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Destination: Playoffs

Saturday, 04.10.2010 / 12:46 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

By NHL.com Staff

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Destination: Playoffs
Key Sunday games on NHL Network
04.10.2010 / 4:28 p.m. ET

NHL Network in the U.S. will air the do-or-die game between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers on Sunday at 3 p.m. It will then join the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders (a 5 p.m. start) in progress following the conclusion of the earlier game.

If the Montreal Canadiens get at least a point Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, then only one Eastern Conference playoff spot will remain for the winner of the Flyers-Rangers battle at the Wachovia Center.

The Penguins are battling the New Jersey Devils for the Atlantic Division title -- unless the Penguins lose in regulation Saturday to the Atlanta Thrashers and the Devils beat the Islanders, the race won't be decided until later Sunday.

NHL Network's On The Fly will begin following the conclusion of the second game.

--Brian Hunter


Bruins in, two spots remain
04.10.2010 / 3:50 p.m. ET

The Boston Bruins have clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth, leaving the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers to battle for remaining two spots.

Boston set an NHL record for shorthanded prowess Saturday afternoon, scoring three goals in a 64-second span with defenseman Matt Hunwick in the penalty box for hooking. Daniel Paille, Blake Wheeler and Steve Begin did the honors, staking the Bruins to a 3-0 lead, and they held on for a 4-2 win.

It was the fastest three shorthanded goals had ever been scored. Never before had a team scored three times on the same penalty kill.

The Canadiens will get first dibs at being the next to clinch when they host the Maple Leafs later Saturday. It's Montreal's final game of the regular season, so if the Habs don't get at least a point there's a chance the Flyers and Rangers could both make it if their game goes into overtime Sunday and the Blueshirts prevail in either the extra period or the shootout.

--Brian Hunter

Kovalev out for season
04.10.2010 / 2:12 p.m. ET

The Ottawa Senators don't know yet if they'll play the New Jersey Devils or Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What they did learn early Saturday was regardless of their opponent, they will have to go forward without the services of veteran forward Alex Kovalev. He is out for the season with a torn ACL.

It's a big blow for the Senators -- although he was particularly streaky in his first season in Ottawa, Kovalev still put up 18 goals and 49 points, good for fourth on the team in scoring. He eclipsed the 400-goal mark for his career and was 10 points shy of 1,000. Kovalev also has 44 goals and 98 points in 116 career playoff games and won the Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994.

--Brian Hunter


One game for it all
04.10.2010 / 12:46 a.m. ET

And so we come down to one game -- the winner gets in; the loser, barring an odd set of circumstances, heads for the golf course.

The New York Rangers made Game 82 count by holding off Philadelphia 4-3 in Game 81 on Friday night, pulling them even with the Flyers in the race for the last playoff berth in the East. Both teams have 86 points, meaning that the winner of Sunday's rematch at the Wachovia Center gets a playoff berth.

Montreal and Boston both enter Saturday's action with 87 points. The Canadiens host Toronto in their season finale on Saturday night, a few hours after the Bruins host Carolina. A win by either team means a trip to the playoffs is assured. The Bruins finish their season Sunday afternoon in Washington -- a game that will be over before the Flyers and Rangers drop the puck shortly after 3 p.m. ET.

With nothing to do until Sunday, it's time for a little gamesmanship -- like projecting the pressure onto your opponent.

"We're loose," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I think the pressure's on them. We're just trying to find our way."

At least one Ranger doesn't want to worry about what the Bruins and Canadiens will do on Saturday.

"I'm not going to watch the game to see what Boston does because I don't really care," forward Brandon Dubinsky told NHL.com's Dan Rosen. "We have one game to get in. If we win that game, we're going to get in, and if we don't, we're not."

The Rangers might be a little shorthanded for Sunday's game -- heart-and-soul forward Ryan Callahan left in the second period with what appeared to be a leg injury. New York is already without super-pest Sean Avery, who's been sidelined with a knee injury.

--John Kreiser

Almost No. 1
04.10.2010 / 12:46 a.m. ET

Very quietly, the Chicago Blackhawks are going into the playoffs on a roll. The Hawks take a six-game winning streak into their season finale against Detroit at the United Center after polishing off Colorado 5-2 in Denver on Friday night.

A win by Chicago on Sunday (actually, all the Hawks have to do is match what San Jose does in its season-finale against Phoenix on Saturday) will assure the Hawks of the top seed in the West and a series against the Avs. That can't make anyone in Denver feel very good -- not after watching the Hawks have their way at the Pepsi Center (although Avs coach Joe Sacco gave goaltender Craig Anderson, among others, the night off).

Chicago looks nothing like the team that won just five of 14 games in March.

"We worked really hard to get out of that hole," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We were struggling a little bit and we knew it was still a reality to finish first in our conference. Now we have one game left to accomplish that. It's been in our control the whole way, and that's the way we want it."

Bad news for the Avs -- rookie forward Matt Duchene left with a torso injury and didn't return. Regardless of who they play, the Avs will need all hands on deck next week.

--John Kreiser

Kovalev leaves game with leg injury
04.09.2010 / 11:16 a.m. ET

The Ottawa Senators, locked in as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, saw one player return from a leg injury and another depart with a leg injury during a 4-3 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.

Milan Michalek, who sat out the last nine games with a left knee injury, returned for coach Cory Clouston on Wednesday. Winger Alex Kovalev, however, limped off the ice with a left leg injury in the second period.

According to The Ottawa Sun, Kovalev had to be helped off the ice and couldn't put any weight on his leg after being hit by Tampa's Todd Fedoruk at 12:11 of the period.

Clouston wouldn't speculate on the injury after the game but Kovalev, who had just 2 points over his last 17 games, is now questionable for the opening round of the playoffs.

"We won't know until (Friday), but I don't want to speculate. I'd be guessing," Clouston told the newspaper.

The Senators close out their regular-season schedule against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

--Mike G. Morreale

Hornqvist should be ready for playoffs
04.09.2010 / 10:49 AM ET

According to coach Barry Trotz, top goal scorer Patric Hornqvist should be ready for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Trotz said Thursday that Hornqvist, who has 30 goals, has an unspecified upper-body injury and will not play in Saturday's finale. But, the 23-year-old Swede should be ready when NasHville begins its playoff run on either Wednesday or Thursday.

"The early preliminary information, without getting too specific, I think we expect him to be ready for Game 1," Trotz told the Tennessean.

Hornqvist was not on the ice for Nashville's optional skate on Thursday and will not practice Friday. He has also already been ruled out of Saturday's home game against St. Louis, the Predators' final game of vthe regular season.

Hornqvist was injured by a slap shot from teammate Shea Weber as hornqvist battled for position in front of the Phoenix net.

Hornqvist has a team-high 30 goals and is tied for the team's points lead with Steve Sullivan. Both players have 51.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Playoff possibilities spelled out
04.09.2010 / 10:19 AM ET

With three days to go in the 2009-10 season,  there are still 33 different Stanley Cup playoff matchup possibilities for the Conference Quarterfinal series, including 18 different possibilities in the Eastern Conference and 15 different possibilities in the Western Conference.  Here are the possibilities:

Eastern Conference

Washington: Montreal, Philadelphia, Boston or NY Rangers
New Jersey: Montreal, Philadelphia, Boston, NY Rangers or Ottawa
Buffalo: Montreal, Philadelphia, Boston or NY Rangers
Pittsburgh: Montreal, Philadelphia, Boston, NY Rangers or Ottawa
Ottawa: New Jersey or Pittsburgh
Boston: Washington, New Jersey, Buffalo or Pittsburgh
Montreal: Washington, New Jersey, Buffalo or Pittsburgh
Philadelphia: Washington, New Jersey, Buffalo or Pittsburgh
NY Rangers: Washington, New Jersey, Buffalo or Pittsburgh

Western Conference

San Jose: Nashville, Los Angeles, Detroit or Colorado
Chicago: Nashville, Los Angeles, Detroit or Colorado
Vancouver: Nashville, Los Angeles, Detroit or Colorado
Phoenix: Nashville, Los Angeles or Detroit
Detroit: San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver or Phoenix
Los Angeles: San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver or Phoenix
Nashville: San Jose, Chicago, Vancouver or Phoenix
Colorado: San Jose, Chicago or Vancouver


Malkin, Gonchar back; Savard visits
04.09.2010 / 1:52 AM ET

Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar have been in and out of the Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup recently due to injuries and illness. Both played Thursday against the New York Islanders. Malkin scored his 26th goal of the season during the Penguins' first-period onslaught, while Gonchar contributed two assists and a plus-2 rating while logging a team-high 23:50 of ice time.

Meanwhile, injured Boston Bruins center Marc Savard made another appearance at TD Garden and spoke with the media prior to their big win over the Buffalo Sabres. There's nothing to suggest we will see Savard on the ice again this season, but just the fact he says he's feeling slightly better is a positive.

--Brian Hunter

Nifty fifty
04.09.2010 / 1:38 AM ET

Entering Friday's action, only Washington and Chicago had won 50 games this season. Welcome two new members to the club.

No shocker that the San Jose Sharks got there -- they had 53 last season en route to winning the Presidents' Trophy. The Sharks doubled up the Vancouver Canucks, 4-2.

But the fourth and final member of the exclusive club (Vancouver is next closest with 48 but has only one game remaining) ... none other than those never-say-die Phoenix Coyotes.

The Coyotes picked up that 50th win in typical fashion, rallying from a two-goal deficit in the final eight minutes of the third period and defeating the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 as defenseman Adrian Aucoin continued his prowess in the shootout with the game-winner in the fourth round.

As far as playoff positioning in the Western Conference goes, San Jose's victory was the important one. The Sharks took a two-point lead over the Blackhawks for the top seed, although San Jose has just one game remaining (Saturday vs. Phoenix) while Chicago has two (Friday at Colorado, Sunday vs. Detroit), not to mention one additional victory.

Phoenix is locked into the No. 4 seed, but unless you're a fan of the team at the other end of the ice, it's getting impossible not to root for the Coyotes at this point. They're playing loose, and never was that more evident than during the shootout. Trailing 1-0 after an Anze Kopitar goal, Lauri Korpikoski skated in against Jonathan Quick in round two, but lost control of the puck in comical fashion before taking a weak desperation shot from a bad angle that the goalie easily stopped. Although they were in a pivotal stage of the game, the entire bench could be seen cracking up, with coach Dave Tippett sporting one of the biggest smiles. Radim Vrbata promptly tied the shootout up on the next Phoenix shot, then Aucoin won it.

