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Montreal CanadiensTORONTO — Center Jonathan Drouin is day to day with an upper-body injury and did not play for the Montreal Canadiens in a 5-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Ricoh Coliseum on Monday.

“It’s a muscular thing and it was more out of precaution for tonight than anything else,” coach Claude Julien said. “He was scheduled to play, he was fine this morning, and then just after practice we chose to take the safe route and do that. So, it’s day to day, muscular, upper body.”

Drouin, 22, was expected to play on the top line with left wing Max Pacioretty and right wing Brendan Gallagher. Forward Torrey Mitchell replaced Drouin in the lineup.

Asked whether he had any concerns about Drouin’s status for the long term, Julien said, “No.”

Drouin, the No. 3 pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, was acquired in a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 15 and signed a six-year contract reportedly worth $33 million ($5.5 million average annual value) later that day.

The Canadiens scratched goaltender Charlie Lindgren before warmups because of a lower-body injury. Al Montoya started instead and allowed five goals on 21 shots.

“Just before the game as he was warming up, he just had a lower-body injury that required him not to play,” Julien said. “He’ll be evaluated by the doctors here moving forward.”

Jake Hildebrand, who played last season for the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, was the emergency backup goaltender.

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — An uneasy fall turned into an unsettled winter, a spring without the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a management and coaching change for the Los Angeles Kings.

Their captain, center Anze Kopitar, had never experienced such a prolonged personal struggle on the ice, at any age. It stung when the Kings missed the playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons.

“I had periods, at a time, where it didn’t go [right],” said Kopitar, who turned 30 on Aug. 24. “It’s not even close to having a full season like that. It’s different and you get to know yourself and you see what you’ve got to do. I definitely learned from it.

“Once you go in the wrong direction, it’s really tough to stop it first and then get going again. I don’t think my start was all that poor. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t a complete disaster. After a while the pucks weren’t going where I wanted them to go, and you start thinking about it.”

Kopitar was speaking Tuesday at the Kings practice facility, a day before they were to hit the ice for the start of training camp. Even a two-time Stanley Cup champion (2012, 2014) and Selke Trophy winner (2016) can go through a crisis of confidence; last season, he didn’t score his fourth goal until Jan. 9 and never really ignited for a sustained stretch.

“I’ve got to be better,” said Kopitar, who signed an eight-year, $80 million contract, with an average annual value of $10 million, to remain with Los Angeles on Jan. 16, 2016. “I’ve got to look at myself first, because I want to play better and I’ve got the confidence that I can get back on the level that I expect myself to be and everybody around me expects me to be on.”

Last season, his first season as Kings captain, Kopitar had 52 points (12 goals, 40 assists) in 76 games, his fewest points in a full season since entering the NHL in 2006-07. It was the first time in 10 seasons he did not lead the Kings in scoring, giving way to center Jeff Carter, who had 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) in 82 games.

However, there a noticeable air of optimism around the Kings headquarters after an offseason of change. Longtime general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter were fired in April after Los Angeles went 39-35-8 and were replaced by Rob Blake as GM and John Stevens as coach. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty has noticed a visibly upbeat atmosphere around his teammates and staff.

“I’ve never seen so much excitement around the rink,” Doughty said. “Everyone is walking around smiling. I know it’s early and it’s camp. The real work hasn’t begun yet, but it’s just a new feeling around the team and it feels good.”

There is excitement, too, about the potential of more offensive freedom. The Kings won’t be straying wildly from the defensive tenets that won two Stanley Cup championships. They want to open it up, looking to improve their average of 2.43 goals per game, tied for 24th in the NHL last season.

“We always pride ourselves on being a good defensive team,” Kopitar said. “We’re not going to change that. We want to kind of bring more freedom into our game when the guys aren’t scared to make plays.

“Let’s face it, there are 30 [other] teams in the league that are pretty good, and they’re going to make good plays, too. We can’t be afraid to mishandle a puck or something in trying to make a good play, because we have the confidence that our defense is good.

