DENVER -- The adjustment period has ended for Ryan O'Reilly, who missed training camp and the Colorado Avalanche's first 19 games during a contract dispute that lasted longer than either he or the team would have liked.
"Definitely there are certain areas that need to be better, but we don't have time for that," the 22-year-old center said of his game. "I have to start making an impact right now and do whatever I can to help the team win."
No doubt. The Avalanche sit last in the Western Conference with a 10-13-4 record and take a three-game losing streak into Monday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pepsi Center.
Before the puck dropped on the 2012-13 season, it wasn't hard to find prognosticators willing to say the New York Rangers were going to win the Stanley Cup. On this web site alone, six experts picked the Rangers to reach their first Final since 1994 with three of them choosing the Rangers to win it all.
It wasn't tough to see why the Rangers were among the favorites to win the Cup. They were coming off a season in which they finished first in the Eastern Conference with 109 points and reached the conference finals. The Rangers did it all with a young, developing core and appeared to improve in the offseason, adding Rick Nash in a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets without losing a top-six forward or key defenseman in free agency in the process.
An unexpected bonus to the offseason was the delayed start to the campaign, which allowed Marian Gaborik to recover from shoulder surgery that would have sidelined him for at least the first month of the season.
Yet through 27 games, the Rangers are 13-12-2 and sitting in 10 th place in the East, three points out of a playoff spot. They have lost three in a row in regulation for the first time this season and despite the addition of Nash, are scoring fewer goals per game this season (2.33) than they did last season (2.71).
There are many reasons why the Rangers aren't living up to expectations, those outside and inside the locker room, and here's a look at why a Stanley Cup Playoff spot -- never mind a trip to the Final -- is far from a guarantee with 21 games remaining.
"It was painful. I hated every second of it. I just can't work with the guy."
Cory Schneider delivered the line to a wall of TV cameras in a near-perfect deadpan before breaking into a smile after the Vancouver Canucks practiced Friday.
Roberto Luongo, the subject of his mock hatred, had just finished addressing the media in the locker stall right next to him. Now it was Schneider's turn to talk about their role in the four-minute feature that ran on TSN during an intermission of a 7-4 win against the Nashville Predators the night before.
As Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk explained, the Stars added Jagr, 41, and Whitney, 40, for what they could bring on the ice as well as in the room as veteran mentors for a mostly young roster.
After catching a glimpse late last season of prospects like defenseman Brenden Dillon, a defenseman signed out of the Western Hockey League in 2011, and wing Reilly Smith, a third-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, Nieuwendyk wanted to see how they would handle significant NHL ice time. Later he added center Cody Eakin, acquired in a June trade with Washington for Mike Ribeiro, and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, the 14th pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, to that list.
Dillon, 22, who has been paired with veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas, has been rock solid. He hasn't missed a game and ranks fourth on Dallas in ice time at 20:17 per game.
Less time on an airplane, fewer nights in a hotel, more days at home -- who wouldn't be in favor of all that?
National Hockey League players are no different than anyone else when it comes to the rigors of travel, so it's no surprise that the League's two-conference, four-division alignment plan that was approved by the Board of Governors on Thursday and will go into effect starting next season was met with positive reviews from many of the guys who will be most affected by the changes.
Burns opened the game on the third line, scored his first goal of the season at 11:41 of the second period and jumped to the top line with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture before that period ended.
Burns will play on the top line with Thornton and Couture from the outset Thursday night at HP Pavilion when the Sharks face the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the first time this season.
This truncated NHL season has provided plenty of surprises in the first half of the 2012-13 campaign, but there are also plenty of storylines that were probably expected.
How Chicago found its way to the top of the NHL standings may have been a surprise, but the Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins vying for a high playoff seed shouldn't shock anyone.
Now, trying to predict what is going to happen in the second half of this season is another matter. Injuries have played a huge part in where teams are in the standings, and to be certain some clubs will rise or fade based on health in the second half of March and in April.
With that caveat in mind, here are 12 predictions for the second half of the 2012-13 season:
"To be honest, I have no idea what to say to you guys," Bryzgalov said to a gathering of reporters after the Flyers fell to the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, at Prudential Center on Wednesday. "Just tired [of] losing, tired [of] losing. I have no emotions right now, nothing to say to you. Just another disappointment."
There have been a lot of them this season, but perhaps none hit the Flyers harder than the one they experienced Wednesday night in the first game of a home-and-home set with the Devils that will conclude Friday in Philadelphia.
What's that saying again -- expect the unexpected?
Yup, that's it -- and that defines the National Hockey League on an almost nightly basis. This season has been no different.
While dissecting the current candidates for the various pieces of hardware and looking ahead to the April 3 trade deadline and the stretch run of a short season is what we normally do at the halfway point, it's only right also to look back at the biggest surprises of the season to date.
Here are 24 things you probably didn't see coming:
NEWARK, N.J. -- The winning feeling may have returned to the New Jersey Devils' dressing room at the perfect time.
The Philadelphia Flyers have become easy prey for the Devils of late and they are on the schedule for two games over the next three nights starting with the NBC Sports Network Wednesday Night Rivalry game at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).
New Jersey has won six in a row and eight of its past 10 games against Philadelphia, including both games this season and four straight in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season.
We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.
— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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