Canadiens will be without Dale Weise – and possibly Alexei Emelin – for Game 6 against Rangers

Dale Weise (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens will play Game 6 against the New York Rangers Thursday even more shorthanded than they were without goalie Carey Price: key heart-and-soul contributor Dale Weise will miss the game with what the team would only say is a “body injury”, while blueliner Alexei Emelin may also not be in the lineup when the teams square off at Madison Square Garden.

Few doubt the gritty Weise is suffering from a head injury he sustained when Blueshirts defenseman John Moore blindsided him in Game 5 Tuesday with a hit that got him suspended for two games. Emelin sat out Game 5 with suspected knee woes and is considered a game-time decision for Game 6. Read more

Losing star goalie Price means Canadiens must change their magic act to beat Rangers

Carey Price

To say the Montreal Canadiens will be fine without Carey Price – their superstar goalie and MVP, lost for at least the rest of the Eastern Conference Final after an unspecified leg injury suffered in Game 1 Saturday – is to say the famous illusionists Penn & Teller could survive without Penn (a.k.a. the only speaking member of the duo). Technically, and for the short term, it’s true: optimists can point to the immediate past and project the sense Teller and his replacement can replicate the magic, but the reality is the act is going to have to change for it to have any chance at success.

The same holds true with the Price-less Habs. They can still win, but no longer can their defense be bailed out by Price on a nightly, if not shiftly basis. No longer can they play with quite as much confidence on offense now that Price isn’t at the back of their minds, cooly assuring them he’ll be there to snuff out a 2-on-1 after a bad pinch or a blocked shot from the point that turns into a breakaway.

The finality of the news sent waves of nausea through the province of Quebec, so you can imagine how Montreal’s players feel. They’ll put on a brave face for the cameras – that’s what they’re expected to do and what they expect of themselves – but they also know neither of the options head coach Michel Therrien has to step in as the No. 1 netminder have established themselves as capable of doing what Price did right up until Rangers forward Chris Kreider barrelled into him in the second period of Game 1.

No matter whether it’s veteran backup Peter Budaj (who played the third period of Game 1 and surrendered three goals on eight shots) or 24-year-old American Leaguer Dustin Tokarski (who has all of 10 games of NHL experience) between the pipes, Therrien will have to shift the team’s focus from this point on if he plans on making the Stanley Cup Final. Read more

Victor Hedman is not snubbing the Swedish world championship team

Ryan Kennedy
Victor Hedman

I don’t know about you, but when I saw twitter posts last week saying Sweden asked Victor Hedman to play at the world championship and he declined, I assumed it was because of the Olympic snub. And while the Tampa Bay defenseman would have been well within his rights to do so, that’s not the true story: Hedman is simply too banged up with undisclosed injuries from his recently finished NHL campaign.

“My body wasn’t anywhere close to 100 percent,” Hedman told me. “It would have been too much of a risk.”

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Bruins’ Marchand, Blueshirts’ Carcillo add color to playoffs with their cartoonish villainy

Brad Marchand (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs hasn’t ended, but we’ve already seen a little bit of everything, including high-scoring games, low-scoring games, dirty hits and a series sweep. But the post-season is always more fun when fans have an old-fashioned villain on whom they can focus their disgust. And this year, they’ve got a couple gems who are so proudly roguish, they might as well twirl their moustaches while cackling with glee: Boston’s Brad Marchand and the Rangers’ Daniel Carcillo.

Carcillo and Marchand are arguably the NHL’s most talented agitators. Both willingly wear the hate of the opposition and their fans. And both were in prime rabble-rousing form Tuesday night. Marchand absorbed a knee-on-knee hit to his left knee and came up favoring his right leg, drawing criticism from fans and media who accused him of faking an injury.


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Matt Cooke: Once a rat, always a rat

Matt-Cooke-MIN

If you want to get even more angry at Matt Cooke this morning, just Google the phrase “Matt Cooke changed” and behold the numerous links to stories written by my colleagues in the hockey media.

Scores of words have been spilled about the Minnesota Wild left winger, attempting to put a nice face on a player whose biggest contributions at the NHL level have revolved around the ending of seasons and even careers of his opponents. Sure, it’s easy to fall in love with a sweet off-ice story, about how Cooke re-dedicated himself to his family after his wife had a serious health scare (which, let’s be clear, I wouldn’t wish on anybody), about how he’s a charitable man who gives so much of himself to those in need…but that doesn’t change who he is on the ice: a danger to anyone in the wrong-colored jersey.

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Playoff preparation with Crosby, Malkin, Duchene and MacKinnon

MacKinnon-Crosby

Trainer Andy O’Brien has a murderers’ row of clients and every summer he puts them through their paces. Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon are all on his roster and he makes sure his guys are ready for the season.

But now it’s playoff time, where the grind of 82 games – plus an Olympics-induced compressed schedule – gives way to the even harder road to the Stanley Cup. I caught up with O’Brien last week at the Gatorade High Performance Hockey Summit in Toronto to get a sense of how some of the NHL’s best are positioned for the playoffs.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Crosby locked up the Art Ross Trophy with 104 points in 80 games, so he’s been healthy. But he also played in the Olympics for Canada, winning gold and therefore playing until the final game of the tourney. Here’s O’Brien’s take on The Kid:

“It’s a real difficult season because it was a condensed schedule. For the players who actually had to go over to Sochi, they put a lot of stress on their nervous system and immune system by just going over there, then playing until the final game and going back to that condensed schedule. He’s really been preparing by making smart decisions on how to recover and working with the staff in Pittsburgh to make sure his body is fresh and ready. That’s the key in the playoffs. He’s learning every year from different playoff scenarios and it’s really just about managing energy. He’s done a phenomenal job of that this year.”

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Wild WHL game includes multiple suckerpunches and a KO

Nic-Petan

The Portland Winterhawks have dominated the Western League for years now and are back in the conference final thanks to a five-game series win over Victoria. But that last victory over the Royals was a brutal one, with several dirty plays marring the game.

To start, you have Florida Panthers pick Steven Hodges rabbit punching Pittsburgh Penguins blue-chipper Derrick Pouliot while Pouliot is fighting defenseman Joe Hicketts. Pouliot then KOs Hicketts, a small but feisty prospect for the 2014 draft.

But that wasn’t the end of it!

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