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NHL Insider

Weight's transition to retirement an ongoing process

Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 2:08 PM / NHL Insider

Kurt Dusterberg - Correspondent

Doug Weight is in a good place.

It is late morning, and he is dangling the puck on the bright, white ice inside RBC Center in Raleigh. High above him in the rafters hangs the Carolina Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup banner. Weight played for that team, so stickhandling in the quiet arena is special -- a moment of basking in personal accomplishment.

At the same time, there are a couple of disconnects at work. Weight is long gone from the Hurricanes organization. And despite the display of skills, he is retired. He now conducts all his idle puck work in a New York Islanders warm-up suit, serving as an assistant coach and advisor to the general manager.

As Weight goes through his puck paces hours before the Islanders face Carolina that night, something is becoming clear. This man with more than 1,000 NHL points is not altogether comfortable without an NHL uniform.

"I'm still going through it, to be honest with you," said Weight, who retired last May at age 40 after three injury-plagued seasons with the Islanders. "I certainly don't want to play a violin because I've been lucky to play 20 years in the sport I love the most and make a living from it. But it's hard."

Hitchcock: Blues must reach next level down stretch

Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 12:26 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- After the Blues poured everything they had physically, emotionally and mentally into a 3-2 shootout loss to Pittsburgh in their final game leading into the All-Star break, players, coaches and even management looked forward to some rest and relaxation.

A number of them scattered, some even left the country to recharge and refresh the batteries and some chose to remain in St. Louis to allow the mind and body to heal -- because the Blues, who are 29-13-7 and just two points behind NHL-leader Detroit for the No. 1 overall spot, will return to the ice facing the daunting task of trying to keep pace with the impressive numbers they've put up so far.

"We're going to have some real battles, and if we want to be a good team, we're going to have to grow from our last two games (against the Red Wings and Penguins), because we're there, but if we want to beat these teams and we want to be a top team, we've got to grow," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who's 23-6-7 since taking over for Davis Payne on Nov. 6.

The Blues will have huge challenges playing 20 of their final 33 games away from the friendly confines of Scottrade Center, where they've compiled the most wins in the NHL at 21-3-4. Many of those battles will come against the teams they will have to jockey with for Western Conference supremacy.

Which prompted Hitchcock to proclaim, "We're as good or better than 22 teams in the League, but there's eight out there, they're big-time teams … big-time teams, and we get 'em, and we get lots of them and we get them in their building."

Brewers' Morgan practices with San Jose Sharks

Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 6:17 PM / NHL Insider

Eric Gilmore - Correspondent

SAN JOSE – Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan traded his baseball bat for a hockey stick and had his "dream come true" Wednesday when he practiced with the San Jose Sharks, his hometown team.

Morgan was born in San Francisco but spent most of his childhood in San Jose, where he played youth hockey and honed his skills to the point where he earned a roster spot for one season as a teenager with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.

"To be out there to skate with my childhood team, and just to be out there with the boys, was an unbelievable feeling," Morgan said.

Unlucky bounce costs Rangers a victory

Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 10:44 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- One bounce can change the fortunes of a hockey team. On Tuesday night, it turned a sure victory for the New York Rangers into one of their more frustrating losses of the season.

Devils defenseman Andy Greene launched a slap shot from center ice with goaltender Martin Brodeur on the bench for an extra attacker in the final minute. The puck rimmed around the glass and ricocheted to the slot, where it came to rest on the stick of a wide-open David Clarkson, who buried the tying goal for the Devils with 47.6 seconds remaining.

After a wild five-minute overtime, Ilya Kovalchuk scored the only goal in a shootout to send the Rangers to a 4-3 loss in front of a sell-out crowd at Prudential Center. A goal from Michael Del Zotto put the Rangers ahead 3-2 with 3:59, but one bounce marred a solid overall performance in New York's first game out of the All-Star break.

Malkin, Sens, Blues lead All-Star players' poll

Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 3:44 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Heading into the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin enjoyed a three-point cushion atop the list of NHL scoring leaders. So it's hardly surprising that his was one of the first names mentioned when players competing in the big game and rookies selected to take part in the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition were asked to choose a first-half MVP in an anonymous poll conducted by

Of 38 players polled, an impressive 23 selected Malkin as the League's top player thus far this season. With 60 percent of players polled choosing Malkin, Philadelphia's Claude Giroux came in a distant second with seven votes. New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk received three and two votes respectively. Daniel Alfredsson, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa each earned a single vote.

Bolts' Boucher fighting for answers in trying times

Tuesday, 01.31.2012 / 11:08 AM / NHL Insider

Lonnie Herman - Correspondent

"Steve Yzerman told me when we started, before the first season, that this would be a long process -- there are a lot of things to do, depth to build, all kinds of things, so I wasn't in it for the short fix. I was in for the long run and understood the need for patience."
-- Guy Boucher

TAMPA -- Guy Boucher is sitting behind his desk at the practice facility of the Tampa Bay Lightning, picking idly at a plate of mixed vegetables. He's in the midst of his second season as coach and unlike the first season, when the team exceeded all expectations and fell one game short of making the Stanley Cup Final, this season has been much more difficult.

