EL SEGUNDO, Calif. --Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter is not shy about taking away ice time from any of his players when they aren't playing at the standard he demands, but the way he jumbled his forward lines in Game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final was a bit of an anomaly in this postseason.
Part of it was the timing. Sutter started his line-shuffling before the first period was over, right after the New York Rangers took a two-goal lead.
Part of it was the fact it was a full four-line shake-up. When Sutter changed things earlier this postseason, it often was one or two tweaks. This was all four centers moving to a different line.
LOS ANGELES --New York Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo thought his season might be over, but having his suspension reduced by the NHL has offered him hope he might have the chance to play in the Stanley Cup Final against the team that traded him five months ago, the Los Angeles Kings.
Carcillo was suspended 10 games for a violation of rule 40.3 for "deliberately applying physical force to an official" for an incident during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Montreal Canadiens (May 22).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman heard Carcillo's appeal Friday and on Tuesday determined the incident should be reclassified as a violation of rule 40.4 for "physical force to an official for the sole purpose of getting free of such official during or immediately following an altercation." Bettman reduced the suspension to six games.
CHICAGO -- A couple members of the Chicago Blackhawks told the media Wednesday that the pressure is on the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) to eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions and not let them back in the series.
It's a typical rallying cry for a team behind in a series, a way for players to force themselves to be less nervous or less focused on the potential end of their season being near. The Blackhawks are down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, so playing up the "don't let us back in this" angle probably is a good strategy in a typical situation.
This situation might not be typical, though. The Blackhawks are used to being the team in a series with the championship "mojo" and experience and all of that unquantifiable stuff players tend to lean on at this time of year.
The Kings are just like the Blackhawks, having been to three straight conference finals and having won the Stanley Cup in 2012.
"Both teams are probably used to pressure," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "That's how you get to the 100-game mark, or close to the 100-game mark. It's what your players want and what they thrive on. Obviously I don't think there is more on one team or the other."
Carter has played more on the wing for the Kings, but a shift to the middle along with being flanked by rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson has helped Carter become the second-leading scorer in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, behind teammate Anze Kopitar.
CHICAGO -- The past two Stanley Cup champions are facing each other in the Western Conference Final, and one common trait between the 2012 Los Angeles Kings and the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks was strong work on the penalty kill.
The Kings erased 92.1 percent of opponents' power plays during their Cup run in 2012, and the Blackhawks were threatening to top that until the Boston Bruins got to their PK a bit in the Final last season. Chicago finished those playoffs at 90.8 percent.
That's part of why Game 2 of this Stanley Cup Playoff series Wednesday at United Center was so stunning. The game turned when the Kings scored on back-to-back power plays early in the third period of a 6-2 win that evened the best-of-7 series 1-1.
For Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, it wasn't a letdown by the penalty killers. It was a disappointing showing from those who put the Blackhawks in that situation.
The best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series is tied 1-1.
Shaw's return could help the Blackhawks in a couple of areas that were lacking in a 6-2 loss in Game 2. Quenneville said he has a pretty good idea of who will sit to make room for Shaw, who has missed the past seven games with a leg injury but wasn't offering up that information Thursday.
"It will be huge," Chicago forward Ben Smith said. "He's a guy that brings a lot of energy. His presence in the room, his presence on the ice, his physicality. His energy mostly is the biggest thing. Having him back would be nice."
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is generally considered one of the two best players in the NHL, along with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, so it is a slight step up in competition, but Kopitar has seen plenty of world-class talent staring back at him in the faceoff circle during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Chicago's top line of Toews, Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell won that matchup against Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown in Game 1, but for Kings coach Darryl Sutter, that's not something he's looking to fix heading into Game 2 at United Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS). The Kings trail the best-of-7 series 1-0.
"It's not that big a deal to us. I mean, [Kopitar] and [Gaborik] and [Brown], that's a good matchup for us," Sutter said. "I think everyone wants to see that. It's a pretty even matchup, I think. It's not that for us. It's after that."
CHICAGO -- There are towns in the United States and Canada the Stanley Cup has never visited, but the trophy is pretty much an unofficial citizen in Trencin, Slovakia.
Trencin is a city of less than 60,000 not far from the border with the Czech Republic. Five times in the past six summers, the Cup has paid a visit to Trencin, and there's a good chance it could be six in seven.
"We know each other when we were real young," Hossa said. "Obviously my brother grew up with Marian because they [are the] same age, three years younger than I am (35). When I was younger, I used to go watch their games when they play as young kids. Marian was always the one who was scoring goals. My brother was the passer. So I know him really when he was little kid.
"Now we [are] neighbors. We live on the same street. We hang out in the summer together. So obviously we got lots to talk about every time we see each other. Right now, came to the point where we not going to talk for two weeks. We try to do our business on the ice. When everything is over, we go back to friendship."
CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Kings had already survived two seven-game series against geographical rivals to reach Game 1 of the Western Conference Final at United Center. They also played a game less than 48 hours prior 2,000 miles away.
The young forwards on the second line certainly didn't look like they were tired Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Rookies Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli connected for the team's lone goal, and Toffoli nearly had another.
"Thought the line was good," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Jeff [Carter], Tanner, Tyler. Obviously, they scored a big goal. Tyler's play, he was a good player for us last year against Chicago too. I'm sure there wasn't any intimidation coming into this building. Played with Jeff and [Dustin] Penner on a good line here last year."
ANAHEIM -- For the second time in his NHL coaching career, Bruce Boudreau had to pull his prized young goaltender in a Game 7.
John Gibson became a major storyline in the first Freeway Series when he was recalled from the American Hockey League and won two straight games to help the Anaheim Ducks forge a lead against the Los Angeles Kings.
But the 20-year-old did not have a Game 7 to remember. Boudreau pulled him early in the second period after allowing four goals on 18 shots in a 6-2 loss at Honda Center on Friday.
LOS ANGELES -- Marian Gaborik has been seen as a divisive player during his 13 years in the NHL.
At times an electric scorer at a level few can match, and at times perceived as a frustrating player because of inconsistency or injury, there have always seemed to be a wide range of opinions about Gaborik.
Darryl Sutter doesn't seem like a guy who is too worried about things like that, and his experiences coaching Gaborik since he joined the Los Angeles Kings before the NHL Trade Deadline this season seem to reinforce that.
"Zero," Sutter said when asked what he had to adjust in Gaborik's game. "I talked to [Gaborik] when we got him in Winnipeg. I told him he was playing with [Anze Kopitar] and I'm not going to go out of my way to change the way he plays. Just give him a basic guideline. I said a couple days after we got him his hockey IQ is off the charts, so he can adjust in a hurry. He's been an easy guy, quite honest, to deal with."
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- By the time the Los Angeles Kings began Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series against the San Jose Sharks, the players and coach Darryl Sutter felt they were already playing better, and by sticking to the process, the results followed.
Sutter was adamant the Kings were not as bad as the score indicated in Game 2 against the Sharks (7-2), and several players have said they felt the Kings were the better team in a Game 3 overtime loss (4-3).
The Kings are in a familiar spot during their Western Conference Second Round series with the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have won three straight, and the Kings will face elimination from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fifth time Wednesday at Staples Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
The plan will be the same: Make minor adjustments and trust the process.
ANAHEIM -- The top players on the Anaheim Ducks talked at length about needing to be better after Game 2 of this Western Conference Second Round Series against the Los Angeles Kings.
Forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have responded with strong efforts in Games 3 and 4 to get the Ducks back into the series. Now the chatter is similar down the hallway.
After dominating the end of a Western Conference First Round series against the San Jose Sharks and helping the Kings take a 2-0 lead against the Ducks, the top guns for Los Angeles have gone silent of late. The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 on Monday at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
"Well, I kind of believe that it's not a difficult decision tomorrow," Boudreau said. "I'm not going to try to play that game. He came in. He played great. He's going to go again."
Gibson, 20, became the youngest goalie in NHL history to earn a shutout in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut with a 2-0 win against the Kings in Game 4 on Saturday at Staples Center that tied the best-of-7 series 2-2 after the Ducks lost the first two at Honda Center.
LOS ANGELES -- Coach Bruce Boudreau still didn't confirm it, but there could be a couple of changes to the lineup for the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
Defenseman Sami Vatanen was officially recalled from Norfolk of the American Hockey League and forward Emerson Etem, who played in the first two games of this series, was sent down. Kyle Palmieri is expected to replace Etem for the Ducks, while Vatanen could also be a new addition for Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS), who lead this Western Conference Second Round series 2-0.
"He's a great scorer. He led the American League in scoring when he was 19," Boudreau said of Palmieri. "He's got a great shot. His shot is as good as anybody's. He can skate and he's got a bit of physicality. That's what he brings."
The Kings have attempted 50.6 percent of the shots when Kopitar is on the ice at even strength, which is the same number as when Richards is out there.
That's where the similarities end. Kopitar leads the NHL with 14 points this postseason; Richards has no goals and two points heading into Game 3 against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday at Staples Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
"Yeah. Frustrated is a good way to say it, I guess," Richards said when asked about the zero next to his name in the goals column. "You always want to help the team win. If it's scoring goals or doing different things, you try to help in any way possible. Obviously scoring goals would be nice, I'm not going to lie, but you can't get frustrated. If you show frustration, that can kind of trickle throughout the team too. It's not a selfish thing, it's not a personal thing. It's all about the team right now. It's all about winning hockey games. You want to contribute by scoring goals, but at the same time we're winning games right now and I've got to keep doing the same things to help the team."
ANAHEIM -- Defenseman Robyn Regehr did not skate Monday morning for the Los Angeles Kings, and all indications are Jeff Schultz will replace him in the lineup for Game 2 of this Western Conference Second Round series at Honda Center against the Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Regehr left Game 1 midway through the first period and did not return. He hasn't participated in either of the two team on-ice workouts since, and coach Darryl Sutter has not provided an update on his condition.
Schultz was signed before the season started, but this will be his first game for the Kings. He spent most of the regular season with Manchester in the American Hockey League, and when he was recalled he was a healthy scratch.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. --Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez had a big game in a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round series with the Anaheim Ducks. He opened the scoring on the power play and stopped Ducks star Corey Perry from scoring the overtime winner when he blocked an attempt at the open net with goaltender Jonathan Quick out of position.
Impressive as the game-changing block was, Martinez only earned so much praise from Kings coach Darryl Sutter.
"Actually, he gave me a hard time. He said that my rebound control wasn't very good," Martinez said. "Darryl told me I either have to kick the rebound out wide, not up the middle, or at least cover it and get a whistle. I guess I'll work on that next time."
Martinez also logged more than 28 minutes of ice time because veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr left the game midway through the first period with an undisclosed injury. That total surpassed Martinez's career high by more than four minutes.
Hiller did not take part in Anaheim's morning skate, which started before 9 a.m., because of the 5 p.m. local start time for Game 1, but Andersen did. Boudreau did note that Hiller has not taken part in morning skates before early starts all season. Hiller has started for the Ducks on those occasions.
"I don't know, you'll have to find out," Boudreau said when asked to name his starting goaltender. "I don't know why it's such a big deal. One of the two will be playing. We're going to have six guys on the ice most of the night.
"If it makes L.A. work a little harder to figure out on their scouting report on who they're going to go against, even if it is five minutes extra, let's make them work a little harder."
Mitchell was injured during Game 6 and did not skate Wednesday morning. It will be the first time any of the Kings' top-six defensemen miss a game in this series.
"Obviously [Mitchell] is not playing tonight," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Hopefully there's a chance that if there's some sort of miracle that we can win tonight, maybe we'd get him back again this year."
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings are one of the biggest, toughest teams in the NHL. They have been so successful the past two seasons in part because of their ability to make their size and toughness an advantage, wearing out opposing teams with their brand of "heavy hockey."
That's why it was surprising to hear Kings coach Darryl Sutter say Thursday morning his team has had trouble dealing with the size of the top line for the San Jose Sharks. He's even going to make a tactical change to combat the problem for Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round Series at Staples Center (10:30 ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-SW, CSN-CA).
"I think they've played their game, the same way they've played all year," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "[Burns] is somewhat reckless, which enhances his ability to play. He's a big body that goes [hard]. [Thornton] has always been 6-foot-4 for … however many years. They're on the same line together and they've done a good job to this point."
LOS ANGELES -- The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings have engaged in an incredibly physical Western Conference First Round series, but the Sharks are also relatively healthy.
Health is a relative term in the NHL at this time of year, but compared to other top contenders in the West, San Jose has been fortunate despite the rugged nature of its three victories, with the latest 4-3 in overtime Tuesday.
"We're like everybody else. There is some bumps and bruises floating around every team," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "If you're not bumped and bruised, you're probably out. That's just the way it is. It comes with the territory."
LOS ANGELES --Darryl Sutter said his Los Angeles Kings were losing the depth battle in this Western Conference First Round series against the San Jose Sharks, and potential new forward lines Tuesday in Game 3 (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, CSN-CA, PRIME) at Staples Center might be his attempt to rectify that problem.
Mike Richards was centering the fourth line during pregame warmups for the Kings, with Jeff Carter sliding into the middle on the second unit. Trevor Lewis, who has two of the Kings' five goals in the series, moved up next to Carter. Rookie Tanner Pearson skated on the third line, and Kyle Clifford was not on the ice.
LOS ANGELES -- It appears first-line wing will be Joe Pavelski's assigned role for the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series.
Well, that's where he'll start, anyway.
Pavelski began Game 2 on San Jose's top line against the Los Angeles Kings but moved to center of the third unit after his first shift of the second period with the Sharks down 2-0. The fourth line scored almost immediately after the change, and the Sharks swallowed the Kings with seven straight goals and wave after wave of offensive pressure to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.
The Sharks roared out to a five-goal lead Thursday and navigated some nervy moments in the third period of a 6-3 win that opened this best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series.
Game 2 is Sunday at SAP Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-W, CSN-CA), and McLellan didn't rule out lineup changes but had plenty of praise for his group after an optional skate Friday.
"We'll continue to evaluate the game," McLellan said. "We'll also look at where we are physically. I don't think fatigue will be a big factor now, but it could as the series goes on, bumps, bruises, that type of stuff, and come up with a lineup that we think will give us a chance at success in the second game."
SOCHI --Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry has seen the impact the Stanley Cup has when it shows up someplace it normally isn't.
He experienced that again Monday when the Cup arrived at Canada Olympic House inside the Olympic park at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"It's pretty cool," Perry said. "They were pretty excited to see it. I don't know if anybody knew it was going to be here. That's what, as Canadians and as hockey players, that's what we do. We grow up wanting to raise the Stanley Cup. I've had the honor to do it, and it is a special moment.
"I had no idea. I just met my girlfriend here. We just wanted somewhere to hang out and relax because I have the day off. It was my second time in here and I just wanted to see what happens here. It was pretty surprising to see the Cup show up."
SOCHI -- Sweden captain Henrik Zetterberg is out for the rest of the 2014 Sochi Olympics because of injury, the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation announced Friday.
Zetterberg, who has a herniated disk, missed 13 games for the Detroit Red Wings during the NHL season.
Zetterberg had a goal and won seven of 16 faceoffs in 18:14 of ice time Wednesday in Sweden’s 4-2 Olympic-opening win against the Czech Republic. He did not practice Thursday in order to receive treatment.
"In this situation it was no tough decision as this was no borderline case," Sweden team doctor Bjorn Waldeback said Friday. "For people who know medicine, it is obvious that this couldn't continue.
"[Henrik] has been in touch with the Detroit medical staff. I have been in touch with the NHL doctors who are here. They totally agree with us. When you suffer from a herniated disk the way he does, you need to go home for a medical evaluation."
SOCHI -- Good afternoon from the 2014 Summer Olympics!
I kid, but the weather continues to be paradise-esque in Sochi. We read about lots of dreary, rainy weather in the days leading up to the start of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but to this point it has been a lot of sunshine and temperatures that feel more like May than February.
On Wednesday, I had some time before the hockey games started to explore the Olympic Park. It was a great morning/afternoon to embrace the Olympic spirit, something I've probably been cynical about in the past but have experienced here. (This is the first Olympics that I’ve been to.)
The big takeaway from yesterday is the Olympic Park is massive, significantly bigger than we thought after just walking between the Main Press Center and the two hockey arenas for the first couple days. All of the venues are laid out in a big circle, but that is actually only about half of the park.
NEW YORK -- When the roster for Canada Olympic orientation camp was announced before the 2013-14 NHL season, Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn found out where he was in his country's pecking order. There were 25 forwards invited to the camp in Calgary, and Benn was not one of them.
When the roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics was announced Tuesday in Toronto, Benn found out how far he's come. There were 14 forwards named to the team tasked with defending the gold medal, and Benn was among them.
"It was a little bit of disappointment. I felt like I deserved at least to get an invite, but Team Canada is not an easy team to make," Benn said of not getting a camp invite. "There was a lot of great players who got invited to that camp. It was a tough decision for Hockey Canada to make and it just gave me a little more motivation for this year."
Glendening played Monday night for the defending American Hockey League champion Grand Rapids Griffins at Comerica Park against the Toronto Marlies as part of the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival. He was officially recalled Tuesday by the Red Wings, and he is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday when Detroit faces the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (1 p.m. ET: NBC, CBC, RDS).
Alfredsson joined his teammates on the ice for the an early afternoon workout, but left the stadium without speaking to reporters.
"I'm sure he'll wake up tomorrow morning and make a decision," Detroit general manager Ken Holland said. "He's got some spasms. It is nothing significant. Hopefully he feels better tomorrow and he's ready to go.
He was in a really interesting position Tuesday when the Red Wings practiced at the Big House. Detroit is using the Michigan football locker room, and Miller is using one of the lockers that honors some of the great Wolverines players in program history.
"It is one of the legends ones or whatever, Desmond Howard," Miller said. "I guess it was just by chance of how the numbers went in order around the room. We were on the Fathers' Trip when I got a text from one of the equipment guys who stayed back here and he showed me a picture of it on the text.
"I said, 'Burn the stall and put me in a folding chair.' I'm just joking. It is a situation where you put all that rivalry stuff aside and make the most of it. It is such an unique situation. You put all that other stuff aside."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- After a couple of days with balmy temperatures and then one a little cooler, it was definitely colder and windier Tuesday morning at Michigan Stadium as NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig's crew continued to put the final touches on the ice for the Bridgestone 2014 NHL Winter Classic.
There was also a fresh coat of snow through the night leading into Tuesday morning, but Craig said that wasn't an issue.
"No, we've dealt with snow before," Craig said. "It just took like a four-degree drop between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. That's what threw us a little. We had the heaters set on a certain stage and we needed a little more juice the first thing this morning. Other than that, we're pretty good right now."
The weather forecast for the game Wednesday between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs has changed in the past 24 hours or so. It's possible more snow will fall than originally expected. It is not expected to be as windy Wednesday as it was Tuesday morning.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The sun began its ascent in the blue Michigan sky Saturday morning, but NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and his team were ready.
Half of Craig's crew, led by his son Mike, put all of the lines and logos on the ice Friday night into Saturday morning at Michigan Stadium for the Bridgestone 2014 NHL Winter Classic. The other half relieved them and went to work just after 4 a.m. at making more ice on top.
The objective was simple: Build as much ice on top as possible before the sun's rays reached the rink, and then cover the surface with tarps to preserve it.
"Everything was painted and sealed and ready to go," Craig said. "We split the crew and made sure everyone got food and got warm before their overnight shift. They were ready to put the markings in around 8 [p.m.] and I think the first lines started going down at about 8:30. I texted Mike at 1:20 [a.m.] just wanting to know the status and he said they were in good shape. The last logo went in at about 2:30 a.m.
"We're in good shape there. We just have to make sure we have enough [tarps] for the auxiliary rink as well as the big one. The sun is going to come down on the penalty box side first and then in the afternoon it will the other side. We'll make sure that side gets tarps first along the boards. We reversed the flow on the pipes on the floor last night to make sure that side is the colder side when the sun came out this morning."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and his crew of rink builders were all set to paint the ice white at Michigan Stadium on Friday morning. Then the elements got in the way.
Specifically, the sun came out from behind the clouds and what was expected to be a balmy, gray day on the University of Michigan campus became a pleasant, sunny winter one instead. While that might have great for the residents of this college town, it delayed Craig's crew by a few hours.
"We cleaned the ice, burned it a couple of times, put in our stabilizing fabric that we do in front of the machine and the goal creases, and then the sun popped out," Craig said. "We'd be painted by now if the sun hadn't come out, but I'm not going to fight Mother Nature. We're just going to wait for it to go down and then be ready to paint when that happens."
After the cleaning the ice Friday morning, Craig's crew used hot water to "burn" off the leftover frost and humidity build-up that wasn't scraped off with the shovels. A huge part of Craig's job is calling audibles based on the elements, and Friday morning was a good example of that.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Because of the amount of extra time afforded to NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and his cast of rink builders with the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic taking place at Michigan Stadium, he was able to give his entire crew holiday leave.
Craig gave his entire 11-man crew either two or three days off to go home and spend time with their families.
"It lets them recharge the batteries," Craig said. "The funny part about our crew is, yes they all want to be home with family, but at the same time, because we did [the 2011 NHL Winter Classic in] Pittsburgh, where nobody went home for Christmas, and [the 2012 NHL Winter Classic] in Philadelphia, we had an issue and I had to keep four guys behind, they know it is what it is."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The crew responsible for building an ice rink inside Michigan Stadium for the Bridgestone 2014 NHL Winter Classic is back in business after a short holiday reprieve.
NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig and his staff were back at the Big House on Thursday morning and back at work on the rink inside the stadium by the early afternoon after a couple of days of leave for everyone to enjoy Christmas with their families.
Craig's crew first had to clean a few of inches of snow off the ice surface that has fallen here since they stopped working. The snow will be stored and used in the areas of the field around the rink on game day.
The only player in NHL history with more than 600 goals and 2,000 penalty minutes, Shanahan began his speech by thanking Pat Quinn, Jim Gregory and Kelly Masse from the Hockey Hall of Fame for what he called a "whirlwind weekend."
He congratulated the other inductees, noting that Scott Niedermayer was so competitive and "isn't that nice of a guy" because when all of the inductees tried to flip a puck in the air with a stick the other night, Geraldine Heaney caught it ... and Niedermayer quickly knocked it off with his stick.
Shanahan told an emotional story about his parents. His father passed away when he was 21, and his mother got her driver's license when his dad got sick and would drive long distances to his junior games.
Ray Shero began by talking about what his father was like. He quoted Bobby Clarke's eulogy from when Fred passed away in 1990.
He said his father was always preaching the importance of education. He said when others were threatening to leave for the WHA, Fred threatened to leave for law school. Ray also said Fred claimed to be the only card-carrying member of the New York Public Library on the New York Rangers' roster.
After James Duthie welcomed everyone to the proceedings at the 2013 Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Ken Dryden narrated a tribute to members of the military on Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the United States.
The first Hall inductee to be honored was Chris Chelios. Pat Quinn called Chelios a "defensive war horse" in the introduction to the evening. Chelios spent parts of 26 seasons in the League, playing more than anyone in history save for fellow Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe.
Chelios was a larger-than-life figure in the NHL, and many of his famous friends were here for the ceremony. Among those here to celebrate with Chelios and walking the red carpet before the ceremony were Tony Danza, Cuba Gooding, Jr., John Cusack, John McEnroe, D.B. Sweeney and John McGinley.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Training camp is going to be a little different for the Vancouver Canucks this season with new coach John Tortorella in charge.
It is also going to be different than recent ones for center Ryan Kesler, mostly because he will be participating in it. Kesler missed camp for the 2011-12 season because of hip surgery. He wasn't able to take part last season because he was still rehabbing after shoulder surgery.
"Put the past couple of years behind me is the key phrase," Kesler said. "It was a tough, tough two years. This summer was amazing. Being able to work out fully again and train and skate with the guys and really to have my first training camp in two years is exciting. I'm excited to get back at it."
ARLINGTON, Va. -- When Brian Burke spoke of his favorite memory from the 2010 Winter Olympics, it wasn't watching the team he constructed beating Canada in the preliminary round or winning a silver medal.
His favorite memory is when members of the Wounded Warriors program spoke to the United States team. Members of the military who take part in the Wounded Warriors program were able to spend lots of time with the U.S. squad in the lead-up to the 2010 Games and in Vancouver, and it was a memorable part of the experience for players on the team as well.
"The last camp and Olympics they were around with us and it was really special," Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said. "It was great to hear their stories, and they would get us pretty jacked up before the games. When we think we're making sacrifices, it is not even close. It's not even the same stratosphere. We have a great deal of respect for them and what they do.
"It makes it personal. You get to hang out with them and ask so many questions, sit and eat with them, have them come to practice. We are just as interested in what they have done as they are in what we've done. It makes it really cool, and you can make legitimate friendships instead of just saying, 'Hey, thanks for the talk.' It is a great experience and a thrill that USA Hockey does it."
ARLINGTON, Va. -- The 2013 U.S. Men's National Team Camp concluded Tuesday with the introduction of all 48 players who participated and the unveiling of the United States jersey for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The new logo is a shield with "USA" written in white with a blue background above red and white vertical stripes. There are also matte stars on the blue shoulders that are more noticeable when the sweaters move in the light.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Colorado Avalanche will be hoping to rebound in 2013-14 after a three-season absence from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A return to form by Paul Stastny would be a big help.
Stastny had 79 points in 81 games in 2009-10, when he represented the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver as a 24-year-old center. But Stastny's offensive production has slipped in each of the past three seasons. He had 24 points in 40 games in 2012-13 as the Avalanche finished last in the Western Conference.
ARLINGTON, Va. --Ryan Miller was one of the biggest reasons the United States came within one goal of claiming the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The Buffalo Sabres goaltender was the named the most valuable player in the tournament for his stellar play, but the final, indelible moment of the overtime loss to Canada in Vancouver remains.
"I haven't come to terms [with it]," Miller said. "We went there to win."
Miller joined 47 other American hopefuls at the United States Olympic orientation camp Monday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, and while much of the media focus was on the forthcoming competition for the three goaltending spots on the U.S. roster that will travel to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it was also a time for Miller to reflect on the experience in 2010.
Toews scored for the Blackhawks 4:24 into the second period to tie the game 1-1.
He was held out of the third period in Game 5 on Saturday but took part in the morning skate Monday at TD Garden and pronounced himself fit for duty as the Blackhawks try to claim the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons.
"I feel great. I'm excited. There's no question about where I am physically," Toews said. "I think that was just the coaches being cautious, not letting me get back on the ice in the third period the other night. We got to the point where I was ready to go again. I'll be ready to go tonight."
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews did not play in the third period of Saturday's Game 5 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final because of an upper-body injury.
Toews, the Blackhawks captain, was on the receiving end of a huge hit from Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk midway through the second period, but he continued to play until the end of the period. He sat on the bench for the third period, but did not take a shift while the Blackhawks were able to protect the lead and claim a 3-1 win at United Center to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series.
"We're hopeful he'll be ready next game, upper-body," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow. I checked on him a couple times there. I think he wanted to play, but we'll see."
Hossa missed Game 3 because of an upper-body injury but played in Game 4 after not skating that morning. The Blackhawks did not practice Thursday, and Hossa stayed off the ice during the team’s Friday workout.
"He's fine. He'll play," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the morning skate Saturday. "We'll say he should be better."
BOSTON -- The Chicago Blackhawks have played a lot of extra hockey lately. They played some more Wednesday night while essentially using five defensemen.
Nick Leddy took four shifts in Game 4 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, logging a total of 2:37 of ice time in a 6-5 overtime victory against the Boston Bruins that evened the best-of-7 series at two wins each. Three of the four games have gone to overtime.
BOSTON -- The Chicago Blackhawks, desperate for offense after scoring once in the previous two games, will go back to a line in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) that worked pretty well for them at the end of the last round.
Jonathan Toews skated between Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane on the team's top line during the morning session Wednesday. That trio played together near the end of the Western Conference Final, and Kane produced a hat trick in the series-clinching Game 5 victory against the Los Angeles Kings.
"We had some success against L.A. Whatever the combinations are, we've got to find a way to score," Toews said. "We have confidence as a line, with [Bickell and Kane] we can make things happen. We were close last game. We didn't get on the score sheet. Obviously that's not good enough."
BOSTON -- Marian Hossa is expected to be back in the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
Hossa, who missed Game 3 against the Boston Bruins with an upper-body injury, did not skate Wednesday morning at TD Garden, but coach Joel Quenneville did not see that as a reason to keep him out of the lineup.
"[Hossa] is expected to play tonight," Quenneville said. "He is fine."
BOSTON -- The Chicago Blackhawks’ reward for winning the Presidents’ Trophy was home-ice advantage throughout the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and with that meant the first two contests of each series were held at United Center.
While the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in four years, each time they have left the comforts of home for the first time in a series, they have begun the two-game road trip with a loss. Chicago has been great at home this postseason -- 10-1 before a Game 2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday night -- the Blackhawks are hoping to avoid an 0-4 postseason in Game 3s on Monday night at TD Garden.
“Yeah, I knew that stat coming in,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. “I think when you're at home the first two games, sometimes you get a little bit too comfortable at home. Then you come on the road, maybe it's like a rude awakening when you come and play on the road. We've had three series to figure that out, learn it. It was a huge Game 4 against L.A. to come back and win that one. We definitely want to be better tomorrow, especially in the first game on the road.”
When asked if Viktor Stalberg could play Monday night, Quenneville responded, “He could play.” When other coaches say something like that, it is usually them trying to be coy about their plans. Quenneville’s track record suggests that “could play” is very often code for “will play.”
Stalberg was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the Cup Final. It was the second time he’s been scratched during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was also held out of the lineup in Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings.
"Personally, I didn't feel that great at the start of the game," Keith said Friday at United Center. "I felt better as the game went on. I don't know if that is because we had the three days off between rounds. We hadn't had three days off in that entire [Western Conference Final]. I felt better at the end of the game, but I was definitely feeling it yesterday.
"Yeah, I definitely noticed it. I think anybody who didn't notice it would be lying, but when you play almost two games, you notice it."
CHICAGO -- While the Chicago Blackhawks are expected to tweak each of their forward lines for Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), the Boston Bruins will keep the status quo.
Boston coach Claude Julien has established a track record of preferring to keep his lineup intact so far this postseason. He's had to adjust for injuries -- the most recent being to forward Gregory Campbell -- but the Bruins used the same 12 forwards from Game 2 of the first round until Kaspars Daugavins replaced Campbell for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.
"We've been together for a long time now," Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "Most of us know each other and it doesn't matter who is paired up or who is playing together up front. I'm sure some guys like to play with certain guys, but we've been rotating a lot, especially on the back end."
“It's going to be really interesting,” Hossa said. “Obviously we are good friends. He's my neighbor. He lives right across the street. But this coming up two weeks, that has to go on the side and we just have to play the roles. I’m going to play my game, he's going to play his game. I'm sure right after we'll be friends again. It's going to be hard two weeks, hard battle. It's going to be also fun and I really looking forward to it.”
Game 1 is Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have been brilliant when the opponent has more players on the ice.
That statement is beyond repute at this point in 2012-13. The Blackhawks were third in the NHL in penalty-killing proficiency during the regular season, and they've turned up their PK a few more notches in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Through 16 games, the Blackhawks have erased 54 of 56 power plays (96.4 percent). Chicago's PK prowess is a big reason the Blackhawks can return to the Stanley Cup Final by beating the Los Angeles Kings at United Center in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
The Kings have managed one power-play goal in four games -- and that one was a meaningless score after the outcome of Game 2 had long since been decided.
"I think they do an excellent job of blocking shots. I mean, that's plain and simple," Kings forward Justin Williams said Friday. "They get their bodies in shot lanes and you can sometimes fake that you're in the shot lanes when you're actually not, but they're in them every time. They're manning-up and getting behind them.
