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Posted On Tuesday, 03.08.2011 / 4:25 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Countdown to the Playoffs

Projecting the field: Post All-Star break pace

Imagine Minnesota edging out Dallas for a playoff spot on the final day of the season? Or New Jersey not only making the playoffs but reaching the No. 7 seed and setting up a rematch from last season with the Philadelphia Flyers?

Take a look at how the NHL standings would finish the season if the teams continue at their current post-All-Star break pace, and both of those scenarios play out. It is a pretty simple excercise -- calculate how many points each team will collect in the final four-plus weeks of the season based on its pace from the ASG break until now and then add to the current total.

The Devils have become the No. 1 story in the NHL because of their incredible turnaround. If they keep up their post-ASG pace, not only will they make the playoffs but in comfortable fashion.

The Devils would finish with 94 points -- tied for Seventh most in the Eastern Conference with the Buffalo Sabres. New Jersey claims the seventh seed because the Devils currently would hold the tiebreaker (non-shootout wins). The Devils and Sabres would make the playoffs, while Toronto would just miss out in ninth place.

Carolina and the N.Y. Rangers have been slumping of late, and if those two clubs don't snap out of it they are in danger of falling out of the race long before the final days of the season. Given how well they've played of late, the Islanders would climb all the way to 12th in the East.

Other items of interest in the East from this excercise include Boston cliaming the top seed, Washington winning its fourth consecutive division title and getting Southeast rival Tampa Bay in the first round and Montreal climbing to fourth and grabbing home ice for a rematch with Pittsburgh from last season.

The Western Conference standings have four sets of teams finishing the same number of points, but the two tied for eighth would certainly be the biggest news. The Wild best the Stars because they currently hold the tiebreaker.

Chicago's strong play of late could help the Blackhawks chase down the Red Wings, but Detroit captures the Central Division and the No. 3 seed based on the tiebreaker.

The Red Wings and Blackhawks would see the Kings and Flames in the first round, with Los Angeles besting Calgary for the No. 5 seed based on the second tiebreaker (head-to-head) but those two teams still have a game to play. Still, the Flames climbing from 14th place in the West

San Jose climbs to second with some cushion thanks in part to having collected the second-most points in the NHL since the ASG break after New Jersey. The Sharks would face Phoenix, as the Coyotes and Wild would beat out Dallas, Anaheim, Nashville and Columbus for the final two spots in the crowded Western Conference.

The race for the top spots in the draft lottery are also quite interesting. The hot play of the Islanders (and corresponding slumps by Colorado and Atlanta) have the five teams with a chance at the No. 1 pick being the Avalanche, Ottawa, Edmonton, Florida and the Thrashers.

Obivously teams will get hot and go into slumps during the final month of the season, but consider this a one-day snapshot based on how teams have been playing for the past five weeks or so.

Post All-Star Game pace
Eastern Conference W-L-O Projected Pts.
Boston 10-4-1 107
Philadelphia 7-7-1 103
Washington 10-5-1 103
Montreal 9-5-2 99
Pittsburgh 7-6-4 99
Tampa Bay 6-6-3 98
New Jersey 14-1-1 94
Buffalo 9-4-3 94
Toronto 10-3-4 89
Carolina 6-7-3 86
NY Rangers 6-9-1 85
NY Islanders 10-5-3 79
Atlanta 3-9-2 74
Florida 4-9-4 72
Ottawa 5-9-1 65
Western Conference  W-L-O Projected Pts.
Vancouver 11-6-0 112
San Jose 13-3-0 108
Detroit 9-6-2 104
Chicago 11-3-2 104
Los Angeles 9-3-4 99
Calgary 11-3-3 99
Phoenix 9-6-1 95
Minnesota 9-6-2 93
Dallas 6-8-2 93
Anaheim 7-6-1 92
Nashville 6-7-3 90
Columbus 8-5-3 90
St. Louis 7-8-2 82
Edmonton 8-9-0 69
Colorado 1-12-2 64

Posted On Saturday, 03.05.2011 / 12:59 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Countdown to the Playoffs

Already rolling, Devils have great chance forthcoming

If people think the New Jersey Devils have peaked during this current 19-2-2 run to scrape into the fringes of playoff contention, take a peak at their upcoming schedule.

