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Atlantic: Rangers busiest, but were Pens the best?

Monday, 03.09.2009 / 10:00 PM / Division Notebooks

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

It's been almost a week since the trade deadline passed and all the new faces are growing accustomed to their new places, so here's an opportunity to take a look at the early returns for the teams that added new pieces.

New Jersey -- The Devils did their shopping early, acquiring defenseman Niclas Havelid two days before the deadline.

Havelid picked the perfect time to come to New Jersey. The Devils had just three games in nine days after acquiring him from Atlanta, giving him all the time he needs to digest his new team's systems. While it didn't exactly work well in his first game -- he was on the ice for the game's first goal and was a minus-2 in Saturday's loss to the Islanders -- Havelid is excited to be playing games that matter.

"If you look at my situation, I'm 35-years-old and I played on a team that's not going to make the playoffs and I got a chance like this, it's a great feeling," Havelid told reporters. "Especially if you look in the standings right now, a lot of teams, even if you're in right now, you're not sure you're going to be in 20 games. The Devils have played good and solid the whole year, so they're in a good spot at this point."

Also not to be overlooked is the fact the Devils are 17-5-0 since signing 40-year-old forward Brendan Shanahan on Jan. 15.

Philadelphia -- Daniel Carcillo joined the Flyers Tuesday in a trade that sent forward Scottie Upshall and a 2011 second-round draft pick to the Coyotes. He debuted Thursday night against the Flames, taking one shot and blocking two shots in 12 minutes of ice time. He started the game on a line with Danny Briere and Claude Giroux. He was more active Sunday against Nashville, picking up his first point -- an assist on Joffrey Lupul's third-period goal -- and his first fight.

The Coyotes had hoped Carcillo could evolve into more of a scoring role; he had 13 goals and 24 points last season, but this season he disappointed coach Wayne Gretzky, who accused him of taking selfish penalties. He leads the League with 181 penalty minutes this season, following last season's League-high 324.

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren, though, is confident coach John Stevens and his staff can keep Carcillo aggressive while staying on the right side of the line. The last thing the Flyers need are more needless penalties; they lead the League with 17.8 penalty minutes per game.

Pittsburgh -- The Penguins may have made the biggest gains around the deadline. GM Ray Shero had been looking for linemates to play with Sidney Crosby, and it seems like he finally found them.

A week before the deadline, the Pens acquired left wing Chris Kunitz from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney. So far, the deal looks like a bank heist for the Pens. Kunitz had 3 goals and 2 assists in his first three games with the Pens, and that was before Crosby returned to the lineup.

A half-hour before the deadline, Shero dealt a conditional 2009 draft pick to the Islanders for Bill Guerin. Despite being 38, Guerin still can get up and down the ice. He plays a similar style as Ryan Malone, who flanked Crosby so successfully last season.

"I'm looking forward to playing the up-tempo style," Guerin told Penguins.com. "I can still skate at my age, but I'm not going to change my style. My biggest asset is going to the net. With the puck handlers that we have, I'm a guy that will go to the net and open up room for them. I have certain talents and other guys have certain talents. I like being in front of the net and in the slot."

Guerin had the primary assist on Crosby's goal Friday against the Panthers, and added 1 goal and 2 assists in the Pens' 4-3 shootout defeat of the Capitals Sunday. Guerin and Kunitz drew assists on Crosby's first-period goal.

"Both (Guerin) and Kunitz did a great job," Crosby told reporters Friday night. "We're still learning from each other. I think we can still create more. Hopefully, there's some chemistry there."

NY Rangers -- The biggest shakeup came in the Rangers' dressing room. Out went forwards Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha and Aaron Voros, and defensemen Dmitri Kalinin and Erik Reitz. In came forwards Nik Antropov and Sean Avery and defenseman Derek Morris.

It was a drastic late-season roster makeover, but one that hopefully can right a team that has been skidding most of the season.

Antropov, acquired from the Maple Leafs for a pair of draft picks, gives the Rangers size (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) and the versatility to play either center or on the wing; he seems to have found a home at right wing, with Chris Drury at center and Brandon Dubinsky on the left side. He has 3 points in his first two games.

GM Glen Sather hopes Morris, despite just 5 goals and 12 points with the Coyotes, can bring a desperately needed offensive presence to the blue line and quarterback the power play.

He had an assist on Scott Gomez's second-period, power-play goal in Sunday's win against Boston for his first man-advantage point since Dec. 10.

