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 Posted: Tue May 23rd, 2017 02:13 am
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PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins are one win away from a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

The defending champions pounced on the Ottawa Senators early in a 7-0 demolition in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday to take a 3-2 series lead. Sidney Crosby scored for a third consecutive game as part of a four-goal first period in which the Penguins twice chased goalie Craig Anderson.

Bryan Rust had a goal and an assist in his return from a concussion. Olli Maatta and Scott Wilson also beat Anderson in the first period. Matt Cullen scored his second of the playoffs, and Phil Kessel his seventh.

Matt Murray stopped 21 shots to win his second straight start following a six-week injury layoff. Game 6 is Tuesday night in Ottawa.

Anderson was pulled briefly after the Penguins went up 3-0 in the first and removed for good to start the second period. He stopped 10 of 14 shots he faced on his 36th birthday.

The Penguins appeared to hit their stride during a 3-2 victory in Ottawa on Friday night in Game 4, playing with the kind of speed and intensity that fueled their run to the franchise's fourth Cup last June. Still, they stressed the importance of finding a way to keep it going in a series that saw the teams alternate wins and losses through the first four games.

The momentum Pittsburgh generated did more than carry over. It crushed the Senators completely.

Rust watched Games 3 and 4 while recovering from a concussion suffered during an open-ice collision with Dion Phaneuf in Game 2. Coach Mike Sullivan placed him on the third line with Nick Bonino and Carter Rowney, and the impact was immediate.

Rust set up Maatta's opening goal by grabbing a loose puck in the Ottawa zone - a common occurrence during the Senators' nightmarish first period - then dropping it to Maaatta. The defenseman who scored just once during the regular season zipped home his second in two games 8:14 into the first.

The Penguins were just getting started. Crosby redirected Trevor Daley's shot past Anderson on the power play 12:03 into the first, and Rust did the same on a shot by Bonino with 3:56 left in the period.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher briefly removed Anderson in favor of Mike Condon only to return Anderson about 90 seconds later. It didn't help. The player perhaps most vital to the Senators' first appearance in the conference finals in a decade let Wilson bank a shot from behind the goal line off him and into the net to make it 4-0.

Condon came on for Anderson in the second but it didn't exactly provide a jolt. Cullen scored off a centering pass from Mark Streit to make it 5-0 just 1:54 into the second and the Penguins kept pouring it on.

The Senators head back home on the brink of elimination for the first time in their postseason. They head home a little dinged up too. Defenseman Erik Karlsson, playing with a pair of hairline fractures in his left heel, sat out the last 25 minutes after colliding with Wilson. Forward Derick Brassard and defenseman Cody Ceci also skipped the third period, leaving the final 20 minutes as little more than a glorified exhibition.

NOTES: The Senators went 0 for 4 on the power play and are 0 for 29 in their last 29 chances with the man advantage. The Penguins were 3 for 3. ... Crosby's assist on Kessel's goal gave him 100 career playoff assists. He's the 22nd player in NHL history to reach that milestone. ... Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin played in his 141st postseason game, surpassing Jaromir Jagr for the most in franchise history. ... The Penguins scratched D Justin Schultz (upper body) and F Patric Hornqvist (upper body). F Conor Sheary was a healthy scratch. ... Rowney had three assists for Pittsburgh.

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 Posted: Tue May 23rd, 2017 04:37 am
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From the Ottawa Senators' perspective, calling Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Final versus the Pittsburgh Penguins a catastrophe would be an understatement.

Pittsburgh cruised to a 7-0 win, the worst shutout loss in Senators playoff history, and head coach Guy Boucher didn't mince his words when asked about his opponent's performance.

"We know they're a better team," Boucher told reporters following the loss. "Everybody knows that on the planet. They're the Stanley Cup champions. They're the best team in the league. That's no secret."

To be fair, the Penguins sure looked the part, dominating the Senators from start to finish.

Pittsburgh got goals from seven different players, and outshot Ottawa 36-25 to take a 3-2 series lead. What's more, the Penguins out-attempted the Senators 56-47 in all situations, and generated 27 even strength scoring chances to Ottawa's 17, per hockeystats.ca.

Bobby Ryan: "We got run over."

— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 21, 2017
Correct.

The Senators now travel back home, seeking to force a Game 7 with a bounceback performance Tuesday night.

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 Posted: Wed May 24th, 2017 03:38 am
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PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Penguins are one win away from a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

The defending champions pounced on the Ottawa Senators early in a 7-0 demolition in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday to take a 3-2 series lead. Sidney Crosby scored for a third consecutive game as part of a four-goal first period in which the Penguins twice chased goalie Craig Anderson.