The Devils have come from 27 points back of the postseason pace to being nine shy after a 2-1 overtime win against Pittsburgh on Friday night at Prudential Center -- and New Jersey is about to hit a soft spot in the schedule. The next six games for New Jersey are as follows: at N.Y. Islanders, vs. Ottawa, at Atlanta, vs. N.Y. Islanders, vs. Atlanta and at Ottawa.

"I don't know who or where we are playing beyond this weekend," Dainius Zubrus said Friday morning. "I know we play tonight and then an afternoon game on Long Island and that's it. I think that approach has worked very well for our team. A few months ago it was 40 games to go and now it is, what, 19 games to go? We still have to stay focused."

Added Colin White: "Every team at this time of year is playing playoff hockey. Players are playing for jobs next season on some [non-contending] teams."

Those three teams are currently 12th, 14th and 15th in the Eastern Conference. When Atlanta won in Toronto on Dec. 20, the Thrashers were in first place in the Southeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa was in 10th place after that day and only six points shy of the top eight.

Both teams have struggled since then. The Thrashers have lost 23 of their 30 games since that day and now sit one point clear of New Jersey for 12th place. The Senators have lost 22 of 30 since Dec. 20 to fall into last place in the East.

The Islanders have been much improved after a disastorous start. New York has gone 18-14-3 since that day, a 91-point pace over the course of a full season. That's only been good enough to move the Islanders up two spots in the NHL standings from 30th to 28th, but teams have taken notice of their strong play.

Still, there is some evidence of the Islanders losing their momentum. They've lost four of five games (though two were after regulation) as they rely on Al Montoya and Nathan Lawson in net.

New Jersey's next game against a team currently in playoff postition is Mar. 18 at Prudential Center with Washington in town. Between now and then, Buffalo will play five contests against postseason contenders (all on the road) and Toronto will see five contenders. Carolina has four days on inactivity and eventually two back-to-backs in a six-day span.

"It feels like one day we're up after a win and then the next day we don't and we're back down again," Martin Brodeur said.

The Devils have to take care of their own business, but they might finally start getting more help. Don't be surprised if that nine-point deficit between the Devils and eighth-place in the East is a little smaller when the Capitals come to Newark on the 18th -- and this miracle comeback could be for real if the gap is significantly smaller.
Posted On Monday, 02.28.2011 / 10:17 AM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Morning musings: Deadline Day

We're finally here - it is 2011 trade deadline day. For our final installment of Morning Musings, here is an update on players who could still be on the move.

BRAD RICHARDS - TSN Darren Dreger has reported Richards will only waive his no-trade clause to play for the New York Rangers. Richards is still out with a concussion and the Rangers would have to either include some salary in the deal or make another move to have enough room to add Richards -- and be willing to meet the Stars' asking price. All that sounds unlikely, but Rangers GM Glen Sather has rarely been afraid to make a big splash.

STEPHEN WEISS - Maybe the No. 2 center available and signed to a reasonable contract for two more seasons, but there have also been lots of reports that Florida GM Dale Tallon has placed a high price tag on him. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star says the Maple Leafs have incquired. Weiss has a no-movement clause.

- Kevin Allen of USA Today reports it is unlikely Bogosian gets dealt today and that Atlanta GM Rick Dudley will need to be "bowled over." Bogosian is in the final year of his rookie contract and an RFA. He's also a 20-year-old defenseman who could still become a No. 1, franchise-type guy someday. The Thrashers should expect a lot back for him, but it would make sense for rebuilding teams that don't have that type of player in the system now (see: Edmonton, N.Y. Islanders) to inquire about Bogosian - that type of talent isn't available for trade all that often.

JASON ARNOTT - Tom Gulitti reports Arnott has spoken with New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello and told him he only wants to be traded to a team that is definitely in the playoffs -- otherwise he will stay and try to help the Devils complete a near-miraculous comeback. Arnott is a pending UFA with a $4.5 million cap hit. It seems like Arnott would be a good fit in Washington, but there could be others in the mix as well.

