Golden Knights captain activated off LTIR, will play in Game 1 vs. Jets

The Vegas Golden Knights are getting a huge asset back in their lineup for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On Monday, the team announced that captain Mark Stone has been activates off of long-term injured reserve and will play in Game 1 of their opening round series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Stone has been out of the lineup since Jan. 12 and underwent back surgery on Jan. 31.


— z – Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 17, 2023
Due to the fact that Stone was placed on LTIR earlier this season, the roster move gave Vegas an additional $9.5 million in cap space. That extra cap room allowed the team to add players at the league’s trade deadline in early March.

In 43 games this season, Stone had registered 17 goals and 21 assists before suffering the back injury. It marked the second consecutive campaign in which the Golden Knights captain dealt with a back injury. He missed 26 games a season ago.

Stone will likely skate on Vegas’ second or third-line upon his return to the ice for Tuesday’s Game 1.

Stone was named the Golden Knights’ captain back in January 2021 after originally being acquired by the team in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in 2019.

Jets’ Morgan Barron receives more than 75 stitches after taking skate to the face

Winnipeg Jets center Morgan Barron had his face clipped by a skate and needed more than 75 stitches as a result during Tuesday’s Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Somehow, Barron actually returned to the ice less than a period after sustaining the injury.

Barron’s gruesome injury occurred during a chaotic scene in front of the Golden Knights’ net in the first period. During a battle for a loose puck, Vegas goaltender Laurent Brossoit was attempting to scramble back into the crease and inadvertently cut Barron on the face with one of his skates.

Warning: the video of the injury below is graphic

Morgan Barron required 𝟳𝟱 𝗦𝗧𝗜𝗧𝗖𝗛𝗘𝗦 after being cut in the face by a skate …


Hockey players are different 😳

— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) April 19, 2023
“I was trying to figure out if the puck went in because it was pretty close,” Barron said regarding the play, via TSN. “I saw the skate coming. It was an unlucky play. The first thought was that I could see out of the (right) eye was the main thing.”

Barron was immediately escorted to the Jets’ locker room after he was cut. Upon his return, Barron wore a full cage helmet for the remainder of the game

“Looks like he got attacked by a shark,” teammate Adam Lowry added. “It’s a scary thing. We’re all so worried about the puck crossing the line, and all of the sudden we see a trail of blood all the way from the crease to the bench.”

Barron ended up logging 10:44 of ice time, registering three shots-on-goal and dishing out five hits — all despite suffering a scary injury.

The Jets produced a dominant effort throughout Game 2, as they received second-period goals from forwards Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois en route to a 5-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the opening round series.

First impressions from Game 1 of every first-round series

Now that we’ve seen Game 1 of every Stanley Cup Playoff series, teams have given us an idea of what to expect. It is just one game, but every game is critical in the NHL playoffs.

With road teams winning six of the first eight games, underdogs have gotten off to a surprisingly strong start. In particular, the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets made statement road wins to begin their playoff runs.

Other teams, like the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche encountered some issues. And, yes, even in a big win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Tampa Bay Lightning have reason to be discouraged.

Here are the first impressions from each Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series.

Islanders need to fix anemic power play
The New York Islanders’ power play was among the NHL’s worst in the regular season, and that didn’t change during Game 1 against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Isles lost, 2-1, and they missed several chances to flip the script with the man advantage.

The Islanders failed to convert on all four of their power plays
They only generated four shots and 0.82 expected goals on them, per Natural Stat Trick.
With under five minutes remaining in the third period, the Isles got a power play with an opportunity to tie the game, and they didn’t even get a shot on goal.
This should be a low-scoring series regardless, and the Islanders have a shot to pull off the upset, but they need to get some kind of production from their power play unit. The Hurricanes are an elite defensive team, and they were first in the NHL in five-on-five expected goals against in the regular season. If the Isles can’t light the lamp with the man advantage, their postseason appearance may be brief.

Panthers missed golden opportunity against Bruins
If the Florida Panthers are going to pull off the upset against the Boston Bruins, they can ill afford to drop winnable games. That is exactly what happened in Game 1.

The Bruins were without captain Patrice Bergeron, and the Panthers outplayed Boston for stretches. According to Natural Stat Trick, Florida controlled 61.0% of the expected goals at five-on-five, and they even did a decent job of holding Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in check.