Bryan Rust had a goal and an assist in his return from a concussion. Olli Maatta and Scott Wilson also beat Anderson in the first period. Matt Cullen scored his second of the playoffs, and Phil Kessel his seventh.

Matt Murray stopped 21 shots to win his second straight start following a six-week injury layoff. Game 6 is Tuesday night in Ottawa.

Anderson was pulled briefly after the Penguins went up 3-0 in the first and removed for good to start the second period. He stopped 10 of 14 shots he faced on his 36th birthday.

The Penguins appeared to hit their stride during a 3-2 victory in Ottawa on Friday night in Game 4, playing with the kind of speed and intensity that fueled their run to the franchise's fourth Cup last June. Still, they stressed the importance of finding a way to keep it going in a series that saw the teams alternate wins and losses through the first four games.

The momentum Pittsburgh generated did more than carry over. It crushed the Senators completely.

Rust watched Games 3 and 4 while recovering from a concussion suffered during an open-ice collision with Dion Phaneuf in Game 2. Coach Mike Sullivan placed him on the third line with Nick Bonino and Carter Rowney, and the impact was immediate.

Rust set up Maatta's opening goal by grabbing a loose puck in the Ottawa zone - a common occurrence during the Senators' nightmarish first period - then dropping it to Maaatta. The defenseman who scored just once during the regular season zipped home his second in two games 8:14 into the first.

The Penguins were just getting started. Crosby redirected Trevor Daley's shot past Anderson on the power play 12:03 into the first, and Rust did the same on a shot by Bonino with 3:56 left in the period.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher briefly removed Anderson in favor of Mike Condon only to return Anderson about 90 seconds later. It didn't help. The player perhaps most vital to the Senators' first appearance in the conference finals in a decade let Wilson bank a shot from behind the goal line off him and into the net to make it 4-0.

Condon came on for Anderson in the second but it didn't exactly provide a jolt. Cullen scored off a centering pass from Mark Streit to make it 5-0 just 1:54 into the second and the Penguins kept pouring it on.

The Senators head back home on the brink of elimination for the first time in their postseason. They head home a little dinged up too. Defenseman Erik Karlsson, playing with a pair of hairline fractures in his left heel, sat out the last 25 minutes after colliding with Wilson. Forward Derick Brassard and defenseman Cody Ceci also skipped the third period, leaving the final 20 minutes as little more than a glorified exhibition.

NOTES: The Senators went 0 for 4 on the power play and are 0 for 29 in their last 29 chances with the man advantage. The Penguins were 3 for 3. ... Crosby's assist on Kessel's goal gave him 100 career playoff assists. He's the 22nd player in NHL history to reach that milestone. ... Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin played in his 141st postseason game, surpassing Jaromir Jagr for the most in franchise history. ... The Penguins scratched D Justin Schultz (upper body) and F Patric Hornqvist (upper body). F Conor Sheary was a healthy scratch. ... Rowney had three assists for Pittsburgh.

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 Posted: Wed May 24th, 2017 03:39 am
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Colton Sissons scored his third goal with 6:00 left, ensuring the Nashville Predators' magical postseason now includes the franchise's first trip to the Stanley Cup Final after eliminating the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 win in Game 6 on Monday night.

The Predators, who've never won even a division title in their 19-year history, came in with the fewest points of any team in these playoffs.

Now they've swept the West's No. 1 seed in Chicago, downed St. Louis in six in the second round and then the Pacific Division champ in six games. Peter Laviolette became the fourth coach to take three different teams to the Final, and the first since the playoffs split into conference play in 1994.

The Predators will play either defending champion Pittsburgh or Ottawa for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 is next Monday.

Anaheim lost in the conference finals for the second time in three years.

Cam Fowler tied it up at 3-3 at 8:52 of the third for Anaheim as the Ducks tried to rally for the fifth time this season when trailing by multiple goals.

But Sissons, who scored on the third shot of the game, scored twice in a wild third period to give the Predators a 3-2 lead at 3:00 and then 4-3 three minutes later.

Austin Watson scored on Nashville's first shot and had an empty-netter with 1:34 to go. Filip Forsberg also had an empty-net goal.

Pekka Rinne made 38 saves to improve to 12-4.

Ondrej Kase scored his second career goal - both in this series - giving Anaheim a chance to tie the NHL record with a fifth rally when trailing by multiple goals. Chris Wagner banked the puck off Rinne's head for a goal at 5:00 of the third to keep the Ducks close.

But this has been the best postseason ever for Rinne, a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, a stretch ranking among the NHL's best. And the 6-foot-5 Finn used his big body to turn away shot after shot even with the Ducks trying to crash the net every opportunity. He helped the Predators improve to 7-3 in one-goal games.