- Liles has one more year with a $4.2 million cap hit. He's been linked to Toronto, but Elliote Freidman of CBC reports a potential deal fell through because the Leafs wanted a draft pick tossed in as well. James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reports that Toronto GM Brian Burke isn't willing to yield more than a third-round pick. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports the Blue Jackets are interested in Liles, and that he would be willing to waive his limited no-trade clause to go there.

- Hainsey has two years left with a $4.5 million cap hit, and the Thrashers have Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and probably Bogosian to anchor the team's defense corps.'s Pierre LeBrun reports teams have shown interest in the 29-year-old veteran who hasn't produced at the same rate in Atlanta that he did with Columbus.

CHRIS HIGGINS - Higgins is a pending UFA who is currently injured, but he was previously expected to be out four weeks and now it might be shorter than that. Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reports Montreal, a team Higgins scored 84 goals for in four seasons at the start of his career, could be interested in bringing him back.

ZENON KONOPKA - Dreger reports Anaheim and Vancouver are interested in the fourth-line center/face-off specialist/tough guy. He's on a one-year deal and cheap at $600,000. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says the Wild could also be in on Konopka.

MARTY REASONER - Another Florida forward, and another guy the Canucks could be interested in. Reasoner is in the final year of his deal and carries a $1.15 million cap hit. He has 13 goals and 27 points this season. Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province reports the Canucks are interested in Reasoner or Konpoka to center their fourth line. There could be other teams out there interested in having Reasoner play a bigger role.

Plenty of other names in the mix, but those are the latest updates. There could still be a lot of activity today, with a lot of focus on Edmonton (Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Steve Staios, James Vandermeer) and Florida (Weiss, Higgins, Reasoner, Radek Dvorak and maybe Tomas Vokoun) as the number of teams willing to sell is far outnumbered by the clubs looking to add.
Posted On Sunday, 02.27.2011 / 2:37 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Stastny, Foote staying put?

Would Colorado be willing to part with young center Paul Stastny or veteran defenseman Adam Foote? Adrian Dater of the Denver Post writes the Avalanche are not expected to move either player between now and the Monday deadline.

Foote is 39 years old and an unrestricted free agent at season's end, but Dater expects him to stay with the Avalanche through the end of the season. It is possible that Foote will retire at that point. He might have been a veteran, physical defenseman who could help in the leadership department without costing much - a low-risk move for a contender who wouldn't have expected Foote to play big minutes.

Stastny is an interesting case. He signed a five-year, $33 million contract before the 2009-10 season and was expected to be one of the centerpieces of Colorado's rebuilding plan. He was an Olympian for Team USA and had 79 points last season, but the 25-year-old hasn't taken the step from young star to superstar. He has 49 points in 60 games this season -- not bad but probably not enough for a guy making $6.6 million.

There are three years left on his deal and there is no question he could still become a bona fide No. 1 center for a contending team. Dater says there may have been some exploring done, but Stastny will stay with the Avalanche. He and Matt Duchene could still become a very potent 1-2 punch at center for Colorado. It would be interesting to see what happens if another team (like Buffalo, Los Angeles or Washington) tried to make a big offer to pry Stastny away.

Dater also writes it is still possible that defenseman John-Michael Liles could be on the move. His name has been linked most to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Posted On Sunday, 02.27.2011 / 12:01 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Top prospects "available" -- don't count on it

A quick straw poll on Twitter last night on who the best prospect in the world not in the NHL is right now revealed the two names I expected to see the most -- Los Angeles' Brayden Schenn and Evgeny Kuznetsov, property of the Washington Capitals. They were the two best players at the world junior championship (the one time besides the Entry Draft when the kids take center stage every year). Note: I used to cover the Capitals so I expected plenty of love for Kuznetsov from DC-based followers, but there was a lot of it from non-Caps fans as well.

