I will be honest and say that with the way the Tampa Bay Lightning had been going for the last two months, I thought coach Guy Boucher's days might be numbered, but I actually didn't think he would get fired until this summer. I thought Tampa Bay wouldn't do it during the regular season because the team is just six points out of a playoff spot right now but general manager Steve Yzerman must have felt Boucher had lost the team, because making a move like this with 18 games left in the season is somewhat unusual.
The reason I think this happened now is that Yzerman is trying to get a bump from his team. The Lightning have lost three games in a row, they gave up four goals in the first period Saturday night in Ottawa and they just haven't been playing well for a while. But they're also just six points out, and that's not a margin that's insurmountable. Sometimes when you fire a coach the players respond and rattle off five or six wins in a row. With the shortened season, we're basically in the middle of the playoffs anyway. Making this move allows Yzerman to appease the fans by doing something, it could potentially give the Lightning that bump they need to make the playoffs and perhaps most importantly, it makes Yzerman a proactive general manager. He's making it clear that losing and the potential of missing the playoffs for a second straight season is not acceptable.
ANAHEIM -- After Radek Dvorak couldn't continue his 17-year career in the National Hockey League, he went to Switzerland. But he said that "deep in my mind and my soul I was hoping if I come back, maybe I can get another shot, and it happened."
Dvorak, who turned 36 this month, not only signed a one-year, $675,000 pro-rated contract with the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday but he cleared waivers Monday to join a Stanley Cup-contending team. The veteran wing is sixth on the active games played list at 1,191, but he has not played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2005-06 season.
"I'm so glad it was Anaheim," Dvorak said. "It's nice to be back in the NHL. It was tough for me to leave after 17 years in the League, but that's how it is. That's life. But like I said, it's nice to be back with a team like Anaheim -- one of the best teams in the League. I'm very glad and I'm very happy."
Get your hockey week started with Cisco NHL Live at 5 p.m. ET on NHL Network with Steve Mears and EJ Hradek. Who will be the next coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning? We'll be joined by NHL Network Insider Bob McKenzie to find out who the front runners are to take over in Tampa Bay, and you won't want to miss Barry Melrose's interpretation of what Steve Yzerman might have said to his team after releasing Guy Boucher.
You never know who's going to pop up on NHL Live, and today we have two of the best in the game. Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby will join us to talk about his new teammates, and the NHL's First Star of the Week, Alex Ovechkin, will discuss the Capitals' three-game win streak.
With seven games on Monday's schedule we have plenty to discuss, including a Northeast Division battle between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, and a Western Conference tilt between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks on NBC Sports Network. We'll get an in-depth preview of each game when we go inside TD Garden and United Center via the Cisco NHL Arena Cam.
Mike Smith was not on the ice for Monday's morning stake and hasn't been on the ice since being run by Vancouver's Alexander Edler in the second period of Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Canucks. Jason LaBarbera will make only his second start since Jan. 26, and he steps in at a big moment -- with the Coyotes fading in the Western Conference playoff race, having collected just one point in the last 12 days.
When the stretch run of the fantasy hockey season rolls around, waiver-wire pickups can simply mean the difference between your squad staying in playoff contention or being eliminated altogether.
SOG: 25 | +/-: 0
The Canucks top-line center, Henrik Sedin, has put forth another top-tier fantasy campaign with consistent production (29 points, plus-16 in 32 games), but Vancouver's laundry list of injuries has dismantled its deep arsenal at the center position. David Booth is out for the season with an ankle injury and goal-scorer Ryan Kesler -- mired by multiple injuries over the last two seasons -- only played seven games before being sidelined again due to a fractured bone in his foot.
DALLAS -- The Minnesota Wild enter Dallas for Monday night's game having won five in a row to run their record to 8-3-2 in March.
On Sunday, the Wild recalled center Jake Dowell, who played 52 games for Dallas last season, and goaltender Darcy Kuemper from Houston of the American Hockey League. Wing Jason Zucker and goaltender Matt Hackett headed to the AHL for the Wild.
The Stars, meanwhile, will be playing their first game without captain Brenden Morrow, traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday for defenseman Joe Morrow and a fifth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Morrow had been their longest-tenured player, being with the club for the last 14 seasons.
The Stars kicked off a season-long five-game homestand on Saturday night by beating the Colorado Avalanche, 5-2 at American Airlines Center. Stars coach Glen Gulutzan shuffled his lines a bit, putting Eric Nystrom on his top line alongside Jamie Benn and Jaromir Jagr and it worked. Nystrom had a goal and an assist, Benn turned in a three-point performance and Jagr added a goal and an assist.
NASHVILLE -- After missing two games with strep throat, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will return to the lineup for the Edmonton Oilers on Monday when they visit the Nashville Predators and it looks like he will have new linemates.
"Feeling strong and feeling like my energy's back," Nugent-Hopkins said.
CHICAGO -- When the Chicago Blackhawks host the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Monday night at United Center (8:30 p.m. ET), they will still be without star right winger Marian Hossa.
Hossa and star left winger Patrick Sharp are both out with upper-body injuries believed to be shoulder related, but the good news for Chicago is that center Andrew Shaw (flu) -- who didn't participate in the team's morning skate -- will play against the Kings.
After a lengthy practice Sunday, the Bruins decided to scrap their morning skate. Meanwhile, the Leafs took the ice for a hard-working session.
Toronto snapped its eight-game losing streak against the Bruins on Saturday.
Michael Kostka is expected to replace the injured John-Michael Liles in the Maple Leafs' lineup. The Bruins could use the juggled forward lines they used during Sunday's practice. Expect the goaltending matchup to feature Tuukka Rask for Boston and Toronto's James Reimer.
Here's a look at the complete lineup for both squads:
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This team has been a real treat to say you've been the head coach of them. I'm extremely proud of this group ... after the disappointment of (the Game 6 loss) is digested, it's always a lot easier as a coach when your team has emptied its tank, and that team emptied its tank for me for three months.