Music City buzzed all day leading up to the puck drop waiting for one of the biggest sports parties this town has ever seen.

Superstar Garth Brooks spoiled the usual mystery of who would sing the national anthem with Twitter hints hours before the game. Sure enough, his wife Trisha Yearwood became the latest to handle the honors. Former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George waved the rally towel to crank up the fans.

That didn't even include the throngs packing the plaza outside the arena's front doors and the park across the street.

The Ducks, who came in 2-1 when facing elimination this postseason, outshot Nashville 6-2 to start the game trying to force this series back to Anaheim.

But they had goalie Jonathan Bernier making his first career playoff start with John Gibson scratched with a lower-body injury. Gibson, who went out after the first period of Game 5, skated Monday morning only to be scratched with Jhonas Enroth dressed as Bernier's backup.

Watson's third this postseason deflected off the left skate of Anaheim defenseman Brandon Montour just 81 seconds into the game. Sissons skated on the top line with Ryan Johansen out after needing season-ending surgery on his left thigh and captain Mike Fisher scratched for a second straight game with an upper-body injury.

Notes: Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and coached Philadelphia to the Final in 2010. ... The Predators now have clinched five of the six series won in franchise history on home ice. This was their third this postseason.

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 Posted: Wed May 24th, 2017 03:40 am
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Adversity doesn't mean a thing to the Nashville Predators.

After a disappointing start to the regular season, and a slew of injuries in the Western Conference Final, the Predators have still managed to make history.

Not only are the Preds off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in the franchise's existence, they're the first team to play for the cup as the No. 16 seed, per Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

Nashville closed out the season with 94 points, tied with Calgary for the lowest total of any team to qualify for the playoffs. Due to regulation and overtime wins, the Preds were slotted at the bottom of the West, and while the NHL doesn't use the traditional one-to-eight conference seeding anymore, it's a wildly impressive feat nonetheless.

Three No. 8 seeds have reached the finals in the salary cap era, most recently the Los Angeles Kings, who won it all in 2012.

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 Posted: Wed May 24th, 2017 03:41 am
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For the first time in four decades, David Poile has a chance to win it all.

The Nashville Predators long-time general manager has crafted a team that will play in its first Stanley Cup Final next week. It's also a first for Poile, who has been with the franchise since its 1998 inception.

Poile began his career in hockey operations as assistant GM with the former Atlanta Flames in 1977, spending five years with the franchise, including the final two in Calgary following its relocation.

The 67-year-old then arrived in Tennessee after 15 years at the helm of the Washington Capitals, who advanced to the Stanley Cup Final a year after his 1997 firing. In Nashville, Poile would be the architect of the NHL's newest expansion franchise, where 19 years later and he is the longest-tenured GM.

In the early goings in Music City, Poile built a team respected for its work ethic. But in recent campaigns, he's pulled off blockbuster deals to bring in the likes of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and P.K. Subban.

Those moves have transformed the Predators into a juggernaut, one that now has a chance at its first championship.

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 Posted: Wed May 24th, 2017 03:42 am
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Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar will have some new faces on his staff to work with next season.

Goalie coach Francois Allaire, along with assistants Tim Army and Dave Farrish, will not return for 2017-18, the club announced Tuesday.

The dismissals come on the heels of an awful campaign in which the Avalanche amassed just 48 points, the lowest total of any team in a full season since the adoption of the shootout.

Allaire is likely the most well known of the three, having won three Stanley Cups while serving as goalie coach of the Montreal Canadiens (1986, 1993) and Anaheim Ducks (2007), with both Patrick Roy and Jean-Sebastien Giguere playing massive roles under Allaire's tutelage.

Army had served as an assistant coach in Colorado since 2012, while Farrish joined the staff in 2015.

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 Posted: Wed May 24th, 2017 03:43 am
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The Ottawa Senators may have to attempt to avoid elimination in front of some empty seats.

In advance of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and with Ottawa's season on the line, plenty of tickets remained available as of Tuesday morning.

About 1,700 tickets available on Ticketmaster for tonight's #Sens/Pens game in Ottawa, 13 hours away. Cheapest $140. Not counting resale.

— Andrew Foote (@amkfoote) May 23, 2017
And it's not sitting well with owner Eugene Melnyk.

"It’s very disturbing, however, knowing the players and coaches they will be trying their hardest for Ottawa," Melnyk said, per Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia.

On Monday, the team sent out a plea to its fans for support, with help from goalie Craig Anderson.