Schenn and Kuznetsov are at or near the top of the discussion. Others who could make a case include forwards Ryan Johansen (Columbus) and Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis), defenseman Erik Gudbranson (Florida) and goaltenders Jacob Markstrom (Florida) and Jack Campbell (Dallas).

The point of this excercise was to identify those guys as the trade deadline nears. If Schenn (or Kuznetsov) is indeed the "best prospect" there is probably a good chance that neither of them will be on the move this weekend -- even if both of their clubs end up being among the teams trying to make a big splash.

Schenn is undoubtedly the top prospect in the Kings' system and could be the team's No. 2 center behind Anze Kopitar as soon as next season. He dominted the world junior championships and is averaging more than two points per game in the Western Hockey League.

"No, it would have to be really something significant," Kings GM Dean Lombardi told "The way his stock has risen here with the world juniors and what he's done.  It would have to be really special and quit frankly I don't think he's going anywhere."

Kuznetsov fell to No. 26 in the 2010 Entry Draft partly because of concerns about how quickly he'll want to come to North America. His star turn for Russia in Buffalo made him a big deal on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, but he has also had a fantastic season in the KHL. He has 17 goals and 32 points in 44 games.

To put that in perspective, Alex Ovechkin had 13 goals and 27 points in 37 games in his post-draft year playing in Russia's top league. Evgeni Malkin had 12 goals and 32 points in 52 games. Alexander Semin had 10 goals and 17 points in 47 games. Pavel Datsyuk was playing in the second division.

So yeah, Kuznetsov is a pretty enticing talent and despite what he's been telling Russian media outlets while living in, well, Russia, there's a pretty good chance that he could play for the Capitals next season. Capitals general manager George McPhee has earned a reputation for being pretty frugal with his top young assets, so Kuznetsov being moved would be an even greater shock than Schenn.

There is also historical precedent -- the last time a guy in the discussion for being the top prospect in the world was traded at the deadline was ... never? Joe Colborne is the best prospect to exchange hands in the month leading up to the deadline in a long time. The second-best prospect to move in the past 6 years? Probably Angelo Esposito (from Pittsburgh to Atlanta in the Marian Hossa deal), and even his stock had already begun to fade dramatically.

Normally when an elite prospect is moved, it is a) not at the trade deadline and b) because of extraordinary circumstances (think Eric Lindros). Often when a top prospect is moved, it comes with negative results (think Markus Naslund). If a guy like Schenn or Kuznetsov is that highly thought of around the League, said prospect's team probably sees the guy as a potential franchise player. It is one thing to give away a first-round pick or a young player the team has been able to see at the NHL level for a while, but the lure of drafting and developing your own franchise player makes it very hard to part with that type of asset.

So maybe Lombardi will find a return that he considers "really significant" (Brad Richards? Paul Stastny?) or McPhee change course from his philosophy, but it will come as a huge surprise -- and a truly rare occurance in NHL history.
Posted On Saturday, 02.26.2011 / 11:28 AM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Report: McCabe to Manhattan?

UPDATE: TSN is reporting Bryan McCabe has been traded from Florida to the New York Rangers for Tim Kennedy and a third-round draft pick.

Several media members reported earlier today that McCabe could be on the move and joining the New York Rangers as early as today.

Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported on Twitter that McCabe was willing to waive his no-trade clause and he could be traded to the Rangers today. Arthur Staple of Newsday writes it is believed that McCabe will only waive his no-trade clause to move to the Rangers.

McCabe is in the final year of a five-year, $28.75 million contract. He is set to make $4.15 million this season but carries a cap hit of $5.75 million. McCabe has 5 goals and 22 points for the Panthers this season, but he also missed time with a broken jaw.

The Rangers have reportedly been seeking an offensive-minded veteran to help their young defense corps. Michal Rozsival was traded to Phoenix and Wade Redden has spent the season in the minors, leaving the Rangers with their top six defensemen are all 26 years old or younger. New York has plenty of cap room to make such a deal, and Larry Brooks of the New york Post reports the Rangers would need to move $3.5 million of acquisition space if they wanted to add McCabe and another rumored target, Dallas center Brad Richards.

