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NHL Insider

Boucher sees brighter days soon for Bolts

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 12:53 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"Third periods are all about depth, and when you've got depth you can maintain and sustain your efficiency, drive, puck possession and forecheck. We haven't had depth for a long, long time now and it's taking a toll." -- Guy Boucher

Forget about the grind, dealing with injuries, the highs and the lows -- the biggest challenge Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher says he's faced in his first season as an NHL coach is trying to stay on the right side of that very thin line between winning and losing.

"That's my learning curve in my first year as a coach in the NHL," Boucher told NHL.com. "It's amazing how much you're walking a thin line. Just a few games here and there -- it's a weird thing."

The Lightning have been falling to the wrong side of the line too often this month.

They're 2-5-4 since finishing February on a three-game win streak and have watched Washington zip past them in the Southeast Division race. The Lightning were five points ahead of Washington on Feb. 28, but today they trail the Capitals by seven points and barely are hanging on to fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
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Canucks look for help without Malhotra

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 5:58 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- When it comes to dealing with injuries, there aren't many NHL teams better at it than the Vancouver Canucks.

They've lost a number of key contributors and still remain solidly atop the ultra-competitive Western Conference standings with 103 points -- 11 ahead of the second-place Detroit Red Wings, whom the Canucks will face at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night in a good test for both teams ahead of the postseason.

Still, losing Manny Malhotra for the rest of the season to a serious eye injury presents quite a hurdle for a team that likes to control the puck as much as Vancouver. Among many things he brought to the team, Malhotra's success rate in the faceoff circle might be the biggest gap he leaves behind.

He's one of the best in the League at winning faceoffs and led the Canucks with a 61.7 percent success rate in the circle -- where he took 1,261 draws. That was second only to 1,351 taken by Ryan Kesler and just ahead of the 1,250 taken by Henrik Sedin
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Avs get lift from watching Fleischmann skate

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 4:54 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- A surprising dose of flash was added to the Colorado Avalanche's morning skate Tuesday, with an unexpected appearance by Tomas Fleischmann on the Pepsi Center ice.

The 26-year-old forward skated with ease, gliding down the ice before firing pucks at goalies Peter Budaj and Brian Elliott during non-contact drills.

"It was fun," he said. "I really enjoyed it. It was great. Shooting on the goalies was fun. I enjoy the team and the guys."
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Wings try to keep winning despite the injuries

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 3:00 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

"I always tell the guys, once the playoffs start I'm the team doctor. Until then we've got people who make those professional decisions." -- Mike Babcock

DETROIT -- Give Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock credit for having a sense of humor, albeit dry, regarding his team's injury situation during the stretch run of the regular season.
 
Babcock informed reporters following Tuesday's practice at Joe Louis Arena that Detroit will likely play the Western Conference leading Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday without forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Johan Franzen (groin), Jiri Hudler (shoulder) and Todd Bertuzzi (back/upper body soreness).
 
Bertuzzi, who's played in 155 straight games since coming to Detroit, is the most recent addition to the Red Wings' walking wounded list -- after playing in Monday's 5-4 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins while the other three were scratched.
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Sabres have stepped up play over second half

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 2:28 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- So much has been made of the New Jersey Devils' remarkable rise from the ashes this season that a similar, yet not quite so remarkable revival from the Buffalo Sabres has gone practically unnoticed.

Except since we turned the calendar to mark the New Year, the Sabres have the fourth-best points percentage in the Eastern Conference at .643, sitting behind only New Jersey (.714), Philadelphia (.682) and Washington (.662).

Right behind them on that list is the Montreal Canadiens (.632), Buffalo's opponent Tuesday night in a pivotal clash that could cement the Sabres standing among the conference's top eight and that could see Montreal end the night as the Northeast Division leader.

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Ovechkin-less Caps brace for test from Flyers

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 2:13 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The question posed to Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom went something like this: Does your style or mindset change knowing Alex Ovechkin is not here?

"We realize the importance of the next two months, not hitting individual goals in the regular season but the importance of the team aspect, so some time off for him is going to be good. He'll be ready to fire when he comes back."
-- Brooks Laich on Ovechkin

Backstrom raised his eyebrows ever so slightly and then made a facial expression that was more telling than any long-winded verbal response he might have given.

The answer, according to Backstrom, clearly is no.

Other than the possible return of forward Eric Fehr to the lineup, the Capitals don't plan on changing anything Tuesday night when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center in a nationally-televised clash (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2) between the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. 
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Visit by Caps puts Flyers in a playoff mindset

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 1:46 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PHILADELPHIA -- No offense to the Thrashers, Maple Leafs, Oilers and Panthers, but the Philadelphia Flyers players admit there's a different mindset going into Tuesday's visit by the Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2).
 
For the first time in a month, the Flyers will play consecutive games against teams in their respective conference's top eight.
 
It's a big change from their previous 11 games, when they faced teams in playoff spots just twice; however, they went 5-4-2 in that stretch, and played some of their worst hockey of the season.
 
"When we struggled, I don't know if it was lack of effort or lack of focus," defenseman Braydon Coburn told NHL.com. "I don't think it was lack of effort. I know guys were busting their humps. I think it was lack of execution and focus."
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Reasoner's brother becomes Panthers' practice goalie

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 1:17 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- With Scott Clemmensen unable to practice Tuesday morning at Madison Square Garden due to a lower-body injury that proved to be worse than originally thought, the Florida Panthers needed to find an emergency goaltender and didn't have much time to do so.

Luckily for the Panthers, Marty Reasoner knew of someone with goaltending experience working in the financial district -- his brother, Adam.

"It was kind of a last-minute thing," Marty said. "It was probably almost 10:30 when I realized we didn't have a goalie going out, so I said, 'Hey, I know a guy pretty well who might be able to fit in.'

"So I gave him a call and texted him. It was a pretty impressive turnaround. He was here in a half-hour."
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Applying lessons, Caps focus on process, not results

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 9:53 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- How important is winning the Eastern Conference to the Washington Capitals?

It's a fair question, particularly since the Capitals finished tops in the Southeast Division and among the top three in the East the past three seasons only to be relegated to postseason heartache each time. The club was eliminated in the conference quarterfinals in 2008 and '10 and dropped a thrilling seven-game series to Pittsburgh in the conference semifinals in 2009.

Based on the team's performance of late -- 10 victories in 11 games -- you'd assume winning the conference is a priority.

"Really, it's not that important," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said a few days before his team travelled to Philadelphia to play the Flyers for first place in the East.

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Penguins concur with League on Cooke punishment

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 6:04 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

With the continued focus on head hits and the call to increase punishment for repeat offenders coming out of last week's General Manager Meetings, the supplementary discipline handed out to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke's for an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in Sunday's game came as little surprise.

Cooke, who received a five-minute elbowing major and game misconduct on the play, was suspended by the League on Monday for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, a decision with which even his own team could not find fault.
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Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie