Seemingly every team in the NHL was touched by the tragic crash of the charter flight carrying the Kontinental Hockey League's Lokomotiv Yaroslav team that resulted in 44 people being killed.
The Devils were among those teams, as one of the dead was left wing Alexander Yasyunov. He played in 18 games for them last season and had one goal and four assists. The 23-year-old had signed a one-year deal with the KHL team with plans on returning to the Devils.
"I had a long conversation with (Vasyunov) and his representative. He wanted to go over to play a lot and then come back here," general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "He was so proud to be a Devil."
Vasyunov was the Devils' second pick in the 2006 draft.
"I can't say enough about him," Lamoriello said.
The tragedy also hit close to home for the Red Wings as Brad McCrimmon, one of their assistant coaches the past three seasons, also perished in the crash. He was set to begin his first season with Lokomotiv Yaroslav
Another one of the dead, defenseman Ruslan Salei, spent last season with the Red Wings and had two goals and eight assists in 75 games. Salei spent 15 seasons in the NHL, including stops with the Mighty Ducks (1996-2006), Panthers (2006-08), and Avalanche (2008-10).
"They were both special in their own way," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "Rusty (Salei) was a team player and played well for us. I got to know Beast (McCrimmon) real well. He helped me out a lot here my first year here in the league (1991-92)."
McCrimmon, who was 52, spent 18 seasons in the NHL from 1979-97. The long-time assistant coach longed to be a head coach and got an opportunity from Lokomotiv in May.
The crash brings to light a part of the game taken for granted and rarely mentioned.
Flying from city-to-city, and taking the inherent risks associated with air travelespecially during the most challenging of winter monthsis often taken for granted. It's easy to forget there are safety concerns and a certain amount of risk every time a team boards a flight.
"There are individuals that aren't very comfortable flying and they get on a planeno matter how safe it isnervous every time. And that affects them for 41 gamesminimuma year," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News. "Then there's others that get on and feel quite comfortable flying."
Like all NHL teams, the Sharks play 41 games on the road. Because of San Jose's lack of proximity to other NHL outposts, every road game is a flight. Only twice in the team's history have San Jose had games against Anaheim and then nearby Los Angeles, so they don't even catch a break by being able to bus or drive to a handful of away games like most teams in the East.
Flying is just a way of life in the NHL.
"Any of the teams that I've been involved with, we have the best equipment, we have the best staffs," McLellan said. "We feel really comfortable with what we have, but we don't control everything. But we don't control driving to the rink either, and we don't control a lot of things in our environments."
News and Notes:
The Islanders haven't selected a captain to replace the retired Doug Weight, though defenseman Mark Streit and winger Kyle Okposo are considered the leading candidates and young veterans Frans Nielsen, Andrew MacDonald, and John Taveras might also get consideration.
Word out of Washington is that Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has cut back on the night life and gotten into the best shape of his career.
Wild left wing Guillame Lantendresse, who scored 25 goals in 55 games during the 2009-10, is expected to report to camp noticeably thinner after showing up out of shape last September then being limited to 11 games last season because of abdominal and hip injuries.
While Penguins captain Sidney Crosby won't be ready for the season opener as he continues to recover from a concussion last January, he plans to be around the team as much as his symptoms allow
. A concussion has likely ended the career of Marc Savard and though the center is signed through 2016-17 at an annual hit of $4.007 million, the Bruins can exceed the cap beyond that amount because of his injury.
Sabres right winter Jason Pominville is completely recovered after slicing a tendon above his Achilles in last season's playoffs.
Four Canadiens coming off surgeryAndrei Markov and Josh Georges on their knees and Lars Eller and Louis Leblanchave beat their rehab timetables and will be ready for the opening of camp.
The focus of new Maple Leafs assistants Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin will be to fix the special teams.
The Flames will be able to trade for a player who can help them beyond this season if they so desire as they have $41.6 million committed to 12 players in 2012-13 and the cap limit is $64.3 million.
After deciding to try to rehabilitate a hip injury rather than opt for off-season surgery, the Canucks' Ryan Kesler says he feels fine and it should not be an issue this upcoming season.
Kings center Anze Kopitar has already been skating for a month despite suffering a devastating ankle and leg injury that was expected to sideline through the first month of 2011-12.