Everyone says beware the Red Wings in the playoffs, for valid reason, but who really wants to play the Coyotes at this point?

--Brian Hunter


Great night for Penguins
04.08.2010 / 11:18 PM ET

The Pittsburgh Penguins sent Mellon Arena out in style -- even if the fans on hand didn't really see what they thought they saw when it came to a milestone goal for Sidney Crosby.

In the final regular-season game at what has affectionately been known as "The Igloo", the Penguins blasted the New York Islanders, 7-3. They also got help from an unlikely source, as the Florida Panthers, eliminated from playoff contention, claimed a 3-2 home win over the New Jersey Devils behind 42 saves from former Martin Brodeur understudy Scott Clemmensen.

The teams are once again even atop the Atlantic Division with two games remaining, though the Penguins must garner one additional point than the Devils over that span because Jersey owns the season series tiebreaker. They did guarantee themselves home ice for the first round, as they can do no worse than the fourth seed.

But back to the game in Pittsburgh: The Penguins got on the board just 23 seconds in, scored four times in the first period to chase Isles goalie Martin Biron and got a four-point night from Crosby, who reached 500 points for his brilliant young career.

The fans thought they saw Crosby become the first player in the NHL this season to reach 50 goals when the lamp was lit 1:46 into the third. It would have been Crosby's first-career 50-goal season.

But it wasn't to be. Turns out Bill Guerin got a piece of the puck on its way into the net, so Sid still sits at 49 -- one ahead of close personal friend Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and second-year stud Steven Stamkos of the Lightning.

Crosby will try to get to 50 on the road, either in Atlanta on Saturday or Long Island on Sunday.

--Brian Hunter


Bruins leapfrog into sixth
04.08.2010 / 11:10 PM ET

The Eastern Conference standings continue to change by the minute.

When the Boston Bruins completed their 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, they passed the idle Philadelphia Flyers into seventh place with 87 points.

Shortly after that, the Montreal Canadiens completed a 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. That meant the Bruins took over possession of the sixth seed, because while the Canadiens also have 87 points, they now have only one game left in the regular season (Saturday vs. Toronto) while the Bruins have two (Saturday vs. Carolina, Sunday at Washington).

Of course, the Bruins still haven't clinched anything yet -- the ninth-place Rangers, with 84 points, could still catch them if they sweep the Flyers in their upcoming home-and-home and the Bruins lose their final two in regulation. But they did increase the pressure on New York.

--Brian Hunter


Malkin and Gonchar expected to play tonight
04.08.2010 / 4:45 PM ET

Earlier today Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he expects to have Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar in the lineup tonight against the Islanders in Pittsburgh's final home regular season game at Mellon Arena. Malkin and Gonchar had been under the weather.

Bylsma wouldn't say if Chris Kunitz would return from his undisclosed injury tonight.

"I expect Gonchar and Malkin to play," Bylsma said according to the team's web-site. "Kunitz is still day-to-day. He was on the ice skating so he is progressing."

-- Dan Rosen

Senators call up Cowen

04.08.2010 / 3:05 PM ET

With fourth place in the Eastern Conference locked up, the Ottawa Senators are resting some players for the Stanley Cup Playoffs that begin next week.

Defenseman Anton Volchenkov and forward Ryan Shannon won't play tonight against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.

Left wing Milan Michalek will return after missing nine games with a leg injury, taking Shannon's place, but the big news is the big kid replacing Volchenkov.

Tonight will be the NHL debut of defenseman Jared Cowen, the Senators' first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2009 Entry Draft. Cowen, 19, finished his junior career March 31 when his Spokane Chiefs were eliminated in the first round of the WHL playoffs in overtime of Game 7 by the Portland Winterhawks.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound defenceman had 8 goals, 30 points and a plus-23 rating in 59 games for Spokane this season. He also won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championship, finishing with an assist and a plus-4 rating in six games.

-- John McGourty

Carter a game-time decision

04.08.2010 / 2:08 PM ET

Jeff Carter skated through the entire 40-minute practice with the Flyers today, and reported his surgically-repaired left foot felt about as he expected it: sore, but manageable.

"There's going to be pain for a long time. I got a screw in my foot," he told reporters.

Click here for video of Carter speaking after practice.

Carter has missed the last eight games after breaking a bone in the arch of his left foot blocking a shot March 21 against the Thrashers.

GM Paul Holmgren watched practice this morning and said Carter looked better than he expected.

"I thought he looked better than I thought he would," Holmgren told reporters. "I thought Jeff did fine. We need to see how this responds tomorrow."

Carter practiced at center, on a line with Scott Hartnell and Arron Asham. Ville Leino also took a few shifts on that line.

Carter said he was unsure if he would play Friday against the Rangers, and coach Peter Laviolette wasn't giving any clues, either.

"He looked good, he moved around a good 30 minutes up and down the ice with starts and stops," Laviolette said. "He hasn't been on the ice for close to three weeks, so I thought he did a pretty good job."

In or out, Carter said just getting on the ice with his teammates made him feel good.

"It's tough sitting in the stands watching, especially, with what's going on with the standings and where we're at," he said. "Even if I don't get back in the lineup, just to get out there and skate with the boys and have a little fun, makes the days a little easier."

The eight games Carter has missed this season are the first since he injured his knee in 2006-07; he's big, tough and prideful and wants to be in the lineup. If the pain is remotely manageable, it's doubtful he'll sit out the crucial home-and-home set with the Rangers that starts  Friday at Madison Square Garden.

-- Adam Kimelman

Thursday's playoff implications
04.08.2010 / 10:09 a.m. ET

There are nine games on Thursday's schedule and all but two of them will impact the race for the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here is a look at those games that will impact the playoff picture, with a special thanks to co-worker Jen Raimondi for the analysis:

BUF @ BOS - The Bruins have yet to clinch a playoff position and sit No.8 in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of the New York Rangers. Thursday night's game is Boston's game in hand against the Rangers and a win would restore the three-point lead present before New York beat Toronto on Wednesday night. The Sabres are assured a second- or third-place finish in the East having clinched the Northeast Division on Tuesday. After facing the Sabres, the Bruins face the Hurricanes on Saturday and the Capitals on Sunday.

NYI @ PIT - The Penguins are looking to keep pace with new Jersey in the Atlantic Division. New Jersey has a two-point lead in the race for the division title. Sidney Crosby had his career-high 48th goal on Tuesday and is tied for the NHL lead with Washington's Alex Ovechkin – he has scored three goals in four games this season against the Islanders.

MTL @ CAR – The Canadiens will make their second attempt to clinch a playoff spot. They blew a late lead on Long Island and lost 4-3 in a shootout. But beating the 'Canes won't be easy - Carolina has been among the NHL's best teams during the past couple of months and is coming off an 8-5 win at Tampa Bay.

OTT@ TB - Ottawa can't change its position with a win Thursday night, but need two points to keep alive its faint hopes of moving into fourth place in the East. Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, whose 62 goals since Feb. 17, 2009, lead the League, is still in the running for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal-scorer. He enters the game with 47 goals. Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin each have 48 goals.

NJ @ FLA - The Devils will look to take two points from the Panthers in hopes of maintaining, and possibly clinching, first place in the Atlantic Division and second place in the Eastern Conference. 

PHX @ LA - Both teams haven't played in a Stanley Cup Playoff game since 2002, but that will change come next week. The Coyotes clinched the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference on Wednesday night, while the Kings are just one point out of fifth place. In an ironic twist, should L.A. end up with the No. 5 seed, it would face Phoenix in the opening round.

VAN @ SJ – The Canucks have locked up the Northwest Division title and will enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed -- they're one of only two teams locked into postseason position. The Sharks clinched the Pacific Division title with a win at Calgary on Tuesday but are in a bigger battle with Chicago for the top seed in the Western Conference.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Hornqvist hurt in Coyote game
04.08.2010 / 9:48 a.m. ET

The Nashville Predators lost to Phoenix Wednesday night to fall into sixth place in the West, leapfrogged by a rampaging Detroit squad that beat Columbus on Wednesday night.

But, the Predators might have an even bigger problem than the fall in standings that would result in a first-round matchup against vancouver. Nashville also lost leading scorer Patric Hornqvist to injury in the game. The second-year Swede leads the Predators with 30 goals.

He was struck by a Shea Weber slapper in the second period and did not return for the third. After the game, the Preds were pretty tight-lipped about the injury and the extent of the injury is unknown.

"He'll be evaluated by our doctors," Predators Coach Barry Trotz told The Tennessean. "I don’t know if he had X-rays or not. I'm not going to answer that and I don't need to answer that."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Quenneville: Hossa injury not serious
04.08.2010 / 9:39 a.m. ET

Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa left Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Blues after one shift in the second period because of an "unknown injury." Chicago scored a 6-5 victory to notch their fifth straight triumph.

Hossa appeared to have sustained the injury after being knocked to the ice by Brad Winchester at the 8:07 mark of the first. Chicago's prized off-season acquisition played several shifts after the incident, however, and head coach Joel Quenneville said after the game that the injury wasn't serious.

With the victory over the Blues, the 'Hawks established a new franchise-record in reaching 109 points (51-22-7). Chicago’s previous single-season high was the 107 points accumulated by the 1970-71 and 1971-72 clubs.

--Mike G. Morreale

Devils' captain breaks silence
04.08.2010 / 8:15 a.m. ET

It appears New Jersey Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner had every intention of playing all 82 regular-season games with the club this season.

So when Jacques Lemaire gave him the night off last Saturday in Raleigh, N.C., he became upset. But there's no wrong side to this story -- Lemaire was simply looking out for his players' best interest heading into the playoffs. Langenbrunner, being the competitor he is, just wants to be on the ice.

Langenbrunner, 34, spoke to the media on Wednesday for the first time since Saturday's victory over the Hurricanes. The Devils, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Atlantic Division, are in Sunrise on Thursday to take on the Florida Panthers.

"Did having a game off benefit me? No. I didn't ask for a day off," Lagenbrunner told Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger. "(Playing all 82 games) was definitely something I wanted to do, or to at least have attempted to. I'm not sure if I've ever done it. I missed one (game) last year. It would have been nice to have had the opportunity to try it."

Actually, Langenbrunner did play all 82 regular-season games with the Devils in 2006-07. Langenbrunner flew to Raleigh with the team and then flew back on Easter Sunday.

"If I am the coach, that said player would not have been on the airplane ride to Carolina," Langenbrunner said.

