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."
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.
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.
That's probably a good idea, considering their drought with the man advantage has reached a mind-boggling 11 games, easily the longest funk in the 15 seasons of team data available on NHL.com. It's been more than a decade since the Canucks' next longest slump, which lasted eight-games back in 2001-02.
Given the personnel involved, it's becoming hard to wrap the mind around a nearly month long donut on the power play. Sedin thinks maybe they should stop trying.
"We've done a lot of things in practice to get things going, but we're just not playing with confidence," Sedin said. "When you are struggling, you are probably putting too much thought into it. We're at our best when we go out there and don't think, move the puck, get shots and get to those rebounds."
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.
Introducing the new official NHL App, available for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones and tablets. A host of new features and improved functionality are available across all platforms, including a redesigned league-wide scoreboard, expanded news coverage, searchable video highlights, individual team experiences* and more. The new NHL App on your tablet also introduces new offerings such as 60fps video, Multitasking** and Picture-in-Picture.
*Available only for smartphones
** Available only for suported iPads