"We're getting a lot of zone time on the PP. I think we've only had one goal to come of it. We haven't scored a big power-play goal yet. Getting through the first layer is important because we've had a lot of possession time, a lot of zone time, but just getting it through their blockers is key."
Keith, the 2010 Norris Trophy winner, is suspended for the game because of a high-sticking infraction on Kings center Jeff Carter in the second period of Game 3. Based on the pregame warmup line rushes, Hjalmarsson will skate with Brent Seabrook on the top pairing.
Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival, who were the team's third pairing at the start of the postseason, will be the second duo. Oduya moved to the second pair for Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals when Chicago coach Joel Quenneville reunited Keith and Seabrook on the top pair against the Detroit Red Wings.
Nick Leddy, who dropped from the second pair to the third for Game 5 against the Red Wings and has seen his ice time reduced in the second half of this postseason run, will skate with Sheldon Brookbank, who is making his 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in place of Keith.
Based on warmups, the Kings' lineup will remain the same from Game 3. Center Mike Richards remains out with a concussion.
BEVERLEY HILLS, Calif. -- When the Chicago Blackhawks dropped three of the first four games in the Western Conference Semifinals, it was the first dose of adversity for a team that stormed through a shortened regular season as the NHL's top team.
Now the Blackhawks will face another test in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). Chicago will be without top defenseman Duncan Keith, who was suspended for one game for high-sticking Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter in Game 3.
"Big loss for us," Chicago defenseman Michal Rozsival said Thursday. "But it is what it is. We all have to go out and step up our game and be a little better. We'll see what the defensive pairing will be for tonight. That's a big loss, but you have to deal with it. That's the way it is."
BEVERLEY HILLS, Calif. -- Hockey teams, and the players on them, are creatures of habit.
Players like to keep the same daily routine whenever possible. So Game 3 of the Western Conference Final will be a bit of a unique situation for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks played in games on back-to-back days Saturday and Sunday. They did not practice Monday, because almost all teams do not after back-to-backs to conserve energy and heal.
But with Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings being a 6 p.m. local time start, the Blackhawks had a decision to make: Stick with their normal routine for 6 p.m. starts and not having a morning skate, or go on the ice at an abnormal time on a game day.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said it would be the former, so the Blackhawks will not go on the ice between Games 2 and 3, other than the pregame warm-up skate.
"Personally, I kind of like it," Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "It's nice. It's been a lot of hockey here. Back-to-back, obviously, and travel days. Personally, I don't mind it. Just try to be mentally ready when the puck drops. That's what it's all about at this point, I think."
CHICAGO -- Bryan Bickell was a popular interview subject Sunday morning at United Center.
Bickell has been a breakout star for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring five goals in the first two rounds and being a physical force on a new-look top line in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday before Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings he could see this type of player in Bickell a long time ago -- during his first extended time with the team during the 2009-10 season.
"We played him with [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick Kane] that year," Quenneville said. "We gave him a little bit more opportunity with the Nashville series, played a little bit. There's ability there. You like his size, his speed. He can shoot and be physical. He's got all the elements that you look for in a power forward. Putting it all together has been a process."
Richards carried the puck behind the Chicago net with his team down a goal, then tried to stop and come back towards the goal line to the left of goalie Corey Crawford. Instead, Bolland connected with a big hit that Richards was slow to get up from.
The Blackhawks went the other way with the puck, and eventually Bolland ended up with it. Los Angeles forward Jeff Carter tripped Bolland with 1:41 left in regulation, and the Blackhawks were able to play keep-away for most of the final 101 seconds to run the clock out for a 2-1 victory.
CHICAGO -- The general idea in hockey is that each playoff series is its own story, complete with unexpected twists and villains and heroes and a happy ending for some but not for others.
This is almost certain to be an accurate depiction of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Chicago Blackhawks. The Western Conference Semifinals was a drastically different experience than the opening round. Now comes the Western Conference Final, which commences Saturday at United Center (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN) and the Los Angeles Kings could present quite a different challenge for the Presidents’ Trophy winners.
“Yeah, they do play a little differently than Detroit and Minnesota,” Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg said of the defending Stanley Cup champions. “I know that’s the way they like to play. I’m sure there will be more hits and it will be tougher. At the end of the game, we know that’s not how we usually beat teams. We beat teams by playing quick hockey and moving the puck fast and making it tough on them that way. We know that’s how we’re going to match up against them.”
DETROIT -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had been looking for balance with his forward lines, and he had gone back and forth on the issue with the power play, but after the performance of the team's new-look top line in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals, it's hard to imagine him not sticking with it at the start of Game 6.
Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane played together at even strength from the start of a contest for the first time a while and the results certainly were positive in a 4-1 victory at United Center to pull the Blackhawks to within a game of the rival Detroit Red Wings at 3-2.
The Blackhawks will hope that solid play continues in Game 6 Monday in Detroit (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
DETROIT -- The Chicago Blackhawks have talked a lot about momentum in the past few days, and how they believe it finally is shifting to their side after falling behind 3-1 in this Western Conference Semifinal series with the Detroit Red Wings before handily winning Game 5 at United Center.
The Red Wings also have talked a lot about momentum -- about how they don't believe it exists in a playoff series. While both teams are taking the obvious side of a decades-old argument -- certainly the Blackhawks hope they have some momentum and the Red Wings believe they don't -- how Game 6 of the series starts Monday at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) probably will play into the narrative for one side or the other.
"For us, I think we just need to seize the momentum we have here and carry it into Game 6," Chicago forward Patrick Kane said. "It was fun playing in Game 5. That's the way we need to play. I think we had close to 50 shots, pretty much every line was rolling, we had some power-play goals and obviously we got the lead at the start. Hopefully we can get some more of that [in Game 6] and build off it."
Their work in Game 5 did not measure up to the first four contests.
“They weren't very good last night and they've been pretty good through the playoffs,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Sunday. “Is that part of it? Hindsight is a real good thing. Did we all want the puck all the time? No.”
Brunner has four goals, which ties him for the team lead with Daniel Cleary and Johan Franzen, and eight points, which ties him for second with Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk. Nyquist and Andersson both have four points each, and Nyquist has a pair of big goals. He and Brunner have two of the team’s three overtime tallies.
After three straight contests where offense was a problem for the Blackhawks, Quenneville may put them all together at the start of Game 5 on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
Sharp and Kane were on Toews' flanks when the Blackhawks went through line rushes at the morning skate inside United Center. Chicago needs a win against the Detroit Red Wings, or their rivals to the Southeast are going to claim this Western Conference Semifinals series in shocking fashion.
"They've played together in the past, and they've taken some shifts together [recently] here and there," Quenneville said. "I think they like playing with one another and we'll see how it goes."
CHICAGO -- The Detroit Red Wings have done a commendable job of not allowing the Chicago Blackhawks to possess the puck through the neutral zone in the Western Conference Semifinals.
That has forced Chicago to look for a Plan B to ignite its offense, and one particular tactic the Blackhawks like is a long pass through the zone to a forward waiting near the Detroit blue line. Other teams might just be trying to find a forward to deflect the pass into the offensive end to start the forecheck, but the Blackhawks are looking to connect on that pass and spring one of their skilled forwards on a breakaway or an odd-man rush.
Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey called these passes haymakers earlier in the series, and it fits -- if chipping the puck in and starting a cycle is the equivalent of a series of jabs to work the body, the Blackhawks are looking to throw a knockout punch.
"They're trying to get behind us with those long passes and stretch us out," Quincey said Saturday morning at United Center before Game 5 of a series the Red Wings lead 3-1. "They're making us skate with them. That's their skill set and we have to match it. It is tough. It is a lot of skating."
But Detroit also began the 2012-13 campaign without steady veteran Brad Stuart, who was traded to the San Jose Sharks just before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent this past summer.
It left two huge holes in the Red Wings defense corps, and Plan A for helping to fill the void, free agent Ryan Suter, ended up with the Minnesota Wild instead.
The Red Wings regrouped, and over the course of this season there has been a youth movement afoot on the team’s back end. Veterans Carlo Colaiacovo and Kent Huskins were signed to offer depth, but it was clear some young defensemen would get a chance to play.
A huge reason the Red Wings can eliminate the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS) has been the play of the blue line after the all-Swede top pairing.
These quotes wouldn't seem very newsworthy throughout most of the 2012-13 season, considering the way the Blackhawks rolled to the Presidents' Trophy and into the second round of the postseason. But the Blackhawks now are behind the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in this best-of-7 Western Conference Semifinal series, and there was plenty of attention Thursday morning paid to how the Blackhawks would handle the situation.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville switched rookie Brandon Saad and veteran Patrick Sharp on the top two forward lines during Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena, and though Quenneville didn't confirm it, all indications have been that is how the lineup will start for the Blackhawks in Game 4 Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
DETROIT -- When Danny DeKeyser learned he had a broken thumb after Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said the rookie defenseman was done for the remainder of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Well, that might not end up being accurate.
DeKeyser's thumb is healing faster than expected, and the surprising Red Wings keep winning. DeKeyser was set to meet with a team doctor Wednesday after practice at Joe Louis Arena, and his expectation was the hard cast that was protecting his thumb, hand, wrist and part of his forearm was coming off.
"I'm pretty sure," DeKeyser said. "The doc said last week that it looked good and when I saw him [Wednesday] he was going to make a decision on whether it was going to come off but he was pretty sure it was going to be."
The Red Wings will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). It will be three weeks to the day of DeKeyser's injury.
DETROIT -- A day after Detroit Red Wings forward Damien Brunner said he was looking forward to "collecting some cash" from his Swedish teammates, the Swiss native was no wealthier Monday, but still beamed with pride.
His native country did not pull off a shocking upset in the final of the 2013 IIHF World Championships -- Sweden defeated Switzerland 5-1 -- but the silver medal remains an incredible accomplishment for a burgeoning hockey power.
"Switzerland had a great start. [Roman] Josi scored a really nice goal to get Switzerland up, but then it was kind of bad luck, I think," Brunner said. "We were all over them and then Sweden scored on the first three or four shots two goals. It was kind of unlucky. After that I thought Sweden controlled the goal pretty good. At the end of day, Sweden looked a little bit fresher in this final."
DETROIT --Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville confirmed Viktor Stalberg will return to the lineup for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS), and center Michael Handzus will play, but the forward lines could look a little different than they have in the first two games of the series.
Stalberg skated on a line with Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell during the morning skate Monday at Joe Louis Arena. If that happens, Dave Bolland likely will return to the second line -- where he also spent a good chunk of the regular season -- which would leave Handzus to play on the fourth line. Quenneville did not confirm that Daniel Carcillo is the odd-man out up front, but based on the morning skate he appears to be.
"We all need to be better and we expect everybody to be much better," Quenneville said. "It is across the board. We need more predictability in our game and we need to better in certain areas of the ice."
Miller has not played since April 20 against the Vancouver Canucks because of a broken finger. He had four goals and eight points in 44 games for the Red Wings this season.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock has tinkered with his fourth line on several occasions in this postseason. Patrick Eaves and Cory Emmerton each has sat once, but the third spot has been a bit of a rotation. Todd Bertuzzi, who has no points in the postseason, will sit for the third time.
Here are the projected lineups for the Blackhawks and Red Wings:
ANAHEIM --Patrick Eaves didn't know what his personal record in Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs was until a member of the media told him Sunday morning at Honda Center.
He did know that he played in several (four), and that experience is supplemented by the many he played out in his mind during his childhood in Fairbault, Minn. Eaves' Detroit Red Wings will face the Anaheim Ducks here Sunday night and the winner will advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Both teams have several young players who will be playing in a Game 7 in the NHL playoffs for the first time. Detroit coach Mike Babcock's message on that matter is clear, and alluded to what Eaves meant when he mentioned all those Game 7s as a kid.
"You've got to excited to play on this stage," Babcock said. "You grow up dreaming about it, scoring the winning goal in overtime. Anybody who's been involved in hockey knew who they were and who you tried to emulate at the time. You've done it a million times. Just play the game.
"You spend your whole life growing up -- like for me it was Leaf Rapids, Manitoba, road hockey games, I was always Bobby Orr. They were the team, and I loved Bobby Orr. You're always the guy scoring the winning goal in overtime. You've done it your whole life, so just go do it."
DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings will get a key component of the team's top line back from suspension, but that isn't the only lineup tweak from coach Mike Babcock as an elimination game beckons.
Veteran defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo will make his debut in the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 on Friday at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN2), replacing rookie Brian Lashoff. Detroit, down 3-2 in the series, needs a win to force Game 7 in Anaheim on Sunday.
"We didn't move the puck," Babcock said of the reason for his switch on the blue line. "I thought we struggled, particularly with that pair, in a lot of the game, from the opening shift to a number of shifts. We weren't good enough so we're making a change."
"It is a good opportunity. I'm excited about it," Samuelsson said. "I don't know what makes it easier or harder. Let's see tonight. I've been here before and I've played with good players. I know what they're capable of and I'll try to find some open spots."
DETROIT -- A theme has developed in the past two games of this Western Conference Quarterfinal Series between the Anaheim Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings.
Or has it?
In each of the past two contests, the Ducks have rattled off three unanswered goals in the third period. Once, it was to erase a 4-1 deficit and force overtime. The next time, it was to turn a 1-0 advantage into a misleading rout.
The results had members of the media quizzing Red Wings players and coach Mike Babcock about a potential issue developing. Babcock was adamant these were two separate incidents, and shouldn't be lumped together.
DETROIT -- Teemu Selanne didn't earn the nickname "Finnish Flash" for being slow in some sort of ironic joke.
So considering Selanne is something of an expert about being able to move swiftly on a pair of hockey skates, his endorsement of Anaheim Ducks rookie Emerson Etem should be a valued one.
"Obviously his speed is incredible," the 42-year-old Selanne said of Etem. "That's the one thing that he has to take advantage of every night. They always say, ‘Speed kills,' and he has the speed. Everything else is going to come later. That keeps you ... that is the biggest tool, and then, obviously, experience and opportunity is going to help him. But it is fun to watch when young guys do that."
Etem was born in the summer of 1992, just a few months before Teemu mania would sweep through the plains of Manitoba and the NHL. He's the youngest guy on this Ducks roster, but he's proving the extra pressure of the playoffs doesn't faze him.
Abdelkader received a five-minute major penalty for charging and a game misconduct for a hit on Lydman with a little more than five minutes remaining in the second period of Game 3 here Saturday at Joe Louis Arena. He was slated to have a supplemental disciplinary hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Sunday afternoon.
Should Abdelkader be suspended, the Red Wings would be without a key component of their top line and an unsung hero in the team's drive to earn a 22nd consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
DETROIT -- The Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings will make changes to their lineups for Game 3 of this Western Conference Quarterfinals series Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Defenseman Luca Sbisa, who hasn't played since April 13, will return for the Ducks. He battled an injury near the end of the regular season and was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the best-of-7 series, which is tied after Detroit's 5-4 overtime win in Game 2 at Honda Center.
Veteran Sheldon Souray likely will come out of the lineup to make room for Sbisa, who had one goal and eight points in 41 games this season.
DETROIT -- Were this still the regular season, it is possible the Anaheim Ducks would go into their next game riding a wave of momentum from a crazy comeback Thursday night in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
Alas, this is a Western Conference Quarterfinals series in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the old addage that there is no momentum during a best-of-7 series probably applies.
“No, I don’t think there’s any momentum,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said. “It is still in their favor. They won the game. That’s the bottom line. In the playoffs, you don’t get points for ties or points for overtime. I think that we can take some positives out of it. We showed a lot of character to come back and know that we need to play that type of game from the start.”
Anaheim prevailed in a Game 1 that proved to be a little more tight-checking than Game 2 Thursday. That was in part because the Red Wings struck quickly in each of the three periods and built a 4-1 lead, which forced the Ducks into a wide-open style and the teams traded chances at both ends.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said upon further review, he’s worried more about the mental mistakes than physical ones heading into Game 3 here on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS2, NBCSN, KDOC, FS-D).
There was a strong argument to be made that before Friday, the top two potential talents in the unrestricted free agent Class of 2013 were members of the Anaheim Ducks.
Now it is just the top potential UFA in July who plies his trade for the Ducks after center Ryan Getzlaf agreed to an eight-year, $66 million contract Friday, and the future of his friend and linemate Corey Perry becomes one of the most interesting storylines in the NHL.
To be clear, the Ducks are one of the great stories of the 2012-13 season, as coach Bruce Boudreau has Anaheim in first place in the Pacific Division and second only to the juggernaut Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL standings. The chances of anything happening with any pending UFA on the Ducks, let alone a franchise-type player like Perry, are extremely remote because Anaheim clearly is a Stanley Cup contender until proven otherwise.
Still, there will be plenty of attention focused on Perry, and any discussions about a contract extension for the 2011 Hart Trophy winner and speculation about a new destination for him won't completely subside until he signs a new deal or does find a new home.
WASHINGTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes are trying to retain their place atop the Southeast Division despite a rash of injuries, and the Washington Capitals are trying to get back into the playoff race after a dreadful start.
That alone would make this division battle an important one, but Alexander Semin's return to Washington -- and the feelings said return elicited in Capitals forward Troy Brouwer on Monday -- have added some juice to this contest.
Semin spent seven seasons with the Capitals before signing a one-year deal in the offseason with the Hurricanes. Brouwer wasn't shy about discussing Semin's perceived lack of consistency with things like work ethic and commitment, but Hurricanes captain Eric Staal stood up for his linemate Tuesday morning after the team's skate at Verizon Center.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- After two injury-ravaged seasons, the last thing Mike Green wanted in 2012-13 was another ailment to deal with.
He's been out of the lineup for nearly two weeks with a groin injury, but the Washington Capitals defenseman expects to return Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. Green has been close to returning for the past few days, but past troubles helped him commit to patience as the preferred strategy.
"Yeah, I mean [not playing] Saturday was kind of from experience and it was a wise one. I’m 100 percent and ready to go," Green said. "Even from Saturday in warm-ups to today skating is night and day. Those two days to rest was perfect."
Added coach Adam Oates: "I hope [he's ready]. We'll see how he feels in the morning. I know he was going full speed, so unless there's a setback the rest of the day, I hope so."
NEWARK, N.J. -- After three rounds of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings looked nothing like the team that struggled to score goals before a few personnel changes in February.
After winning the first three games of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, there were few concerns for a team won victory from a championship. Now there is -- the Kings aren't scoring goals like there were a couple of weeks ago.
Los Angeles has only eight regulation goals in five games against Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils, and four of them came in one contest. The Kings do have two overtime tallies, and that is a huge reason why they are up 3-2 in this series and not behind.
NEWARK, N.J. -- For weeks members of the Los Angeles Kings have been quizzed about their power play, to the point where the answers blended together with each passing game.
That was because the team couldn’t score with the man advantage. Now, after two straight games with a power-play goal, there were more questions for the Kings after practice Friday -- but they were more positive queries.
“We’ve been able to shoot the puck and we’ve been able to get traffic,” forward Justin Williams said. “There is no secret to a good power play. Everyone knows that -- shots, tips, screens, rebounds.”
All of those questions before came because the Kings could not score with the man advantage. Los Angeles had six power-play goals in 16 games after Game 2 of this Stanley Cup Final -- and three of them came with a two-man advantage.
The Kings were 3-for-71 in 5-on-4 situations, a black mark on an otherwise pristine run through the Western Conference and to a 2-0 lead in this series against the New Jersey Devils. Now the Kings have scored three times in the past two games, including two in less than three minutes of the third period to put away Game 3 and another that evened Game 4 in the third period.
“We’ve been just been very opportunistic,” Williams said. “We haven’t gotten very many, and when you don’t get many power plays, you tend to put more focus on it, which you shouldn’t, but New Jersey doesn’t take many so we don’t get many opportunities.”
Williams was previously on the second unit with Dwight King and Jarret Stoll. Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said his reason for switching the personnel -- the Kings went with their top two lines and two defensemen on the two units -- was because the team was protecting a two-goal lead, but Penner’s big body created a screen for Carter’s tally to make it 3-0.
“Line combos instead of power-play combos,” Brown said. “I don't know if that had anything to do with it. Ultimately we're getting shots to the net.”
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Killing penalties has been a great strength for the Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They have erased 92.1 percent of their foes' opportunities, which is tied with the St. Louis Blues for best among the 16 postseason participants. They are also perfect in two games against the New Jersey Devils in the Cup Final.
Still, it is a concern for the Kings that they have put New Jersey on the power play so much -- eight times in two games, more than twice the number of man-advantage situations they have earned.
He makes the engine go, but the guy or guys who have helped Quick lead the Kings to victory after victory this postseason has been a rotating cast of characters. Trying to figure out who that guy is going to be is probably futile -- the Kings certainly don't who it is going to be.
They just expect it to be someone, and it is hard to argue with that belief after this incredible playoff run.
"It is the depth on our team," Jarrett Stoll said. "We've got a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net. We've got a lot of guys that come up with big plays. That's what you need. I don't think you can win with one or two lines and a couple D, or just a goaltender. You've got to have good depth and guys who chip in, whether it is offensively scoring a goal or killing penalties or blocking shots or taking a hit to take a play. There are so many things that go into it, but right now there a lot of guys doing a lot of good things."
Jeff Carter was the hero Saturday night, whipping a shot through a mass of bodies in overtime to give the Kings a 2-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead. Carter hasn't been a star for the Kings in this postseason, but they haven't needed him to be.
He's got five goals and 10 points, which has made him a solid secondary option. Game 2 has been Carter's time in this postseason. He had a goal in Game 2 against St. Louis, and he had a hat trick in to help the Kings to a 2-0 lead in the conference against Phoenix.
"You should come in every game expecting to win -- every game, regardless if you're home or away, thinking you're going to win," Justin Williams said. "We have that. The first two games could have gone either way. We've had a different hero step up, and tonight it was Jeff."
Anze Kopitar was that guy in Game 1 against the Devils. Dustin Brown has been that guy on a few occasions.
It hasn't always been the stars, though. Stoll sealed the first-round victory with a Game 5 overtime goal. Dustin Penner added an OT winner in Game 5 against the Coyotes. Dwight King, who was in the American Hockey League until February, and has spent most of this postseason as a bottom-six forward, has five goals for Los Angeles.
Every night it might be someone different, and the Kings are two wins from the Stanley Cup in part because of that.
The other part is Quick, who is now 14-2 and the Kings have scored a total of one goal in his two losses.
He fumbled the puck a few times early in Game 1, which might have just been Cup Final nerves, but Quick was outstanding late in that contest throughout Game 2. He's allowed two goals in two games -- one went off a teammate and in, and the other was tipped and veered at a sharp angle.
"He was on his game the whole time," Matt Greene said. "Game 1 you can say it was nerves or it wasn't, but he was there when we needed him and he's been a force all playoffs. ... We haven't had the best games [against New Jersey] in front of [Quick], but he's kept us in it and allowed us to get the wins."
NEWARK, N.J. -- The fourth line of the New Jersey Devils earned plenty of plaudits for their work in the opening three rounds of the playoffs, particularly in the conference finals against the rival New York Rangers.
Los Angeles is also a team that uses all four lines regularly, but it has been the guys on their top three that have seen most of the spotlight in the Kings’ march through the Western Conference.
It was L.A.'s fourth line that had a big night in Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
“You know, they probably had one of the best games in the playoffs so far,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “And they had some really good ones before. Tonight they capped it off with a nice goal. Definitely got us going in the first period.
“Seems like we came out a little slower than we wanted to. The way they came out and established the forecheck, had some cycles in their zone, gave us a huge boost.”
Colin Fraser scored the first postseason goal of his NHL career midway through the first period. It was a perfect, fourth-line kind of goal. Jordan Nolan chipped an outlet pass into the New Jersey zone and raced after it. Andy Greene beat him to it, but Nolan hit Greene twice to help dislodge the puck and then turned to find Fraser cutting toward the net.
“He forced the turnover. He was the guy who did all the work,” Fraser said. “He got in on the d-man and turned the puck over and he just found me in the slot. I just tried to get it off as quick as I could. I wasn’t really aiming.”
Added captain Dustin Brown: “Our first goal is a direct result of our forecheck. We had a lot of chances off the forecheck and there was a couple that skipped over our stick, the puck was bouncing. On the flip side of that I think it's harder for those defensemen to make plays with the ice and puck bouncing like that. Our forecheck was good, it needs to get better.”
Fraser missed a couple of games earlier in the postseason because of a personal issue, but he, Nolan and Brad Richardson have been together on the fourth line when they were available since Dustin Penner was moved to the second unit at the onset of the St. Louis series.
Nolan has spent some time on the second line this season, but those three guys have found some chemistry during this postseason. They all played more than 11 minutes, and Nolan was credited with four hits.
“He’s a big body and he’s got lots of speed,” Fraser said of Nolan. “He gets in on the forecheck well. Even [Richardson] on the other side, he’s not as big but he’s got lots of speed. It is kind of nice as the centerman there. We seem to get on pucks first every time and I just try to stay at F3. I take care of the defense and they do the hard work in the corners.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mike Smith has had a great postseason, and the Los Angeles Kings saw in Game 4 of this Western Conference Finals how he can affect a game both by stopping shots and by stopping the forecheck with his outlet passes.
The objective for the Kings in Game 5 Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS) will be simple, but not something that always is easy to execute: Make Smith work more in his crease and less outside of it. Los Angeles had 36 shots in Game 4, but many were from the perimeter and few came after the initial attempt.
"Some of them were [quality shots], some of them were from the outside," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "Sometimes even the outside shot seems harmless, but it can be dangerous. The second and third chances off that shot are the most important. We've got to make sure we keep making him work and get some guys in front of him."
Added forward Dustin Penner: "We need to put more traffic towards their goaltender, get more second and third opportunities. Not so many one-chance-and-done kind of things."
The other facet of Smith's game that frustrates opponents is his ability to play the puck. Los Angeles loves to wear teams down on the forecheck, and the Kings have had success doing that against the smaller Coyotes. Not so after the early stages in Game 4, however, and Smith's ability to get the puck out of danger before the L.A. forwards arrive was a big part of that.
As Kopitar put it, when the Kings send the puck into the Phoenix end they need to "either fire it really hard or try to make sure it doesn't end up in the trapezoid area."
"Smith can handle the puck with the top goalies in the League," forward Dwight King said. "We try to keep our dumps away from him, realizing that he can make plays with [the puck]. We definitely know what he is capable of doing to us and we need to keep that in our mindset."
The Kings have lost only twice in this postseason, both times being a Game 4 with a chance to sweep the opponent. Los Angeles responded in Game 5 against Vancouver with an overtime victory at Rogers Arena.
They will be going for their eighth consecutive victory away from Staples Center when they face the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.
"We've had to be [a good road team]. That's a fact," coach Darryl Sutter said. "You're not a home-ice team, you've got to be. When you're a team that doesn't score many goals, you've got to be. You've got to manufacture and find different ways to do it. We found it.
"I know what the talk is, because of our road record. When you look at all the different ways the team's won, it's won by your goalie being great, or your power play, or the other team taking a bad penalty, your penalty killing, overtime. There's so many different ways to it. It's not just, 'That's how you did it, that's how you do it.' There's so many different ways of doing it. The biggest thing we do is, win or lose, try and play the same way. That's the most important thing."
Here is the projected lineup for the Kings, who aren't expected to make any changes from Game 4:
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There has been plenty of uncertainty for the Phoenix Coyotes around this time of year in recent seasons. When the Coyotes were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in each of the past two postseasons, they've had to answer questions about the future whereabouts of the franchise.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan, who came to the desert with the organization from Winnipeg after his rookie season, has had to answer those types of questions more than anyone. As the Coyotes face elimination from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, there is a different kind of uncertainty for Doan.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Phoenix Coyotes felt they played better in Game 3 of this Western Conference Final series. They also came up short again, and now are one loss from elimination.
There is an extra off day in the schedule between Games 3 and 4 because of the congestion at Staples Center with the Los Angeles Kings, Clippers and Lakers still participating in the postseason. Most of the Coyotes that played Thursday night took Friday off, as coach Dave Tippett tried to give them a break from the day-to-day grind of the playoffs.
LOS ANGELES -- This won't be the first time the Phoenix Coyotes have faced a critical 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff contest without Martin Hanzal, so consider them prepared for the situation.
Hanzal won't play Thursday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals series against Los Angeles (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) because of a hit late in Game 2 on Kings captain Dustin Brown. He also missed three games in the first round against Chicago because of injury, and the Coyotes won two of those three games.
"Obviously we want him in the lineup, no doubt about that. We've been in this situation, facing adversity and missing a couple guys like Marty," Coyotes center Antoine Vermette said. "I think it is a team play -- with or without him we have to be strong in support of each other.
"I think generally when we're successful that is how we approach it. We have every line doing their same things, play the same ways. Some nights it is different lines that can score. We feel confident that we can generate some offense from different lines."
Langkow has no goals and six points in 13 playoff games, but he had at least 50 points in eight straight seasons earlier in his career. If the grey flecks in his beard weren't enough of a clue, he's a veteran of 72 postseason games and more than 1,000 in the regular season.
"Yeah, I've been there before," Langkow said. "We've got to work hard as a group and play our game and get the job the done. I haven't played with [Vrbata] at all except for a little bit in the third [period] at the end of last game. I've played with [Pyatt] a little bit. I know what kind of players they are. [Pyatt] is real good down low and obviously [Vrbata] is a great shooter. We just need to work hard and make things click."
Added Pyatt: "He [Langkow] is a real solid veteran centerman that can make a lot of plays. He'll step in and do a real good job."
There may be more of an onus on the Vermette line to provide offense, but the Coyotes have been a goals-by-committee club for much of the past three seasons. That said, the team's top two scorers during the regular season, Vrbata and Ray Whitney, have gone five games without a point.
Hanzal is tied with Pyatt for second on the team in goals in the playoffs with three, and has played at least 17:31 in every playoff game that he's finished for the Coyotes.
"He's strength in the middle. He's a big guy that, for most of the year, has centered our top line," coach Dave Tippett said. "It is what it is. We've got to focus on the players that are coming in, on a game plan that we feel we can be successful with. Certainly like to have Marty in there, but it's not a factor tonight, so we have to concentrate on the other options."
LOS ANGELES -- The Phoenix Coyotes are in a tough spot, down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals and facing two games on the road, starting with Game 3 of the series here at Staples Center on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, CBC).
The odds are stacked in the Los Angeles Kings' favor, and finding people who expect the Coyotes to win this series outside the Phoenix dressing room could be a difficult task.
In other words, it's a normal day for the Coyotes.
"We were joking about how obviously everyone is picking the Kings to win this now, and that's a good thing because pretty much everyone has been picking against us for three years," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "The moment people start picking us is when we have to be worried. We just have to find a way to rally around something."
Few pundits expected the Coyotes to return to the playoffs this season after losing goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the summer. Not only are they back in the playoffs, but they have reached the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
While the Coyotes were the higher seed in each of their first two playoff series this year, Chicago and Nashville had amassed more points during the regular season and were the favorites. Even though Phoenix eked out the Pacific Division title, finishing ahead of San Jose and Los Angeles, the Kings were a heavy favorite against the Coyotes.
Now that the Kings have won the first two games in Phoenix and the Coyotes will be without center Martin Hanzal because of a suspension and defenseman Adrian Aucoin because of an injury, there won't be many people expecting a victory for the road team on Thursday.
"Somebody sent me an e-mail [Wednesday] about being picked 15th going into the conference [this season]," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We're finding ways to overcome the adversity and we'll continue to try to find that. That's kind of the way it's been for a long time for us, so that doesn't seem to bother us too much."
Added Doan: "We've been pretty good at blocking things that are going on around us and just finding a way to win. That's all we've got to do [Thursday] -- find a way to win one game."
That time is going to come pretty soon, though. When Hunter agreed to replace Bruce Boudreau as the team's coach in November, he reportedly signed a one-year deal through the remainder of the 2011-12 season.