The Panthers just couldn’t solve Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark, and Alex Lyon coughed up an inexcusable goal in his playoff debut for Florida. There was a lot to like about the Panthers’ game, and perhaps they can build on that as they try to even the series before heading back to Florida. This game, however, was there for the taking, and the Panthers failed to capitalize on a subpar effort from the Bruins. They may not get many more chances like that the rest of the series.

Joe Pavelski’s injury could tilt balance of the series
In the second period of Game 1, Dallas Stars veteran forward Joe Pavelski left the game when Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba laid a heavy hit on him. Pavelski struggled to get off the ice, even with help, and Dallas may be without him for at least a couple of games.

Matt Dumba lays a late hit on Joe Pavelski and receives a 2-minute minor penalty for roughing.

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 18, 2023
Pavelski, 38, is still one of the most reliable forwards in the NHL, and he’s been a key cog in the Stars’ top line for the last few seasons (he just tallied 28 goals and 49 assists in the regular season). Taking him out of the Dallas lineup only tilts the odds more in favor of the Wild after their double overtime win in Game 1.

Minnesota is an excellent defensive team, but they struggle to score goals at five-on-five. In order for the Wild to win this series, they’ll probably have to win some low-scoring defensive battles. With Pavelski out of the lineup for Dallas, that becomes a much more attainable goal.

Goaltending remains a giant question mark for Oilers
Stuart Skinner proved to be a solid starting netminder for the Oilers in the regular season, but there were still questions about his lack of experience coming into those playoffs. After Game 1, those questions remain.

To be clear, Skinner was not the only reason the Oilers dropped Game 1 at home to the Los Angeles Kings. It’s just that Skinner didn’t do much to help his team lock up a victory after Edmonton went up 2-0 in the first period.

He surrendered a somewhat soft goal to Adrian Kempe to start the second period.
In total, he wound up allowing 0.65 goals above average, per Natural Stat Trick.
The Oilers’ goalie faced 35 shots in nearly 70 minutes of game time and allowed four goals.
That won’t do it, especially when Joonas Korpisalo was on top of his game for the Kings. The good news for Skinner is that Edmonton played fairly well overall in Game 1, and he should have a decent shot to redeem himself and get back on track with a win in Game 2.

Devils cannot let Rangers win special teams battle
The New Jersey Devils have been a better five-on-five team than the New York Rangers all season, but that edge was erased — and then some — in Game 1 because the Rangers dominated the special teams battle.

In the first 10 minutes of the game, the Devils got two power plays and failed to score on both. New Jersey didn’t even put a shot on Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin. New Jersey had a chance to seize the momentum early, but instead New York gained a lot of confidence on the road.


— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) April 19, 2023
Then, on their own first power play of the game, which came with just over 10 minutes remaining in the opening frame, the Rangers cashed in and took a 1-0 lead. Things wouldn’t get any better for the Devils after that.

New Jersey finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play as the New York penalty kill was completely stifling. On the flip side, the Rangers capitalized on two of their three power plays and cruised to a 5-1 win. As good as the Devils are at five-on-five, they simply cannot afford to get torched on special teams and expect to beat this loaded Rangers team.

Lightning win big, but at an even bigger cost
Just from looking at the scoreboard, you would think everything went right for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their Game 1 blowout of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The injury report tells a very different story.

While the Bolts rolled to a 7-3 win over the Leafs in Toronto, they lost a pair of key defenders.

Victor Hedman left the game with an undisclosed injury after the first period.
Erik Cernak appeared to suffer a head injury after taking a high hit from Toronto’s Michael Bunting in the second period.
If those two can’t return to the series, it presents a steep mountain to climb for the Lightning, even with a 1-0 lead.
Although he’s had a down year in 2022-23, Hedman is still one of the best defensemen in the NHL when he’s at his best, and Cernak eats up tough minutes while playing a huge role on the penalty kill.

Losing those two against a Maple Leafs team loaded with firepower up front is a worst-case scenario for Tampa. Mikhail Sergachev can play the role of No. 1 defenseman for the Bolts, but he doesn’t have much help around him. Rookie Nick Perbix will likely play a larger role, and Zach Bogosian and Haydn Fleury will now slot into the lineup after tough regular seasons for both.

As long as Hedman and Cernak are out, it is the Maple Leafs’ series to lose — regardless of the final score of Game 1.

Jets send a message in domination of Golden Knights
It wasn’t surprising to see the Winnipeg Jets take Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knight, but the way in which they won was shocking. The Jets simply dismantled the Golden Knights in their own barn, 5-1.

