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NHL Insider

In tough season, Sanford a success story for Jackets

Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 6:59 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

COLUMBUS -- Curtis Sanford entered a game Jan. 13, 2009, for the Vancouver Canucks after the New Jersey Devils had already grabbed an early 2-0 lead. Sanford replaced starter Jason LaBarbera, stopped 19 of 21 shots and kept his team in the game for them to stage a third-period comeback before an empty-net goal sealed a 5-3 defeat.

Pretty standard stuff, really -- except it wasn't for Sanford. Vancouver's franchise goaltender, Roberto Luongo, was ready to return from a groin injury. Sanford had been with the Canucks as Luongo's backup since the beginning of the previous season, but his own groin injury caused him to miss a few games just before that contest in New Jersey.

The Canucks needed a goalie when Sanford got hurt and chose to trade a seventh-round pick to Los Angeles for LaBarbera instead of calling up 22-year-old prospect Cory Schneider. Now with Luongo back there was a logjam, and on Jan. 14, 2009, Sanford was waived. The next day he cleared waivers and was sent to Manitoba of the American Hockey League.

Weber, Suter focus on playoffs; contracts later

Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 3:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter said Friday he didn't anticipate signing a long-term deal before the League's trade deadline on Feb. 27. Suter made his comments during the 2012 NHL All-Star Media Day presented by Allstate.

Suter will be an unrestricted free agent following the season while teammate and fellow All-Star defenseman Shea Weber will be a restricted free agent for the second consecutive summer. Weber was awarded through arbitration a record-setting one-year, $7.5 million contract in August after he and the Predators were unable to come to terms on a long-term deal.

Trade has Bourque facing Backstrom-less Caps again

Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 1:22 PM / NHL Insider

Martin Leclerc - Correspondent

"I don't feel good about what I did and I apologized, but I'm sure there will be some guys coming after me. It's a part of the game, it happens to guys all the time. You just have to be prepared to have every check finished on me and who knows, whatever else." -- Rene Bourque

BROSSARD, Que. -- The last time Rene Bourque faced the Washington Capitals, he left the game facing a near-certain suspension for elbowing center Nicklas Backstrom.

That suspension wound up being for five games, and Backstrom has not returned to action since that Jan. 3 contest.

Bourque was with the Calgary Flames back then and figured he would not face the Capitals again this season. But life in the NHL has a funny way of changing your plans.

Traded by the Flames to the Montreal Canadiens last Thursday, Bourque played his first game since the end of his suspension Sunday night.

GM Fletcher discusses Wild's slide in standings

Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 11:50 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

"It's a bit of a challenge with some of the forwards we have out of the lineup, but I think there's been encouraging signs. For us to be successful we have to play a strong team game and really play a structured defensive style."
-- Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher

PHILADELPHIA -- When Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher woke up on the morning of Dec. 17, he found his team atop the NHL standings with 45 points. One month later, he has a team on a precipitous slide that has seen it drop from its lofty perch to eighth in the Western Conference with 51 points, one point ahead of ninth-place Colorado.

On Dec. 17, the Wild lost a 2-1 shootout at home to the Islanders. Since that game, they're just 2-9-3, including a 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

So what's happened?

NHL-leading Rangers want to rectify choppy play

Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 2:49 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

"It's not acceptable to have a stretch of bad games. You're not going to play every game perfect. You have to find a way to bounce back, and right away without digging a hole." -- Brandon Dubinsky

NEW YORK -- Save for a period of three days, the New York Rangers have sat atop the NHL standings since Jan. 3, a place they occupy heading into Tuesday night's game against the Nashville Predators.

The Rangers have led the Eastern Conference since the calendar flipped to 2012, the latest they've held that spot since the 1995-96 season.

Yet, there isn't an air of confidence around the club as they prepare to face the Predators (7:30 ET, NBCSP) at Madison Square Garden. Instead, there's more of a concern about rectifying their choppy play of late that has seen them drop two of three, including a truly lackluster showing in a 4-1 loss in Montreal on Sunday night.

