NHL Notebook

Cause of death for Rangers’ Boogaard remains unclear

Associated Press / May 15, 2011

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It may be weeks before authorities know exactly how and why Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard died, although foul play was not immediately suspected.

The 28-year-old player was found dead Friday in his Minneapolis apartment. Few details were available, but the news rippled across the NHL, as the 6-foot-7-inch Boogaard was a fan favorite and one of the game’s most feared fighters. He missed most of this season because of a concussion and shoulder injury from a fight.

“I don’t think we have any answers as to what happened or why it happened,’’ said Ron Salcer, Boogaard’s agent.

Authorities received a report of a man not breathing around 6:15 p.m. Friday, said Minneapolis police Sergeant William Palmer. Minneapolis fire officials were the first to arrive and determined he was dead.

Palmer said authorities do not suspect foul play at this point, but the police department’s homicide unit and the Hennepin County (Minn.) Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating. Palmer said the medical examiner will determine the cause of death. An autopsy was being conducted yesterday, but results probably will not be released for at least two weeks.

Rangers captain Chris Drury said in a statement that Boogaard was “a great friend and a great teammate’’ whose death is a “tragic loss for the hockey community.’’

Boogaard signed a four-year, $6.5 million deal with the Rangers in July and appeared in 22 games this season.

In several player polls, Boogaard was voted as the league’s most intimidating player.

When the Rangers signed him last summer, general manager Glen Sather said the decision was made because Boogaard was “the biggest and toughest.’’

Chance to quiet critics The Canucks and Sharks face off in the Western Conference finals beginning tonight as perennial playoff underachievers. It’s a label only one team — and several star players — will shed with a long-awaited chance to play for the Stanley Cup.

The Sharks have come closer of late, getting to the conference finals a second straight season, but are still looking for their first trip to the Cup finals. Vancouver has played for the Cup twice in 40 years, and earned its first trip to the final four since 1994.

Much of the focus for past playoff failure has fallen on the top players for both teams. In San Jose, captain Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have both been called out for failing to raise their games in the playoffs.

“The only way you get rid of that is to move on,’’ Marleau said. “It would be nice — you put in a lot of sweat and everything — to get a little bit of recognition.’’

Which must sound familiar to Vancouver’s top-line twins, Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

“They’ve gone through the same things as we have,’’ Daniel said. “They’ve been getting a lot of criticism, but they’ve been to the conference final two years in a row, which is pretty good.’’

Lidstrom unsure Nicklas Lidstrom insists he doesn’t know whether he’s returning to the Red Wings for a 20th season or retiring at the age of 41. He has, however, set a deadline to give the team his decision.

“Before July 1,’’ Lidstrom said.

Lidstrom is a Norris Trophy finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons. If he wins his seventh award for being the NHL’s top defenseman, he will match Doug Harvey’s total and trail Bobby Orr’s record by one.

Lidstrom signed a one-year, $6.2 million deal June 1, 2010, and likely would come back with similar contract terms if he chooses to continue his career.

“I think he’ll come back,’’ said Detroit coach Mike Babcock. “He’s a good player and he’s on a team that has a good opportunity.’’

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