This is McCabe's third season in Florida after being traded to the Panthers from Toronto in September 2008. He was one of the players interim Toronto GM Chuck Fletcher asked to their no-trade clauses at the 2008 deadline that declined to do so.
Posted On Saturday, 02.26.2011 / 11:03 AM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Morning musings: Feb. 26

Here's a look at some of the chatter around the NHL as we countdown to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline. We're just a little more than 48 hours away from the deadline, but the frenzy has clearly already begun.


Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has reportedly been looking for a defenseman to help his team's sturggling PK for a while now, and a move yesterday may help make room for such a deal. Nick Boynton was placed on waivers, and if he clears he can be sent to the AHL, which frees up $500,000 in acquisition space for the Blackhawks.

"Boynton, who has one goal and eight points in 41 games, never emerged as a viable replacement for Brent Sopel, which the Hawks had hoped for," writes Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. "As a result, the Hawks are among several teams in the market for help on defense."

Jahns goes on to name a pair of Edmonton Oilers, Ladislav Smid and former Chicago property Jim Vandermeer, and Tampa Bay's Brett Clark as players the Blackhawks have been linked with. Chicago is 26th in the League on the PK and currently eighth in the West.


The next two days could be long ones for a lot of potential trade targets around the League, and count Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles among that group. Toronto has reportedly been interested in dealing for Liles, who has one more year left on his contract after this one and carries a $4.25 million cap hit.

He has 6 goals and 39 points this year, but that price tag for him next season could prove to be too much for a cap-conscious team. A club like the Leafs with cap room to spare though and a need for an offensive-minded defenseman might be a good fit -- even Liles' first preference would be to stay.

"I always want to stay here," Liles told Terry Frei of the Denver Post. "I love Colorado. I love the guys in the room; I think it's a fantastic organization, the fans, everything about it. There's a reason why I signed here, and I definitely want to stay."

Liles does have a limited no-trade clause in that he can name 18 teams doesn't want to be dealt to. With Tomas Kaberle off the market, Liles and Bryan McCabe are probably the two best offensive defensemen whose names have come up in reports about available players.


There aren't many contenders without pressing needs, but the Red Wings might be in that small group. Detroit is close to getting all of its key players healthy, and the Red Wings are already well on their way to another Central Division title and top-3 seed in the West.

They have wobbled ever so slightly of late and the red-hot Sharks are pressing them for the No. 2 spot behind Vancouver, but the Wings do not have a lot of acquisition space ($570,000 - which is down from the $750,000 that Ted Kuflan of the Detroit News writes the ogranization hoped to have).

"We don't expect to be very active," Holland told Kuflan.

That is a stark contrast from previous years of Holland's regime, but the Red Wings have adjusted to the salary cap era about as well as any other franchise in the League and continue to be one of the elite teams because of it. There has been one area of concern, and that is the backup goalie with Chris Osgood out because of a sports hernia.

Detroit tried to add Evgeni Nabokov but the Islanders claimed him on waivers. Holland has said on a few occasions that he expects Osgood back, but another cheap insurance policy could be a play for him to make this weekend.

"Chris is optimistic and upbeat and he's happy with the progress he's making," Holland told Kuflan. "If that were to change in the next few days, that could affect our thinking (about trades). But anticipate Chris playing again here soon."


Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported the Minnesota Wild are interested in Oilers forward Dustin Penner, but Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal doesn't expect that transaction to happen. Matheson reports the Wild are offering draft picks for Penner but don't want to part with their first-round pick in June.

As Russo points out, Penner's cap hit of $4.25 million is too rich for the Wild to take one without someone off the current roster going in the other direction. Matheson says Chuck Kobasew might be a guy that Minnesota tries to include in the deal but doesn't see him as a good fit with the Oilers.

Given the high return most sellers have been getting this month, it makes sense that Oilers GM Steve Tambellini wants a lot for Penner and especially Ales Hemsky. Both have another year on their contracts and the Oilers are not pressed to trade either of them.

