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Rosters frozen, but not GM's dialing fingers

Friday, 02.12.2010 / 5:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

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Rosters frozen, but not GM's dialing fingers
The Olympic roster freeze is on, but that doesn't keep trade talk from being one of the hottest topics around the NHL.
Everyone can rest easy for a while. With the 2010 Olympics upon us, so is a trade freeze that will keep everyone on the same roster until the gold medal is handed out.

After that, watch out! Because while there is a freeze on transactions during the Olympics, no one said general managers can't call one another. And the talk was heating up in the days leading up to Friday's freeze. While we saw only a few deals -- Cam Barker to Minnesota for Kim Johnsson and a prospect, Jody Shelly to the Rangers for a pick, Dominic Moore off to Montreal from Florida, and Matt Cullen to the Senators from Carolina -- certain scenarios are beginning to surface, and it's not just some outlandish rumors.

Jim Matheison wrote in the Edmonton Journal the other day that "the only body safe on the Oilers is the Gretzky statue."

That fact was confirmed by Oilers owner Darryl Katz, who told Edmonton radio station 630 CHED that GM Steve Tambellini had the authority to do whatever is necessary to improve the team.

"Yes, there's absolutely no question," Katz said. "'Tamby' has the absolute green light to do whatever he needs to do to rebuild the hockey club. Notwithstanding the injuries, what we have to date is not working. That's clear. I expect, and we should all expect, to see some changes.

"I've been an Oilers fan for a lot longer than I've owned the team, and I'm not at all happy with how the team has performed. It's no fun for anybody. But most of all, though, this experience has been no fun for our fans. I know it, our management knows it and our players know it. Last place is somewhere I never thought we would be, and it's completely unacceptable."

It's about the same situation in Florida, where GM Randy Sexton said any and all players are open for discussion in the wake of the team's poor play.

"It's like turning around the Titanic and not a rowboat," Sexton said.

Note to Panthers players -- it's never good when the boss compares you to the Titanic.

"We're trying to create an identity here as a team that's hard to play against and a hard-working team," coach Peter DeBoer said. "When you don't see that consistently, you have to look at the personnel. Maybe we're trying to fit round pegs into square holes. If that's the case, then obviously we have to make some changes."

So who's still out there? TSN lists the following players atop the wish lists of various teams: Carolina forward Ray Whitney, Phoenix forward Peter Mueller and Toronto forward Alexei Ponikarovsky. Playoff-bound teams are sure to scour the rosters of the Hurricanes, Oilers and Leafs for veteran players who could add depth. Players like Aaron Ward, Joe Corvo and Sergei Samsonov qualify, as do Leafs Lee Stempniak and Garnet Exelby, and Oilers Lubomir Visnovsky, Shawn Horcoff, Ethan Moreau, and as Katz indicated, just about everyone.

On his excellent blog Islanderspointblank (link to http://www.islanderspointblank.com), Chris Botta notes that Isles defenseman Andy Sutton, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, might be of interest around the League. Botta wrote that New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Washington, Chicago, Colorado and Calgary have looked at Sutton.

And if the Isles deal a goalie, perhaps it is Dwayne Roloson, who has been excellent this season, and not Martin Biron who moves on. The rumor mill continues to churn out grist that says the Blackhawks and Capitals are not adverse to the idea of shoring up their goaltending for the playoffs, and the Flyers may well be in the mix as well because of Ray Emery's uncertain status.

Now, if you take Sexton at his word, Tomas Vokoun could be in play and that would liven up the goalie market in a hurry.

Well Said I -- "I don't have any qualms or problems. You put yourself in Joe's shoes, and that's it. Then you just focus on your job, and that's all you can do. A lot of people know how I feel and where my heart is, and if I keep playing like I'm playing now, then I'll be OK and look back at everything and have a great big smile on my face." -- Marty Turco

Under pressure? Nope -- Sorry, we're going to disagree with conventional wisdom.

There has been much said and written about Team Canada being under intense pressure to win the gold medal in Vancouver because the Olympics are being hosted in Canada.

Ice Age contends the Canadian players are facing intense expectations, but there is a difference. The players and coaches for Team Canada are an experienced lot and they know how to handle pressure. Think playing in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is a walk in the park?