That means he and the organization have a decision to make. Several players have said they would like to see Hunter return next season, as has general manager George McPhee.
Hunter left the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League to coach in the NHL for the first time. He and his brother Mark are co-owners of the team. Before taking this job, Dale Hunter was the coach and vice president of the Knights while his brother was the team's president. Mark Hunter replaced Dale behind the bench, and the Knights will begin play in the Memorial Cup later this week.
"We do our best and it's probably best team I played [on]," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "You know, group of guys and atmosphere, everybody was - it's unbelievable to play and I hope everybody gonna stay here 'til next year."
ARLINGTON, Va. -- When a team plays in as many close games as the Washington Capitals have this postseason, there is bound to be some luck involved.
One area where the Capitals have had some good fortune is in the trainer's room. Every team has players dealing with minor injuries at this point of the season, but when Jay Beagle missed Game 6 against the New York Rangers, he became the first player to miss a contest because of injury this postseason.
"Guys have been playing hard, and it is a little surprising," veteran forward Mike Knuble said. "That Boston series was a physical series. It just seems like there is always somebody tweaking something and missing a game or two here or there. Knock on wood, we've avoided the big one, and Jay is the first guy to go down."
Dealing with injuries goes beyond man-games lost in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Capitals know that as well as any team. Past postseason failures have been littered with guys, often critical guys, trying to play through an injury because that's what hockey players do at this time of the year.
Brooks Laich played through a postseason with a broken foot. Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom have played with a broken thumb. Mike Green has had multiple postseasons marred by multiple injuries, and he did finally miss time at the end of the series against Tampa Bay last year because of a shoulder ailment. Even Alex Ovechkin, who just scored his 30th goal in 50 career postseason games, has played through injury in years' past.
Some of the Capitals are certainly playing through pain right now as they prepare for Game 7 against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. But both Knuble and Karl Alzner admitted the team has had better luck with injuries than in years' past, and the club is relatively healthy -- sans for Beagle, who didn't skate again Friday and seems doubtful for Game 7.
"We are [healthier]," Alzner said. "I think we're very fortunate with the style of hockey we've been playing that we don't have as many injuries as we've had in the past. I mean, guys are taking care of themselves really well and the trainers are making sure everybody is healing up. We're very, very fortunate that is the case right now.
"It is very nice. We just hope that nothing goes the wrong way. That's all you can really do. Injuries are going to happen, and teams that are the deepest are going to figure it out the best."
ARLINGTON, Va. -- There were flashes of the dreaded "sophomore slump" for Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson this season, but he's picked the right time to be playing some of his best hockey.
Carlson had a fantastic rookie campaign in 2010-11, his first full season in the NHL, teaming up with fellow young defenseman Karl Alzner to form the team's most trusted pairing, while also racking up seven goals and 37 points.
He finished this regular season with nine goals and 32 points, but his work in the defensive end eroded. Plus-minus isn't a tell-all stat, but Carlson's drop from plus-21 to minus-15 was jarring. Carlson did score in the season finale against Florida, but that ended one of two droughts of six weeks or more without a tally.
"I think towards the end of the season I started getting my legs back under me, felt a lot better about myself and my game," Carlson said. "I think it is just a progression thing. I was confident that I could do it and get back to where I needed to be and I think that I'm playing good now."
Carlson's play has been much improved this postseason. He has two goals and five points in the 13 games, but four of the points have come in the past seven.
He's also played more than 20 minutes in every postseason game but one, and more than 30 minutes twice. Paired every night with Alzner, they are again back to being Washington's shutdown pairing.
"He's been playing really well," Hunter said. "He's been physical and jumping up in the play and creating offense. But also they got a tough job of dealing with the top line every night. Him and [Alzner] are doing a great job."
Added Carlson: "I don't know. I think it seems like I'm getting some bounces, getting some breaks. It feels like I am seeing the rush a little bit more and trying to join the play if I can if it is not detrimental to my team."
Carlson did get a nice bounce in Game 6. His shot from the right point went off Nicklas Backstrom's skate and skipped toward the left post -- just where Jason Chimera was waiting for an easy tap-in goal.
He isn't the only young defenseman with elite potential to struggle at times during his second full NHL season. Montreal's P.K. Subban also struggled at times this season. So too did Los Angeles' Drew Doughty during his sophomore campaign.
Carlson does appear to have figured it out, and has moved on.
"It's over now, so it doesn't matter," he said.
Added Hunter: "I think every player goes through it; it's a long season. When it counts in the playoffs, he's been a horse for us."
"We don't know for sure yet," Hunter said when asked if Beagle might join the team for practice Friday.
Beagle didn't skate Tuesday or Wednesday before Game 6, but Hunter said before the game that he would play. Mike Vogel, senior writer for capitals.nhl.com and reporter for Caps 365, reported on Twitter that Beagle was in the dressing room putting his equipment on but the injury "did not repsond as he and team had hoped."
Jeff Halpern replaced Beagle in the lineup. Brooks Laich said he didn't know Beagle was out until the team was on the ice for warm-ups. Beagle blocked a shot in Game 5 with his right leg, which is likely what caused the injury.
Beagle has become one of Washington's most critical players and one of Hunter's most trusted guys, often logging big minutes against top competition in this postseason.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Colin Wilson has been in this position before.
Wilson, a high draft pick filled with promise but lacking in high-end results, was a healthy scratch at the beginning of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs before dressing for the final three games and offering a glimmer of hope for future success.
This year he played in only two of the final 12 games of the regular season and not at all against Detroit in the first round of the playoffs. He came back into the lineup for the Nashville Predators in Game 2 of this Western Conference Semifinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes, and in three contests has earned a promotion to the top line.
Maybe, just maybe, Wilson is starting to figure it out at the NHL level.
"An epiphany?" Wilson said. "Yeah, I think just the more throughout my career I've realized that nothing is being given to me in terms of ice time and just motivates me to play that much harder. Whatever they are telling me, I'm going to take it in, soak it in. That's what I've been doing lately, and I have been playing harder defensively. I have tried to step up my game after being healthy scratched."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Every team that wins the Stanley Cup has some defining moments along the way. Last year, it was a pair of overtime goals for Nathan Horton, a can-you-believe-it stick save by Tim Thomas and even when Horton was knocked out of the Cup Final by an illegal hit.
As fictional baseball manager Lou Brown put it, "All we need is something to bring it all together." The Nashville Predators are on the precipice of elimination Monday night, so if they're going to forge an improbable journey to a Stanley Cup championship, one of those series-shifting, season-defining events could happen in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series.
"We've got to look forward," coach Barry Trotz said. "Tonight is our chance to get a win in Phoenix so we can live another day. We think we have a really good group. I know we have a good leadership group in there. We've had to go through some things. I don't think any team that has done anything special in sport or has won anything hasn't gone through some adversity. Well, this might be our adversity. There are moments that pass you by that you look back 20 years from now and say, 'That was the moment.' You can make a difference, and tonight might be their moment.
"We can get back in the series a little bit and get it to 3-2. That's all we can do. We're not going to win the series tonight. No team has ever won three games in one night in the NHL that I know of. We've just got to win a hockey game. It is going to be a moment-to-moment situation."
The big story leading into Game 5 is the return of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn after missing the past two games. Radulov, the team's leading scorer with six points, and Kostitsyn, the joint goals leader with three, were held out of the lineup for Game 3 for a violation of team rules, which was reportedly breaking curfew the night before the last game here, Game 2.
They were also healthy scratches for Game 4 after the team played well in a 2-0 win in Game 3. The Predators were shut out in Game 4 by Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, so the duo could be a spark for the offense.
"I have something to prove, basically not to [the media] or to somebody; first of all, it's to myself, and that's about it," Radulov said.
Radulov and Kostitsyn will skate on a line with Nick Spaling, at least to start the contest. Colin Wilson is expected to start on the top line after playing well the past two games. Kostitsyn's brother, Sergei, will drop to the fourth line.
"We practiced yesterday. Before that, we've had a few shifts together," Radulov said of playing with Spaling. "At this time of year, it basically doesn't matter who you play with. You just have to go out there and do your best and show effort and just try to win. We're down 3-1, so we don't have much. We just have to play hard and go out there and win the game."
Added Trotz: "[Radulov] is a pretty proud guy. He wants to be part of this series. He's going to be part of this series. He wants to make a difference. I think we'll talk to him and say, 'This is what we expect and you've got to be part of the format.' He can make a difference. ... I'm glad they want this challenge. It is a big challenge for them. They're coming into a situation where we're behind the eight ball, if you will. They can make a difference tonight. If they do, it might be the thing that changes the whole series."
Trotz said he told the two skilled forwards that they would be back in for Game 5 the morning after Game 4. Nashville had a sparsely-attended optional skate Saturday morning with an extra day off before Game 5, but Radulov and Kostistyn skated and Trotz told them afterwards.
"I just told them, 'You're back in and you can make a difference,'" Trotz said. "I told them, 'It is not going to be easy. People aren't going to let you off the hook. You're going to be judged. You're going to be weighed. All of those things.' I needed to tell them early so they could be in the right frame of mind that, 'Hey, I've got a big task in front of me and I know it is going to be challenging. I know I'm going to get questioned.' I wanted them to have the opportunity to prepare for success, and not just at the last minute say, 'Hey, you're in.' I don't think that would have been fair to them."
Here is the projected lineup for the Predators in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series against Phoenix at Jobing.com Arena:
NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes played pretty well for about 58 1/2 minutes Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Some nights, that will be enough to mask a couple of glaring errors in the other 90 seconds or so.
A road game in the Western Conference Semifinals is not just "some nights," though. The Nashville Predators took advantage of the Coyotes during that blip and captured a 2-0 victory in Game 3.
Phoenix has another chance to assert its control of this series Friday night in Game 4, but the Coyotes want to limit the gaffes and apply more pressure in the offensive zone.
"We've talked about it. We didn't play a bad game. We were OK, but OK isn't going to win on the road in the playoffs. We have to be better than that," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said Friday morning. "We gave them ... both goals were not normal mistakes that we've had throughout the playoffs, and we've got to limit them. If we can limit those and play the game that we want to play -- a little bit harder, a little bit more direct at the net. If we do that, good things should happen."
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said he wasn't expecting to make any lineup changes after Game 3, but also didn't rule it out. One missing guy who isn't expected to return is Lauri Korpikoski, who has been absent for the past two contests in this series with an undisclosed injury.
Center Boyd Gordon did not skate Thursday at practice or Friday during a very optional morning workout, but if Tippett does make a change, it could be if he was unable to play after blocking a Shea Weber slap shot at close range Wednesday.
"There's adjustments to make, but we’ve got some healthy people and some non-healthy people," Tippett said. "We'll look at all the options. I'm not ruling out a change, but right now it looks like it will be the same."
Tippett made it clear Thursday that goaltender Mike Smith was not the primary player at fault when Nashville's David Legwand scored after Smith's pass behind his net was intercepted. The second goal came after Martin Erat stripped the puck from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has probably been Phoenix's top defenseman in this postseason, and set up Sergei Kostitsyn and Mike Fisher for a 2-on-0 at point-blank range.
Phoenix missed its own opportunities. Rostislav Klesla hit the far post with a shot during an odd-man rush, and the Coyotes squandered a 5-on-3 in the third period.
"There's some areas that we can clean up," Tippett said. "I thought the two goals we made some mistakes, and I would classify those as unearned chances for them, so there's some areas you got to clean up. There's always subtle little tweaks here and there to grab an advantage. If you take those two goals out, it was a pretty tight game. You're looking for a player to make a big play, or a line to have a great shift.
"There's ways to win. We've been a pretty good club at finding ways to win in tight situations. We just have to try to get back to that."
Here’s what the Coyotes lineup could look like for Game 4:
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after Game 3 that Gordon was fine. Gordon left the game after dropping to one knee and appearing to take the blast off his arm from close range, but did return.
"There's some guys ... that's just what they do," Tippett said. "Sometimes you wonder why all guys don't do that, but that's [Gordon]. That's why he's such a valuable player for us."
Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith called Gordon "a warrior." This is Gordon's first year with the Coyotes after signing in the offseason. He's been a top faceoff/penalty-killer in the League after carving out that role with the Washington Capitals.
He also has a knack for being on the receiving end of big hits and hard shots, and Wednesday night was no different.
"I have gear on and I'm scared sometimes," Smith said.
Gordon is expected to skate Friday morning before Game 4 at Bridgestone Arena.
Another injured Coyotes forward, Lauri Korpikoski, did practice Thursday. Korpikoski has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury. He also skated Wednesday morning before Game 3.
"It's been a couple days, a few days. Yeah, always day-by-day I am feeling better," Korpikoski said. "It is good. I think I've been game-time [decision] for a while now, so it is the same. We'll see how it goes."
Added Tippett: "We're just day-to-day. We'll continue tomorrow. He's out there and trying to get himself going."
Korpikoski had 17 goals and 37 points this season for the Coyotes while playing in all 82 regular-season games. He also missed two contests during the opening round against Chicago because of an upper-body injury.
"I missed a couple in the first series and it wasn't fun," he said. "To miss a couple again, it is tough. I feel a lot more tired than if I was playing. It is not fun to watch those games, but hopefully I can get back soon."
NASHVILLE -- Mike Fisher has put shots on net this postseason that he thought were going in, so naturally his first goal of this postseason came on a pass.
Fisher gave the Nashville Predators a 2-0 lead in Game 3 of this Western Conference Semifinal on Wednesday, which helped his team cut Phoenix's series lead to 2-1 and snapped a personal goal drought that had reached 16 postseason games.
"Yeah, it is always nice to get one. It had been a while," Fisher said Thursday after practice at Bridgestone Arena. "I was getting some chances, they just hadn't gone in. Hopefully that will be a little monkey off the back and I can get going now."
When Fisher tried to send the puck back to Kostitsyn, it deflected off Smith's outstretched stick and knuckled over his right shoulder into the net.
"He kind of had his back turned so he was in a different position," Fisher said. "He gave it to me right away and I was just trying to go back to him back door and got a lucky bounce. I'll take it. It usually evens itself out. Some you think you should score and you don't, and others you just get lucky. That's just the way it goes sometimes."
Added Erat: "With Sergei, I'm not surprised with anything. I get used to it. He made the great play and it ends in up the net. That's most important. ... Mike does a lot of good things. It is not all about the scoring. In the playoffs, you've got guys who are going to score. Third-line, fourth-line guys are going to score, but it is all about the 60 minutes and Mike puts the effort every night on the ice."
Fisher's playoff drought dated back to the middle of the first round of last year's playoffs. He went without a goal in the Predators' second-round loss to the Vancouver Canucks and didn't have one in the first seven games of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
There were some extenuating circumstances last year, however. While Fisher scored three goals in the first three games against Anaheim in the opening round, he played the entire postseason with an ailing shoulder -- an injury that needed surgery to correct in the offseason.
"I wasn't able to be physical as I wanted to, and I wasn't able to have that same impact," Fisher said. "At the same time, I was able to play, but definitely I feel much better this year. Especially in the last half, it has been much stronger and the physical part of the game has been much better.
"It was an ongoing thing I had been dealing with for quite a long time. I had just lost a lot of strength and wasn't able to do certain things, especially physically, defensively and use it the way I wanted to. I'm obviously glad I got it done."
NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes have an opportunity to strengthen their hold on this Western Conference Semifinal series, and their opponent is going to be without its leading point producer and co-leader in goals during the playoffs.
"You look at what those guys did before [Radulov and Kostitsyn] got there, and they were a great team before," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "I think those guys made them even better, but it is not like they were struggling along beforehand. ... If it is coming home to my building, you're going to come out flying. We expect that, and we have to be ready for that. We can't sit back and wait for it. We have to go after it ourselves."
Added Coyotes forward Boyd Gordon: "They've got a great hockey team and we expect them to respond. We expect them to come out hard, and it is a tough building to play in. In a series, the momentum can change pretty quickly. We're aware of that and tonight is a big one for us."
The Predators would be desperate even if Radulov and Kostitsyn were not suspended for a violation of team rules. Teams have come back from a 3-0 deficit three times in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sure, Philadelphia did it two years ago, but that hasn't stopped clubs from viewing a Game 3 when down 2-0 in a series as a must-win.
Even without Radulov and Kostitsyn, the Predators aren't likely to want for effort. Adding a guy like Jordin Tootoo to the lineup could also add an extra dash of spice for what should be an electric atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena.
"I don't know if we're going to expect too much different from them," Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said. "They are a hard-working team. That's just the way that they play. Like us, they have some skill guys but they have a lot of guys who work hard and it doesn't matter who is the in lineup."
Added Gordon: "They're a hard-working team. They've got a few key guys out, but they have great depth up front and they're down 2-0. We know we're going to have to match their sense of urgency. We want to build on Game 2. I think we played pretty well, so we want to keep building on that."
NASHVILLE -- The Phoenix Coyotes were a solid road team during the regular season, winning 20 times away from Jobing.com Arena.
Like other teams around the NHL, they have found even more success in the postseason while donning the white sweaters. Phoenix will try to win for the fourth time in as many tries away from home in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Coyotes face the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday in Game 3 of this Western Conference Semifinal series.
"Our game is similar. We don't change a lot home or on the road. I think we're very competitive in both areas," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "Our group is very focused on how we play, and we take in where we play after that. It is pretty much the same game for us, home or on the road."
The Coyotes went to Chicago and won three times at United Center in the first round of the playoffs. Two were won in overtime on Mikael Boedker goals, but Phoenix also posted a 4-0 win in the clinching Game 6 at "The Madhouse on Madison."
Chicago was 27-8-6 at home during the regular season, but the Coyotes prevailed each time.
"We've been opportunistic," Tippett said. "There were a couple of games, two game in Chicago, that could have gone either way. Boedker was opportunistic in getting a couple of overtime goals.
"I think you've seen that throughout the playoffs this year. I don't know how much home-ice advantage has really been an advantage. I think it can be late in a series. If we're going to close out a series in Game 7, I'd certainly rather be at home."
Tippett is right -- home-ice hasn't been much of an "advantage" during this postseason. The road team is 34-22 after New Jersey defeated Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Pacific Division teams are 9-2 on the road, including three wins in Vancouver, three in Chicago and three in St. Louis.
Being at home for Game 7 wasn't even much of a help in the first round -- two of the three winner-take-all showdowns were won by the team in white.
"We had good road success until the last two games," said Nashville coach Barry Trotz, whose team went to Detroit, which had the best home record in the League this season, and swept Games 3 and 4 in the opening round. "I think it is just your group against the world. You're going into the lion's den all the time. It keeps you patient, keeps you focused."
Radulov and Kostitsyn are suspended for this game because of a violation of team rules. Smith has played two postseason games for the Predators -- Game 5 against Detroit in the first-round clincher and Game 1 of this series. Tootoo played once, in Game 3 against the Red Wings.
"I'm not going to say I'm going to be a savior. This is a team effort," Tootoo said. "Part of my game is bringing the physicality and the energy. Maybe that is what we need this time, is a little spark. I know whoever is in the lineup is going to get the job done, and that is part of being a team. You rely on each other."
Added Trotz: "We just have to get back to our game tonight. The guys who are out -- Andrei and [Radulov] -- they weren't with us for 65 games or so. Guys that are going in have been together, so guys have been, be it a Craig Smith, has been on the power play. We've had other guys do it, like [Colin] Wilson, Smith, [Brandon] Yip. ... I think the depth makes it a little easier to recover. In the past, we've had some injuries that really threw us off and we couldn't recover from them."
Matt Halischuk, who hasn't played in three games, would also be an option for the Predators. The team has been carrying several extra forwards since trading for Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad before the trade deadline, and Radulov's late-season return from Russia crowded the mix even more.
Smith played 72 games during the season, finishing with 14 goals and 36 points. Wilson played 68 contests and had 35 points, but he was scratched for the first six games of this postseason.
"It makes it tough, but it is pretty competitive," Smith said. "The guys are coming in and if you've been here the whole year it was tough to keep your spot, but in the end it is what's best for the team. The 20 guys that they pick is what you have to feel is right, and you just have to go with it."
Patric Hornqvist will move up into the top six to replace Radulov, while Smith or Wilson could end up on the third line in Kostitsyn's spot.
Trotz said the team did not find out about Radulov's and Kostitsyn's rule violations until after Game 2.
"We did not know before Game 2," Trotz said. "We found out after Game 2. Hell would have had to freeze over for them to play in Game 2 if we knew before."
Radulov is the team's leading scorer in this postseason with six points, and Kostitsyn is tied for the team lead with three goals. Still, Trotz said their absences from the lineup could extend beyond the suspension.
"Tonight, if we get it done, I would expect that I will probably go back with the same group," Trotz said. "They'd be the group that gets it done."
NEW YORK -- One of the battle cries from some members of the Washington Capitals after the two practices since a 3-1 loss in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series has been the need for more speed through the neutral zone.
Washington's ability to create said speed does not start in the neutral zone, but in the Capitals' own end. Ovechkin's line was pinned back by a consistent wave of offensive pressure by the Rangers, and they often spent most of a given shift stuck more than 150 feet away from Lundqvist.
"When you're wheeling around in your own zone and trying to fight battles, it is a lot more tiresome than if you're having fun in the offensive zone creating chances," Washington forward Troy Brouwer said. "Anyone will tell you that. If you're spending most of your shifts in the d-zone, you're getting worn down and you won't have that ability to jump up in the play and create some speed. Guys got to make sure when there's loose pucks, we've got to be the first ones on them, recovering those pucks and getting them out and being good along the walls. That will help us create more offense in that way."
For Ovechkin's line to play less defense, they need to play better defense. A big issue for the Capitals when Ovechkin's unit was on the ice was an inability to get the puck out of danger and away from New York's aggressive forecheckers.
There was an instance where Ovechkin's group was able to break out of its own end crisply -- and the result was a perfectly executed counterattack goal for Chimera. When something like that didn't happen, the line often spent so long playing defense that there was no energy left to play offense.
If Ovechkin did carry the puck into the offensive zone, he went at it alone while Laich and Chimera headed for a change or were left far behind him.
"Actually in the first series … ideally, you want to get flying through the neutral zone, but it doesn’t always happen like that," Laich said. "Especially now when it's pretty tight -- sometimes you have to stay patient and go up the wall with the puck and chip it in and forecheck and create your opportunities. It's not going to be all night where we're flying through the neutral zone."
Brouwer is expected to replace Chimera on the top line. Ovechkin, normally a left wing, skated on the right side for a drill Monday morning. Moving him to the opposite side could mean less one-on-one battles with New York's top shutdown defenseman, Dan Girardi, but his partner Ryan McDonagh is no slouch and it would also mean Brouwer, a natural right wing, would also have to play out of position.
"I don't think there is anything in that," Brouwer said when asked if he might be on the left side for Game 2. "I know he likes to come down that left side so he has the shot available right from the beginning. Guys are reading that and they know he likes to open up and take that shot from the half wall. Maybe if we were on the other sides, and I know that we're not so it is not an issue, but maybe it would throw guys off a little bit."
Laich has been a versatile forward in Washington for the past few seasons, and Brouwer has proven to be similarly adept at playing on different lines in different situations since joining the team from Chicago. He has been deployed at times during the latter part of the regular season and this postseason on the team's checking line with Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks, but he has also moved up to the top unit on occasion.
"It shouldn't [change], but sometimes it does," Brouwer said. "When you're with skilled players like Brooks and [Ovechkin], you can be more creative as far as offense goes. If you're with [Hendricks] and [Beagle], it is more of a grind-it-out, predictable kind of line. You know exactly where the puck is going and what they will be doing with it, whereas with [Ovechkin] sometimes you don't have a clue. So sometimes there is a change in how you play.
"We have to make it so when we do get the puck out, we're not jammed right up against their d-men, because they do a good job of holding the red [line] and the blue [line]. When teams can do that, it is almost like having another defender because you can't go offsides and you've got to dump pucks. It is tough. We have to try and create more separation coming into the zone."
BOSTON --Jeff Schultz has watched the past three games for the Washington Capitals, but he expects to be back in the lineup for Game 7 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series Wednesday night at TD Garden against the Boston Bruins.
John Erskine replaced Schultz in the lineup for Games 4, 5 and 6, but Schultz skated with Dennis Wideman on Washington's third defense pairing in practice Tuesday, and Erskine stayed on the ice for extra work Wednesday morning.
"It will be great," Schultz said. "It was tough watching, but [Erskine] did a great job after not playing for a long time. Now is it is key for me to come back and fill in for him. It is just a matter of going out there and playing. It isn't about worrying about mistakes or playing time -- just go out there and play and do what you do best and do your job."
Alexander Semin did not take part in the morning skate, but coach Dale Hunter said it was optional and he is fine to play. The Capitals are not expected to make any other changes to the lineup.
Here's how the Capitals should look Wednesday night:
One guy who was surprisingly missing for much of the third period as the Capitals tried to hold off the Bruins was captain Alex Ovechkin, who played only 1:58 in the period. Ovechkin took four shifts in the period, but played only 54 seconds in final 17:20 and only 15 seconds in the final 14:00.
Ovechkin played 15:03 in the first two periods -- more than all of Washington's skaters save for Mike Green, who was on ice for 15:25 through 40 minutes. The Capitals' captain took a 64-second shift that ended 2:40 into the third, then his final three shifts lasted 39, two and 13 seconds.
He spoke to the media after the game, and no injury was mentioned by Ovechkin nor coach Dale Hunter. The two-second shift happened because he came on the ice during play and then the puck went into the netting two seconds later. Hunter went with a different line for the ensuing faceoff. The same thing happened on his final shift -- a stoppage in play led Hunter to choose other players for the faceoff.
Former coach Bruce Boudreau often played Ovechkin in the final minute of games when the Capitals were leading, and Boudreau often said he trusted his captain to play in those situations. Boudreau actually benched Ovechkin for one shift near the end of a game earlier this season when Washington was trailing by a goal and it became a national story in the United States and Canada for multiple days.
Ovechkin wasn't the only star player on the team to not play much in the third period. Green played only 3:24 in the final 20 minutes, while Alexander Semin logged only 3:03. But every Washington skater saw at least three minutes of ice time -- except for Ovechkin.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- John Erskine has played a total of eight minutes and 31 seconds of NHL hockey since Jan. 31, so he’s probably more than a little excited to get back in the lineup for the Washington Capitals for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on Thursday against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
Given Erskine’s disposition when he’s on the ice, it is exactly what the Capitals are looking for. Neither Erskine nor coach Dale Hunter would confirm it Thursday morning, but all signs point to the rugged defenseman replacing Jeff Schultz next to Dennis Wideman on the team’s third defensive pairing against the Bruins.
“If I do play [Thursday], I think I just have to go out and play a simple game and not try to do much and let come the game to me. Don’t be lunging at people and stuff like that,” Erskine said after the team’s morning skate. “Playoffs are an exciting period, but yeah, it is a lot of ... having not played in a couple months, I’ll be going.”
Added Hunter: “We just want him there because he plays the body. After the whistles, I think they’re going to clamp down on and we don’t want no penalties. We want to play through the whistle and skate away. We’ll play hockey between the whistles. We just want him there to finish more hits on Boston.”
Erskine was last in the lineup Feb. 12, and before that it was Jan. 31. He’s spent much of this season as a healthy scratch after it started late for him because of offseason shoulder surgery. He missed the final 27 games of the regular season, first as a healthy scratch and then near the end of the season with a lower-body injury.
A season after playing in a career-best 73 games and establishing himself as a consistent top-six defenseman for the Capitals, he played only 28 games in 2011-12, his lowest total since joining the organization before the 2006-07 season.
Despite not playing for so long, Erskine said he isn’t worried about his conditioning.
“I’ve been bag skating for two months now, so I think I’ll be good like that,” he said. “Whenever you get thrown into a game, though, it is a different kind of conditioning. It will take me a few shifts to get going. ... I’m not going to change my game -- my game is to play physical, play tough in front of the net and just play a simple game.”
The physical play, both between the whistles and after them, ramped up significantly in Game 3 of this series. Boston was credited with 58 hits, and the Bruins baited the Capitals into more jostling after goalies made saves and before faceoffs.
Those are the areas where Erskine can provide the Capitals with an extra bit of snarl. He is also a willing combatant, should one of Boston’s tough guys, like Milan Lucic or Shawn Thornton, be interested in a round of fisticuffs.
“He’s physical and a tough guy to play against,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Erskine. “He’s got that heavy, heavy shot when he can let it go from the point. It is tough for goalies to handle. He’s just one of those guys that you really like having in your lineup.”
Added Erskine: “I’ve been like that since Game 1. It is definitely my style of game -- physical and with the ruggedness of the series.
WASHINGTON --Chris Kelly has been the recipient of a Dennis Seidenberg body blow, and he's quite happy to be wearing the same uniform as the stout defenseman.
Seidenberg has been a physical, positionally sound player for his entire career, but spending last season next to Boston captain Zdeno Chara on the Bruins' top defense pairing as they bruised and battered their way to a Stanley Cup earned the German defenseman plenty of recognition and praise.
He's back next to Chara again at the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his titanic collisions with Washington's Alex Ovechkin in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series have been epic.
"It doesn't feel great, actually," Kelly said with a chuckle. "I remember him hitting me when he was on Carolina in the corner. It was just a great hit and I ended up on the ice. He’s just a big, strong guy who plays physical, plays honest. I think he’s exactly what the NHL wants in a big, strong defenseman.
"They are too big strong men going at it and being physical. Like I have said before, there is no added slashing or yapping -- it is two big guys battling hard."
Boston coach Claude Julien has done all that he can to make sure Chara is on the ice against Ovechkin, but more often than not it is Seidenberg who ends up engaged in one-on-one battles with the Washington captain because he plays on the right side against the left wing.
Ovechkin leads the League with 17 hits this postseason, while Seidenberg isn't far behind with 12. Many of those have been on each other, and a few of them have been highlight-reel quality.
"It's a tough battle. He's a very thick guy," Seidenberg said. "But it's fun. It's playoff hockey. You play a little harder, and that's what it's all about."
While Chara stands out for his genetics, Seidenberg absorbs and delivers contact like he was crafted from 210 pounds of granite. That Ovechkin has been able to knock him off his feet a couple of times is a significant achievement -- even for one of the League's most ferocious hitters.
Seidenberg complements brute strength with the ability to skate and position himself well against oncoming attackers. Ovechkin has not found a lot of open ice in this series when Seidenberg is in his vicinity.
"Certain guys get certain assignments during the playoffs and for the last couple years him and [Chara] obviously get matched up against top guys," Boston defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I think he does an extremely good job of being consistent against his matchup. It is not once in a while where he is on top of them -- he is really tough to shake throughout the entire game, and for that matter the entire series. Obviously he has a lot of pride in having that assignment against top guys. Put that with talent and he's a good player as it is. He's just got what it takes. I think he really relishes that role."
Added coach Claude Julien: "He's a guy that has always been good in the playoffs, even before he came to us. He's a big-game player. He's been known as a big-game player, and he continues to show that. Zdeno is as good as you'll get as a defenseman, but when it comes to playoff time, 'Seids' isn't that far behind him, if at all. He's been a real good player for us, a real force, physical, he's loving these kind of challenges and he thrives on it. You need those kinds of players to succeed."
The Edmonton Oilers might have some trades to make in the next couple of weeks, but veteran forward Ryan Smyth will not be a part of them.
Smyth met Wednesday with Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, according to several reporters in Edmonton, and made sure it was known that he doesn’t want to go anywhere.
"It was nice to clear the air and settle everything. I'm staying put," Smyth said, according the team’s official Twitter feed. "I came back (to the Oilers) for a reason. As a family, we're happy here and I love being an Oiler. Family is the most important thing."
Added Tambellini: "I have no plans to move Ryan Smyth. Ryan has made it clear that he wants to stay here and play for the Oilers."
Smyth, who turns 36 next week, has a no-movement clause and can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He returned to Edmonton this past summer in a trade from Los Angeles after spending two seasons with the Kings, two in Colorado and part of one with the New York Islanders.
