Happy Friday. We usually do this in the morning, but the day moves a little slower after former Sabres-writing cohort Tim Graham and I get together for some sodas, as we did Thursday night for Sharks-Red Wings Game Seven:
*The Buffalo Sabres have mailed their season-ticket renewal forms, and the recipients will notice something familiar: a 5 percent price increase. If fans want to spend even more, they can buy a travel package to see the team play in Europe.
*The San Jose Mercury News writes the Sharks took a big step toward shedding their reputation as playoff disappointments Thursday night. And so did Patrick Marleau.
With Marleau scoring what turned out to be the deciding goal in an intense and tightly-contested seven-game series, San Jose avoided a spot in the NHL hall of shame by beating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 and advancing to the Western Conference finals for a second consecutive year.
*The Detroit Free Press writes Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said he’ll take a little time to decide on his future. He’s deciding whether to retire or play another season. He’s 41, but is coming off a great playoff performance that saw him contribute four goals and eight points in 11 games, with all four goals coming during the Wings’ second-round series against the Sharks.
*Guy Boucher needed just one word to describe Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas: Enigma.
"He's shown that he's the best throughout the regular season and now in the playoffs he's shown the same," the Tampa Bay Lightning coach said. "I don't plan on him giving us any freebies, whatsoever. He doesn't have many weaknesses. I guess it's making everybody scratch their heads about what to do, including myself."
Thomas and the Bruins will host Tampa Bay in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night.
*Even though Manny Malhotra still can't play for the Canucks, his surprise return to the ice Thursday provided a pick-me-up to his Vancouver teammates.
Out with a career-threatening eye injury since being hit by a deflected puck on March 16, Malhotra skated with the team for the first time since being hurt as the Canucks began to prepare for the Western Conference finals against the San Jose Sharks.
*Sweden overcame a 1-0 deficit in the second period with a furious rally to defeat the Czechs 5-2 this afternoon at Orange Arena. The win gives Tre Kronor the first spot in Sunday night’s gold-medal game.
*The president of Hockey Canada says two years without a medal at the IIHF World Hockey Championship is "totally unacceptable."
*Ken Hitchcock is ready to step behind a NHL bench again.
Despite the disappointment of seeing his Canadian team sent home from the IIHF World Hockey Championship with a quarterfinal loss to Russia, the veteran coach proved something to himself during the tournament.
"For me it's all about building teams," Hitchcock said after Canada's 2-1 loss to Russia on Thursday night. "If I get the chance I'm very confident now that I can build a good team."
*The Thrashers are for sale, and their future in Atlanta is tenuous at best, according to an Atlanta TV station that spoke with a team owner. Meanwhile, ESPN says NHL commissioner Gary Bettman refuted reports Thursday that an announcement was imminent on the sale and relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg.
*The New York Islanders have locked up another young forward for the next five years. The club announced today that Michael Grabner has agreed to terms on a five-year contract.
*The Winter Classic is coming to Philadelphia and Citizens Bank Park, according to the Philly Daily News.
*And for your sprinkling of news about the world champion San Francisco Giants, courtesy of the Santa Cruz Sentinel: About 200 billboards sprung up in Los Angeles on Thursday with police sketches of the two men who beat Giants fan Bryan Stow outside Dodger Stadium. The billboards -- which publicize a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest -- were donated by the billboards' owner, Lamar Advertising Co. Another 100 billboards with the attackers' sketches are expected to be put up this week, said Los Angeles police detective P.J. Morris.