NHL Notes: Awards, expansion draft collide in Las Vegas

NHL Notes: Awards, expansion draft collide in Las Vegas

It's 116 degrees in the ice hockey capital of the world.

For the next few days, Las Vegas is the place to be on skates. The desert gambling mecca is hosting the NHL's annual postseason awards show on Wednesday, when the league also will reveal the Vegas Golden Knights' choices in the expansion player draft to stock the club with talent for its inaugural season in the fall.

Las Vegas has hosted the awards show for several years, welcoming the NHL's best for a red carpet presentation and a short week of partying in a city that knows a little something about entertainment.

But Vegas' hometown team is in the spotlight for the first time this year, reaching a major milestone in its process of becoming the NHL's 31st franchise -- and doing it during a heat wave.

Combining the awards show and the expansion draft should only enhance the fun for Vegas fans welcoming their city's first major professional sports team. Thousands of those fans are expected to gather at T-Mobile Arena after the expansion draft for a raucous "Round Table Rally" to celebrate the Golden Knights' first major acquisitions.

"You don't always have to do things the same way," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the two-for-one Vegas show. "We're not afraid to try something a little different. We think it's going to be a lot of fun for our fans, particularly those here in Las Vegas" (see full story).

Devils: Constant in recent years has been missing playoffs
NEWARK, N.J. -- If anyone needs the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft, it is the New Jersey Devils.

After making the playoffs for 20 of 22 seasons, the Devils have fallen on hard times. They have missed the postseason for the last five years and they are coming off their worst season in nearly three decades.

In some ways, it's not surprising. After years of success that included three Stanley Cup championships and two other trips to the championship round, New Jersey ran into problems after going to the final in 2012.

The team was aging. Its drafts were weak. High-scoring wing Zach Parise used free agency to sign with Minnesota after losing the Cup to the Kings. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk returned to play in Russia after the following season. There was a lack of scoring, a little less defense and little depth throughout the roster.

A team that knew how to make the postseason suddenly didn't have the assets to get there (see full story).

Red Wings: Judge denies request to block funding tied to new arena
DETROIT -- A judge has denied a request to block some public funding for Little Caesars Arena and the Detroit Pistons' move from the suburbs.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith issued his decision late Monday, saying a requested injunction would cause "catastrophic damage" to Detroit.

The lawsuit says Michigan law prohibits spending school property tax revenue on the projects because a tax voters approved in 2012 was to be used exclusively for Detroit's public schools. It said a vote from Detroit residents was needed first.

The lawsuit sought to block the Detroit Downtown Development Authority from using the money. The City Council on Tuesday approved $34.5 million in taxpayer-funded bonds for the project.

The arena, which will be home to the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and the NBA's Pistons, opens this fall.

NHL Notes: Penguins remain upbeat despite going winless in Nashville

NHL Notes: Penguins remain upbeat despite going winless in Nashville

PITTSBURGH -- The goals that came so easily to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final -- the ones that arrived in bunches and seemed to signal an emphatic end to Pekka Rinne's spectacular playoff run -- have disappeared.

Across six periods in Nashville, the NHL's highest-scoring team managed to beat Rinne just twice as the Predators rallied to tie the series. Yet Penguins coach Mike Sullivan hardly seems frustrated heading into Game 5 on Thursday night back home in Pittsburgh.

Sullivan is 7-0 in series with the Penguins, and the way he sees it, his team's inability to solve Rinne in Games 3 and 4 had little to do with lack of effort or opportunities. It had everything to do with a remarkable performance by the 34-year-old goaltender.

Where do you want to start? With Rinne's no-look left pad stop on Jake Guentzel early in the second period of a tie game on Monday night? Maybe the one about a minute later when Rinne denied Chris Kunitz on a breakaway? Or maybe the diving blocker stop on Guentzel just before the midway point, the one that preserved Nashville's lead on the way to a 4-1 victory?

Sullivan understands it's easy to look at the result and be discouraged. That's not his job. The coach who has made "play the right way" part of the franchise's lexicon is more focused on the process. The Penguins didn't produce much in Games 1 and 2 and somehow won going away. They "got to their game" (another of Sullivan's favorite mantras) repeatedly in Game 4 only to lose.

It's hockey. It happens.

"We believe that we have some guys that are due to score some goals here," Sullivan said Tuesday. "They've had some high-quality chances, and the puck hasn't gone in the net for the last couple of games. We believe if we continue to try to do the right things out there, we'll score."