Lemaire, on the other hand, just wanted to give his captain a game off to rest the body.

"I felt he needed a rest," Lemaire told the newspaper. "I gave him a rest. I felt Motts (Mike Mottau) needed a rest and I gave him a rest. The guy I'd like to give a rest is Zach (Parise). But I don't want to affect the team either."

Langenbrunner was back in the lineup on Tuesday as the Devils scored a 3-0 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. He played on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and center Patrik Elias and played a little over 17 minutes.

--Mike G. Morreale

Carter could be back Friday for Flyers
04.07.2010 / 2:32 p.m. ET

Flyers center Jeff Carter, who's missed the last eight games with a broken foot, got good news on his MRI today. GM Paul Holmgren said Carter will practice Thursday, and if that goes well, he could play Friday against the Rangers.

The Flyers certainly could use their leader in goals (33) and points (60) heading into the pivotal season-closing home-and-home set. Although if the Rangers lose to the Maple Leafs tonight, the Flyers will clinch a playoff spot. But a pair of wins could mean the difference between playing Washington (Flyers went 1-3-0 against Caps) Pittsburgh (1-4-1), Buffalo (1-2-1) or New Jersey (5-1-0). 

-- Adam Kimelman

Bylsma hopes to have Malkin, Gonchar on Thursday
04.07.2010 / 1:51 p.m. ET

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma updated the status of three of his key players during a conference call Wednesday. Bylsma said that Evgeni Malkin, who sat out Tuesday's game against Washington, and Sergei Gonchar have both come down with illnesses are are day-to-day, but "we're hoping they will be fine to play tomorrow (against the Islanders)."

Bylsma also wouldn't give any new information on Chris Kunitz, who sat out Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury.

"He'll be on the ice tomorrow morning," Bylsma said.

-- Dan Rosen

Senators' Kuba to miss at least first round

04.07.2010 / 1:27 p.m. ET

Rob Brodie of the Senators' web site has reported that Sens defenceman Filip Kuba underwent surgery in Los Angeles on Tuesday night to repair a herniated disc in his back. Senators general manager Bryan Murray confirmed earlier on Tuesday that Kuba would be sidelined for the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"We suspect he's out for the next four weeks, at least," said Murray. "(It looks like) we certainly have to get into the second round, at this point in time, for him to be available to us at all. But let's hope that's the case and somewhere down the line, it would be a nice addition to have if we go deep into the playoffs."

Kuba has played just one of the Senators' last 16 games, and not at all since March 18. He has 3 goals and 28 points in 53 games.

Murray believes the injury has been bothering Kuba most of the season, but was aggravated while he played for Team Czech Republic at the Olympics.

"(Kuba took) a hit in Olympics -- from what he told me, in the game against Finland -- and from that point on, he had a difficult time playing."

The Sens' defense pairings for the final games of the regular season -- and likely the playoffs -- look like Chris Phillips-Anton Volchenkov, Andy Sutton-Erik Karlsson and Chris Campoli-Matt Carkner, with Brian Lee as the seventh defenseman.

--Mike G. Morreale

Ehrhoff sits, but injury 'not a big deal'
4.7.2010 / 10:30 AM ET

Good news out of Vancouver -- defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is fine despite sitting out Tuesday's game with the Avalanche, according to coach Alain Vigneault.

"I don't foresee anything serious there," Vigneault told The Province before Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Avs. "If this was a playoff game, he might play tonight. It's not a big deal."

Ehrhoff was injured after he collided with Andrew Brunette of the Minnesota Wild during the third period Sunday. The MRI results on Ehrhoff's left knee weren't available when Vigneault talked to the media, but he still downplayed the severity of the injury and said he expects Ehrhoff to be available when the playoffs start next week.

-- Dave Lozo

Seidenberg's surgery
4.7.2010 / 10:30 AM ET

Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli announced Wednesday morning that defenseman Dennis Seidenberg will miss eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a lacerated flexor carpi radialis tendon in his left forearm.

The surgery was performed by Drs. Matthew Leibman and Mark Belsky on Tuesday at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Seidenberg sustained the injury during the first period of a win against Toronto on April 3.

Since being acquired on March 3, Seidenberg has skated in 17 games while recording 2 goals, 7 assists and a plus-9 rating. He was traded from Florida to Boston with Matt Bartkowski for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and Tampa Bay's 2010 second-round pick.

For the season, Seidenberg has played in 79 games and scored 4-28-32 and leads the NHL in blocked shots with 215.

Within range, but it'll be tough for Blueshirts
04.07.2010 / 9:35 a.m. ET

Three points back with three games to go, the New York Rangers amazingly still control their own playoff fate. If they win every game left on their schedule, the Rangers won't need any help to get in.

Up first is tonight's game at Madison Square Garden against last-place Toronto, which lost last night to Philadelphia, 2-0. The Rangers can pull within one point of idle Boston for the eighth spot and within two points of the Philadelphia Flyers for seventh.

Should the Rangers lose tonight in regulation, the Flyers will officially clinch a playoff berth without having to take the ice and the Bruins can take the final spot with a win Thursday at home against Buffalo, which in turn will render the Rangers weekend home-and-home with the Flyers meaningless.

But, if the Rangers were to lose either in overtime or the shootout, their game Friday at home against Philadelphia will still have a lot of meaning because the Rangers will still be able to surpass the Flyers provided they beat them in regulation both at MSG and Sunday in Philadelphia at Wachovia Center.

It's also still possible that the Rangers finish sixth in the East, but for that they will need both Montreal and Boston to lose along the way. In fact, if the Rangers want to finish as high as sixth, they will need the Canadiens to lose their remaining two games in regulation.

That's not part of the Rangers' though process now. Winning tonight is all that matters.

-- Dan Rosen

Boston's Stuart on the mend

04.07.2010 / 8:40 a.m. ET

The Boston Globe is reporting this morning that Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart will likely miss two weeks after undergoing surgery on an infected finger. If the Bruins do qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that would mean he'd probably be sidelined for the opening round.

Stuart required an emergency room visit to a Toronto hospital on Friday night before returning to Boston on Saturday to be treated for cellulitis, which is a skin infection.

Stuart has 103 hits and 82 blocked shots in 56 games with the Bruins this season.

--Mike G. Morreale

Ready Arnott
04.07.2010 / 8:30 a.m. ET

Nashville Predators forward Jason Arnott appears ready to rejoin the team on Wednesday at Phoenix.

Arnott, who missed eight games after suffering his third concussion in three seasons, is looking forward to getting back into the lineup and getting into playoff-like shape. Arnott will be a welcome addition as he's produced 18 goals and 44 points -- fourth highest on the team -- in 72 games this season. The Predators have qualified for the playoffs but are currently fifth in the Western Conference with 46 wins and 98 points -- one ahead of Los Angeles (45 wins, 97 points) and two ahead of Detroit (41 wins, 96 points).

"Things are looking good right now and they're clearing up for me," Arnott told The Tennessean. "It didn't take me too long for that to happen, so I don't try to look too far into the future."

--Mike G. Morreale

No Malkin tonight
04.06.2010 / 8:55 p.m. ET

Evgeni Malkin was a surprise scratch for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

Malkin, who returned from a foot injury on Saturday, started but did not finish the pre-game warmup. He was a participant in Tuesday's morning skate.

Defenseman Jay McKee was dressed as a seventh defenseman as both Malkin and Chris Kunitz (day-to-day) were unavailable. Rugged forward Eric Godard was Pittsburgh's only healthy scratch.

For Washington, Bruce Boudreau continued to rest his players. Eric Belanger, who played in Monday night's win, was not dressed Tuesday, nor was Scott Walker, who made a return from a knee injury on Monday night. Star defenseman Mike Green missed his second-straight game.

Brendan Morrison, Boyd Gordon, Milan Jurcina and John Carlson were the other injured Capitals. Karl Alzner, called up Tuesday morning as defensive cover, was also scratched. Jay Beagle, the other call up, was in Tuesday night's lineup, playing with Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr.

--Shawn P. Roarke

East could be nearly settled tonight
04.06.2010 / 3:15 p.m. ET

The Eastern Conference playoff picture will become completely clear after tonight's action.

Or it will be a bigger mess than it already was.

The only East team that can clinch tonight is the Canadiens. I've had an easier time reading assembly instructions from IKEA than understanding the Habs' scenarios for clinching, so just read this and you should be set.

As for the three teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference chase, well, let's take a look.

This situation involving the Flyers, Rangers and Thrashers is more complicated than asking out your best friend's ex-girlfriend. All three are in action tonight: Philadelphia visits Toronto; the Rangers are in Buffalo, and Atlanta is welcoming back Ilya Kovalchuk and the Devils.

No one can clinch, and only the Thrashers could be mathematically eliminated at about 10 p.m. EDT tonight. Here's a look at the best case/worst case scenarios for these three teams:

Flyers
Best case:
A win in Toronto and regulation losses by the Rangers and Thrashers wouldn't take the pressure completely off, but it would almost salt away a playoff berth. They'd have a four-point lead on the Rangers, and the Thrashers wouldn't be able to pass them in the standings. At that point, the Flyers would need a Rangers loss in regulation to the Leafs on Wednesday to clinch. If the Rangers beat the Leafs, then the Flyers would need to either split that home-and-home with the Rangers or lose both games in OT or a shootout.

Worst case: Should they not earn a point in Toronto and see the two teams chasing them win, the Flyers will be in serious trouble. They would desperately need a Leafs win in regulation against the Rangers to set up a situation where the Flyers and Blueshirts would be tied entering their home-and-home to end the season. The Flyers could also root for a collapse by the Bruins, who have three fewer wins than Philly.

Rangers
Best case:
If they beat the Sabres and the Flyers and Thrashers lose in regulation, John Tortorella's club will be in the driver's seat. They'll be tied with the Flyers for eighth and have a game in hand. That extra game -- at home Wednesday vs. the Leafs -- would be huge, because the Rangers could enter their home-and-home with the Flyers with a two-point advantage in the race for eighth.

Worst case: A loss in regulation to the Sabres and the Flyers and Thrashers earning wins would be catastrophic. The Flyers would move to 86 points and leave the Rangers chasing the Bruins, who have 85 points, for eighth place. Making up three points with three games left wouldn't be impossible, but it would be unlikely. If the Rangers go into that home-and-home with the Flyers four points behind, not even a sweep would help them, as the Flyers would hold the tiebreaker in wins.