"Morris is a smart player who has a history of playing on the power play, though I don't think his numbers have been as good this year as they were in previous years," Sather told Rangers.com. "We'll work with him when he gets here. Morris is a good, solid defenseman who gives us a little more bite on the back end."

And then there's Avery and his combustible presence. On Thursday, in his first NHL game since Nov. 30, he was a minus-1 with two penalty minutes against the Islanders. Sunday against Boston, he had an assist, was a plus-1 and threw three hits.

Avery said it felt good to get his first game out of the way, and said that while the behavioral counseling he underwent during his time away from the game has helped him become a better person, he said it won't change the way he plays the game.

"Even a milder version of Sean Avery is still not that mild," Avery told reporters.

NY Islanders -- The only significant move the Isles made at the deadline was -- after a four-day delay -- trading captain Bill Guerin to the Penguins for a conditional 2009 draft pick. Depending on how far the Penguins advance in the playoffs and how many games Guerin plays, the pick could range anywhere from the third round to the fifth.

Last month, the club dealt away center Mike Comrie and defenseman Chris Campoli for forward Dean McAmmond and a 2009 first-round draft pick, and on deadline day they waived forward Jon Sim and sent him to the AHL.

This continues a trend by Isles GM Garth Snow of moving out veterans and hoarding draft picks in order to continue building up the prospect base. It also allows the club to see how yet another young player looks with solid NHL time. This time, it was Jesse Joensuu, a 6-foot-4, 207-pound power forward playing his first season in North America. Joensuu had a goal in his first game, and is averaging 11 minutes of ice time in his first four games.

"For me, first and foremost, we get a chance to see some of our young players come up and play in the NHL," Snow told Newsday. "Jesse Joensuu has played really well the last two games. Having that ability to see our young players is a big reason why we did it.

"You're going to see more and more young players as the season."

 
News and notes -- With the Ringling Brothers circus at the Prudential Center last week, Devils writers were displaced from their usual media room for practices -- the clowns were using it as their dressing room. ... John Madden has been a Devils staple for 10 seasons, but said he was sweating the trade deadline Wednesday. Madden can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, so there was thought he could be moving on. "We have a great guys and a great dressing room and a great team, so, yeah, I'm relieved," Madden told The (Bergen) Record. "I'm happy to still be here past the trade deadline." ... Sergei Gonchar and his wife, Ksenia, thought they had everything planned out. Sergei would play in Florida on Thursday, fly home with the team and be with his wife for the birth of the couple's second daughter, which had been planned for Friday -- an off-day. Unfortunately, the little one had a different plan. Sergei was pulled off the ice during Thursday's pre-game skate, and after being told Ksenia's contractions had started, he jumped on a plane back to Pittsburgh, and arrived in time to see the little girl be born. Gonchar returned to the team in time for Sunday's game at Washington. ... The Penguins went 4-0-0 while Sidney Crosby was out with a sore groin. Generally when teams are winning, they don't like to mess with the lineup. So would a healthy Crosby be welcome back in the lineup? "We were 4-0 without him, so we were going to tell him to stay home," joked Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Crosby returned Friday, and scored his 24th goal in the Penguins' 4-1 win. ... Penguins minor-league forward Luca Caputi, a top prospect who played five games with the club last month, was one of two players demoted from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to the club's ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers, due to a disciplinary issue. Two other players were suspended for one game but allowed to stay in the AHL. ... The Flyers' deadline-day deal with the Sharks for defenseman Kyle McLaren was nullified when McLaren failed his physical. Surgery to repair a hand injury had not helped him heal sufficiently for McLaren to play this season, so the Flyers got back the 2009 sixth-round pick they had sent the Sharks. The Flyers had hoped McLaren could spend the rest of the season playing in the AHL and add depth for the playoffs. ... The Islanders will play a preseason game Sept. 14 against the Vancouver Canucks in Terrace, B.C., which won the Kraft Hockeyville 2009 contest. Terrace is roughly halfway between Vancouver and Juneau, Alaska. ...  Rangers coach John Tortorella said he believes players like afternoon games, telling reporters Friday, "I think the boys like playing afternoon games. You don't have to wait around, that's the worst part about the game of hockey. You have the morning skate, you have meetings, that allows coaches to over-coach, you have all day long to talk about it; it's an instinctive game and when you play those afternoon games, I think it's great for coaches and players because you get right at it." The Rangers entered Sunday's matinee against the Bruins 0-5 in afternoon games, and outscored 17-3.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.
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