All posts by Josh Gold-Smith

Report: Golden Knights’ Lehner starting Game 4

Marc-Andre Fleury's gaffe has at least temporarily cost him his job.

Robin Lehner is the Vegas Golden Knights' starting goaltender for Game 4 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens, reports ESPN's Emily Kaplan.

Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer informed Lehner and Fleury of the decision Saturday, adds Kaplan.

DeBoer wouldn't confirm his starter when asked about it after Sunday's morning skate. Lehner was the first Golden Knights puck-stopper off the ice at the session, and that generally determines who gets the nod.

It will be Lehner's first appearance in these playoffs in exactly three weeks and only his second of 2021. The Swede surrendered seven goals on 37 shots in a 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of their second-round matchup.

Fleury had been mostly stellar in this postseason, but his giveaway in Game 3 against the Canadiens allowed Montreal to tie that contest in the final minutes and then win it in overtime.

The 36-year-old, who's a 2021 Vezina Trophy finalist, also outperformed Lehner during the regular season, though the soon-to-be 30-year-old goalie played only 19 games due to a concussion.

Lehner started every contest for Vegas during the 2019-20 playoffs but has suited up for only four games in the last 50 days.

Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday at 8 p.m. ET in Montreal.

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Golden Knights won’t confirm Game 4 starter

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer wouldn't reveal his starting goaltender for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens when asked about it Sunday.

"Not a chance I'm confirming that," DeBoer said after the Golden Knights' morning skate, according to NHL.com's Danny Webster.

Robin Lehner was the first netminder off the ice for Vegas at Sunday's session, according to Sportsnet's Kyle Bukauskas. Lehner hasn't played since allowing seven goals on 37 shots in a 7-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of his team's second-round matchup on May 30. That's his lone appearance in these playoffs.

Marc-Andre Fleury started the other 15 games, posting nine wins and a .921 save percentage in those contests. However, his misplay of the puck late in Game 3 against the Canadiens on Friday allowed Josh Anderson to tie it with under two minutes left in regulation.

Montreal ultimately prevailed in overtime, and DeBoer said afterward, "there's no doubt" Fleury's gaffe affected his team in the extra frame.

A concussion limited Lehner to 19 regular-season games this year, but he produced a .913 save percentage and 2.5 goals saved above average in 2021 prior to the postseason. The Swedish puck-stopper, along with Fleury, helped the Golden Knights win the Jennings Trophy this year as the tandem with the fewest goals against in the NHL.

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Report: Tocchet among finalists for Kraken head coaching job

Rick Tocchet is on the Seattle Kraken's shortlist for their head coaching vacancy.

The former Arizona Coyotes bench boss is a finalist to become Seattle's first-ever head coach, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported on "Saturday Headlines."

Last month, it was reported that Tocchet had interviews lined up with both the Kraken and New York Rangers, who ultimately hired Gerard Gallant earlier this week.

Tocchet and the Coyotes parted ways on May 9. The 57-year-old's contract expired on June 30.

The former NHL forward guided Arizona for four seasons, posting a 125-131-34 record and helping the club reach the postseason in 2019-20 for the first time since 2011-12.

Tocchet won back-to-back championships as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017 before the Coyotes hired him. He was the Tampa Bay Lightning's head coach for parts of two seasons from 2008 to 2010.

The Ontario-born former winger played 18 years in the league before joining the coaching ranks. He amassed 440 goals and 512 assists in 1,144 games with six teams.

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Golden Knights’ Smith: Power-play woes ‘costing us the series’

The Vegas Golden Knights understand that their ineptitude with the man advantage is the primary reason they trail their Stanley Cup semifinal series 2-1 to the Montreal Canadiens.

"There are a lot of problems (on the power play), I don't think you can just pinpoint one," said Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith after Montreal defeated Vegas 3-2 in overtime Friday.

"(Our) breakouts have been bad. We're not doing a good job handling pressure. We're not releasing the puck very well, and we're not doing a good job crashing the net and picking up rebounds. So, there are a lot of things we have to get better at, and it's costing us the series right now."

Vegas went 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 3 and lost - largely thanks to Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's late gaffe - despite dominating the Canadiens at five-on-five.

The Pacific Division club outshot their North Division counterparts 45-27 in the game. Vegas also outplayed Montreal in terms of scoring chances for percentage (59.18 to 40.82) and expected goals for percentage (53.88 to 46.12) at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.

"Our five-on-five play was excellent tonight," said forward Mark Stone. "We controlled the majority of the game and had tons of scoring chances, but in a game like this, your power play needs to step up for you.

"The last two games, our power play has had to step up, and we haven't even gotten us any momentum. ... It's about time as a group we take a little bit more pride in playing on the power play. (We need to) take that five-on-five mindset to the power play."

Vegas has a league-low 10.5% success rate with the man advantage in this postseason, scoring just four times in 38 opportunities. Over the last 30 years, no team has won the Stanley Cup with a rate under 11%, and no champion has ever had the lowest percentage of any club in the playoffs, according to The Athletic's Jesse Granger.

Game 4 is scheduled for Sunday in Montreal at 8 p.m. ET.

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Canadiens’ Ducharme isolating due to COVID-19 testing irregularities

Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme is isolating at home due to "irregularities" in his COVID-19 testing, the club announced Friday, according to TSN's John Lu.

