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Thursday

NHL Three Stars: Carter, Huberdeau lead division leaders

No. 1 Star: Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings 

The Kings forward scored two goals less than six minutes apart in the second period and then assisted on Andy Andreoff’s goal in the third, powering LA’s 3-0 win over the Calgary Flames. Jonathan Quick made 21 saves.

No. 2 Star: Mike Condon, Montreal Canadiens

The Habs goalie made 26 saves in shutting out the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-0. That included 14 shots in the first period. David Desharnais, Torrey Mitchell and Phillip Danault scored for the Canadiens.

No. 3 Star: Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

The rats flew in Sunrise as Huberdeau scored the game-tying and eventual game-winning goals in the Panthers’ 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. Jaromir Jagr had two assists. …

Honorable Mention: Jamie Benn scored goal No. 40 and added an assist in the Dallas Stars’ 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Benn is the first 40-goal scorer for the Stars since Mike Modano had 50 in 1993-94. ... Cody Ceci's goal with 3:57 remaining was the game-winner for the Ottawa Senators, as Minnesota's six-game winning streak ended in a 3-2 defeat. Bobby Ryan had two assists and was a plus-3. … Jeff Sknner and Victor Rask scored third-period goals to rally and defeat the New York Rangers, 4-3. Patrick Brown scored his first NHL goal and assist. … Phil Kessel had two goals and Kris Letang had a goal and an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins rolled over the Nashville Predators, 5-2. James Neal and Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist in the loss. … John Tavares had two goals and the New York Islanders earned a big win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3.  Anders Lee had the game-winner at 5:23 of the third period. … Cal O’Reilly and Johan Larsson had two goals each in the Buffalo Sabres’ 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. … The streak is over, as the Vancouver Canucks ended a nine-game skid and defeated the San Jose Sharks, 4-2. Ryan Miller made 32 saves. Jannik Hansen scored the go-ahead goal with 5:03 remaining.

Game of the Night:

 Carolina had a fun comeback to spoil Eric Staal's homecoming.

Did You Know? Eric Staal had zero points, had three shots on goal and three hits in 18:02 of ice time in his first game back in Raleigh.

Dishonorable Mention: The Coyotes were without Oliver Ekman-Larsson (illness) and lost Martin Hanzal, who left the game in the first period with an upper body injury. … Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Marchessault were a minus-3. … Pekka Rinne was pulled again after giving up four goals in 40 minutes.  … Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic played 2:56 before he left the gam with a lower-body injury after a collision with Scott Hartnell. ...  This was not Thomas Greiss's finest moment:

Watch touching Eric Staal video tribute from Carolina Hurricanes

Eric Staal played his first game in Raleigh as a member of the New York Rangers on Thursday night after having played 909 of them as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Canes topped the Rangers, 4-3, in a game that saw Staal go scoreless in 18:02. If he had nerves, it would be understandable: Emotions were running high for the former Carolina star and the local fans.

It began when he arrived at PNC Arena, via Rangers Rants:

On a more touching and serious note, Eric Staal was greeted as he walked to the Rangers dressing room with a photo collage on the wall of about 100 photos from his time with the Hurricanes, topped with a banner than just read, “Thank You Eric.”

“I thought it was really cool actually,” Staal said. “When you’re somewhere as long as I’ve been there’s an attachment to the area, to the people. For them to do something like that it kind of brings back a lot of memories. A lot of pictures, I was pretty young in some of them, long locks. Some moments you never forget so that was pretty cool. I’m thankful people took time to come up with pictures like that and memories I’ll remember forever.”

Then, during the first period, the Hurricanes played a stirring tribute video to Staal, detailing his career from his draft year through his dominant goal-scoring years through his time as an All-Star Game captain for the event in Raleigh. 

As the fans cheered, Staal twice saluted the appreciative crowd while his former teammates on the Carolina bench banged their sticks in appreciation. As the sign read: "Thanks for the memories, Eric."

A truly memorable night, and one that Staal will always remember (even when he re-signs with the Hurricanes in the summer). 

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Panthers gave fans 10,000 rubber rats; guess what happened? (Video)

via @BarryARothman

Twenty years ago, the Florida Panthers had “The Year Of The Rat.” 

It was a season in which the Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Colorado Avalanche. It was a season where forward Scott Mellanby scored two goals after killing a rat with his stick in the locker room, sparking a fan tradition in which they tossed rubber rats on the ice after goals.

That tradition has continued here and there through the years, and especially when the Panthers are in contention, as they are this season. But to commemorate the anniversary of the 1996 season, the Panthers gave away 10,000 special rubber rats to fans before their game against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.

Key phrase: Before the game.

So when Jonathan Huberdeau scored his 17th goal of the season … well, you imagine what happened next.

The delay lasted 10 minutes.

According to the Miami Herald, “the Panthers hope fans keep these rats as souvenirs as they say ‘Year of the Rat 1995-96’ printed on them.” Yeah, not so much …

As is tradition, the fans were warned not to toss any more rats on the ice lest the home team get a delay of game penalty, therefore incentivizing visiting Devils fans to do just that. 

Photo via Barry Rothman

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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NHL in Mexico City? Preseason games may head South of Border

OK, let’s just get this out of the way up front: Yes, we imagine they would throw sombreros for a hat trick. 

Mexican news agency NOTIMEX is reporting that Mexico City officials have had two meetings with NHL officials about bringing two preseasons games South of the Border, presumably in the 2016-17 season, before President Trump constructs an impenetrable wall forever separating the nations.

The report states that the games would likely be held at Mexico City's Palacio de los Deportes. According to Wikipedia, the stadium seats 17,800 and hosted an NBA regular season game between the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks in 1997. If not, there are two convention centers that might be available.

The Dallas Stars don’t appear to be one of the teams the Mexico City officials are interested in, although we imagine the NHL might negotiate on that point. Joaquin de la Garma, president of the Sports Federation of Mexico Ice Hockey, said that the NHL teams that most fans have in Mexico are San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins.

The officials want to play one game on a Friday night and another on Sunday afternoon.

