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Posted On Friday, 04.08.2011 / 10:43 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - Devils-Rangers: A live-blog

Rangers must earn a point to keep playoff hopes alive

Everything that could've gone wrong for the Rangers did on Friday night.

The Carolina Hurricanes easily handled the Atlanta Thrashers 6-1, one night after the Thrashers came away with a 3-0 victory against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The win moved the Hurricanes into eighth place and knocked the Rangers down to ninth entering the season's final weekend.

The Rangers also received no help from the Philadelphia Flyers, who squandered a third-period lead in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres, who clinched a playoff spot when the game went to overtime.

Things couldn't be more simple for the Rangers, who must simply earn more points than the Hurricanes on Saturday to get into the postseason. The Hurricanes play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. A win puts the Hurricanes into the playoffs no matter what the Rangers do. Making matters worse for the Rangers, the Lightning are entrenched in the fifth seed and can't move up or down in the standings no matter what happens.

If the Rangers lose in regulation to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon at MSG, they are eliminated. If they can just earn a point in overtime, a regulation loss by the Hurricanes gets the Rangers into the postseason.

Starting at about 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, I'll have live updates on everything, from the Rangers' lineup changes to the live action from the game. Check back often for the latest news and info from the afternoon tilt.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Monday, 02.28.2011 / 5:30 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

All the day's trade action in one live-blog extravaganza

There were 16 trades made in the NHL on Monday, none bigger than the deals that sent Dustin Penner to the Los Angeles Kings, Dennis Wideman to the Washington Capitals and Jason Arnott to the Caps in a separate deal.

If you're looking for a recap of all the day's action go here to read the six-hour live-blog that captured all the day's deals, rumors and signings.
Posted On Saturday, 02.19.2011 / 11:25 AM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Iginla never worried about trade, missing Heritage

Earlier this season when it looked like the Flames had zero chance at a playoff spot, the talk began to center around the team potentially trading Jarome Iginla.

Iginla has a contract that runs through 2013, but if the Flames were looking to rebuild, they could get quite the haul for him. With that trade talk swirling around the Flames captain in December, it was possible Iginla wouldn't be wearing a Flames jersey when the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic rolled around in February.

Iginla said he heard the rumors, but he was never worried about not being part of this outdoor game.

"The possibilities of being traded or all the talk about blowing the team up, I'd be lying if I said I never, ever thought about that," Iginla said. "But no, it wasn't about this game. We were just focusing on our next game. To be honest, more than anything, it's just kind of crept up."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Friday, 02.18.2011 / 5:45 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Facing the Habs not a big deal to Tanguay

There were a lot of expectations when Alex Tanguay arrived in Montreal before the 2008-09 season.

The Flames traded Tanguay to the Canadiens in a draft-day deal in exchange for a first- and second-round pick after a disappointing pair of season in Calgary.

Things were going well for him with the Canadiens as he posted 16 goals and 25 assists in 50 games. But a separated shoulder cost him two months, and the Canadiens chose not to re-sign him after the season.

After spending one season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tanguay rejoined the Flames this summer. But there's no extra incentive or added emotion facing the team that let him walk two seasons ago.

"It's been a couple years," Tanguay said. "I don't think there's too many guys who are there since I was there. To me, it's not going to be any different than any other game."

Sunday's game will be a rare chance for the Quebec native to play in the great outdoors.

"I never really played outside," Tanguay said. "We had covered ice in a dome. It was natural ice underneath the dome, but I didn't have to deal with the elements."
Posted On Thursday, 02.17.2011 / 6:03 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Heritage Classic a hit with sponsors

CALGARY -- It appears that the Heritage Classic is a hit -- even before the game is played.

NHL Executive Vice President of Marketing Brian Jennings said Thursday the sponsorship revenue for the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic has exceeded the sponsorship revenue for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Jennings didn't reveal the dollar figures, but said the excitement shown by Canadian sponsors such as Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire for an outdoor game in Canada has made the difference.