This wasn’t a case of the game being closer that it appeared on the scoreboard. Outside of a short stint in the second period, Winnipeg was in full control of this matchup. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Jets limited the Golden Knights to just 1.2 expected goals at five-on-five. Vegas couldn’t get any kind of sustained possession in the offensive zone.

With the Golden Knights trailing 2-1 to start the third period, everyone watching the game expected a big push from the Pacific Division champs, but it never came. Instead, the Jets came out swinging, and Blake Wheeler doubled his team’s lead less than five minutes into the period. Defensively, Winnipeg held Vegas to 10 shots on goal in the final frame, and many of those came with the net empty at the other end.

The Jets sent a message in Game 1, and the Golden Knights must find an answer before they head up to Winnipeg down 2-0 in the series.

Philipp Grubauer, Kraken silence doubters
Coming into this postseason, I was very skeptical about Philipp Grubauer’s ability to hold up against a Colorado Avalanche offense that can fill the net when they’re rolling. After Game 1, Grubauer is well on his way to proving me wrong.

In the process of leading the Seattle Kraken to a Game 1 win over the defending champs, Grubauer stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced and saved 2.52 goals above average. The Kraken netminder did get support from a tremendous defensive effort in front of him, but Grubauer alson came up with some huge saves at key points in the game.

By the time the final buzzer sounded to end the third period, Grubauer’s detractors and the sellout crowd in Ball Arena were dead silent. If Seattle is going to pull off one of the biggest upsets in recent Stanley Cup Playoff history, Grubauer will have to turn in a couple more performances like this. It is just one game, and that’s important to remember, but it’s hard not to be encouraged by what Grubauer did in Game 1.

Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting suspended three games for illegal hit on Lightning’s Erik Cernak

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Michael Bunting has been suspended three playoff games for an illegal hit to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Eric Cernak in the second period of Game 1. The NHL Department of Player Safety announced its decision on Wednesday, and the Leafs will be without Bunting through Game 4.

Late in the second period, Bunting and Cernak were going for a loose puck when Bunting launched into Cernak’s head. The Tampa defenseman left the game with a head injury and did not return, and Bunting was assessed a five-minute major.

Michael Bunting has received a 5-minute match penalty for an illegal check to the head on Erik Cernak.

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 19, 2023
In its video explaining decision, the NHL said that both criteria for an illegal hit to the head were met on the play.

“First, the head is clearly the main point of contact,” the NHL said in its explanation. “Bunting’s arm and elbow make direct and forceful contact with the head of Cernak, and it is the head that absorbs nearly all of the force of the check.

“Second, the head contact on this play is avoidable. Bunting unnecessarily extends his body upward into Cernak’s head to deliver this check, missing his core completely and picking his head.”

The league also noted that Cernak was “particularly vulnerable” because there was clear interference on Bunting’s part. The puck was still far away when Bunting initiated the contact.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper has already ruled Cernak out for Game 2, and Toronto will be without Bunting while facing a 1-0 deficit in the series.

Bunting is coming off a 2022-23 season in which he tallied 23 goals and 26 assists in 82 games. His absence will make the Maple Leafs’ attempt to get out of the first round for the first time since 2004 an even more difficult task.

Zhang Weili and Marlon Vera among top picks to consider this weekend

Two titles are on the line at UFC 292 in Boston on Saturday night. In the night’s main event, Aljamain Sterling defends his bantamweight championship against Sean O’Malley. Meanwhile, Zhang Weili will put her women’s strawweight belt on the line against Amanda Lemos in the co-main event.

Sterling has hinted that the fight with O’Malley is the end of his time at 135 pounds and he’s looking to close out that period of his career with a big title defense.

O’Malley, meanwhile, has built up a cult following with his brash style and flair for the dramatic, walk-off KO. Of his 10 UFC appearances, seven have ended in KO/TKO. One of those includes a no contest due to an eye poke. “Suga” has finished the likes of Raulian Paiva, Thomas Almeida, Eddie Wineland and Jose Alberto Quinonez. He’s coming off the biggest win of his career when he outpointed former titleholder Petr Yan by split decision in October.

In addition to the pair of title fights, there is plenty of action worth watching. The next Irish star on the rise gets his chance in the spotlight in front of a raucous Boston crowd when Ian Machado Garry takes on Neil Magny. Garry, 25, is undefeated at 5-0 so far in his UFC career with three knockouts. He’s coming off a brutal quick finish of Daniel Rodriguez in May and now gets his toughest test to date in the veteran Magny, who is getting the call on short notice after Geoff Neal was forced to withdraw.