"The main things we can draw from our fans for Game 6 is energy and momentum." - Craig Anderson

BE THERE / BE LOUD: https://t.co/WvV790wRSK pic.twitter.com/k6rn5ZFaXh

— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) May 22, 2017
The Senators previously failed to sell out Game 1 of their second-round series against the New York Rangers, when only 16,744 of 18,572 seats were filled for the 2-1 win.

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 Posted: Thu May 25th, 2017 03:48 am
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After coming up short in the playoffs, the same Anaheim Ducks squad that just missed this year's Stanley Cup Final is unlikely to return next spring.

That's because the Ducks face arguably the biggest decisions of any team ahead of next month's expansion draft, when the incoming Vegas Golden Knights will grab a player from each team, and there are plenty of players worth plucking from the Ducks.

For the expansion draft, teams can protect one goaltender and either seven forwards and three defensemen, or any combination of eight skaters. The wrinkle: Any player with a no-movement clause cannot be exposed, unless he agrees to do so.

So if you're Ducks general manager Bob Murray, that means begging veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa to help out by waiving his no-move clause. If not, that means the following names must stay put:

Given the Ducks' depth on the blue line - which was on full display in the playoffs - it's all but assured that Murray will opt for the second route, meaning Anaheim will choose to protect more than three defensemen.

And let's say that, yes, Bieksa is willing to roll the dice on ending up in Vegas. But even in that situation, Anaheim still has four defensemen it would like to hang on to: Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

The good news is that most of the Ducks' young blue-liners, namely Brandon Montour, Shea Theodore, and Jacob Larsson, are exempt from the expansion draft. But by protecting four rearguards, that leaves just four other slots up front, with Perry, Getzlaf, and Kesler filling up all but one.

Not good news when you also plan to have Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell, and maybe even ironman Andrew Cogliano as part of your future.

So rather than lose a good asset for free, expect a Duck - either up front or on the back end - to be on the move prior to the expansion draft, as it's in Anaheim's best interest to find an asset in return rather than lose a good player for free to the Golden Knights.

Less than 24 hours removed from the playoffs, and there's already so little time for rest this offseason in Orange County.

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 Posted: Thu May 25th, 2017 03:49 am
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OTTAWA, Ontario - Mike Hoffman scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period to give the Ottawa Senators a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night and force a decisive Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa and Craig Anderson stopped 44 shots.

Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh, vying for its second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the lead early in the second period and Matt Murray finished with 28 saves.

Game 7 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators for the championship.

The Senators managed to quickly forget a 7-0 loss two days earlier in Game 5 and extend their season for one more shot at a return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 10 years.

Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start - which they got. Notable in a scoreless opening period were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity short-handed.

Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. The 35-year-old struggled through Games 4 and 5 - allowing seven goals - but it was evident early that he had his game back in this one. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected shot by Phil Kessel, and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away.

Murray was also sharp. The 22-year-old, who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 3, made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a pass from Ryan.

The Penguins appeared to have opened the scoring just over three minutes into the second, but Trevor Daley was deemed to have interfered with Anderson following an Ottawa challenge.

Less than two minutes later though, Pittsburgh took the 1-0 lead anyway off a few moments of brilliance from Malkin. The playoff scoring leading (24 points) bounced off a check from Zack Smith behind the goal and after being stopped on his drive to the net, followed up with a nifty backhand rebound to beat Anderson.

It was the 153rd career playoff point in 142 games for Malkin - three back of Sidney Crosby for second among active players behind Jaromir Jagr - who had been jarring with Hoffman a few minutes earlier.

The Senators had little going until a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24 just past the midway point of the period. The Ottawa power play, which had gone 0 for 29 in the previous 10 games, came through with Ryan ultimately wiring a one-timer short-side to tie the score.

It was the sixth goal and 15th point of the playoffs for Ryan, who is second on the Senators behind captain Erik Karlsson (16 points).

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 Posted: Thu May 25th, 2017 03:52 am
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Craig Anderson turned in a sensational Game 6 performance, stopping 45 of 46 shots in Ottawa's 2-1 victory to stave off elimination. With the win, Anderson earned his way into the Senators' record books, tying Patrick Lalime for the club's all-time record with 21 postseason wins.

The victory came after a forgettable Game 5 performance in which he was yanked after allowing four goals on 14 shots in a 7-0 blowout loss on his 36th birthday.

In Anderson's last four games when facing elimination, he is 3-1 with a 0.76 GAA and a .978 save percentage.

Anderson has continued to show that no amount of adversity, in the crease and in life, is too much for him to handle. His wife Nicholle, of course, has been battling a rare form of throat cancer since October.

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 Posted: Fri May 26th, 2017 03:17 am
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P.K. Subban still has no explanation for why he was traded to the Nashville Predators, but he insists it doesn't bother him.

