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NHL Insider

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.

Injuries, poor goaltending led to Panthers' regression

Thursday, 04.18.2013 / 12:12 PM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers entered the 2012-13 season coming off the first division title in franchise history and a return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after an 11-year absence, but many observers expected them to take a step back.

Few could have expected the step back would be this big.

Ravaged by injuries, the Panthers went from winning the Southeast Division to finding themselves with the worst record in the NHL heading into the final 10 days of the regular season.

The problems started early, as the Panthers followed a victory in the season opener with five consecutive losses. They appeared to get back on track by going 3-0-1 in their next four games, but that was followed by another five-game losing streak and the Panthers never got to the .500 mark again this season.

Despite the disappointment, general manager Dale Tallon remains optimistic about the direction of the franchise, which is why he refrained from dealing veteran players -- except for fourth-line center Jerred Smithson -- at the NHL Trade Deadline.

Bennett pushing for postseason spot with Penguins

Wednesday, 04.17.2013 / 3:54 PM / NHL Insider

Chris Adamski - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- NHL coaches traditionally have been quite loathe to playing rookies during the pressure-packed, high-stakes Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma has seen enough out of Beau Bennett to say that won't necessarily be the case when it comes to giving the 21-year-old a featured role when the postseason begins in two weeks.

"Beau's played a lot of games for us, he's playing in different types of games, he's played in big games, he's played on the second line and the fourth line in those games," Bylsma said after the morning skate in advance of a game against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. "And I'm comfortable with him and the rookies we have stepping in and being able to contribute in whatever situation may arise down the road."

Bylsma was referring to Bennett, a 2010 first-round pick of the club, and defenseman Simon Despres, whom the Penguins took with their first selection the prior year.

Soderberg enjoys first day with Bruins

Wednesday, 04.17.2013 / 2:55 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

BOSTON – Almost six years since the Boston Bruins traded with the St. Louis Blues to acquire his rights, Carl Soderberg arrived in Boston for the first time in his life Tuesday.

He took the morning skate with the Bruins Wednesday prior to his new team's game against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.

Now it's time for the 27-year-old to get acclimated to the NHL after spending his entire career playing in his native Sweden.

"I don't think that's going to be a problem," he said. "It's still hockey, and it's a great team I'm playing [on], so hopefully it's going well."

Alzner, Carlson have adjusted to Capitals separation

Tuesday, 04.16.2013 / 3:20 PM / NHL Insider

Ben Raby - Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- One was the Washington Capitals’ first-round pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, the other a Capitals’ first-round pick in 2008.

One is a left-handed stay-at-home defenseman, the other a right-handed offensive-minded defenseman.

Both are key cogs on a Capitals team that is seeking its fifth Southeast Division title in six years.

Karl Alzner and John Carlson have seemingly been joined at the hip since they started playing together with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League in 2009. They have been roommates on the road, fixtures on the Capitals’ blue line and bearers of the nickname "Carlzner."

But after starting the 2012-13 season with three straight losses, including a 4-1 defeat to the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 24 in which Alzner and Carlson were on the ice for all four goals against, first-year Capitals coach Adam Oates decided to split the longtime partners.

"[Carlson] and I were going through a rough patch," Alzner said. "It didn’t matter what we did or how hard we were playing, pucks were just going in against us. It was just one of those things where, let’s change it up and see if it changes our luck, and go figure that we won a couple of games. He started to turn it around, I started to turn it around, and it was just one of those things where we switched it up and it’s worked."

Playoff berth would be milestone in Islanders' rebuild

Tuesday, 04.16.2013 / 9:51 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – It will be five years this June since New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow changed the course of the franchise.

Knowing full well he would experience difficulty getting big-name free agents to agree to play long-term at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Snow called for a complete rebuild. So when the 2007-08 Islanders finished in the bottom five of the NHL standings, Snow got to work at the 2008 NHL Draft at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.

Aiming to stockpile picks, Snow traded down twice in the first round, from the fifth to the ninth pick, where he collected the first piece of his rebuild: Windsor Spitfires center Josh Bailey. At the same draft, Snow landed defenseman Travis Hamonic, goaltender Kevin Poulin and forward Matt Martin, all of whom are on the club's current roster.

In somewhat of a surprise, Bailey made the Islanders out of training camp in September 2008 and stuck with the club all season. New York finished last in the standings, which allowed them to land unquestionably the rebuild's biggest piece: franchise center John Tavares.

Still, the Islanders continued to finish near the bottom of the League's standings. Even prior to the start of last season, when players and management alike swore the rebuild was over and qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs was the goal, the Islanders again finished in the bottom five.

This season, though, has been a different story.

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