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NHL Insider

Maple Leafs, Devils pushing hard for playoff spot

Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 3:30 PM / NHL Insider

NHL.com

The Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils will attempt Thursday to inch closer to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

With the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres (76 points) and ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes (74) two of only eight teams idle, the Maple Leafs (72) and Devils (70) want to continue picking up points.

Toronto, fresh off a 3-1 win in Carolina on Wednesday, plays in Florida. The Leafs have picked up 11 points in their last 10 games (4-3-3) and currently occupy the 10th seed.

New Jersey, meanwhile, is in Ottawa to face a young Senators team that dealt the Devils their last loss, 2-1 at the Prudential Center on March 8. The Devils are in 11th, but have gone 23-3-2 in their last 28 games.

They also play Friday, returning home to face Washington. With Buffalo off again, the Devils could close to within two points of eighth if they win their next two games, though the Hurricanes also play Friday against the Islanders and could tie the Sabres for eighth with a win.

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Chicago trio has good history vs. Stars

Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 3:29 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- As the Chicago Blackhawks face the Dallas Stars on Thursday at the American Airlines Center, three players -- Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews -- loom large for the reigning Stanley Cup champions because of their career success against Dallas.
 
Kane is the leader with 20 points in 14 games against the Stars, a total which includes 4 points in 2 games this season. Hossa (18 points in 19 games) and Toews (17 points in 14 games, 4 points this season) aren't far behind.
 
Hossa and Kane had differing takes on their successes against the Stars.
 
"Well, that's nice but I try to look forward not back," Hossa said. "They're playing great hockey. They've got a good hockey team. It's going to be one of the key games we play this season. We can keep climbing up and that's our goal."
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Stars seek to solve power-play woes

Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 2:27 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- Over their last six games, the Dallas Stars are just 2-for-19 on the power play. Marc Crawford's team has still managed to go 3-2-1 over this stretch, but it's clear Dallas needs to be better with the man advantage. Thursday night's game with Chicago, a team the Stars are 4-for-9 on the power play against this year, presents a great opportunity to do exactly that.

"There's no logical explanation to it [our success against their penalty kill]," Crawford said. "They're a good penalty-killing team. We've gotten shots through and maybe somewhat focused playing against them. We scored a big power-play goal in the last game. We're doing the things that are giving us chances and we've got to continue to try to make each individual power play a dangerous one and the one that gives us momentum."

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Special travel arrangements for Oilers call-ups

Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 2:22 PM / NHL Insider

Robin Brownlee - NHL.com Correspondent

EDMONTON -- American Hockey League call-ups don't often get the rock-star treatment Alexandre Giroux, Chris Vande Velde and Ryan O'Marra experienced Wednesday after they were summoned by the Edmonton Oilers for Thursday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Flying us three, we kind of felt like rock stars there. It was nice of Edmonton to do that, to come down there and get us. They knew we had a rough day of travel the night before. This kind of made up for it." -- Chris Vande Velde

With their roster riddled by injuries, the Oilers put in a call for the trio from the Oklahoma City Barons. Team owner Daryl Katz sent his private jet to pick them up in Grand Rapids, Mich., to make sure they arrived well-rested for the game against the Coyotes.

"It's actually been a lot of fun," said Vande Velde, who will make his NHL debut after playing five games in the last seven nights with the Barons. "We're tired, but we're glad to be up here.

"Flying us three, we kind of felt like rock stars there. It was nice of Edmonton to do that, to come down there and get us. They knew we had a rough day of travel the night before. This kind of made up for it."
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Pronger hoping for return before playoffs

Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 1:52 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Chris Pronger can do lots of things, but predicting the future isn't one of them. So as much as the Philadelphia Flyers All-Star defenseman would like to return prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he's not sure if he'll be able to.

Pronger, who had surgery Tuesday to repair a broken bone in his right hand, told reporters Thursday the surgery went well.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said earlier in the week he expected Pronger to miss 3-4 weeks, which would put Pronger's return for the Flyers' final 13 regular-season games in doubt.