"A source close to the Wild said what the Oilers were asking for Hemsky was “astronomical,” but did not elaborate," Matheson writes. "The Oilers would have to get a first-round pick, a second and certainly an experienced NHLer for Hemsky."

This is not the first report of Tambellini's asking price for Hemsky being high. If he does get dealt between now and Monday, it could end up being the biggest transaction of the month.
Posted On Friday, 02.25.2011 / 1:00 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Early Afternoon Musings: Feb. 25

Here's a look at some of the chatter around the NHL as we countdown to the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline. We'll try to do this most mornings between now and the deadline. There were four more trades yesterday as the flurry of pre-deadline deals continues.


As Chris Botta of NYI Point Blank points out, the Islanders have made three big moves during the season -- trading James Wisniewski and Dwayne Roloson and inking Matt Moulson to a three-year extension. What does that leave for GM Garth Snow to do in the next few days? Not a lot, writes Botta.

He names three players who could be on the move for the right price -- defenseman Radek Martinek and forwards Zenon Konopka and Rob Schremp. Martinek is likely to bring the highest return - he's a competent defensive defenseman who doesn't cost much that several teams could in interested in as a depth guy. Konopka is a fourth-line center who wins faceoffs and fights, and doesn't do much else. There's probably a team out there that could use a player like that.

Schremp is an interesting case. He's a restricted free agent at season's end and has a lot of talent but has never been able to produce consistently at the NHL level.

"One source told Point Blank that the Islanders have made it known around the NHL that Schremp is available," Botta writes. "He was showcased for 18 minutes last night, his sixth straight game without a point. In all likelihood, Snow will not receive any significant offers. The general manager will have to decide if he wants to return the pending restricted free agent next season on a one-way contract. Barring a brilliant final six weeks of the season, Schremp could be a looking for a new team in the summer."


There are going to be a lot of teams looking for defensemen between now and Monday. Where do the Flyers fall on that subject now that Oskars Bartulis is going to out long-term with an injury? GM Paul Holmgren sounded pretty tepid on the matter.

"Well you know Oskars is out for a considerable amount of time," Holmgren told reporters. "Matt Walker is not going to be out that long.We like [Danny] Syvret, we like [Kevin] Marshall for depth. I know they're all young guys. We'll probably look around but that's about it. I don't really feel like trading anyone off our team to do something like that."

Holmgren could surprise and make a big move this weekend (for a marquee goalie, perhaps?) but otherwise expect it to pretty quiet in Philadelphia on the trade front. A depth defenseman at a low cost (i.e. late-round pick) or even a guy who can be stashed with the Adirondack Phantoms in the AHL might be something Holmgren ends up pursuing.


The Canucks are clearly one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, and provided teh defense corps gets healthy they have a loaded roster with no glaring holes. One minor nitpick is Vancouver hasn't settled on a fourth-line center. Top prospect Cody Hodgson might be able to fill the role, but Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Sun thinks the club should look into acquiring Marty Reasoner from Florida to put in that spot.

"At 33, the veteran leads the Panthers in faceoff percentage at 54.5 per cent, can kill penalties and doesn't take stupid ones with just 20 minutes through 60 games," Kuzma writes. "He wouldn't disrupt a dressing room where chemistry has translated into accountability. Reasoner, who has 25 points (11-14) in 16:25 of average ice time, would also be insurance against injury at the centre position and with little left on his $1.1 million deal, there's salary cap space, too."

Reasoner would probably be a great fit in Vancouver, and given Manny Maholtra's offensive struggles of late might even slot in as the team's No. 3 center. A problem for the Canucks could be the market for Reasoner. While the Panthers just traded Cory Stillman for a fifth-round pick, Reasoner will almost certainly command more. He's one of the better centers available in a weak crop and his small cap hit will make him even more appealing.

