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NHL Insider

The Next Wave: Eastern goalies on brink of stardom

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 10:34 AM / NHL Insider

Justin Goldman - Correspondent

Every NHL team wants one, even though very few reach elite status. They take up tons of space, they intimidate and frustrate opponents, and they instill confidence in their coaches and teammates. They're being drafted on a more consistent basis, and they're also claiming more roster spots than in the past.

We speak of none other than the coveted "big" goaltender, of course.

So for this installment of The Next Wave, we focus on three beasts emerging from the Eastern Conference: Robin Lehner, Ben Bishop, and Jacob Markstrom.

These three prospects not only have the potential to be long-term NHL starters, but they all have a chance to be full-time NHL goaltenders next season. But which one is likely to have the biggest impact, and what makes these guys so special?

Injury woes continue to plague Red Wings

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 10:22 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT – It was only a couple of weeks ago when the Detroit Red Wings were talking about how important it was to have experienced depth along the blue line.

In fact, that was the sentiment of both Detroit general manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock after they landed 26-year old defenseman Kyle Quincey in a three team trade on Feb. 21 while in Chicago.

Earlier that same day, Detroit lost its star center Pavel Datsyuk for several weeks after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery – which he's still rehabbing now. Goalie Jimmy Howard also made his return to the starting lineup that night against the Chicago Blackhawks after sitting out eight straight contests with a fractured index finger on his right hand, but all in all they were doing well from a health standpoint.

Still a Jacket, Nash continues to haunt Coyotes

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 4:32 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The trade deadline has come and gone. Rick Nash is still a Columbus Blue Jacket.

The Phoenix Coyotes can't be any happier about that than Nash.

The Blue Jackets were unable to grant Nash's trade request, leaving him once again out of the playoff chase and in the familiar spoiler role in the Western Conference. Fighting for their first division title -- but needing points just to stay in a playoff spot -- the Coyotes face the Blue Jackets three times in the final 18 games of the season.
The standings would say that's a good thing. The scoreboard says otherwise. 

Exactly 40 points behind the Pacific Division leaders, the NHL's worst team rode a vintage performance from their captain, who scored two early goals and manufactured the clinching tally by Derick Brassard in a 5-2 win Saturday in Glendale.

He scored in the first period, schooling Ray Whitney on the rush and beating one of the league's hottest goalies, Mike Smith, cleanly to the far top corner for a shorthanded tally. He made it 2-0 in the second on another breakout, shrugging of a mauling from behind from Phoenix defenseman Chris Summers before jamming the puck home. 

Panthers look to avoid imperfect 10 with Ottawa

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 12:58 PM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers have been struggling of late while trying to maintain or even extend their lead in the Southeast Division. They could hardly face a more difficult task Sunday in trying to get things turned around.

Not only is Florida playing the second of back-to-back games after dropping a 3-1 decision to Nashville on Saturday, the Panthers will be facing the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators have owned Florida over the past three seasons, taking the last nine meetings. With a victory on Sunday, Ottawa would match Boston's dominance over Edmonton and Vancouver's over Toronto for the longest active winning streak by one team against another.

"Didn't even know that," Senators center Jason Spezza said when the streak was brought to his attention. "It doesn't really play much of a factor. As players, you don't pay too much attention to that stuff, or the past, or how you've done against teams. You'd be surprised how short-sighted we can be at times. It's just the nature of the beast to just try to keep things rolling, especially when you're winning games."

Miller's return to fundamentals keys Buffalo revival

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 2:44 AM / NHL Insider

Ken Baker - Goalie Insider

Earlier this season, Ryan Miller would be the first to admit his game was not at the world-class level that everyone -- including Miller himself -- had come to expect.

Not anymore.

Indeed, it is Miller Time again in Buffalo, making a run by the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Playoffs more than just a talk-radio pipe dream.