Thrashers
Best case:
The NHL grants them an 83rd regular-season game. Kidding. But even with a win against New Jersey and regulation losses by their rivals, the Thrashers would still be one point out of the eighth spot with just two games remaining. The Rangers would have a game in hand and the Flyers would win the tiebreaker.

Worst case: The Thrashers simply losing in regulation to Jersey would end their season. Atlanta could still tie Boston and Philadelphia, but the Flyers own the wins tiebreaker and the Bruins won the season series with the Thrashers. Since the Flyers and Rangers play each other twice, there would be no scenario where the Thrashers would ever pull past both teams.

Of course, there's plenty of middle ground in all this. But if you wanted to know what to root for or root against tonight, this could help.

-- Dave Lozo

Varlamov to start for Caps
04.06.2010 / 2:34 p.m. ET

While everybody believes that Jose Theodore will be Washington's starting goalie come the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week, Capitals' coach Bruce Boudreau is trying to keep the competition open - at least in appearances - for as long as possible.

That's why Semyon Varlamov - the hero of Washington's playoffs last season - will start Tuesday night in Pittsburgh against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh defeated Washington in an epic seven-game series last spring that was often a nightmare for Varlamov.

In Game 7, he allowed four goals on the first 18 shots he faced before being pulled in what turned out to be a 6-2 laugher that sent the capitals home far earlier than they thought or hoped. He allowed 25 goals in the seven games.

Yet, he will be in the nets Tuesday night as Boudreau looks to see how his young goalie responds.

"We are in the devil's den," Boudreau said. "(The Penguins) are rested (from) the night before; they've got their full lineup in. He knows if he is not at the absolute top of his game, it could turn ugly early."

Boudreau does not think it will be ugly Tuesday night. He believes his young goalie learned from last year's meltdown and is finally rounding back into shape after a season that has been derailed by injuries. Varlamov allowed just one goal against Atlanta in his last appearance on April 1. He has allowed just five goals in his past three games.

Plus, Boudreau believes Varlamov is mentally stronger than he was when he was thrust into the breeach during last season's playoffs.

"It should give him some experience, so he knows a little bit about what he'll face," Boudreau said. "He faced them after that tough series against (the New York Rangers) where I don't know if he was ready to play as many games in a row as he did. He was a little tired at the end. He's definitely not tired right now."

Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin is happy to see Varlamov get a shot at redemption. He knows his team needs both its goalies at the top of their game if they hope to be as successful as possible in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Mentally, it is good," Ovechkin said. "They are both going to feel like they have a chance. They are
both playing very well right now."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Kunitz out Tuesday
04.06.2010 / 10:52 a.m. ET

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without forward Chris Kunitz for Tuesday night's nationally televised game against the Washington Capitals at Mellon Arena.

Kunitz, day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, did not take part in Tuesday's morning skate.

Ruslan Fedotenko played on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis during the morning session.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar and center Evgeni Malkin were on the ice after returning from injury in Pittsburgh's last game, an overtime win against Atlanta on Saturday.  Both are expected to play again Tuesday night.

Pittsburgh is looking for its first win this season against Washington. The Capitals have gone 3-0 against Pittsburgh, winning two of those games in OT.

--Shawn P. Roarke

A feisty "Ovi" returns

04.06.2010 / 8:30 a.m. ET

The Capitals earned a 3-2 overtime decision over the Boston Bruins on Monday while playing their first game as winners of the President's Trophy for most points in the League.

Caps forward Alex Ovechkin, who was held goal-less and remains behind League-leader Sidney Crosby (46-47) of Pittsburgh for the League-lead in goals, has just 4 in the past 18 games. Despite the scoring slump, coach Bruce Boudreau is perfectly satisfied with the way "Ovi" is playing the game.

"He wasn't afraid to hit today. He's never afraid, but ever since the suspension (after his hit from behind on Chicago's Brian Campbell on March 14), it's been on his mind," Boudreau told the media after the game. "I told him, 'You're not a dirty player, so just play the game you normally play.' "

Ovechkin finished the game with 2 assists, 6 shots on goal and 3 hits in 18:14 of playing time.

With the OT loss, the Bruins remain right in the thick of a five-team race for the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens, Bruins, Flyers, Rangers and Thrashers are within five points of each other for the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds.

"That was a good point," said Boston's Dennis Wideman. "That was a good effort to get a point, but when you have an effort like that, you always hope to get a deuce out of it."

For more insight into an exciting 11-game schedule on Tuesday that features playoff and individual races galore, including Sid vs. Ovi IV, click here.

--Mike G. Morreale

Blues live another day
04.06.2010 / 1:11 AM ET

Their season could end on Tuesday night if the Colorado Avalanche win at Vancouver, but the St. Louis Blues' faint playoff hopes live for another day thanks to Monday night's 2-1 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Scottrade Center.

''You want to kind of have your fate in your own hands,'' Blues defenseman Erik Johnson said after scoring the game-winner with 1:01 left in overtime. ''But we're in this position and we'll have to see what other teams do.''

-- Brian Compton

Mueller out for Avs

04.05.2010 / 3:43 PM ET

Since arriving in Denver, Peter Mueller has been a scoring sensation, with 9 goals and 20 points in 15 games. But he's out indefinitely after suffering a concussion during Sunday's crucial Avalanche win against San Jose. He had 2 goals and an assist before being driven into the boards by the Sharks' Rob Blake with 2:42 remaining in the third period.

Mueller will not be with the club on its road trip to Vancouver and Edmonton.

"Peter has been an important player for us and a very useful player for us since the trade," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco told the team's Web site following Monday's practice. "Like we've done all year long, we've got to rally around it. Other people have to raise their level and step into an opportunity maybe that they didn't have before."

Sacco said he's unsure who would take Mueller's spot on a line with Matt Duchene and Milan Hejduk during the road trip which starts Tuesday at the Canucks.

-- Adam Kimelman

Ehrhoff leaves with knee injury

04.05.2010 / 9:40 a.m. ET

The good news: The Vancouver Canucks wrapped up the Northwest Division on Sunday night with a 4-3 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild.

The bad news: Christian Ehrhoff, the Canucks' leading scorer from the blue line, left the game early in the third period and did not return.

An update on his status is expected to come today. Coach Alain Vigneault said, "I don't think it's anything major."

If the injury is serious, it could be potentially damaging to Vancouver's power play, which ranks fifth in the NHL and second in the Western Conference. Ehrhoff leads all Canucks' defenseman with 23 power-play points. His plus-33 is third on the team and first among blueliners.

-- Dave Lozo


Eastern Conference log-jam

04.05.2010 / 8:40 a.m. ET

So it's come down to this!

Five teams are battling for three spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race heading into the final week of the regular season.

The Montreal Canadiens (39-32-8, 86 points), Boston Bruins (36-30-12, 84 points), Philadelphia Flyers (39-34-6, 84 points), New York Rangers (36-32-10, 84 points) and Atlanta Thrashers (34-32-13, 81 points) are all within striking distance of each other for the sixth, seventh and eighth slots in the Conference.

Montreal … The Habs are the certain frontrunner to solidify a slot already owning a two-point edge over the Bruins and three games remaining against non-playoff participants featuring the Islanders (Tuesday), Hurricanes (Thursday) and Maple Leafs (Saturday).

Boston … The B's have a tough fight to the finish with games against Washington (Monday and Sunday), Buffalo (Thursday) and Carolina (Saturday). But, keep in mind the Bruins do have a game in hand on both the Flyers and Canadiens.

Philadelphia … Goaltending issues aside, the Flyers will close out the regular season with their destiny in their own hands with games against Toronto (Tuesday) and a can't-miss home-and-home stand with their Atlantic Division-rival New York Rangers on Friday and Saturday.

New York Rangers … A streak of five wins in six games have catapulted the underachieving Blueshirts back into the playoff mix over the last two weeks. John Tortorella's group has a game in hand on the Flyers -- the team they'll face twice over the next six days. They'll also close out against Buffalo (Tuesday) and Toronto (Wednesday)

Atlanta … The Thrashers certainly put up a good fight but they'll need to win out -- against New Jersey (Tuesday), Washington (Friday) and Pittsburgh (Saturday) -- and receive a little help along the way if it has any intentions of resuming play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

--Mike G. Morreale

Kovalchuk nervous about meeting former team
04.05.2010 / 8:35 a.m. ET

New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk is a little leery about heading into Philips Arena in Atlanta on Tuesday and the reasons are obvious.

After reportedly turning down offers from Thrashers GM Don Waddell to re-sign with the team, Kovalchuk was dealt to New Jersey in February after seven-plus seasons in Atlanta. While he's excited about the Devils' chances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the return to Atlanta is obviously on Kovalchuk's mind.

"I hope they're not going to boo me because we have a great relationship all my career there," Kovalchuk told The Star-Ledger. "I did everything I can for that organization. It was just time to move on.

"My job is to go on the ice and play," he continued. "Sometimes you make a decision that you think is right for you and your family. I hope it's going to be a good game."

--Mike G. Morreale

Canucks clinch Northwest
4.05.2010 / 12:50 AM ET

Despite blowing a 3-1 lead in the final minute of regulation, the Vancouver Canucks clinched the Northwest Division when Sunday night's game against the Minnesota Wild reached overtime. Sami Salo then put an exclamation point on things when he scored at 2:15 of the extra session in a 4-3 victory at GM Place.

By the clinching the division, the Canucks are guaranteed the No. 3 seed when the Stanley Cup Playoffs get under way next week.

-- Brian Compton

Avs win in OT; Caps are No. 1
4.04.2010 / 10:50 PM ET

The San Jose Sharks' loss was the Washington Capitals' gain on Sunday night.

Due to the Sharks' 5-4 overtime defeat in Colorado, the Capitals clinched the Presidents' Trophy and will have home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Washington (51-15-12) has 114 points with four games remaining.

With the victory, the Avalanche (42-29-7) snapped a four-game losing streak and regained sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference with 91 points. Colorado is two points ahead of Calgary, which lost earlier Sunday at Chicago.

The Avs lost forward Peter Mueller after he was drilled into the boards by Sharks defenseman Rob Blake with 2:42 left in the third period. Avs coach Joe Sacco said the team is hoping to learn more about the severity of the injury on Monday.

Joe Thornton returned to the Sharks' lineup after missing the past three games with a lower-body injury. He had two assists in the loss.

-- Brian Compton

Wings, Kings punch their tickets
4.04.2010 / 6:05 PM ET

A 4-1 loss in Chicago on Sunday hurt the playoff chances for the Calgary Flames, but it clinched postseason berths for both the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings.