Bill Meltzer took a look at hockey in Mexico for NHL.com in 2010, and it remains a robust niche sport for those who participate. But it’s been growing for over a decade, and perhaps the time is right for the NHL to bring an exhibition series there.

If nothing else, we’ll finally have an appropriate venue for the Taco Cannon.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Huge If True: Where will Nail Yakupov end up?

[HUGE IF TRUE breaks down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]

The Rumor

Over the weekend it was revealed that Nail Yakupov submitted a trade request with Edmonton at some point earlier this season. His agent was allowed by the Oilers to speak with other teams and potentially work out a deal.

And while eight or so other clubs were interested, “something went wrong,” Yakupov told Sport-Express. So he's still an Oiler, but with this trade request now very public, the Oilers circling the drain once again, even Taylor Hall is acknowledging that it's not just Yakupov who might end up being shipped out of town. The organization has already vaguely threatened change, and the team's play in recent weeks doesn't look like it's earned anyone a stay of execution.

But right now that's all speculative. All we know for sure is that Yakupov wants out — and really, who can blame him? — and that a handful of teams expressed a clear interest.

Those include Montreal, Winnipeg, New Jersey and Carolina, all teams that might as well take a flyer on a potentially high-end talent that's been chronically misused by a club that's chronically mismanaged. As far back as the days after the deadline, Elliotte Friedman was already opining that if you're not using him in your top-six, you might as well not be using him at all.

So the question is, how will the Oilers proceed here? They're under no actual obligation to trade him, of course. It was a request and not a demand, but even if it had been the latter, that doesn't compel action from Peter Chiarelli. Yakupov still has one year at $2.5 million left on his contract, meaning that if guys who aren't Yakupov are shipped out (Jordan Eberle, just for example) there you have a cheap top-six wing ready to go.

Of course, if you do ship him away, you need to figure out what he's worth to you.

Who's Going Where?

First thing to note here is that Yakupov has requested a trade before, back when he was merely an underperforming sophomore. Obviously Edmonton was not all that willing to move him at the time.

But second, let's talk about the four teams confirmed by Yakupov first: Montreal, Winnipeg, New Jersey and Carolina. Without getting into specifics, Friedman said this week that, “at least one club made a push, but it sounds like they ran out of time at the deadline.” The problem, though, is that Edmonton seemed to be asking for more than anyone was willing to offer at the time.

Meanwhile, on TSN's Insider Trading, Pierre LeBrun noted that a trade this summer is still at least somewhat likely, but if no one meets the asking price, the team would bring him back again next season in good faith and all that. LeBrun termed the offers the Oilers received “low-ball.” The asking price in this case? “A young player that can play in their NHL lineup.” All the above-listed clubs certainly have those on hand, but whether they'd be willing to part with those players for a reclamation project, even one with a high-end talent level like Yakupov, is unclear. Maybe someone gets desperate for the offense he theoretically provides and budges on something, but who knows?

A lot of this likely relates back to how the draft lottery shakes out. If Edmonton somehow wins again, getting Auston Matthews could change everything. They might be compelled by an offer or two to deal the pick if they can get a good young defenseman (but Don Maloney says it won't be Oliver Ekman-Larsson), and Bob McKenzie added the team would like to add some goaltending depth as well this summer.

The Oilers looking for defense and goaltending? Yeah, big surprise there.

McKenzie believes a deal could come along at the draft, probably as part of a package. In addition to the four clubs specifically mentioned, one must also remember Yakupov teased a few more as well. And who doesn't love a mystery team?

One destination Yakupov has entirely ruled out is the KHL. That seems like a smart move for him. The KHL is bad.

The Implications

Pretty clear that everyone would probably benefit from such a move. In much the same way Justin Schultz has miraculously become a solid-enough third-pairing defenseman for the Penguins since he was shipped out of Edmonton, there's no reason to believe Yakupov wouldn't likewise benefit.

The presence of mystery teams in this whole thing become interesting in a hurry. Everyone needs a decent second-line scoring threat, which Yakupov potentially provides, but how many are willing to pay for it with roster players at the draft rather than just trying to buy one on the UFA market a week later? How many have roster players to give in the first place? How many would give them up for Nail Yakupov?

We don't know what Edmonton's asking price was for sure, but one imagines that Yakupov is being shopped on the basis of the Oilers' acknowledgement that they screwed things up a bit. Would teams be smart to give up a roster player for him? It depends on the player.

This is not dissimilar to the Jonathan Drouin situation in Tampa: The team is only willing to move the player if someone meets their exact asking price. I think that's a reasonable way to proceed, especially in the case of a team headed for a shakeup anyway.

If you're looking for scoring help, you have to ask yourself this: How much more would Jordan Eberle, in theory, cost than Yakupov? Wouldn't you rather have the proven commodity for a little bit more than the one with a greater likelihood of going bust, even if the latter is younger and cheaper both in terms of money and what you have to give up to get him?

Certainly, you weigh those pros and cons for a while before you make a decision on a trade. And that's very much a wait-and-see proposition.

This Is So Huge, If True: Is It True?

On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable and 5 being the least:

We'll know so much more about this by the draft. Given all the smoke around this, and the fairly definitive level at which everyone is speaking, it seems likely that Yakupov will be traded around draft time. But also, there is an apparent contingency plan in place, and I think that's in everyone's best interest.

Yakupov will be an RFA next summer. No need for Edmonton to really lean into this if they don't feel the need.

For this reason, we can give this rumor:

poop

The odds Yakupov's last game in an Oilers jersey is on April 9 remain quite high. Wouldn't say it's a sure thing quite yet, though.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

Jason Chimera fined 5K for butt-ending Shayne Gostisbehere (Video)

The NHL fined Washington Capitals forward Jason Chimera a league maximum $5,000 for butt-ending Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere in their Wednesday night game.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

At the 17:29 mark of the second period, the whistle blew to signify the end of the play. As both players skated behind the Flyers net, Chimera used the butt-end of his stick to hit Gostisbehere in the side of his mid-section. The rookie defenseman crumpled to the ice, but remained in the game, a 2-1 shootout win by the Flyers.

Earlier, Gostisbehere gave Chimera a slash to the mid-section area.

No penalty was called on either play.