Before that, Smyth played his first 11 seasons with Edmonton, and collected four 30-goal seasons before leaving the first time. He has 16 goals and 36 points this season, and has proven to be a valuable mentor to the team’s emerging stars.
"My ultimate goal is to sign a new contract with the Oilers, ideally before the trade deadline," Smyth told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal. "Yeah, I want that."
To recap: The No. 1 goaltender has the flu, the former No. 1 right wing is frustrated by being scratched and might want out, the No. 2 goaltender was surprised to learn two hours before a game that he was being replaced by the No. 3 goaltender, and the No. 1 defenseman and No. 1 center remain out with injuries.
Oh yeah, and the Capitals have lost three straight games and now are four points behind the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division with four straight games coming up away from Verizon Center; they've lost 18 of 27 on the road this season.
Got all that?
The challenge for Capitals General Manager George McPhee is trying to figure out what to make of his club's current predicament, and if there is a way he can fix in the next two weeks.
One thing that is clear is that McPhee is trying to fix it, and not waiting around to see if and when injured defenseman Mike Green and center Nicklas Backstrom can or will return. CBC's Elliott Freidman wrote in his "30 Thoughts" column today that, "Apparently, no GM is burning up the phone lines more than George McPhee."
"I still think if we get our guys back and if we can add something here in the next couple of weeks we're good enough to win the Stanley Cup," McPhee said to John Feinstein of the Washington Post. "Then again, a lot of teams are looking to add something right now, too."
Added owner Ted Leonsis, on his Ted's Take blog: "Wish us speedy recovery to some of our players -- and hope we can add some jump via the trade markets during the next few weeks."
McPhee has a few potential roadblocks in the way of making a deal. One is what he already stated -- the market is full of buyers right now and not many sellers. Another is the status of Green and Backstrom. If both are back and healthy, it is great for the team but not for McPhee's ability to make a move -- Washington is already using the long-term injured reserve relief from Green and Tom Poti to stay below the salary cap.
Another issue is trying to determine what the Capitals need if Green and Backstrom are healthy. As McPhee pointed out to Feinstein, the team is 8-0-0 when everyone (sans Poti) is available.
The best way for McPhee to try and improve the team -- or at least shake up the roster and hope that sparks some improvement -- probably is to try and walk a delicate line of being a buyer and a seller as the deadline nears.
For the Capitals to add salary, McPhee is going to have to move some out (assuming Green and/or Backstrom can be ready before the end of the season). If Knuble wasn't an option to be traded before this week, he certainly might be now.
The 39-year-old right wing has three goals this season, and he's been a healthy scratch the past three games. He told reporters he hasn't gone to McPhee to request a trade, but that sounds like a plausible outcome if he doesn't start playing again soon.
"I don't know. I haven't thought that far ahead yet. I just kind of got through this weekend with three games in (five) nights -- just wanted to get through it and see what (would) happen," Knuble said to reporters. "Obviously we all saw what happened so it gets you thinking.
"If a player is not going to be used, or in the near future you don't have plans, then that player probably wouldn't want to be there. That's how we are in our League -- you want to go somewhere where you're going to play and contribute to your team and if you can't do it in one place, then you've got to go."
Knuble carries a $2 million cap hit. Another player in that price range who has not played a lot of hockey recently for the Capitals is defenseman Jeff Schultz. He's been a healthy scratch quite often since Dale Hunter became the coach, and his cap hit checks in at $2.75 million. Dealing Schultz would cut into Washington's depth on defense, but whether the team has seven NHL-caliber defensemen or nine won't matter if Washington doesn't qualify for the postseason.
A more radical move would be to deal Alexander Semin, who is on a one-year, $6.7 million contract. Semin has his warts even when he's producing at a high level, but he's been far from that this season. If McPhee could move him to a team willing to take the risk for more offense, he could then use the extra cap space to replace Semin and maybe address another need.
The final issue then becomes what future assets McPhee would be willing to trade to try and salvage the season. McPhee has proven to be a bit of a pack rat when it comes to young assets. He's yet to deal an impact prospect in a trade since this current group of players started making the playoffs consistently. The only young player with significant upside he has dealt was goaltender Semyon Varlamov -- and that was for an overwhelmingly great return and a player who easily was replaced.
Using those parameters, it is easy to take Evgeny Kuznetsov off the table, and probably rookie Dmitry Orlov, as well. Would McPhee part with Marcus Johansson in a deal for an established No. 2 center? How about goalie Braden Holtby, or forwards Cody Eakin or Stanislav Galiev? His history says no, but given how radically things have changed this season in Washington, it is plausible that he takes a different approach.
McPhee has proven to be someone who will make deals at the deadline, but this might be his trickiest two weeks to maneuver since the Capitals returned to prominence five years ago.
Theodore has not played since Jan. 20 because of a knee injury. He missed five games in the first half of January because of the knee before returning to make a pair of starts. Dineen said Theodore is expected to skate Tuesday and Wednesday in South Florida.
Scott Clemmensen will make his sixth straight start in net for the Panthers. He was pulled near the end of the second period in Florida's last contest, a 6-3 loss to Tampa Bay, but Dineen put him back in for the third period. He was 3-0-2 and had allowed 10 goals in his previous five starts.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Brooks Laich left Verizon Center late Sunday afternoon on crutches with his left knee in a large brace.
About 42 hours later, Laich was on the ice at Washington’s practice facility, and if he has his way, the versatile forward will be in the lineup Tuesday night in a key division showdown with the Florida Panthers.
“I wanted to skate. It felt OK. I’m not really in charge right now, unfortunately,” Laich said. “Today felt really good. I woke up this morning feeling pretty good.
“I want to play every game. Especially tonight could be the most important game of our year, a team that we have to beat."
Laich did not practice Monday with the Capitals. He went to the doctor in the afternoon, and he said the prognosis was good -- or at least he can’t do any more damage. He was one the ice Tuesday ahead of his teammates and stayed for the morning skate.
He skated on the fourth line during an early drill, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him move up in the lineup as the game progresses. That is, of course, if he convinces the coaches and trainers that he is OK to play.
“I hope so. I felt good on the ice -- turning, pivoting and everything felt pretty good,” Laich said. “Usually the decision isn't up to the player. It's whether the coaching staff – you've got to try and convince them sometimes. Hopefully, we'll see tonight.”
There are probably 28 teams that still think the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a remote possibility, though that number could shrink by a few well before the deadline. Still, there is a group of teams that will have to decide if now is the time to strike and add a player or players to bolster a playoff run, or if sticking to the original plan of patience and developing a contender through young players.
Here’s a look at a few of those teams that could swing the number of buyers and sellers and alter the market of available players in drastic fashion:
OTTAWA SENATORS: Nobody thought the Senators would even be in a position to battle for a playoff spot, let alone solidly in the top six of the Eastern Conference. Now that the Senators are a legitimate playoff contender, should GM Bryan Murray try to add veterans one year after dealing a bunch of them away and starting a rebuild? The Senators have prospects and young players at every position and no obvious long-term holes, but Murray may want to build on the momentum of this surprising campaign.
COLORADO AVALANCHE: The Avalanche have yo-yoed a bit in recent seasons, ending up with high picks in 2009 and 2011 with a surprise playoff appearance in 2010 mixed in. Colorado is back in the mix again this season. GM Greg Sherman made a big splash by paying a high price for young goaltender Semyon Varlamov, but veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere has taken control of the nets in Denver and has helped the Avalanche to within a point of eighth place in the Western Conference. The Avalanche could make a push, or they can sit tight and be content with a nice collection of young talent with which to build. If they stumble and decide to sell, don’t be surprised if Sherman tries to obtain high picks in the 2012 Entry Draft after dealing his first pick in 2012 and a No. 2 in either 2012 or 2013 for Varlamov.
WINNIPEG JETS: The Jets are five points back in both the race for the Southeast Division title and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Winnipeg is a young team and given it is the first year back in Manitoba there may not be as much pressure to make the playoffs as there might be in places like Dallas, Minnesota and Florida. Still, the Jets have plenty of salary-cap space and could also look to add some help up front and make a push for an even more memorable return for the NHL in Winnipeg.
The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away, but with the All-Star Break now in the past, the media attention will shifts toward a day that has become something of a holiday for fans of the sport and the League.
It may still be 28 days away, but some big names are already garnering headlines – although it is because of they may not be available at the Feb. 27 deadline, which falls at 3 p.m. ET. Two of the biggest names in the unrestricted free agent class of 2012 – the list everyone looks to for potential trade targets – are New Jersey forward Zach Parise and Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter.
Both guys are star players – the type of addition that could drastically improve a team’s chances of claiming the Stanley Cup. Both might also not be available in the next four weeks.
Marc Everson of the New York Post reported Tuesday that sources from around the League do not expect Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello to trade Parise before the deadline.
“Sources say inquiring general managers are getting the word Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is not dealing unrestricted free agent-to-be Zach Parise before the NHL’s Feb. 27 trade deadline,” Everson wrote. “Instead, it is thought if the Devils do not want to re-sign Parise in June, they’ll trade his rights to a team that wants an advance shot at negotiations before he becomes free July 1.”
Parise would likely be the top forward available – either in the coming weeks or in July. He would be a cornerstone player for any franchise, and those players don’t become available often. He is making $6 million this season and would likely receive a substantial raise on the open market.
New Jersey is currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and the Devils’ chances of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, let along advancing deep into the postseason, would take a huge hit if Parise went elsewhere. Keeping him beyond this season could be tricky because of the more than $38 million in salary cap space already committed to only 12 players for next season (and that doesn’t include a goaltender Martin Brodeur, who is also a UFA).
If Parise would likely be the top forward available then Suter would almost certainly be the No. 1 defenseman on the market. He forms the best defense duo in the League with Shea Weber and would be the no-doubt No. 1 defenseman on at least 20 other clubs.
Like Parise, Suter may also not be available. He told NHL.com on Sunday he wants to help Nashville try to make a run in Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I want to focus on playing for Nashville,” Suter said. “We've got a good team and if we can add a couple of pieces here and there I think we have a legitimate chance of going to win the Stanley Cup.
"If we keep winning, we keep playing well, with the guys we have on the team and if we can add a couple of pieces, I think we can go far," Suter said. "It's (Poile's) call. It's his team and he can do what he wants with it, but I'd like to win this year."
Frank Seravelli of the Philadelphia Daily News reported Monday that League executives are thinking Suter will remain with the Predators in the coming weeks.
“The consensus among us is that Nashville will be hanging onto him, even if they know the odds are not in their favor of re-signing him,” one Eastern Conference general manager told Seravelli on condition of anonymity. “If he does decide to trade him, [Nashville general manager David] Poile has the market cornered. There are very few defensemen of Suter’s caliber in the League and Nashville has two of them.”
"I think when you lose top guys, you sort of go into survival mode," said Brooks Laich. "You want to be in close hockey games. You want to be right there at the end of the game where you have a chance to win. If you can, just get it to overtime and see what happens -- just try and survive it. They play a lot of minutes, but we're going to have to find a different way to win now."
The Capitals have played without Ovechkin in the past, and actually done a fine job without their franchise player and captain. Two seasons ago, Ovechkin missed 10 games because of injury and suspension, but Tomas Fleischmann filled in on the top line and scored a bunch of goals in the games Ovechkin missed.
Washington also has had some success without Green, but not having all three at the same time will be quite the challenge.
"It is tough," said Mathieu Perreault. "Those are your best players and we need them on the ice. At the same time, it is a good opportunity for guys to step up. We have confidence in our group here. Even without those guys, we can out-work and out-play other teams."
Perreault will center the Capitals' top line against the Bruins, flanked by Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson. Perreault had a strong game against Pittsburgh on Sunday as he played on Ovechkin's line.
The Capitals will need members of their supporting cast to move into leading roles without the trio of stars for the next three games, which includes contests against Tampa Bay and Florida following tonight's game.
"It is an opportunity for other guys -- Matty Perreault and Marcus (Johansson) are going to get more minutes and they're excited about that," Laich said. "Other guys are going to get chances on the power play, but obviously those are three big guys for our team. You're never going to replace them, but you have to try and pick up some of the slack. You have to do that by committee."
Added Perreault: "Just last game I ended up playing over 16 minutes and it was a career high for me. Obviously when you get more minutes, you get more chances to score points. It is a good chance for me to show what I can do with more minutes."
Hall was cut in the forehead by teammate Corey Potter's skate during warmups before Edmonton's game at Nationwide Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was helped to the dressing room by one of the team's trainers.
Because Hall's injury happened after Edmonton had submitted its official lineup, the Oilers will have only 17 skaters against Columbus.
Hall, the first player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft, has 15 goals and 31 points in 36 games in his second NHL season.
COLUMBUS -- About a month ago, this was looking like a lost season for Columbus center Derick Brassard.
The 24-year-old had only 5 points in his first 24 games. There were nights when he watched his Blue Jackets teammates as a healthy scratch. His agent, Allan Walsh, was angry with how the organization was utilizing a guy who was the No. 6 pick in the 2006 Entry Draft and once considered a cornerstone in the team's quest to find consistent success.
Well, it was apparently too soon to write off the 2011-12 campaign for Brassard. He's got 9 points in his past 12 games, and now that he's back centering the team's top line, Brassard has a chance to finish strong and provide some hope for Blue Jackets fans waiting for him to become a consistent top-six forward.
"I'm just having fun and enjoying being at the rink," Brassard said. "I've just had the chance to play more minutes, on the power play especially. I've just tried not to worry about anything and I'm not thinking -- just react. That's been the biggest thing."
Brassard's ascension to the top line coincided with Jeff Carter being lost to a separated shoulder. It was another injury in a season of bad luck and bad results for the Blue Jackets.
If Brassard can continue to produce the way he has the past month, there could something of a silver lining from Carter's injury. Columbus got off to a terrible start this season, and previous coach Scott Arniel was constantly shuffling his lines around in search of the right combinations.
"We have a lot of guys who can play center, and I've been all over the place, but it is good to be back with Rick [Nash] and Vinny [Prospal]," Brassard said. "They are two great players and I love to play with those two guys. I enjoy the challenge of playing against some top players, too. Just to be on the ice with those guys -- they create so much offensively, it is really fun."
For Brassard moving forward, the search for consistency continues. He's been close to fulfilling his vast potential before.
He led all rookies in scoring when he went down with an injury in the 2008-09 season. After a rough 2009-10, Brassard responded with 17 goals and 47 points last season. There have been plenty of playoff teams that would be happy with that from their No. 2 center.
Maybe that is where Brassard eventually settles in, especially given the presence of Carter and 19-year-old Ryan Johansen. One of those three guys can probably play on the wing to accommodate everyone in the top six -- especially if their play warrants it.
"He's been very good over the last two games," interim coach Todd Richards said. "It has been his play without the puck is where he's been really good. He's been battling and competing.
"This will be another great challenge for him tonight, and the question I have for him is can he continue to play like this, game in and game out? There is that initial push, but will he be able to do the things he did the other night every night?"
COLUMBUS -- After Jordan Eberle fell awkwardly Dec. 7 in Dallas, the timetable for his return from a right knee injury was two-to-three weeks.
Eberle skated with the Edmonton Oilers at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday morning, and could return slightly ahead of schedule. He won't play here against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the second-year wing and team's leading scorer did not rule a return Thursday night in St. Louis against the Blues.
"I definitely feel ahead of schedule. I've taken care of it and rehabbed it and I feel good," Eberle said.
Not initially expected to join the Oilers on this road trip, Eberle skated with the team for the first time Tuesday since the injury, which he said was a strain of one of the ligaments in the back of his knee. The Oilers play at home Saturday against rival Calgary, and that would be exactly two weeks after the injury.
Eberle may be healing quickly, but that also doesn't mean the Oilers are going to forego being cautious.
"He's close," coach Tom Renney said. "You look at his age and how long you hope he's going to be an Oiler first and foremost. From an unselfish prospective, you have to take care of the long run here. That being said, we'll make sure he's really ready to play."
Added Eberle: "It is very tough. One thing I've always noticed, especially with guys coming back from injury, is you don't really have 50 percent. You just always want to go at 100 and you don't want to hold yourself back. At times I want to go 100 percent but sometimes I feel it a little bit. Today was probably the best I've felt."
Eberle has thrived in his second season, and leads Edmonton with 43 points. He has fit well on the team's top line alongside No. 1 picks Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is also out with a shoulder injury.
The 21-year-old could be a candidate to replace one of the injured players at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game if he does return and play a couple of games before any replacements are named. For now, he needs to put his knee through a full practice and then see if he can return Thursday or Saturday.
"It felt good. It is the excitement level of it -- you're back on the road, back with the team," Eberle said. "You get to shoot on goalies -- the whole nine yards. ... I haven't really been able to get into a contact situation in practice. Once I kind of get that in, I'll be the most ready to play."
Jordan Eberle skated this morning with the team for the first time since a knee injury knocked him out of the lineup. He ruled out playing against Columbus, but left the possibility open for Thursday's game in St. Louis. He said he needs at least one real practice to test his right knee.
Coach Tom Renney said Eric Belanger is not on the trip, but doesn't think it will be more than 4-5 days before he returns to the lineup. Belanger sustained a leg injury Friday against Anaheim.
Gillies, who was claimed on waivers Saturday, slides into the lineup in place of Dane Byers, who was suspended for three games after his hit on San Jose’s Andrew Desjardins on Saturday night. Interim coach Todd Richards said he likes how the top three lines have played in his three games since taking over for Scott Arniel, so Gillies just moves into Byers' spot with the fourth unit.
Jackson Cooke was one of the young stars of HBO's "24/7" last season, as the camera crew followed him and his dad, Matt, around in their matching suits one day. He also told Canadian viewers of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final that he skipped school when his dad was interviewed after the Pittsburgh Penguins claimed the Cup.
Well, he's also a big wrestling fan, so Matt and Jackson -- along with a few other Penguins -- were at the WWE Raw house show Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center.
"My son is a big fan, so I've been to six or seven events," Matt Cooke said Thursday morning after the team's skate before they face the Philadelphia Flyers. "It is entertaining. There's a mutual respect for professional athletes in other sports, no matter what it is. It is neat to talk to those guys and see their world. They've got questions about our profession and we have questions about theirs.
"The amazing thing to me is how many nights they actually perform. You see them on Mondays and Fridays and the odd Sundays for a pay-per-view, but they're going night after night. It is pretty neat."
James Neal, Evgeni Malkin and assistant coach Todd Reirden were also there for the event. They met WWE Champion CM Punk after the show and gave him a tour of the team's dressing room and facilities in the building.
"He had his knees all bandaged up and the ice packs on all over after the big match," said Neal, who was attending his first WWE event and isn't an avid fan. "It was fun. I didn't realize how aggressive they are and how much punishment they put on their bodies in there. It is pretty crazy stuff when they are going up the ropes and jumping down on each other. It was fun to watch. They put on a pretty great show."
Punk defeated The Miz in a steel cage match for the final showdown of the night -- much to the delight of the Pittsburgh crowd. The Miz is a Cleveland-area native, and it was something he played up to the dismay of the CEC patrons at the beginning of the night.
"Yeah, they booed the Miz," Cooke said. "He put on a show too about how the Steelers aren't going to win the Super Bowl and how they lost two to the Ravens. Then the crowd had a good 'Cleveland sucks' chant going -- no different than if you're at a Steelers game, I guess.
"We've been fortunate. I've gotten to know Edge quite well. He's Canadian, and last year when they were here he came in and did a tour of the room. There was a request to give CM Punk a tour, so we gave him a tour and got to meet him. He's really down to earth and a cool guy."
As for who Jackson's favorite wrestler is ... well, his dad says he's learned not to choose favorites.
"Initially his favorite was John Cena, but the first wrestler he met was Sheamus and at the time he was a WWE champ, so he threw the Cena hat down and put his belt over [Jackson's] Cena shirt and said, 'There, that's better,'" Cooke said. "Since then, Jack hasn't had a favorite. He kind of just likes everybody."
Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51 million contract in the offseason with the expectation that he would end decades of goaltending woes for the franchise, has struggled at times this season and especially of late.
"I'm only going to comment on one game here," Laviolette said Thursday after Philadelphia's morning skate at Consol Energy Center. "Don't read anything into it. I never comment on those things. We announce our goaltender on the morning of the game we are playing. That's been the policy forever here that I've gone by and we don't talk about the next game."
Bobrovsky spent most of his rookie season in 2010-11 as Philadelphia's No. 1 goaltender, but the Flyers situation in net was often calamitous during an abbreviated appearance in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bobrovsky started only two playoff games -- Philadelphia's first and last -- and lost both. He appeared four times in relief in two rounds.
When Bryzgalov was signed to the mega-contract, Bobrovsky was relegated to backup duties, but he has filled the role admirably. He is 7-2-1 this season in 13 appearances with a .913 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average.
"Really sharp -- in pracitce [Bobrovsky] works hard and has looked good," Laviolette said. "The starts he has had recently have been excellent. I don't think it bothers him as much. Certainly he likes to play games and wants to play games, but he's got a tremendous work ethic off the ice and on the ice. He keeps himself extremely well-prepared."
Those numbers are almost exactly the same as Bobrovsky's work from last season, but Bryzgalov has not met expectations. He is 14-8-3, but his .890 save percentage is 40th among the 44 netminders who qualify for the League leaderboard.
The Flyers have been leaking goals of late, and Bryzgalov has allowed at least four goals in three of his past four starts, including a stinker Tuesday when he yielded five on just 16 shots.
"I don't think you need to put who's in goal into anything," Laviolette said. "The only thing that really matters is getting the two points. I think that's spread through the team here. We need to play well, and I think we've done that for the most part. I think the guys have played hard and that's why we're in the position we're in.
"I think there's ups and downs with all players in the room. This is not about a player -- it is about the group and how we've performed. Like I said, so far we've done a lot of things right to this point and it would be nice to end the year on a positive note."
ARLINGTON, Va. --Bruce Boudreau didn't spend much time without an NHL head coaching job, and several of his former players are thankful for that.
The Washington Capitals woke up Thursday morning preparing to face the rival Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center, but they also found out about Boudreau's new gig in Anaheim just three days after he lost his job coaching them.
"I saw it on the ticker on SportsCenter this morning, and you know what? Good for him -- I'm glad he got a new job so quickly, and to a team that with his system will do a great job," defenseman Jeff Schultz, one of four guys on the Capitals who played for Boudreau both in Washington and for Hershey in the American Hockey League.
Boudreau was the fastest coach in NHL history to 200 wins after helping transform the Capitals into one of the League's dominant franchises in the regular season. Postseason success eluded the Capitals, and the team dropped 10 of 15 games after a 7-0-0 start this season, leading to Boudreau's dismissal.
The Ducks are in a similar situation to the one Boudreau walked into four years ago in Washington. Anaheim is in 14th place in the Western Conference despite having a roster laden with several elite talents.
"It is good for him," forward Brooks Laich said. "He did a lot around here and we knew he'd land on his feet. I think he's going into a good situation. They have a good team and he'll be excellent for them."
The Capitals were a young, unproven team when Boudreau arrived and molded them into contenders. Anaheim is not a young team, and the core of this team has already won a Stanley Cup.
That said, the Ducks have not played well this season with Randy Carlyle as coach, and it is possible Boudreau's more offensive-minded philosophy could energize them.
"Yeah, he's a great guy and a great coach," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. "I don't think it is going to be a problem for him and for that team to connect [with] each other."
ARLINGTON, Va. --Alex Ovechkin hasn't averaged less than 21 minutes per game of ice time in his career ... until this season.
One of Bruce Boudreau's edicts for the Washington Capitals this campaign was to play his star players less during the regular season to take advantage of the team's depth and keep everyone fresh. Well, Boudreau is no longer the coach of the Capitals.
Dale Hunter is, and he is now in charge of rationing minutes for a deep and talented (yet struggling) squad.
"Minutes are always judged by how well you play that game -- always that game," Hunter said. "It is a reward system here with ice time. If you deserve more, you're going to get more. Definitely, I like playing my star players, but it is one of those things where if the team is going right and everybody is firing on all cylinders, I'll roll four lines."
Hunter's previous job was coaching the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. While he typically had one of the deepest and most talented rosters in the OHL, that is a league that is notorious for having the best players see upwards of 30 minutes of ice time.
How Hunter doles out minutes in the coming days and weeks will be worth monitoring. At the beginning of the season, Boudreau's plan seemed sound -- keep the big guns fresh for the games that matter in the postseason. But those big guns have not performed, and it is possible the reduction of ice time has played a role.
As for other changes to watch for, Hunter said there will be a few. The forward lines were not different Monday during his first practice, but he did move people around when working on the power play Tuesday morning.
Nicklas Backstrom, who leads the team with 18 assists and 25 points, was not on the top PP unit. Rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov, he of the four career NHL games, was.
One of the staples of a Boudreau-run power play was typically either two left-handed shots up front or two righties -- it appears the top unit for Hunter's first game will include three right-handed shots.
"It is a fine line," Hunter said. "I changed a few things, but you can't make drastic changes because you have no time to practice it."
Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Fairchild will make his NHL debut for the Blues. Coach Ken Hitchcock told Rutherford a defenseman is unavailable, and Rutherford suspects it is Pietrangelo.
Erskine has been out with a shoulder injury, but should be ready to return. He’ll replace Jeff Schultz in the lineup. Eakin was a healthy scratch Saturday in Buffalo, but he’s back, which means Mathieu Perreault looks like the odd man out up front.
TORONTO -- Tie Domi, who narrated the video celebrating Doug Gilmour, said he was a player who "wouldn't, couldn't and shouldn't have made it." Yet here Gilmour was, standing at the podium and ready to deliver his Hockey Hall of Fame induction speech.
Gilmour began by talking about how he played for a lot of teams, so he couldn't thank everyone, but he thanked the owners, the trainers who "put us back together again" and the fans who provided inspiration, the coaches who "were willing put up with all my practical jokes, because I needed that."
Among the people Gilmour did single out included Don Cherry, "a little biased, I know" he said, and Cliff Fletcher, who traded for him in both Calgary and St. Louis.
Gilmour thanked his family, especially his mother, for letting him continue to follow his dream of playing hockey despite being the youngest child. He thanked his teammates, who he said none of this would have been possible.
He finished up by thanking Pat Burns, who was Gilmour's coach in Toronto. Gilmour said earlier in the day he worried about getting emotional during his speech, and it was mentioning Burns that caused him to do so.
"We all miss him," Gilmour said. "The League misses him. More importantly, we think he'll be here [in the Hockey Hall of Fame] one day."
With that, the ceremony to celebrate the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2011 was complete.
TORONTO -- Commissioner Gary Bettman went to the podium and talked about being the greatness of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"In a time when so much of our daily life is consumed by temporary bursts of information, with stories and rumors told in the span of 140 characters, it is still refreshing to be in this Hall, which is a haven from the mundane, from the exploitive," Bettman said. "The Hall's very foundation is lasting, permanent and eternal. The Hall is enduring, it is real and it is authentic. Most of all, it is meaningful."
Bettman said the Hall represents a generation of fans who have cheered these four inductees, along with future generations who will cheer future greats. He said this night is about a proud father, himself a Hall of Fame member, who gets to see his son inducted.
He also congratulated Joe Nieuwendyk, and said he was "a little biased on this one" when congratulating a fellow Cornell alum and, pun intended, a Star(s) general manager. Bettman also congratulated Doug Gilmour, who he said is "almost God-like" here in Toronto.
Bettman finished by saying, "the name Ed Belfour is synonymous with playing the game at the highest level of emotion and intensity." He also congratulated media honorees Terry Jones and Mickey Redmond.
"The Hall is enriched by the presence of all of you," Bettman said.
TORONTO -- Ed Belfour won the Vezina trophy twice, the Stanley Cup in 1999 and a gold medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. He added "Member, Hockey Hall of Fame" to his impressive hockey resume Monday night.
TSN's James Duthie introduced Belfour and called him a "man of few words," but that his play on the ice was more important than words. During a video commemorating Belfour's career, narrated by former teammate Jeremy Roenick, he called Belfour one of the most intense players he's ever played with or against.
Belfour began his speech by thanking his mentor from his early days in Chicago, Vladislav Tretiak, for being here and traveling from Moscow to be here. He also thanked former teammate Chris Chelios for being here as well.
Tretiak was Belfour's goaltending coach when his NHL career began in Chicago, and Belfour talked earlier today about how the Russian legend was one of his idols growing up ... and how Tretiak didn't speak English when he first became the Blackhawks goalie coach. Roenick mentioned in the video introduction that Belfour wore No. 30 early in his career, but switched to No. 20 as a tribute to Tretiak.
He thanked fans for the "Ed-die, Ed-die" chants, saying they gave him inspiration every time he played. Belfour also thanked his family.
True to Duthie's introduction, Belfour was again a man of few words, but these were poignant and emotional.
TORONTO --Mark Howe has spent his post-playing days an NHL scout, but there is no player he’s seen more games of than his father, Gordie.
That combination gives him a unique prospective when it comes to discussing the career of “Mr. Hockey.”
“His passion and love for the game -- and I watched him play when he was 35 in Detroit,” Mark Howe said. “He was still a heck of a player, one of the top two, three guys in the League. But when he was a player at 45, he was a better player than when he was 35.”
When Gordie was in his mid-30s, Mark was a young boy watching from the seats in The Olympia in Detroit. Eventually, Mark had a chance to play professional hockey, and he decided to play in the old World Hockey Association for the Houston Aeros -- where he was able to skate on a line with Gordie and his brother, Marty.
“[WHA fans] got a chance to watch Gordie Howe play at age 45, 46. He won the MVP one year and it was staggering,” Mark Howe said. “I watched him from the stands every day as a kid growing up, but when you’re in the locker room and around that individual every day you get to appreciate him. Even when he was 52 in Hartford, playing maybe 8-10 minutes a game with no power-play time and on the fourth line, he still had 36, 37 points. What that man did from 45-52 is something that will never, ever be matched.
“When I was 18 in training camp, I was skating circles around him because I had been skating for a month, and then about three weeks later Marty and I are going, ‘Man, we can’t keep up with this guy.’ He was an absolute freak of nature physically, but it was his love of the game that separated him from everyone else.”
Mark Howe said his father actually wanted to play another year before deciding to retire at the age of 52 in 1980. Now he will join his dad in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a large contingent of the Howe family is here to celebrate.
“I am proud. It is great to see him get in here,” Marty Howe said. “It has been a hell of a weekend, and it continues tonight. We’re all happy. We’ve got close to 50 people here, and we had a private dinner last night. We celebrated a little bit. It is great. I’m happy.”
Added Gordie Howe: “It's a tremendous honor. To heck with Gordie Howe - it's Mark Howe. And Marty's here too so he's as proud as I am. ... Hockey brought the Howe family together pretty nicely.”
TORONTO --Joe Nieuwendyk’s NHL career spanned 20 seasons with five teams. He won the Stanley Cup three times in three cities.
One of those victories did not come in 2003-04, his lone season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. That doesn’t mean that year wasn’t a special one for him.
“Growing up about 40 minutes down the road in Whitby, it was probably the highlight of my career, and I say that with all sincerity,” said Nieuwendyk, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night. “Growing up a Leafs fan, Borje Salming and Lanny McDonald -- that’s why this weekend has been so special. Just to do it for one season was incredible.”
Nieuwendyk is one of four new members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and all four have played hockey for a team in this city. Three of them played for the Maple Leafs, while Mark Howe spent a season with the Toronto Marlboros of the then-called Ontario Hockey Association (the predecessor of the Ontario Hockey League).
Each of them had different experiences playing in this city, but they all look back on that time with fond memories.
“I loved playing here,” said Ed Belfour, who was with the Leafs for three seasons. “The focus of the hockey world is here in Toronto, and I loved being part of that. I love it when everybody knows the game and talks about the game and the passion that you could feel in this city. All those rivalries with Montreal and Ottawa, leading up to the games you could feel the electricity in the city and it was great to be apart of that.”
