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NHL Insider

Three issues determined Boucher's fate in 2012-13

Sunday, 03.24.2013 / 12:11 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

It was less than two years ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning were one bounce of the puck from advancing to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

Under the leadership of first-year coach Guy Boucher and his innovative 1-3-1 forechecking scheme, the Lightning totaled 103 points and pushed the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. With rising superstar Steven Stamkos, as well as top-end veterans like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, the Lightning were viewed as a team on the rise with an incredibly bright future.

Less than two years later, the Lightning on Sunday fired Boucher with the team languishing in 14th place in the Eastern Conference heading into its game Sunday night at the Winnipeg Jets.

How did things go so wrong so fast for the Lightning? There are a few reasons:

Ruff, Cooper could be on Yzerman's list of candidates

Sunday, 03.24.2013 / 11:19 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Guy Boucher's former assistants, Martin Raymond and Dan Lacroix, will handle the coaching duties for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday when they play at the Winnipeg Jets.

How long the Raymond-Lacroix split lasts remains to be seen, but it doesn't figure to be much longer than just the one game.

The Lightning play again Tuesday at home against the Buffalo Sabres.

If you believe some of the speculation that began Sunday morning, when the hockey world woke to the news that Boucher had been fired, Tuesday night could be quite an interesting one because Lindy Ruff's name among the most talked about as a potential full-time replacement for Boucher.

Ruff spent 16-plus seasons coaching the Sabres before being fired earlier this season. He knows Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman, knows the Eastern Conference, and probably is hungry to coach again since he didn't leave Buffalo on his own accord.

Back in NHL, Hartley attacks challenges in Calgary

Friday, 03.22.2013 / 4:28 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

Bob Hartley refuses to call his mission a rebuilding project, something that can be hard to sell in a Canadian market. (Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI)
After the Calgary Flames lost for the eighth straight time on the road Thursday, coach Bob Hartley did not look like a man who was enjoying his return to the NHL after a five-year hiatus.

But go back a few hours earlier after his team completed an optional skate and his love for what he does could not be hidden.

"When you coach in the NHL, it's not a job, it's a privilege," said Hartley, who won the Stanley Cup in 2001 as the coach of the Colorado Avalanche. "We're coaching the best hockey players in the world in the best hockey league in the world. As a kid, you're 6, you're 8, you're 10, you're 12, you're playing on the pond, you're playing in the rink, you're playing in the street, you dream of playing in the NHL.

"Well, obviously, that didn't happen for me, but later on the kid in me got behind the bench. That's certainly a big thrill. Like I said, that's a privilege for me. You have to be grateful for every day you step into an NHL arena, because you can't go higher than this."

Pavelec's workload a storyline as Jets chase playoffs

Friday, 03.22.2013 / 3:05 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- An uneasy question permeates nearly every storyline surrounding the Winnipeg Jets this month, and it does not even concern the NHL Trade Deadline.

To what extent should coach Claude Noel rely on workhorse goaltender Ondrej Pavelec heading down the stretch?

The Jets lead the Southeast Division with a 16-13-2 record, putting the franchise in position to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007. With a young core starved for postseason experience, pressure exists inside and outside the organizational brain trust to do nearly anything necessary to keep the Jets in the Eastern Conference's top eight at the end of April.

But memories of March 2012 remain fresh in Winnipeg. Pavelec sputtered down the stretch last season with the Jets in the midst of a playoff race. Starting 13 games that month, he went just 5-7-1 with a 3.13 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage as the Jets faded from Eastern Conference contention.

Moulson making most of time with Islanders

Friday, 03.22.2013 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The summer of 2009 was a crucial one for Matt Moulson. Indeed, he had a lot on his plate.

Matt Moulson
Left Wing - NYI
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 32
SOG: 104 | +/-: -9

Not only was he set to become an unrestricted free agent after three seasons in the Los Angeles Kings organization (mostly spent in the American Hockey League), but he was ready to take the next step in his personal life.

