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NHL Insider

In likely playoff preview, Pens, Flyers get heated

Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 6:09 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and Penguins assistant Tony Granato stood only a few feet apart atop the dasher boards, nasty words flying between them, as three separate skirmishes broke out on the ice.
Sidney Crosby didn't like being cross-checked in the back by Brayden Schenn during a stoppage in play. Laviolette didn't like how Penguins coach Dan Bylsma responded by sending out some of his hardest hitters, resulting in a big hit on diminutive Flyers forward Danny Briere during a game already decided.
The Flyers and Penguins traded goals, a few swings and a lot of colorful language Sunday during a 6-4 victory by Philadelphia that drew the Flyers within a point of Pittsburgh as the in-state rivals chase home-ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The two are almost certain to face each other in the opening round -- and the teams could decide that home-ice edge when they meet in a season-ending rematch Saturday at Consol Energy Center.

Looking at New York and Boston's season series

Sunday, 04.01.2012 / 5:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

The New York Rangers and Boston Bruins have been two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference throughout the season and have played three exciting games that have shown how evenly matched they are.

The tightness of the matchups might not be evident based on the season series -- the Rangers are 3-0-0 and will go for the sweep Sunday night (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2) at Madison Square Garden -- but all three games have been close and could have gone either way.

A lot is riding on Sunday's game: the Bruins can wrap up the Northeast Division and the No. 2 spot in the East with a victory while the Rangers can clinch the top spot in the East with a single point following Pittsburgh's loss to Philadelphia Sunday afternoon.

Here's a capsule look at the season series to date:

Jan. 21 at Boston | Rangers 3, Bruins 2, OT |

Entering the contest, the Rangers held a one-point advantage on the Bruins for first in the East, but many still considered the defending champions the class of the conference. The Rangers proved they were for real, playing even with the Bruins through regulation and getting a Marian Gaborik goal in overtime for the victory.

Richards-Gaborik pairing proving to be worth the wait

Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 5:08 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

When assist machine Brad Richards signed his mega-deal with the New York Rangers this past summer, he was supposed to form a beautiful partnership with sniper Marian Gaborik.

Richards would carry the puck into the offensive zone and use his next-level vision and passing ability to find Gaborik, who would score so many goals that official scorers throughout the NHL would be driven into early retirement due to the stress from the increased workload.

Instead, Gaborik and Richards were separated by coach John Tortorella after eight games in which Richards had a goal and four assists, Gaborik had four goals and one assist and the Rangers were 3-3-2. The production wasn't exactly lacking, but the chemistry wasn't there in game Nos. 6-8 as the pair combined for one assist in those three games, two of which were losses.

Roenick: Home-ice battle huge in Keystone rivalry

Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 2:50 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Having played on one side of Pennsylvania rivalry for three seasons, NBC Sports Network analyst Jeremy Roenick is looking forward to a potential Philadelphia-Pittsburgh first-round playoff series if for no other reason than the emotion that will spill out of each city and meet somewhere between Harrisburg and Altoona.

"It is a massive matchup in terms of Pennsylvania ego," Roenick, who played for the Flyers from 2001-04, told "These fans don't like each other. It's amazing to be in one state and have fans on each side dislike each other as much as they do."

To Roenick, the fans can play a role in the outcome of the game in each city with their emotion and noise. That's why the winner of the game Sunday in Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) could have a huge advantage come playoff time.

'Mr. Hockey' turns 84, still revered in Wings' room

Saturday, 03.31.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

Gordie Howe turns 84 years old Saturday.
DETROIT -- Gordie Howe turns 84 years old on Saturday, but his connection to the Detroit Red Wings never seems to age.

The man who became known as "Mr. Hockey" while wearing the Winged Wheel on his chest has always had a connection to the Red Wings and Detroit since his playing days, and it remains a strong bond even now.

Howe and fellow Red Wings legend Ted Lindsay have been known to make appearances in the Detroit locker room for practices and games, and aren't shy about doling out advice or opinions.

