When the Philadelphia Flyers open the postseason next month, it appears they'll be without another one of their top defenseman.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced Monday that Andrej Meszaros will undergo surgery to remove a small disc fragment in his lower back on Wednesday and will be out 6-8 weeks. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Alex Vaccaro at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.
Meszaros, 26, has 7 goals, 18 assists and a plus-6 rating in 62 games this season. The 6-foot-2, 223-pound blueliner hasn't played since March 1 against the New York Islanders, when he had a goal and two assists.
BOSTON – Now that he's in his fifth season with the Boston Bruins, gritty forward Shawn Thornton probably has some casual fans that just jumped on the team's bandwagon while the team was on the cusp of its 2011 Stanley Cup championship or just after.
Considering Thornton has personified what it means to play "Bruins hockey" – with a combination of grit and determination that goes with skill – and his year-round presence in the Hub, Thornton has transformed himself into Boston's adopted son.
Now he'll be sticking around at least two more years beyond this season. The Bruins officially announced Monday that Thornton signed a two-year contract extension. The deal is reportedly worth $1.1 million per season. Thornton was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
"My family's happy not having to move and all that stuff (and) not having to wait around for July 1 to see what was going to happen," Thornton said. "I wasn't too concerned, but I'm very happy to get it done."
Although he was imported from Anaheim as a free agent prior to the 2007-08 season to provide the Bruins with some missing truculence, Thornton has been so much more than just a tough guy or energy player. Last season, he posted career highs with 10 goals and 20 points. So far this season, he has four goals and 12 points in 70 games. In addition, he leads the League with 19 fighting majors.
Thornton is also one of the team's more vocal leaders and last season was responsible for getting the Bruins' training staff to hang motivational pictures of Bruins championship teams of the past during the postseason run.
"Since we got Shawn, I don't know how many years ago, every year, to me, he's improved as a player, and I think that’s what's allowed him -- that and his conditioning has allowed him to be a good fourth-line player in this League and then a good catalyst in his own way," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "You see some of the skill that he has when he scores, when he makes some plays, but most importantly, you see the enthusiasm and the vigor that he brings to the rink every day, and that's important for this team and his character's important for this team.
"I'm happy to get him signed and I believe he just takes so much pride in his conditioning, and that's gotten better over the time when I've seen him. I think, without question, he'll be able to play well for two more years."
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The big question around the Ducks is whether goaltender Jonas Hiller will make his 33rd consecutive start. Boudreau refused to reveal his starter but did say that backup Jeff Deslauriers -- the only Ducks goalie on the ice Monday morning -- will get a another start at some point before the season ends.
"He's worked too hard in practice and everything else, and (Hiller has) done everything and anything a goaltender could be asked to do," Boudreau said. "So at some point he's going to get a rest."
The fact that Hiller was resting Monday morning could be seen as a sign that he'll be in goal Monday against the Sharks (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN). He already has crushed the previous franchise record for consecutive starts of 23. His streak is the second longest in the NHL since the start of the 2010-11 season, surpassed only by San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi's 34-game starting streak from Jan. 15-April 4, 2011.
"It's something special, and the way he's played and what he's had to do to keep us in the games," Boudreau said. "I think it's special. I haven't seen it done before. Maybe they have here because Niemi did it, but they had a pretty good team last year in front of him, too. Not that we don't. I'm just saying they probably had less chances-against and they had more firepower so Niemi had a little bit more breathing room in the games. When we win, it's 2-1. If we get three goals, it's a lot. He has to keep us in the game every night, and so to be mentally on top of that for all these games is quite an amazing streak."
Niemi, who has been on a hot streak, will make his 11th consecutive start.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks haven't enjoyed the view from atop the Pacific Division since Feb. 25, but they can reclaim first place Monday night with a victory Anaheim (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN) at HP Pavilion.
Just don't expect the surging Sharks to use that as a rallying cry.
"Winning is the motivating factor," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team's morning skate. "Not standings or Pacific Division, because tomorrow we'll be talking about it again. Just flat-out winning has to be their motivator, and what a great motivator. That's what we set out to do in Game 1 and we set out to do in Game 72."
The Sharks tumbled out of the Pacific lead that night when Phoenix beat Edmonton and they lost to Nashville in the next-to-last game of a disastrous nine-game road trip.
