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NHL Insider

Improved special teams have Blues thinking big

Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 4:50 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- A reoccurring thought early in the season was if the St. Louis Blues could add some punch to their punchless special teams, their ascension in the standings would be rapid considering how much goaltending and five-on-five play was carrying them.

It's no secret that the Blues' play at even strength has been stellar the entire season. They're No. 1 in goals-against average per game at 1.88 and even more impressive, they're No. 1 in 5-on-5 goals allowed at 79 in 67 games, or 1.18 goals per contest.

Combined with the goaltending of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, those numbers were the biggest reason why the Blues (42-18-7) were winning.

It sure wasn't because of special teams, which saw both the penalty kill and power play rank 30th in the NHL as late as December.

Lemieux eager for Crosby's next comeback

Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 4:45 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

"It's never fun to be on the sidelines, especially with Sid's injury. It's a little different than back surgery or hip surgery or anything else out there. You have to be patient. But I think he's getting better, he's getting close to being back on the ice. And it's going to be exciting when he gets back."
-- Mario Lemieux

PITTSBURGH -- Mario Lemieux, an expert in the art of the comeback, can't wait for Sidney Crosby to make his second long-awaited return of the season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Crosby, out for the last three months with concussion-like symptoms after also sitting out the Penguins' first 20 games, is practicing again and plans to return in the near future. The earliest he could play is Sunday against Boston.
"I'm going to try to push myself and see how it feels," Crosby said Wednesday, a day after he was cleared for full-contact practice for the first time since Dec. 7.
Crosby also missed the second half of last season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a concussion that was diagnosed after he was hit hard in successive games Jan. 1 and Jan. 5, 2011. At age 24, he is nearly the same age Lemieux was when the Penguins' co-owner and Hall of Famer first began experiencing the major health issues that troubled him the rest of his career.

Confident Caron showing Bruins what he can do

Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 12:29 AM / NHL Insider

Dennis Ryan - Correspondent

TORONTO -- While Tyler Seguin's two-goal performance drew most of the headlines in the Boston Bruins' 5-4 win Tuesday night, the breakout performance of young power forward Jordan Caron should not be overlooked. Caron scored twice and added an assist, giving the 21-year-old five points in two games.

Playing on a line with Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly, the 6-foot-2, 202-pound winger has started to produce at time of great need for the Bruins, who are without forwards Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and Daniel Paille due to injury. 

Rangers view loss to Devils as a 'wake-up call'

Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 11:20 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Consider it a wake-up call three weeks in the making.

On the surface, the New York Rangers have been cruising along without a problem in the world. Entering Tuesday night's game against the New Jersey Devils, they were perched atop the League standings, looking down on an Eastern Conference they've controlled since January with a mix of hard work and smart play that led to 91 points with the playoffs still more than a month away.

But below the surface, a storm has been brewing, and it finally knocked the Rangers off course.

Patrick Burke gets support for "You Can Play" project

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 9:02 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Sometimes, it's the simplest things.
For Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, it was seven words that were part of a tribute to his late brother Brendan on the website that stuck with him.
Brendan Burke -- Patrick's younger brother and the son of Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke -- had revealed his homosexuality to his family in 2007, and then took his message public in 2009. Brendan was working toward spreading a message of tolerance and inclusion in the hockey world while working as a student manager and video assistant for the men's hockey team at Miami (Ohio) University when he was killed in a car accident in 2010.
In memorializing his brother, Patrick came up with seven simple words that just now are starting to resonate across the hockey landscape: "If you can play, you can play."

Carlyle getting accustomed to a new world in Toronto

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 6:57 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

ETOBICOKE, Ont. -- As if the 10 camera crews and close to three dozen reporters hanging on his every word Monday afternoon weren't enough, these days all Toronto coach Randy Carlyle has to do is turn on his cell phone to realize how many people are interested in his new job and his new home.