"It's all right," Pronger said of his hand, which initially was injured during a Feb. 24 game against the New York Islanders when he blocked a shot. "It's a little swollen, still bandaged up and all the rest of that stuff. I probably won't know more until we get this off in a few days as far as that goes, really just how it progresses over the next couple of weeks."
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D-man Hamrlik has withstood the test of time

Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 1:30 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik will be joining a select group of players Thursday night when he suits up for his 1,300th career game against the team that drafted him with the first pick in the 1992 Entry Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Hamrlik will become just the 49th player and 16th defenseman in NHL history to reach the 1,300 game mark, and he is one of only four active players -- along with Boston's Mark Recchi and Detroit's Mike Modano and Nicklas Lidstrom -- to play that many.

Even though Hamrlik has played for five NHL clubs over his 19-year career, he said what he will appreciate most about this moment will be the jersey on his back.
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With Pronger out, Gustafsson gets his chance

Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 1:19 PM / NHL Insider

John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent

ATLANTA -- With Chris Pronger out with a hand injury, the Philadelphia Flyers are tinkering with defensemen.

Rookie Erik Gustafsson will play the second game of his career and first since Feb. 26 on Thursday against the Thrashers while veteran Nick Boynton, claimed off waivers from Chicago shortly before the trade deadline, will sit out. Boynton has only played in three games for the Flyers since arriving, all of them since Pronger missed his first game on March 10. Boynton played 11:24 in his first game with Philadelphia, 17:54 against Atlanta last Saturday in a game in which the Flyers lost 5-4 in overtime after taking a 3-0 lead into the third period, and only 5:39 in Tuesday's 3-2 win at Florida in which he was on ice for both of the Panthers' even-strength goals. He posted an even rating in the first two games.

Boynton, 32, had been playing on the third pair with Sean O'Donnell, 39, and it's possible that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette was looking for a little more mobility on the backline with the 22-year-old Gustafsson, an undrafted player out of Northern Michigan who had five goals and 31 assists in 59 games for Adirondack of the AHL and only 10 penalty minutes.

"He's already been here once," Laviolette said of Gustafsson, who was a healthy scratch on Tuesday after being called up. "I think we got a good idea of what type of player he is and right now at this point he's had a good year. He gets up here, he gets experience before the playoff happen."
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Pacioretty could return to Canadiens for playoffs

Thursday, 03.17.2011 / 12:13 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL -- There was good news on the health of Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty on Thursday as coach Jacques Martin announced he will be allowed to begin working out a week from Saturday with an eye toward accepting contact in practice within 3-5 weeks.

It was a surprising and welcome update seeing as it was only last Tuesday that everyone watched in horror as Pacioretty was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher with his head immobilized after being hit by Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and having his head driven into a stanchion.

"It's encouraging, because at one time it was a question mark whether he would be able to come back and play, so that's good news," Martin said. "And it's encouraging that he'll be able to start his training in a short time and should be able to play in the playoffs."

Martin said Pacioretty will remain on complete rest until March 26, at which point the normal concussion protocol will be respected as he begins workouts.
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Ovechkin, Datsyuk are two one-of-a-kind players

Wednesday, 03.16.2011 / 3:09 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

"It's not so much about me and Datsyuk right now. It's two good teams playing against each other. We have good players and they have good players, so it's going to be a good match."
-- Alex Ovechkin

DETROIT -- It's like choosing between a Ferrari and a Lamborghini.
 
Almost everybody who follows the NHL seems to have an opinion about which Russian superstar they'd take if forced to pick between Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk.
 
Pav or Ovi? Ginger or Mary Ann? Is there even a correct answer here?
 
Probably depends on which uniform you wear, but one thing is certain -- whenever Datsyuk (22 G, 34 A) and Ovechkin (28 G, 46 A) play each other, it's "must-watch" television. That will be the case on Wednesday night, when "Ovi" and the Capitals invade Joe Louis Arena to face "Pav" and the Red Wings (7:30 p.m. Versus, RIS).
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New concussion protocol goes into effect tonight

Wednesday, 03.16.2011 / 2:54 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The revised NHL Protocol for Concussion Evaluation and Management goes into effect starting with Wednesday's games.
 
Starting tonight, players suspected of having a concussion will be removed from the game and sent to a quiet place free from distraction so they can be examined by the on-site team physician. The physician will use the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool test to evaluate the player. Symptoms include loss of consciousness, motor incoordination or balance problems, a blank or vacant look, slow to get up after a hit to the head, disorientation, clutching of the head after a hit or visible facial injury in combination with another symptom.
 
In the past any player showing concussion symptoms was assessed on the bench by the team trainer.
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Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday