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NHL Insider

Wings confident though playoff streak in jeopardy

Wednesday, 04.24.2013 / 1:29 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- It's a number that usually astounds those who aren't very familiar with it.

The number 21 is how many consecutive seasons the Detroit Red Wings have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Usually it's a secondary thought around Detroit and it keeps growing by one each year almost automatically.

Then this season came along. Suddenly the Red Wings' playoff streak is in jeopardy with three games left in the regular season. Detroit (21-16-8) is ninth in the Western Conference with 50 points, one back of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final postseason spot, and the Red Wings have a game in hand on the Blue Jackets heading into the NBC Sports Network's Wednesday Night Rivalry Game against the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 p.m. ET) at Joe Louis Arena.

"I don't think anyone's thinking about it, but it would be sad to have the streak not continue," Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said after Wednesday's morning skate. "If we win all three, we know we're going to be in [the playoffs], so we don't want to take any chances."

Struggling Canadiens looking for answers

Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 11:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. – Following the Montreal Canadiens' 3-2 loss Tuesday to the New Jersey Devils, a team that was eliminated from contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs two days earlier, Max Pacioretty encapsulated his team's abject play over the past 10 days with a defeated tone in his voice.

"I hate to keep saying it," Pacioretty said, "but we have to get our [game] together. Since then, we've been God-awful."

The Canadiens clinched a playoff berth on April 11 with a 5-1 victory against the Buffalo Sabres. But with the Northeast Division title there for the taking, the Canadiens have lost five of six and been outscored 26-12 in those losses thanks to a mix of poor defense, putrid penalty killing and a parade of slow starts.

All three of those problematic traits were on display against the Devils at Prudential Center.

Healthy defense means competition for Hamilton

Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 2:38 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- The Boston Bruins go into their game Tuesday at the Philadelphia Flyers (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN) with a rare commodity: a surplus of healthy defensemen.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said defenseman Adam McQuaid, who sat out the game Sunday against the Florida Panthers with a lower-body injury, is healthy and available to play.

"He's ready to go in," Julien said. "He's healthy, so he may be an addition [Tuesday]."

That gives the Bruins nine healthy blueliners for Julien to choose from as the Bruins close the regular season with four games in seven days.

"I think it's a good problem to have, when you have that much depth going into the playoffs," defenseman Zdeno Chara told NHL.com.

Elliott appears set as Blues' No. 1 when playoffs start

Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 2:19 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- After starting the season 3-6-1 with a whopping 3.65 goals-against average and lowly .851 save percentage, anyone would have been hard-pressed at the time to think Brian Elliott would get a sniff of postseason action, let alone be a starter when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

But since the St. Louis Blues turned the page on March and journeyed into April, Elliott has resurrected his season and vaulted the Blues onto the cusp of clinching a playoff berth.

Elliott has gone 8-2-0 this month with a 1.37 GAA and .947 save percentage (11-8-1 overall with a 2.48 GAA and .901 save percentage), and with the uncertainty of Jaroslav Halak's groin injury -- although Halak has resumed skating and continues to progress toward a healthy return -- Elliott seems to be the goaltender the Blues will lean on when the postseason begins.

Wild aim to end home skid, zero in on playoffs

Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 1:50 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Myers - NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild are in the thick of the Stanley Cup Playoff race for the first time in five years. The Wild enter their game Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings six games above the .500 mark with three to go, controlling their own destiny in reaching the postseason for the first time since 2008.

But not all is well with the Wild -- especially within the confines of their own building, which for a decade has provided one of the most reliable home-ice advantages in the NHL.

After starting the season 13-3-1 at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild have dropped five in a row there at the most inopportune time.

Capitals, Jets set to battle for division lead

Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 12:49 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- It will be a night of simple math for the Washington Capitals.

Beat the Winnipeg Jets in regulation or overtime at Verizon Center, and the Capitals clinch the Southeast Division title and the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

"This is the kind of game you want to play," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said following the morning skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "I think everybody is very comfortable."

A shootout win by the Capitals on Tuesday won't be enough to clinch because the tiebreaking scenarios would still give the Jets an outside chance at winning the division despite the fact they will have one game remaining.

The Capitals have two to play after facing the Jets.

"Right now it's all about us," Alex Ovechkin said.

The Jets are saying the same thing.