Belfour backstopped the Leafs from 2002-03 until 2005-06. He was here for Nieuwendyk’s one season, and he also was Doug Gilmour’s teammate ... for one game.
Gilmour was a fan favorite in Toronto for parts of six seasons in the 1990s, and remains incredibly popular here. He returned to the Leafs during the 2002-03 campaign, but injured his knee in his first game back and did not play again.
“This was my longest-standing team, and this is what I still call home,” Gilmour said. “My years in Toronto were just ... I can’t say enough about the management and the ownership and my teammates and the runs that we had. None of this was possible without them.
“The fans here have been great through my career. You play for them. It is amazing when you go out on the ice here, like we did on Saturday night, and part of your getting ready mentally is going out on the ice and seeing the fans and their reactions -- it really gets you motivated. Believe me, [Saturday] night was the closest we’re ever going to get to that again. It was just great and I say thank you to all of them for the support.”
Howe was 17 years old when he moved to Toronto for a season of junior hockey. His team that year was very successful (47-7-9) and included several future NHL players, including his brother Marty, Bob Dailey, Mike Palmateer and Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.
“I was here long before [the other three inductees],” Howe said. “I know Detroit is Hockeytown and I grew up in the States, but anybody, especially when you play pro, if you ever got to watch the morning skate at Maple Leaf Gardens or in the Montreal Forum, the tempo of the practice was just phenomenal. It was like game-pace tempo, and most coaches would have to cut practices short because you come into those building and there’s just so much energy and you’re so excited.
“I got to do that everyday with the Marlies. After a while, I got to work with the broom crew and I got to go down in the old boiler room and do my sticks. The Leafs were struggling at the time but the Marlies had a great year and we got a lot of great press. The people I boarded with, the Tanner family, were great people. If there’s a city that might compare to this is maybe Montreal for hockey history, but even to just be a part of it for one year was special.”
Nieuwendyk is connected to Gilmour and Belfour through previous NHL stops. He won the Cup with Gilmour in Calgary in 1989 and with Belfour in Dallas a decade later.
The Howe family will be in the spotlight Monday at the Hockey Hall of Fame, and for good reason. There will also be a special connection to the Maple Leafs and to this hockey-mad city.
“Felix Potvin and I lived about 30 feet from the [Maple Leaf] Gardens, so we would just walk out and just walk into our apartment,” Gimour said. “It was just so electric down there and we saw it all the time. It is just something that you can’t replace.”
Added Nieuwendyk: “This is a fabulous honor to go in with the guys I’m going in with. I played against Mark and I can see why he was a loved teammate and a competitor. I have firsthand knowledge of the other two guys, and I couldn’t go in with a better class. It is a thrill.”
TORONTO -- When someone from the Hockey Hall of Fame called Ed Belfour to tell him he would be part of the Class of 2011, he didn’t answer because he was asleep.
Belfour was taking an afternoon nap, because he had a men's league game in Frisco, Texas, that night.
"I still wish I was playing. That is my release to get back into the game and still be involved," Belfour said. "I play sometimes two or three times a week in a men's league, and I play on two, three different teams. I really enjoy it and I love the game. It is a little different playing out because I don't have to warm up as much."
He doesn't play in net, but Belfour continues to play the sport he loves. Joe Nieuwenduyk also plays, but not quite as regularly as Belfour. Other Class of 2011 members Doug Gilmour and Mark Howe have not been playing hockey of late, but they were all on the ice Sunday at Air Canada Centre for the Legends of Hockey game.
Howe is a scout for the Detroit Red Wings, so he's in hockey rinks all the time. He just hadn't been skating in them.
"Very little because of my back," Howe said. "When we played yesterday and up until two weeks ago, I had not skated in five-and-a-years. My youngest son Nolan works out of a rink near Princeton, N.J., so I went over there and skated with him for three days just so I could hopefully get around the rink a little more.
"I wish I could skate more. I still have fun, but a lot of times it is the aches and the pains and when your feet and your legs start going numb on you, it is time to call it quits."
That said, Howe is going to pull on a sweater again soon. He played 10 seasons for the Philadelphia Flyers, and he will be on the ice against the New York Rangers in early January at Citizens Bank Park.
"I'm going to try and gut it out in the Winter Classic alumni game, and I'll pay for it dearly but I'm looking forward to it," Howe said. "I think the fun of that will overtake the pain and agony that I'm probably going to have for a month after."
Gilmour also hasn't played much hockey recently, but he is the general manager of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
"That was my first game in two years, and believe me I could tell," Gilmour said.
Nieuwendyk is the GM of the Dallas Stars, and still plays every now and then with some of his former teammates and other former players from the organization.
"I do [play] -- we've kind of formed a little bit of an alumni out in Dallas now, which I think is important for the long-term growth of the game in Dallas," Nieuwendyk said. "Now we have Mike Modano coming back to us, which is going to be huge. We get together once in a while and lace 'em up and it is fun."
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers have rarely been among the top team in the Eastern Conference at the same time, which has made it tough for the two geographical rivals to foster a significant rivalry on the ice.
It is possible that could change this season. Second place in the Southeast Division is on the line Sunday when the Lightning travel to BankAtlantic Center to face the Panthers. Both teams sit on 14 points, and the winner of this contest will be two shy of the Washington Capitals for first in the Southeast.
Only once in the two franchise’s young histories have both Florida-based clubs reached the postseason. The Panthers made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996, while the Lightning were kicked out in the first round by Philadelphia. Since that season the Lightning have progressed – claiming the Cup in 2004 and reaching the conference finals last season. Florida has qualified for the playoffs only twice since that magical run and have not won a series.
The Panthers could be in the midst of a revival this season. General manager Dale Tallon made wholesale changes in the offseason, and Florida has been an improved team in the early stages. Even better, goaltender Jacob Markstrom looks like a future star, and Panthers fans eagerly await the arrival of potential franchise cornerstone Jonathan Huberdeau, who could help make the Panthers a more permanent fixture among postseason contenders.
One of the team’s new pickups, forward Tomas Fleischmann, has four goals and eight points in the past six games, and the Panthers are 3-1-2 in that span. He struggled mightily in the postseason for Washington in 2010 and missed several months with a blood clot problem, but Fleischmann has 32 points in 34 games for Colorado and Florida since leaving the Capitals.
Steven Stamkos dominated the NHL in the first half of last season, and he might just be getting warmed up to repeat the feat. Stamkos had a hat trick Friday night to help Tampa Bay defeat Chicago, and he now has nine goals – one behind Toronto’s Phil Kessel for the League lead.
The Lightning made “The Leap” into contention last season, but struggled at the start of this campaign. Tampa Bay lost five straight at one point, but the Lightning have now won five of seven and could climb has high as sixth in the East with a victory against the Panthers.
Here are the projected lineups for the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings for their matchup Thursday night at Staples Center. The Oilers have won five straight to surge to the top of the Northwest Division, while the Kings could be level with the Stars on points at the top of the Pacific Division with a victory.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Cody Eakin nearly made the Washington Capitals’ opening-night roster at the start of last season, so the fact that it took him 10 games with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League in his first professional season to earn his first NHL promotion should not be much of a surprise.
Eakin was recalled this morning by the Capitals and is scheduled to make his NHL debut against the Anaheim Ducks tonight at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN2).
“I’m pretty happy. Obviously it is pretty exciting,” Eakin said. “It was pretty exciting. It wasn’t a call I was expecting to get or anything. I was actually hanging out at a movie theater when I got the call. It is always a nice call to get, and I am looking forward to it.”
Eakin was a 2009 third-round pick, and actually helped the Bears win the Calder Cup in 2010 despite being a junior-age player (he was allowed to play for them after his junior season ended). Last season began with him having a great training camp with the Capitals, a solid effort for Canada at the World Junior Championships and another dominant season in the Western Hockey League.
He did not make the NHL to start this season, but 3 goals and 8 points in 10 AHL games was enough to earn him a call-up -- even though the Capitals do not need him right now.
“Every report we’ve gotten is that he’s played really, really well down in Hershey,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s a guy that we’ve really wanted to take a look at. Hershey only has one game this week, so this was a good opportunity to take a look at him.”
Eakin is Washington’s second-best forward prospect after Russian starlet Evgeny Kuznetsov, and after scoring 95 goals in the past two seasons in the WHL (including the postseason), he is someone who has enough offensive talent to play as top-six forward someday.
For now, he’ll likely skate on the fourth line, although that trio is expected to include Mike Knuble against the Ducks.
"(They said) the next little while depends on me," Eakin said of the message when he was sent to Hershey. "They said I could be in Hershey for a while, or I could be there for a short time. I’ve just tried to work hard and get the systems right and get comfortable with the game. I am lucky to have this opportunity -- this early especially."
WASHINGTON -- Here are the projected lineups for the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks heading into tonight's game (7:30 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN2). Both teams hope to end respective mini-slides -- after winning seven straight to open the season the Caps have dropped two in a row, while the Ducks are 1-4-1 in their last six.
These teams played two dramatically different contests last season -- Anaheim won a tight-checking, 2-1 contest in overtime at Verizon Center, while the Capitals won a wild 7-6 decision at Honda Center.
Mike Green skated for the first time since taking a shot to the face and landing awkwardly on his ankle, but he is not ready to play yet. Erskine had offseason shoulder surgery and will make his season debut tonight.
If Eakin plays instead of Jeff Halpern, it would be his NHL debut. Knuble skated on the fourth line in practice Monday.
Coach Randy Carlyle is going to shake up his forward lines as the search for more offense continues. The bottom two lines have combined for only two goals in 11 games, and everyone on the roster not named Ryan, Getzlaf, Perry or Selanne have combined for six. This would be Bonino’s season debut with the Ducks -- he has played 35 games for them during the past two seasons. Parros could play in place of Smith-Pelly on the fourth line.
ST. PAUL -- The Anaheim Ducks are looking to stop a three-game losing skid while the Minnesota Wild are hoping to win for the sixth straight time against the Ducks here at Xcel Energy Center.
Guillaume Latendresse is back in the lineup for the Wild after being out with a groin injury. He'll start the game on the fourth line, but could move up if his play or others' dictates it, said coach Mike Yeo.
Devante Smith-Pelly is a game-time decision for the Ducks. He missed the opener of this seven-game, 13-day road trip with the flu. Either he or George Parros, who is sporting a nasty cut under his eye after getting hit with an errant puck Wednesday in practice, could skate alongside Andrew Cogliano and Andrew Gordon on the third line.
Mark Johnson and the rest of his teammates on the 1980 Winter Olympics team accomplished something that changed the course of hockey in this country.
What happened in Lake Placid, N.Y. made them famous for life -- even if they didn’t know the full impact while they were still in the town during the Olympics.
“Once we left Lake Placid, we started to get a sense of what was going on,” Johnson said. “On Monday morning we got on Air Force One and we were flying down to Washington, D.C., to have lunch with the President -- you know, something that normally happens in our day. We get off the plane in Washington, D.C., and get on a couple of buses. We’re making our way down to the White House, and all these people are lined up on the streets with flags waving and they’ve climbed up telephone poles.
“I don’t know who it was but about halfway there someone finally said, ‘What are these people doing outside? What are they here for?’ Somebody said, ‘They are here to celebrate what you did up in Lake Placid.’ I think really for a lot of us it really hit home like, ‘Wow, this thing really much be pretty special.’ ”
For the 20 players on that team, they will always be remembered first and foremost for what happened in Lake Placid. That is true now, but of course it was during the rest of their playing days.
Many of them went on to have success in the NHL, but there was a challenge or two that came with being part of the “Miracle on Ice” team.
“The hardest part for me and I’m sure it was that way for the other guys is when you first went into your NHL locker room,” Johnson said. “A week after Lake Placid I was in the Penguins locker room, and here’s Orest Kindrachuk and Ross Lonsberry and a couple of other guys who are Stanley Cup winners and NHL veterans for a long time and the game would end and here come the reporters and who would they go up to? They would filter over to myself. I would feel uncomfortable because you were in the NHL and you were getting paid to play, but you hadn’t earned any stripes yet. That was probably the biggest challenge most of us had.
“Kenny Morrow was fortunate enough to walk into the Islanders locker room and end up winning four straight Stanley Cups. We all knew if we were going to stay up there we were going to have to play well.”
Johnson and his teammates remain heroes in the sport 31 years later, and they don’t go very many days without someone asking them about that day when they defeated Russia.
“We still get quite a bit of that, especially when you’re speaking at a banquet or somebody who is my age or a little bit younger who was at the game or was watching the game,” Johnson said. “The one story we always tell is I think the rink maybe held 9,500 people and I think 50,000 people have told me they were there at that game. I’m not sure what is accurate. We get it quite a bit, because people are excited and they want to tell you what they were doing or what was happening in their life. It is something that never gets old, and it makes you feel humbled and privileged to be one of the 20 players part of that even if it was more than 30 years ago.”
Wayne Gretzky did a lot for hockey in California when he arrived in a trade from Edmonton, but the sport’s story in Los Angeles doesn’t begin with that day.
The groundwork in L.A. came in the years before Gretzky’s arrival, as the expansion Kings grew into a strong NHL team and a fan base was cultivated in the process.
“I really enjoyed my time there,” said Bob Pulford, who played two seasons and coached for five with the Kings. “It was certainly not a hockey culture or atmosphere when we were there, but you had to train yourself and train your team that inside the arena it doesn’t matter if you’re in Toronto or Montreal or Los Angeles. It is exactly the same.”
Pulford’s Kings did not make the playoffs in 1971 or 1972 when he played or in his first season as a coach in 1973, but his final four years in Los Angeles before moving onto Chicago were filled with postseason contests.
The Kings finished with 42 wins and 105 points in 1975 but were upset by Pulford’s old team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the best-of-three preliminary round of the playoffs. The next two seasons Los Angeles were knocked out in second round by the Boston Bruins.
“In my five years of coaching there we had great teams,” Pulford said. “We were never able to get by Boston in the playoffs, but they had Bobby Orr and that’s when they had the great team. We played them hard and they respected us.
“I found in coaching that if I could convince the team that inside the rink it was the exactly same in Los Angeles as it was in Toronto that they would have the right attitude in playing. We were successful in doing that, and during our period there we had some great teams. We actually outdrew the Lakers for four of those five years that I coached there. It wasn’t exactly the same as when Gretzky got there and his contribution to hockey in Los Angeles, but I felt we did a lot to make hockey acceptable or popular in Los Angeles.”
For Tony Rossi, his life of volunteer work in hockey began with building a rink.
Where it went from there has surprised him and continues to do so, and it has brought him to RiverCentre to be recognized for all of his work.
“It was different for me, because I didn’t come from a background of playing for a number of years,” Rossi said. “It was always just kind of in my nature to put things together. You start with an ice rink in your neighborhood and things like that and got that done.
“I think the biggest thing is I never dreamed I’d still be doing it so many years later and enjoying it more now than I probably did then. Now it is a different level, with a lot of going overseas and things like that.”
Rossi has been instrumental in helping to organize and fund hockey programs in Illinois, and from the youth level he has progressed to working with USA Hockey at the national and international level.
“After I graduated from law school, the first home we bought we had four young kids and we moved next to a family that had two young boys that were each exactly one year older than my two boys that were like 3 and 5 at the time and they were playing hockey,” Rossi said. “That’s how we really got into it. We didn’t have an ice rink within an hour of house, so we got involved with the Park District and building that.
“I was fortunate enough to have the ability to get different challenges. First it was with the state of Illinois, then it was with USA Hockey and then it was internationally with the IIHF. It was different. I’m not sure I could still organize eight-year olds into teams, but the challenge got to be different and we got to meet other people.”
The other guys who are being honored at the 2011 Lester Patrick Awards are all more famous with hockey fans than Rossi. Mark Johnson helped create a Miracle on Ice. Bob Pulford won the Stanley Cup four times with Toronto before a long career as an NHL coach and executive. Jeff Sauer won 655 games as a coach at the college level.
Rossi might not have played or coached, but his impact has been felt far and wide both in Illinois and around this country in the sport of hockey.
“The important thing there is volunteer, because you need people like that,” Sauer said. “I’ve known Tony for 25 years and he’s been one of those guys who has always just been there. He’s there to take charge of things for USA Hockey. He certainly deserves this award, but he also deserves the position he has with USA Hockey. Being on his board, I’ve seen how committed he is to developing hockey in the United States and that has been great. He’s had grandsons along the way, and he’s been a parent too. He’s come through the ranks in all different areas.”
Bob Pulford and Tony Rossi have seen the rise and fall and rise again of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise a few times over in their decades of being connected with hockey in the area.
Count them among the many people in the area who are ecstatic about the current state of the Blackhawks.
“I go to a lot of games,” Pulford, a longtime executive with the club, said. “Certainly Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough and Stan Bowman have done an outstanding job with hockey in Chicago. It is as popular or more popular as it has ever been.”
Added Rossi: “Right now their marketing is so good, you see kids in the stores wearing Blackhawks shirts instead of Bears shirts. It has really changed.”
Rossi was in the stands during Pulford’s tenure with the organization, but his devotion to the team goes back much further.
“I’ve always been a big fan of the game,” Rossi said. “I used to go down to the Blackhawks games with friends from high school and we’d go up to the third balcony and buy standing-room only at the time. This was in the 50s, so times have significantly changed since then.”
Pulford joined the Blackhawks from Los Angeles in 1977 and helped guide the franchise to a pair of appearances in the conference finals in the 1980s.
“Hockey goes in cycles. There’s ups and downs, peaks and valleys,” Pulford said. “When I first went there in ’77, they were in a valley. It was after the Mikita-Hull Era and hockey was down and not drawing very well at all. We were fortunate to have some great drafts, and by the early ‘80s we were a very good hockey team and selling out every night. Hockey was popular again and very good.
"Eventually those players got older and moved on in their lives as hockey players, but now it is back. It has gone through another cycle and it is as strong in Chicago as it has ever been -- maybe better."
Rossi has done so much work with youth hockey in the state of Illinois, and it is big part of why he’s being recognized this evening. Participation has grown tremendously in the state, as has the number of talented players who go on to college and professional careers.
He thinks the Blackhawks have had a lot to do with that.
“Frankly, the financial support from the Blackhawks in the last 20 years has been terrific with Illinois hockey,” Rossi said. “They just never got it out in the public. They got a lot of shots about “Dollar” Bill Wirtz and everything, but all that time people were criticizing them, nobody helped Illinois hockey financially as much as Bill Wirtz and the Blackhawks foundations. We are fortunate and blessed with what the Blackhawks have done from a marketing point of view in the past few years,” Rossi said. “They are really selling the hell out of the sport. Registrations are up, and there are just a ton of little kids who are telling mom and dad they want to play. They’ve gotten the sport out of the United Center. It is still there obviously, but they’ve got players going to youth arenas, they’ve got signs in all the arenas. They’re terrific with that.
"I’ve probably had season tickets for 30 years, and I’ve been there when the stadium was empty and the United Center was empty. It is just a whole new ballgame now."
People around here like to call Minnesota “The State of Hockey.” Passion for the sport at all levels might be unparalleled anywhere else south of the Canadian border, so when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spent a few minutes with the media here at RiverCentre before the 2011 Lester Patrick Awards, a much-talked about subject in this region was bound to come up -- the Winter Classic.
The Winter Classic has been a huge success for the NHL. The game this January will be the fifth installment, and speculation where it might be next or in the future is always a popular topic for hockey fans.
So what about the Twin Cities as a future host?
"There's no shortage of demand, but clearly, ultimately, this is one of the places we will probably get to if for no other reason the climate and the interest," Bettman said.
There a couple of enticing venues in the area, namely a brand-new baseball stadium in Target Field and a brand-new college football stadium in TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. There could also be a new facility for the Vikings at some point in the future.
Finding people to come to an event like that in this region certainly wouldn’t be a problem. It was also a logical place to host this event tonight, given the order on the docket is to celebrate people’s contributions to hockey in this country.
“I love to come to St. Paul. The level of interest in our game here is phenomenal,” Bettman said. “This has been a terrific franchise for us. I love the arena, the Xcel Energy Center. To be able to bring an important event that recognizes the accomplishments that have been devoted to our game -- there is no better place to do that than here.”
We're live and ready to go at RiverCentre in downtown St. Paul, Minn., for the 2011 Lester Patrick Award dinner. There will be media availability with the honorees in a few minutes before a cocktail reception and the ceremony, which gets rolling at 8 p.m. local time.
Haven't been to Xcel Energy Center before, but it looks splendid from the outside. It is next door to RiverCentre, and this whole complex overlooks the Mississippi River. The view from what has been designated the media room alone is very nice. Given the time of year, the leaves are a million different colors and walking along the river made for a nice little afternoon in the Twin Cities.
Four men who have helped thousands of Americans develop their passion and talents in the sport of hockey will be honored tonight at the RiverCentre here in St. Paul, Minn., as the recipients of the Lester Patrick Award for 2011 are honored.
U.S. Olympic hero Mark Johnson, longtime college coach Jeff Sauer, longtime volunteer Tony Rossi, and former player, coach and executive Bob Pulford will be presented with the award, given to people for their contributions to hockey in this country.
Johnson and Sauer have many ties to the University of Wisconsin, while Pulford and Rossi have been staples of hockey in Illinois at different levels. Check back here throughout the night for observations and stories and anything that comes an evening of celebrating hockey in the United States and particularly in the Midwest.
It is possible Jacob Markstrom will make his first career NHL start against the Capitals after starter Jose Theodore played Monday night in a win against Tampa Bay. Markstrom, the 31st pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, is with the club because backup Scott Clemmensen is injured.
Markstrom is generally considered the best goaltending prospect in the world. He tops the list for Justin Goldman, who runs the site Goalie Guild and contributes to NHL.com. He’s the second-ranked goaltender on Hockey’s Future top prospects list behind Los Angeles’ Jonathan Bernier, who has appeared in too many NHL games to be eligible for Goldman’s list.
The Gavle, Sweden, native (same hometown as the No. 1 center he’d face if he plays, Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom) was a star for Brynas IF in the Swedish Elite League and at the world junior championships before spending last season with Rochester in the American Hockey League.
Markstrom made a relief appearance for Clemmensen last season, playing the final two periods Jan. 23 against New Jersey. He allowed two goals on 14 shots, but should he get the nod tonight it would be the first start for the tall goaltender who turns 22 in January.
Here is what the lineup should look like for the Panthers:
Neuvirth was injured during warmups before the Capitals played the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 10 when he took a shot in the foot. Tomas Vokoun has started three straight games for Washington, and he will likely be in net against his former team, the Florida Panthers, for the Capitals at Verizon Center.
The Capitals have recalled both Braden Holtby and Sabourin during the time Neuvirth has been injured, but neither has seen any game action. Holtby would likely be the one who gets the call if either Neuvirth or Vokoun is out for an extended period.
Vokoun had a shaky outing in his debut with Washington, but has had two consecutive strong performances in wins against Pittsburgh and Ottawa.
Here is what the Capitals’ lineup will likely be against the Panthers:
The Ducks continue to lead 1-0 through two periods. There were more penalties in the second, but both teams' penalty killers have been up to the task.
Henrik Lundqvist made a few great saves in that period, and he might not make a better one the rest of the season than the beauty he had on Bobby Ryan after a tic-tac-toe play from Anaheim's top line. The Rangers had more pressure in the final minutes of the period, but still only have 12 shots on net.
Andrew Cogliano not only has the lone goal, but he's been Anaheim’s best player. He's got four shots on net, and three of them have been great chances. One in the second in particular could have found the top right corner of the net if not for a fantastic save from Lundqvist.
After falling behind 2-0 early in the first period Friday night at Hartwall Areena, Andrew Cogliano put the Anaheim Ducks ahead at 9:26 of the opening period here at Globe Arena and they held a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes of a penalty-filled period.
Andrew Gordon went into the right corner and sent a pass to the slot for a wide-open Cogliano. Gordon got blasted into the boards as he let it go, but it was on the mark and Cogliano didn't miss on the one-timer. It was Gordon's third career NHL point, while rookie Devante Smith-Pelly collected the first of his career with a secondary assist.
This game has definitely been full of the rough stuff after both teams lost last night. Even star players have gotten into it -- Corey Perry and Brandon Dubinsky fought (even if they weren't assessed fighting majors), while Ryan Getzlaf and Marian Gaborik got into a shoving match.
Cogliano had another chance alone in front with less than a minute left, but he didn’t have much time to do anything with it. Brian Boyle had the best chance for the Rangers, getting behind the defense for a shot from between the circles that Hiller got a piece of with his right arm/glove.
STOCKHOLM -- While the Anaheim Ducks will get to wear their home uniforms Saturday night at Ericsson Globe Arena, they know they had their “home” game last night at Hartwall Areena and this contest against the New York Rangers here could feel more like a contest at Staples Center than Honda Center.
"Yeah, I would assume so," Anaheim forward Bobby Ryan said. "Obviously it was a pretty special night for Teemu and Saku. The crowd fed off them and the energy they brought, so I wouldn't expect anything less [for the Rangers] here."
The Ducks will also have the challenge of a short turnaround to contend with. New York played here last night, while Anaheim played in Helsinki and traveled afterwards.
This contest is at 7 p.m. after an 8 p.m. start Friday, though with the time change the games will start 24 hours apart. The Ducks who played against the Sabres did not skate this morning after a team meeting.
"It is challenging enough that we got to the hotel at 3:00 or 3:30 [a.m.], so obviously we're not really too fresh here this morning at 11:00," coach Randy Carlyle said. "We think it is important that we have our rest here today, and that's the most important factor of the day in our preparation. You can't ask them to give you 110 percent if they're not rested. That's our mandate for the team today."
The Ducks will try to bounce back after dropping a 4-1 decision to the Sabres in Helsinki. Buffalo's strong defensive effort frustrated Anaheim, especially because the Ducks controlled the puck for long stretches in the final two periods but weren't able to generate much offense.
Anaheim's top line of Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in particular will look to get off the mark against the Rangers. That trio controlled the puck for long stretches, especially in the third period, but had little to show for it.
"There's different ways. I think they did a good job of collapsing low and taking away plays that our line is so good at," Ryan said of changes to make. "We had to get the puck high, and when you're shooting from the point and getting traffic things can happen, but a lot of times when they are boxing out like they were Ryan Miller is just going to eat those shots up. We've got find a way to spread them out some more and create some more room, but we we’re in there all night and couldn't find a way to crack Miller.
"Lundqvist is just as good, so we've got the spread them out and get more traffic right in front of him not just near him."
The Ducks got off to a slow start last season, dropping the first three games and eight of 12 to start the 2010-11 campaign. Not repeating that feat has been the reason for changing things up a bit this preseason -- beyond the obvious change of coming to Europe.
"Whenever you get down, and our team seems to have a lot of back-to-backs every year, when you get down and you're 0-1, certainly the intensity, the focus, the discipline -- whatever you want to call it -- they definitely go up a bit and it's what we missed in Game 1."
Added Carlyle: "I know our guys aren't happy with the way we played last night and some of the things we did. I know with this group I can trust that they'll have a better performance than we did last night."
Try as they did, the Anaheim Ducks couldn't break through in the third period and the Buffalo Sabres came away with a 4-1 win at Hartwall Areena.
The Ducks outshot the Sabres 11-0 in the final period, but few of those were "Grade A" chances. Anaheim hit the post twice, but other than one floater through traffic, Ryan Miller was solid in making 29 saves.
After the game, Buffalo captain Jason Pominville and Miller praised the team's effort in its own end, particularly in the third. Thomas Vanek said he might feel that stick in the back he took as he scored the first goal, but those types of hits are worth it when the goal light goes on.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle felt his team played well at times, but lost the battle on special teams and in front of the nets. Buffalo found a couple of rebounds, but Carlyle also said poor defensive positioning played a role. He didn't fault goalie Jonas Hiller for any of the goals, though he assumed the Swiss netminder would want Pominville's goal back.
It is on to Stockholm for the Ducks now, while the Sabres are off to Berlin. Expect a role reversal for both clubs -- Anaheim will now be the "visiting" team in the home country of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist when they play the New York Rangers, while Buffalo can expect more support in Germany against the Los Angeles Kings, with Christian Ehrhoff in the lineup.
Anaheim got one goal back on a wrist shot from near the Ducks' bench by defenseman Nate Guenin at 4:32 of the second period. It traveled past a host of bodies before finding the back of the net.
However, new Buffalo captain Jason Pominville restored the Sabres' two-goal lead just 73 seconds later, making it 3-1. He fired a shot from inside the right circle, and while Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller got a piece of the puck, it trickled by him across the line.
Thomas Vanek scored his second power-play goal of the game at 11:59 of the period. Both of his goals have come from about a combined five feet from the net. He and Pominville each have 3 points.
The Ducks were better at times in the second, but Buffalo's power-play prowess and a soft goal from Hiller are the difference to this point.
Finnish native Ville Leino excited what had been mostly a pro-Anaheim crowd by making it a 2-0 game. Leino played for Jokerit, the local team that calls Hartwall Areena home, for one season before coming to the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008-09.
The Ducks had a great first shift from the Teemu Selanne-Saku Koivu-Jason Blake line, but the Sabres took control after killing off an early penalty and were peppering Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller.
HELSINKI -- Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff made one big decision Thursday -- who his captain for the 2010-11 season would be. He had another to make as well -- who would be the odd man out from his talented defense corps?
The answer Friday morning at Hartwall Areena was Mike Weber, as Marc-Andre Gragnani will be in the lineup against the Anaheim Ducks for the opening game of the season in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere (1 p.m. ET, TSN2).
"(Gragnani) been a big part of our power play with the way he moves the puck," Ruff said. "Offensively, he did a very nice job for us at the end of the year and in the playoffs and even defensively he was quite strong. I think special teams is a big part and he's going to be a big, big player for us."
Weber had 4 goals and 17 points in 58 games for the Sabres last season. He also played in all seven Sabres playoff games. Gragnani played nine regular-season games for the Sabres, but had a breakout performance during the playoffs. He had a team-leading 7 points in the seven games against the Philadelphia Flyers and averaged the third-most minutes per game, behind Tyler Myers and the since-departed Chris Butler.
"It is extremely hard taking Mike out of the lineup, but we knew that … we knew that we have seven defensemen and we're going to have one really disappointed player," Ruff said. "There will be situations where we can utilize Weber, and we need our top six to play well for us.
"I'm going to just go game-to-game. I don't think there is ever going to be anything set in stone and I don't think there ever has to be."
Foster and Beleskey were among the players taking part in the customary "scratches skate" after Anaheim's morning on-ice workout was complete. Brian McGrattan and Toni Lydman also were skating with the assistant coaches and No. 3 goaltender Jeff Deslauriers here at Hartwall Areena.
Beleskey, like Lydman, is coming back from offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn laburm. Foster had surgery on his leg last month to repair the steel plate that was inserted when he broke that leg two seasons ago with Minnesota.
"I think both of them -- we played Foster and Beleskey in the exhibition game against Jokerit specifically for the reason if they didn't play in that game, then they wouldn't have a chance to play for us this weekend," Carlyle said. "I think now that they played in that game there is a possibility that we could use them tonight or tomorrow."
The Ducks obviously are looking for a better start to this season after winning just four of 12 (4-7-1) to begin last season. Earlier this week Carlyle, mentioned his team did less scrimmaging and spent more time practicing with the hopes of avoiding another slow start.
"It was paska," Carlyle said, using a Finnish word that translates -- politely -- to "garbage." "That's one of the things you always guard against. As a coach, if you had the answer at the time, it wouldn't be happening. All the time, you're searching for answers. The one thing we've tried to sell to our players that blocking a shot, taking a check to make a play, being on the defensive side of things -- this has to start from the first game of the season and not in January, where we seemed to come together as a group (last season)."