There are other teams (Washington, Pittsburgh and the N.Y. Rangers come to mind) who could consider Reasoner for a greater role than fourth-line center -- he'd be the No. 2 guy in Washington and maybe in New York and Pittsburgh, too -- so those teams are likely going to be willing to pay more than what Florida got for Stillman. Still, if Reasoner lands with the Canucks that would make a deep, scary team even deeper.
Posted On Friday, 02.25.2011 / 12:12 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

Kovalev, Stillman updates

Just a couple of quick notes on new faces in (sort of) new places:

* Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma told a local radio station this morning that new additions James Neal and Alex Kovalev will join Jordan Staal on the Penguins' top line. He also said Kovalev will be on the point for the team's top power play unit. Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Kovalev was on the right point this morning with Kris Letang next to him and Neal, Staal and Tyler Kennedy up front.

It's not Crosby-Hossa-Malone-Malkin-Gonchar, but it's also not the Wilkes-Barre unit, either.

* Cory Stillman will play on Carolina's top line with Eric Staal and Erik Cole, so says Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer. He also reports that Stillman spent the night at Cole's house in his return to Raleigh. Grabbing Stillman on the cheap was another deft move by Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, who gives his team a little boost without costing any keys assets (prospects or high picks) moving forward.

Don't think the top teams in the East aren't a little concerned about seeing Cam Ward in the first round of the playoffs -- he doesn't lose in that round.
Posted On Thursday, 02.24.2011 / 5:49 PM

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer / - Road to Trade Deadline Day

More moves for East contenders?

A pair of teams chasing the Philadelphia Flyers made deals Thursday, and it might not be the last from either of them. The Pittsburgh Penguins added Alex Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators for a conditional late-round draft choice while the Tampa Bay Lightning sent backup goaltender Dan Ellis to Anaheim for goalie Curtis McElhinney.

Pittsburgh has been ravaged by injuries at forward. There are currently eight guys up front out with injuries, though Dustin Jeffrey is expected back soon. Evgeni Malkin is done for the season, but each of the other six could be back at some point.

Because Sidney Crosby is still out because of a concussion, the cap space opened up by his and Malkin's absence means the Penguins could make another move even after taking on salary in the trade for James Neal and Matt Niskanen and the Kovalev addition.

"Yes and yes," GM Ray Shero said to reporters when asked if he still had cap space and still was interested in making more moves. "We'll continue to look to see by Monday what we can do. We've got two games back-to-back here and we'll see what our injury situation is.  We're getting guys closer, but it seems like as soon as we play a game we lose another guy so we'll see."

The injury problems have caught up with the defense corps as well. Paul Martin is out with an upper-body injury, but Shero said he could be back after this weekend. Brooks Orpik is now expected to be out for at least four weeks with a broken finger.

Shero didn't sound optimistic about being able to add another defenseman.

"The cost, asset-wise, to get a defenseman in the League right now is pretty high," Shero said. "I think we have some guys, no different than when we gave our guys opportunities from Wilkes-Barre up front, we've got guys in Wilkes-Barre who have played well for us on defense that are either are draft picks or our free agents that have performed well. They are certainly deserving of a chance, given this window of opportunity, to come up here and play for us.

"Outside of something coming my way that's not there right now, I don't anticipate picking up a defenseman at this point, but we'll see. You never know what could happen by Monday at 3 p.m."

Meanwhile, shedding Ellis' contract gives Tampa Bay more room in the budget to help make another deal if GM Steve Yzerman were so inclined. Cap space isn't a concern, but actual dollars spent could be. The Lightning have reportedly put Mike Smith on re-entry waivers, so if he isn't claimed he'll return to the big club to back up Dwayne Roloson.

The Lightning have already added Roloson and defenseman Eric Brewer in 2011, but another defenseman or a depth forward could make a lot of sense for Tampa Bay.

"I can't say that I have anything else in the works because I don't have anything else in the works," Yzerman told Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune. "But things come about pretty quickly, so we'll continue to work the phone here and see what other teams are looking to do.

"We'll wait and see what happens with Mike and then we'll wait and see what happens with our goalies at that point."
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Quote of the Day

It's a big milestone for me and I'm happy to help my team with lots of good teammates. It's fun.

— Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, who on Wednesday became the ninth Russian-born player, and ninth Red Wings player, to score 300 NHL goals
World Cup of Hockey 2016