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NHL Insider

Storylines swirl as NHL season reaches midpoint

Friday, 01.07.2011 / 2:13 PM / NHL Insider

NEW YORK -- Dramatic team turnarounds, stellar individual performances, remarkable hot streaks and its hallmark competitive balance have lit up the 2010-11 NHL regular season, which reaches the midway point on Saturday. They all set the table for a thrilling stretch run of a season in which every game matters, every point counts.

Competitive First Half Sets Stage For Wild Finish

* Presidents' Trophy: Top seven clubs separated by five points
* Eastern Conference: One-point lead in each of the three divisions; top four point-earners separated by four points
* Western Conference: Five points separate the 10 teams occupying 4th through 13th place
* Back in the playoffs? Five teams who didn't make the playoffs last season are currently 'above the line', including the Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning and Pacific Divisionleading Dallas Stars. They are joined by the Atlanta Thrashers, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues. Four other non-playoff clubs in 2009-10, the Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, are within five points of a post-season berth.

Lemaire faces daunting task with still-reeling Devils

Friday, 01.07.2011 / 10:45 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Jacques Lemaire quietly uttered the words, and then he coughed. After a quick pause, he looked right in the reporter's eye again, and as if he were spelling it out in big capital letters used the same words to answer the same question:
Is this the biggest challenge of your coaching career?
"BY…A…MILE," Lemaire answered, pausing between each word, "and a plus."
He has coached in Montreal. He has won a Stanley Cup with the Devils and then failed to make the playoffs the following season. He has taken control of an expansion franchise in Minnesota in 2000 and three years later had it in the Western Conference Finals. He was an associate coach to Mike Babcock for Team Canada in the Olympics last February.

Lightning's latest rebuild in process of paying off

Friday, 01.07.2011 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- If the story of the Tampa Bay Lightning this season sounds familiar, that's because it is -- only this time the organization seemingly got it right.

Tampa Bay entered the 2008-09 campaign as maybe the most fascinating team in the NHL. It had a new ownership group, a first-time general manager and a coach that generated a lot of debate.

There was plenty of hope but that season and the next quickly unraveled. The coach, Barry Melrose, was fired after 16 games in 2008. The general manager, Brian Lawton, was let go after two seasons. The principle owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie, had control issues that ended in a messy divorce.

Ovi gets cortisone shot, expects to play Saturday

Thursday, 01.06.2011 / 3:50 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Maybe there has been a reason for Alex Ovechkin's offensive struggles after all.

Ovechkin practiced Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington but in a no-contact jersey because the Washington Capitals captain received a cortisone shot shortly after the team's 1-0 loss Tuesday night to Tampa Bay.

"Yeah, I'm going to be OK," Ovechkin said. "Bruce [Boudreau] just gave me some skating, so no puck handling or nothing. He just told me to be here and relax and be ready for Saturday."

Boudreau said Ovechkin was not allowed to handle the puck for two days after the shot. The team did not practice Wednesday and his participation was limited Thursday. Ovechkin is expected to practice without restriction Friday and play Saturday against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.


At home on Island, Schremp back to visit Oilers

Thursday, 01.06.2011 / 2:29 PM / NHL Insider

Robin Brownlee - Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Rob Schremp wasn't a member of the Edmonton Oilers very long, but he'll still have some friends in the home dressing room at Rexall Place when the New York Islanders come calling tonight.

Schremp, drafted with the 25th pick by Edmonton in the first round of the 2004 Entry Draft, will face his former team for the first time since the Islanders claimed him off waivers from the Oilers in September 2009.

One of those friends, Devan Dubnyk, selected 14th by Edmonton in the same 2004 draft, will be tending goal for the Oilers in just his 13th appearance of the season.


Habs expect to have hands full with Penguins

Thursday, 01.06.2011 / 12:56 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Que. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins return to Montreal on Thursday night for the first time since losing Game 6 of last season's Eastern Conference semifinal to the Canadiens, a series the Penguins went on to lose in seven games.

But the Canadiens have no illusions that they will get any benefit from that playoff history when they face a Penguins team that thumped the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-1 at home on Wednesday.