The Sharks have won two straight games and have earned at least one point in six of their past seven games, but they have more work to do in their final 11 games to secure a playoff spot. With 82 points, they're ninth in the Western Conference, one point behind Phoenix and Colorado. By beating Anaheim, the Sharks would jump over second-place Phoenix and first-place Dallas (82 points) for the Pacific lead and the conference's No. 3 playoff spot.
The Sharks and Ducks are the only Pacific Division teams in action tonight.
"The standings will take care of themselves," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "It's in our hands. We're aware of that. If we take care of our business, we'll be where we want to be at the end of the season."
After making a strong run as they tried to dig their way out of a huge early hole, the Ducks have won just once in their last six games (1-5-1) and are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Even so, the Sharks know better than to take their division rivals lightly. The Ducks have won three of the first four games in the series this season.
"They always play us hard," McLellan said. "It's a natural rival. Their leadership group kind of matches our leadership group. They provide a lot to their team. They count on three or four guys to do a lot of their scoring. We do the same thing here in our organization. It's always a real intense battle.
"Having played them so much over the years, you have a ton of respect for their competitiveness, the Corey Perrys and the (Ryan) Getzlafs. So I don't think we're going to see a team that's going to take their foot off the gas pedal. In fact, they may push it a little bit harder tonight."
The Ducks, facing the second game in a back-to-back, will have to summon enough energy to push the pedal harder. They're coming off a 3-1 loss to Nashville on Sunday. Most of the Ducks' regulars opted to skip Monday morning's optional skate in order to rest.
"It's a challenge," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "It's our fifth game in eight days again. I think sometimes the guys are mentally tired and need a break, but we'll get it when we get it."
Boudreau knows there will be no rest for his weary team against San Jose.
"They're good. They go to the net. They're four lines deep and six defense deep," Boudreau said. "That's the challenge, and they play hard. And they're in a desperate situation. The challenge is survival and getting through. We know we've got a huge battle on our hands. That's the challenge."
They'd probably laugh in your face, as reporters learned Monday morning after Detroit's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena.
"He's still got what? Thirty goals?" asked Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "I'd say that's still pretty good."
Informed of a notion that there's now a "book" on how to contain Ovechkin's immense offensive talents, Kronwall chuckled.
"Really?" he said. "Be sure to send it this way."
Chicago's top defenseman, Duncan Keith, probably would like a copy of it too -- just to see if there's a section entitled: "How to Stop the Reverse Between-the-Legs Pass to Himself and Go."
Ovechkin pulled that little number out at Keith's expense Sunday in Chicago, and the 2010 Norris Trophy winner didn't really have much of a chance to stop it. Ovechkin zipped past him to the outside going 1-on-4 and then deposited the puck into the short side of the net over Corey Crawford's shoulder for his 30th goal of the season.
"It's a good goal," fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings said. "All over the highlights. It's a good goal. It's why he's one of the best."
Asked if he likes playing against Ovechkin, Datsyuk only needed four words for an answer.
"Against him?" Datsyuk said. "Not really."
That's because Datsyuk -- whose own hockey skills are largely unmatched -- thinks Ovechkin is still every bit the superstar he was when he was averaging 54 goals per season in his first five seasons. Ovechkin "only" has 30 goals this season, but Datsyuk believes Ovechkin's past amazing seasons skew anything less.
"He's the same as before, but now more people waiting for him more and more," Datsyuk said. "If he's not scoring 50-goal seasons, (they say), 'Oh, he not good anymore.' I think he's really good. You need to pay attention. He shoots from anywhere. He's one of those guys who can score from anywhere."
The Red Wings learned that lesson the hard way a year ago in this building, when Ovechkin fired a rocket wrist shot through the legs of a defenseman that went over the shoulder of goalie Jimmy Howard and under the crossbar.
"It's quick and it's fast," Howard said of Ovechkin's shot. "He gets it off relatively quick; usually it's really hard, as well. He's dangerous no matter where he is on the ice when he's shooting."
That's why the best way to play against him as a defender is just anticipating his position on the ice and trying to take away as many options as possible.
"You'd like to get a gap up on him early, hopefully try to take away that wrister he's got," Kronwall said. "Anytime he enters the zone, he either tries to beat you wide or he's going for that wrister between your legs. It's tough. He's always shooting at the right times."
And when he's not, as Keith discovered Sunday, he's just as dangerous with his stickhandling.
"That's why it's so tough, because you don't know what he's going to do," Kronwall said. "Sometimes he'll shoot and sometimes he'll fake the shot and go around you. With that speed and size advantage, you've definitely got to be aware of when he's on the ice. Those guys are definitely hard to defend, and with his size and skillset and shot, he's the complete package."