"Adversity, adversity, adversity," is how Boucher described it.

On June 10, 2010, Boucher became the seventh head coach in Tampa Bay Lightning history, and the first to be named to the position without any previous NHL playing or coaching experience.

Avs excited about potential second-half run

Monday, 01.30.2012 / 10:45 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – The Colorado Avalanche are about to begin what they hope will be a successful stretch run to the playoffs, starting with Tuesday night's visit to Edmonton.

The Avalanche won nine of 10 games from mid-December through the first week of January to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race, but went 3-5-1 in the final nine games before the NHL All-Star break to fall one point behind eighth-place Minnesota with 31 games to play.

"We had a real good month in December," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said after practice Monday. "We were able to take advantage of our home games. January was a grind and I think we were able to come out of it somewhat successful. I think the guys for the most part have responded well; they played hard and we battled our way back into the thick of things. We have a very tough and competitive conference.

Wings, Canucks in control entering second half

Monday, 01.30.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Four of the top six teams in the Western Conference come from the Central Division. It's possible that for a second straight season Vancouver will be the only team from the Northwest Division to make the playoffs, although Minnesota, Colorado and Calgary are among the many competing for one of the final berths. The Sharks hold only a two-point edge on the Kings in the Pacific Division, but they have three games in hand.

Here's an analysis of each team in the Western Conference in order of where they are in the standings coming out of the All-Star break, complete with all the pertinent details:

The Red Wings lead the race for the Presidents' Trophy. (Photo: Dave Reginek/NHLI)
1. Red Wings (67 points)

Record: 33-16-1
Non-shootout wins: 28
Games remaining: 32 (18 home, 14 away)
Significant injuries: Patrick Eaves (jaw)

Their 7-2 loss at Montreal notwithstanding, the Red Wings are in a great position coming out of the break. They lead the race for the Presidents' Trophy and have a significant amount of games remaining at home, where they've won 17 in a row, three shy of the NHL record. The Wings are 20-2-1 at Joe Louis Arena this season. The problem is they come out of the break with a four-game road trip, with games at Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Phoenix. The good news is only one of those teams (the Canucks) currently is in a playoff spot.

Rangers will face tough battle for first place

Monday, 01.30.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The Rangers and Bruins are separated by two points at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Penguins are streaking and the Flyers are right in the mix as well. Washington and Florida are in a tough battle for first in the Southeast Division and third in the conference. Ottawa is still looking good despite a three-game losing streak. Several teams are fighting for the final few playoff spots.

Here's an analysis of each team in the Eastern Conference in order of where they are in the standings coming out of the All-Star break, complete with all the pertinent details:

The Rangers have won three of their last four games, including a 3-2 overtime win Jan. 21 against the Bruins. (Photo: Getty Images)
1. Rangers (66 points)

Record: 31-12-4
Non-shootout wins: 29
Games remaining: 35 (19 home, 16 away)
Significant injuries: Michael Sauer (concussion), Steve Eminger (shoulder)

The Rangers carry a two-game winning streak out of the All-Star break. They've won three of their last four games, including a 3-2 overtime win Jan. 21 against the Bruins. They open their post-break schedule at New Jersey and then head to Buffalo for a game Thursday. They then return home to play three in a row. February won't be easy as they play the Flyers twice within a week, then the Bruins, Capitals and Blackhawks in consecutive games. They also play the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

Leafs' legend Bower predicts Leafs playoff berth

Sunday, 01.29.2012 / 5:23 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

Among Maple Leafs' fans, there are few former players more revered than Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bower.

The iconic goaltender and World War II veteran was a key part of a Leafs dynasty that won three straight Stanley Cups from 1962 to 64. Since retiring in 1970, he's been a prominent presence at Maple Leafs games, but it's this year's team that has the 87-year-old legend particularly excited. So much so that he made a bold prediction to

"I think they're going to get into the playoffs this year," Bower told "They're a young hockey team and they're very entertaining. It looks pretty good. I certainly hope they keep them together without making any trades. But I'm just a bystander there. I don't know what [Toronto general manager Brian] Burke is going to do, but he's done a great job with the team."

That team, which currently features two of the League's highest-scoring players in Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, has Bower thrilled at the prospect of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which would be Toronto's first since 2004. But while the team's high-scoring offense has paced the Leafs this season, the former goaltender has been keenly following Toronto's situation in net.

With Jonas Gustavsson appearing to have wrestled the starting crease spot from James Reimer, goaltending will likely be key if the Leafs hope to make good on Bower's bold prediction.
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Life's about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity, and obviously he must have some swagger about him, some confidence about him, because he was solid. He made some good saves. He was 6-foot-3 on every shot, which is a good thing for a goalie. He played well. We got a win.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on rookie goaltender Garret Sparks, who made 24 saves in his first NHL start, a 3-0 win vs. Oilers
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