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NHL Insider

Making playoffs only the first step for Rangers

Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 11:42 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- It's not that qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs isn't a worthy accomplishment; it's that the New York Rangers know there's so much work to be done before the end of the regular season.

The Rangers clinched a postseason berth with a 4-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Monday, making them the first Eastern Conference team to assure itself of a spot. They enter Thursday's games with a three-point lead over the Penguins for the top spot in the East, but have let a double-digit lead shrink to a point over the last month thanks to some inconsistent play on their end and outstanding play by the Penguins.

"There's no way you go into a season the way this League is and expect to be in (the playoffs)," Rangers coach John Tortorella said prior to Wednesday's 2-1 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden. "That's your goal -- to get in. We're happy we're in, but I just don't want that being the focus. We have a lot of things to do to try to compete in it. That's what I'm trying to say."

Girardi honored by Masterton nomination

Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 6:24 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Before this season, the undrafted Dan Girardi was known, if it all, as a meat-and-potatoes type of defenseman -- steady, reliable, not all that flashy and someone you might not notice during the course of a game.

Dan Girardi
Defense - NYR
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 26
SOG: 105 | +/-: 13
That changed during training camp when Rangers No. 1 defenseman Marc Staal was shut down with a concussion that wound up keeping him out for the first half of the season. The spotlight fell on Girardi to fill that void. Rangers coach John Tortorella bestowed the "A" Staal wore to Girardi, who had such a solid first half he was selected to his first All-Star Game.

On Wednesday, Girardi was honored once again, this time as the Rangers' nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

"It means a lot," said Girardi, who narrowly edged Staal for the nomination. "I feel like I'm an ideal candidate for the Masterton Trophy. I'm pretty excited. I really didn't know too much about it. I looked up a little bit today. When I woke up from my nap, my agent texted me and said, 'You're nominated.' I was like, 'Oh, all right. I'll take it.' I knew what it was, but I took a little deeper look and it means a lot to be nominated.

Predators get boost from Radulov's presence

Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 2:58 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- Wednesday was not a typical day-after-a-loss practice for the Nashville Predators.

"We lost last night?" quipped defenseman Ryan Suter.

"Sometimes you add … and players are like, 'All right,' but they're excited. To me, that's the most exciting thing. He's brought excitement to that core group. It makes us better." -- Barry Trotz

Such was the energy that forward Alexander Radulov added in his first practice with the team in four years, after abandoning his NHL contract to play in the KHL. Nashville lifted the suspension Wednesday and Radulov will travel with the team later in the day for its game with Pittsburgh on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). It has not been determined if he will play.

The high-scoring right wing practiced on a line with center David Legwand and left wing Patric Hornqvist, Nashville's leader with 24 goals. He also practiced on the team's second power-play unit with four forwards: Radulov, Legwand and Andrei Kostitsyn up front, with Sergei Kostitsyn and defenseman Ryan Ellis on the points.

As hinted by Suter, one of the team's leaders, the practice did not have the air of drudgery that such a session can take on after a loss in the 73rd game of the season.

Lidstrom hoping to return to Red Wings on Saturday

Wednesday, 03.21.2012 / 1:27 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- The Detroit Red Wings could have their captain back for Saturday's home game against Carolina.

"A week ago out in L.A., when I skated out there, it was too sharp of a pain -- just that stabbing pain where I couldn't walk with my skate. That's a lot better. It still hurts turning and pivoting, when I put pressure on that point, but that sharp pain is not there like it was a week ago." -- Nicklas Lidstrom

They certainly need him.

Nicklas Lidstrom will miss his 11th straight game Wednesday when the slumping Red Wings play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). He's been out while dealing with the pain of a bone bruise in his right ankle, but Lidstrom skated for the third straight day Wednesday and said he feels he finally has turned the corner in his frustratingly long recovery.

"I can pivot better today, skate and push a little bit more," Lidstrom said. "A week ago out in L.A., when I skated out there, it was too sharp of a pain -- just that stabbing pain where I couldn't walk with my skate. That's a lot better. It still hurts turning and pivoting, when I put pressure on that point, but that sharp pain is not there like it was a week ago."

Where will Radulov fit in with Predators?

Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 2:21 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- When he took a picture of himself aboard a plane and posted it on Twitter at 5:22 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Alexander Radulov turned up the speculation surrounding his long-awaited return to the NHL to an even more frenzied pitch -- if that's possible.