With so many intriguing fights on the UFC 292 card, there will be plenty of action at sportsbooks around the country. As always, we are looking at each main card fight to identify the “best bet” for each bout. After a 1-3 result at UFC 291, our record for the year now stands at 21-21.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve identified as our choices for the best bets on the UFC 292 pay-per-view main card.

Marlon Vera vs. Pedro Munhoz
Marlon Vera to win via decision/technical decision (+100)

This is a tough, fairly evenly-matched bantamweight clash. It certainly is possible for Munhoz to take advantage of Vera’s tendency to get off to slow starts to edge out a win. That depends on Vera not stepping it up in Round 2, however, and he’s slightly more technically sound and does have the better power. While taking the Vera moneyline may be slightly safer, Munhoz is very durable and should be able to last the distance. As long as Vera doesn’t let Munhoz outwork him over the first two rounds, things should go Vera’s way on the final scorecards.

Mario Bautista vs. Da’Mon Blackshear
Mario Bautista moneyline (-210)

While it may not look like it provides a ton of inherent value, this fight is totally slanted in one direction. Blackshear scored a rare twister submission on last week’s card and now is stepping in for former champion Cody Garbrandt. While Blackshear deserves admiration for taking a tough opponent on short notice, this is probably a step too far at this point in his career. Bautista is coming into this fight on a full camp and ready to peak this weekend, while Blackshear is having to reset quickly. Bautista should get the job done, one way or another.

Ian Machado Garry vs. Neil Magny
Total rounds: Under 2.5 (-130)

Garry has been confident to the point of cocky in his young UFC run. While three of Garry’s five UFC bouts have gone over 2.5 rounds, it’s hard to not notice how faded Magny has looked from his peak years in the UFC. He barely escaped his most recent fight with a win, edging Philip Rowe by split decision. Garry is peaking while Magny is fading. Garry can likely find the finish before the final 2:30 against the 2023 version of Magny and the under 2.5 rounds leaves a bit of space if Garry happens to get his chin checked by Magny.

Zhang Weili vs. Amanda Lemos
Zhang Weili via KO/TKO/DQ (+110)

Lemos is a very inconsistent fighter. At times she is very impressive and overwhelms her opponents, other times she gets outworked and struggles on the feet against fighters you’d expect her to clearly defeat. Weili, on the other hand is very consistent. Lemos has been stopped before and Weili has stopped some of the best the division has to offer. Ultimately, just look at how Lemos struggled on the feet against Michelle Waterson and Angela Hill to see why Weili getting the knockout is an enticing bet.

Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O’Malley
Under 3.5 rounds (-150)

Sterling’s bantamweight title defense against O’Malley feels like the kind of fight that will become clear very shortly after the opening bell. Either Sterling is going to use striking to find an opening and put O’Malley on the canvas with a takedown, or O’Malley is going to blast Sterling in the stand-up and show he can stay standing. Either way, once one man begins imposing his will, this fight likely ends quickly. O’Malley hasn’t consistently stopped opponents, but Sterling’s desperation if he can’t get takedowns will open him up more. And, if Sterling can put O’Malley down with any regularity, he’s likely to either score a submission or use ground and pound to end the fight.

Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards fined $50K for recklessly swinging chair after playoff game in Denver

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards has been fined $50,000 for recklessly swinging a chair after a playoff game in Denver earlier this year, the NBA announced on Wednesday. Per the collective bargaining agreement, the league could not end its review into the matter until the criminal investigation into the incident was concluded; charges against Edwards were dropped in July.

After missing a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer of the Timberwolves’ Game 5 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs last season, Edwards sprinted off the floor and down the tunnel toward the locker room. As he left the court, he picked up a chair and tossed it aside, hitting multiple bystanders.

Video shows Anthony Edwards throwing chair at security guard

— MadstrosityYT (@MadstrosityYT) April 26, 2023
Denver police spokesman Jay Casillas said that the two women struck by the chair sustained minor injuries and Edwards was charged with third-degree assault for “knowingly or recklessly” causing bodily injury. Edwards was cited at the arena, and given a court date of June 9.

Edwards’ lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, issued a statement in the immediate aftermath:

“With the game over, Anthony’s exit from the court was partially obstructed by a chair, which he moved and set down three steps later. As video of the incident confirms, Anthony did not swing the chair at anyone and of course did not intend to hurt anyone,” Steinberg said. “Anthony intends to vigorously defend against these baseless charges.”