“We have a world-class goaltender [Jonathan Quick]. Sometimes we don’t want to rely on it, but sometimes that’s going to have to bail us out. But again, we’re not going to trade chances. We’re not going to run and gun. But we just want to be a little bit more creative and a little bit more confident in our ability to make plays.”

Kopitar was having his on-ice woes at the same time he was adjusting to the Kings’ captaincy. He said it should be a smoother process this season.

“You learn with time,” he said. “I think last year that was the biggest thing was kind of figuring it out and sometimes to speak up and what to do and how to approach it and how to help out the guys.”

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BUFFALO — Defenseman Damon Severson hopes to improve in a top-four role after signing a six-year, $25 million contract with the New Jersey Devils on Monday.

“I don’t really look at it as pressure,” said Severson, who was a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights. “I take it as a vote of confidence from the management and ownership. I just have to have the confidence to know that I can help the team with the skill set I bring and do what I can to keep getting better, and progressing in a way to make this team better.”

The contract has an average annual value of $4.17 million and does not include a no-trade clause.

Severson, 23, was glad to sign a long-term contract because it showed him the Devils view him as a fixture of their defense for the future. General manager Ray Shero said Friday that a bridge deal of two or three years was possible, but the shorter contract would have left Severson a restricted free agent with arbitration rights much sooner.

“The market is relatively set for these young defensemen, but again you’re always coming off a three-year deal for these young players,” Shero said during the Prospects Challenge at HarborCenter on Monday. “I was always willing to do a long-term deal with Damon because as a young defenseman, he has a really good skill set and good hands. It will take some time for these young defensemen to get to where they want to be.”

Said Severson: “I was happy when the Devils preferred to go long term because I wanted to commit to New Jersey. A bridge deal is a different way of looking at it, but I’m happy with a long-term contract. I’m comfortable and excited for what’s to come here.”

Severson, selected in the second round (No. 60) of the 2012 NHL Draft, was coming off a three-year, $2.85 million entry-level contract, according to

“He’s played 200 games and, like our team, we have to continue to develop and get better and he’s a big part of that,” Shero said. “It’s going to be up to him and our coaching staff to get to that next level, for us to be a good team and for him to be the best player he could be.”

Severson has 69 points (nine goals, 60 assists) in 203 NHL games. In addition to contributing offensively, he said he wants to improve on his minus-31 rating from last season.

“I didn’t have a good plus/minus last year, so you always want to work at that, in addition to points,” Severson said. “There might be stretches when I might not put up any numbers at all. It’s just a matter of playing that consistent game and being the guy that your teammates and everyone can trust.”

Severson, who could be paired with captain Andy Greene when the Devils open the season against the Colorado Avalanche at Prudential Center on Oct. 7, had NHL career highs of 28 assists and 31 points in 2016-17, his third NHL season. He was third on the Devils with 73 blocked shots and averaged 20:21 of ice time per game.

“I’m looking forward to developing here,” Severson said. “I know the type of player I can be and I’m going to try to keep that going in the right direction. I’m an offensive style guy so I’ll try and play that way, knowing that defense takes care of offense.

“It’s just a matter of winning; at the end of the year they don’t ask who lost the Stanley Cup. They ask who won it and we want to get there.”

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo happily looks to the future now that he’s fully recovered from the concussion-related symptoms that nearly derailed his career in March.

Saying he’s not dwelling on the past, Okposo was eager to rejoin the Sabres after skating with numerous teammates for practice a little more than a week before the team opens training camp. Though he has been skating for much of the summer, Tuesday marked his first time on the ice in Buffalo since being hospitalized late last season.

“It was obviously a tough situation, a tough road,” Okposo said. “I’m just happy to be back and happy to be able to play again, and play at a high level.”

He acknowledged questioning if he would ever get better before he started feeling “clear” in May.

“It was definitely a scary thing,” Okposo said. “Your mind starts to question a lot of things.”