Following his team's morning skate, Predators coach Barry Trotz, whose team would be the beneficiary of Radulov's return to the League after four seasons in the KHL, tried his best to answer questions about Radulov's impending return.

"Yes, there's a strong rumor and possibility that Radulov is on a plane coming here," Trotz said. "I get that. If he's here, then we'll fit him in the lineup, just like we have (others). The great thing is just like the other guys, there's seven or eight guys who know him. When (Paul) Gaustad got here and when (Hal) Gill got here, they didn't know anybody. So I think it's going to be an easier transition. Can he help us? Yes, he can. He'll have to transition over here as quick as possible."

O'Brien lends valuable experience to young Avalanche

Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 1:00 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hunter - Staff Writer

At a point in the season when veteran experience is the commodity a Stanley Cup Playoff contender can't get enough of, the Colorado Avalanche have a valuable presence protecting their blue line in Shane O'Brien.

With eight games remaining and the Avs locked in a frantic battle for one of the final Western Conference berths, the 28-year-old from Port Hope, Ont., can draw upon his past experience in stretch runs with Tampa Bay, Vancouver and Nashville. O'Brien has suited up for 40 postseason games with those clubs, making it as far as the second round each of the past three springs.

"I just tell the boys that there's nothing to save it for here -- we've got to dig in every night, leave it all out there," O'Brien told during Colorado's recent East Coast road trip. "We're in a situation where we can't take nights off and we can't take shifts off. Anything I can do to help the boys realize how desperate and urgent we have to be, hopefully that will help us down the stretch here."

Led by a nucleus that includes Calder Trophy candidate Gabriel Landeskog, fellow first-round picks Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson, second-rounder Ryan O'Reilly and goaltender Semyon Varlamov -- none of whom has reached his 24th birthday -- the Avalanche, by average age, are the NHL's youngest team.

Brylin, Button believe Radulov return will go well

Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 10:21 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

"I don't know if he's that home run hitter, but to use a baseball analogy, you know when you get somebody who is really good and will fit right into your batting order and be a hard out, that's what he is and that's what he does for Nashville -- he makes them a harder out." -- Craig Button

Sergei Brylin has seen enough of Alexander Radulov over the last four seasons in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League to understand the impact he can have on any team in any league on any continent.
Brylin, the ex-New Jersey Devil and three-time Stanley Cup winner, expects Radulov to have that type of powerful impact on the Nashville Predators.
"He tries to play an NHL style game in Russia," Brylin told of Radulov, who is expected to join the Predators Thursday in Pittsburgh. "He's not afraid of going into the corners and battling. He's not afraid to get hit and give a hit. I think he's going to be fine. The fact that he is four years older than when he last played in the NHL -- he has matured a lot."

Playoff berth only start for business-as-usual Blues

Monday, 03.19.2012 / 3:04 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

2011-2012 Standings

Western Conference
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.
03/19/12 3:06PM
ST. LOUIS -- When the St. Louis Blues were a Stanley Cup Playoff team three years ago, winger David Perron said the game they clinched felt like they had just, "won the Stanley Cup."

At the time, it was a natural feeling since it's one many on the team had never experienced before that day.

But when the Blues became the first team this season to clinch Saturday night after winning 3-1 at Tampa Bay, the feeling was more laid back.

"It's something we talked about briefly, but everybody was pretty calm about it and we know we have a lot more work ahead of us," Perron said. "That's what I told David Backes, and I liked how the feeling in the room was. Yeah, we clinched a playoff (berth) but it was nothing more special than having a lot more work to come.

Avs, Preds, Flyers see rapid results from trades

Monday, 03.19.2012 / 12:13 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

It has been three weeks since the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline, and there are three weeks left in the 2011-12 regular season. Which teams are reaping the benefits from the moves they made, and which teams are still waiting for their bold strokes to show results?

A couple of trends to note at this point are teams that made their moves early (before deadline day) have collectively had more success than those who waited (though Chicago and Buffalo are exceptions), and adding a veteran defenseman or two has helped a few teams in a big way. Here is a breakdown of teams that made moves before the deadline, with their record since the transaction in parenthesis:

Trotz hopes to have Radulov in lineup by Thursday

Monday, 03.19.2012 / 12:09 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

ANAHEIM, Calif. – It appears that Alexander Radulov is one step closer to joining the Nashville Predators.

In a somewhat expected news break Sunday night, Radulov and his Russian team, Ufa Salavat Yulayev, "appear" to have reached a deal allowing Radulov to leave for Nashville, Slava Malamud of Russia's Sport Express reported via Twitter.
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