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NHL Insider

Weber surviving tough season with Predators

Friday, 04.19.2013 / 4:36 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

For the past two years, when Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber finished as the runner-up for the Norris Trophy, his partner was one of the NHL's other top defensemen, Ryan Suter.

This season, Weber, the team captain, has taken on a different role with a new partner as a result of Suter's decision to sign as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild: that of mentor and teacher to 22-year-old Roman Josi. Though Weber has not received the headlines and accolades this season that he has in the past, and the Predators failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in the past nine seasons, he has proved himself to be an extremely effective player.

Defense-first Blue Jackets ahead of schedule

Friday, 04.19.2013 / 11:15 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

John Davidson saw a defense, so he saw a chance.

His instinct was accurate.

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a chance to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a top-10 defense and a goalie who should be a Vezina Trophy candidate.

They enter the weekend eighth in the Western Conference with 49 points, two more than the Detroit Red Wings and Dallas Stars. However, both the Red Wings and Stars have two games in hand on the Blue Jackets, who have three more games remaining and can max out at 55 points.

"I was asked the question when I first got there, 'How do you compare this to what you went through in St. Louis?'" Davidson, the Blue Jackets' first-year president of hockey operations, told "I said, 'I think it's a little different because this team has a better defense.' You can see the strength of this team, aside from Bob [Sergei Bobrovsky], is the defense. This team has played to its strength, and that's its goals-against.

"Keep the puck out of the net, give yourselves a chance. Everybody has bought in."

Brassard making difference since trade to Rangers

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 11:28 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The idea behind parting with Marian Gaborik at the NHL Trade Deadline was a simple one for the New York Rangers: Give up the premier goal scorer to become a deeper, more dangerous team overall.

Derick Brassard has made general manager Glen Sather look like a genius since arriving on a last-minute flight from Columbus right before pregame warm-ups on April 3, and the forward continued to excel Thursday against the Florida Panthers, scoring twice in a 6-1 victory at Madison Square Garden.

The 25-year-old has played well enough of late to not only give the Rangers supplemental offense that has been lacking all season, but he has supplanted Brad Richards as the team's No. 2 center. Brassard has had more ice time in each of the past four games than his 32-year-old counterpart and has become a valuable asset on the power play.

Sharks' Galiardi moves from doghouse to penthouse

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 5:10 PM / NHL Insider

Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he doesn't like to use the term "doghouse," but that's exactly where forward TJ Galiardi was residing for much of this season.

Galiardi was a healthy scratch 12 times in a stretch of 21 games from Jan. 31 to March 16. He'd come to the rink not knowing if he'd even be in the lineup on one of the bottom two lines.

"When you're in a slump and it's not really going well for you, it's hard to dig yourself out," McLellan said after the Sharks' morning skate Thursday at HP Pavilion. "Sometimes you just keep throwing sand on your own head. You get frustrated. You end up listening to people you probably shouldn't be listening to. Eventually you dig your way out, and now you've got to stay above ground level."

Flames held back by goaltending, road woes

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 4:20 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

For the third straight season, the Calgary Flames will not be participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They were mathematically eliminated Wednesday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets defeated the Anaheim Ducks in overtime. It was the expected outcome for the Flames after they became sellers at the trade deadline, parting ways with long-time captain Jarome Iginla and No. 1 defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

This season will also end a run of 90-point seasons (or in this case, a pace for a 90-point season over 82 games) that began in 2003-04. Only two other teams have reached at least 90 points every season since 2003-04 -- the San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings.

How did the Flames come up short? What reasons are there for optimism next season? Let’s take a look:

1. This was inevitable

The Flames finished ninth in the West last season with 90 points, but their minus-18 goal differential was a sign the team was beginning to decline. The Flames were near-misses the previous two seasons, but 2011-12 seemed to be the obvious time to start rebuilding. An aging Jarome Iginla was their game-breaker, they lacked a true No. 1 defenseman and 36-year-old goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff had a sharp decline after a terrific 2011-12 season. The rebuild began in earnest at the Trade Deadline, but the writing was on the wall for this team for at least a season.