"What pressure means is there are expectations and the reason there are expectations is because you have a chance. Isn't that all you can ever ask for?" coach Mike Babcock told NHL.com. "To me, that's fantastic. That your country is all fired up. Isn't that a great thing? I can't see anything negative in it."

"I guarantee you that Hockey Canada, the coaching staff and the players, we'll get ourselves in a situation where we won't be vulnerable to the pressure," goalie Martin Brodeur said. "You know it's going to be there, but it's about being composed and how we deal with the whole atmosphere over there."

Yes, these guys know all about pressure and performing under the glare of the spotlight. It's doubtful the nebulous idea that millions of Canadians wanting them to win gold will have that great an impact. After all, they want to win the gold more than anyone else.

"Sidney Crosby has had the kind of attention that none of us can quite understand," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "To think this is going to be something new and different for him ... I just don't think that it will be. I think he will be very comfortable with it."

"It's going to be an NHL game on an NHL rink with half NHL referees, and most of the good players on all of the teams are going to be from the NHL," Babcock said. "So it's not much different from going to the world championships or coaching at the world juniors. So that helps us."

"If anything, I think all of our players will be excited to be playing in Canada," Crosby said. "It's a big boost to be playing at home. ... There is always pressure, but when you play in another country, you don't think, 'There's no pressure because we are far away from home.' "

One that got away -- Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau enjoys the value of experience and perspective, so he was a little more upset about the Capitals' winning streak being ended at 14 by a wild 6-5 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday.

Why? Because streaks like that are rare.

"For a lot of us, it's a once in a lifetime thing," Boudreau said. "You think it's going to happen again, but those things don't come back again. But give our players a lot of credit for intestinal fortitude they had to put this thing together. There's a reason only two teams in the history of the National Hockey League have gone longer."

Boudreau contends that what the Capitals accomplished was even tougher than the marks achieved by the teams that hold the winning streak records.

"In the age of the salary cap, there's no easy games to play," he said. "So I would have to say that 17 games for Pittsburgh (1992-93) might have been a tad easier, or the 15 games for the Islanders in the 1980s was (easier) than what we did in 2010."

Lending a hand -- Avalanche rookie Matt Duchene plans to fill some of his time during the Olympic break helping coach his high school team.

Duchene told Adrian Dater of the Denver Post that he will serve as an assistant with his alma mater, the Haliburton (Ont.) Redhawks. Duchene designed the team's logo a couple of years ago.

"I think it's going to be great. I think it's going to be a really refreshing thing," Duchene said. "I haven't been home since late August. I like my hometown, so it'll be nice to get home for a bit, have a little bit of a break, then get real excited to come back here."

Stop it now -- The Devils were supposed to take off after acquiring Ilya Kovalchuk, but instead have struggled, winning just one of four games with Kovalchuk in the lineup, including back-to-back losses to the Flyers in which New Jersey blew 2-0 leads in each game.

"Tonight is a good example," Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said after the second 3-2 loss to Philly, on Wednesday. "Tonight we found a way to lose. It's that simple. We talked I don't know how many times about having short shifts -- in the room, before the games, in practices, behind the bench. And we still have long shifts."

In this one, the Devils did get a point, falling in overtime, but their lead in the Atlantic Division is dwindling.

"Game in and game out we keep losing the same way," Brodeur said. "We've got to make sure we (end) it soon enough because we don't want to start bringing back teams close to us and have to compete really hard for 20 games. We gave ourselves a cushion, but it's slowly going down."

Well Said II -- "Earlier today, I contacted Jeff Carter of the Philadelphia Flyers and advised him that in the event that Ryan Getzlaf is unable to take part in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games due to injury, he will take his spot on the roster. I asked him to be ready and prepare in case he has to join us in Vancouver later this week." -- Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman, who obviously doesn't believe in being unprepared.

Surprise, surprise -- The Ottawa Senators were not at the epicenter of talk involving Stanley Cup contenders at the start of the season, but the Senators are insinuating themselves into the picture now, having climbed all the way to first place in the Northeast Division as of Friday morning.