Ducharme will undergo more tests during the day.

The team confirmed Friday that Ducharme has been vaccinated twice, according to Sportsnet's Eric Engels. The 48-year-old received his second dose June 9 along with the rest of the Canadiens who chose to get it.

Montreal named Ducharme the club's interim head coach upon firing Claude Julien in February. The Canadiens went 15-16-7 after Ducharme took the reins, finishing fourth in the North Division. They then upset the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games during the first round of the playoffs before sweeping the Winnipeg Jets.

Game 3 of the Stanley Cup semifinal between the Canadiens and the Vegas Golden Knights is scheduled for Friday night. The series is tied 1-1.

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Coyotes sign World Championship star Liam Kirk to entry-level deal

The Arizona Coyotes inked Liam Kirk to a three-year, entry-level contract Friday, agent Dan Milstein confirmed.

On Tuesday, it was reported the Coyotes gave permission for other clubs to talk to Kirk. Arizona had his rights for one more season before signing him.

The 21-year-old forward scored seven times in as many games for Great Britain to tie for the goal-scoring lead at the recently concluded World Championship in Latvia.

Kirk became the first British-trained player to be drafted by an NHL team when the Coyotes selected him in the seventh round in 2018.

He played two seasons with the OHL's Peterborough Petes after starting his career with the Sheffield Steelers in England. When the OHL canceled its 2021 campaign, he returned to Europe, collecting five goals and as many assists in 12 games with Hanhals at Sweden's third-tier pro level. Kirk then reunited with the Steelers, posting 10 markers and as many helpers in 14 contests to wrap up the season.

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Maple Leafs sign Spezza to 1-year, $750K extension

The Toronto Maple Leafs inked Jason Spezza to a one-year contract extension worth $750,000, the club announced Wednesday.

Spezza will earn the new league minimum next season after collecting the lowest-possible NHL salary for the last two campaigns.

The veteran forward, who turned 38 on Sunday, produced 10 goals and 20 assists in 54 regular-season games with the Maple Leafs in 2021 before excelling in the playoffs with three markers and two helpers in seven contests.

Spezza has played his last two campaigns with the Leafs. He has proven to be a perfect fit with the club in a bottom-six role. The Toronto-born player first signed with his hometown squad as a free agent in July 2019 after spending five seasons with the Dallas Stars.

He suited up for his first 11 campaigns with the Ottawa Senators, who drafted him second overall in 2001.

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Blue Jackets promote Nash to director of player development

The Columbus Blue Jackets are rewarding their all-time leading scorer, promoting Rick Nash to director of player development Wednesday.

Nash spent the last two seasons as a special assistant to Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen after retiring as a player following his 15-year career.

The former star forward, who turned 37 on Wednesday, will now supervise the team's development staff, monitor the progress of the club's prospects, and offer feedback to upper management about which players should advance within the organization.

Nash ranks first in Blue Jackets history in goals, assists, points, and games played. The 2002 first overall pick racked up 547 points in 674 contests for Columbus and 805 points in 1,060 career games.

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Bruins’ Sweeney: There’s mutual interest in re-signing Hall

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and Taylor Hall appear to be on the same page regarding the talented forward's future.

"In talking with (Hall and fellow Bruins forward David Krejci) at the end of the (season), and even when Taylor got here, he's expressed interest (and there's been) mutual interest to have him back," Sweeney said Tuesday.

" ... Obviously, we'll have to see where all the pieces fit together."

Last week, Hall said he sees a fit with Boston and hoped the club felt the same way while adding he would prioritize fit over money or term.

The 29-year-old rediscovered his form after the Buffalo Sabres traded him to the Bruins this spring, notching eight goals and six assists in 16 games with his new squad during the regular season before adding three goals and two assists in 11 playoff contests. Hall only produced two markers and 17 helpers in 37 games with Buffalo after inking a one-year, $8-million pact with the team last offseason.

Boston has several key pending unrestricted free agents to sign this offseason, including Hall and Krejci as well as goaltenders Tuukka Rask - who's expected to be out until at least January - and Jaroslav Halak.

Hall has played for four squads in the last four campaigns. The Alberta-born winger, who the Edmonton Oilers picked first overall in 2010, won the Hart Trophy in 2018.

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Stars’ Johns retires after missing season with post-concussion syndrome

Warning: Instagram post contains coarse language

Stephen Johns is ending his NHL career.

The 29-year-old defenseman, who was a pending unrestricted free agent with the Dallas Stars, revealed his plans Sunday on Instagram.

Johns sat out the entire 2021 campaign after missing more than half of 2019-20 and all of 2018-19 due to headaches resulting from a concussion he sustained in March 2018.

He played in three round-robin postseason games for the Stars during the Stanley Cup Final run in 2020, but he played only Game 1 of Dallas' first-round series against the Calgary Flames before missing the rest of the playoffs.

Johns was a finalist for the Masterton Trophy - awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey - last season.

The Pennsylvania-born blue-liner netted 15 goals and 18 assists in 167 games over four campaigns, all of which he played with the Stars. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted him 60th overall in 2010 before trading him to Dallas along with forward Patrick Sharp for winger Ryan Garbutt and defenseman Trevor Daley in July 2015.

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