Predators were derailed by Injuries, offensive woes

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 3:44 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

The Nashville Predators' run of three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the last two in which they advanced past the first round, came to an unceremonious end with a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in their 44th game of the season.

Nashville had qualified for the postseason seven times in the past eight seasons.

Here are five reasons why they missed the playoffs:

1. Injuries

With three weeks remaining in the season, the Predators had a legitimate chance to make the playoffs but injuries, which had hurt them all season, took on a cumulative and overwhelming effect.

In twist, Flyers, Devils battling just to stay in race

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 3:40 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils take the ice, there's usually a lot at stake.

Most of the time, their regular-season games have had major impact on division and conference races. Since 1994-95, they've missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs a combined three times -- the Flyers in 2006-07, the Devils in 1995-96 and 2010-11. They've combined to win 15 of the past 17 Atlantic Division titles, and nine times they've finished 1-2 in the division.

This season, though, neither will win the division. And when they face off Thursday here at Wells Fargo Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN), their final meeting of the 2012-13 season, there's a good chance both could miss the playoffs entirely.

"Usually these are really jockeying games, where they end up in the playoff group," Flyers forward Mike Knuble told "Now we're jockeying to see if we can climb up into the group that's really serious about grabbing a playoff spot. It's kind of strange."

Blackhawks to give banged-up players rest after clinch

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 2:38 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Ray Emery missed a second day of practice for the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Michal Rozsival also sat out for what Chicago coach Joel Quenneville called "maintenance days," as the Blackhawks begin to rest some players following Wednesday's night's clinching of the Western Conference crown while they were idle.

The Columbus Blue Jackets defeating the Anaheim Ducks in overtime Wednesday night assured Chicago of the conference's top spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Quenneville wants a healthy team heading into the postseason. Corey Crawford likely will make the start Friday night at United Center against the Nashville Predators, and goalie Carter Hutton was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Thursday to replace Emery.

"I think at this time we want to make sure we're smart about rest and whether these are … maybe they're small enough [issues] that they could become bigger, and we have that luxury of making sure they are more preventive than anything," Quenneville said. "Corey's been going as well as Ray has, so it's been a fortunate situation with goaltending decision this year."

Defensive issues, road woes were Avs' downfall

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 1:21 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche began the season with high hopes after making a serious run for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2011-12, a season in which they had 11 more wins and 20 more points than in 2010-11.

So much for great expectations -- the Avalanche regressed badly and will miss the playoffs for the third year in a row and fifth time in seven seasons.

The Avalanche figured to better with a roster that included Calder Trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog, who became the youngest team captain in NHL history at age 19 in September; free-agent signee PA Parenteau, who was coming off a career-high 67-point season with the New York Islanders; forwards Steve Downie and Jamie McGinn, who played so well down the stretch in 2011-12 after being acquired in late-season deals; and goalies Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who had stabilized what has been an unsettled situation in net since Patrick Roy retired in 2003.

Instead, the Avalanche have spent a good chunk of the season trying to avoid finishing last in the Western Conference and the worst record in the League, a far cry from the team's glory days when it was a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Giguere was so frustrated in April with teammates' effort and attitude that he criticized them in public, saying, "Some guys are more worried about their Vegas trip at the end of the season than playing the games."

Hockey plays its part in promoting Boston healing

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 12:27 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

This was not a night when a hockey story unfolded around a game; it was a night when an emotional, tragic, heart-wrenching, yet uplifting story about a wounded city and country unfolded around a hockey game.

They call it Boston Strong.

Boston was strong -- in every sense of the phrase -- Wednesday night at TD Garden, epitomizing the spirit that has indelibly linked those words together since the previously unthinkable occurred on Monday at the end of a 26.2-mile journey called the Boston Marathon. In Boston, like nowhere else, the day of the marathon is one filled with joy, but festive feelings were shattered after two bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three and injuring nearly 200 more.

"We all knew that [Wednesday night] was more than just another game," Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said.

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Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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