Chimera has a mostly clean record in his 945-game NHL career. He was fined $4,487.18 in 2013 for boarding Edmonton Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz. In 2012, he was ejected from a game against the Boston Bruins for charging Adam McQuaid, but did not receive supplemental discipline. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Nate Diaz says UFC babies Conor McGregor, gives him whatever he wants

Nate Diaz has fought 22 times in the UFC against 21 different opponents while compiling a 14-8 mark in the promotion. After each of those eight losses, to Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, Gray Maynard, Dong Hyun Kim, Rory MacDonald, Benson Henderson, Josh Thomson and Rafael dos Anjos, he wanted a chance at revenge.

The only time, though, he got it was when he met Maynard, but it was nearly four years before he got the chance to make amends.

Diaz became animated when asked if he respected Conor McGregor for seeking a rematch against him at the same terms as they were in their bout in UFC 196 on March 5. Diaz submitted McGregor with a rear naked choke in the second round of that fight, leading to a rematch on July 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas which will headline UFC 200.

"It's the biggest fight out there," said Diaz, who has made it clear he only wants big fights.

But Diaz wasn't about to pat his opponent on the back. McGregor is the featherweight champion, which has a limit of 145 pounds, and agreed to fight Diaz at 170 on March 5 after dos Anjos broke a foot and had to pull out just 11 days before the fight.

Nate Diaz (R) says he asked for a rematch with Rafael dos Anjos (L), but says the UFC instead preferred to baby Conor McGregor. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)Diaz isn't thrilled with the questions he's gotten since the rematch was announced Wednesday about McGregor insisting upon the rematch.

Specifically, he's been asked if his respect for McGregor has increased since McGregor demanded a rematch under the same terms he lost at UFC 196.

"[Expletive] no, it doesn't," Diaz said. "[Expletive] no! I'm sick of hearing this shit. Everybody's talking that. Even [UFC president] Dana White is pushing it out there that they admire this. Yeah, 100 percent he wants redemption, but guess what? I've been 100 percent on redeeming myself in every loss I've had. They were like, 'Don't even call. You're not getting a rematch.' It wasn't even a consideration. I don't want to hear any more praise about that [expletive] wanting a rematch. Or course he wants a rematch, which is how you should be if you get your ass whipped by anyone.

"If you don't feel like that, you shouldn't even be in this [expletive] game. Redeem himself? [Expletive] no! He's lucky he's getting a second chance. Me and a lot of other people who have lost before have never gotten that second chance. One and done. Lose a fight and you'll never see that guy again. I wanted 10 rematches and I didn't get those. So [expletive] no. He's like a spoiled little kid. He should be thanking me for this [expletive] rematch."

In the aftermath of UFC 196, White had mentioned Diaz might make a good challenger for welterweight champion Robbie Lawler. And Diaz said he'd brought up a rematch with dos Anjos, who defeated Diaz in 2014.

Dos Anjos now holds the lightweight title and a bout with him would give Diaz the opportunity to avenge that Dec. 13, 2014, defeat as well as give him another crack at the championship. DIaz lost to Henderson for the title in 2012.

He said he mentioned dos Anjos to UFC officials, but got nowhere with it.

"Without a question [I asked for a dos Anjos rematch], but they [expletive] want to baby McGregor," Diaz said. "They give him whatever he wants. I decided I'm not going to hold out like everyone else. I'm going to get down to business, slap this [expletive] and then be on my way and get my rematches."

 

No, Canada: NHL Playoffs Canadian team free for 1st time since 1970

Canada

After the elimination of the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday night, Canada won’t have any of its seven teams in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

No Sens nor Flames nor Leafs. No Jets nor Habs nor Nucks.

(Some may say I failed to list the Oilers, but if the playoffs are happening, this is simply inferred.)

The last time this happened was 46 years ago in 1969-70, when the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs were two of four teams to miss the playoffs in a 12-team league. Looking back on it is sort of hilarious: The Canadiens would have been in first place in the West, and the Leafs would have been second. Instead, the Minnesota North Stars (.395 winning percentage) and the Oakland Seals (.382).

Luckily, the NHL realigned and added some expansion patsies to ensure they’d return to the postseason in 1971.

This time, Canadian teams had seven chances at securing one of 16 playoff spots, and failed epically. And these weren’t valiant efforts that just fell a point or two short of achieving postseason glory – these seasons were a bushel of moldy vegetables you may not even want to use for compost.

(Although it should be said that quietly bowing out with weeks to go in the regular season so the American teams can focus on each other is the epitome of Canadian politeness.)

The Montreal Canadiens lost goalie Carey Price to injury, and with him any semblance of confidence or teamwork. The Ottawa Senators inexplicably fell short of contention, and owner Eugene Melnyk is vowing to have a full forensic investigation. The Toronto Maple Leafs deserve credit for achieving their goals, which was to trade every veteran body, finish last in the division and have a roster that could be reasonably termed “expansion level.”

The Winnipeg Jets, a playoff team last season, couldn’t keep pace in the Division of  Death, huffing and wheezing like a chubby kid running a high-school mile. (Raises hand from experience.) The Calgary Flames, a playoff team last season, spent an entire season making their advanced stats critics look like the Stephen Hawkings of hockey. The Vancouver Canucks, also a playoff team last season, were stunned to discover that having your entire offensive game-plan as “give it to the Swedish twins in their mid-30s” is an indication that, yes, you might be a rebuilding team.

And the Edmonton Oilers lost prized rookie Connor McDavid for over half the season to injury but gained yet another year in the NHL’s basement. Huzzah.

As an American hockey fan, all of this was heartwarming.

At first.

For example, it guaranteed the Stanley Cup will remain with an American team, as it has every NHL season since 1993. This has become a part of U.S. pride, to the point where President Obama uses it to troll the Canadian Prime Minister.

It also eliminates any chance that the American and/or Canadian national anthem will be booed at any point during the playoffs, which is always a fairly thorny issue. Also, zero chance someone will goof up the words of “O Canada” by starting to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” instead.

And there’s also a perverse joy in seeing how the NHL reacts to not having any Canadian teams involved in their postseason, what with Canadian fan interest and Canadian media rights money being the lifeblood of the League.