"We were probably long overdue to get back on Canadian soil," Jennings said. "I think our corporate partners recognize the power of the brands. For us, we were overwhelmed at the support from the sponsorship perspective. There's a lot of ways we measure success from this, and certainly revenues are a part of it."

About 22,000 Heritage Classic jerseys of both the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens have been sold thus far, Jennings said. Sales have favored the host team so far, with about 16,000 Flames jerseys having already flown off the shelves.

But a major concern for Jennings is the sale of counterfeit jerseys. He said not only are fans purchasing an inferior product, but they could also be helping people engage in illegal activities.

"I think we've seen a heightened increase of counterfeiting," Jennings said. "I think there's a lot of things that fans can do. Some of the dollars that get generated from counterfeit jerseys find their way back to terrorist-type activities. It's a big business, and not just from a hockey perspective but hockey in general. It's intellectual property, which is (a) main part of our collateral. It's a key element for us to protect, and we are quite vigilant in the marketplace for doing so."

Jennings also announced the NHL, the Calgary Flames and Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine and his Companions in Courage charity has plans to donate a state-of-the-art "NHL Legacy Classroom" at Alberta Children's Hospital. The classroom is expected to be operational by April 2011.

The classroom will feature Cisco System's online conferencing system WebEx, which allows young patients to connect to family, friends, schools and teachers anywhere in the world during a hospital stay.

"The Alberta Children's Hospital is a Southern Alberta jewel providing unparalleled care for all young people in need of its services," said Flames President & CEO Ken King. "The Calgary Flames organization is proud to partner with the NHL in the creation of this unique legacy."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Wednesday, 02.16.2011 / 4:30 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Heritage Classic merchandise available Thursday

Fans will be able to purchase Heritage Classic merchandise at Spectator Plaza outside McMahon Stadium starting Thursday.

The Official NHL Heritage Classic Merchandise Store will carry jerseys, headwear, souvenirs, gifts and novelty items and apparel, including women’s and children’s wear throughout the weekend. The retail location will be open to the public from noon-7 p.m. on Feb. 17; from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Feb. 18; from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Feb. 19 and Feb. 20; and from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Feb. 21.

Retailers Canadian Tire, Champs Sports, Flames FanAttic, Hockey Experts, Jersey City Canada and Sport Chek have stocked the shelves of their Calgary stores with official NHL Heritage Classic merchandise. In addition, Adrenalin & Tuxedo Sports, Game On Sports, Premier Sports, Pro Hockey Life, Rexall Drug Stores, and Shoppers Drug Mart also are showcasing official NHL Heritage Classic gifts and novelty items in Calgary area locations.

Posted On Tuesday, 02.15.2011 / 4:21 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - NHL Heritage Classic chatter

Otto likes what he sees with red-hot Flames

Joel Otto knows a thing or two about quality Calgary Flames teams. He was a member of the franchise's only Stanley Cup championship in 1989 and was a rookie when the Flames reached the Cup Final in 1986.

Otto is now an assistant coach for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, who will be apart of the 2011 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic festivities when the Hitmen host the Regina Pats on Monday at McMahon Stadium. But spending a lot of time in Calgary has allowed to see first-hand the turnaround of the Flames.

The Flames were left for dead in late December after GM Darryl Sutter was fired with the team holding a 16-18-3 record. But the Flames are 13-4-5 since Jay Feaster took over and have climbed into the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.

"I've seen a few games. Me along with the rest of the city is excited they’re playing better for sure," Otto said. "They seem to be playing for each other. Certainly confidence, once you get on a roll, you're feeling good about yourself and confident with each other, little things seem easier to do."

The Flames will carry a 9-1-2 record in their last 12 games into Wednesday's showdown with the Dallas Stars, but Otto doesn't think it's fair to scapegoat Sutter and heap all the praise on Feaster for the Flames' resurgence.

