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Remembering the moments that defined the 2013 NHL season

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Nail Yakupov channeled Theo Fleury in his tying goal against the Kings back in January. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

Nail Yakupov channeled Theo Fleury in his tying goal against the Kings back in January. (Andy Devlin/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

I always have the best intentions at the beginning of each season to make a running tab of the moments most worth remembering. And, much like my determination to get back into game shape, it hasn’t happened yet.

Still, it wasn’t too hard to come up with a list now that we’re at season’s end. The games offered enough highlights–and lowlights–to fill a full-length schedule. Here are my favorites:

The Yakupov Slide: With the goalie pulled and Edmonton trailing Los Angeles by one back in January, Nail Yakupov crafted the signature moment of his rookie season: batting a Taylor Hall rebound out of midair and putting it behind Kings goalie Jonathan Quick with just 4.7 seconds left on the clock. He took a lot of grief for his spontaneous Theo Fleury impression, but it was a beautiful tally at a key moment. That’s exactly the kind of goal that calls for an over-the-top celly (yep, celly). You want to follow a sport that’s had all the life sucked out of it? Watch the NFL.

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  • Published On Apr 26, 2013
  • BREAKING: Erik Karlsson returning to action tonight for Ottawa

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    Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators will play again only 10 weeks after suffering a major Achilles injury.

    Erik Karlsson will likely qualify as the comeback story of the 2013 season. (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    In what has to be the unlikeliest comeback since Arrested Development, the Ottawa Senators announced this morning that Erik Karlsson will return to the lineup tonight as they visit Washington to play the Capitals.

    This is the same guy who was supposed to be out for the season after being criminally assaulted by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke (well, at least according to Senators owner and CSI fan Eugene Melnyk).

    Unbelievable.

    Karlsson was expected to miss 4-6 months after having surgery on Feb. 14 to repair a 70-percent laceration to the Achilles’ tendon in his left leg. By skating tonight, he’ll have made it back in 10 weeks.

    He might be great at hockey and all, but we better make sure that Karlsson’s prime directive isn’t to kill Linda Hamilton. The only thing I’ve seen heal that quickly was a T-1000.

    No doubt it’s a coincidence that he returns to a team that’s fighting to maintain its hold on a playoff spot after losing six of 10 and seeing their lead on ninth-place Winnipeg whittled to a single point.

    The Sens have two more games after tonight: Saturday against Philadelphia and Sunday night in Boston. It’ll be worth watching to see if he’s holding up well enough to go back-to-back.


  • Published On Apr 25, 2013
  • Erik Karlsson on course for return this season?

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    By Allan Muir

    Erik Karlsson’s possible return to the Ottawa Senators’ lineup this season is the question of the day after news leaked that the defending Norris Trophy-winner resumed on-ice activities Monday with skating coach Marc Power. And while he’s not exactly dancing out there, Karlsson looks pretty good for a guy who suffered a 70 percent tear of his Achilles’ tendon just two months ago.

    His teammates — none of whom are doctors on the side — are suggesting that he could be back before the start of the playoffs.

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  • Published On Apr 08, 2013
  • Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has gone off the deep end

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    By Allan Muir

    If we’ve learned anything this week, it’s that a when an old, rich guy feels like he’s been screwed over, he will never, ever let it go.

    First, there was the story out of Florida about Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and his personal vendetta against some other rich guy who treated show-jumping horses as a profit center rather than a noble sport that J.J. prefers. The horror. And the irony. But mostly, the horror.

    That was awesome. But Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk just knocked him off the podium to take the goofy gold.

    Melnyk is so convinced that Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke intentionally injured Sens’ defenseman Erik Karlsson last month that’s he’s commissioned a CSI-style forensic investigation to prove it.

    YEEEAAAAAAHHHHHH!

    Melnyk revealed his plan today on Bob McCown’s Prime Time Sports program. He was totally serious. And completely oblivious to how much of a punch line he’s about to become.

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  • Published On Mar 27, 2013
  • Erik Karlsson out indefinitely with lacerated Achilles tendon

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    By Allan Muir

    If Ottawa’s fans thought their team’s situation was bleak after it lost Jason Spezza last month, they learned on Wednesday night that things can always get worse.