"I still have no idea why I'm not a Montreal Canadien, and quite frankly, I really don't care," the star defenseman told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap in an interview airing on "E:60" this Sunday, according to Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski.

Subban also defended his exuberance on the ice.

"I'm going to come to the rink, I'm going to enjoy what I do, and if someone believes that I should come to work and not smile and not be myself, well I'm sorry, who are they to tell me how to live my life?" he said.

Subban's goal celebrations have been a source of controversy in a league that tends to discourage overt expressions of emotion, and the blue-liner told Schaap he doesn't intend to stop expressing himself.

PK Subban on his often-criticized goal celebrations. His story coming Sunday pic.twitter.com/HBAeoPG92O

— E:60 (@E60) May 24, 2017
He also made the case for individuality in a league with hundreds of players.

"There (are) over 700 players in the National Hockey League, and if all of them sound the same, to me, that's boring."

Based on the teaser quotes, Subban's full interview should be appointment viewing Sunday morning.

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 Posted: Fri May 26th, 2017 03:20 am
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The St. Louis Blues added Steve Ott to their coaching staff, the team announced Thursday.

Ott will join head coach Mike Yeo's staff as an assistant coach on a three-year contract.

"Steve was a competitor on the ice as a player and I expect him to bring that energy in this role," Yeo said. "He was highly respected as a player and a person among his teammates and I believe he will be a huge asset to our staff."

Ages of #stlblues coaches: Yeo (43), Sydor (45), Ott (34) ... youth and NHL playing experience with Sydor and Ott.

— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) May 25, 2017
Ott played 122 games in a Blues uniform between 2013-16, racking up 157 penalty minutes to go along with 17 points.

The announcement effectively ends Ott's 16-year playing career. He most recently suited up this season for the Montreal Canadiens, including six playoff games.

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 Posted: Fri May 26th, 2017 03:21 am
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Eugene Melnyk took it upon himself to write a letter to a newspaper disputing what he feels was an unfair analysis of the Ottawa Senators' playoff ticket-selling woes.

Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun wrote Wednesday that the team owner was primarily to blame for the fact not every game this postseason has sold out. The article also ran in the Ottawa Citizen.

Brennan opined, "The only logical explanation for fans negatively stealing so much of the spotlight from the Senators' unexpectedly wondrous ride through the playoffs has to be a growing, general contempt for the team's owner, for one reason or another."

Hogwash, Melnyk retorted Thursday, via the Ottawa Citizen:

If someone chooses to put the blame on (me) for this reality, well they simply have no clue how hard I work, how passionate I am, and how committed I am to the Ottawa Senators and their success on the ice, off the ice and in our community.

We could debate for days on why things are the way they are. I will only say that I, along with our entire organization, remain steadfastly committed to working hard on numerous fronts to make the Ottawa Senators an even bigger part of this city and equally important - to our country.

Melnyk added winning the Stanley Cup has always been his primary focus as he tries to ensure a competitive hockey team takes the ice in Ottawa "with the resources we have."

He added, "Our playoff success this year is no one person's doing. I couldn't possibly name all of the people in one letter. And similarly, if there are empty seats in our building during these playoffs, it is certainly unfair to point the blame squarely on any one person - especially me."

Melnyk encouraged fans to savor the team's playoff run, which could end Thursday in Game 7 against Pittsburgh - or extend to the franchise's second modern-day Stanley Cup Final appearance.

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 Posted: Fri May 26th, 2017 03:21 am
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On the heels of their season-ending loss to the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Monday, the Anaheim Ducks revealed severe injuries to two key blue-liners.

Defenseman Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm will both require shoulder surgery for torn labrums this offseason, general manager Bob Murray announced Thursday.

Lindholm's rehab should take four-to-five months, while Vatanen's will take longer, per Murray.

Both defenseman played in all six games versus the Predators, logging regular minutes.

The news adds to the onslaught of injuries Anaheim had to deal with throughout the postseason, as ailments to netminder John Gibson and forwards Patrick Eaves and Rickard Rakell ravaged the Ducks' roster when it mattered most.

Murray and the Ducks face a major conundrum for the upcoming expansion draft due to numerous valuable players that need protection, and the injuries to Vatanen and Lindholm add yet another wrinkle.

With Kevin Bieksa's no-movement clause, Anaheim can only protect three more defenseman if they opt for the eight skater, one goalie format. That leaves one of Vatanen, Lindholm, or the up-and-coming Josh Manson ripe for the taking.

A potential trade for one of these players may be in the works, but the market could definitely shrink with such serious injuries now in play.

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