking to trade P.K. Subban this summer.

Note Bergevin stopped short of guaranteeing Subban, whose no-movement clause kicks in July 1, won't be traded.

Still, it's a clear signal Bergevin wants to at least evaluate the situation with Price back in net, thereby staying the course for the time being.

"Even when things weren't going well, I wasn't ready to change everything around and panic," he said. "When you lose your top goalie or top player, it's not easy to overcome."

Bergevin later added, "I believe with a healthy Carey Price we are not sitting here today."

Montreal jumped out to a 9-0-0 start this season, and despite some initially solid play from Mike Condon after Price fell to injury, the wheels eventually fell off, dropping Montreal to 22nd in the overall standings.

Finally, Bergevin himself was given a vote of confidence from ownership.

How long this patience will last if Montreal stumbles out of the gate next season remains to be seen.

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Round 1 preview: Penguins look to stay hot in battle with Rangers

For the third year in a row, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers will meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Rangers took the last two series' en route to two deep playoff runs, while the Penguins we're the NHL's hottest team to close out the regular season, winning 15 of their final 16 games.

Related: Panthers-Islanders, Stars-Wild, Red Wings-Lightning, Capitals-Flyers

Pittsburgh won the season series 3-1, and looks to make it past the first round for the first time since 2013, and only the second time since they won it all in 2009. New York, meanwhile, will look to recapture the magic that won them a Presidents' Trophy a year ago, after a season of regression.

Tale of the tape

Penguins Statistic Rangers
104 Points 101
2.94 (3rd) Goals per game 2.84 (7th)
2.43 (6th) Goals against 2.62 (15th)
18.4% (16th) Power play 18.6 (14th)
84.4% (5th) Penalty kill 78.2% (26th)
53.1% (4th) Corsi 48.1% (21st)
7.5% (16th) 5-on-5 SH% 9% (1st)
93.1% (4th) 5-on-5 SV% 93.5 (1st)
Crosby: 85 Leading scorer Zuccarello: 61

Key players

Sidney Crosby

This is an obvious one.

Crosby emphatically silenced naysayers after a slow start to the season. He finished third in league scoring with 85 points while captaining the Penguins on a second-half tear, which clinched home ice for at least the first round.

As always, Crosby will be the center of attention, and it will be up to an ailing Rangers blue line to slow him down. Crosby closed out the regular season with 11 points in his final 10 games, nine of which were wins. Despite what critics say, "Sid the Kid" has put up 118 points in 100 career playoff contests, and will be the key to the Penguins success with Evgeni Malkin on the shelf for the time being.

Rick Nash

Rangers winger Nash endured a difficult season. The 31-year-old only suited up for 60 games, recording 36 points - a career low. Nash will need to find his scoring touch in the playoffs, something that hasn't boded well for him in the past, with only 10 goals in 60 career postseason games.

Nash said he's happy with his defensive game, but now, more than ever, he needs to reverse his playoff misfortunes and produce offensively if the Rangers want to go deep again.

The Rangers' acquisition of Eric Staal hasn't gone to plan so far, and New York will need depth scoring to ease Henrik Lundqvist's workload, and ultimately advance.

Keith Yandle

The Rangers will need to suppress Pittsburgh's potent offense to be successful, and that starts with Yandle.

With captain Ryan McDonagh out of the lineup, look for Yandle to step up on both ends of the ice. While fellow blue-liner Dan Girardi - if healthy - will be tasked with shot-blocking and physical play, Yandle, as usual, will quarterback the Rangers' breakouts and powerplays.

A pending free agent, Yandle is not only playing for a chance at the Cup, but also his future, and he'll look to shine brightest with plenty of teams watching.

Schedule

Date Time (ET) Location Networks
Wed. April 13 8 p.m. Pittsburgh USA/Sportsnet/TVA
Sat. April 16 3 p.m. Pittsburgh USA/Sportsnet/TVA
Tue. April 19 7 p.m. New York USA/Sportsnet/TVA
Thu. April 21 TBD New York Sportsnet/TVA
Sat. April 23* TBD Pittsburgh TBD
Mon. April 25* TBD New York TBD
Wed. April 27* TBD Pittsburgh TBD

* If necessary

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Remember, we are all Canucks!