Gary Bettman most recently went with "fifty percent of the players in this game are from Canada, so for people to suggest that there isn't still a Canadian-centric focus I think is a little misleading."

Can’t wait for those Sportsnet commercials on Canadian TV: “Watch Mississauga’s Robby Fabbri lead the St. Louis Blues against Regina’s Matt Dumba and the Minnesota Wild …”

But like I said: All of this was heartwarming at first.

The more I considered this “No, Canada” postseason, a Yukon chill fell over my American hockey soul.

Consider that the Oilers and Flames and Jets each have collections of young players of varying degrees of potential greatness. Consider that with the Leafs and Canucks nearly bottoming out, their fortunes shall reverse eventually. Montreal and Ottawa could, with a few tweaks, be back in the postseason next year.

This competitive nadir for the Canadian NHL teams could very well be the dawn of an era of dominance in which moribund franchises become the NHL’s elite, All-Canadian series suck the ratings out of American television and the Stanley Cup is wedged in a river of maple syrup for decades.

Enjoy this one while we can, fellow Americans. For while we’ve expunged the Canadians from our playoffs, they’ll be back. With a vengeance. And they’ll probably have American Auston Matthews with them, taken first overall in the NHL Draft with one of seven possible Canadian first overall picks.

There’s a nightmare sequence in the new “Batman v Superman” in which the Dark Knight envisions a world enslaved by Superman, who has shock troopers wearing his ‘S’ shield rounding up and murdering those on the side of good and light. (Because that movie has, like, a lot of murder.)

Now picture a Maple Leaf flag instead of a Kryptonian insignia, and Connor McDavid instead of Superman, and shudder.

For this could be our future. The Dawn of Just 'Ehs.'

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey: Lundqvist, Jagr good Thursday plays

By Sasha Yodashkin

Thursday's 10-game NHL slate should be an exciting one, with many of the night's contests having heavy playoff implications. Rangers players should make for popular picks as they look to extend their dominance over the Hurricanes, but there are plenty of solid options to be found on other rosters as well. Regardless of where their teams rank in the standings, these individuals are all primed to perform well Thursday.

GOALIE

Henrik Lundqvist, NYR at CAR ($30) -Lundqvist's career splits against the Hurricanes are too good to ignore, as The King has ruled Carolina with a 23-9-1 record and 2.03 GAA. He has further improved those marks by going 3-0-0 with a 1.33 GAA this season, and makes for a tremendous value at just $30 as he goes for the season sweep.

Goalie to Avoid:

Pekka Rinne, NSH at PIT ($34) - Rinne has largely turned things around after struggling earlier in the season, but his 2.64 road GAA is still markedly higher than his 2.28 mark at Bridgestone Arena. Add in the fact that he's facing a Pittsburgh team that has been on a scoring spree while winning nine of its last 10, and Rinne makes for an unappealing option despite his reasonable price.

CENTER

Eric Staal, NYR at CAR ($15) - Staal broke out with two goals Sunday against the Penguins, but is still available at the discount price of $15. The longtime Hurricanes captain should be extra motivated to stay hot against his former team, and has a strong chance of success considering New York's recent dominance against Carolina. His offensive pedigree defies expectations for players in his price range, and the veteran should start producing more consistently now that he's had some time to adjust to the Rangers system.

Center to Avoid:

Ryan Johansen, NSH at PIT ($20) - Johansen hasn't been particularly effective on the road recently, averaging just 4.2 fantasy points per game in his last 10 appearances away from Nashville. Don't expect a sudden turnaround against the red-hot Penguins. 

WING

Jaromir Jagr, FLA vs. NJ ($18) - With a goal and three assists over his last three games, Jagr is heating up heading into a matchup with one of his many former teams. The 18-time 25-goal scorer costs just $18, which is a bargain price considering his time-tested ability to put the puck in the net at a high rate. With Vincent Trocheck out for the remainder of the regular season, don't be surprised if Jagr steps up to the task of carrying the mail offensively for Florida.

Mike Hoffman, OTT at MIN ($20) - Hoffman has been heating up, tallying at least 8.0 fantasy points in six of seven games heading into Ottawa's back-to-back set to conclude March. The talented young scorer has displayed tremendous unselfishness with two goals and six assists over that span, and should be able to keep the good times rolling against a Wild team that scored against in their last meeting on March 15.

Wings to Avoid:

Daniel Sedin, VAN at SJ ($17) - Like the rest of the Canucks, Sedin has been scuffling during Vancouver's nine-game losing streak. His -1.0 fantasy points against the Sharks on Tuesday gave the Swede just 21.0 total in that span, and he's unlikely to see a significant uptick in production against the same opponent just two days later.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, CLS at NYI ($18) - Bjorkstrand is still priced at a hefty $18 despite totaling just one assist and 18.0 fantasy points in his last five games. The rookie doesn't quite seem ready to make a major impact at the NHL level yet. 

DEFENSE

Trevor Daley, PIT vs. NSH ($19) - Daley is one of many Penguins to pick up the pace offensively lately, with two goals and four assists in his last six games. His 11.5 fantasy point per game average is fantastic for a $19 player, and he's showing no signs of slowing down while skating on a pairing with premier blueline producer Kris Letang.

John Klingberg, DAL vs. ARI ($20) - Klingberg has been contributing in a variety of ways over his last six full appearances, totaling two assists, a plus-8 rating and 20 shots on goal while averaging 8.5 fantasy points per game. The offensive-minded defenseman has a tremendous chance to add to his 54 points against Arizona's 27th-ranked defense, and Dallas' superiority as a team makes Klingberg a high-upside plus/minus asset as well given his recent success in that category.

Defensemen to Avoid:

Calvin de Haan, NYI vs. CLS ($17) - De Haan doesn't get on the scoresheet much, which is why he has to excel in other categories to provide value. Unfortunately the $17 defenseman hasn't been doing that lately -- he owns a miserable minus-5 rating to go along with just four points in his last 15 appearances, making De Haan a subpar option for that price.

Casey Nelson, BUF vs. TOR ($20) - Nelson has picked up four assists in his first three NHL games, but his lack of ice time raises skepticism about the Minnesota State product's ability to maintain that pace. His matchup against the Maple Leafs is solid, but $20 is an overpay considering the Sabres still don't trust the rookie in most situations.