"We're facing one of the best teams in the League -- they have a lot of firepower with (Sidney) Crosby, (Evgeni) Malkin, (Jordan) Staal, who's back now, and (Kris) Letang," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said Thursday morning after a brief skate at the team's suburban practice facility. "It's up to us to shut them down and take away the middle of the ice."


'The Blackhawk' revealed as fourth Guardian

Tuesday, 01.04.2011 / 10:30 PM / NHL Insider

'The Blackhawk' is a multi-faceted character as diverse as the city of Chicago itself. The Blackhawk is very fun to be around, he has a blue-collar sensibility, he's serious when the need arises but it's not his preferred state of mind. He's mostly a happy go lucky man's man, very much like a big kid. He prides himself on being the guy who the others look to when situations look bleak. In his words, "Jump on my big shoulders and let's get it done."

The look of the Blackhawk is in contrast to his everyman personality as his body is covered in gleaming metallic body armor. On his back, he has six wing blades that when deployed extend from his body and allow him to fly like a human dragonfly. The Blackhawk is also an environmental "empathy" that is able to control the element of wind.

Roloson should be improvement in net for Tampa

Tuesday, 01.04.2011 / 4:35 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Dwayne Roloson is going to settle into his new home in Florida eventually, but before that he'll be busy trying to keep his new team in first place Tuesday.

The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Roloson on Saturday from the New York Islanders for defense prospect Ty Wishart, and coach Guy Boucher is going with him in net in their first game since the deal in a battle for the top spot in the Southeast Division against the Washington Capitals.

"I've been travelling so much," Roloson said. "I went from Detroit to Calgary and from Calgary to Houston to Tampa to Washington, so it has been a whirlwind tour so it hasn't sunk in too much. I don't think you have really have an idea of what's going on unless you're sitting in the GM's room. It is always tough to leave somewhere, but you also know that you're going to an organization that wanted you at the same time. It is a nice feeling."


Hats off for Doan? Not just yet

Tuesday, 01.04.2011 / 3:53 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Over the years, it's gotten comical for Shane Doan. But now, it's about to get historic.

Doan had back-to-back two-goal games last week, the 36th and 37th of his career. That's not a record, but it's notable because of the number of hat tricks the Phoenix Coyotes' captain has fashioned in his career.

None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

He already has scored more goals and recorded more two-goal games than any active player in the League without collecting a hat trick. But his two goals in St. Louis in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Blues -- which gave him five in a three-game span -- were the 284th and 285th of his career -- and made things even more interesting.

Only defenseman Larry Murphy, who played more than 1,600 NHL games over parts of three decades before leaving for the broadcast booth at NHL Network, has scored more goals (287) in his career without seeing hats hit the ice.

So if the red-hot Doan -- who was named the League's Second Star of the Week after collecting eight points in four games -- happens to get a couple of early goals Tuesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Arena, something's gotta give. Either the spell will be broken and Doan will finally break through or Murphy's inglorious record will have company.

Caps know how important tonight's games is

Tuesday, 01.04.2011 / 3:46 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

"Last year we could look at it and be like, 'Oh, a game here and a game there doesn't really matter.' We're in a playoff race now and we want to make sure we're atop our division and those things go hand in hand. I think it is good for us and it enforces that we need to come to play every night to win games."
-- David Steckel

WASHINGTON -- For the past two seasons the Washington Capitals have bullied the other members of the Southeast Division on the scoreboard and in the standings.

By this point in each of the past two seasons the team had a comfortable lead in the division and used games in January to put the division title away with several weeks left before the postseason.

However, the circumstances Tuesday when the Tampa Bay Lightning come to Verizon Center are vastly different. The Lightning and the Capitals are tied atop the Southeast with 51 points and Tampa Bay has a game in hand.

"It is a huge game and a huge two weeks," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We play Florida twice and these guys twice. It is good to have these kind of games."
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You could see out there that everybody was willing to compete, to sacrifice, even blocking shots to the end. Even in the third when we were up 5-0, guys were still working hard and blocking shots That's a nice feeling also for the future.

— Flames goalie Jonas Hiller after his team's 5-0 win over Carolina
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