HELSINKI -- The Anaheim Ducks know they're going to have a lot of people in the audience cheering for them here at Hartwall Areena, and the Buffalo Sabres know this is going to be like a road game when the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere games start Friday (1 p.m. ET, TSN2).
The Sabres technically will be the home team, but expect a couple of Anaheim's players to receive the loudest cheers.
"I don't know why we're not -- we should be the home team," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said with a laugh. "We have more Finns than they do. It doesn't make sense that we're not the home team. Maybe we should write a letter."
In more serious business, it is time for just that for the Ducks. They have been in Helsinki for five days, and have been feted by fans from Helsinki and Anaheim alike.
Now it is time for the NHL regular season to start, and Friday's game counts just as much as one in Los Angeles or San Jose will in November or March.
"It is a little different because we're here in Finland playing the Buffalo Sabres," Carlyle said. "We've been here close to a week and we've enjoyed the country. They've opened up their arms and done everything possible to make it comfortable for us. It is an exciting time for Finnish players playing in their homeland and it is an exciting time for all of our players to finally get to play games. You can play all the exhibition games you want and have all the practices you want, but nothing compares to playing in an NHL game and that starts tomorrow night for us.
"We're putting it on the line -- these are points for the season. Points in October are much easier to get than they are in March. You look at the playoff races -- take last year for instance -- we had 99 points and we only made the playoffs by three. It is competitive. It is also like you're looking at getting 100 points to qualify for the playoffs and that is tough."
HELSINKI -- The Buffalo Sabres finished practice Thursday morning at Hartwall Areena with a bit of Finnish.
Coach Lindy Ruff called the team together at center ice, and the team sang "Happy Birthday" (in English) to Tyler Ennis, who turns 22 years old today. After that, they broke into small groups for post-practice stuff, but then Ruff was alerted it also was Ville Leino's birthday.
So the coach called everyone back together for another round of "Happy Birthday" -- only this time assistant coach Teppo Numminen led the club in the Finnish version of the tune in honor of Leino's 28th birthday.
"We didn't realize it was Ville's birthday, too," Ruff said. "We sang that one in Finnish, and I don't know how that one turned out. I sort of hummed along. Teppo could have had us singing anything. I didn't really know -- it could have been a setup."
Coming together was a popular topic after practice Thursday. This is the first European trip for the Sabres since the NHL starting doing it annually a few years ago, and Ruff and the players talked about the positives they have observed from making the trek.
The Sabres have a few key new players to incorporate to the team, Leino and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff among them, and they have had a chance to be like ambassadors for their new teammates when the club has spent time in their respective home countries.
"I thought the visit we had to the hospital (Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany) was a bit of an eye opener for some of us," Ruff said. "Getting to have the team meals, all the different functions together, we'll have another team meal tonight -- all of that brings the team to closer."
HELSINKI -- When the Anaheim Ducks scored goals against Jokerit in Tuesday's preseason game at Hartwall Areena, fans of the local club cheered.
Sure, they rooted for their team when the game was close, and there was an audible sigh when Ryan Getzlaf scored in overtime, but early in the game, when Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne where setting up Corey Perry for goals, the game might as well have been in Honda Center. If that was the atmosphere when the Ducks were facing Jokerit, it is fair to say the Buffalo Sabres are going to be facing a partisan crowd Friday in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere (1 p.m. ET, TSN2).
"Yeah, that part is going to be interesting," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "I have so much respect for Teemu. There's not many players who could do what he's done and play at the level he is playing at right now at that age. He'll always be known as a tremendous goal scorer. … If I were a fan in Finland, I'd be here cheering for him, too. I think that part is tremendous."
The Sabres arrived in Helsinki Wednesday afternoon after a long travel day from Germany, but like the Ducks did Sunday, they went straight from the airport to the rink for practice. Buffalo defeated Adler Mannheim Tuesday in its final preseason game, and now the focus has shifted to Friday's opener.
While the Ducks have been here all week and the players have had the chance to see the city and explore the culture, the Sabres only will be here for a little more than 48 hours before the puck drops Friday.
"I think in terms of travel and playing, we're all used to that," Buffalo forward Nathan Gerbe said. "We always play, travel, play, travel. ... I think we just try to take the same way. We want to gear up. The preseason is over and training camp is over. Now it is the real thing."
Friday's game may feel a little like a trip to TD Garden or Bell Centre for the Sabres, though they'll likely have a bit of a home-ice advantage Saturday in Berlin against the Los Angeles Kings (2 p.m. ET, TSN2).
"That's pretty cool," Gerbe said when told the Helsinki fans were cheering Ducks' goals. "It was a lot of fun playing in Germany (on Tuesday). It was a great crowd, great atmosphere and they gave a warm welcome to our German players (Christian Ehrhoff, Jochen Hecht). We know it is going to be pretty rowdy here, so we just have to take it as it is and get ready to play."
HELSINKI -- After two days of fairly intense practices and a preseason game upon arriving in Finland, Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle felt his team needed a bit of a break Wednesday.
The Ducks practiced at Hartwall Areena, an event that was open to fans, and the on-ice workout consisted of a lot 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 full-ice scrimmaging.
"With the schedule that we've been presented with, with the number of commitments and the people who have been pulling us in different directions with our players -- and we have another event today with our fans (who traveled from Anaheim) -- we felt after last night's game and the travel and the events that it was just a good day to have some fun," Carlyle said. "It was just kind of like going back to your roots, playing a little shinny and a little bit of pond hockey. It wasn't East-West, but it was U.S./European vs. Canada, and being a Canadian I have to say the Canadians kicked butt again today.
"I thought I put all the Europeans … they have all the skill on their side, but the Canadians came through today."
There were plenty of "ooh's" and "ahh's" from a crowd of about 1,000 fans, as all the open ice allowed the players to showcase some fancy stickhandling and passing skills. After one goal, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf attempted to re-create Teemu Selanne's famous celebration from his rookie season in Winnipeg, when he tossed his glove in the air and used his stick to "shoot" it down.
Getzlaf's effort didn’t go quite as well -- he tried to flip a glove in the air, but it came off his hand wrong and quickly fell to the ice. The crowd appreciated the nod to Selanne, though, and applauded him -- after they were done laughing.
"To me it is about the pulse of where your team is at and how they feel," Carlyle said of the lighter tone. "I know that in not even having to play there are some tired bodies, and it showed last night. It showed in some of the practices. We'll always push our players as far as we can, but it goes back to the old saying that you can't push if they don't have energy. You can't demand that 110 percent if they're not rested and not ready to give it to you. You're just beating a dead horse. We've been pulled in a lot of different directions, plus we're still trying to get over the jet lag, so we felt it was good to go, 'Whoa, whoa' today."
HELSINKI -- Thousands of hockey fans from here in Finland crammed into Hartwall Areena to see the Anaheim Ducks play Tuesday, and they cheered at times in a way that made it feel almost like a home game for the club.
There were about 150 fans sitting together who did not have decide between rooting for the local team, Jokerit, or for Anaheim’s Finnish players, or both -- those fans are here from the Anaheim area.
"I think you could hear the 'Let's Go Ducks' chant once in a while, which was cool that they were cheering for us even though there were all the Helsinki fans in the stadium," Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller said. "It is great to have that support."
A Ducks team spokesman said the organization originally planned for 100 fans, but ended up with about 150 for the trip. The team helped organize a travel and ticket package for the fans, and also helped with some tourism activities once they got here.
As a reward for making the commitment of traveling about 5,600 miles, the Ducks had a reception for the fans with the players and coaching staff at Hartwall Areena after practice Wednesday. The fans were able to take pictures, get autographs and have lunch with the players in a restaurant/bar inside the arena sponsored by Karjala, which is a Finnish beer that is part of the Hartwall brewing company. The bar resembled a mine shaft, with wooden trusses and exposed rocks similar to the ones near the visiting dressing room.
"It is unbelievable. It really shows that we have some great fans, and they support us all over the world where ever we go," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "I remember when we went to London (to start the 2007-08 season) there was a few there, too, and it is just a good way to thank them for coming over and supporting us."
HELSINKI -- Ryan Getzlaf scored the game-winner for the Anaheim Ducks as they held off Jokerit, 4-3, in overtime at Hartwall Areena. The puck came right to Getzlaf at the edge of the crease near the right post at 1:13 of the extra session.
The Ducks were outshot in the game 33-24, including a 27-16 advantage for Jokerit between the first intermission and the start of overtime.
Corey Perry had an assist on Getzlaf's goal and finished the game with 3 points.
Carlyle also said defenseman Toni Lydman will not be available for either game this weekend. He was hoping to be back to play in his home country Friday of Finland for Friday's opener, but Carlyle said the team now is targeting the home opener next week against San Jose for Lydman, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in May.
We're going to overtime here in Helsinki -- two goals from Jokerit made it 3-3 after 60 minutes.
Jokerit closed the gap to one goal again early in the third period. Ryan Getzlaf nearly scored at the other end, but Jokerit countered quickly and converted on an odd-man rush. Riku Hahl put home a rebound past Jonas Hiller. Teemu Pulkkinen made a nifty backhanded drop pass to open up the play.
Ben Eaves tied the game for Jokerit with 3:57 left in the third. He was just able to tuck a loose rebound past Hiller after a shot from Juhani Tyrvainen.
The final seconds of the period counted down with the Jokerit fans on their feet and chanting. It was quite a show from them in the final period after they realized the home team was going to make a game of this.
After carrying the play during the first period, it was the Ducks' turn to chase in the second. Jokerit settled in during the first half of the second period, and then flat out took control of the contest in the second 10 minutes of the period.
Carolina Hurricanes property Tommy Kivisto cut Anaheim's lead to 2-1 on a goal with 1:04 left in the middle period. Ilari Filppula -- Valtteri's older brother -- found Kivisto near the inside edge of the left circle and he beat Jonas Hiller to the far side. Jokerit had created several chances just before the goal, and could have scored on a 4-on-2 had they not attempted about three passes too many in a fun but ultimately fruitless exhibition of puck movement.
Anaheim's Cam Fowler restored the two-goal lead before the end of the period. Bobby Ryan sent a pass from the left corner to a wide-open Fowler at the top of the circles and he scored with 5.9 seconds left in the period. The Ducks maintained their advantage, but only because Hiller had a great period.
The Anaheim Ducks lead Jokerit 2-0 after the first period thanks to a pair of goals from the last season's Hart Trophy winner, Corey Perry.
Perry scored twice for the Ducks. The first was set up by one of the local heroes playing for Anaheim -- center Saku Koivu. The second, a one-timer on the power play, came on a pass from the other Finnish legend on the Ducks' roster, Teemu Selanne.
Perry nearly scored a third in at the end of the period, but his shot beat Jokerit goaltender Eero Kilpelainen after the horn sounded for the end of the period.
Anaheim took four penalties in the first, but Jokerit were unable to take advantage. The Ducks dominated at even strength, but Jokerit had a few good chances against goaltender Jonas Hiller with the extra man.
Corey Perry put the Ducks in front 1-0 at the 6:12 mark of the first period. A Jokerit defenseman turned the puck over at the top of the circles and Saku Koivu was there to feed Perry in front of the net for a backhanded shot.
The Ducks killed off the first power-play chance of the game for Jokerit just before the goal. It was a pretty cool scene in here during the PP -- Jokerit fans clapped in unison any time the team had the puck in the offensive zone or were bringing it up the ice.
We're about to get underway here at Hartwall Areena. Jonas Hiller will be in net for the Ducks, and Kurtis Foster is dressed -- he was a question mark. When the Ducks took the ice before the start of the game, the three Finnish players were announced separately.
Toni Lydman is not playing, but was on the bench to receive an ovation. Saku Koivu was next and a loud roar came from the sellout crowd. Finally, it was time for Teemu Selanne -- and the ovation for the hometown hero was a thunderous one. He had to acknowledge the crowd on three occasions because the ovation went on for so long.
Selanne and fellow Jokerit legend Jari Kurri were presented with large "membership cards" -- the first of their kind for the club.
HELSINKI -- Toni Lydman will not play Tuesday for the Anaheim Ducks in today's preseason game against local club Jokerit as he continues the rehab process after offseason shoulder surgery.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle had Lydman in a light-blue "no contact" jersey during practice Monday, and ruled him out Tuesday morning after the team skated at Hartwall Areena. Lydman still could play here Friday in the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere game against the Buffalo Sabres (1 p.m. ET, TSN2) or Saturday's Premiere game in Stockholm against the New York Rangers (1 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN).
Forward Matt Beleskey, who also had shoulder surgery in the offseason, will play against Jokerit, according to Carlyle. The Ducks have five forwards on their "fourth" line, and it is possible all five will dress. Jokerit is going to dress 22 players (20 skaters and two goalies), so the Ducks likely will do so as well.
Defenseman Kurtis Foster's status for the game had not yet been determined when Carlyle met with the media after the morning skate. Carlyle said he'd like to get him into a preseason game, but also was a bit worried about his recovery time when he fell to the ice a couple of times this week in practice. Foster had surgery two weeks ago to repair a wire attached to the metal plate in his leg, which was put in there after he broke it two years ago while with Minnesota.
HELSINKI -- Jokerit will honor its two most famous alumni before an exhibition game Tuesday with the Anaheim Ducks at Hartwall Areena.
Ducks forward Teemu Selanne and NHL legend Jari Kurri will take part in a pre-game ceremony before the noon ET (7 p.m. local time) start. Jokerit owner Harry Harkimo will present Selanne and Kurri with "membership cards." A Jokerit team spokesman said this is a new idea for the club, and these two will be the first to receive the honor.
Kurri came up through the Jokerit youth system and played for the men's team from 1977-78 until he joined the Edmonton Oilers for the 1980-81 season. His No. 17 is retired at Hartwall twice -- once for Jokerit and once for Finland's national team.
Selanne joined Jokerit's organization when he was 13, and played five games with the men's team as a 17-year-old in 1987-88 before joining the club full time the next season. He spent four seasons on the senior team, winning league MVP honors in 1990-91 and helping Jokerit to the league championship in 1991-92.
HELSINKI -- This trip to Finland will be a celebration of the three native players who play for the Anaheim Ducks, but they aren't alone in their heritage.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle also has roots in this Scandinavian country to the northwest of the Baltic Sea.
"My grandparents were from Finland," Carlyle said. "They were born and raised in Finland and then they moved to Canada. My grandfather was a carpenter and they moved to Sudbury, Ontario area."
When the Ducks got off to a slow start last season, media members and disgruntled fans questioned whether Carlyle's job was in jeopardy, but general manager Bob Murray's confidence was rewarded as the Ducks made the playoffs despite losing starting goaltender Jonas Hiller for the stretch run.
It was a coaching performance that could have been worthy of a Jack Adams award nomination, but there is no question Carlyle is one of the top bench bosses in the League. His 266 wins are by far the most in franchise history, and Carlyle's led the Ducks to the playoffs in five of his six seasons -- not to mention a Stanley Cup victory in 2007.
The Western Conference was the tougher of the two last season, and major additions in Los Angeles, San Jose and Columbus aren't going to make it any easier, but with a healthy Hiller and the return of Teemu Selanne for another season the Ducks should battle San Jose and Los Angeles for Pacific Division supremacy.
"We feel that we have a hockey club here that can challenge for a playoff position," Carlyle said. "Once you get in, it is wide open."
Before that, the Ducks will spend the week here in Scandinavia, playing an exhibition game and two regular-season contests while also enjoying some of the benefits of an NHL-sponsored European vacation.
"For us as a coaching staff, it gives you an opportunity to have the team together, a little bit of team bonding and team building," Carlyle said. "We'll spend the week together, and there will be a few events that the team participates in. They're will be a team dinner. We can practice as a group right here. We don't have to change facilities.
"For our players we think it is a new experience, and we're here representing the NHL. Any chance you have as a partner of the NHL to spread your wings and be involved on an international basis helps sell the game to the international community with the NHL brand, I think you have to take it and take it very, very seriously. We have to put our best foot forward, not only for the NHL but for the Anaheim Ducks organization and we're very, very happy to do that."
One big adjustment for the Ducks this week will be the weather. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Helsinki, but the temperature isn't expected to reach 60 degrees all week while the lows are likely to be in the low-to-mid 40s.
Carlyle was one member of the Ducks who wasn't complaining.
"Hopefully the weather stays nice," he said. "Being from California, all we ever see is sun and heat, and being from Northern Ontario, this is very close to where I lived and grew up in Sudbury. Deep lakes, pine forests -- it is fall, and that is a little bit of a change for us."
HELSINKI -- Tony Lydman wants to play in front of his countrymen Friday when the Anaheim Ducks face the Buffalo Sabres here at Hartwall Areena, but a decision on his status for that season-opening contest has yet to be determined.
Lydman, a Lahti, Finland, native, had surgery to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder in May, and it is unclear if he will be allowed to play against Buffalo.
"Right now we're carrying seven defensemen and 14 forwards and three goaltenders, but Lydman isn't in that group," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "He'll have to go on injured reserve by Thursday. There will be a decision that has to be made here as we go through practice. We're not ruling him out, but his timeframe to play -- he'd be ahead of schedule if we were to use him this weekend. He's had major shoulder surgery and the timeframe they've given us was sometime in mid-October.
Lydman was on the ice with the rest of the Ducks at practice Sunday morning. The team will practice again Monday, Wednesday and Thursday with an exhibition game Tuesday against Jokerit.
The 34-year-old defenseman spent his first two years as a professional with Tappara in SM-liiga, but he also played two seasons with Jokerit's rival in Helsinki, HIFK. He also played for HIFK during the lockout in 2004-05.
"I'm close to playing, and I hope to be able to play, but nothing is sure yet," Lydman said.
Added Carlyle: "If you watch him skate and practice it doesn't look like anything is wrong with him, but those things do take time to heal."
Carlyle has two other players who are questionable for the game Friday. Defenseman Kurtis Foster had surgery to repair the metal plate in his leg two weeks ago. Foster had the plate inserted after his leg was broken two seasons ago, and a loose wire from the plate was cutting into the muscle in his leg.
Left wing Matt Beleskey also had surgery to repair a torn labrum in May, and is on a similar timetable to Lydman. The Ducks brought extra defensemen to Finland specifically as insurance in case Lydman and/or Foster aren't ready.
HELSINKI -- The Anaheim Ducks will have a new "Big Three" this week, because Finnish natives Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Tony Lydman are clearly the players everyone wants to see and meet this week.
A few members of one of the team’s in Jokerit’s youth hockey system were about to get on a bus this morning, but many of them wandered over to the entrance of "The Cave," which is what Hartwall Areena’s practice rink is affectionately called, and waited to see if the Ducks would come out that way after their practice was complete.
The team flew from California to Newark, N.J., for refueling yesterday and onto Helsinki where they arrived this morning. They were scheduled to practice at Hartwall at noon, but decided to go straight to the rink and were practicing by 11 a.m. or so.
Everyone was on the ice inside "The Cave" -- and trust me, it really feels like you’re in a bunker or a cave down there -- for the Ducks in a spirited practice despite the travel. All eight defensemen and three goalies who made the trip went through practice. There were no surprises with the forward lines:
The three Finns shared the media spotlight today, while coach Randy Carlyle also spent about 15 minutes answering questions from about a dozen members of the local media. Anaheim will be back at Hartwall Areena for practice Monday, which is scheduled for an early afternoon start.
It has been a long summer, but hockey is back for the NHL this weekend. Players were at training facilities taking physicals and getting reacquainted Friday, and nearly every team will conduct its first official practice Saturday.
Such an occasion is worthy of a name like "Super Saturday," so we're going to try and provide coverage worthy of a day that is highly anticipated by everyone in the hockey community. NHL.com has correspondents in many NHL cities, and they will be filing dispatches to this blog throughout the day.
Want to know how a star player looks on the ice after joining a new team or returning from an injury, or maybe which goalie has the best-looking new mask? Check back here throughout the day Saturday for many, many updates from around the NHL.
Also be sure to watch for updates from our correspondents on Twitter, who will be using the hashtag #NHLSuperSaturday to help fans follow along with ease.
"We will deal with the issues of the series, the chippy-ness that's going on," Murphy said. "(Vice President of Hockey Operations) Kris King is in charge of the series. We've addressed it. We've addressed it with the teams as early as this morning. I will be speaking with both general managers and coaches before the day's over about what we are seeing, the garbage that is going on, some of the issues."
There has been plenty of extracurricular activity by both teams after the whistle in this series. When the Bruins took a big lead in Game 3, some of that boiled over. Boston's Shawn Thornton earned a misconduct penalty for an extended facewash on Vancouver's Ryan Kesler, who later fought Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg after some post-whistle jostling between the two.
Boston's Andrew Ference and Vancouver's Daniel Sedin also earned misconducts for their part in an altercation after the whistle had been blown.
"We've addressed that and realize that's one of our strengths. We're not going to feed the animosity after whistles," Vancouver center Manny Malhotra said. "We're not going to gain anything from it and the referees are starting to crack down on the nonsense after the whistles. Our focus is on playing between the whistles.
"I think it's the nature of playoff hockey. As the series goes on, the rivalries and the animosity grows. I think that was an effect of being in the playoffs (Monday). You see a lot more hostility toward one another. But we've cleaned that up and we realize where our focus needs to be."
Both Lucic and Recchi said they were reprimanded by the Boston coaching staff after their taunting acts.
"I got in trouble for that," Recchi said. "(Julien) gave me heck for that. We didn't know this morning that he said something. You know, it's emotional out there. But it won't happen again. Obviously when it happens to one of your teammates, they kind of mock you a little bit, when it happened in Game 1, it was a little bit -- you know, it's a little bit of frustration on our part. It is what it is, and we'll forget about it and get ready for the next game."
Tim Thomas is an aggressive goaltender, maybe the most aggressive in the NHL.
Being aggressive is part of his personality, and it often enables him to make brilliant saves. He challenges shooters, often coming out of the blue paint to cut off angles and not let the bodies in front of him affect his ability to make the save.
But every now and then, opponents are able to use that aggressiveness against him. Both of the game-winning goals in this 2011 Stanley Cup Final have come on plays where Thomas came out of his net and the Canucks were able to counter it.
"I think at the stage we're at right now, if I ask him to change his style, I'm not sure that's real good advice," Boston coach Claude Julien said.
Raffi Torres directed a pass from Jannik Hansen past Thomas with 18.5 seconds left in Game 1. Thomas came out to challenge Hansen, who was skating in from the right point, and the Danish forward sent the puck to Torres cutting toward the left post.
Alexandre Burrows also drew Thomas away from the cage with a shot fake as he broke down left wing early in overtime of Game 2. Thomas overcommitted on the play, so Burrows went behind the net and slipped in the game-winner on a wraparound before Thomas could recover.
The city of Boston has embraced the Bruins during their run to the Stanley Cup Final, and that was evident when the television ratings for Game 1 where released Thursday.
Game 1 between the Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks earned a 3.2 overnight rating and a 6 share nationally, making it the most-watched opening game of the Final series since 1999. A big reason for that was the huge numbers in Boston, where the game had a 25.5 rating and a 39 share.
"I think it's great news. It's awesome," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "To be honest, back home we could feel it. The whole city was really behind us. They still are behind us throughout the playoffs and the season. It means a lot to us. Obviously we want to do it for them. But we can feel all the support and that's something great."
To put it into perspective, Game 1 actually had better ratings in Boston than Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Finals, which featured the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Boston Red Sox have also moved the start time of their game Saturday to allow fans to watch Game 2 of the Cup Final and still attend the contest at Fenway Park.
"That's the respect there is in Boston as far as the Red Sox are concerned," coach Claude Julien said. "They're big fans of ours and we're big fans of theirs. That's something that has been going on for a long time now. That's what Boston is all about. They're supportive of all their teams.
"Obviously, hockey for the longest of times was something so big in Boston. It kind of lost its luster in those difficult times. I think right now what we're seeing is it's certainly coming back in the right direction. It's been a lot of fun being part of it."
BOSTON -- Tampa Bay's special teams have been an advantage for the Lightning throughout the regular season and into the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, there was no special teams advantage to be had. There were no penalties called on either team, so the entire game was played at even strength.
"Obviously our special teams are phenomenal and have been phenomenal all playoffs, but it was just the type of game we played," goalie Dwayne Roloson said. "We play a pretty disciplined style of game and so do they. Give the refs credit -- there wasn't anything out there to call. Guys played hard, and did everything they had to do to get in the game, whether it was block shots or hits or whatever was needed."
Added Boston defenseman Andrew Ference: "The refs let us play. There were penalties that could have been called on either side. But, both teams did have great discipline and played a great hockey game. The refs let us play and I think it was even up and I don't think either team got gypped in that category."
If Ference is correct in saying there were calls that could have been made, then it probably did help the Bruins. Tampa Bay had the sixth-best power play in the League during the regular season and the second-best percentage of any team that reached the second round.
Tampa Bay scored three power-play goals in a span of less than 13 minutes in Game 6 against Boston. The Lightning never found out it if there was any momentum to be carried over with the extra man.
"The power play has been a strength of ours definitely," Tampa Bay Guy Boucher said. You know you are hoping you get one, but come the third period I wasn't hoping for a power play. Two teams who are very disciplined -- I think we respected each other's strengths and I think this was the type of game that [could have] 0-0 penalties. I can't think of any moment I felt there should have been a power play on either side -- that's credit to both teams' discipline and attention to details."
Conversely, the Lightning erased 92.3 percent of opposing teams' extra-man opportunities during this postseason while the Bruins are 5-for-61 with the man advantage. Even if there was a penalty or two called on the Lightning, Tampa Bay may have been to cobble together some momentum by keeping Boston off the scoreboard with the extra man.
Instead, this game played out at even strength. Boston led the NHL in goal ratio at even strength in the regular season and is doing so again during the playoffs.
"We didn't mind that at all," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "I think what I liked about the refereeing tonight, they let the two teams decide the outcome. And I think both teams are very disciplined tonight. Even though, you know, we could question that call, it didn't really matter at that point. It was about staying focused and doing the right thing here. I thought for what this game meant, I thought the referees handled themselves extremely well. I'm not saying that because we won, I'm saying that because even as it was 0-0, I liked the way they were handling it."
BOSTON --Sean Bergenheim skated for about 15 minutes Friday morning at TD Garden, but Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher deemed his return from an undisclosed injury "doubtful" for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
"I wouldn't say optimistic for now. I'd say he's better," Boucher said. "He might try the warm-up. We'll see. I still have to talk to my therapist and the doctors. There's been some improvement -- to what extent we'll have to wait and see, but [he's] doubtful."
Bergenheim left Game 5 of this series late in the first period with an injury and did not return. He skated without his full set of equipment the morning of Game 6 but did not participate in the pre-game warm-up and did not play.
The Finnish forward has 9 goals, good for third in the League during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He had the lone goal in Game 7 against Pittsburgh in a 1-0 victory against the Penguins in the opening round.
"It would be great," Steven Stamkos said of a potential return for Bergenheim. "He's scored a lot of big goals. It was tough without last game, but we once again proved without a great player we can step up. We've done it all year."
BOSTON -- Sean Bergenheim has been a valuable source of offense in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the Tampa Bay Lightning may be without him again in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night.
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said Thursday that Bergenheim, who left Game 5 early and did not dress for Game 6 because of an undisclosed injury, is still being evaluated.
"He's seeing our doctors again today, and he's going to have another evaluation tonight and tomorrow morning," Boucher said after the Lightning’s arrival in Boston. "We'll see, but right now it doesn't necessarily look like something positive for us."
Boucher had said the day before Game 6 that he might "go to church" to help get a better diagnosis on Bergenheim, but the Finnish forward was not in the lineup against the Boston Bruins. Bergenheim has been a scoring sensation this spring, scoring 9 goals while playing on the team’s third line.
Teddy Purcell has been the guy who filled some of Bergenheim’s scoring in this series. He leads the Lightning in this series with five goals, including a pair in two of the past three games.
Boucher also said defenseman Pavel Kubina, out since Game 1 of the second round after a hit behind the net by Washington’s Jason Chimera, will not be available. Forward Dana Tyrell replaced Bergenheim in Game 6 as Boucher went with 12 forwards, but Boucher could also turn to Randy Jones if he wants to deploy seven defensemen.
Dwayne Roloson has built a reputation as a go-to goaltender when his team faces elimination. The Tampa Bay Lighting will need him to continue his excellence in those situations or their surprising postseason run will be over.
"Our thoughts are we have to go shift-by-shift," Roloson said Wednesday morning before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. "Sorry if it is cliche-ish, but realistically it is what we have to do. Start with the first one and try to snowball them over and win every shift. We have to go shift-by-shift and try to win a hockey game."
Roloson had the day off for Game 5. Coach Guy Boucher went with backup Mike Smith, who stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced in a 3-1 loss. Boucher said he told Roloson while the team was still in Boston that he would definitely be back in net for Game 6, and that was his plan regardless of the Game 5 outcome.
The 41-year-old Roloson last took a game off in the final contest of the regular season, when the Lightning eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes with a 6-2 victory.
"I don't think any goalie has played 82 games in a row since they changed the amount of games that we play," Roloson said. "You do it during the regular season, and there is no difference during the playoffs. I think everybody feels rested when they get a day off, so you take it when you can get it."
Roloson has allowed 13 goals in this series while being pulled twice and not playing one contest. That’s the same number he gave up in seven games against Pittsburgh in the opening round.
His .925 save percentage is still fourth among No. 1 goaltenders in this postseason, but his 2.51 goals-against average has dropped to eighth. The Lightning will likely need a performance like the ones he had in the three elimination games against Pittsburgh -- he turned aside 94 of 98 shots in the final three contests of that series, including all 36 he faced in Game 7.
"He's been a horse for us in these playoffs," Steven Stamkos said. "He's battled. He's one of the best competitors on this team. He's going to be ready and willing to prove he's a big reason why we got here as a team. If anything, he's had an extra day's rest and he's ready for tonight."
Roloson has been pulled in two of the past three games for the Lightning, including after yielding 3 goals on 9 shots Saturday afternoon. Mike Smith made 21 saves to help the team comeback from the 3-0 hole to win 5-3.
Boucher has been asked -- and then pressed with a follow-up question -- after the game Saturday and again at TD Garden on Sunday without officially saying which goaltender he will go with. His comments certainly make it seem like it will Roloson, but they could also be interpreted as a coach leaving it open.
"I don't feel like I've got a situation," Boucher said. "I've got a goaltender that has taken us here and played really well and he's getting ready ... and I've got a goaltender that came in relief and he's done really well. Every time we've asked [Smith] to come in he's played well. We've got a goaltender that's taken us here that knows how to win and knows how to bounce back. I don't feel it is a situation."
When asked, "so it is Roloson?" Boucher responded, "Roloson is getting ready for tomorrow."
Again, it seems likely that Roloson will start, but Boucher has had ample opportunity to say, 'Yes, Roloson is starting,' and has chose not to do so.
INJURY UPDATE: Boucher said Steve Downie is "day-to-day and we'll see tomorrow" about his availability for Game 5. Downie left Game 4 after being hit by Boston's Nathan Horton and did not play in the third period.
Boucher has pulled starting goaltender Dwayne Roloson twice in the past three games, and Mike Smith has excelled in relief both times. Smith stopped all 21 shots he faced in Game 4 on Saturday afternoon, helping the Lightning erase a three-goal lead for the Boston Bruins in a 5-3 victory to even the series.
After the game, Boucher was coy when pressed about who would be in goal Monday night in Boston.
"We have our No. 1 goaltender. He's taken us to this place right now and that's the reason why we're here," Boucher said. [Smith] has been terrific. He's had a [save percentage] of over .940 since Dec. 15. And the fact that [Roloson] came in certainly helped him with pressure and poise and all that. And whenever he was asked to play since Roloson has been there, he's been terrific. I mean, he's just been terrific.