Predators: Dog sets tone for team’s attacking style
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The instant one of the Pittsburgh Penguins passes the puck to a teammate, one of the Nashville Predators closes in, taking away any time or space to operate.

The junkyard dog approach to hockey for the Stanley Cup Final debutants has a history: It is the Predators' on-ice version of Stanley, the blue mutt with a bone clenched between his teeth. He's the team mascot whose picture is stuck on the Predators' locker-room door, now with two bandages commemorating playoff-ending injuries first to forward Kevin Fiala, then center Ryan Johansen. The dog, its name tag hanging from a spiked collar, bares his teeth in photos on three walls inside, too.

Stanley is the symbol of how coach Peter Laviolette wanted his Predators to play this season. They responded with an attacking, never-stop approach that has helped Nashville go from the last team into the NHL playoffs to one that is two wins from a championship. The Predators are tied 2-2 with the Penguins with Game 5 coming up Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

"We definitely know what our identity is," defenseman P.K. Subban said. "It's kind of the dog-on-a-bone mentality. And we want to dictate the pace of the game, and we want to attack you in all three zones as a five-man unit and be tough to play against. And I think everybody on our team can skate, move the puck and make plays."

Senators: Brassard undergoes shoulder surgery
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Ottawa Senators center Derick Brassard has undergone surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said in a statement that the surgery, performed Tuesday in Cleveland, went as planned, and Brassard will begin a rehabilitation program immediately.

Dorion said that the expected recovery period is four to five months and he is hopeful Brassard will be ready for the start of the regular season.

Brassard, 29, scored 14 goals and added 25 assists for 39 points in 81 regular-season games during his first year with Ottawa. He had four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 19 playoff games.

Red Wings: Glendening out 3-4 months after ankle surgery
DETROIT -- Detroit Red Wings center Luke Glendening has had surgery on his left ankle and is expected to be out three to four months.

The team made the announcement Tuesday, a day after he had a procedure for his broken ankle and torn tendons.

Glendening missed the last seven games of the regular season, finishing with three goals and 11 assists. He has 24 goals and 60 points since making his NHL debut with Detroit during the 2013-14 season.

Best of NHL: Zetterberg scores in 1,000 game; Red Wings win in Joe Louis finale

Best of NHL: Zetterberg scores in 1,000 game; Red Wings win in Joe Louis finale

DETROIT -- Riley Sheahan had two goals and Henrik Zetterberg scored in his 1,000th NHL game, helping the Detroit Red Wings beat the New Jersey Devils 4-1 Sunday in a party-like atmosphere for the final game at Joe Louis Arena.

Zetterberg put Detroit up 3-0 midway through the second period following Sheahan's and Tomas Tatar's goals in the first. Sheahan didn't have a goal in his first 79 games this year but scored his second of the game with 2:33 left to bring fans to their feet, where they stayed for the game.

Jimmy Howard stopped 24 shots for the Red Wings, who failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1990 to end a postseason streak that tied for the third longest in league history.

Cory Schneider made 31 saves for the Devils, who haven't earned a spot in the postseason since advancing to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals (see full recap).

Loss to Blue Jackets sets Maple Leafs up with first-round draw vs. Capitals
TORONTO -- James van Riemsdyk scored twice, but the Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their regular-season finale 3-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night and will face the Washington Capitals in the opening round of their first postseason since 2013.

Curtis McElhinney made 29 saves, but Toronto let a 2-0 lead melt away in a porous second period.

Matt Calvert, Josh Anderson and Cam Atkinson scored in the comeback for Columbus. Joonas Korpisalo stopped 30 shots for the Jackets, who are set for a first-round matchup against Pittsburgh.

Had they earned even a point, the Leafs would have faced the Ottawa Senators in the first round, but instead they get the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals (see full recap).

Vladimir Sobotka scores in return to NHL
ST. LOUIS -- Vladimir Tarasenko netted a go-ahead goal 19 seconds after Vladimir Sobotka scored in his first NHL game in three years, lifting the St. Louis Blues over the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Blues have won 15 of their last 19 games. They'll open the postseason with a best-of-seven series against Minnesota.

Colorado finished the season with an NHL-low 48 points. The Avs have lost 11 of their last 13 games in St. Louis.

St. Louis' Jake Allen made 32 saves, and Zach Sanford also scored for the Blues.

Mikko Rantanen scored twice for the Avalanche. Calvin Pickard had 24 saves (see full recap).