    Erik Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy-winner and one of the world’s top players, suffered a laceration to his left Achilles tendon in the Sens’ game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It will require surgery to repair, and keep him out of the lineup indefinitely.

    The incident occurred late in the second period when Karlsson and Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke chased the puck into the corner together. The two collided, and Cooke’s left skate scraped down on Karlsson’s leg. It was hard to watch.

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  • Published On Feb 13, 2013
  • My favorite hockey stories of 2012

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    Lokomotiv Yaroslavl

    One year after a tragic plane crash decimated the KHL team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl returned to the ice. Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov (left, greeting former Capitals teammate Alex Ovechkin after a game) has been tending goal. (Photo by Yury Kuzmin/KHL Photo Agency via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    A big dark storm cloud lingers over any celebration of hockey in 2012. It’s the NHL lockout and it has been showering grief on the game and its fans for over three months. Now, it also makes my job here a bit easier compared to my colleagues who are covering other sports because so little has happened between June and December that the range of choices for my favorite stories of the year has been sliced dramatically. Still, I’d rather be burdened by having to choose from a full plate.

    That said, here are my 10 highlights. (You can read other SI.com writers’ picks here and view a gallery of the 112 most amazing sports moments of 2012 here.)

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  • Published On Dec 20, 2012
  • Sens fans relieved by Alfredsson’s return

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    Veteran Daniel Alfredsson leads a young Senators squad that gave the favored Rangers a tussle in the playoffs. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    If it was listening, amid the clatter coming from the London Olympics and the anxiety from the CBA talks in New York, the entire hockey world heard a gigantic sigh of relief in Ottawa on Tuesday when the Senators announced that their captain Daniel Alfredsson will return for his 17th NHL season.

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  • Published On Aug 01, 2012
  • Awards races tight as season, playoffs

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    Few people get fired up about the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play and sportsmanship, however Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell will be a rare bird if he wins it. (Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL hands out its annual individual player awards tonight in Las Vegas during a glitzy, star-spangled gala that’s a far cry from the afternoon luncheons in Montreal that were hosted by Clarence Campbell.

    Just as the regular season and playoffs were hard to predict as a result of the league’s parity, it’s difficult to try determining who the voters selected for some of the hardware, and there may be some controversial choices among fans who will believe that the wrong guy won. You have to keep in mind that the voting was done at the conclusion of the regular season and the award recognizes only that aspect of the players’ performances. The playoffs are not a factor.

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  • Published On Jun 20, 2012
  • Was Lidstrom the MVP of his era?

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    By Stu Hackel

    Of the many things that Nick Lidstrom said Thursday morning while announcing the end of his remarkable playing career (video), it was perhaps the last one in his prepared remarks that spoke the loudest: “Retiring today,” he said, “allows me to walk away from the game with pride rather than have the game walk away from me.”

    This is a player who for much of last season was considered the best defenseman in the NHL, and if he returned next season, he’d still be one of the best players. But after being slowed by injuries and unable to raise his level of play in this year’s postseason, Lidstrom has his own standard of excellence to uphold. He knows he’s lost the inner drive to train as hard as he must this offseason in order to bounce back and reach that level of greatness again. He won’t cheat himself, he won’t cheat his teammates and he won’t cheat the fans if he can’t play with the same determined excellence that made him, without question, the best defenseman of his era.

    That’s not just me making that evaluation of Lidstrom’s talent and legacy, that’s the opinion of Scotty Bowman.

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  • Published On May 31, 2012
  • Sens-Rangers set for explosive Game 7

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    The Rangers have held Ottawa’s dangerous blueliner Erik Karlsson in check. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    A Game 7 at Madison Square Garden can make for an uproarious evening. The last ones there happened in 1994: the Eastern Conference Championship victory by the Rangers over the Devils in the second overtime period (“Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!”), followed by the nail-biting conclusion to the Stanley Cup Final against the Canucks. But if tonight’s Game 7 turns out for the Rangers the way it turned out for the Bruins on their home ice on Wednesday – if the underdog Senators win just as the underdog Capitals won — the uproar will be directed inward.

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  • Published On Apr 26, 2012


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