"I don't know a lot of other people thought we would be where we are right now," Senators coach Cory Clouston said. "I have a lot of confidence in our team. We know if we work hard and play the way we're supposed to play, we're a pretty good hockey club. If we don't, we know we're an average team.

"We've had a lot of injuries and we've had a lot of key injuries. We've had guys respond very well when they've been put in certain situations and they've moved up into different roles and had some quality games. Now that we've got our guys back, we've got a pretty good team."

One that got better with Friday's trade for the versatile Matt Cullen from the Hurricanes. The Sens also made news Friday, extending the contract of GM Bryan Murray.

Now, it's on us -- The Atlanta Thrashers players admit there are no more excuses. Ilya Kovalchuk has been traded, so his status no longer is a distraction and the potential three-headed goalie scenario was ended with the trade of Kari Lehtonen. Now, the Thrashers' playoff chase rests squarely on the shoulders of those in the dressing room.

"I think for us as a team, all these things have been happening very quickly," goaltender Johan Hedberg said. "It's a huge adjustment for this organization, this franchise. As a group it brings us closer together, but it's up to us. We have to do it, inside this room. We can't wait for Kovy to come in and score four or five goals or Kari to come back and stand on his head. Right now, it's us. It puts more pressure on us, but it's also something that, hopefully, is going to make us pull harder together."

"I think (there is a sense of relief)," coach John Anderson told reporters. "I think that everyone is going, 'OK, this is where we are; this is our hockey team.' It's up to us to make the difference. Either we are going to make the playoffs or we're not. It's up to us in that room."

Well Said III
-- "It's about trying to build ourselves back to what we want to be. Our confidence has certainly taken a blow for quite a while. Then it was about feeling like we weren't getting the breaks. But sticking to it was the main message. We kept telling the guys that, eventually, it's going to turn around.'' -- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien

A Ruff message -- With the Buffalo Sabres slumping to the point where Ottawa has passed them in the Northeast Division, coach Lindy Ruff sent a stern message during a 3-2 loss to the Bruins on Tuesday, benching captain Craig Rivet. He played just 8:58.

"You need to earn your ice," Rivet told John Vogl of the Buffalo News. "Right now I don't think I'm playing up to my capabilities. I need to be better. I need to be better to help this team. It was an eye-opener (Tuesday) night. I pretty much got sat for most of the game. If I have the opportunity, I'm going to be better next game."

Rivet played a hair over 16 minutes Thursday, but that remains below his 19-minute average this season.

"There's times where if you're struggling as a player and you're hurting the team, you can't play as much," Ruff said. "We're desperate to win. You have to play the guys that are going the best. He was having a tough night."

"We're battling through a tough time right now, and it takes everybody right now to win hockey games," Rivet said. "We need to have guys play up to their standards, and there's some guys that aren't. There's some guys that are, and there's some guys that aren't. We're going to work through this, and we're going to be a better team for it.

"I'm in the group that needs to be better. I'm going through a tough time right now, but I know the only way to get out of things is to work your way through. That's what I'm going to do."

New Flames fitting in -- Last week, Brent Sutter gave his new players a mulligan for being held scoreless in their first games in Calgary. Now, he likes what he sees.

"I know what type of players they are," Sutter told reporters. "They all bring something a little different, which is a good thing.

"We’ve added size, we've added skill, we've added speed and added intelligence and you add all those things it should make your team better. They've jumped on board. It's not the time for us to give it time to adapt, we need to adapt now and we're doing it the best way we know how. I think everyone's handled it well. These guys have adjusted and adapted pretty well."

Pause that refreshes -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell told reporters the Olympic break will give teammates not named Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Tomas Kopecky a chance to recharge their batteries heading to the stretch drive for the regular season.

"It's going to be a good thing for guys battling injuries," Campbell said. "The guys get away from the rink. It's a lot of hockey that we've played so far. We're going to have to really gear up."

Campbell also said the rest will allow the Blackhawks' Olympians the chance to ease back into the season.

"I know in years past that when those guys come back, they're a little tired," he said. "So us guys that have the time are going to have to really pick it up for them."


Quote of the Day

My job was to get that puck and put it on net, and his job was not letting me do it. I got the best of that, but that game's over and to be honest I already forgot about it.

— Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk on his late game-tying goal in Montreal's 2-1 OT win
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