He wanted to pop the question to his girlfriend, Alicia.

"I needed to make the NHL to buy the ring -- or she was going to get one of those vending-machine rings," Moulson told

Searching for help up front, the rebuilding New York Islanders -- who selected John Tavares with the first pick in the NHL Draft a week earlier -- came calling when the free-agent market opened July 1.

Friends since their childhood in Ontario, Moulson quickly phoned Tavares and informed him of the Islanders' interest.

Swedish coach sees different Larsson on Devils

Thursday, 03.21.2013 / 9:54 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- During a recent trip to the East Coast of the United States to catch a glimpse of potential candidates for the 2013 World Championship team in May, Swedish National ice hockey coach Par Marts quickly learned that New Jersey Devils defenseman Adam Larsson had taken on a different role this season.

"He's a different player now because in Sweden he was more of an offensive player with puck control, passing, and he played a lot on the power play," Marts told "He doesn't play the power play as much now and he's going to have to adjust to this kind of hockey."

Marts was asked if Larsson was a player on his radar for consideration for the World Championship, which will take place between 16 countries from May 3-19 in Finland and Sweden.

Bernier shines in limited chances, waits for new gig

Thursday, 03.21.2013 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It's been a dilemma for Jonathan Bernier for most, if not all of his NHL career.

Bernier needs to build a body of work so other teams can better evaluate him, but he can't do that as a Maytag repairman of sorts behind franchise goalie Jonathan Quick.

Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Kings, the washer isn't running as efficiently as last season, and Bernier's solid play is putting a different spin on the club's goaltending situation as the April 3 trade deadline approaches.

Ducks' third line has provided first-rate contributions

Wednesday, 03.20.2013 / 4:35 PM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

ANAHEIM -- Saku Koivu remembers talking with Bruce Boudreau early in the season, and it wasn't necessarily small talk with the coach known as "Gabby."

No, this was delicate because it concerned what role Koivu would have at age 38 and playing in his 17th NHL season. The veteran was expected to compete for the second-line center spot on the Anaheim Ducks, but at this point in his career it was clear that the former Montreal Canadiens captain was better suited for, ahem, the third line.

Tension? Awkward silence?

"He accepted quite well," Boudreau said. "I said if we want to be good he has to be the third-line center. I mean, he's played a lot like a first-line center a lot of times. But his role hasn't changed except for the guys he's played with."

Who has the edge: Blackhawks or Ducks?

Wednesday, 03.20.2013 / 10:17 AM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

The Chicago Blackhawks have been atop the NHL standings since Feb. 2 thanks largely to a start to the season that had never been seen in the League's history.

The Blackhawks suffered three losses – all in shootouts – over their first 24 games, with the third also serving as their only setback over a 16-game stretch from Feb. 2 to March 6.

That one loss came at home against the Anaheim Ducks, a 3-2 defeat that marks the only time the Blackhawks have squandered a third-period lead and lost this season. That win was the second in a streak in which the Ducks went 13-1-3.

Wednesday night, the NHL's two best teams, the Blackhawks and Ducks, will collide in Anaheim (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CSN-CH, FS-W) in a battle for Western Conference bragging rights.

Defensive transformation a big part of Penguins' run

Tuesday, 03.19.2013 / 5:11 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Contrary to popular belief -- and to some good-natured ribbing from teammates in the locker room -- Mark Eaton is not the sole cause for the Pittsburgh Penguins' defensive resurgence in recent weeks.

The stay-at-home defenseman was signed late last month and made his season debut in a March 2 victory at the Montreal Canadiens.

Pittsburgh hasn't lost since. What's more, the Penguins have the appearance of an entirely different team defensively during March.

It can't be entirely a coincidence, can it?

"I can't take any credit for that," Eaton said with a look that was part amused and part horrified that he'd claim he's the reason for the turnaround in Pittsburgh's defensive fortunes.

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