In a letter posted on the Sabres website in July, Okposo wrote he began losing weight and had difficulty sleeping after what he described as “a routine hit” in practice. He played one game before the symptoms worsened.

Okposo then spent nearly a week in April in Buffalo General Hospital’s Neuro Surgical ICU to be stabilized.

The 29-year-old from St. Paul, Minnesota, had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 65 games during his first season with Buffalo. Okposo signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Sabres in free agency last year.

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“So,” I ask Shawn Thornton. “What have you learned about yourself since taking the job?”

“Whoa, there!” the recently retired winger stops me. “That’s a pretty deep question.”

In fairness, we had been talking for only about three minutes, and Thornton — who scraped together a 20-year pro career, including 14 in the NHL, largely as an enforcer — had been in his new role for only three months. But the transition is significant. In April, after winning a Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011 and playing his last two years with the Florida Panthers, Thornton threw out his skates — literally. He chucked them in the trash, fetching them only when he realized he could auction them off for charity. (Some guy paid $2,500.) In June, the Panthers introduced Thornton as their vice president of business operations. It’s a hefty title and an unconventional one for a former player.

“Not too many people go from the actual sporting world to the business world,” the 40-year-old Thornton said. “Usually when guys retire and join an organization, they go into hockey ops or scouting.”

Indeed, Kevin Lowe, the vice chairman of the Edmonton Oilers, and Luc Robitaille, the president of the Los Angeles Kings, are among Thornton’s few contemporaries. The Panthers, meanwhile, are an intriguing organization to join: a Sun Belt former expansion team still tussling for footing. As of 2015, the Panthers had reportedly lost $154 million over two decades in South Florida. The team struck a favorable deal with Broward County for a renewed lease in 2015 and has seen improvements since (including a spike to set attendance records in 2016).

The Panthers enter year five with an ownership group known in the NHL for being “the military guys”: Owner Vincent Viola, who withdrew as President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army, has hired at least a half-dozen front-office staffers with military backgrounds. The team has since toughened up in a hockey sense, too. Besides Thornton, the 6-foot-2, 217-pounder who admits that he “made a career getting punched in the face for 20 years,” the Panthers have hired gritty Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger as a senior adviser in hockey ops and Bob Boughner, a rugged 10-year NHL veteran, as coach.

As for Thornton? Over 30 minutes, we discussed how he’s adapting to life in a cubicle. As it turns out, he’s more introspective than he thinks.

He has learned about routine.

“I’m a Monday-to-Friday guy, technically 9:30 to 5:30, but obviously, it changes every day. I’m not going to complain about the hours because people work way longer hours than me, but it takes some adjusting. When [I] call home, ‘I won’t be home for dinner.’ I mean, that never used to happen. ‘I’m stuck at the office until 8 tonight.’ Why? Because that’s the real world, and that’s what real people do. I haven’t been part of that world until now. I have friends who work normal jobs, and if we used to meet for a beer, maybe they’d be delayed a half-hour or an hour, and I’d be like, ‘That a–h— is late again!’ Now I get it.”

He has learned to say goodbye to some luxuries.

“No more naps! During the season, you nap a lot because of travel. During the offseason, I’d train from 6 a.m. to 1 or 2, then my day was done, and I’d go home and nap because I was exhausted. I just don’t have time anymore.”

He has learned how to learn a little bit about everything.

“I’m in on marketing meetings, I’m in on corporate partnership meetings, I’m in on ticketing meetings, sitting with finance once or twice a week. I meet with some of our corporate sponsors to see what some of their needs might be. I meet about our practice facility to see what we can do to make that more successful and more enjoyable for everyone in the area.”

He has learned that you sometimes don’t know where life will take you.

