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NHL Insider

Leafs thrown curve by Martin's call to start Auld

Thursday, 02.24.2011 / 3:20 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek was just as surprised as everyone else.

Speaking ahead of Thursday night's game against his former team, the Montreal Canadiens, Komisarek began emphasizing the importance of getting into the face of goaltender Carey Price to get him off his game and give the Leafs a chance to score their first goal of the season in Montreal.

What Komisarek didn't know was that in spite of Price shutting out the Leafs in both their visits to the Bell Centre this season, Canadiens coach Jacques Martin had decided to go with backup Alex Auld in this game.

"What?" Komisarek said. "Wow. Scratch that." 

Sabres, Kings move up in playoff race

Thursday, 02.24.2011 / 1:49 AM / NHL Insider


The NHL season is reaching the three-quarters pole, and the playoff races are only getting hotter.

It's too early for anyone to have clinched a postseason berth -- but only a handful of teams appear to be so far off the pace that their playoff hopes have disappeared. More than two dozen teams still have realistic hopes -- and, in some cases, can already start planning for the postseason.

Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Wednesday night's games:

Paul Stastny disagrees with father's comments

Thursday, 02.24.2011 / 12:46 AM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

DENVERColorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny disagrees with his Hockey Hall of Fame father Peter Stastny, who was highly critical of the team's blockbuster trade with St. Louis on Saturday.

"He's a passionate guy," Paul Stastny said Wednesday night of his dad, who in an interview with St. Louis radio station KMOX said the Avalanche "destroyed" the team by sending Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk and a second-round draft pick in 2011 or 2012 to the Blues in exchange for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement and a first-round pick in 2011 or 2012. "I think he's opinionated. He said that, and that's his opinion. We're two different people, so I'm not really worried about what he said. I worry about what we can do here to keep getting better.

"In my mind, I think we have our own opinion. We gave up two good players, but we got two good players that we needed to address different needs in this locker room. The way things are going this year, just power play and offense weren't going to win us games. I think we needed to add something, a 'D' and a defensive center."

Neal excited for chance to contend, play with Sid

Wednesday, 02.23.2011 / 2:26 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- James Neal arrived at Consol Energy Center to discover his locker located next to Sidney Crosby's. It's only temporary -- for now, it was the only space available in the Pittsburgh Penguins' dressing room.

Neal, acquired from the Dallas Stars with defenseman Matt Niskanen for defenseman Alex Goligoski, no doubt would prefer to play alongside Crosby. That's not possible at the moment, as Crosby remains out with a concussion, but Neal hopes that's only temporary, too.

Players often expect the worst and hope for the best when any trade is made. Neal said this deal couldn't have worked out any better, as he moves to a team that figures to be a Stanley Cup contender for years. It's also one blessed with two of the NHL's best players in Crosby and the also-injured Evgeni Malkin.

Even if -- and this figures to be temporary, too -- Neal becomes the leading goal scorer among active Penguins players with 21. He is second with 39 points to Kris Letang's 45. Malkin is out for the season following knee surgery but is expected to return for training camp in September. 

Elliott joins Avalanche, will start Wednesday

Wednesday, 02.23.2011 / 1:58 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

DENVER -- Goalie Brian Elliott has joined the Colorado Avalanche and is expected to start Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center.

Elliott, 25, was acquired Friday from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for goalie Craig Anderson. He's a Canadian citizen and needed to have visa and immigration issues resolved in order to join the U.S.-based Avalanche.

With Elliott on board -- he'll wear jersey No. 30 -- goalie John Grahame has been returned to the Lake Erie Monsters in the American Hockey League. Grahame was Peter Budaj's backup for two games.

Elliott went 13-19-8 this season with three shutouts, a 3.19 goals-against average and .894 save percentage for the Senators. He posted a 29-18-4 record last year with five shutouts, a 2.57 average and a .909 save percentage.

Coyotes' Doan set to break games-played mark

Wednesday, 02.23.2011 / 10:25 AM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

Teppo Numminen remembers the first time he saw the Winnipeg Jets' first-round draft choice from 1995 -- a baby-faced winger out of Halkirk, Alberta who was long on bullish strength but short on style.