"So whenever it's time for him to help the team and try to change the momentum around, I don't hesitate. It was the same in Boston. We put him in. He didn't get scored against in the third period. We were trying to come back. He played well again. So I don't remember the last bad game he's played. So obviously, when there's an opportunity to help the team and try and turn things around, we're not afraid to use him. He did a good job today."
Obviously Boucher didn't answer the question of who he would start in Game 5, so he was asked to clarify.
"We just finished this game now," Boucher said. "We're happy we just beat a terrific team and we're just happy that we were a lot harder to play against today. And [Smith] was part of it and Roloson is -- it doesn't change the status."
So Boucher called Roloson his No. 1 goaltender, but didn't officially say he will start Monday night at TD Garden. Smith is 29-for-29 in his two relief appearances, but Roloson was the best goaltender (statistically) in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs before the past three games.
He also played pretty well in Game 3, between the two benchings.
"That's up to the coaching staff," Roloson said when asked if he'd be the starter for Game 5. "It's their decision and whatever happens, happens. It's all about the team winning and having success."
Smith sounded like someone who expects to be wearing a baseball cap instead of a mask on Monday night at the TD Garden.
"I don't expect to [play] -- I'll be ready to. [Roloson] has carried us through the playoffs this far and I don't expect anything less than for him to come back and have a great game. I'll be ready to go, but I'm sure [Roloson] will want to get back in there and be ready to go as well."
The 41-year-old goalie allowed six goals on 27 shots against the Boston Bruins in Game 2 before being replaced by Mike Smith for the third period. He yielded five of those goals on just nine shots in the second period.
"He was pulled but it wasn't because of his poor play," captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "He still made some big saves. The goals we gave them -- it is tough for a goalie. It is not just the first shot, it was the rebounds. They were beating us to pucks. He'll be back strong tonight -- we know that."
Roloson has been resilient for the Lightning since arriving in January via a trade from the New York Islanders. He's allowed five or more goals four times since the trade, and he's 4-0-0 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.19 goals-against average in his next start after those games.
The cliche in this sport is goalies need to have short memories. Roloson's teammates and coaches are confident in his.
"He's built some mental tools over the years that some young guys don't have," said Guy Boucher said. "For him it is all about a 12-hour thing. Beyond 12 hours -- you can't even talk to him about it because it doesn't exist. That's a great mental tool that takes a long time and takes a mature man to do that. That's where he is right now."
Added Roloson: "It is just being about to forget about it. You dwell on things and it affects your play, so it's just being able to forget about it and focus on what you've got to do to be ready to go the next night."
Injury update: Forward Dana Tyrell skated this morning without a red no-contact jersey on and Boucher confirmed is available to play. Whether or not he actually does remains to be seen.
Tyrell had 6 goals and 15 points for the Lightning during the regular season but has been out since Game 5 of the first round because of a lower-body injury. Boucher said the decision of whether or not Tyrell will rejoin the lineup has yet to be made.
Defenseman Pavel Kubina did not participate in the morning skate. Boucher said there was chance Kubina could have practiced Wednesday but the team didn’t have one, but Thursday they decided to not have him skate as he attempts to return from a concussion.
Pavel Kubina does not appear to be any closer to returning to the Tampa Bay lineup as he attempts to recover from a concussion.
Kubina did not travel with the Lightning to Boston and coach Guy Boucher confirmed Tuesday morning that he hasn't joined the club during its stay here. He hasn't played since being hit behind the net by Washington's Jason Chimera in Game 1 of the second round.
"Yeah, he's not with us, not even here, so the update is not very good," Boucher said. "Every day when there seems to be a little progression it seems to slip back a bit. It is the kind of injury where you never know. You wake up one day and it is great or it just keeps going on the same way. It is very hard to monitor what's going on with him."
Kubina had 4 goals and 23 points for the Lightning this season after signing as a free agent in the offseason. He had 2 goals and an assist in the first round against Pittsburgh, including a pair of power-play goals.
"Obviously we're missing him," Boucher said. "He's got size and some offensive abilities. Our second power play -- he made a big difference on it, but right now we've adapted. (Marc-Andre) Bergeron has kind of taken the lead on that power play with (Teddy) Purcell. We've had to adapt because he was doing very well for us."
They haven't been just the most productive third line in this postseason -- they're one of the top lines period. The Sedin twins and Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver's top line, also have combined for 12 goals and 30 points -- though they've had two more games to do so.
San Jose's most-frequent trio at even strength has been Ryan Clowe, Logan Couture and Dany Heatley. They have combined for 13 goals and 33 points, but again in two more games than Tampa Bay has played.
Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher mixes and matches with his lines so much that none of them have stayed together for as much ice time as the top lines from the other three semifinalists, but he's found a dynamic trio in Moore, Bergenheim and Downie.
So the question moving forward is this -- do the Lightning now expect this consistent offensive production from what is a supposed to be a defense-first unit?
"You have to watch out because you don't want to expect it," Boucher said. "Their role is always hustling and great defensive play. I did talk to them about it already and not just today but in previous days. I think it is important for players to understand that you need to play within our strengths as a team and as individuals too. If you lose your strengths, eventually whatever else you are doing well is going to fade away."
Added Moore: "I don't think it is a case where we are worried about that. We've played our game from the first game and we'll continue to play our game -- whether it is producing point-wise or not. I think we make contributions regardless."
Bergeheim leads all NHL players in this postseason with 8 goals. There are only seven players with more points than Downie's 12 and only one with a better plus-minus rating than his plus-9.
Then there is Moore, who Boucher called "the ghost" on that line because he does a lot of the work and the other two have ended up getting a lot of the credit. Part of the reason why they have become such a dangerous trio is they haven't tried to change the way they play despite the explosion of offensive success.
"It is important for the Bergenheims and the Moores and Downies to understand that hustling, not being a liability defensively, being first on pucks, the way they battle and bulldoze around the net is key to our team -- not just because they score goals but because they inspire the rest of the team also," Boucher said. "They could not score for the next four games and still do their jobs, just like [Steven] Stamkos last game blocking some shots. He didn't get a goal, but he filled his role as a guy who's trying to win. I think that's more important."
The point of this exercise is to show how similar the reactions were to a Game 1 home loss by guys from each team, and obviously to point out that the Bruins need to adjust and/or play better in order to avoid the same fate as the Capitals.
If it weren't for a few brilliant saves by Tim Thomas, Game 1 on Saturday night at TD Garden could have been even worse than the final 5-2 score line indicated. Thomas gave up four goals -- and also had to make the four or five best saves of the game to keep the Bruins in it when the outcome was still in doubt.
The Bruins thought they had a lot of good chances, but they really didn't. Boston had 33 shots on net in Game 1 -- 12 of them came from 50 feet or beyond and 23 from more than 40 feet away, according to the official play-by-play.
Those perimeter shots are OK if there is traffic in front of the goaltender or rebound chances created. Boston had three shots on net in a seven-second span in the second period, including one that was definitely a rebound attempt from Mark Recchi. Other than that one sequence, Tampa Bay goaltender didn't face two shots in a span of shorter than 12 seconds -- and the second shot in that sequence was from 43 feet away.
Now the Bruins have two days to regroup and figure out a better way to attack the Lightning. They probably need to learn from their own mistakes and from the shortcomings of the Capitals if they want to not suffer the same outcome.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were minutes away from finishing off an emphatic Game 1 victory against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden when the home team tried to build some momentum for Game 2 with some physical play.
If the plan was rattle the Lightning with some rough stuff, it didn't appear to work. Boston took three penalties in the final eight minutes, all roughing minors, but the Lightning did not retaliate on any of them.
"That's the way it goes," Dominic Moore said. "Both teams are competing for every square inch of the ice out there, and there are no surprises at any point in the game. They are competing and that's what you have to try to do. We're just going to have to maintain our focus as well."
Boston was expected to have the physical edge in this series, but the Bruins weren't able to apply a lot of physical pressure after a couple of big hits early in this contest. Johnny Boychuk landed a big check on Simon Gagne in open ice, but Vincent Lecavalier then went over to the Bruins defenseman, who punched him and drew a penalty.
Marc-Andre Bergeron scored on the ensuing power play to give Tampa Bay a 4-1 lead and end any doubt in the outcome of this contest.
"We're focused on what we're doing," Bergeron said. "Stuff happens. We don't care about that."
Top-line wings Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton combined for seven shots on goal but no points for the Bruins, but both collected 12 minutes in penalties in the final minute. Both were assessed roughing minors and 10-minute misconducts for their part in a scrum with 37 seconds left.
"We only focus on our emotions, not the other team's emotions," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said. "We were really calm and we stayed calm."
TAMPA, Fla. --Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green did not play in the final 18:37 of Game 3 on Tuesday night with what coach Bruce Boudreau called a lower-body injury. Green sat at the end of the bench in the final minutes of the team's 4-3 loss but did not go back on the ice.
If Green is not able to play Wednesday night in Game 4, the Capitals will likely turn to Sean Collins, who played four games in the regular season for the team. Veterans Dennis Wideman, who is not with the team on this road trip, and Tom Poti have been out with long-term injuries but have been skating in an effort to return. Boudreau had hoped he might have Wideman available by the end of this series. Tyler Sloan could also be an option to replace Green.
Washington forward Eric Fehr also did not finish this game. He was checked into the boards in the third period and skated to the bench with his right arm dangling at his side. He went right to the dressing room and did not return. Fehr had surgeries on both shoulders two summers ago, and had a shoulder injury earlier this season.
If Fehr can't play, Matt Hendricks would likely return to the lineup. He's been a healthy scratch since Mike Knuble returned from injury for Game 2 of this series.
Bruce Boudreau has switched goaltenders the past two postseasons when his team has fallen behind early in the first round. This year his Washington Capitals are down 2-0 to Tampa Bay in the second round, but he is sticking with Michal Neuvirth.
"Nope," Boudreau said when asked if he was contemplating a change in goal. "We're very comfortable with him. You look at the goals that have been scored -- they're not much he can do about them."
Neuvirth was fantastic in the first round, allowing only 8 goals in the five-game series victory against the New York Rangers, finishing with a .946 save percentage. He has allowed 3 goals on 23 shots in each of the first two games of this series (an .870 save percentage).
Two of the 6 goals have gone off one of his teammates in front of the net and in. Two have been power-play goals -- one a blistering one-timer from Vinny Lecavalier and one a rebound from a relatively unmarked Steven Stamkos. Lecavalier was all alone at Neuvirth's crease for the overtime winner in Game 2.
Given how many odd-man rushes and quality chances the Lightning have been able to create and how few the Rangers had, it isn't a stretch to say Neuvirth has played as well this series despite the inferior numbers.
"There's no reason to take [Neuvirth] out right now," Matt Bradley said. "He hasn't been our problem. Most of the goals have been fluky goals off skates that he had no chance on anyway. We have full confidence in [Neuvirth] and we're glad to see him back in there. It is a matter of us giving him a little more help and getting some goals."
Boudreau pulled Jose Theodore for Semyon Varlamov before Game 2 in 2009 and during Game 2 in 2010 when he team was falling behind the Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens. Varlamov would be the guy Boudreau goes to if he were to make a switch, but his comments make it appear Neuvirth's place in net is safe at this point.
"That has even crossed my mind I don't think," Karl Alzner said. "Everybody thinks [Neuvirth] has been playing really well for us. There have been times where there has been things he can't control out there -- bounces and stuff. I think he's been playing great. He's helping the D out a lot. He's stopping pucks. He's moving them to us. Like I said -- that wasn't even a question in my mind before."
John Carlson is expected to play Sunday night for the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of this series despite missing most of the third period in Game 1 and not practicing Saturday.
Carlson participated in the morning skate Sunday and both he and coach Bruce Boudreau said he is ready to go.
"If he's playing, he's playing. I assume he's playing. I don't know the big deal – guys get banged up a little bit and it takes you 24 hours to sorta get better sometimes, and that's where he is. There's no question."
Added Carlson: "I feel great. I had a day off and now we're here. It's an exciting time of the year, too, and everyone wants to go all the time. We need this next game. This next game's real big for us."
Carlson is in his first full season in the NHL, but he was essentially Washington's No. 1 during the regular season because of injuries to Mike Green and Dennis Wideman. He had 7 goals and 37 points while averaging more than 22 minutes of ice time in the regular season, and that figure is up over 23 per game in the postseason despite missing time in Game 1.
He and Karl Alzner have formed Boudreau's most-used defensive pairing and often see the ice against the opposing team's top forwards.
"He's used to playing those minutes and he's very good at it," Alzner said. "He benefits the team tremendously offensively and defensively and he benefits me a lot. I wouldn't be able to play as good as I have played in certain games without him, because he's a big key to my success as well. He's a warrior, too, so it's a nice thing that he's gonna battle through whatever he can battle through."
Carlson has played in every game this season -- tough for any defenseman to do but he also played through a leg injury earlier in the season. He blocked a shot and walked with a limp for more than a week after the injury, but played through it in part because the team was thin on defense at the time (before trades for Scott Hannan and Wideman).
"When you play 82 games, there's gonna be times where you don't feel like playing and to still play – that makes really good hockey players really good hockey players," Boudreau said. "He's a tough man and we expect him to be in."
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Nearly all of the main contributors on Washington's two power-play units did not skate during an optional practice Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but coach Bruce Boudreau said any adjustments will come from three video sessions between Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening for Game 2.
The Capitals went 0-for-5 with the man advantage Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- a 4-2 loss in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series.
"We'll go over it today, we'll go over it tomorrow [morning] and we'll go over it before the game. I think it will be more in small doses than one long thing and let them forget about it," Boudreau said. "I think the basics are the same. But it's an awful lot easier to see how they worked against you and how they've been successful against you. It gives you a better idea of how you can hopefully beat it."
Washington put only five shots on net against Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson despite all of the time on the man-advantage. The Capitals had several great chances early in the game on the PP, but those opportunities weren't there as the contest wore on.
The Capitals struggled at times to enter the offensive zone, and the Lightning collected five shots of their own while shorthanded. When they were able to get the puck into the zone and setup, there weren't enough shots on target.
"I think that kind of moment we have to play our game," Alex Ovechkin said. "We all knew what we have to do on the power play. I think we tried to do too much on the last power play because it was 3-2 and there was only five or six minutes left in the game. If this is going to happen again, we know what we have to do.
"We have the chances in the first period. When they get the lead and it is the third period and you see how they play, of course you try to do too much and something more than usual. I don't know but we're going to watch the video tomorrow, today and see what we have to do better."
Added Mike Green: "I think we executed our game plan for the most part but we just didn't put the puck in the net. I had a chance to put one away there. Semin hit the post. The thing is, that's the not the way we're going to score goals in the playoffs. We have to get pucks to the net and battle in front."
Defenseman John Carlson didn't play much in the final 20 minutes Friday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series and he didn't practice Saturday, but Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau and teammates are optimistic about his chances of being available Sunday for Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"I think he's - pretty good chance that he'll play tomorrow," Boudreau said. "But I'm not 100 percent sure."
Carlson was injured in a pileup near the net after he hit Tampa Bay's Nate Thompson. The 21-year-old defenseman had a great rookie season for the Capitals, essentially assuming the role of No. 1 defenseman when guys like Mike Green, Tom Poti and Dennis Wideman were injured.
He and fellow young defenseman Karl Alzner have formed Washington's most consistent pairing this season, and Boudreau has entrusted them to play against top competition despite their relative lack of age and experience.
"We've had a lot of instances where we went down to five "D," more than I've had in recent years at least," Alzner said. "It is not too bad, but John is a huge part of this team and it affects the team as a whole instead of just any individual guy.
"He's a tough guy who likes to battle and we'd definitely like to have him back. It is tough to say -- I just saw him a little bit getting treatment. That's about it. I think most guys are optimistic about him playing."
Carlson left the bench in the second period and returned for the third but took only a couple of short shifts. He stayed on the bench for a while and skated during television timeouts before eventually heading back to the dressing room for good.
Green was in a similar situation during Game 5 against the New York Rangers - he was injured and stayed on the bench. Boudreau said Green was OK to play in case of an emergency, but that wasn't the case for Carlson on Friday.
"No, yesterday he was sore," Boudreau said. "Because if we could have used him, we would have used him."
The byproduct of Carlson's absence was an added strain on Green. With Wideman injured, Carlson and Green are the team's lone consistent offensive threats on the blue line. Green played more than 11 minutes in the third period because Carlson was missing and the Capitals were down a goal and trying to find an equalizer in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Lightning.
"When you look at Mike Green's minutes at 27 minutes, it is too high," Boudreau said. "He had a great series against New York but he was playing 18-20 (minutes). Those are the kind of minutes we have to get back to."
Added Green: "I felt the same way. To be effective, especially in the playoffs, you have to keep your shifts short and be fresh. I felt like I was out there a little too much and I didn't feel like I was able to be as productive as I could have been."
If Carlson cannot play in Game 2, Boudreau said he doesn't think Poti or Wideman will be available as a replacement. Both veterans have been out for a long time with injuries but have been skating almost every day during the postseason.
The most likely is option if Carlson can't go is 27-year-old Sean Collins, who played four games near the end of the regular season after spending nearly all of the past two seasons in the American Hockey League.
Tyler Sloan has spent that time with the Capitals as a reserve defenseman, but Collins came off the ice with the rest of the Capitals expected to play Saturday while Sloan and recent call-up Patrick McNeil stayed on the ice with the other scratches and "Black Aces" from AHL Hershey.
The Capitals will play host to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series and, with a 3-1 lead, have a chance to finish off the visitors. They were in this situation one year ago, ahead 3-1 against the Montreal Canadiens with Game 5 at Verizon Center, but ended up losing three straight contests and the series.
"It is new year, new series, new team," Ovechkin said. "I think if you going remember everything bad, then it is going to be bad for you. I think tomorrow first 10 minutes is going to be very important for us and them too."
Whether other players on the team or the coaching staff decide to use what transpired in Game 5 against the Canadiens as motivation for Saturday, Ovechkin is looking forward, not back.
"I don't remember nothing. I forget about it," he said. "We get experience. We know we can't go back. We have to play better every game and every period."
Montreal grabbed an early 2-0 lead in Game 5 against Washington last April and the series was never the same. Jaroslav Halak allowed only three goals in the final three games and the Canadiens were able to eke out just enough offense on the counter-attack to win the final two games as well.
The Canadiens were the attacking team in the first 10 minutes of Game 5, though, and they caught the Capitals for two goals -- both against Ovechkin's line and both scored from the area he typically is entrusted to defend (between the right point and the top of the right faceoff circle).
"I just see everything as team-oriented," Boudreau said. "I don't think we've got anybody thinking about, 'I can redeem myself' or 'I can look better.' We just want to go out there and play as well as we can."
Boudreau said he doesn't expect to show video from Game 5 against Montreal, but that game has been a point of reference for teaching and/or motivational purposes.
"I think they know what happened in Game 5 in the first 10 minutes," he said. "We've talked about it many times during the course of the year."
Knuble missed Game 4 of Washington's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with an unspecified injury, but it is believed to be a problem with his right hand/wrist. He was hit by a Mike Green shot during Game 3 and after scoring a goal seconds later, immediately took off his glove to check on his hand/wrist before celebrating.
"I call myself day-to-day," Knuble told reporters who were asked by a team representative not to ask questions about the specifics of his injury. "You've got to do your best to stay in shape and keep your conditioning or whatever.
"[Game 5] is up in the air -- we won't know until tomorrow or maybe even Saturday morning, Saturday game time."
Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau also said Knuble is day-to-day. He was the team's third-leading goal scorer in the regular season with 24.
Knuble did not practice with the team for the two days leading up Game 4, and he confirmed that he didn't travel with the team to New York for the contest.
"I find myself watching the clock all day and trying to be home at the right time, trying to make sure I have my DVR set so I don't miss anything," Knuble said. "Just a weird feeling -- missing a playoff game, watching your team play is much different than missing games in the regular season. It's really hard to go through. Obviously, I was as low as they felt last night and as high as they were after, too."
Boudreau called it a maintenance day for Knuble. When asked if it was related to Knuble looking at his hand of scoring Washington's second goal Sunday, Boudreau replied, "That's why it is called a maintenance day."
Knuble has spent most of the past two seasons on the team's top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. He was third on the team with 24 goals in the regular season -- his eighth straight campaign with more than 20 goals.
"He's a big part of our game and if he's out, it is a big loss," Marco Sturm said. "I think we played pretty good all year when guys are out – guys are jumping in. everyone has to do their job there and work maybe a little bit harder."
Jason Chimera replace Knuble on the top line for practice Tuesday, while Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle both rotated in on the third line. It is possible Fehr or Beagle could play and Chimera could be a healthy scratch if Knuble is indeed going to play, but Chimera is the only player not among the top six forwards who has a goal in this series.
Fehr said he "has no idea" if he's going to play or not after being a healthy scratch the first two games. He was one of the team's most effective forwards against Montreal last postseason, finishing third on the team with three goals.
"He's coming on the trip so there's a chance," Boudreau said of Fehr's chances of playing.
Michal Neuvirth handled the pressure of his first NHL postseason start very well. Now the Washington Capitals will find out how their 23-year-old rookie bounces back from his first NHL postseason defeat.
Neuvirth made 32 saves in a 3-2 loss Sunday to the New York Rangers in Game 3 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. He has still only allowed four goals in nearly 10 periods of postseason hockey, but the Capitals will need a strong performance from him again if the Rangers carry momentum from their victory into Game 4 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"He allowed the one goal [to Vinny Prospal]," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought the [Erik] Christensen goal there wasn't much he could do and the third goal, it bounces off two of our guys and into the net. They had 35 shots so I think he was pretty stellar for the most part. I think he's handling this tremendously. He's calm as a cucumber."
Part of "this" Boudreau was alluding to was how the Rangers have ratcheted up their presence in front of and around Neuvirth's crease. Christensen was called for goaltender interference near the end of the second period, but there were several other times when Neuvirth had bodies in his way or on top of him during post-whistle scrums.
How players can protect their young goalie in those circumstances is a bit tricky.
"It is a double-edge sword, because if we start doing something we're going to start getting retaliation penalties, which is what you tell the guys not to do," Boudreau said. "You're hoping that they're being called. If it is not called, there is not much you can do without getting involved in 4-on-4 situations and taking guys out.
"Prospal went in there. [Sean] Avery fell into him. [Brandon] Prust went into him on purpose and wasn't called. They're doing all of that stuff to try and get him off his game, but the good thing about Michal is it doesn't seem to effect him. It is there and we have to protect the goalies -- both the team and the officials."
"Actually, they just put on the wrong jerseys so I left them out there for practice," Boudreau said. "I could have changed it, but I knew we were only doing one drill that anything to do with it, so I just left it."
Boudreau has dropped the "wrong jersey" rationale a few times during his tenure as Capitals coach. He's also used the term "just wanted to see what it looked like" when he switches lines around. The deal is this: when Boudreau tries to downplay a line change, it has almost always ended up happening for the next game.
If Backstrom is not skating with the second line against the New York Rangers for Game 3 on Sunday at Madison Square, it might be the first time Boudreau was speaking the truth on the "wrong jersey" rationale since he became the team's coach in November 2007.
"It doesn't matter I think who we play with," Backstrom said. "There are such good players on this team. It is up to the coach to decide who we play with."
This is nothing new for Backstrom -- Boudreau has dropped him to the second line to play with Semin on several occasions during the postseason in the previous three years. Those two combined to have a great series against Philadelphia in 2008, carrying the Washington offense as the Capitals rallied to force Game 7 after being down 3-1.
It worked pretty well again against the Rangers in 2009. Both years Backstrom was switching places with Sergei Fedorov. Now Boudreau has another dependable veteran in Arnott who he can put with Ovechkin and force John Tortorella to decide which duo he wants to put Marc Staal and Dan Girardi on the ice against.
Tortorella has the last change but the choice between deploying his top pairing against Ovechkin or Backstrom/Semin is not an easy one. That is, of course, if Boudreau follows through and makes the switch for the start of Game 3.
"Yeah, I am [used to it]," Backstrom said. "It is nothing wrong with it. Sometimes you have to I guess. ... They're both good players. I just play where coach tells me to."
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Four days ago Dennis Wideman was released after a nearly two-week stay in the hospital to recover from a hematoma and compartment syndrome in his leg, but he was on the ice here Friday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
Wideman did some light skating in a track suit before his teammates went on the ice for their morning skate. He hasn't played since hurting his right leg March 29 against Carolina after a collision with Tuomo Ruutu.
"A really surprising sign, but a very good sign," Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. "He skated for about 15 minutes and felt pretty good, so maybe my assessment of three weeks was a little premature.”
Boudreau had previously said he didn't expect Wideman to be available until the second round at the earliest, but he said Friday it is possible the trade deadline acquisition is back before then.
"Sooner than later," Boudreau said. "Who knows? Depending on what kind of shape he can get into in a hurry and how long this series [extends], it might even be in this round.
"There was no damage to the muscle and that’s why he’s able to be out here doing what he’s doing. That’s a really good sign -- and it shows how tough he is."
Washington's other injured defenseman, Tom Poti, was back on the ice in full gear after take a day off. Poti hasn't played since Jan. 12 because of a groin injury. Boudreau said Thursday that his other six defensemen (not including Wideman) are playing so well that it might take injuries for Poti get back in the lineup when he is pronounced fit to play.
Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti has had a frustrating year because of a reoccurring groin injury, and his return might not be anytime in the near future.
The Capitals had an optional practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but Poti was missing because coach Bruce Boudreau said he was "sore" after his on-ice workout Wednesday. Poti was playing in a game of sideways 3-on-3 with the guys who would eventually be healthy scratches that night for Game 1 of this series when he was involved in a collision.
Poti stayed down on the ice for a few seconds and did not appear to be comfortable when he got back up. Assistant coach Bob Woods took his place in the game.
Boudreau said there might not be a place in the lineup waiting for the veteran Poti even when he is healthy enough to play.
"He hasn't played in four months now and I think our defense is playing pretty well," Boudreau said. "So it'd be pretty hard for him, unless there's injuries, to get back in."
The Capitals have six healthy defensemen in front of Poti right now, plus trade deadline addition Dennis Wideman could be back during the second round to add another body to a crowded blueline corps.
"He's seems to be kind of be unflappable," Alzner said. "He's very calm on and off the ice. I think that in this situation, that's going to be pretty good for him. It has proven well for him in the playoffs in Hershey a couple of times. He's just a guy that if he gets scored on, he doesn't really let it get to him too much."
That demeanor will be put to the test Wednesday night at Verizon Center when Neuvirth is in net for his first career NHL playoff game against the New York Rangers. Neuvirth and fellow 2006 draft pick Semyon Varlamov have spent this season jostling for the No. 1 job in Washington, with fellow young netminder Braden Holtby also squeezing his way into the competition.
Varlamov entered the year with more NHL postseason experience than Neuvirth, but the 23-year-old from the Czech Republic was able to stay healthy longer and that proved to play a big role in the derby.
"Right now, he's played way more games. He's won 27 games for us," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's not my thought only -- it is a collaboration of all the coaches. We thought he was the guy who has played the most games down the stretch and he's played the big games down the stretch and he's won the big games that we've needed to win."
While Varlamov has played in 19 postseason games for Boudreau, twice beginning the playoffs as Jose Theodore's backup before supplanting the veteran, Neuvirth has built a formidable postseason resume of his own. He helped Plymouth to an Ontario Hockey League title and Memorial Cup berth in 2007, and has won back-to-back Calder Cup championships with Washington's AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.
Neuvirth was named the Calder Cup MVP in 2009, and he might have been even more valuable in 2010. He won 30 postseason games in that span, and defeated some elite goaltending prospects (Tuukka Rask, Cory Schneider and Jonathan Bernier) along the way.
"We were in control of every series pretty much the first year, but the second year not so much," defenseman John Carlson said. "We went down to Manchester, we were down to Texas, but he kept us in there and made it so we could battle back and win.
"He's a big-game goalie. He likes to be in that moment. He elevates his game when he's in that moment, it seems. For a defenseman it makes you feel pretty comfortable. He's had so much success and you feel good in front of him."
Boudreau was once Hershey's coach and maintains strong relationships with members of the Bears organization. He spent parts of those two Calder Cup runs watching at Giant Center with Hershey general manager Doug Yingst and other personnel evaluators in the organization after the Captials were knocked out of the NHL playoffs.
"I saw a lot of games in the playoffs last year," Boudreau said. "His demeanor when it is crunch time was outstanding. Championships are not only very difficult to win at any level, it takes something special to win them. He's done both. I don't classify him as a rookie. This is his third year pro. We thought he was our guy."
Strength of schedule could play a factor in who claims the final playoff spots in both conferences as well as the final seeding. Determining the actual strength of schedule at this time of year can also be tricky -- some great teams might have little to play for while some non-playoff teams might be playing really well.
With that in mind, here's an attempt to rank the remaining schedules for teams in fifth through 10th place in each conference from toughest to easiest (Phoenix and Pittsburgh aren't locks to make the playoffs, but the Penguins could clinch a spot Friday night and the Coyotes are close to being safe at this point). Here's the rankings for the Western Conference (check out the Eastern Conference here):
1. Dallas (38-25-10, 86 points)
Home: Columbus, Colorado
Road: Nashville, Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Colorado, Minnesota
Analysis: Seven road games, including five against teams currently in front of them. Best bet might be to try and steal 3-4 points in those first five road games and then sweep the final four.
2. Anaheim (41-28-5, 87 points)
Home: Chicago, Calgary, Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles
Road: Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles
Analysis: No other team on this list has to play seven games against the 10 teams still in the hunt in the West. Toss in those home-and-homes with rivals San Jose and Los Angeles, and a postseason berth for the Ducks is far from a given at this point.
3. Chicago (40-25-8, 88 points)
Home: Anaheim, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Detroit
Road: Detroit, Boston, Columbus, Montreal, Detroit
Analysis: Seven games against current playoff teams, but three are against the Eastern Conference and the West has dominated crossover games this season (Chicago is 9-4-2). This slate nudges ahead of the Kings' schedule because of three games against Detroit and an extra set of back-to-backs.
Analysis: Three games against the top four in the West (inclduing a trip to Vancouver while the Canucks are still trying to seal the top seed and Presidenst's Trophy) plus a home-and-home with archrival Anaheim when the Ducks might be desperate to secure a postseason berth.
5. Nashville (40-25-10, 90 points)
Home: Dallas, Vancouver, Detroit, Atlanta, Columbus
Road: Colorado, St. Louis
Analysis: Seven home games and two on the road against non-contenders (basically the opposite of Dallas) -- even if they lose the three against the top-nine clubs, they can still win the four against non-contenders and be safely in the playoffs.
6. Calgary (37-28-11, 85 points)
Home: Anaheim, Edmonton, Vancouver
Road: Edmonton, St. Louis, Colorado
Analysis: Good news: The Flames clearly have the easiest schedule, with four games against teams not in the mix (including all three road contests) and a game against the Canucks when they will likely have the West wrapped up. Bad news: They probably need to win all six.
Strength of schedule could play a factor in who claims the final playoff spots in both conferences as well as the final seeding. Determining the actual strength of schedule at this time of year can also be tricky -- some great teams might have little to play for while some non-playoff teams might be playing really well.
With that in mind, here's an attempt to rank the remaining schedules for teams in fifth through 10th place in each conference from toughest to easiest (Phoenix and Pittsburgh aren't locks to make the playoffs, but the Penguins could clinch a spot Friday night and the Coyotes are close to being safe at this point). Here's the rankings for the Western Conference (check out the Eastern Conference here):
1. Dallas (38-25-10, 86 points)
Home: Columbus, Colorado
Road: Nashville, Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Colorado, Minnesota
Analysis: Seven road games, including five against teams currently in front of them. Best bet might be to try and steal 3-4 points in those first five road games and then sweep the final four.
2. Anaheim (41-28-5, 87 points)
Home: Chicago, Calgary, Dallas, San Jose, Los Angeles
Road: Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles
Analysis: No other team on this list has to play seven games against the 10 teams still in the hunt in the West. Toss in those home-and-homes with rivals San Jose and Los Angeles, and a postseason berth for the Ducks is far from a given at this point.
