Maple Leafs’ Lamoriello says more pain coming

Embrace the pain, Toronto Maple Leafs fans. There's more on the way.

That's according to general manager Lou Lamoriello, at least, writes The Canadian Press' Jonas Siegel. While Toronto's at the bottom of the NHL standings, the team has taken strides this season under head coach Mike Babcock, who's somehow formed a positive-possession team with a roster torn down throughout the season and featuring mostly American Hockey League players.

But patience is key, according to Lamoriello.

"I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We still have a ways to go," the 73-year-old said. "We can’t get excited about success we’ve had recently because all of these things have a way of changing when the pressure starts."

By "success," Lamoriello means the impact of Babcock, as well as the play of William Nylander, who has five goals and five assists in his first 19 games of NHL action. There's also the Toronto Marlies, who are the AHL's best team and primed for a playoff run.

"Right now, we're still in that early stage. To use the expression that Mike did - 'there will be pain' - there will be more pain, but it is in the right direction."

The Maple Leafs are tied for 30th in the NHL standings with the Edmonton Oilers, but can't catch them in regulation wins. If both teams lose out to close the season, Toronto will finish last and have the best odds at selecting first overall in the draft.

While the standings are a disappointment, Toronto has been open about the fact it's rebuilding. Expectations have been low from day one, and the Maple Leafs have been impressed by the young players who have worn the blue and white this season - the Zach Hymans and Nikita Soshnikovs and Kasperi Kapanens.

"I think we've got a couple players, more than a couple, that can be outstanding players in the National Hockey League. But I say that with a little bit of tongue in cheek, because I've seen situations before (where it didn't work out)."

Looking ahead, Lamoriello will be watching the coming World Championship with interest, especially with presumptive No. 1 pick Auston Matthews set to represent the United States in Russia.

After the draft comes free agency, and Lamoriello said the Maple Leafs won't shy away from dipping into the market if they can get a player who will help them. Lamoriello also has to get Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly signed, with both players set for restricted free agency.

There's no doubt Lamoriello views both as core players, especially Kadri, who's been praised by both the GM and Babcock in what has been a down season statistically.

For once, the Maple Leafs have a plan. Supporters of the franchise will surely take some pain along with it.

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Hug it out: Duchene, Roy back on same page after goal celebration scolding

Matt Duchene gets it.

After being called out by head coach Patrick Roy for celebrating the first 30-goal campaign of his career in a loss to St. Louis, the Colorado Avalanche forward says he was in the wrong and is ready to move forward.

"We talked, we had a good chat (Monday), everything's good," Duchene said, according to Terry Frei of the Denver Post. "I totally understand where (Roy's) coming from, what he's trying to do. I'm on board with it, I think we all are. It was one of those things where right away, I certainly knew it wasn't the right thing, the right reaction.

"I kind of buried my head after that, even going back to the bench. I understood it wasn't the right thing. We had a good talk and it's all good."

Duchene's goal came with the Avalanche down 4-0, and Roy took exception with the celebration of a personal milestone with the team losing and out of the playoffs.

"If I could go back and change it, I would. I can't do that. I think everybody here knows that's not what I mean to do. It's all good," he reiterated.

Still, Duchene was rumored to be available on the trade market earlier this season, and the Avs will most certainly miss the playoffs for the second year in a row, so one can't help but wonder if something will give in the offseason.

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Wild’s Dumba unhappy with scratch from potential playoff clincher

As the Minnesota Wild attempt to lock down a playoff spot with a win over San Jose on Tuesday, defenseman Matt Dumba will sit as a healthy scratch.

His response?

Dumba has appeared in all 80 of Minnesota's games to date, scoring 10 goals and adding 10 assists.

During Sunday's loss to Winnipeg, however, he was a minus-2 and was on the ice for the Jets' third goal, which essentially sealed the loss. He also apparently drew the ire of head coach John Torchetti.

Here's how the Wild can clinch sans Dumba.

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Report: Gudbranson leaves Panthers’ road trip due to head injury

One day after injured captain Willie Mitchell said the NHL is too lenient with respect to headshots, the Florida Panthers may have lost another defenseman to a head injury.

Defenseman Erik Gudbranson has reportedly left the club to return to Florida to be re-evaluated for a concussion, according to the Sun Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov.

Gudbranson took a high hit from Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colin Greening on Monday. There was no penalty on the play, something the defender was furious about. Gudbranson missed time earlier this season due to a concussion, so the Panthers are exercising caution with the playoffs a week away.

The Panthers are in Montreal on Tuesday and will be in Ottawa on Thursday. Their final game of the regular season is Saturday at home against Carolina.

Gudbranson has two goals and seven assists in 64 games. Alex Petrovic will take his spot in the lineup Tuesday.

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Quenneville: Crawford will ‘absolutely’ start Game 1 of playoffs

Corey Crawford will be the man in net for the Chicago Blackhawks once the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.

So says head coach Joel Quenneville, who gave an update on the injured goalie who hasn't played since March 14 with an upper-body issue.

Crawford himself added he hopes to play the final regular-season game in preparation for the postseason, with Scott Darling starting the other two.

Through 57 appearances, Crawford was playing some of the best hockey of his career, recording a career-high 35 wins, along with seven shutouts and a .926 save percentage.