"He was a little choppy on the ice and that stick handling needed a lot of work," Numminen said, laughing at his own flashback of the 19-year-old Shane Doan. "But his excitement for the game and his willingness to do whatever it took, that was there from the start. He made an impact right away and he just kept going."

Doan is still going strong at age 34. He's now the captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, the face and heartbeat of a long-struggling but now resurgent franchise in the desert.

Modano says he'll return Saturday in Buffalo

Tuesday, 02.22.2011 / 3:47 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

DETROIT -- Mike Modano probably could return from a lengthy injury stint Thursday against the Dallas Stars, but will defer to Saturday's road game against the Buffalo Sabres instead.

The reason has a lot to do with Modano's wish to keep his return from wrist surgery low key to start. Coming back against the Stars, the franchise that drafted him with the first pick of the 1988 Entry Draft when the franchise was in Minnesota and who he spent 20 years playing for, would be anything but low-key.
In that span he helped the team win the 1999 Stanley Cup while becoming the face of the franchise, not to mention arguably the greatest U.S.-born player in NHL history.

"There was a chance (to return against Dallas), but ... of all games to come back after such a long lay-off, I think the expectations are a little too high for that one," said Modano, who had severed tendons in his wrist after a skate blade cut him during a Nov. 26 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. "(I'll) just start in Buffalo and it's going to be five games in eight days on that trip. So it'll be some crucial games here coming down the stretch."

Philadelphia a happy place for Versteeg

Tuesday, 02.22.2011 / 2:38 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette admits he's tried to forget the fact Kris Versteeg was celebrating the Stanley Cup in Philadelphia as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks only eight months ago.
He's just grateful now to have him on his side Tuesday when Versteeg makes his Flyers home debut against the Phoenix Coyotes here at Wells Fargo Center.
"He just has to be a nice complement to what we already have and I thought that his last game was good (against the Rangers)," Laviolette said of Versteeg, who has played four games since he was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 14. "He's very quick on the puck, he's got a quick stick. I think he's getting more comfortable here and that's a good thing. It takes time when you're in a new environment, a new system with new players and a new coach. Things take a little bit of time, so we found minutes for him last game and we'll see if we could continue that."


Scoring surge brings smiles on Long Island

Tuesday, 02.22.2011 / 2:30 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Quick -- name the one NHL team that has three players with 23 or more goals. Washington? Pittsburgh? Vancouver? Tampa Bay? Philadelphia?
Would you believe the New York Islanders?
Yes, those Islanders -- the team that scored all of 15 goals in the entire month of November. The team that won just once in a 21-game span from late October to mid-December, that's used six goaltenders (all of whom have at least one win).
And the team that has won eight of 11 games since the All-Star break, including a 5-1 victory against Florida on Monday that moved them within 11 points of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday's visit to Toronto. They've scored 44 goals in those 11 games.


Different net approaches working for Flyers, Coyotes

Tuesday, 02.22.2011 / 2:19 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- If you think the road to success is the same for every NHL team, better think again.

"Bryz is the backbone. If he's our best player we win games, and if he's not, we have trouble winning. So having him playing his best this time of year is great." -- Scottie Upshall

Take, for instance, the Phoenix Coyotes and the Philadelphia Flyers, who meet for the first and only time this season at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday. The Flyers (39-15-5, 83 points) stand atop the Eastern Conference behind the two-headed monster in goal that is veteran Brian Boucher and rookie Sergei Bobrovsky.
During February, Boucher (15-6-2, 2.26 goals-against average, .922 save percentage) has started four of nine games. Bobrovsky (23-9-3, 2.44 GAA, .919 save percentage) has started five.
The Coyotes (32-19-9, 73 points) are currently third in the West due in large part to the play of one masked man, Ilya Bryzgalov. The Russian-born netminder will make a career-high 19th straight start for the Coyotes on Tuesday. He'll go head-to-head against Bobrovsky, his fellow countryman, for the first time in his career.
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Quote of the Day

Great players need great players to play with. That's why we'll have a training camp and we'll find who the best two guys are suited to play with Stamkos.

— Tampa Bay Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on Steven Stamkos' potential linemates for the 2014-15 season