The Wings could have taken care of business themselves, but lost in regulation for the first time in 13 games, 4-3 to the Flyers, earlier Sunday. They are currently sixth in the Western Conference, two points behind Nashville.

The Kings, who were idle after falling 2-1 to Anaheim in a shootout Saturday, are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002. They sit a point behind the Wings and three in back of the Predators.

--Brian Hunter


Blackhawks clinch Central
4.04.2010 / 3:15 PM ET

The puck just dropped at the United Center, but the party has already started in Chicago: By virtue of the 4-3 Philadelphia final over Detroit in Sunday's early game, the Blackhawks have won their first division title in 17 years.

How long has it been? Well, the last time they finished in first place, in 1993, it was in the days of the Norris Division.

Chicago has been looking up the standings at Detroit ever since. But not this season.

Of course, the Blackhawks have much bigger designs after losing to the Red Wings in five games last spring in the Western Conference Finals. Winning the division is just a step, but it does guarantee them a top-three seed. Chicago began play Sunday three points behind San Jose for first in the West, with a game in hand.

As for the game Sunday between Chicago and Calgary, this is a big one for the Flames, who could take a two-point lead for eighth and put all the pressure on the sinking Avalanche, who don't play until 8 p.m. ET when they host the Sharks.

Antti Niemi is starting in goal once again for the Blackhawks, who took the early lead at 2:56 on a Tomas Kopecky score.

--Brian Hunter


Live in Philadelphia
4.04.2010 / 11:45 AM ET

Happy Sunday, hockey fans.

If things go well for the Red Wings here in Philadelphia, it'll be a very happy day. A win against the Flyers would put Detroit in the playoffs for the 19th straight season. And another Central Division title, while unlikely, will remain a possibility if they win Sunday and the Blackhawks lose to the Flames.

Chris Osgood will make his first start since Jan. 27 today, but Wings coach Mike Babcock isn't cutting him any slack. Osgood has watched Jimmy Howard make 25 straight starts, and he's played all of 28:27 since that last start.

"Stop the puck and win," Babcock told the Detroit News of what he expects to see. "He's going to go in and play well for us and we're going to rally around him. We need him to play well."

The Flyers have their own goaltending issues, but the hope is Brian Boucher can play like he did Friday against Montreal, when he was outstanding. If the Flyers could have scored a goal they at least would have gotten a point. Instead, a regulation loss today would drop them into ninth place in the East, behind the Rangers -- both teams would have 82 points, but the Flyers would have played one more game than the Rangers.

Tune in at 12:30 p.m. on NBC, TSN and RIS, and enjoy the festivities.

-- Adam Kimelman

Wild, wild East
4.04.2010 / 12:15 AM ET

Saturday night provided more theatrics for the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens all won.

The Rangers made it three in a row as they scored four times in the third period en route to a 4-1 victory against the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center. New York has pulled even with Philadelphia in the points department (82), although the Flyers, who host Detroit on Sunday afternoon on NBC, have two more victories.

Boston remains two points ahead of the Rangers and moved two ahead of the Flyers with a 2-1 overtime win at Toronto. Miroslav Satan had both goals for the Bruins, who are in sole possession of seventh place.

The Bruins can breathe a sigh of relief as it appears Dennis Seidenberg will be able to play on Monday night at Washington despite receiving a nasty cut on his left arm after it connected with the skate blade of Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin.

"He should be fine for our next game," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Obviously because it was a skate cut, a skate play, they had to make sure that he was okay and went to the hospital and made sure there was no tendon damage or any of that stuff."

Montreal earned a 3-0 victory against Buffalo at the Bell Centre behind a 29-save performance from Jaroslav Halak. The Habs are in sixth place, two points ahead of Boston.

Also, the New Jersey Devils regained the Atlantic Division lead thanks to Martin Brodeur's 109th career shutout and 599th victory -- a 4-0 win at Carolina. Brodeur made 26 saves.

The Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins each have 45 wins and 98 points, but the Devils have the tiebreaker due to their season-series sweep of the defending champs.

-- Brian Compton

The hunter and the hunted
4.03.2010 / 7:45 PM ET

NHL.com correspondent Rick Sadowski reports on the battle for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, which, with just over a week left in the regular season, shapes up as a two-team race with the Colorado Avalanche trying to hold off the Calgary Flames.

Calgary is feeling good right now. Most pundits were writing the Flames' obituary just a week ago after they all but flat-lined in a 5-0 loss in Boston. But they went on to win the next three, including a key 2-1 win in Colorado on Friday that tied the two teams with 89 points apiece.

Colorado is saying all the right things, but is panic beginning to set in in the Avalanche dressing room? They led the Northwest Division for a significant portion of the season and were a virtual lock to return to the playoffs following a last-place finish in the West a season ago. Things turned around with first-year coach Joe Sacco, new goalie Craig Anderson and an infusion of youth at the forefront, but now the Avs have to rediscover their games before the Flames go past and leave them in the rearview mirror.

Calgary pays a visit to Chicago
on Sunday afternoon, then Colorado plays host to San Jose in the evening.

--Brian Hunter


Welcome back!
4.03.2010 / 7:30 PM ET

Pittsburgh Penguins fans can breathe a bit easier -- not only are Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar back in the lineup, but both finished Saturday's 4-3 overtime win over the Atlanta Thrashers with a goal and an assist.

"It's great to have them back," said captain Sidney Crosby, who assisted on three goals, including Jordan Leopold's OT winner. "Obviously for them to miss some time like they did and come back and play the way they did, and make an impact right away, that's huge for us."

The Penguins were moments away from losing their second straight home game when Malkin breezed into the Thrashers' zone on a late power play and sent the puck back out to Gonchar for a blast from the blue line that knotted the score with 1:14 remaining.

Earlier in the game, Malkin scored his 25th goal of the season on another Pittsburgh power play.

The two points gave the Penguins the lead back in the Atlantic Division, pending the result of the Devils-Hurricanes game on Saturday night.

--Brian Hunter


Step one achieved
4.03.2010 / 7:22 PM ET

The Nashville Predators made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons beginning in 2004, but never won a playoff series. Then, last season, the Predators fell out of the postseason picture and even slipped to the Central Division cellar, passed by up-and-coming teams like Columbus and St. Louis. Was the franchise about to slip?

Worry not, hockey in the Music City is alive and well, and after Saturday's 4-3 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, the Predators are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They became the fifth Western Conference team to clinch just by getting through regulation tied up, but defenseman Ryan Suter made sure they got the extra point by scoring 16 seconds into the OT period.

"We do feel good about it (clinching a playoff spot)," said forward J.P. Dumont, who scored in regulation. "But we want to make sure we get as good a position as possible."

Now that they're back in the postseason, the Predators will look for their first series win. They lost in the first round to the Red Wings in 2004 and 2008 and to the San Jose Sharks in 2006 and 2007.

--Brian Hunter

Flyers on the mend
4.02.2010 / 6:46 PM ET

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren gave an update on a few of his injured players prior to tonight's game against the Canadiens.

Leading scorer Jeff Carter, out since March 21 with a broken bone in his foot, is working out but can't skate. Holmgren said Carter will have another MRI on April 7.

"If he's pain-free at that time and the MRI shows there's some callous around the break, then he'll be able to skate and we'll see at that point in time if he can play right away," said Holmgren.

If Carter gets the green light then, he could be available for the Flyers' final two games, April 9 and 11 against the Rangers.

The time-frame on Leighton is a bit longer. Out since injuring his ankle March 16, he skated in pads Thursday morning, but Holmgren said, "best case I would say he's at least three weeks away from playing."

And Ray Emery, who started the season as the No. 1 goalie, had hip surgery yesterday, which Holmgren said went well.
 
"The doctor's comment to me was it went better than he expected it to go," said Holmgren. "His rehabilitation time is going to be long. We won't know for six months how it's going to play out for him."

Holmgren also talked a bit about Sebastien Caron, the latest backup who will become the seventh goalie to suit up for the Flyers this season.

Read the full story here

-- Adam Kimelman

Malkin, Gonchar expected back Saturday; Atlanta's Armstrong suspended
4.02.2010 / 3:10 PM ET

According to Sam Kasan's Penguins Report on PittsburghPenguins.com, coach Dan Bylsma expects both Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar to play Saturday against Atlanta.

"That's the anticipation," Bylsma said.

Malkin has missed seven of the last eight games with a sore foot and Gonchar has skipped the last four with an illness that could be a bad cold.

"Yeah, the strength was gone but I have been working on it the past three or four days," Gonchar said. "It’s tough to do things with the team when you are not skating with the team. Obviously you are a little behind. I want to play as soon as possible so I can catch up to them."

Kasan also writes that the Thrashers, who lost Thursday in Washington, had a light practice at Mellon Arena on Friday. Atlanta remains two points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with four brutally tough games left. It plays Pittsburgh twice, New Jersey and Washington.

To make matters worse, the Thrashers will be without Colby Armstrong for the next two games as he was just suspended by the NHL for using his elbow to hit Mathieu Perreault's head in Thursday's game. Armstrong will miss Saturday's game in Pittsburgh and Tuesday's game back home against New Jersey.

"I just banged a forecheck on him," Armstrong told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution after the game. "I had a pretty good line on him. He's a pretty good little shifty player and I think he kind of bailed out there at the end. I saw the replay. If anything I just tried to get a piece of him. I didn't mean to get my arms up in his kitchen like that. It just happened so fast. I just tried to get a piece of him. I talked to the ref afterward and he said he ducked out of the way and fell backward."

-- Dan Rosen

Niemi to start again for Hawks, seems to be the No. 1 guy now

4.02.2010 / 1:38 PM ET

Chicago goalie Antti Niemi will get his third start in four nights and his seventh start in the last eight games tonight in New Jersey. Once again this morning coach Joel Quenneville would not say that Niemi is going to be the Blackhawks'goalie going into the playoffs, but it appears his mind is made up.

You have to think that unless Niemi really falters down the stretch, and the Hawks have only five games remaining after tonight, that he is Quenneville's guy and Cristobal Huet will be the backup. In fact, it's even possible that Huet doesn't play another minute this season.

Chicago is trying to win the Western Conference and get the top seed, so if Niemi is hot Quenneville will likely ride him out. It's not as if the guy has played a ton of minutes this season. He has appeared in only 33 games, so he shouldn't need any rest right now.

In other Hawks news, Quenneville said he likes the look of his newly formed line of Jonathan Toews with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. Patrick Kane will again skate tonight with Dave Bolland and Troy Brouwer. Dustin Byfuglien should be back on defense in a pair with Duncan Keith.