Miller talks frustrating season, state of the Sabres

Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 11:16 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

Ryan Miller
Goalie - BUF
RECORD: 11-13-2
GAA: 3.12 | SVP: 0.898
DETROIT -- The term "interesting" probably best describes the day that Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had in his homecoming to Joe Louis Arena on Monday.

Frustrating and forgettable might work, as well.

After spending a great day on Sunday catching up with family and friends -- including younger brother Drew Miller, a Detroit Red Wings forward -- Miller started his day on Monday with a pre-game skate at Joe Louis Arena followed by a chat with the media for nearly 20 minutes.

He covered a lot of topics, too. Miller gave his thoughts on everything from dealing with a concussion that kept him out for about three weeks and what kind of things he's doing to guard against further concussions to why he thinks the Sabres are struggling to his feelings about Drew's increased role with Detroit to his own struggles in net.

Sabres look for answers after 5-0 loss

Tuesday, 01.17.2012 / 12:27 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT – There couldn't have been two more starkly different emotions on display at Joe Louis Arena on Monday night following the Detroit Red Wings' 5-0 pasting of the Buffalo Sabres.

While the Red Wings celebrated setting a franchise record with their 15th straight home win this season – besting the 14 that Detroit strung together in 1965 – the Sabres were down the hall fielding questions about another mistake-filled, lackluster effort that had Buffalo reporters pressing for answers afterward.

Prior to reporters being let into the Buffalo locker room, Sabres owner Terry Pegula and other team executives walked directly into the room as players dressed while trying to wrap their minds around the fact they've got just 43 points and have a steep mountain to climb if they even want to get into the playoffs.

Future is now, as Jackets' Johansen adjusts to NHL

Monday, 01.16.2012 / 4:17 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

COLUMBUS -- There is enough facial hair just below the bottom lip of Ryan Johansen to qualify as a solid effort growing a soul patch, but certainly not enough to mask his status as the youngest guy in Columbus Blue Jackets' dressing room.

He was 19 years old when his rookie season began, and he's got another six months to go as a teenager. Johansen represents hope in Columbus for a franchise that thought 2011-12 would be the big breakthrough. It hasn't worked out that way, but the broad-shouldered kid from British Columbia has done enough in his first NHL campaign to get people excited about what he should accomplish in the seasons to come.

"You can tell he's a talented player," Blue Jackets forward Antoine Vermette said. "He makes good plays. For a player of that age to show that composure the ways he shows at some points, it is pretty impressive in the League."

Johansen was the fourth pick in the 2010 Entry Draft. If that didn't bestow enough expectations on him, he was named to the all-star team at the 2011 World Junior Championship after collecting 3 goals and 9 points in the tournament.

Couturier starting to display his offensive flash

Monday, 01.16.2012 / 2:21 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- During his last two seasons of junior hockey with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, seeing Sean Couturier's name on the score sheet was a normal occurrence, thanks to back-to-back 96-point seasons.

It hasn't happened quite that often during his rookie season with the Philadelphia Flyers, but with goals in four straight games, Couturier is starting to make an impact on the offensive side of the ice.

Couturier, one of 12 rookies picked to participate in All-Star Weekend, has earned most of his recognition this season thanks to his outstanding defensive play. He's second among all rookie forwards in shorthanded ice time per game at 2:42, he's won 46.2 percent of his faceoffs and coach Peter Laviolette has shown willingness to use the 19-year-old in all situations.

Now, however, it appears he's starting to bring some of that offense to go with his defensive play.

"I think what's been impressive about his last few games is his shot in general," Laviolette said. "The goals that he's scored, they're goal-scorers' goals. He's showed poise and patience and then when he released it, he released it on the money."

Jets confident they'll overcome adversity

Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 8:27 PM / NHL Insider

Patrick Williams - Correspondent

WINNIPEG Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel is maintaining a stiff upper lip, even as the setbacks pile up for his club.

"We'll get through it," Noel said after Saturday afternoon's 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils at the MTS Centre, the Jets' third consecutive loss. "I think we are all disappointed in the result. I'm certainly not going to beat up on my team. I'm happy with the way the guys played and responded."
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Quote of the Day

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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