“After I had five years in the minors in Chicago, up and down, up and down, my wife and I talked about it, and we gave ourselves one more year. I was 29 years old. I had been at it for nine, almost 10 years. ‘I’ll give it one more year to get to 10 years pro.’ How much longer was I going to do this? I mean, 32, that might be stretching it as a career minor leaguer. So I was getting ready to become a police officer. We were friends with a few police officers in Toronto. We used to go on ride-alongs with them once a month and played hockey with them at least once a month to get my foot in the door and network. My wife had actually finished her police testing when she came to live with me. She was going to do it, too. That was the plan. I was making like $125,000-, $130,000-money in the minors — that’s still really good money in the real world. I wanted to do that as long as possible. But then there was the question: What would I do after? And it would have been tough to join onto a police force at 35. I just gave it one more try with one more organization to see if I could make it work in the NHL, or else I would go be a police officer. So obviously that didn’t happen. Our lives changed, but no looking back.”

He has learned that it’s OK to have a different path.

“I’m the only one on our business side of the front office that has a hockey background. Unless they’re lying to me, everyone in our office appreciates my perspective. I was in five different organizations — some that were very successful and some that weren’t. Chicago is an example. They were terrible when I was there. Couldn’t get anyone in the building. Now they sell out every single night. Seeing the changes they made, seeing changes in Boston — going from 12,000 people in the building to selling out every night and winning championships — then seeing changes we’re trying to make here. I definitely don’t have a college degree or a résumé, but I have things that people haven’t seen on the other side.”

He has learned about the challenges of marketing a team in South Florida.

“We have a transient market here, as everyone knows. We get a lot of visiting-team fans here. It doesn’t matter how many fans we have, if we’re playing the Montreal Canadiens, there’s probably going to be 10,000 snowbirds from Montreal coming to our game. Same with Toronto, same with Chicago. There’s some challenges we need to deal with that other teams don’t. But we’re working on it. We’re trying to build our fan base, and I’m a big believer that to do that, it’s going to take some time, but it needs to be grass-roots.”

He has learned what needs to be marketed.

“We have a lot of talent here. One of the small answers [to what needs to be marketed] is letting the players’ personalities come out. We need to let people know that a guy like Sascha [Aleksander] Barkov is actually a pretty funny guy. Mark Pysyk is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. Keith Yandle is way more intense than people give him credit for. When people start to understand the personalities that are involved in our organization, because we have some great ones, that will help.”

He has learned that it’s OK to ask for help.

“Damn Excel. I’m still figuring it out. I’ve been sitting with our accountant once or twice a week going through spreadsheets. I have something on my plate I’m trying to put together. I will say everyone here has been amazing in terms of trying to help me out with stuff like that. I was punched in the face for 20 years. I wasn’t behind a computer screen trying to put together spreadsheets. I’m getting there.”

He has learned that his body will always be scarred by hockey.

“My right hand is mangled, for the lack of a better word. It’s really sore. There’s not much I can do for it. I’ve sat down with hand surgeons, the specialists, and hopefully it just gets better over time. My hips are a little sore sometimes. But all in all, for the amount of time I played and the job I had to do while playing, I’m very, very lucky. When it comes to concussions, I’m not too worried about it. I think some people are susceptible to them. That probably sounds naive. Nobody took too many runs at me. A majority of the concussions in hockey, I think, come from clean or dirty open-ice hits with guys moving at 35 mph with huge shoulder pads on. Some come from fighting, obviously, and it seems more prevalent because it’s the easy thing to blame it on because everyone is watching when two guys square off. You’re the show. If someone gets hit and hurt, you definitely see it. In a fast-moving game, if someone gets hit, the play keeps going, so the play is magnified. In junior, I had one bad concussion. I had a bad one when John Scott hit me in Buffalo. But I don’t think I had more than that. So I’m not really worried about my brain.”

He has learned that he still needs to care for his body.