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On the Fly, NHL Roundtable: Is Patrick Kane the best American-born player ever?

On the Fly, theScore's NHL roundtable series, continues. We're talking Patrick Kane, unquestionably the league's best player - and perhaps the greatest to ever come out of the United States.

Is No. 88 America's No. 1?

Ian McLaren: With three games remaining for the Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Kane is the runaway winner of the Art Ross Trophy and the only player to reach 100 points this season. His impressive performance has pushed him over the point per game mark for his career (657 points in 655 games), and raises the question as to whether he could end up as the best American-born player of all time.

In terms of total points, he's not even halfway to Mike Modano's 1,374, but, at age 27, and health permitting, should have plenty of time to make up the difference. It's Pat LaFontaine who holds the points per game advantage, however, posting a remarkable 1,013 points over the course of an injury-plagued career that lasted only 865 games.

Kane would have to continue to improve in order to push his points per game average from 1.003 to Lafontaine's 1.17, but if his career has the longevity of Modano (who averaged 0.92 points per game), he could set a new bar for total points.

There's still a long way to go, but Kane is already a three-time Stanley Cup champion, further boosting his chances of going down in history as the best U.S.-born player the game has ever seen.

Navin Vaswani: With all due respect to Mr. LaFontaine, in the end, it will be Kane.

It's always tricky to compare players from different eras, but in this case, it isn't so difficult. LaFontaine played in an era in which goals were, well, scored. Kane doesn't have that luxury.

LaFontaine became a point per game player in his fourth full season in the league, as a 21-year-old in 1987-88. He was a force through 1993, when injuries hit, but he had one more stellar season, in 1995-96, scoring 91 points in 76 games.

The difference in eras for LaFontaine and Kane is striking.

LaFontaine:

Season Goals Per Game
1986-87 3.67
87-88 3.71
88-89 3.74
89-90 3.68
90-91 3.46
91-92 3.48
92-93 3.63
93-94 3.24
94-95 2.99
95-96 3.14

Kane:

Season Goals Per Game
2007-08 2.78
08-09 2.91
09-10 2.84
10-11 2.79
11-12 2.73
12-13 2.72
13-14 2.74
14-15 2.73
15-16 2.71

Everything about today's NHL is different - and arguably better. The players are bigger, stronger, and faster. The goalies have all but perfected their position.

While LaFontaine was a smallish player - like Kane - and could very well have thrived - like Kane - the guy who's done it in an NHL that will probably never again average three goals a game has to get the nod.

Wherever he ends up, when all is said and done, Kane will undoubtedly be in the greatest American NHLer conversation. And he's got half a career, if not more, to go.

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Capitals remain odds-on favorites to win Stanley Cup

Having already clinched the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, it should come as no surprise that the Washington Capitals are favored to win the Stanley Cup in June.

Their odds of winning the East were boosted by a tumble down the board by the injury-riddled Tampa Bay Lightning, although the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins may have something to say about that.

The Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks lead the way out West, while the best value on the board comes from the team with the lowest odds in the conference, the Nashville Predators.

Here's a look at the entire field:

Team Odds
Washington Capitals 17/4
Los Angeles Kings 7/1
Chicago Blackhawks 15/2
Anaheim Ducks 8/1
Dallas Stars 9/1
Pittsburgh Penguins 9/1
St. Louis Blues 9/1
San Jose Sharks 16/1
New York Rangers 18/1
Florida Panthers 20/1
Tampa Bay Lightning 20/1
Detroit Red Wings 28/1
Minnesota Wild 28/1
Nashville Predators 28/1
New York Islanders 28/1
Philadelphia Flyers 28/1
Boston Bruins 50/1

(Courtesy: Bodog)

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Could Joe Thornton be the next Jaromir Jagr?

As Joe Thornton approaches his 37th birthday, he is showing no signs of slowing down.

Through 79 games this season, the San Jose Sharks center - whose birthday comes in the offseason - has recorded 18 goals and 60 assists, ranking second in the NHL in the latter category. His elite-level performance (and beard) in what should be the late stages of his career raises the question of whether he'll continue on into his 40s in the same vein as Jaromir Jagr.

"I love the game, I love the guys. The fellowship, competing. I love everything hockey has to offer, if my body and mind allows me to play until I’m 44? You can’t predict that," he told Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

In the present, he feels fresh and able to keep rolling, thanks in large part to a change in routine suggested by Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer.

"(DeBoer) convinced me to stay away, get rest. The light turned on … it’s okay not to skate, not to work out. I’m a creature of habit. So I changed my mindset, and it definitely helped. My energy level, I feel so alive, no fatigue."

With 376 goals and 961 assists, Thornton's 1,364 career points are good for 30th on the NHL's all-time scoring list. The 1997 first overall pick and 2006 NHL MVP has won at every international level, but remains in search of a Stanley Cup win.

The Sharks are surprisingly well positioned to challenge this year after missing the playoffs last season, but should it not work out in California, Thornton would no doubt have plenty of suitors as a free agent once his contract runs out in 2017.

Six or seven additional seasons with the pick of the litter could allow him to end his career as a champion at the NHL level and become a surefire Hall of Fame entrant.

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