Report: Extortionist targeted Sabres’ Pegula

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula was one of several high-profile victims reportedly targeted in an extortion scheme. (AP)
May 20, 2013, 11:21 PM

Hockey Hearsay compiles stories from around the hockey world and runs weekdays, 12 months a year.

REPORT: EXTORTIONIST TARGETS SABRES’ PEGULA

The Buffalo News reports a California actor has admitted taking part in a scheme to extort money from Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

Vivek Shah, 25, of West Hollywood, pleaded guilty in a West Virginia federal court earlier this month as part of a deal that could land him in prison for up to 87 months.

Federal prosecutors say he also targeted film producer Harvey Weinstein and West Virginia coal magnate Christopher Cline as part of “a multimillion-dollar extortion attempt.”

In the indictment against Shah, he was accused of sending a letter threatening to kill one of Cline’s relatives unless $13 million was wired to an offshore bank account.

Prosecutors said similar letters were sent to Pegula, Weinstein and others.

MACLEAN RAVES ABOUT SENS’ FANS

The Ottawa Senators will host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of their second round playoff series Wednesday, with the Penguins series lead cut to 2-1 after Ottawa’s dramatic overtime victory Monday night.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review describes how Sens coach Paul MacLean’s NHL playing days had stops in Winnipeg, Detroit and St. Louis. Detroit, often called Hockeytown, is among his coaching stops. MacLean said the enthusiasm of Ottawa fans takes a backseat to nobody.

“The fans are great,” he said. “In and around the city, you can’t go anywhere … there’s a buzz. It’s every bit as exciting as Hockeytown has ever been, maybe even more. In a Canadian city, it’s way different than being in a U.S. city in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s a lot of fun right now.”

THOMAS, BACKSTROM ADVISED RINNE ON HIP SURGERY

The Nashville Tennessean relays how Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne expects to feel better on the ice next year than he did this season after undergoing left hip surgery in Nashville two weeks ago.

He expects to remain on crutches for about six more weeks and be on the ice for training camp in September.

Rinne also spoke with Tim Thomas and Nicklas Backstrom, goalies who returned successfully from hip surgery.

“At first when I realized it had to be done I was disappointed,” Rinne said. “But once I started talking to other players, I … just tried to gather as much information as I could. I was asking how their experience was, how the surgery was, how the rehab part of the process was and how they feel today after playing with the hip. I think that was one of the things that made me feel comfortable.”

NHL THRIVING POST-LOCKOUT

The Vancouver Province muses how the NHL has done an extraordinary job of rehabilitating its image over the last five months.

At Christmas, the league was mired in a lockout that threatened the industry’s well-being. Now, they boast playoff series that feature teams in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit and a Canadian team that preserves this country’s rooting interest. The game’s biggest stars — Sidney Crosby, Datsyuk, Drew Doughty, Patrick Kane — are on display and there’s another layer of compelling figures — John Tortorella, Jonathan Quick, the referees — to keep the masses entertained.

The NHL, in fact, couldn’t ask for much more. The NBA playoffs seem to be an exercise in determining who will be slaughtered by Miami. Major League Baseball’s storylines aren’t terribly compelling. Yes, the quality of the game and the officiating standard remain a concern for the NHL but, all things considered, it’s been a remarkable turnaround for the league.

LECAVALIER ON BOLTS’ GOALIES, NO-TRADE CLAUSE

The Tampa Bay Times has a number of quotes from Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier, including these:

On potential changes to the team: “I don’t know. I’m not the man making decisions. I think with (goalie Ben Bishop) coming in here at the deadline, he’s a great goalie and (Anders Lindback) as well. Two big boys, two big bodies. When you have that behind you it definitely changes things and I’m excited for that.”

On his no-trade clause: “Yeah, I want to be here. I want to play here the rest of my career and I’ve always said that and will keep saying it. I’ve been here for 15 years now. I’m proud to be part of this organization.”

KINGS’ TOFFOLI SEIZING HIS CHANCE

LA Kings Insider reflects on the fact that since joining the Kings’ lineup in Game 5 of the St. Louis series, Tyler Toffoli has provided some depth contributions that have begun to show up on the scoresheet. His participation will serve the team well in the long-term in addition to his here-and-now contributions, according to Dustin Brown.

“I think it’s just an opportunity, right? The whole year has been an opportunity for him to step into the lineup, and he’s done a good job of capitalizing on his opportunity,” Brown said. “The experience now he gets in the moment. It’s more down-the-road, going into next year that it’s really going to help him with his confidence and coming in here and earning a spot.”

JACKETS SEND WAKE-UP CALL TO JOHANSEN

The Columbus Dispatch details how Ryan Johansen, the Blue Jackets’ first-round pick (No. 4 overall) in 2010, was the poster child for AHL Springfield’s “underperformance” in the playoff.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen was asked if Johansen’s need for a frequent prodding raises a red flag about his career trajectory. His response, essentially, was “we’ll see.”

“As with any young player, there’s a learning curve,” Kekalainen said. “It’s about learning, learning to be a pro. The one thing I think is important with our organization is that everybody has to earn their ice time, earn their role on the team. If you don’t earn it, you’re going to sit. The coaching staff didn’t think he earned his spot on the team, so he sat.

“This should be a good wake-up call for him. I think this is probably going to be a disappointment to say the least, maybe even a bit embarrassing. Hopefully he takes it the right way, gets to work this summer and shows us in the fall that he’s taken it to heart and he’s ready to earn a spot on the (Blue Jackets).”

WOLSKI THANKS FANS

You may have seen early Wednesday that former Washington Capitals forward Wojtek Wolski signed with Torpedo Nizhni Novgorod in the KHL. He was slated to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Thanks to social media, players like Wolski can send a quick thanks to fans on their way out the door.

CAPS CRAVE PIVOT-AL VERSATILITY

CSNWashington.com indicates the Capitals are patiently waiting for top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov to finish his contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League at the end of next season and finally join the NHL.

Earlier this season, Capitals GM George McPhee said he likes having the option of having forwards who can play both wing and center.

“[Kuznetsov] was a terrific center as a junior and if a guy can show you that he plays center, you try him at center,” McPhee said.  “It looks like he’ll be a pretty dynamic, playmaking center. … It’s OK to have centers who you can move to the wing if necessary. It’s nice to have that situation. We’ve got it with Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson.

“You can always move people to the wing. You can’t move them from wing to center if they don’t know how to play center.”

NHL PLAYERS’ THOUGHTS WITH OKLAHOMA VICTIMS

A deadly tornado struck outside of Oklahoma City Monday, killing at least 51 people, according to published reports.

A number of NHL players took to Twitter to express their sympathies.

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