“I was at the practice rink [last week] and saw some of the guys, and they were like, ‘Hey, you look jacked as always.’ No, not really, but appreciate the thought. All of my clothes still fit. I can still rock the same suits and wear the same stuff. I don’t want to buy all new s—. My goal now is to not get fat. Whereas before, it was to be in the best condition physically possible for myself to play hockey. But now, it’s just don’t get fat. With all of the beers I have, just break even, that’s my goal now. I try to get a sweat in most days. Monday is a three-mile run and a workout. Tuesday is jitsu. Wednesday, run or bike and a lift. Thursday, jitsu. Friday, run or bike and lift. Saturday is jitsu or go for a long run.”

He has learned that team culture isn’t exclusive to being an athlete.

“I like everyone that works here. It’s kind of like a locker-room environment, actually. There’s a lot of young, hungry people. There’s a lot of communication. There’s a lot of busting balls. Guys in sales walk by and chirp on my shoes all the time.”

He has learned that it’s a process.

“There’s nothing I’ve done here I’m particularly proud of yet. I mean, I’ve been here three months. I’m working on things that I think will come to fruition soon. I’ll get back to you.”

He has learned when to lean on experiences as a former player.

“OK, one of the things I’m trying to do is streamline our player appearances, trying to get guys to do a little more in the community but also the right things in the community. I don’t think there’s been a streamlined approach to asking players from different departments. Why don’t we ask the players what they want to do, as opposed to telling them what they need to do? For myself, nobody ever had to tell me to go to a children’s hospital. It never felt like an ask because I enjoyed doing it. Same with Parkinson’s for me; I started a foundation. I care about it, so if you ask me to go speak to people at a Parkinson’s research lab, same thing: How we can make it as easy as possible for players so they want to do it. I know by being around hockey for a while, it’s not always that way. You get some bad asks. I sat in a penalty box for eight hours at some fan fest once. I might be exaggerating, but it sure as hell felt like eight hours. Like, here’s the tough guy, put him in a penalty box! All day? Let me play air hockey or something.”

He’s learning that he can be a company man.

“I’m actually enjoying this more than I thought I would. The ownership cares as much as any ownership I’ve ever seen. Yes, there’s challenges here, but I like challenges. That’s intriguing to me. But mostly, when we sat down and began talking about a job a year and a half ago, where I would fit in the organization after hockey, they had so much confidence in me. They had a vision for the role, and they approached me, and that’s what felt amazing. They approached me. I already had an opportunity for another job back in Boston [reportedly as a broadcaster]. So there was a month I wasn’t sleeping at night, literally at all, because it was a life-changing decision. Should I go back or do this? I’m confident I made the right choice.”

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Dr. Ann McKee, a concussion specialist, wants the hockey community to step up its game when it comes to posthumous brain donation.

McKee, the chief of neuropathology at VA Boston and director of Boston University’s CTE Center, has been at the forefront of football concussion research for years — but she has yet to see the hockey community donate brains posthumously at the same rate as football.

“We’re not nearly as far in hockey [research] as we are in football because we just don’t have the same numbers,” McKee said in a phone interview with

Released in late July, McKee’s study showed 177 of 202 deceased football players’ brains had chronic traumatic encephalopathy — commonly referred to as CTE. This included 110 of 111 brains of NFL players.

According to a Boston University CTE Center research assistant, neuropathology has been completed on just 16 hockey players’ brains, nine of which were found to have CTE. All six of the NHL players’ brains in the study had CTE. In total, 19 brains from hockey players have been donated to the center.

The Canadian Concussion Centre also has completed CTE studies on former NHLers, specifically those of Todd Ewen and Steve Montador. Ewen’s brain did not have CTE, but Montador’s did. The CCC said it wouldn’t release its exact total for donated brains, but it said it has more than 30 and the majority of the donations are from football players.

“I think the guys are kind of recognizing the very simple but maybe courageous gesture of just kind of being able to donate the most important organ in your body could potentially benefit others down the road, be it through prevention, diagnosis or treatment or whatever the case may be,” former NHL enforcer Stu Grimson said. “I think the awareness is really growing, but it’s in its infancy.”

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is described by the BU study as a “progressive, degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.” CTE can only be diagnosed posthumously. McKee’s findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association

According to the website for Boston University’s CTE Center, symptoms can include “memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, parkinsonism and eventually progressive dementia.”