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Yahoo Free NHL Live Stream of the Day: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Buffalo Sabres

Hey, remember when Mike Babcock was almost going to coach the Buffalo Sabres, and then took the money and ran to the Toronto Maple Leafs?

The Sabres are six points better than the Leafs this season, and a little closer to contention than Toronto at the moment. But it's all about the future for both teams. 

You can watch Maple Leafs against the Sabres here for free via a Yahoo Sports live stream beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

Here's the remaining list of Yahoo free NHL live stream games this season.

(Note: The stream is only available in the U.S. and will not work on mobile) 

For more information on Yahoo's NHL live streaming, visit our Tumblr page.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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NHL Power Rankings: St. Louis Blues making big move

The St. Louis Blues have won five in a row and are trying to secure the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Have they hopped over their Central Division rivals in our power rankings?

Who are the top teams? Who are the bottom teams? Find out here!

Every other week, Yahoo Sports will be bringing you NHL Power Rankings as voted on by the Y! Sports staff and Puck Daddy editors. Please keep in mind these rankings were created prior to Wednesday night’s games.

Feel free to provide your own rankings in the comments section. See you in two weeks!

Questions? Comments? Hit us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com.

Price practices; Hobey Baker nominees; Rats are coming (Puck Headlines)

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com.

• Stop liking our sport, Bieber. [Coyotes]

• Hobey Baker nominees announced: Kyle Connor, Thatcher Demko, and Jimmy Vesey. [Hobey Baker]

• Carey Price practiced with his teammates for the first time since November. [The Score]

• Marian Gaborik may not be back in time for the start of the Los Angeles Kings playoff run. [LA Times]

• The Buffalo Sabres have shut down Evander Kane for the rest of the season. Plus updated on Robin Lehner and Tyler Ennis. [Buffalo News]

• Bruce Arthur: Unsealed NHL emails show the league is governed, and thus hindered by, 'old school' thinking. [The Star]

• Down Goes Brown: Five first overall busts who were traded, and what their teams got in return. [THN]

• Rob Rossi: Could 'winning for Mario Lemieux' be the motivation the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for? Sidney Crosby thinks so. [Trib Live]

• The absence of these five currently injured player will have ramifications for their teams in the playoffs. [CBS Sports]

• Phil Kessel is thriving on his own line, sans Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. [NHL]

• For the first time in 38 years, the annual intramural BurMac Cup at St. Francis Xavier University won't be played in 2017 due to rowdy fans. [CBC]

• With their playoff streak hanging by a thread, the Detroit Red Wings defense has 'eliminate easy chances.' [Detroit Free Press]

• Carl Gunnarsson took a paycut to re-sign with the St. Louis Blues. To him, it's not all about the money. [St. Louis Game Time]

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest today]

• In the third period of a March 19 game, Mike Reilly's butt was (figuratively) stapled to the bench. Since then, he's responded in a big way for the Minnesota Wild. [Wild Xtra]

• Oscar Lindberg deserves a shot in the New York Rangers lineup. [Blue Seat Blogs]

• "More and more it is looking as if [the Boston Bruins] misread their team’s potential the same way they misread the market for Loui Eriksson at the trade deadline." [Boston Sports Desk]

• Ways for Canadian NHL fans to cope without having a team in the playoffs. [SB Nation]

• Five players to get rid of early before they become too expensive in your salary cap fantasy league. [Dobber]

• Joe Veleno was the first 'exceptional status player' of the QMJHL. John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, and Sean Day had all be granted the status before, but in the OHL. [Buzzing the Net]

• Pensacola Ice Flyers fan favorite pugilist Dave Segal is hanging up the skates early due to injuries. Teammates and combatants remember his career. [Pro Hockey News]

• Hayley Moore is returning as general manger to the Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride for the 2016-17 season. [NWHL]

• Some thoughts on the CWHL, NWHL, and the future of women's hockey. [Avry Sports]

• The CWHL opened their draft for post-collegiate women's hockey players. [Today's Slapshot]

• Finally, see if you can spot the Kevin Spacey reference in this great promo ad from the Florida Panthers. [@FlaPanthers]

- - - - - - -

Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY:

NHL on track to have fewer fights than in lockout season

Hockey fighting has been in decline in the NHL since 2008-09, with the number of fights per game decreasing each season. In 2009, we had 734 fights for 0.60 fights per game; last season, those numbers were down to 391 fights and 0.32 fights per game. 

So with most teams down to about a half-dozen games left in the 2015-16 regular season, what’s the current track for hockey fighting this season?

We checked out the numbers on HockeyFights.com, and discovered we’re in for some historic lows:

HockeyFights.com

First off, the number of games with fights is assuredly going to be under 300 for the first time in an 82-game season since Hockey Fights started tracking them in 2000-01. The number of fights per game will also dip under 0.30 for the first time. The number of games with a fight could dip as low as 23.32 percent. The number of players who will have fought will also drop. 

But the most interesting current projection is number of total fights. Hockey Fights is projecting 346 fights this season, with the total currently sitting at 323 in 1,149 games.

If that holds, the NHL will have had fewer fights in this 82-game season than it would have had in the 48-game lockout-shortened season (347).

That’s a stunning bit of trivia, but not exactly a stunning number. The downward trend in NHL fighting is measurable and it’s probably irreversible. We have 734 fights in 2008-09. Now we have less than half of that total.

That’s why reading the first NHL email dump was so interesting. There was so much debate about fighting, its place in the game, its role in concussions and player safety and whether it should be banned outright, as Brendan Shanahan suggested. There wasn’t much talk about it organically leaving the game as the generations pass and personnel changes to match the current speed and skill of the product.

As late as 2011, the NHL was debating internally what to do with players that frequently fight.

To that end, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet had an interesting note this week about the American Hockey League:

The American Hockey League is considering a similar fighting quota to the Ontario Hockey League’s, potentially for next season. Commissioner Dave Andrews declined to comment, but he did ask some NHL teams for feedback on the possibility. The objective is not to eliminate fighting, but to impact players the league sees as “one-dimensional.” A couple years ago, the AHL dropped the number of fighting majors necessary for ejection from a game from three, down to two. From what I understand, the new measures would target those who accumulate fighting majors during the season.