"Well, obviously [Howe] and [Alex Delvecchio] and [Ted Lindsay], they're the guys who are around the most, but we have a huge alumni and I think you're going to see that next year at the Winter Classic and I think it's important for those guys to be involved," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said on Friday. "When you're in a franchise as historic as this and they can be involved, it's a special, special thing."

Frustrating month for Vrbata takes positive turn

Friday, 03.30.2012 / 1:54 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- March just hasn't been Radim Vrbata's month.

First a scoring slump set in right after his career-high 30th goal. That was followed by a nasty, persistent head cold that was stubbornly resistant to over-the-counter medication, forcing him to turn to antibiotics for help.

And then, on the ninth day of a strong, 10-day round of penicillin treatments with his body already full of the medication, Vrbata began to suffer an allergic reaction. It has lasted for more than two weeks, starting with a nasty rash that spread over his body, making sweating and wearing hockey equipment the absolute worst thing he could do.

Canadiens focusing only on game vs. Rangers

Friday, 03.30.2012 / 1:46 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The Montreal Canadiens arrived at Madison Square Garden on Friday as a team without a general manager, Pierre Gauthier being removed from the position Thursday after two seasons.

Bob Gainey, Gauthier's predecessor, also was relieved of his duties as a special advisor to the club. Assistant coach Larry Carriere returned to his position as assistant GM, with goaltending coach Pierre Groulx taking Carriere's role on the bench.

It's been a season full of turmoil for the NHL's most storied franchise -- the Habs also fired assistant coach Perry Pearn and coach Jacques Martin and traded star Mike Cammalleri in the middle of a game.

Players try to rally EA Sports NHL '13 cover support

Friday, 03.30.2012 / 11:21 AM / NHL Insider

David Kalan - Staff Writer

Unfortunately for David Perron and T.J. Oshie, they were too good at hockey to become teachers. They probably don't mind that they've wound up in the NHL, but if one of them should wind up on the cover of EA SPORTS' NHL 13, that player will get a taste of what it's like to be giving lessons.

EA SPORTS announced this week that for the first time in the history of its NHL video game franchise, fans will get to determine which player is featured on the cover after whittling the selections from 60 to one. Those 60 players in the initial round of voting are comprised of two players from each team, with each set of teammates going head to head to make the round of 32 (which includes a pair of wild cards).

Perron and Oshie have been selected as the two representatives from St. Louis, and each made it clear Thursday he wants to be the winner -- and they're prepared to add some incentive for their constituents. Perron announced Thursday that if he winds up as the cover athlete for NHL 13, one randomly selected fan will win a 60-minute private skating lesson with him, in addition to various items of equipment that Perron has used, such as a jersey and a stick. Oshie quickly matched the ante.

Blues disappointed at failing to clinch

Friday, 03.30.2012 / 1:22 AM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The celebration of a division title was put on hold for the St. Louis Blues.

With a chance to clinch their first Central Division title since winning the Presidents' Trophy in 1999-2000, the Blues had an opportunity to knock another goal off their things-to-do list Thursday night.

The Chicago Blackhawks had other ideas.

GM Regier discusses Sabres' hot streak on 'NHL Hour'

Thursday, 03.29.2012 / 7:48 PM / NHL Insider

Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier, appearing as a guest on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman," was asked if he was surprised at his team's ability to put together its current 14-2-4 stretch given its struggles with injuries and inconsistency for most of the season.

"Not totally, we did a little bit of it last year, but … yeah, I am, because you don't think you can do it two years in a row," Regier said, referring to the Sabres' 16-4-4 finish last season that allowed them to rise from outside the top eight in the Eastern Conference to a seventh seed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What the Sabres are bidding to accomplish over the next 10 days would be even more significant, however -- they were 10 points out of a playoff spot and occupying the East basement as recently as Feb. 17 but enter Thursday holding down the No. 8 seed. If they're still above the cutoff line after the final regular-season games on April 7, it will mark the latest point in a season a team has rallied from a double-digit deficit in the standings to make the postseason.
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Quote of the Day

It's cool when you think about how many great American players have played the game and the two players that were at that 18-game point streak and what they've done in their careers. It's pretty cool right now, but it was kind of overshadowed by the loss.

— Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after breaking the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Kings
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