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NHL Insider

Jets coming to grips that playoffs no longer realistic

Tuesday, 03.27.2012 / 4:24 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

2011-2012 Standings

Eastern Conference
GP
P
ROW

7
77
88
34
8
76
84
36
9
76
84
30
10
76
78
31
ROW = total number of regulation plus overtime wins. For tie-breaking purposes, wins obtained in a shootout are not counted. For full standings tiebreakers, click here.
03/27/12 4:27PM
WINNIPEG -- Sun, record-breaking high temperatures and dreams of the Stanley Cup Playoffs enveloped Winnipeg 10 days ago.

But the Jets and their fans only had a cold, damp rain and dashed hopes for spring hockey when they wiped away the sleep from their eyes following Monday's 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

"Today is a hard day for the players and the staff, too," Jets coach Claude Noel said as the club gathered at the MTS Centre for an optional practice 12 hours after the loss to Ottawa.

Back-to-back wins against Dallas and Washington had pulled the Winnipeg Jets to within two points of the Eastern Conference's eighth slot on March 17. But a sloppy home loss to Carolina the following night began the club's fall out of playoff contention. A 1-2-0 road trip followed before the loss to Ottawa that left the Jets a frustrated bunch as the last vestiges of postseason aspirations departed Winnipeg.

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Belfour honored in Chicago

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 8:03 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The "Eagle" was back on Madison Street wearing his old No.30 Chicago Blackhawks sweater and a couple chants of "Edd-ie! Edd-ie!" made their way around the United Center.

Eddie Belfour played parts of eight seasons among his 20-year NHL career in the Windy City, but the Hall of Famer started his career here and stayed long enough to be considered a Chicago Blackhawks legend.
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Holmstrom gets surprising Masterton nomination

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 4:56 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

Tomas Holmstrom isn't your typical Masterton Trophy candidate.

The award is given annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey -- and is often won by somebody coming back from a serious or life-threatening injury or illness.

Holmstrom doesn't have a major injury that he's coming back from, but you could make the argument that his entire body of NHL work through 15 years in the League (1,019 games and counting) has been relatively career threatening. He's taken countless hacks and whacks to his body while standing in front of the net and his knees -- which weren't great even when he was young -- have deteriorated more over time.

It takes a special kind of dedication to take that kind of punishment, which is one of the reasons the Red Wings have given Holmstom their 2011-12 nomination for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

"He's been part of the team for a long time, his perseverance is second to none," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "We know what he's been going through with his bad knees. His knees weren't the best when he got here 15 years ago."
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Toews continues to work through frustrating recovery

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 1:45 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews has been through a lot in a short amount of time as the 23-year year old captain of the Chicago Blackhawks.

He's won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy on the upside, but also felt the sting of coming up short of the ultimate goal several times. He's also been banged up physically before, which often comes with missed ice time -- something a guy nicknamed "Captain Serious" detests.

However, what he's dealing with right now is unlike anything else in his career.

When the Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators Sunday night at the United Center (7:30 p.m.), Toews will miss his 16th straight game while continuing to deal with an upper body injury that's widely suspected to be concussion-related.
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Devils' Zajac excited for return to action

Sunday, 03.25.2012 / 1:20 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Travis Zajac is back, and just in time for what he considers to be the best part of the NHL season.
 
Travis Zajac
Center - NJD
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 3
SOG: 16 | +/-: -2
Zajac, limited to eight games this season by a sore left Achilles tendon, will be in the New Jersey Devils' lineup Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, according to coach Peter DeBoer. Zajac had Achilles surgery in August, missed training camp and didn't play until Dec. 16, only to be sidelined again after playing against Ottawa on Jan. 2.
 
"Yeah, I'm pretty excited -- it's been a long year," Zajac said after being the last player off the ice following an optional morning skate Sunday. "It's probably the best time of the year to play hockey, the end of the year and the playoffs."
 
Zajac, 26, said it's been difficult getting over an injury that occurs, he joked, mostly to "basketball players and 40-year-old tennis players," but he is confident this is the time to return. The Devils have seven games remaining before the Stanley Cup Playoffs start.
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Stars honor Skrastins in pre-game ceremony

Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 6:21 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS --The Dallas Stars honored a fallen former teammate on Saturday afternoon.