The charges against Edwards were later dropped.

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Ahead of his fourth season with the Timberwolves, Edwards has spent his summer with Team USA, and will participate in the FIBA World Cup later this month. He was inserted into the starting lineup for the team’s tune-up game against Puerto Rico and was one of the stand-out players. He finished with a team-high 15 points and four steals in the Americans’ 117-74 win.

Team USA will play four more friendlies in the coming weeks before beginning World Cup action on Aug. 26 against New Zealand. The Americans are looking to bounce back from an embarrassing seventh-place finish in 2019 and win their sixth gold medal in the event.

Nick Kerr, Steve Kerr’s son, to take over as Warriors’ G League head coach

Steve Kerr’s son is following in his father’s footsteps. Nick Kerr, the son of the Golden State Warriors championship-winning coach, is set to become the head coach of the G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors, the franchise announced Wednesday. Nick Kerr, a former University of California guard, will get a chance to kick off his head coaching career in the 2023-24 season.

Steve Kerr ended his playing career with the San Antonio Spurs and got a hands-on education as part of Gregg Popovich’s illustrious coaching tree before landing his first head coaching gig with the Dubs in 2014. The sharpshooter went on to secure four championships as a coach alongside the five he won as a player with the Chicago Bulls.

He didn’t hold any head coaching jobs before taking over for Mark Jackson in the Bay Area but didn’t have too much trouble finding success early with his team’s talented young core. His son will have to work his way up to the big stage after getting some G League reps, though.

Nick didn’t pan out as an NBA player but did join the Spurs video room as an assistant in 2017-18. He then joined Golden State’s G League affiliate as an assistant for two seasons. Nick will replace Seth Cooper, who is now helping run Golden State’s player development program. Santa Cruz finished the 2022-23 season with an 18-14 record, which was good for seventh in the Western Conference.

NBA legend Dirk Nowitzki says he didn’t know how to use air conditioner in rental car he drove as a rookie

Dirk Nowitzki had an illustrious career that included an NBA championship and 14 All-Star appearances with the Dallas Mavericks. He will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend, and he recently told a story about how when he was a rookie he was sweating unnecessarily — in a very literal sense.

In a recent interview with Rachel Nichols, Nowitzki admitted one of the biggest lessons he learned in the United States was about car air conditioning.

Nowitzki in his rookie year he was only going to be in the country for a few months — due to a lockout shortening the 1998-99 NBA season to 50 games — and leave right after the season was over. He decided it was not worth it to buy a car until his second season in the league, so he opted for a rental instead.

“I was driving it around, it worked great. And of course, the players were always killing me when I drove up to practice or the plane,” he said.

“They all had their fancy cars, their SUVs, and the Hummer was big at the time and I had my little rental car.”

It worked fine for him, until things started heating up off the court.

“And so, we’re getting into April and May because the season was shifted and it was getting hot out,” he said. “It was getting warm already and I’ll come to the games and I’ll be in the lobby sweating… I’m walking in the locker room and I’m sweating a bit and they’re like, ‘Why are you sweating?'”

Nowitzki explained to his teammates that it was really hot outside and the inside of his car was really hot even though he drove with the windows down. At that point, someone went to his car and showed him the A/C button and explained he has to press it in order for cool air to come out.

“I was like, ‘Oh I was wondering how that worked.’ Growing up, the car I had at 18, I didn’t have A/C. Germany doesn’t get that hot, so I did not know about the A/C button. So that was a valuable lesson for sure,” Nowitzki said.

This story Dirk Nowitzki told me on Headliners about his rookie year CRACKED ME UP 😂😂😂 Dirk gets inducted to the @HoopHall this weekend – can’t wait.

— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) August 10, 2023
The 7-footer from Germany was the ninth overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft selected by the Milwaukee Bucks and then traded to the Dallas Mavericks. He made his debut on Feb. 5, 1999, and wrapped up his first season in the league averaging 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 47 games.

Not the worst for a rookie, but Nowitzki would go on to become a Mavericks legend and one of the greatest international stars in NBA history. He finished his career of 21 seasons averaging 20.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 1,522 regular-season games.

Nowitzki will be a headliner for the Class of 2023, along with other basketball legends such as Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Becky Hammon and Gregg Popovich. The Hall of Fame ceremonies will take place Aug. 11 and 12..