Hockey and football often have been linked to head injuries. Also, both the NFL and NHL have been involved in lawsuits with their former players over each league’s handling of concussions. The NFL has settled its lawsuit; the NHL’s is ongoing.

In her experience with hockey players, McKee said she has so far seen CTE but not to the same degree as in football players.

“It’s not a systematic study, but just anecdotally looking at the players that have come into our brain bank compared to the football players, in general I think the hockey players have less CTE or a milder CTE. But again, this is based on very few numbers and this could change,” she said. “But I haven’t had the experience of seeing many, many advanced CTE cases in hockey like I have in football.”

Although the level of CTE that McKee has seen in hockey isn’t considered as severe, the effects of the disease can still have a damaging impact on a person’s life.

“They can have very severe behavioral changes, like aggression, violence, impulsivity, disinhibition and even depression and hopelessness and suicidal behavior,” McKee said. “That’s what we’re seeing in the individuals with mild CTE.”

McKee noted that head hits are basically ingrained in football’s fabric, while in hockey, they don’t occur with the same frequency, which could in part be why her findings in hockey have been different. Still, that doesn’t mean the sport is without both concussion and CTE risk.

NHL Alumni Association executive director and former goalie Glenn Healy, who just assumed his position this summer, said in his short time leading the alumni association, brain donation hasn’t been a major topic among former players.

“I think it has been more prevalent in football, for instance, because you have 350-pound linemen who are facing off [against] each other and going full speed, and as they stop together, the brain keeps going. Our sport is different, and we do have our issues that we have to address, for sure; but in our circles, it hasn’t been a prevalent conversation,” he said. “I played 16 years, I worked with the NHLPA, and it’s not a conversation I’ve had with any regularity.”

An NHLPA spokesman declined to comment when asked about the difference between brain donation rates among hockey players versus football players.

The NHL so far has not accepted a link between head injuries and CTE, likely because it would influence its defense of the lawsuit by former players.

In 2015, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that “from a medical science standpoint” there was no evidence of a correlation between head injuries and CTE. In 2016, he noted that “playing hockey isn’t the same as playing football,” when asked about the NFL saying a link between CTE and football had been established.

The NHL has made changes to help curb concussion risks — such as the creation of league’s department of player safety, rule alterations to limit hits to the head and the introduction of concussion spotters in games — but McKee thinks it shouldn’t be too difficult to go further.

Last postseason, there was a debate over the term “hockey play,” after those words were used to describe Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen’s cross-check that concussed Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby.

The belief is such plays that lead to head injuries shouldn’t be up for debate, but there is still reluctance.

“These are extremely popular sports, and no one wants to make any changes because of their popularity,” McKee said.

McKee stressed that the point of her research isn’t to simply just diagnose CTE for shock value. It’s to learn more about the disease in order to create treatments and make it less of a problem for people living with it. In order to do this, there needs to be more research across a wider variety of sports, which is why she wants more cognizance from the hockey community.

According to BU, knowledge of its research comes from word of mouth, and although they’re well-known in the football community, it’s not quite the same in hockey.

There’s also the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which uses its connections in the sports community to raise awareness for brain donation with BU.

Founder Chris Nowinski told that former NHLers Keith Primeau, Shawn McEachern and Jeff Serowik have pledged their brains to his foundation but noted that the numbers in hockey simply don’t add up to football players who want to donate.

Grimson, who said he has agreed to donate his brain posthumously, indicated that more proactive education on brain donation to players could help further awareness. At the moment, such information must be independently sought out and is not simply provided.

“Our alumni association or our players’ association, I have not heard much from either entity — from the NHL, for that matter — I have not heard much from any of these entities just in terms of communication with former players,” he said. “I think there’s a lot to be gained if somebody was able to kind of get behind us and educate former players and current players about the benefits of donating, but I just haven’t heard much in that regards.”