Lupul, Carlyle insist Anaheim feud is thing of the past

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:55 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL – Joffrey Lupul doesn't necessarily have fond memories of his new coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he should be relieved to know that Randy Carlyle feels the hard feelings are justified.

"Lupes made a comment that when we were in Anaheim that he felt I didn't use him correctly, and he was right," Carlyle said of his new top-line left wing. "I made the mistake, and I said it at that time, of not putting Joffrey Lupul at left wing in our top-six grouping. But you have to remember that he came back off of some pretty dramatic back surgery, he had a number of infections and we, at one point, thought he would never play again. That's a mistake we made and I made, and I take responsibility for that. I have talked to Joffrey Lupul about it and that is water under the bridge. He's a top-six forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he's having a career year and good for him."

Lupul played one season under Carlyle, who was named the new Maple Leafs coach Friday night, in Anaheim in 2005-06 and put up pretty solid numbers – 28 goals and 25 assists in 81 games. The 28 goals remain a career high for Lupul, while the 53 points was a career high until he passed it this season with 66 points.

Honesty, defense help Coyotes succeed for Tippett

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 11:34 AM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – When it became clear in the summer of 2009 that Wayne Gretzky would not return to coach the Phoenix Coyotes, general manager Don Maloney quickly whittled his list of candidates to two former NHL head coaches.

One was Peter Laviolette, who led the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup in 2006 and remains one of the game's top coaches in Philadelphia. The other was Dave Tippett, who had four straight 40-win seasons with Dallas and had spent a decade coaching in the Pacific Division with the Stars and Los Angeles Kings – something that was pretty important, given that the new coach wouldn't officially take over the Coyotes bench until three weeks into training camp.

A steady hand was needed. A like-minded approach was warranted. And amid all the chaos of a team that still doesn't have an owner almost three years later, a coach that could keep his cool and a sense of calm in the storm was essential.

Burke, Carlyle hope change will shake Leafs from funk

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 11:07 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL - After two "brutal" days, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke informed his good friend Ron Wilson on Friday night that he was no longer fit to coach his hockey team.

One of the primary reasons Burke listed Saturday for replacing Wilson with his former coach in Anaheim Randy Carlyle was the reaction of the Maple Leafs fans, who chanted loudly at the Air Canada Center for Wilson to be fired Tuesday night during a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Three days later, the fans got their wish.

"After the last home game, I felt it would be cruel and unusual punishment to let Ron coach another home game," Burke told a packed press conference at Bell Centre in Montreal, site of Toronto's game Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET,  NHLN-US, CBC). "I wasn't going to put Ron through that again."

Large coaching turnover, but results mostly improved

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 10:23 AM / NHL Insider

More than one-quarter of the teams in the NHL have now made a coaching change during the 2011-12 season, and nearly half the 30 current bench bosses were not at their posts at the end of the last campaign.

Randy Carlyle was the fourth NHL coach fired during this season, but he will replace Ron Wilson, who became casualty No. 8 when the Toronto Maple Leafs relieved him of his duties Friday night despite giving him a contract extension in December.

While there has been a lot of turnover among the coaching ranks in the League, the change has more often than not produced improved results.

Five of the seven teams that have made a coaching change have performed better for the new guy. St. Louis and Anaheim are the best examples. The Blues were 6-7-0 when they replaced Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock, and they're 34-11-7 since.

Hodgson, Kassian ready to face former teams

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:30 AM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

Cody Hodgson isn’t quite sure how to feel about returning to the city he was traded from just five days earlier or suiting up against guys he called teammates when the week began.

The 22-year-old hasn’t had much time to process being a key part of a four-player deal that sent him from Vancouver to Buffalo at Monday's  trade deadline, with 2009 first-round draft pick Zack Kassian, Buffalo's top prospect, headed the other way.

Hodgson hasn’t totally wrapped his head around coming "home" to play Saturday night against an organization that picked him 10th overall in 2008 and helped him develop into an NHL Rookie of the Year candidate.

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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