"I didn't realize that I had so many friends that had area codes 416, 905 and 647," Carlyle said, listing the three main area codes in the greater Toronto area, the three main area codes from where he has received most of his text messages since the news broke late Friday that he was taking over as the new coach of the Maple Leafs.

Surging Lightning closing gap in playoff race

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 6:50 PM / NHL Insider

Lonnie Herman - Correspondent

TAMPA -- It isn't necessary to look too far back in order to see the depths to which the Tampa Bay Lightning had fallen.

In 2011, the Lightning had come within a game of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.

But this season, on Jan. 17, Tampa Bay was in last place in the Eastern Conference and in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. The Lightning had yet to win a game in 2012 and had fallen 12 points out of contention for the last playoff position.

They were dead in the water.

Leafs getting initiated to Carlyle's style on off days

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 6:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

ETOBICOKE, Ont. -- The Toronto Maple Leafs continue their chase for a playoff berth Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre. For the last two days, they've been going through training camp, Randy Carlyle style, here at Mastercard Centre.

After spending nearly 90 minutes on the ice Sunday, including the last 20 doing conditioning sprints, the Leafs were put through the paces again Monday for nearly two hours. They won their first game under Carlyle on Saturday in Montreal, but initiation to his drills, systems, expectations and his overall demanding ways came in the form of two ruthless practice sessions in a 28-hour span.

"For me (it is training camp) in some degree and for the players a little bit," Carlyle said during his 16-minute session with a large media contingent on Monday. "I don't think they spent an hour and a half or close to two hours on the ice back to back in days, but that's all part of the learning curve that we feel is necessary to get our message (across) and to sell our program to these players at this time."

The players say they're buying in. In reality, they don't have much choice with a playoff berth still within their grasp.

Red Wings' injuries mount, as Howard again joins list

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 4:11 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

There's never a good time for injuries, but the Detroit Red Wings are really pushing the envelope of late.

If it seems like most of the team is battling some sort of injury, it's because that's the case for almost half the active roster right now. The latest to go down is starting goalie Jimmy Howard (lower body), who won't be making the road trip to play against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night along with Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), star center Pavel Datsyuk (knee), power forward Todd Bertuzzi (groin), forward Patrick Eaves (IR/concussion) and defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and Jakub Kindl (upper body).

Howard, who still sports a bandage on the broken right index finger that kept him out for eight games, now has an injury that flared up in the first period of Sunday's 2-1 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Macomb Daily sportswriter Chuck Pleiness tweeted Monday afternoon that Wings general manager Ken Holland said it was a groin strain.

"It's nothing serious and it's still day-to-day," said Howard, who made five starts after returning from the finger injury. "[We] got ultrasound on the injury and nothing really serious showed. [I'll] just get treatment here and get back as soon as possible. Nothing major showed."

Howard is hoping to be ready for Friday's home game against the Los Angeles Kings, but for the time being he's just another one of 10 Red Wings players who are either out of the lineup altogether or playing through various ailments.

Strong road trip has Blues' confidence rising

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 3:51 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- When the St. Louis Blues embarked on their latest trek around North America that encompassed 6,000-plus miles and six games, many pundits around the NHL thought it would be the defining stretch of games for a squad not accustomed to mingling with the upper-echelon of the League.

The question many had was whether the Blues could stand toe-to-toe with the best of the West or would they fall off with the rest of the pack.

After taking 10 of 12 points and winning five of the six games, it's safe to say the Blues (41-18-7) are for real and don't have any plans on vacating their current position of second in the Western Conference (first in the Central Division). In fact, the recent results only reaffirm their desire to fight for a Presidents' Trophy.

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Quote of the Day

I spent a long summer thinking about that playoff series and what could have been. [The Blackhawks] ended up being the Stanley Cup champions, so we know we lost to a very good team. It's tough to know how close we were, and it motivates us for this year.

— Nashville captain Shea Weber in an interview with the Predators website