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The Edge of Lori: Hurting hard

By Lori Bennett National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise Well, it didn’t take long for one of last week’s predictions to come to pass. On Saturday, March 11 the Northeastern University Huskies were eliminated from the NCAA playoffs, and by Monday the Vancouver Canucks had signed forward prospect Aidan McDonough to his entry-level contract. McDonough, a big goal-scorer, would likely have had many suitors had he chosen to pursue free agency in the summer. Fortunately for the Canucks, the player they selected in the seventh round in the 2019 amateur draft decided to stick with the team that took a chance on him. Fans should expect to see McDonough in the line-up in the near future. The Montreal Canadiens also had a prospect from that Huskies roster whose college career was coming to an end. Jayden Struble is a big and physical left-handed defenseman, a position where the Habs have a lot of depth. There was a question of whether Struble would prefer to explore options with a team where he would have less competition, and if GM Kent Hughes saw enough promise in Struble’s game to offer him a contract. Those questions were answered on Wednesday when the Canadiens announced they had signed Struble to his entry-level contract. The contract will come into effect next season, so Habs fans won’t see Struble in Montreal before this season ends. However, Hughes also signed Struble to an amateur tryout for this season, so he will get a chance to make a case in the AHL and finish the season with the Laval Rocket. Commenting on the deal, Canadiens GM Kent Hughes noted they were able to show Struble they had a good plan for his development. Change is afoot for some teams who find themselves at the bottom of the standings. Earlier this month the Nashville Predators announced GM David Poile would be stepping back from his position. The longest tenured GM in the NHL will be replaced by Barry Trotz, who was the first coach of the Nashville Predators. Trotz will assume the role on July 1st. Poile was attending his last annual GM meetings this past week. In the meantime, Daniel Briere attended his first GM meetings as Interim GM of the Philadelphia Flyers. He was hired for the role after the Flyers fired President of Hockey Operations and GM Chuck Fletcher. Briere was already in the organization as a special assistant to the GM, so with the Flyers playing some seriously ugly hockey, the change was obvious. The shine of Briere’s early days as GM sustained a little tarnishing due to an incident involving his son Carson Briere. A video was posted to Twitter by a user with the handle @juliazukowski that appears to show the younger Briere arriving at a nightclub with friends, briefly sitting in a wheelchair that had been left at the top of a staircase, and then pushing the wheelchair down the stairs before entering the club. According to “Julia”, the owner of the wheelchair had to be carried down the stairs to use the restroom and the wheelchair was left at the top of the stairs. Both Daniel and Carson Briere offered apologies on social media, but this is not the first indication of potential character issues. Carson Briere is currently in his third season at Mercyhurst University, but prior to joining Mercyhurst Briere was dismissed from another college team for violating team rules and not being a fit with their team culture. Based on performance alone, Briere was not on a trajectory for an NHL career. Gaining this level of negative attention won’t help his chances any. Speaking of not helping, the injury bug has bitten some teams at the worst possible time. The Carolina Hurricanes were already missing some players they expected to contribute significantly this year, including Max Pacioretty and Ondrej Kase. This past week they lost Andrei Svechnikov to a season-ending knee injury. For a team that probably didn’t add enough at the trade deadline, this loss may be their undoing. Artturi Lehkonen broke a finger this week and will be out for four to six weeks. Lehkonen was acquired by the Colorado Avalanche at last year’s deadline and was a clutch performer for the Avs on their Stanley Cup run. Colorado was already missing some core players, including Captain Gabriel Landeskog. Throughout this season, they have not looked like the juggernaut that hoisted the Cup this year, but if they can stay in it until players return to health, they will be dangerous again. Ryan O’Reilly, acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline, is out following surgery to repair a broken finger. O’Reilly started strong with the Leafs, scoring three goals and two assists in eight games, before he was hit by an Auston Matthews slapshot in a game against Vancouver on March 4th. He had surgery to repair the finger the next day. The question is whether the guy they acquired for the playoffs will be ready when the post-season begins. The Avs immediately reported a four to six week recovery period for Lehkonen’s finger, so one might guess a similar timeline for O’Reilly. With the price they paid to obtain him, a post-season interrupted by injury would be disastrous for the Leafs, especially after their experience with Nick Foligno two years ago. The Montreal Canadiens are not playoff bound, but they win the award this year for most ruined by the injury bug. On Wednesday the Habs announced that Christian Dvorak had undergone season-ending knee surgery. That makes 12 NHLers on the injured list, and that doesn’t include players currently active who missed significant time this year due to injury. The only player left on the roster who has played all games for the Habs this season is Captain Nick Suzuki. They may consider wrapping him in bubble wrap for the last few games.

Raptors Racket After missing big centre Jakob Poeltl for several games, the Toronto Raptors welcomed him back this week with a big game against Denver. With just a handful of games remaining, the Raptors are trying to hold on to a spot in the play-in tournament..

Blue Jays Babble On Monday the Toronto Blue Jays reassigned their top pitching prospect, Ricky Tiedemann, to minor league camp. The powerful leftie had made an impression so far in spring training, but after a two-game debut, it appears the Jays are practicing patience. Depending on his performance, he may find himself back in the big leagues later this season. Six other players were reassigned with Tiedemann, and the team will continue to be refined as we approach opening day.

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