As it stands, there are 15 players in the NHL that have fought a total of 132 times this season. Should the NHL seek to enact something similar? 

--

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Jon Jones slapped with extra probation stipulations

Jon Jones was released from jail on Thursday. (AP Photo)The highly anticipated main event of UFC 197 between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier remains intact.

After being in custody at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center in New Mexico since Tuesday due to a probation violation stemming from five traffic citations, Jones was released after a judge added some extra stipulations to his current probation.

Jones appeared at his hearing in the New Mexico Second Judicial District Court Thursday morning and Judge Michael E. Martinez allowed Jones to go home as long as the 28-year-old agrees to attend anger management and driver improvement classes, commit to 60 hours of community service and get approval from his probation officer every time he wants to drive.

Things could have gone much worse for Jones and there was some concern that his latest run-in with the law could have cost him his chance at competing for the UFC light heavyweight title he was stripped of last year. Instead, “Bones” will have to be even more careful than he was before because the judge suggested that “it won’t go well” for him if he is back in court before the end of his probation.

On March 24, Jones was pulled over and cited for five traffic offenses, which included drag racing, exhibition driving, use of modification of exhaust systems, not maintaining traffic lanes and the improper display of a registration plate. A video surfaced that found Jones in a heated verbal confrontation with the citing officer where the UFC star referred to the cop as a “pig” and a “liar.” The incident would have been routine had it not been for Jones being only one-third of the way through an 18-month probation stemming from a hit-and-run incident with a pregnant woman last April.

The incident also cost Jones his UFC light heavyweight title, which is now in the possession of Daniel Cormier, who Jones last fought in January 2015. Jones will get the opportunity to reclaim the title he never lost in the Octagon on April 23 in Las Vegas.

Yahoo Fantasy Hockey: The Best and Worst of 2015-16

Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website DobberHockey back in 2005 and has been Puck Daddy's resident fantasy hockey 'expert' since 2009.

We’re heading into the last week of the NHL season and you know that means. That’s right – it’s time for the fluff pieces! Your fantasy squad won or lost the championship thanks to some of the below names. This column kicks off about 13 days of “best of” and “playoff primer” articles that will be all over the Internet. I’m happy to be one of the first; perhaps I can desensitize you to it a little bit.

[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Hockey contest now]

Top 10 Pleasant Fantasy Hockey Surprises

10. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (72-35-20-55, plus-19, 90 PIM, 231 SOG, 8 PPPts)

Marchand has slowed down significantly, otherwise he’d be closer to the top of the list. As things stand now he is on pace to finish with 59 points, which isn’t too far above his career high. But it’s his 35 goals that is the surprise. Brad Marchand, 40-goal scorer. Does that sound weird?

9. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets (77-20-49-69, plus-4, 47 PIM, 239 SOG, 16 PPPts)

Wheeler has now tied his career high and he’s certain to reach 72 or 73 points. Normally that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, but consider that scoring is down this year. Instead of looking at his total points, look at his ranking in the scoring race: 11th.

8. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (77-18-56-74, plus-27, 54 PIM, 115 SOG, 25 PPPts)

Do you remember back in the day when Jumbo Joe was getting 100-plus penalty minutes? Me either. He’s about to return to his highest PIM level since 2008. But the real surprise is the point total, which is set to be his highest since 2010. More impressive? The 36-year-old started the year with 16 points in 29 games. That means he had 58 points in his last 48 games.

7. Jaromir Jagr, Florida Panthers (73-25-33-58, plus-17, 44 PIM, 132 SOG, 10 PPPts)

A 60-point season at the age of 44? Amazing. Anyone who drafted him in September was just hoping for 45 points and a tolerable plus/minus.

6. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (77-39-55-94, plus-12, 30 PIM, 267 SOG, 32 PPPts)

Sure, there may have been some of you who projected Kane to win the scoring title this year. Not many of you, but some. However, his first half of the season was really something else. He’ll win the Art Ross with relative ease, going from wire to wire. Remember that back in September you were hesitant to even draft him due to his legal troubles.

5. Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers (75-17-41-58, plus-23, 42 PIM, 142 SOG, 12 PPPts)

The 32-year-old is coming off of a 44-point season and some of the kids with the Panthers were starting to take over. But rather than decline, Jokinen is having his best season ever. He already has his second highest point total and PIM total, and he’s set career highs in both assists and plus/minus. He’s tied for 29th in NHL scoring.

4. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks (36-21-4, 2.25 GAA, 0.919 SV%, 5 SO)

In terms of how his numbers rank in fantasy hockey, Jones sits third among goaltenders. Last summer many poolies (including myself) didn’t completely rule out Alex Stalock in a 1A/1B situation. Jones was considered a risk to have half of his starts cannibalized.

3. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (76-20-54-74, plus-28, 30 PIM, 169 SOG, 19 PPPts)

Most poolies thought that Kuznetsov could do this. Just not this year. Simply consult your fantasy guides from last summer and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any projection higher than 55 points.

2. Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers (58-16-26-42, plus-8, 20 PIM, 139 SOG, 21 PPPts)

Only drafted in keeper leagues, ‘Ghost’ took the fantasy world by storm. Especially during his 15-game points streak back in February.

1. Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks (75-25-39-64, plus-2, 32 PIM, 171 SOG, 18 PPPts)

Undrafted free agents from Europe almost never work. For every Niklas Backstrom there are five Fabian Brunnstroms. Taking a flier on one has, until now, never really helped your active roster. Sure, maybe a couple of years later a Ville Leino will help you, but immediate help? Nope. That is, until Panarin arrived. His late-season swoon will stop him from getting 70 points, but he’ll still top 65 and possibly take the Calder Trophy.