Byfuglien's versaility is something Quenneville loves.

There was also a lot of talk this morning about center John Madden returning home to New Jersey to play as an opponent for the first time. Madden spent 11 years in the Devils organization and won the Stanley Cup twice. Quenneville knows it's a special day for Madden, but more importantly he can't wait to see what kind of leadership Madden brings to the team come playoff time.

Quenneville wouldn't come out and say it, but it's obvious that the Hawks signed Madden this summer for this particular part of the season.

-- Dan Rosen

Everything, except injuries, falling into place for Rangers
4.02.2010 / 11:15 AM ET

Everything that could go right has gone right for the Rangers over the last 48 hours.

On Wednesday, the Canadiens lost in regulation to the Hurricanes. On Thursday, the Bruins, Thrashers and Flyers all failed to pick up a point.

That leaves the 10th-place Rangers in a prime position to take a huge step toward the top 8 in the Eastern Conference when they face the Lightning in Tampa tonight. The Rangers (78 points) sit four points behind the Flyers, Canadiens and Bruins, who are in a logjam in the six-through-eight spots in the East. The Thrashers have 80 points and are in ninth.

Now the Rangers have a game in hand on the teams holding the last three playoff spots and two games in hand on the Thrashers.

But as has been the case with the Rangers all season, there's always some bad mixed in with the good.

Ryan Callahan, Sean Avery and Brian Boyle won't be in the lineup tonight, and there's a good chance that will be the case when the Rangers visit the Panthers on Saturday. With just 10 days left in the regular season, if the Rangers don't leave the Sunshine State in better shape in the standings than when they got there, it might be time to finally write them off.

-- Dave Lozo

Minus one Sedin
4.02.2010 / 2:32 AM ET

The Vancouver Canucks were forced to get used to life without Daniel Sedin earlier this season when he missed time with a broken foot. They were without him again on Thursday due to back spasms that flared up prior to their game with the Los Angeles Kings, an 8-3 loss. No immediate word as to whether Sedin would also miss Friday's game against the Anaheim Ducks.

Another forward, Alexandre Burrows, had to leave the game when a Jarret Stoll shot hit him in the upper chest area. Burrows dropped to the ice but was able to get up and skate off under his own power, though he did not return.

"It's tougher to swallow right now, but the pain is gone," he said later. "I kind of wanted to go back out there with the boys, but I decided to ice it, let the swelling go down a bit."

Vancouver could have clinched a Western Conference playoff berth with a single point Thursday. The same scenario applies Friday -- the Canucks could also clinch if Calgary fails to win its game in Colorado.

--Brian Hunter

Thornton skating
4.02.2010 / 12:34 AM ET

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton was on the ice Thursday for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury last Saturday in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. He missed games this week against Colorado and Dallas and is still considered day-to-day. The Sharks visit the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

"It felt a little sore but that's probably normal," Thornton said. "It is feeling better everyday."

Ryane Clowe, who left Wednesday's game against Dallas after taking a puck up high, was also on the ice Thursday.

--Brian Hunter


Look who's back
4.01.2010 / 10:18 PM ET

Thursday night wasn't a total loss for Eastern Conference teams looking to improve their standing. The Ottawa Senators, less than 10 seconds from coming up empty against the Carolina Hurricanes, got rookie Erik Karlsson's second goal of the third period and then won in a shootout. Their 4-3 victory clinched a postseason berth.

It was only three seasons ago when the Senators made a run to the Stanley Cup Final, where they were disposed of by Anaheim. They were swept in the first round the following spring by Pittsburgh, and finished outside of the top eight in 2008-09. But the team rebounded in the second half after Cory Clouston was given the coaching duties, and despite some inconsistencies this season the Senators have been playoff contenders ever since a franchise-record 11-game winning streak prior to the Olympic break.

Ottawa sits fifth in the Eastern Conference with 89 points and seems doubtful to fall any farther. Could the Senators climb higher? Possible, though not probable. They trail the Devils by five points for fourth place and home ice in the first round. But the Senators have only five games left, while the Devils have six. The Sens are also seven points behind the Sabres for the Northeast Division lead, with the Sabres also having five games remaining.

--Brian Hunter


Status quo in the East
4.01.2010 / 9:58 PM ET

It couldn't have gone any better for the New York Rangers on Thursday night -- they sat around and watched as three of the teams they're chasing in the Eastern Conference all lost in regulation.

Start with the Boston Bruins, who got blanked in regulation for the second game in a row. The Bruins still managed two points on Tuesday when Patrice Bergeron put a rebound past Martin Brodeur in the final minute of overtime for a 1-0 win in New Jersey. They weren't as lucky Thursday, when former Brodeur backup Scott Clemmensen turned aside all 36 shots he faced and made a Keith Ballard goal in the first period stand up. Florida 1, Boston 0.

It looked like perhaps the Philadelphia Flyers had turned a corner with their 5-1 win over the Devils on Sunday. An actual two-game win streak was ripe for the taking, too, with Thursday's opponent, the New York Islanders, having lost 15 in a row to Philadelphia. But the Flyers fell behind by four goals early in the second period and turned up the offense too late to come back. New York 6, Philadelphia 4.

What all this meant was the Atlanta Thrashers could have created a four-way tie for the final three Eastern Conference playoff berths if they won their game against the Washington Capitals. It was a tall order, playing at the Verizon Center where the Caps entered a League-best 27-5-5 this season. But the Thrashers got a goal from call-up Tim Stapleton and went into the third period in a 1-1 tie. Matt Bradley would score at 9:46 of the third, however. Washington 2, Atlanta 1.

Philadelphia, Montreal (idle Thursday) and Boston all remain tied with 82 points. Each has five games remaining. The Flyers, who have 38 wins, currently hold down sixth. The Canadiens (37 wins) are seventh. The Bruins (35 wins) are eighth. Montreal plays in Philadelphia on Friday.

The Thrashers remain ninth with 80 points, but Thursday's loss hurt them especially because they only have four games remaining -- two with the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins, another with the Capitals and one with the Devils.

Although the Rangers, with 78 points, are four out of a playoff spot, they still have six games left. That includes a home-and-home with the Flyers to conclude the regular season. New York plays in Tampa Bay on Friday.

--Brian Hunter


Flyers recall goalie Duchesne to back up Boucher
4.01.2010 / 11:00 AM ET

The Philadelphia Flyers recalled goalie Jeremy Duchesne from the AHL Adirondack Phantoms for Thursday's game against the Islanders at the Nassau County Coliseum.

Duchesne will serve as backup to starter Brian Boucher, a team official said. He is one of six goalies to dress this season for the Flyers. Ray Emery started the season as the No. 1 goalie with Boucher as his backup. The Flyers claimed Michael Leighton off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 15. The Flyers have also dressed Johan Backlund, Carter Hutton and Duchesne.

Emery (16-11-1) has undergone abdominal and hip surgeries and is out for the season. Leighton (16-5-2) suffered a high ankle sprain on March 16 and will miss 8-to-10 weeks.

Backlund, who was called up from Adirondack on March 24, reinjured his groin on March 27 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, leaving after two periods. Boucher (6-15-3) finished that game. Boucher started Sunday and won 5-1 against the New Jersey Devils in Philadelphia.

Hutton served as Boucher's backup against the Devils. Hutton, who played for UMass-Lowell until earlier this month, was limited to one game under the terms of his emergency callup.

The Flyers had hoped Backlund (0-1-0) would be available for the Islanders' game.

This is the third time the Flyers have called up Duchesne to serve as a backup goalie since March 17. He has yet to play for the Flyers although he dressed for games against Dallas, Atlanta (twice) and Ottawa.

In four Phantoms games this season, Duchesne is 1-3-0 with a 2.94 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage. He went 9-4-3-2 with a 3.20 GAA and .904 save percentage earlier this season for the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL.

-- John McGourty

It's down to two
4.01.2010 / 1:35 AM ET

For months, the Colorado Avalanche appeared destined to be one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference.

On Friday, however, they'll find themselves in a must-win situation when the Calgary Flames come to town.

The Flames pulled within two points of the eighth-place Avalanche on Wednesday when they won their fifth straight on home ice in a 2-1 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes. Colorado, meanwhile, suffered a 5-2 loss to Anaheim at the Pepsi Center.

"Not much really has to be said. We know what the stakes are," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "We knew going in ... if we did our job and got some help that we'd have an opportunity to go down there two points behind."

Wednesday's loss was the Avalanche's third straight and sixth in their last seven games.

"It's going to be a huge game," Colorado captain Adam Foote said following a team meeting that lasted 16 minutes. "We'll regroup going into that game and get our game plan. Everybody has to take a deep breath and remember the little things that we did well to be here.

"This has been a team where we've been a nice surprise all year. No one's had a lot to talk about. There's not been a lot of pressure put on us. We're going to have to go back to work and support each other and get it done.

"It's going to be interesting to see how we react to this."

-- Brian Compton

The Kids are alright
4.01.2010 / 12:33 AM ET

No Tim Connolly? No Thomas Vanek?

No problem.

Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe, both recalled from the minors this week, joined rookie Tim Kennedy as goal-scorers to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 6-2 victory against the Florida Panthers at HSBC Arena on Wednesday night.

Combined with Pittsburgh's 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay, the Sabres -- despite injuries to two of their top forwards -- moved one point ahead of the Penguins and into second place in the Eastern Conference.

"It's a big step when you have that much depth," said veteran forward Jason Pominville, who scored his 24th of the season. "Guys have stepped in at different moments and played well, and I think the two guys who got called up brought energy to the team."

-- Brian Compton

Stats show how much Pens need Malkin
3.31.2010 / 2:50 PM ET

Evgeni Malkin will again be out of the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup tonight when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning. It will be the seventh game in the last two weeks that Malkin has missed due to lingering soreness in his right foot.

It's easy to just say that Malkin is vitally important to the success of the Penguins, but the numbers, as they say, speak volumes.

The Penguins are 5-7-1 without Malkin this season, and two of those five wins have come in a shootout. Malkin also sat out seven games from Oct. 30-Nov. 12 with a shoulder injury.

Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL's race for the Rocket Richard Trophy, has just two goals in games Malkin has missed, and he got them both against Toronto on Sunday, snapping a seven-game goal less drought.

By breaking down the math even more, we found out that the Penguins have been outscored, 44-28, in games Malkin has missed. That means they give up an average of 3.67 goals per game and score only 2.33. It wasn't until recently (11 goals over the last three games) that they found some offense without Malkin.

Overall, the Penguins score on average 3.01 goals per game and yield 2.83. So, they're scoring much less and giving up much more without the services of No. 71. Crosby has scored 45 of his 47 goals in the 63 games he's played with Malkin.

Crosby and Malkin are not linemates, but they do play the power play together and Crosby has scored right around 25 percent of his goals with the advantage. Crosby also has to always face the opposition's shutdown units when Malkin is not playing.

To conclude, the Penguins need Malkin. Yeah, breaking news, eh?

-- Dan Rosen

Bernier staying in L.A.?
3.31.2010 / 1:51 PM ET

Team officials say it's too early to make a definitive statement but it looks like goalie Jonathan Bernier, 2-0-0 in two starts this year, may stay with the Los Angeles Kings through the end of the regular season. And the Kings' first-round pick (No. 11) in the 2006 Entry Draft is eligible for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That's good news for the Kings, who have seen No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick, struggle recently, going 3-7-1 in his last 11 starts. Bernier helped stopped a four-game losing streak Tuesday with a 2-0 shutout of the Nashville Predators. He was also in net for a 2-1 shootout victory against the Dallas Stars on March 12.

Bernier, 21, was 23-24-4 with a 2.40 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 54 games for the AHL Manchester Monarchs this season.

Monarchs Director of Hockey Operations Hubie McDonough announced Wednesday the team signed goaltender Matt Lopes to a professional-tryout agreement, filling Bernier's roster spot for at least one game. 

Kings coach Terry Murray will make a decision after practice Wednesday on his starting goalie for Thursday's game against the Vancouver Canucks in the Staples Center.

-- John McGourty

Are the Canucks the most complete team in the West?
3.31.2010 / 9:27 AM ET

With Vancouver's dominating win over Phoenix and Chicago's disappointing loss in St. Louis, the Canucks moved within three points of the Blackhawks for second place in the Western Conference.

It wasn't long ago that the Canucks were battling with Colorado for first in the Northwest Division as they embarked on a 14-game road trip, but now they have 96 points, seven more than the Avalanche. Vancouver can clinch a playoff berth tonight if Calgary loses to Phoenix.

And, just in case you haven't noticed, Vancouver now has the best offense in the Western Conference with 248 goals, one more than San Jose.

Henrik Sedin picked up three more points Tuesday to give him a League-leading 104 for the season. His line, including Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows, contributed three goals and six points against the Coyotes.

Roberto Luongo got back on track with 32 saves against Phoenix after going winless in three straight decisions.

Luongo appears over any Olympic hangover he might have been battling and the Canucks are looking more and more like the team with the fewest question marks of any in the Western Conference.

They've got the goaltending. They've got the star power. They've got the indisputable top line. They've got depth. They've got defense. They've got the special teams. They're one of the best faceoff teams in the League.

And, what trumps all of that, the Canucks have the hunger after being unceremoniously knocked out of the playoffs last season by the upstart Blackhawks, who rang seven goals up on Luongo in the deciding Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

So, are the Canucks the most complete team out West? It's certainly up for debate.

-- Dan Rosen

Thornton hoping for quick return

3.31.2010 / 8:10 AM ET

San Jose Sharks scoring leader Joe Thornton told The San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday that his undisclosed, lower-body injury, shouldn't keep him sidelined very long.

And that's a good thing as the Sharks battle to lock up the top seed in the Western Conference with just six games left on their schedule. Thornton is targeting a return during the team's upcoming 4-game road trip to Dallas (Wednesday), Minnesota (Friday), Colorado (Sunday) and Calgary (Tuesday).

"I expect to play, but I just don't know when," Thornton said. "It's just day-to-day. Every day I wake up and hope I feel a little better."

Thornton, who has 19 goals and 85 points in 75 games this season, was injured after going hard into the boards awkwardly against Vancouver on Saturday. His streak of 398 consecutive games came to an end when he sat out a 4-3 victory over Colorado the next day. It marked the first time he was forced to watch a Sharks' game since arriving in San Jose in November 2005.

-- Mike G. Morreale

Thrashing through; Evander Kane close
3.31.2010 / 8:00 PM ET

The Atlanta Thrashers are not going to just fade away into the night.

That was pretty evident on Tuesday when Nik Antropov connected 4:44 into the third period to send the Thrashers to a monumental 3-2 victory over the red-hot Totonto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The triumph enabled Atlanta to maintain pace with three teams.

The Thrashers are currently 2 points behind Philadelphia, Montreal and Boston for the 6th, 7th and 8th seed, respectively, in the Eastern Conference. Still Atlanta needs to continue picking up points in each of its remaining five games as the Flyers, Canadiens and Bruins all have a game in hand.

Atlanta coach John Anderson received some more positive news on Tuesday when he learned that rookie forward Evander Kane is close to making his return to the lineup after sitting out the past 14 games with a broken foot. Kane skated on Monday without pain for the second straight day, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"It feels good," Kane (14 goals) told the paper. "I was able to go pretty hard. (On Monday), it felt really good as well. (Tuesday) there were no issues. I want to get in as soon as possible but it's going to take a couple days."

-- Mike G. Morreale

Not quite
3.30.2010 / 9:46 PM ET

The Ottawa Senators did what they needed to do to clinch a playoff berth, but the Atlanta Thrashers and New York Rangers didn't cooperate.

In Washington, the Senators got an OT goal by Alex Kovalev to beat the Capitals 5-4. Kovalev came into the game not having produced as much as a point since play resumed after the Olympic break, but his deflection past Jose Theodore gave the Senators five consecutive wins and 89 points.

But wins by the Thrashers and Rangers prevented their from clinching, at least for another day. Atlanta won 3-2 at Toronto, getting a goal by Nik Antropov in the third period after blowing a 2-0 lead. The Rangers were down 2-0 after a period on Long Island, but rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Islanders.

Combined with Boston's 1-0 OT win at New Jersey, the Bruins and the two teams chasing them stayed right where they were in relation to each other. With 82 points, Boston has 82 points (as do Philadelphia and Montreal, both of which have more wins), leaving the Bruins two points ahead of the Thrashers (who have played one more game) and four in front of the Rangers.

Meanwhile, the Senators will have to wait at least until Thursday, when they host Carolina, to officially lock up a a playoff berth.

-- John Kreiser

O'Brien a distraction?
3.30.2010 / 3:56 PM ET

What's the story with Shane O'Brien?

The Canucks' defenseman apparently has run afoul of Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault and management, and he won't skate again with the club until Sunday. That means he'll miss games tonight against the Coyotes, Thursday against the Kings and Friday against the Ducks.

O'Brien arrived five minutes before Monday's 11 a.m. practice, which apparently was just the latest of his transgressions. O'Brien skated on his own Tuesday, and Vigneault said O'Brien will not be with the team on its trip to Southern California.

Vigneault would not call the discipline placed on O'Brien a suspension. But he did say Monday's incident wasn't a first-time thing.

"Obviously, there's more to this than just (Monday's) incident, so we've got a plan for Shane O'Brien," Vigneault told reporters Tuesday following the morning skate. "He will not be practicing with the team until Sunday and his situation there will be re-evaluated -- barring injuries to other players. He will not be joining us on this trip and his situation with the team will be re-evaluated. It's not a suspension. We've got a plan for him, a special program."

That was all Vigneault would say on the situation.

"I just said, there's more than this incident and I'm not a rookie at this, so you can try many ways with many questions -- it's not going to work," said Vigneault.

O'Brien has 8 points, 79 penalty minutes and a plus-16 rating in 63 games. He's sixth among Canucks defenseman in average ice time per game at 17:12.

The Canucks look locked into the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, but this doesn't seem like a distraction a team needs with seven games left in the regular season.

-- Adam Kimelman


Metropolit confirmed out
3.30.2010 / 3:44 PM ET

The Canadiens finally confirmed what other outlets have been reporting all day -- that veteran center Glen Metropolit has a serious shoulder injury. Coach Jacques Martin only would say Metropolit will miss the rest of the regular season, but an earlier report in the Montreal Gazette reported an MRI showed a muscle tear in the the 35-year-old's left shoulder will sideline him 6-8 weeks.

The hit occurred here against New Jersey on Saturday. Clean hit, just looked like it caught Metropolit at the wrong angle. It's a shame for a player having a career season, with a team-best 10 power-play goals and a career-high 16.

Read more here.

Flyers send down goalie Hutton
03.30.2010 / 2:43 PM

The Philadelphia Flyers took their team photo Monday and had four goalies in the picture. One of them, though, wasn't Carter Hutton, who had been reassigned to the Adirondack Phantoms. Hutton, 24, was called up Sunday on an emergency basis to backup starter Brian Boucher.

Johan Backlund, who was injured Saturday agains the Pittsburgh Penguins, will serve as Boucher's backup Thursday against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

Hutton did not play in Flyers' 5-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils. He has appeared in four AHL games with the Phantoms, including Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Monarchs in Manchester. He's 1-2-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .921 save percentage with the Phantoms.

Hutton signed an amateur tryout agreement with the Phantoms on March 20, following his senior year at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

In 27 games with UMass-Lowell, Hutton was 13-12-2, with a Hockey East-best 2.04 GAA, .928 save percentage and four shutouts.

-- John McGourty

Carcillo suspended
03.30.2010 / 2:01 PM

The Flyers released a statement regarding Daniel Carcillo's two-game suspension for high-sticking New Jersey's David Clarkson on Sunday.

Click here for a video of the incident.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was not happy about the decision, feeling the play was accidental and not worthy of what was ruled a match penalty.

Here's the full story.

-- Adam Kimelman

Bad news for Montreal
03.30.2010 / 1:06 PM

' There s been no confirmation from the Canadiens, but if the Montreal Gazette report is right, the Canadiens' playoff hopes just took a major hit.

The newspaper is reporting on its Web site that Metropolit -- having a career season with 10 power-play goals -- will miss the next 6-8 weeks with a shoulder injury. The Gazette is reporting an MRI revealed the injury to his left shoulder. The injury occurred Saturday on a shoulder-to-shoulder hit midway through the first period against New Jersey.

Click here for a video of the hit.

-- Adam Kimelman

Schedule oddities
03.30.2010 / 8:55 AM

The Philadelphia Flyers just completed a stretch that saw them play 16 games in 28 days -- a "ridiculous" schedule, according to coach Peter Laviolette -- the Flyers are in the midst of a well-deserved break that will last until Thursday's game against the New York Islanders.