Nyquist was with them for Detroit's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena on Monday, while veteran Danny Cleary was put on the right side of the a re-tooled third line that will be missing injured center Darren Helm (knee sprain).
"Depends how he plays," Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland said when asked if Nyquist might stick in the NHL. "He might be (with Datsyuk and Bertuzzi) for a shift. It all depends. Nyquist has played very well in the American Hockey League, but that's the American Hockey League. We're trying to roll 3-4 lines and Cleary is a guy that can play up and play down. You put Cleary and (Justin Abdelkader) and (Drew Miller) together and it's a real good third checking line."
Putting the talents of Datsyuk, Bertuzzi and Nyquist together also could be interesting. Nyquist is one of the AHL's top scorers this season and recently has shown flashes of his impressive skillset with the Red Wings.
He's yet to score a goal, but the 22-year old Nyquist has 3 assists and a plus-1 rating in eight games -- including assists in two of his last three games.
"He's young and has lots of skill and fresh legs," Datsyuk said. "We don't need to match (skills). We need (to) help each other. He's (got) good skill and (he's) fresh and exciting ... what we needed. It's the end of the season. Everybody is getting tired and has lots of injuries. I think he helps us a lot."
At least that's what Nyquist is hoping to do.
"It's a great opportunity for me and that's what I want to be down the road," he said of getting a shot to play in the top-six forward group. "It's a good start to kind of get a feel for it and hopefully I'll take advantage of it tonight."
His previous eight NHL games have given Nyquist added confidence each time he now suits up for the Red Wings.
"It helps every game you play up here," he said. "You learn something new every game and it feels a lot better now than at the start of the year, especially playing a lot of minutes down in Grand Rapids. That helps a lot."
Should he start the game flanking Datsyuk, that means Nyquist could find himself on the ice at the same time as Capitals star Alex Ovechkin -- who has been known to abuse many opponents, let alone rookies.
Nyquist knows he'll have to be aware of who's on the ice for Washington and also that his opportunity to play with Datsyuk could be short if it doesn't pay dividends.
"We're hoping Nyquist can do some things, but obviously if we're in the first period and there's no magic or no chemistry, then the coach will make changes," Holland said.
In this week's 'Making of a Royal' blog, assistant coach Steve Webb recaps the team's Atlantic Youth Hockey League championship.The Under-16 Long Island Royals Midget National team defeated the New Jersey Junior Titans in the tournament final on March 4 at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J.
We wanted to use the AYHL tournament as a stepping stone to the New York State tournament. Anytime you get to play against good teams in one weekend, like we did against the North Jersey Avalanche and the Junior Titans, it does get you prepared for what is ahead. We used that tourney to help the players get prepared and to learn how to play when things are actually on the line.
We did win it and players showed up at the right time to step it up. In the later stages of the season, you want to see how they're going into a championship game and how they look at it and prepare for it.
DETROIT -- After not dressing for Sunday's game in Chicago, Washington Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun was unable to go through an optional morning skate Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
He stretched and then came off the ice. Afterward, he told reporters it was more of a precautionary measure to prevent a nagging groin injury from getting worse.
"It wasn't good enough to skate, but it's better," Vokoun said. "I came back a little too early before and we just want to make sure now we don't make it worse. You always worry about it, but you never know. I'm going to try and get it as good as fast as possible."
The injury has bothered him for quite a while, but he re-aggravated it last Friday playing in Winnipeg.
"I kind of irritated it," Vokoun said. "I've had it for a longer time. It didn't happen last game. Obviously, with our job description, there's a lot of pressure on that certain (groin area). Like I said, I just want to make sure I don't take one step forward and three back."
Capitals coach Dale Hunter also called it "precautionary" and didn't reveal who would start Monday's game against the Detroit Red Wings. Signs seem to point to Michal Neuvirth getting his second straight start, however, after taking the loss in a 5-2 defeat Sunday in Chicago.
The other option is 22-year old Braden Holtby, whose only other NHL action this season was a Feb. 13 against San Jose, when he allowed five goals on 30 shots. Holtby worked with goalie coach Olie Kolzig during the sparsely-attended optional skate, while Neuvirth sat out.
Vokoun, meanwhile, seemed a little frustrated by his lingering injury.
"I've never had any experience with (this)," he said. "I've never had it. It's unfortunate and I can't control that stuff. We're working on it and as soon as I feel it's good enough to, you know, play ... then I'll play."