Top 10 (Bottom 10?) Biggest Fantasy Hockey Disappointments

10. Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning (56-15-20-35, plus-12, 16 PIM, 106 SOG, 5 PPPts)

His current streak of eight points in five games is too little, too late. After a 59-point rookie season and a 63-point sophomore campaign, fantasy owners were hoping for something closer to 70. Granted, injuries played a big part of it, but even if he played those 20 games he missed things would still be disappointing. His line ‘The Triplets’ was so disappointing that they were broken up for a time, with Nikita Kucherov moving up to the Steven Stamkos line.

9. Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks (63-13-14-27, minus-30, 12 PIM, 199 SOG, 9 PPPts)

Most poolies expected a small decline from last season’s 63 points, but this is ridiculous. He’ll be 35 next season so don’t expect a huge rebound from this train wreck of a campaign.

8. Eric Staal, New York Rangers (77-13-25-38, minus-1, 34 PIM, 7 PPPts)

As a rookie in 2005-06, Staal tallied 31 points. Since that time he’s never finished with fewer than 53 points – and that was during a lockout-shortened year!

7. John Tavares, New York Islanders (72-27-32-59, minus-1, 36 PIM, 231 SOG, 17 PPPts)

Okay, so he’s learning to play a more complete game. Great. Now how does that help me, the poor sucker who drafted him expecting 85 points?

6. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (32-20-10, 2.44 GAA, 0.909 SV%, 4 SO)

On one hand, Rinne should still finish with 35 wins. That still helps a lot of owners. But on the other hand, his save percentage is atrocious and his goals-against average is subpar. Things were even worse back in February though. He’s actually pushed his numbers towards mediocrity thanks to a 0.922 SV% since February 22.

5. Rick Nash, New York Rangers (54-14-21-35, plus-7, 24 PIM, 172 SOG, 7 PPPts)

After a 69-point season Nash is going to be lucky to hit 40 this year. He’s missed 22 games, but production is still down.

4. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets (13-18-1, 2.73 GAA, 0.909 SV%, 1 SO)

He killed any fantasy team that drafted him to be their No.2 goaltender. Hopefully some of you recovered by grabbing the rare waiver help that was available such as Louis Domingue or the second-half Cam Talbot.

3. Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins (76-23-31-54, plus-7, 18 PIM, 251 SOG, 15 PPPts)

Widely considered this year’s most overrated player, thanks to his recent surge Kessel could still salvage a 60-point season. So while that hurts his fantasy owners, it at least contributes. A little.

2. Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning (63-14-23-37, plus-6, 16 PIM, 154 SOG, 13 PPPts)

After getting 72 points last year in the regular season and another 23 in the playoffs, the young Johnson was expected to at least match. Not even close. But thanks to a solid last three or four weeks he has a shot at 40 points – which is still pretty sad, even considering that he missed 13 games. Sure, he played injured and kudos to him, but how does that help his fantasy owner?

1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (10-2-0, 2.06 GAA, 0.934 SV%, 2 SO)

The best asset to own in all of fantasy hockey has been injured since late October. He won all three games during a brief return in November but has otherwise been on the shelf. Most of his fantasy owners took him with their first or second round pick. Most of his owners are out of the running this year. Some would argue that an injured player shouldn’t be considered a ‘disappointment’. Well…I’m disappointed that he was hurt, aren’t you? 

Top 10 Rotisserie Hockey Players

Based on G, A, +/-, PIM, SOG, PPPts

This is the actual Top 10 based on numbers run through Wednesday, though I did have to manually insert the goaltenders where I thought they should be.

Honorable Mention: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (76-20-54-74, plus-28, 30 PIM, 169 SOG, 19 PPPts)

As I already noted in the surprise section, Kuznetsov has been quite the revelation. We thought he could do this, we just didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

10. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (75-29-34-63, plus-11, 49 PIM, 263 SOG, 24 PPPts)

In his pre-concussion days, Bergeron was a 30-goal, 70-point, 300-SOG player. Now he’s on the verge of getting back there and has a career high for PIM to boot.

9. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks (35-18-4, 2.32, 0.926, 7 SO)

If not for his current injury (upper body, possible concussion), Crawford would be knocking on the door of 40 wins.

8. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks (77-26-45-71, minus-4, 53 PIM, 332 SOG, 28 PPPts)

Drafted last September as a consolation prize for missing out on Erik Karlsson, Burns has rewarded rotisserie owners by actually out-producing Karlsson. And this is Karlsson’s best season! Burns has more power-play points, more shots on goal, more goals and more penalty minutes, while only falling short on points by five. Karlsson outdoes Burns in BLKS (163-133), but Burns has the edge in Hits (96-83).

7. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks (77-18-56-74, plus-27, 54 PIM, 115 SOG, 25 PPPts)

God bless you, Joe. The 36-year-old started the season so poorly that I was laughed at by another fantasy owner when I tried to acquire Derrick Brassard for him back in December. Since then, Thornton has 58 points in 48 games and I have the satisfying pleasure of emailing that owner, rubbing it in and getting the last laugh.

6. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (75-32-47-79, plus-18, 38 PIM, 229 SOG, 21 PPPts)

Now up to third in scoring, Crosby was sitting close to 200th in scoring early on in November. It took until January before he had worked his way up to a reasonable spot in the scoring race. Still too late for him to win the Art Ross, though.

5. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks (77-37-38-75, plus-27, 26 PIM, 213 SOG, 27 PPPts)

How great is Pavelski to own? He doesn’t get hurt, and this is now his third consecutive season in which he posts close to 75 points and at least 37 goals. Gold.

4. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (74-44-20-64, plus-17, 49 PIM, 367 SOG, 23 PPPts)

This is considered a poor season in fantasy hockey for Ovechkin, who has tweaked his game to become more of a complete player. Fantasy owners don’t get points for completeness though. His numbers are still good enough to land him fourth in the league, third among skaters in the fantasy categories.

3. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (46-9-5, 2.17, 0.924)

Holtby’s save percentage is slightly below Crawford’s and Holtby only has three shutouts to Crawford’s seven. In many fantasy hockey leagues, a shutout rewards almost as well as a forward having a five-point game. But in the end, it is Holtby’s record-breaking wins pace. If he can make it to 49, he’s done what no other goalie has ever done.

2. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars (77-39-46-85, plus-9, 62 PIM, 236 SOG, 27 PPPts)

The defending NHL scoring champ is the only player with even an outside shot at catching Kane.

1. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (77-39-55-94, plus-12, 30 PIM, 267 SOG, 32 PPPts)

For Benn to catch him, Kane would have to be held without a point the rest of the way and Benn would have to post at least two points per game.

When you prep for your playoff pool, don’t forget to pick up Dobber’s 10th annual Interactive NHL Playoff Draft List. Also follow Dobber @DobberHockey

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

 

Ilya Kovalchuk isn’t going to China, may have won war with coach

Ilya Kovalchuk has had a rather eventful postseason for SKA in the Kontinental Hockey League. 

He was benched for playoff games by SKA coach Sergei Zubov, and stripped of his captaincy. That led to speculation that Kovalchuk could return to the NHL, and deputy commissioner Bill Daly started answering questions about how that would work. SKA reportedly offered Kovalchuk $1 million to terminate his deal on April 1, but the two sides agreed to wait on addressing his future. 

Oh, and then it was reported that Kovalchuk would sign on with the KHL’s new expansion team in China (!). The joke at the time was that he’d rather play for Mike Keenan on an expansion team in China that suit up for Zubov again with SKA.

Except it appears he won’t have to. According to Aivis Kalnins of One Puck Short, Kovalchuk said he’s staying for one more season with SKA.

“I have a contract with SKA for one more season,  It will be a pleasure and I will be happy to represent them for the reminder of my contract.”

BUT CHINA!?

“China? What China? They don’t have a hockey team there just yet.”

Huh.

The next twist in the story could involve Zubov, as apparently there’s strong talk that while Kovalchuk stays, his coach may not return:

And ...

If a Russian player gets a Russian coach fired in Russia, is it still a hockey cliché?

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Watch ‘I Ain’t Missing Eric Staal,’ one fan’s awkward video lament

“There’s a Zamboni running all over my frozen heart tonight …” 

If there was ever a song lyric written to perfectly capture a fan’s emotion about seeing his team’s superstar traded away and then returning to face that team for the first time … well, this probably isn’t it.

But this video from SportsChannel 8 in North Carolina – an offbeat online sports outlet – does seek to illustrate the internal struggle for Carolina Hurricanes fans who saw their franchise’s greatest star, Eric Staal, traded to the New York Rangers as he headed into unrestricted free agency.

With Staal and the Rangers in Raleigh on Thursday night, they’ve published a maudlin tribute to Staal, set to John Waite’s classic “Missing You,” called “I Ain’t Missing Eric Staal.”

Sample prose:

“And if Carolina never wins another Stanley Cup/

At least we’ll have one more than Washington/

But I ain’t missing Eric Staal/

Since he’s been gone/

Through trade.”

Lyrical content being what it is, this song is obviously carried by the angelic voice delivering those lyrics, showing the incredible range of an Ariana Grande, if in fact her range was limited to a half-octave and she had strep throat ...

Should be an interesting night as Eric Staal makes his return, with Carolina Hurricanes fans baring their souls and weeping profusely until he inevitably re-signs this summer.   

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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NHL Playoff Death Watch: Flyers tighten grip on wild card

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation. 

The Philadelphia Flyers took down the Washington Capitals on RIVALRY NIGHT (tm) in a shootout, solidifying their hold on the second wild card and creeping forever closer to the New York Islanders, who now have a game in-hand.

The Flyers have 89 points with 35 ROW and have six games left; the Islanders have 91 points with 36 ROW and seven games left.

Here are the current standings. The Death Watch tracks the final Wild Card spot and the teams that are chasing it. Their “tragic number” is the number of points gained by the final wild card team or lost by the team chasing it.

All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; tragic numbers and other figures via the NHL. A team is eliminated from play-offs when their "Tragic Number" hits 0.

The Eastern Conference picture, via the NHL:

NHL

Fare thee well, Ottawa Senators. You were Canada’s last, not-so-great hope. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Montreal Canadiens and the Florida Panthers host the New Jersey Devils as they continue their tangle atop the Atlantic.

The New York Rangers and Eric Staal are in Raleigh to play the Carolina Hurricanes, trying to keep ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who host the Nashville Predators. The New York Islanders host the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

Here are the latest Eastern Conference playoff odds from Sports Club Stats:

NHL

*Wild Card Teams

Again, the Red Wings have a much better chance (31 percent) to finish third in the Atlantic than in either wild card.

Meanwhile, in the West:

NHL

The Anaheim Ducks hop over the Los Angeles Kings into first in the Pacific with their win over the Calgary Flames, who play the Kings tonight.

The Ducks have 96 points. The Kings have 95. But LA has a significant advantage in ROW (43) with six games remaining for both – and they face off on April 7.

Here are the latest Western Conference playoff odds from Sports Club Stats:

NHL

*Wild Card Teams

Here we go: The Preds are in Pittsburgh. Minnesota hosts the Senators. If the former loses and the latter wins, the Wild are two points back with four games remaining, and the Colorado Avalanche’s tragic number drops to four.

The Arizona Coyotes are out if they lose a point to the Dallas Stars or if the Wild gain a point. 

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY

Marek Vs. Wyshynski: Insight, insanity of those NHL emails with Dave Lozo (Podcast)

(WARNING: SOME STRONG LANGUAGE)

It's a Wednesday edition of MAREK VS. WYSHYNSKI featuring Dave Lozo, and we're talking about:

- The NHL's emails were released, and pretty much everybody but Brendan Shanahan looked bad.

- Do the emails reveal a little too cozy of a relationship between the media and the NHL?

- What did they tell us about player safety?

- Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks whacks Coyle in the mouth.

- The glory of the fixins' bar at Roy Rogers.

- The OJ Show gets to Furman.

- News and notes from around the NHL.

The Marek vs. Wyshynski Podcast is hosted by Jeff Marek of Sportsnet and Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports, breaking down the NHL on a (somewhat) daily basis with their particular brand of whimsy and with guest voices from around the hockey world. MvsW streams live while its being recorded: LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

GET MAREK VS. WYSHYNSKI T-SHIRTS HERE! PROCEEDS GO TO HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER!

!!!!!!!!!!

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