The only problem with having time off now is the teams right around them in the playoff hunt still are playing. In fact, since the Flyers left the ice Monday, the Bruins and Thrashers will have played twice, and the Canadiens will also will play. However, both Boston and Atlanta did the Flyers a favor by losing Monday, but in the worst-case scenario, the Flyers could have been shuffled right out of the playoff deck without picking up a stick.

But at least they're getting a few days off.

-- Adam Kimelman

All hail Henrik
03.30.2010 / 1:48 AM

As the Vancouver Canucks gear up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they have one of the League's top game-breakers in Henrik Sedin playing the best hockey of his career.

Sedin recently eclipsed the 100-point plateau for the first time in his nine-year career. He begins play Tuesday with 101, one more than that guy who wears No. 8 for the Washington Capitals -- you know, Alex Ovechkin.

Sedin has also set a career high with 73 assists, which also leads the League. And if you think the Swedish sensation is all about offense, there's also his plus-33 rating to consider.

The Canucks look to move a step closer to wrapping up the Northwest Division title when they host the surging Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night at GM Place.

--Brian Hunter

Bernier to start for L.A. on Tuesday
03.30.2010 / 12:55 AM

Los Angeles Kings beat writer Rich Hammond is reporting that Jonathan Bernier will be the starting goaltender on Tuesday night when the team faces the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

Bernier was recalled by Los Angeles from AHL Manchester after backup goalie Erik Ersberg was diagnosed with a strained back.

The Kings, who suffered a 3-2 loss at Minnesota on Monday night, are just 2-5-2 since March 10 and are just five points ahead of the ninth-place Calgary Flames in the Western Conference.

-- Brian Compton

Hornqvist opening eyes
03.30.2010 / 12:25 AM

He's not a rookie, since he played 28 games last season. But this is the first full go-around in the NHL for Nashville Predators forward Patric Hornqvist, and boy is he taking advantage.

Hornqvist helped the Predators grab two points from a game that was starting to look as though it would yield zero, scoring with 3:07 left in the third period to tie their game against the Florida Panthers on Monday night. Francis Bouillon scored the winner a minute into overtime and Nashville won 3-2 to extend its lead over Detroit in the Western Conference standings to three points.

It was the 30th of the season for Hornqvist, who paces the Predators in goal scoring. Not too shabby for a guy who was the final player selected in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

"Well he's been a surprise this year in being able to put up the numbers he has," Predators coach Barry Trotz told NHL.com correspondent John Manasso. "It's no surprise that he gets all his goals from the six inches in front of the crease. … To me, the game just slowed down for him. Last year the game was happening too quick. And that's just the threshold he had to get through as a young player."

--Brian Hunter


Who wants it?
03.30.2010 / 12:10 AM

The Boston Bruins had a chance to move up in the standings Monday night and tie idle Montreal and Philadelphia for sixth in the Eastern Conference -- if they could win on home ice against the Buffalo Sabres. They couldn't.

Once they failed, the Atlanta Thrashers had an opportunity to tie for the eighth and final playoff spot -- if they could win on home ice against the Carolina Hurricanes. They couldn't.

As a result, not much changed in the East standings, other than the Sabres moving closer to clinching the Northeast Division title after their 3-2 win at TD Garden. The Bruins, meanwhile, must lick their wounds in a hurry because they're right back in action Tuesday, visiting the Prudential Center for a date with the New Jersey Devils.

It was another frustrating night at Philips Arena for the Thrashers, who have blown multiple chances in the past week to make up ground on the team they're chasing. Despite an early Nik Antropov goal, Atlanta didn't have much going against Cam Ward as the Carolina goalie recorded a 4-1 victory in his return after missing 18 games due to a back injury.

One team that came away smiling from Monday's action was the New York Rangers, who continue to trail the Bruins by four points and the Thrashers by just two with a rivalry game against the New York Islanders on tap for Tuesday night.

--Brian Hunter


Kaleta out two weeks
03.29.2010 / 6:51 PM

It appears as though the Buffalo Sabres will have to wait until the playoffs to get Patrick Kaleta back in the lineup.

Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier announced that Kaleta had surgery on his thumb Monday and is expected to be out a minimum of two weeks.

Kaleta has 10 goals and 15 points in 54 games this season.

--Brian Hunter

TBL-PIT among four games added by VERSUS
03.29.2010 / 4:00 PM

VERSUS will add four bonus games to its schedule as the race to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs intensifies. The network's first additional game will feature the Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.  Local blackouts apply so the home team markets will see the Chicago Blackhawks/Minnesota Wild game at 8:00 p.m. ET. 

On Thursday, VERSUS will televise the Atlanta Thrashers-Washington Capitals matchup at 7 p.m. On Tuesday, April 6, following the network's regularly scheduled Capitals-Penguins game, VERSUS will air the Colorado Avalanche-Vancouver Canucks game at 10:00 p.m. ET.  Due to local blackout restrictions the bonus games will not air in the team markets.  

VERSUS' COMPLETE UPCOMING NHL SCHEDULE:

March 29    Buffalo at Boston    7:00 pm
March 30    Chicago at St. Louis    8:00 pm
March 31    Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh    7:30 pm
March 31    Chicago at Minnesota    8:00 pm (airs only in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh)
April 1    Atlanta at Washington    7:00 pm 
April 5    Boston at Washington    7:00 pm
April 6    Washington at Pittsburgh    7:30 pm
April 6    Colorado at Vancouver    10:00 pm      

Zidlicky questionable for Wild
03.29.2010 / 3:46 PM

Minnesota remains banged up for Monday night's game against a desperate Los Angeles Kings.

Defenseman Marek Zidlicky went to the hospital Monday to have his injured arm looked at and is doubtful for tonight. If he can not, Minnesota native Nate Prosser could make his debut for the Wild on the blue lIne. Cam Barker remains out with an ankle injury. Clayton Stoner (hernia), Shane Hnidy (leg) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) are all out.

Minnesota expects to have Guillaume Latendresse in the lineup despite his nagging injuries. Mikko Koivu is also expected to return to the lineup for Monday's game.

--Shawn P. Roarke 

Sens sign college free-agent Butler
03.29.2010 / 3:31 PM

Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray announced Monday the club has signed free-agent forward Bobby Butler to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Butler’s collegiate career came ended Saturday when the University of New Hampshire fell 6-2 to the Rochester Institute of Technology at the 2010 NCAA East Regional finals in Albany. Butler was named to the all-regional team for his efforts. Butler recorded two goals and one assist in UNH’s 6-2 win against sixth-ranked Cornell University in the first round of the tournament last Friday.

A Top 10 finalist for the 2010 Hobey Baker Award, Butler helped UNH capture its eighth Hockey East regular-season title, including its third in the last four years, and qualify for the NCAA East Regional tournament for a ninth-straight season.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Quick to start for Kings Monday
03.29.2010 / 3:27 PM

According to Kings beat writer Rich Hammond, goalie Jonathan Quick will start Monday night’s game against Minnesota. Jonathan Bernier has been called up under emergency conditions to be his backup because Erik Ersberg has a strained back.

Also, Matt Green will replace Randy Jones on the blue line. Jones is suffering from an elbow injury.

--Shawn P. Roarke


Avalanche falling fast in West
03.29.2010 / 1:45 PM

If the Colorado Avalanche were a cartoon character, they'd be Wile E. Coyote, and a playoff spot would be the Road Runner.

After looking like they had a postseason berth in their sights all season, the Avalanche have fallen off a cliff with an ACME rocket strapped to their back. The ground is coming up fast, and the playoffs are sticking their tongue out and maybe even speeding away.

A 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night that featured more bad bounces than an onside kick has left the Avs in eighth place in the West, just four points ahead of the Calgary Flames. Earlier in the day, the struggling Flames surprised many with a 5-3 road victory against the League-leading Washington Capitals.

The Avs, who have lost 5 of 6 and led the Northwest Division in late-January, have a game in hand on the Flames.

But the pressure is mounting.

"We've got to stay positive," Avs captain Adam Foote told the Denver Post. "If we play with the same effort like we had tonight, we're not going to see three or four goals go in off our guys like tonight."

The Avs' schedule the rest of the way is favorable. Five of their seven remaining games will be played at the Pepsi Center, including Friday's showdown with the Flames, who have beaten the Avs just once in five tries this season.

Avalanche coach Joe Sacco won't panic, and he liked how his team played despite the loss Sunday.

"I think if we play like that down the stretch here, we'll be fine," Sacco said. "That's how we have to play, with that desperation. . . . You could see our guys were desperate, and we just have to keep battling."

A win Friday could all but salt away a playoff spot. A loss, though, and trouble could be brewing in Denver.

-- Dave Lozo

Monday's playoff implications
03.29.2010 / 12:41 PM

Although there are no clinching possibilities in play in Monday’s games, four of the five contests still have playoff implications.

In the nationally televised game, which sees Boston hosting Buffalo (7 p.m. Versus), the Bruins are looking to hold onto their grip on eighth place, while Buffalo is looking to open a nearly unbeatable seven-point lead on the Ottawa Senators for the Northeast division crown.

It appears that Boston will go with Tim Thomas in goal against the Sabres, as he was the first one off the ice after the morning skate. The team will also be without defenseman Andrew Ference and will likely have the same lineup used in Saturday’s convincing win against Calgary.

Atlanta, the No. 9 team in the East, will be looking to keep pace Monday by beating Carolina. In fact, if Atlanta wins Monday and the Bruins lose, Atlanta would own the No. 8 seed via the tie-breaking process.

The Thrashers already received good news today as Evander Kane skated in the morning skate and is believed to be close to returning. He will make the team’s upcoming road trip.

Nashville continues a busy week with a stop in Florida to play the Panthers. Florida appears ready to start backup Scott Clemmensen in the game. Also, Byron Bitz is out with an elbow injury.

Nashville, which dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision to Detroit in a memorable shootout on Saturday, is in the No. 5 spot in the West, but is just one point up on Detroit, which has a game in hand.

Finally, the Los Angeles Kings will be looking to make up lost ground with their game against Minnesota. The Kings were in fifth place in the West recently, but have been passed by both Nashville and Detroit and are just one point ahead of No. 8 Colorado. No. 9 Calgary is just four points back of the Kings, but has played two more games.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Quote of the Day

I'm hoping Bob [Murray] didn't go out and get Dany Heatley just to get someone. I'm sure he's excited and motivated.

— Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on general manager Bob Murray's decision to sign Dany Heatley