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NHL Insider

Orpik could be ready to play by the weekend

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 5:02 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

The Pittsburgh Penguins spent much of the last two-plus months watching player after player leave their lineup. For a change, several are about ready to return.

Sidney Crosby, though, isn't one of them -- not yet, at least.

Defenseman Brooks Orpik, out since breaking a finger on his right hand Feb. 23, and forward Eric Tangradi, sidelined since sustaining a concussion Feb. 16, both went through full practices Wednesday -- their first since getting hurt.

Orpik won't be ready for a pivotal Eastern Conference game at Philadelphia on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), and his status for Friday's home game against New Jersey also is uncertain. But Orpik should be fully healthy for the playoffs, meaning the Penguins soon will have their four top defenseman playing -- Orpik and All-Star Kris Letang, plus Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin.

Players only focused on winning the game

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 3:59 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

"If you look at the standings it looks like (Bruins-Canadiens) could be the (playoff) matchup, so we'll see what's going to happen in the next 10 games. We all know it's a big game for both teams. The rivalry is there and the competition is there. We just need to focus on our game and establish what we're working on in the last game. We're focusing on our game." -- Zdeno Chara

Shawn Thornton wasn't about to tip-toe past the obvious.

"It's a rivalry," the Bruins forward told during a phone interview Wednesday. "We don't like them and they don't like us, and I don't think that will ever change."

Thursday's game at TD Garden between the Bruins and Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET, TSN) figures to be emotional for more than just the simple fact that it is yet another installment of this great Original Six rivalry.

The Canadiens still are smarting from the controversial hit a little over two weeks ago by Boston captain Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty that left the Montreal forward with a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra. It was only a month and a half ago that these teams played a game in Boston that included 14 goals, 12 fighting majors, 14 roughing minors and seven misconduct penalties.


West could see most points for non-playoff team

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 3:56 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

There were two teams outside the top eight of the Western Conference with 85 points on Wednesday afternoon and it's possible the ninth- and 10th-place clubs in the West will have 86 by the end of the night.

The 2006-07 edition of the Colorado Avalanche holds the distinction of being the team with most points in NHL history (95) to not make the playoffs. Given how competitive and compact the conference standings are in the West this season, is that record in jeopardy?

Using three different methods to project the final standings, the simple answer is yes. It is quite possible that any of the seven teams currently slotted fourth through 10th in the West could finish the season with 95 or 96 points and not have a spot in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Based on every team's current 82-game pace, the final standings would look pretty similar to Wednesday. Chicago and Nashville would finish tied for sixth with 97 points, and the Blackhawks currently have one more non-shootout win than the Predators. They also hold the next tiebreaker (points earned against each other) if both teams end up with the same number of non-shootout victories.

Wings amped for showdown with Canucks

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 2:59 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

"They've got a good shot to go all the way. So, if we want to go all the way we've got to go through them, probably. (Still), we've had lots of years where we've been in the front so no one could catch us, but (the playoffs) is a different season. It starts from zero."
-- Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom on the Canucks

DETROIT -- In many ways, the Western Conference's top two teams -- the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings -- are mirror images.
In fact, the main things separating the West-leading Canucks (103 points) from the second-seeded Red Wings (92) are 11 standings points and their uniforms. That's what makes their last meeting of the regular season on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m., Versus, TSN) so interesting -- despite Detroit possibly scratching four forwards and the Canucks not having center Manny Malhotra or former Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson.
"They've got a good shot to go all the way," Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom said, following Detroit's optional morning skate. "So, if we want to go all the way we've got to go through them, probably. (Still), we've had lots of years where we've been in the front so no one could catch us, but (the playoffs) is a different season. It starts from zero."

Close games no problem for Ducks

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 2:39 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

"The bottom line is when you have a system here and have team confidence, you're going to stick with that even if you're down a goal or two. You believe you can come back. That's the only chance you can come back. You just have to be patient and believe you can come back." -- Teemu Selanne

DALLAS -- The Anaheim Ducks have been almost a sure thing in one-goal games this season.

The Ducks are a League-best 25-8-5 in one-goal games, most recently Sunday's 5-4 overtime win against the Flames.

On Wednesday, the Ducks face the Dallas Stars, a team they are 2-1-1 against this year. Their two most recent meetings have been one-goal affairs, with Anaheim prevailing in one of those meetings -- their most recent encounter, a 4-3 overtime win March 4.    

Ideally, Carlyle would rather see his club not have so many close wins, but he'll take them.

Stars' penalty kill looks to extend success

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 2:21 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

DALLAS -- Over the last eight games, the Dallas Stars' penalty kill has been rock solid, denying 20 of 22 opportunities for a success rate of 91 percent. The Stars are 4-2-2 over that span and in their last two contests, that same unit has been a perfect 5-for-5 on the kill.

That group's current success is a big source of pride for Dallas coach Marc Crawford.

"You have to be strong on your special teams. Here lately, our penalty kill has been doing a great job for us. It's kept us in a lot of games," Crawford said. "If our power play could compensate the other way, then it's such a big bonus for you right now."

The Stars could also get a boost Wednesday from the likely return of All-Star winger Loui Eriksson. He has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury.


Boucher sees brighter days soon for Bolts

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 12:53 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - 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 "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.

Canucks look for help without Malhotra

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 5:58 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - 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

Avs get lift from watching Fleischmann skate

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 4:54 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - 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."

Wings try to keep winning despite the injuries

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 3:00 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - 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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Quote of the Day

We've got a team filled with captains, that's what I think. With these first two games we got in, we're really dominating and moving the puck really fast, and it's worked out really good.

— U.S. goalie Brandon Halverson after a 6-0 win against Germany in the World Junior Championship on Sunday