3. Chicago (40-25-8, 88 points)
Home: Anaheim, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Detroit
Road: Detroit, Boston, Columbus, Montreal, Detroit
Analysis: Seven games against current playoff teams, but three are against the Eastern Conference and the West has dominated crossover games this season (Chicago is 9-4-2). This slate nudges ahead of the Kings' schedule because of three games against Detroit and an extra set of back-to-backs.
Analysis: Three games against the top four in the West (inclduing a trip to Vancouver while the Canucks are still trying to seal the top seed and Presidenst's Trophy) plus a home-and-home with archrival Anaheim when the Ducks might be desperate to secure a postseason berth.
5. Nashville (40-25-10, 90 points)
Home: Dallas, Vancouver, Detroit, Atlanta, Columbus
Road: Colorado, St. Louis
Analysis: Seven home games and two on the road against non-contenders (basically the opposite of Dallas) -- even if they lose the three against the top-nine clubs, they can still win the four against non-contenders and be safely in the playoffs.
6. Calgary (37-28-11, 85 points)
Home: Anaheim, Edmonton, Vancouver
Road: Edmonton, St. Louis, Colorado
Analysis: Good news: The Flames clearly have the easiest schedule, with four games against teams not in the mix (including all three road contests) and a game against the Canucks when they will likely have the West wrapped up. Bad news: They probably need to win all six.
There are now several Chicago-area reporters confirming that Marcus Kruger, a fifth-round pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, is indeed en route from his native Sweden to join the Blackhawks for the final weeks of the NHL season. With injuries to Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland, the Blackhawks need some help in the middle and Kruger could make his debut as soon as tomorrow night.
With Kruger's pending addition in mind, who might be some other surprise call-ups once the Stanley Cup playoffs begin? P.K. Subban, who had all of two NHL games on his resume, was a big hit for the Canadiens last year when injuries forced his recall during the first round of the playoffs. Buffalo played Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2006 with a pair of guys, Nathan Paetsch and Jeff Jillson, who had combined for three NHL games before that.
The rules for this list is the players must not be on roster today and can't have played more than nine NHL games to this point (this rules out guys like Washington's Braden Holtby and Buffalo's Luke Adam). Here's five names to remember if injury problems strike during the Stanley Cup playoffs:
Hodgson has already had two stints with the Canucks this season (both last month), and he had a goal and an assist in eight games. The additions of Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins at the trade deadline meant another trip back to Manitoba for Hodgson and made it seem less likely that he'll be around in the postseason.
Manny Malhotra's eye injury could change that though. Hodgson was considered one of the top 2-3 prospects in hockey after a star turn at the 2009 world junior championships, but injuries have delayed his development. Don't be surprised if he earns a sweater for Vancouver at some point if the Cancuks go on a long playoff run and there is another injury or two up front.
Schenn began the season with the Kings and had two assists in eight games. He also spent some time on a rehab assignment with Manchester in the AHL before returning to the Western Hockey League. He was the top scorer at the WJC in December/January and The Hockey News recently named him the sport's top prospect in their "Future Watch" edition.
If the Kings were looking for an offensive boost during the playoffs, he could be the guy they turn to. There might be a problem with his availability. Schenn was traded to Saskatoon this season, and the Blades were the top team in the WHL during the regular season. A long run with the Blades could keep him from being available to the Kings if they needed him.
Ellis scored 100 points in the Ontario Hockey League (yes, that total is right) and might be the premiere offensive defenseman prospect in hockey. The Predators have a lot of good, young defensemen but if the power play is struggling during the postseason, he could have a Subban-like impact.
His junior team, Windsor, is not the powerhouse it once was, so he could be out of the OHL playoffs (and with Milwaukee in the AHL or even Nashville) sooner than Schenn. Ellis is a diminutive guy who has always had questions about his size, but his skill is elite and tossing him into the fire in the NHL postseason might just be worth the risk for the Predators if they needed him. Another good prospect on defense, Roman Josi, would be a safer choice but there's no reason why both couldn't play for the Predators if there was a rash of injuries.
Could also include Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar here, who had a goal in nine games earlier this season, but Smith would, like Ellis, potentially be making his NHL debut during the playoffs. Smith was Detroit's first-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft and spent three seasons at the University of Wisconsin.
He's had a successful rookie season with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League (12 goals and 32 points in 57 games) and his second on the Griffins in scoring among the defensemen. Detroit might lean toward recalling a more seasoned option like Derek Meech or Doug Janik, but Smith is the organization's top prospect and it isn't out of the realm of possibility that he gets a game or two for the Red Wings in an emergency situation.
OK, so this is breaking the rules a little. Calgary's Leland Irving, San Jose's Alex Stalock or Nashville's Mark Dekanich are possibilities as young goalies who could be thrust into a tough spot during the NHL playoffs, but wouldn't Leighton be a great story?
The emergence of Sergei Bobrovski has pushed Leighton down the depth chart in Philadelphia, and he's made only one appearance for the Flyers this season. He has a .924 save percentage in the AHL this season, and no other team has a guy who went 8-3 in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs sitting in the minors as a "in case of emergency, break glass" option.
The Flyers are idle, but will lock up a playoff berth if the New Jersey Devils do not beat the Capitals in regulation (New Jersey claims less than two points) and if the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the New York Islanders in regulation (Carolina gets no points). The Capitals will book their postseason reservations for a fourth straight season with a victory against New Jersey and if the Hurricanes lose to the Islanders in regulation.
Because of the NHL's new tiebreaker rules, officially clinching playoff berths could be tricky -- espcially if those teams in the Western Conference are still so compactly congested in a couple of weeks. The first tiebreaker is now non-shootout wins, so it is possible we won't know who earns the nod in non-shootout wins between teams with a similar number of maximum points until the final game or games of the season.
Here's why Philadelphia and Washington can be safely in the playoffs after tonight's action:
* Philadelphia currently has 94 points and 41 non-shootout wins. If the Hurricanes lose in regulation to the Islanders, they can max out at 94 points and 38 non-shootout wins. If the Devils defeat the Capitals in a shootout, their maximum becomes 94 points and 41 non-shooutout wins. In that scenario the Flyers would earn the spot because they have clinched the next tiebreaker (Philadelphia has seven points against New Jersey to the Devils' four with one game to play in the season series).
* Washington would have 94 points and either 38 or 39 non-shootout wins with a victory. Again, Carolina's maximum after a regulation loss to the Islanders would be 94 points and 38 non-shootout wins. Like Philadelphia with New Jersey, the Capitals have already secured the second tiebreaker (points earned in the season series) by beating Carolina in all five meetings to this point this season, so they clinch a spot either way.
Alas, the NHL postseason does not begin for nearly a month and the Flames have a lot of work to do to be part of the 16-team party. While the Flames currently sit eighth in the Western Conference with 81 points, there are a few factors working against them and the path to retaining their current position in the top eight is not likely to be an easy one.
Calgary's two biggest problems on the ice are recent play and injuries. The Flames have lost three straight games, all in regulation, for the first time since mid-December. Two of those three losses came to the Phoenix Coyotes and represent the four-point difference in the standings between the two clubs (the Coyotes are fifth with 85 points).
"I'm not going to sugar coat it, we've lost three in a row now at this time of the season — it's unacceptable," Calgary coach Brent Sutter told reporters Tuesday after a 4-3 loss to Phoenix. "We're at a critical point in the year and when you’re at a critical point you need to play with a huge urgency and I didn't think we had it here tonight."
The Flames have been without Brendan Morrison since March 2 because of a swollen knee, and are now without David Moss indefinitely because of an ankle injury. That's two of the team's top eight scorers and has forced rookie Mikael Backlund, who turns 22 on Thursday, into the No. 1 center role between Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla.
Calgary has enough adversity to overcome, but the Flames have only 10 games left to play. Every other team in playoff contention in the West has at least one game in hand on Calgary. Nashville, currently in ninth place and one point behind Calgary, has two games in hand. Anaheim is two points back with three games in hand.
The Predators are 8-8-4 since the All-Star break. Project that pace out and they would finish with 92 points. However, Nashville has nine of its final 12 games at Bridgestone Arena where the Predators are 17-8-7 this season. Factor in the home/road ratio and 94 points looks like a solid projection for Nashville. The Predators also have four of their final five contests against Colorado, Atlanta, Columbus and St. Louis -- four the bottom six teams in the standings.
Anaheim has an extra game on Nashville, but the Ducks have a tough closing schedule. The Ducks have 6 of their 13 contests are at home, but 11 of the 13 games are against the nine teams currently ahead of them in the Western Conference.
The Ducks are 9-7-1 since the All-Star break. Using either projection method (post-ASG pace or home/road), Anaheim settles in somewhere between 93 and 94 points.
So a 6-3-1 finish for Calgary gets them to 94 points. The problem then becomes the tiebreaker. The Flames have only 28 non-shootout victories, which puts them behind Nashville (29) and well behind Anaheim (33). Should the Flames and Predators finish the season with the same number of points and non-shootout wins, Calgary does hold that tiebreaker thanks a four-game sweep of Nashville this season.
Six of Calgary's 10 games are on the road. One positive is four of the Flames' remaining games are against Colorado (twice), St. Louis and Edmonton -- the bottom three teams in the conference. Two of their games are against Anaheim and Calgary has one each at San Jose and Los Angeles.
The problem for the Flames is they have lost six straight games to the California trio and have not won in the Golden State this season. The two games against Anaheim will be critical (March 20 in Anaheim and March 30 in Calgary), and the three contests in four nights in California (March 20, 21 and 23) could be a defining stretch.
It certainly looks like 7-3 (and 95 points) could be the minimum for the Flames to stay ahead of Nashville and Anaheim in the race for the final spot in the West. It is possible one of the teams in front of them slumps, but 93 or 94 points could end up leaving the Flames agonizingly short of a tremendous comeback after being in 14th place in the West in late December.
"There are 10 games left in the season and we still have time," Sutter told reporters. "Teams have games in hand on us and we need to start winning some games and getting some points or we will find ourselves on the outside looking in quickly."
Both clubs won last night, so Washington has a two-point lead but Tampa Bay has a game in hand. One month from today, both teams will finish their seasons with road games against division foes. Will Washington claim its fourth straight division title, or will Tampa Bay earn its first banner since the Stanley Cup-winning season of 2003-04?
First and foremost, the Capitals are playing better right now. Six straight wins, albeit against mostly weak competition (a road win in Tampa is the only one against one of the top 24 teams in the League), matches the longest run of success for the Capitals this season. Tampa Bay scratched out a big win against Chicago last night, but the Lightning had lost four in a row and are 7-6-3 since the All-Star break.
Both teams have key players dealing with injuries. Mike Green is out until at least March 22 for Washington, and fellow defenseman Tom Poti is out indefinitely. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov is also hurting, but the other two kids in net for the Capitals have been just fine without him. Nicklas Backstrom might miss another game with a thumb injury, but it isn't expected to be much more than that.
Tampa Bay is missing Ryan Malone and might not get him back until the postseason. Defenseman Randy Jones and forward Steve Downie are also missing. Washington just added Eric Fehr to the lineup, while Mike Lundin just returned for the Lightning. Should Washington get Green or Poti back (or Malone make a speedier than expected recovery for Tampa Bay) that could have a big impact.
A big key for Washington has been Alex Ovechkin's form. The captain and two-time MVP has points in six straight games and 10 of 11 -- the best run of his season both in total production (16 points) and consistency. For the Lightning to keep pace, they will likely need their top gun, Steven Stamkos, to put together a similar stretch. He had a goal and an assist last night after going six games without a goal. A hot streak from Stamkos could swing the race.
Both teams have six home games left, so Tampa Bay's game in hand will come on the road. The biggest advantage for the Lightning is their six games against non-contenders, including three with Ottawa (though Craig Anderson has made the Senators plucky of late). Washington has four games against non-contenders, including a home-and-home with Florida to finish the season.
Washington has one less set of back-to-back games, so that might be worth a point or two. The Capitals also have a sizable advantage in the first tiebreaker (non-shootout wins) in the event the teams finish with the same number of points - the Lightning have won three more games via the shootout.
The Capitals do face a tougher schedule though, and not just because they have fewer games against bottom feeders. Tampa Bay has three games against current top-10 opponents (vs. Pittsburgh, at Chicago, at Montreal), while Washington has five such tilts (vs. Chicago, at Montreal (twice), Philadelphia and Detroit).
Both teams have to play three games in four days twice, but the difference is Washington's 3-in-4s overlap, and that brings us to the most important stretch of either schedule - and what could ultimately decide the Southeast Division.
The Capitals play four times in six days next week, and the task is brutal. A Sunday matinee at home against surging Chicago, then road games at Montreal (Tuesday), Detroit (Wednesday) and New Jersey (Friday). That's three of the top 10 teams in the League and three of the hottest teams in the League.
After the Capitals play in New Jersey on March 18 and the Lightning play in Ottawa the next night, both teams will play on the same day until the final week of the season, so there will be plenty of scoreboard watching in those arenas and in the coaches' offices during intermissions. Tampa Bay won't make up the game in hand until April 8 against Florida.
If it goes down to the final day, Washington is in South Florida to play the Panthers and Tampa Bay will be in Raleigh, N.C., to play the Hurricanes. It could end up being the NHL's most exciting division race.
Who has the edge? Tampa Bay has the easier schedule. Washington has the momentum. It should be fascinating to see it play out.
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.
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.
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. ZACH BOGOSIAN - 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. JOHN-MICHAEL LILES - 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. RON HAINSEY - 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. ESPN.com'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.
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.
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.
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 LAKings.com. "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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero has made one trade to bolster his depth at forward, and he said on NHL Live! that he might not be done.
Shero added forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen from Dallas for defenseman Alex Goligoski on Monday. He's got a bunch of other forwards who are injured and could be back at some point, but he remains focused on looking for more help.
"I would like to add another forward if possible, but it depends on what is going to be available and the price is going to be," Shero said. "This year I'm not into trading our first-round draft pick or something like that. That might take me out of some things, but if there is a right player, a rental, that makes sense for us [I'll be interested]."
Pittsburgh is still in second place in the Atlantic Division and has the second-most points in the East, but the Penguins will not have Evgeni Malkin for the rest of the season and Sidney Crosby remains out with a concussion. Crosby hasn't played since Feb. 5, and hasn't moved past doing light workouts at this point.
"I think he's feeling better, but really is there no update," Shero said. "Until he is symptom-free and can progress moving forward, it is really status quo. I go back to January 6th -- I don't think there's been a time where I've actually asked him 'how are you feeling?' Once he's feeling better and can move forward he'll let me know and we'll go from there.
There may have been some question about whether or not Crosby's status would help dictate Shero's plan in the next few days. One theory would be if the Penguins don't think Crosby can play, maybe they wouldn't sacrifice future assets to try and win without their top two centers.
"It is an easy answer to that -- our expectation is to win whether it is with Sid or without Sid and Geno," Shero said. "I think our goaltender is playing great, as good as anybody in the League. I think our defense has been strong all year. I think we have guys here that have won. I think the additions of Neal and Niskanen help solidify us and if there's another player or two out there and if there's another player or two out there that can help us, I think we can still be a good hockey team."
Alex Kovalev's name has been mentioned with the Penguins on several occasions in the past couple of weeks. If Crosby isn't going to be available, that would free up a lot more cap space but if Shero is reluctant to pay a big price that may not matter much. Colorado's Milan Hejduk could be a good fit, but Avalanche GM Joel Sherman has said he doesn't plan to trade Hejduk.
Richards is second on the Stars with 24 goals and leads the team with 63 points. He has not played since February 13 because of a concussion. Just as important, he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and his name has come up in many media discussions about the forthcoming trade deadline.
It turns out his name has come up for Nieuwendyk as well.
"I've discussed it with some teams," he said. "All options are in play here. It is certainly not my first choice. We've maintained all along that we'd like to keep Brad as a Dallas Star for a long period of time. There's a lot of uncertainty on our side as far as ownership and things like that are a concern from them. All options are open. It is certainly going to have to be good type of deal in order to pry him away from us because we are sitting here tied for eighth right now and have a lot of home games coming up in March."
This will not be an easy decision for Nieuwendyk. Richards would be the marquee player available this week, just as he'd be the top player available on July 1 if he doesn't sign between now and then. Richards is a legitimate No. 1 center and has a Conn Smythe Trophy on his resume. He also doesn't turn 31 until May, so he could have several years at a peak level remaining.
He's also concussed, which makes a potential deal tricky for other teams.
"Unfortunately there is not timetable for Brad," Nieuwendyk said. "We're talking about some of our best players here. Brad probably is our best player. It is difficult. I think he is feeling better. I anticipate that he will start skating soon although we don't have a timeframe on when he'll return."
There is more to the decision for Nieuwendyk (and for Richards) than just signing a contract. The Stars are a franchise with an in flux ownership situation. It is also one that needs to build some momentum with a fan base that was used to seeing the club win for a long time.
Making the playoffs would make some money and maybe help sell some season tickets for next year. Keeping Richards (and eventually signing him) would be the best-case scenario for Dallas. Keeping him and losing an elite player for nothing could be devistating.
"For our fans and our franchise it is important to make the playoffs, so that is always in the front of our minds," Nieuwendyk said. "Obviously the situation with Brad is a very delicate one, but we're certainly not going to give him away unless we feel we can make our team stronger now and for the future."
The combination of two straight wins and some continued struggles by other teams around them has the Blackhawks level with the eighth-place team in the West ... but so are three other clubs. Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that GM Stan Bowman is scouring the League for a physical defenseman who can help on the penalty kill.
“I think some teams are going to try to hold their guys close to the deadline,” Bowman told the Sun-Times. “We don’t necessarily want to wait that long. If we find a guy we’re comfortable with, we’ll make it work.”
Bowman told Jahns he has no intention of moving any of the key players currently in place for Chicago. The salary cap, as it has since the summer, will weight heavily on what Bowman can try to do in the next 5 days. According to capgeek.com, the Blackhawks have about $1.15 million in acquisition space. For Bowman to add any player whose cap hit is greater than that, someone will have to come off the roster.
The Blackhawks are 27th in the League on the PK. A guy like the Islanders' Radek Martinek ($1.5 million) could help in that area, but he's not overly physical. Adam Foote ($1.25 million) might also make some sense depending on the severity of his lower-body injury.
The Stars are one of said teams helping teams like the Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets back into contention. Dallas has lost 5 games in a row and, after leading the Pacific Division for much of the season, is now in 11th place, level with Chicago and two other teams at 68 points.
This all leads back to Brad Richards, of course. Richards is a pending UFA and if GM Joe Nieuwendyk were to make him available, he immediately becomes the best player on the market. There is also a question of Richards' health, as he's currently not playing because of a concussion. Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside of ESPN.com discussed the Richards situation this morning in their Daily Debate.
"[Nieuwendyk] once again reiterated he wants to sign Richards and keep him in Dallas, but also has to look at all his "options.'' As GM, there is no question he has to see what's out there for Richards," LeBrun said. "The team is fading fast and the forward is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Stars must get value in return."
LeBrun and Burnside debated the viability of the Los Angeles Kings being suitors for Richards. TSN's Darren Dreger writes that as many as six teams could be interested in Richards. If Nieuwendyk feels like Richards isn't going to sign, he should be able to find a very nice return -- even though Richards is not healthy and even if he waits until the last day or two of the trade window.
A month ago it seemed pretty easy to point to the Devils as a team that would be looking to sell as the deadline approached. Pending UFA center Jason Arnott's name has appeared in trade deadline primer stories everywhere. Well, now that the Devils have started to play their way back into the fringes of the playoff race, it remains to be determined if a guy like Arnott is going to be available.
Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger writes that GM Lou Lamoriello has to decide which way to lean, and he's not tipping his hand at this point.
“As I’ve said for the last month plus, we’ve been going game by game and day by day and we’ll continue to do that," Lamoriello said to the Star-Ledger. "No preconceived notions, no crystal ball. Just simply taking things as they are."
If the Devils do end up deciding to sell (seems pretty unlikely at this point), expect a lot of interest in Arnott and maybe goalie Johan Hedberg as someone's insurance plan. If Lamoriello wants to add a defenseman would make a lot of sense but the cap situation is tricky.
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. We've had 11 trades in the previous eight days already.
A couple of weeks ago, it said here in this space that the Ducks were a good fit for Ray Emery because the organization was lacking at the position behind Jonas Hiller. Well, that's become pretty evident with Hiller out again because of dizziness and fatigue.
The Ducks are trying to stay in the playoff race in the West without Hiller, but Anaheim has lost 3 games in a row and yielded 21 (yes, 21) goals in the process. Still, Anaheim GM Bob Murray tells Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register that he's not planning on making a deal -- yet.
He wants to see when Hiller will be ready to play again. Emery has allowed 5 goals on 64 shots in 2 games for the Ducks' AHL affiliate in Syracuse, but Murray said he wants to give Emery more time before considering a recall. If it looks like Hiller will not be back soon, it may force Murray's hand.
"Making deals is really hard," Murray said. "If it comes to that point where I think Jonas is really going to be a while, we may have to say, 'OK'. Not at this point."
There aren't very many pending UFAs at center for buyers to choose from, but Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News writes that Sabres pivot Tim Connolly could still be in that group. The Sabres remain in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the East -- four points back of Carolina with two games in hand.
But Buffalo also hasn't been playing all that well of late (three straight losses) and Harrington said that Connolly isn't expected back next season.
"It's unfathomable that the Sabres would re-sign Connolly again for next season," Harrington writes. "And many observers think it would be hard to believe he even lasts the week here."
He mentions Pittsburgh, Washington and Los Angeles as teams that could be interested in Connolly's services. He is making $4.5 million in the final year of his contract, but has only 8 goals and 26 points this season. He's one of the top playmakers in the League when he's healthy and in form -- both of which have not happened consistently enough in his career.
Given Calgary's surge into playoff contention, it makes sense that Flames interim GM Jay Feaster would want to give his club a boost in that direction. His problem is trying to do without further damaging the organization's future.
The Flames don't have a second- or a third-round pick in this year's draft because of past deals, and Feaster has manitained he doesn't want to give up future picks. Given the way the team has played, he also told Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald that he doesn't want to disrupt the team's chemistry.
"As far as buying, if we can find the players and we can do it at a price that makes sense, then we would do it," Feaster said to the Herald. "We have to be judicious about our deficit spending. We have to be careful about it. And so it's not going to be easy."
Given how well the team is playing, Feaster could just stand pat and see how long this run continues. If he does do something (and he'll have some cap space if Nicklas Hagman is removed from the NHL roster) it would probably have to be a minor deal for a late-round pick or prospect he's not sold on.
Every time the Panthers have been on the edge of playoff contention in recent years, the club has tried to keep the roster intact to make a desperate run for the postseason. Well, a new regime led by GM Dale Tallon has made it pretty clear that's not going to be the case in South Florida this season.
Assistant GM Mike Santos tells Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel that his team is open for business.
"We're going to make trades to improve the team in the future regardless of where we are in the playoff race,'' Santos told the Sun-Sentinel. "This is a long-term project. There's 10 years of mismanagement that we're trying to turn around, hopefully in three or four years."
People have been wondering where all the trade activity is going to come this week with 11 deals already in the books. Look south - Tallon could go on a trade binge this week that rivals or surpasses what has gone in Ontario to this point.
GM Brian Burke has already had a vast impact on this trade deadline, and he's probably not done. James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reports Burke told fans at a Q&A session during Family Day on Monday he still intends to be active -- but as a buyer now instead of a seller.
Mirtle writes that Burke is looking for a puck-moving defenseman, and names Colorado's John Michael-Liles as a potential veteran addition or Atlanta's Zach Bogosian if Burke tries to stick with his plan of adding younger players.
Burke also said pending RFA Clarke MacArthur could be on the move if his salary demands are deemed too high.
"MacArthur would give Burke another key trade chip to move, joining the two first-round picks and a third-round pick he acquired in the [Kris] Versteeg and [Tomas] Kaberle trades," Mirtle writes.
Bogosian is precisely the type of player Burke appears to covet -- young with plenty of upside and maybe a little out of favor with the current organization. It is hard to imagine the Leafs giving up a lot for a veteran like Michael-Liles, but Bogosian (or a player like him) could be worth a high cost.
There is clearly a high level of demand for defensemen at this time of the year, and yesterday was a good example of that. Tomas Kaberle and Ian White were dealt to contenders, while St. Louis and Colorado sent shockwaves through the NHL with a four-player swap that included Erik Johnson and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Souray, who will turn 35 in July, has one more year left on his contract. He's set to make $4.5 million next year, but his cap hit is $5.4 million, so a team that claims him would owe a pro-rated portion of $2.7 million this season and a full $2.7 million next year.
Whether or not another team will put in a claim for Souray remains to be seen. The Oilers loaned Souray to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League when they decided he didn't fit on the opening-night roster and didn't want to use up a roster spot with their own AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.
He has 3 goals and 11 points in 26 games for the Bears. Souray missed time with multiple injuries, including a broken hand from a fight.
The New York Rangers were reportedly interested in Souray, but reports from earlier this month said that is no longer the case.
Boston made a pair of trades today to beef up the roster with the hope of claiming the Cup for the first time in three decades, while Toronto finally embraced reshaping the organization with youth and building for the future.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli identified two needs -- veteran help at center and a puck-moving, offensive-minded defenseman -- and filled both voids. He's added centers Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley in a four-day span, and finished his shopping spree by landing defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
Boston had lots of depth at center, but Marc Savard is out for the season with a concussion and rookie Tyler Seguin has been inconsistent. By adding Kelly and Peverley, coach Claude Julien has plenty of options in the middle and could have to move a couple of guys to the wing.
Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci should continue to center the top two lines, with Kelly or Peverley in the middle on the third line. Either Kelly, Peverley or Gregory Campbell will likely shift to the wing. Seguin will either move to the wing, or be sent back to the Ontario Hockey League.
Kaberle becomes Boston's leading scorer among defensemen, and should immediately slide onto the top power-play unit. Zdeno Chara should see a lot of passes from Kaberle, and goaltenders around the League should look forward to plenty of one-timers from Chara in the coming weeks.
If Philadelphia, Vancouver and Detroit were clearly the top three Cup contenders as of this morning, it might be time to add Boston and make the group a foursome.
Toronto general manager Brian Burke has retooled his franchise in the past two weeks, and the emphasis on prospects and draft picks is a new approach for a franchise that has been trying to compete and rebuild at the same time.
Burke has added a pair of prospects in center Joe Colborne and defenseman Jake Gardiner that are recent first-round picks. He's picked up two first-round choices and a third-rounder in the 2011 Entry Draft, and a second-round selection could be party of the Kaberle bounty if he re-signs with Boston or the Bruins make good on their push for a run to the Cup final.
The Maple Leafs now boast an intriguing collection of young talent -- something that has long been missing in Toronto. Luke Schenn, Keith Aulie and Gardiner could be the foundation for a solid defense corps, while Colborne and Nazem Kadri could eventually be Toronto's top two centers.
How the Peverley deal works in Atlanta should also be interesting to monitor. GM Rick Dudley was looking to shake up his roster with the Thrashers on the verge of falling behind both Carolina and Buffalo in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Peverley has been one of Atlanta's top two centers for much of the past two-plus seasons and a bargain at $1.325 million. He had been dropped to the fourth line recently. Both Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart played for coach Craig Ramsay when he was an assistant coach with the Bruins, and both should play key roles in trying to get Atlanta back into the postseason.
Two teams outside the playoff picture made an interesting goalie swap this morning as Colorado has sent slumping netminder Craig Anderson to Ottawa for Brian Elliott.
Both goaltenders were surprising successes last season. Anderson was a No. 1 for the first time in his career and helped the Avalanche to the playoffs. He led the League in saves and shots against after playing 71 games. This year he has an .897 save percentage and a 3.28 GAA.
Elliott moved in front of an injured/ineffective Pascal Leclaire on Ottawa's depth chart and started 55 games with a 2.57 GAA and a .909 save percentage. He struggled in the playoffs against Pittsburgh and it carried into this season. He's 13-19-8 with a 3.19 GAA and an .894 save percentage.
Anderson is an unrestricted free agent at season's end, while the soon-to-be 26-year-old Elliott is a restricted free agent. Both goalies could have a chance to earn a new contract, either with their new team or to catch the eye of a scout from another club, in the final few weeks of the season. This could end up being a classic "change of scenery" trade, or it could end up not mattering much in the grand scheme of things for either franchise.
It would seem this trade is a clear move in Robin Lehner's direction as Ottawa's goaltender of the future. That future could be as soon as opening night in 2011-12, because Leclaire is a pending UFA as well. Colorado's future at the goaltending position remains in question. The Avalanche have prospect Calvin Pickard, but he's nowhere near ready for the NHL.
If anything, the trade of Anderson signals Colorado will be shopping for a goaltender this summer. There could be some interesting options available. Tomas Vokoun, Ilya Bryzgalov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere are all pending UFAs. So is Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, and Colorado making a run at him would certainly add some spice to that rivalry.
Weeks ago Ottawa defenseman Chris Phillips was indentified by media members as one of the top targets at his position for this forthcoming trade deadline.
It looks like other GMs around the League hoping to acquire Phillips might have to look elsewhere for a veteran defensive defenseman. Phillips, a pending unrestricted free agent, told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun that he wants to stay with the Senators.
"I do [want to stay] and I know people will call me crazy for saying that," Phillips said. "But I think you need some veteran guys that have been around to help and guide the young guys coming in. I’m okay and would take on that responsibility."
Phillips is precisely the type of stay-at-home veteran that ends up on the wish list of several teams at this time of year. He hasn't had a great year, but his playoff experience and defensive sensibilities are coveted by contenders.
If the Bruins did indeed have a puck-moving defenseman and a veteran center on their list of needs, then GM Peter Chiarelli might be almost done shopping. He acquired the center yesterday, picking up Chris Kelly for a second-round pick. There were also numerous reports about him being in talks with Toronto GM Brian Burke about Tomas Kaberle. Burke told a Boston radio station that he and Chiarelli are talking but didn't name players involved.
Kaberle has a no-trade clause, but his comments to reporters after the Leafs' win against Boston last night implied he'd waive it for a move to Beantown.
"I would think so," Kaberle said when asked if Boston was a good place to be if he does get traded. "Obviously they have a pretty good team, good goaltenders. I've played a lot of games against them and it is always tough and they're always tough to beat. We'll see what is going to happen."
Chiarelli says his management staff is tracking nine trade targets on defense. Kevin Paul DuPont of the Boston Globe believes that Kaberle is one, with Atlanta's Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian and Ottawa's Chris Philips also on the list. Kaberle makes a lot of sense for the Bruins, who are looking for an offensive-minded guy who can help the power play.
The compensation for Kaberle could be interesting. Paul Dupont writes a deal is "likely to include Boston’s own first-round pick in this year’s draft." There is little chance Toronto's first-rounder from the Phil Kessel deal would be involved, but Burke might not be willing to settle for a late first-round pick.
Boston still has a No. 2 in the 2011 draft, courtest of a trade with Minnesota for Chuck Kobasew two years ago. The Bruins, as detailed on this blog, are flush with high-end prospects.
Kelly cost the Bruins their own No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft. It was a high price to pay for a No. 3 center, but the Bruins have the assets and Kelly brings some much-needed depth and playoff experience. While Boston is loaded with talent at the position, Fluto Shinzawa points out why it was an area of need.
"Even before [Marc] Savard suffered his latest concussion, the Bruins had been dissatisfied with their performance up the middle," Shinzawa writes. "Bergeron has been carrying the offense between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi. Gregory Campbell has filled the club’s needs on the fourth line. But Savard hadn’t found his offensive tempo before his injury. [David] Krejci has been inconsistent all season. For the most part, [Tyler] Seguin has looked every bit the teenager he