Canucks search for right identity going into playoffs

Tuesday, 04.23.2013 / 12:08 PM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Six games in with the Vancouver Canucks, Derek Roy was asked if he had been able to figure out his new team's identity yet.

There was no hesitation.

"A lot of puck possession, where the other team is trying to take it away from us all game and we are keeping it, we're moving, skating, our [defensemen] are active," Roy told NHL.com after the game-day skate Monday morning.

It sounded great, but it was hard to believe Roy, acquired from the Dallas Stars at the NHL Trade Deadline, was talking about the same Canucks team that had been outshot 17-2 in the third period by the Detroit Red Wings two nights earlier.

"Since I've been here I've seen some really good periods of it and I've seen some not-so-good periods," Roy said. "We need to build that game up to playoffs so it's not like a light switch we're looking for."

Pronger still hopes comeback is in the cards

Monday, 04.22.2013 / 10:04 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Likely Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger is holding out hope he'll one day be able to return to the ice. Unfortunately, he doesn't know if that will ever happen.

Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger hasn't played an NHL game since Nov. 29, 2011, a result of a serious eye injury and concussion, but the 38-year-old believes he can make a comeback. (Photo: Getty Images)

In an interview Monday with E.J. Hradek and Steve Mears on "CISCO NHL Live," the always-candid Philadelphia Flyers blueliner provided an update on his condition that has kept him sidelined since Nov. 29, 2011.

"You need to isolate yourself for the symptoms and you try to do that stuff, but it's a vicious cycle that kind of drags you down in the mud and pushes you further down into the depths," Pronger said. "At some point, you just need to kind of say ‘Enough's enough.' It was just one day in August, I looked down and I was getting fat. I was feeling good, wasn't eating very healthy, wasn't really doing anything healthy. As an athlete who kind of prided himself on being in shape and preparing and doing all these things, and then you stop doing it cold turkey … it can be a little disheartening."

Pronger sustained a serious injury to his right eye during a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 24, 2011, when he was hit by the stick of Mikhail Grabovski. The injury damaged Pronger's eyesight and his ocular and vestibular systems, and is one of the causes of his concussion symptoms.

Canadiens on final road trip seeking to right ship

Monday, 04.22.2013 / 5:32 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- In an ideal world, the Montreal Canadiens would be heading out Monday on their final road trip of the regular season with little to worry about aside from staying healthy and sharp for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But the past two weeks have been far from ideal for the Canadiens.

A 2-5-0 stretch since April 9 has not hurt Montreal's positioning in the Eastern Conference standings too much, but it has put the Canadiens' chances of going deep into the playoffs considerably in doubt, particularly because of the way the team has lost of late.

In their past four losses the Canadiens have allowed 23 goals, or 19.2 percent of their 120 goals allowed in 45 games this season.

"We just haven't been the same team we were for the first 35 games," left wing Rene Bourque said Monday after a second straight day of practice. "It comes down to details, getting back to playing with an edge and everybody playing smart. Guys are trying, but we're just not playing smart. We're making bad mistakes; we're a little off, a second late and hesitating a little bit. It's made a big difference. But everybody realizes that and we've got to take these three games almost like playoff games."

Devils didn't have depth to survive two key injuries

Monday, 04.22.2013 / 10:16 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The New Jersey Devils have gone from being Eastern Conference champions in 2012 to hoping luck is on their side in the 2013 NHL Draft Lottery.

The Devils were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday with a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It came exactly 316 days after the Los Angeles Kings stopped New Jersey's 2012 postseason run in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

How did the Devils go from championship contender last season to a team that has to play three meaningless games at the end of this season?

Here are five reasons to chew on:

1. Injuries to Martin Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk
Right Wing - NJD
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 18 | PTS: 28
SOG: 116 | +/-: -3
As much as teams and players don't like to use excuses, there's just no way around this one.

Brodeur missed 12 games with a sore back from Feb. 24-March 19 and the Devils were 3-7-2 without him. Kovalchuk missed 11 games from March 25-April 18 and New Jersey went 1-6-4 in those games, averaged 1.73 goals per game and had a power play that went 3-for-40.

Losing Brodeur for an extended period of time was one thing and the Devils, after a poor start with Johan Hedberg in net, were at least able to stay in the hunt by the time Brodeur got back.

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