"I think it's unfair to blame Darryl for this turnaround," Otto said. "Whether Jay has come in with a different attitude, that certainly helps. But as you watch on the outside, I don't know what goes on on the inside there, they seem to be enjoying each other."

Otto's main concern is making sure the Hitmen, who are in last place in the Central Division at 17-35-2-2, are focused on their current three-game road swing and not looking ahead to what will certainly be a special game at McMahon Stadium.

"I think there's been a little bit of buzz," Otto said. "We had our team pictures last week in the jerseys we're going to wear. There's been talk about what they'll have to wear underneath. I think with the road trip we had some big games. We're fighting for points and trying to get in the playoffs and we kind of put ourselves in a hole. Our focus has been more on that than the game itself. I'm sure once they get back, they'll be pretty pumped and excited to be apart of this weekend."

Posted On Saturday, 01.29.2011 / 9:15 AM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - Ready to Raleigh

Stepan thought he was playing in an actual game

Being a rookie in the NHL is a learning experience. The Rangers' Derek Stepan figured that out quick after registering a hat trick on opening night, then failing to score in his next 18 games.

Stepan made the adjustment and earned a trip to the All-Star weekend thanks to his 14 goals and 16 assists.

But he was under the impression that his All-Star selection meant he would be playing in a game and not just the skills competition.

"I originally thought there was a rookie game. Hasn't there been in the past?" said Stepan, referring to the YoungStars Game that won't take place this year. "But then I found I was just in the skills comp, that's all I really know at this point."

Stepan got over his disappointment and is gearing up for the SuperSkills Competition that takes place tonight. He said he won't find out what competition he'll get until right before the start of the event.

There a few rookies Stepan knows from his world junior time. The Ducks' Cam Fowler was a fellow member of Team USA and Edmonton's Taylor Hall was part of Team Canada. Stepan also played with Carolina's Jamie McBain at Wisconsin.

Stepan offered an interesting assessment of his comfort level in Raleigh.

"I know everyone here, but a lot of guys probably don't know who I am," Stepan said. "There's so many good hockey players here."

Stepan said the Rangers, who are facing a slew of injuries, were happy to get the break despite playing well. The Rangers are currently without Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Erik Christensen, Alex Frolov, Dan Girardi, Vinny Prospal and Derek Boogaard.

And those are the players who are just hurt now. The Rangers also missed Chris Drury for two months and Marian Gaborik for 12 games.

Has Stepan seen anything like this at any level of his playing career?

"No, and I asked some of the older guys. I asked Dru if he'd ever seen anything like this and he said never," Stepan said. "He's never seen anything close to this."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
Posted On Friday, 01.28.2011 / 9:12 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - at the NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft

Mr. Irrelevant at the 2011 Fantasy Draft is...

...Phil Kessel!

It should be interesting to hear his reaction, considering he does get a car for his trouble. And it's not like being the worst All-Star is a bad thing. It's like being the poorest millionaire. At the end of the day, you still make more money than me.
Posted On Friday, 01.28.2011 / 8:57 PM

By Dave Lozo - Staff Writer / - at the NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft

Team Lidstrom an early 11-goal favorite

Sure, it's an exhibition game that's meant to be fun, but let's start picking apart the picks of these guys as we wind down.

Cam Ward is a better goaltender than I'll ever be, but as the No. 1 pick in a draft like this, I think Staal sank his team off the bat. Then Zdeno Chara in the fourth round because Staal doesn't want to get hit by him? This is simply poor drafting strategy.

Look at the cagey Lidstrom, grabbing Stamkos and Weber and Byfuglien while Staal took his brother about 6 rounds too soon.

Anything can happen, but I'm going to offer an early prediction of Team Lidstrom 14, Team Staal 3.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Life's about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity, and obviously he must have some swagger about him, some confidence about him, because he was solid. He made some good saves. He was 6-foot-3 on every shot, which is a good thing for a goalie. He played well. We got a win.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on rookie goaltender Garret Sparks, who made 24 saves in his first NHL start, a 3-0 win vs. Oilers
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