Karlis Skrastins, who played in Dallas from 2009-2011, was honored before the club's game against the Calgary Flames at American Airlines Center. Skrastines was among those killed when a plane carrying Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL crashed last September.

"Obviously it was really tough to see his family, first time for me to get to see them after the tragedy. It was pretty emotional," Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "It was a nice gesture by the Stars honoring Skratch. I think we kind of dedicated our season right from the get go (to his memory). We all know he played with heart and passion. He was the kind of guy that never complained. He was just willing to do anything for his teammates."
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Crawford works through struggles, regains place in Hawks' net

Saturday, 03.24.2012 / 12:53 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

Corey Crawford
Goalie - CHI
RECORD: 27-16-5
GAA: 2.75 | SVP: 0.904
CHICAGO -- The easiest way to tell when Corey Crawford is focused is just to watch the back of the net.

If no pucks are making the twine behind him ripple, odds are he's dialed in with a razor-sharp focus that lets the second-year Chicago Blackhawks goalie see the whole picture in front of him.

"Reading the play and seeing passing options and reading all that stuff ... everything comes together when you're focused and ready," Crawford told NHL.com on Friday. "I'm so focused [right now]. It just seems like right when I get in there the puck looks two or three times as big. That just comes with focus and preparation."

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Malkin the main event in Radulov's NHL return

Friday, 03.23.2012 / 12:58 PM / NHL Insider

Slava Malamud - Special to NHL.com

Alexander Radulov scored in his comeback game for the Nashville Predators, but Evgeni Malkin still proved to be the main event in a 5-1 victory for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Nobody expected him to score a hat trick or something like that," Malkin said about his countryman afterward.

He was right, a hat trick was definitely not expected. It is unlikely that many expected Radulov -- who just came back to the NHL after a four-year absence and had a long flight, jet lag and an adjustment to a different type of hockey to battle through -- to get off to any kind of a fast start. Especially against a Pittsburgh squad which lately has resembled an unstoppable machine. Or against Malkin himself, arguably the absolute best player on the planet right now.

What Radulov could realistically be expected to do in this game was to get the blood going in his legs, learn the ropes of the Predators' system, and try to help his teammates in any way possible -- which is a reasonable goal for a non-conference road game. An attempt to make a triumphant return will have to wait for in front of the home fans in the next contest, Saturday against Winnipeg.
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Radulov returns by scoring Predators' lone goal

Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 11:44 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- His game legs weren't quite there, and his body still hasn't quite caught up to his new time zone. It's been a furious week of change for Alexander Radulov, who has switched teams, leagues and continents in very little time.
 
What was very much in evidence in his first game with the Nashville Predators in four years was the scoring touch that made Radulov widely recognized as the world's best player who wasn't in the NHL.
 
The decision to play Radulov in Pittsburgh wasn't made until a few hours before the Penguins' 5-1 win against the Predators on Thursday night at Consol Energy Center. Only the day before, Radulov was being re-introduced at a Nashville news conference, and he managed only one practice and an optional morning skate before pulling on a Predators jersey again.
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Radulov to make Preds' season debut tonight

Thursday, 03.22.2012 / 12:31 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

Alex Radulov is widely considered to be the best player in hockey who wasn't already in the NHL. (Photo: John Russell/Nashville Predators)
PITTSBURGH -- Alexander Radulov couldn't wait any longer.
 
Despite a hectic week in which he finished the season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, finalized an agreement to return to Nashville, was re-introduced at a Predators press conference and hastily took part in two practices, Radulov will be in the lineup against Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
 
An already intriguing game between the Predators and the Penguins became even more of a marquee matchup when coach Barry Trotz revealed Radulov would play. After a press conference Wednesday in Nashville, the team said it wouldn't decide Radulov's status until after the morning skate Thursday.

Now, he's in, jet lag and all.
 
"He's had a lot of travel. He lives eight or nine time zones away. I'm not going to judge him on what happens today," Trotz said. "He said he's enthused about getting back and just getting a feel for the NHL. If he can give us some good minutes tonight, we'll just see where he is condition-wise and speed-wise and all that."

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It's very special, obviously; there is draft day and then there's the day that you sign your first deal. It's been a crazy couple of weeks and I'm very honored to be able to do that."

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