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NHL Insider

Pens more concerned with momentum than seed

Tuesday, 04.05.2011 / 12:54 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- First in the conference, probably not. Fourth? Most likely. Fifth? They hope not.

The Pittsburgh Penguins go into their final three regular-season games knowing that, with a late-season rush and a lot of help, they could own home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. That wasn't considered likely when they began playing without injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin several months ago.

The Penguins trail Atlantic Division leader Philadelphia and Southeast Division frontrunner Washington by three points, 103-100, after winning five of seven and seven of 10.

Conversely, a late-season slide as they face non-contenders New Jersey on Tuesday, the New York Islanders on Friday and Atlanta on Sunday could result in them losing the home-ice edge altogether. The Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1 winners over the Penguins on Thursday, began the final six days of the season in fifth place in the conference, but trailing the Penguins by only one point, 100-99.

Crosby continuing to skate, recovery from concussion

Tuesday, 04.05.2011 / 12:37 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - NHL.com Correspondent

"Sidney continues his prescribed rehab from his doctor and there's still no timetable for the next step in that progression." -- Dan Bylsma

PITTSBURGH -- With slightly more than a week remaining before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Sidney Crosby's injury status hasn't changed.

Crosby, who last played for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 5 due to a concussion, took to the ice with strength coach Mike Kadar for a workout Tuesday, then stayed around to take part in the team's optional and relatively short morning skate.

Crosby has participated in the Penguins' last three game-day skates, and he also practiced with the team in a non-contact role Friday. However, the Penguins said his return to full-contact practicing -- which he must do before he can begin preparing to play again -- remains uncertain.

Trips to playoffs now more special for Lidstrom

Tuesday, 04.05.2011 / 11:58 AM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

When the Detroit Red Wings clinched their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- the 20th straight season they've done it -- Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland talked about one of the major reasons for that streak, the longest current run in North American professional sports.

Nicklas Lidstrom.

"He's a big reason why we have been in the playoffs for 20 years, and Nick has been here for 19 of them," Holland said. "He's the best defenseman of his era and I think he's the most valuable player of his era."

Lidstrom's Hall of Fame resume already was well-polished even before this season. But at 40 years old, he's having another average -- read: stellar for mere mortals -- season. His 62 points are second among all NHL defensemen, and his 16 goals are third. His average ice time of 23:31 per game leads all Red Wings players. It's 27th among all blueliners, and one second more per game than No. 28, the Senators' Erik Karlsson, who is exactly half Lidstrom's age. 

Samuelsson set to return to Canucks' lineup

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 5:44 PM / NHL Insider

Dhiren Mahiban - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The Vancouver Canucks will have one injured body back in the lineup when they face the Edmonton Oilers in the second half of a home-and-home, as Mikael Samuelsson will return to the team's second line Tuesday night at Rexall Place.

The 34-year-old suffered a lower-body injury in the team's 3-1 loss to Phoenix on March 18 and missed six games with the injury.

"I was tired out there today," he said. "Give me three games -- I'm in (game shape)."

Samuelsson will skate on a new-look second line alongside Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler.

"I've played against (Higgins) a lot, he's a great player," Samuelsson said of his new linemate. "At the time I was injured I tried to see what he was doing out there and try to learn from that and see where he goes.

"He has good hands and work ethic -- he's a good player."

O'Reilly developing offensive game for Avs

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 4:56 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  -  NHL.com Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Drafted as a defensive specialist, Ryan O'Reilly is opening eyes with his sudden offensive prowess.

One of two 20-year-old Colorado Avalanche centers -- Matt Duchene is the other -- O'Reilly has been on a tear with 7 goals in the past 14 games. He has 12 goals overall in 70 games, four more than he scored in 81 games as a teen-aged rookie a year ago.

"A lot of it is just getting into the right areas of the ice and going to the net," he told NHL.com after practice Monday. "If you work hard there, you seem to get bounces, and that's what's been working for me lately. The nice thing about when you have the puck on offense is you can be more creative and show the different skills you have."

A third-liner for most of his brief NHL career, O'Reilly has been given more responsibility -- and freedom -- to produce offensively because so many Avalanche forwards are sidelined with injuries.

Thomas remaining insulated from all the hype

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 3:47 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- A little over a month ago Bruins goalie Tim Thomas started to take a daily glance at his numbers in comparisons to other netminders around the League.

He stopped after only a few days, and vows to not look again until Sunday night, when the regular season is finally over.

"I was like, 'Wait a minute, this isn't the best thing for me mentally,' " Thomas told NHL.com on Monday from Madison Square Garden. "You find ways to perform the best you can perform, and for me one of the ways is not to focus on what other people are doing, and not even really to focus on my numbers either."

Weekes, Fast look back on the NHL's last tie

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 3:31 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Look back at the historic goals in NHL history, and there's Wayne Gretzky's 802nd, Bobby Orr's flying goal to win the 1970 Stanley Cup and Patrick Kane's overtime goal to give the Blackhawks the 2010 Stanley Cup.

And then there's Brad Fast. Never heard of him? Don't feel bad -- the 31-year-old journeyman defenseman played just one NHL game, with the Carolina Hurricanes, on the final day of the 2003-04 season, against the Florida Panthers.

He scored in that game, making him one of just four players in NHL history to score in their only NHL game. Dean Morton with the Detroit Red Wings during the 1989-90 season, Rolly Huard with the 1930-31 Toronto Maple Leafs and Raymie Skilton with the 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers are the others.

What makes Fast's goal stand out, however, was that it was the final decisive game-tying goal in the NHL.

Change brings Lundqvist shootout success

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 12:04 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist admitted to having a flashback Sunday afternoon while he was waiting for the shootout to begin against the Philadelphia Flyers.

He was transported back to the last time he played a shootout in April in Philadelphia. It was the final game of the 2009-10 regular season, with the winner going on to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the loser going home.

That memorable moment is inscribed in each team's history now, as Danny Briere and Claude Giroux beat Lundqvist in that shootout and the Flyers rode the momentum gained in their dramatic win all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers were left to trudge home for an earlier start to their summer than they wanted.

What Lundqvist took from the game -- once the initial shock of his season being over had passed -- was a cruel but important lesson.

Lecavalier injured in Bolts' win

Monday, 04.04.2011 / 12:18 AM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO – Almost everything went right for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night at the United Center, but the one thing that didn't cast a potentially scary shadow on the near future for the team.

Bolts captain Vincent Lecavalier caught a high stick from Chicago Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik early in the second period of Tampa Bay's 2-0 win and didn't return to the game. He didn't address the media afterwards and headed to the bus quickly – but Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he was a little worried about Lecavalier's health.

Schwartz leaves legacy that won't be forgotten

Sunday, 04.03.2011 / 8:31 PM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

The incredible legacy left by Yale University senior Mandi Schwartz will last a lifetime.
 
And, really, that's precisely the way good friend and junior teammate Aleca Hughes would want it.
 
On Sunday, a courageous Schwartz lost her two-year battle to acute myeloid leukemia in the presence of family and friends, including her mother Carol, father Rick, brothers Jaden and Rylan and her fiancé, Kaylem Prefontaine.
 
Schwartz, who turned 23 in February, had been battling the dreadful disease since December 2008. The sister of Jaden Schwartz, who was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the first round in 2010, passed away at approximately 1:35 p.m. ET.
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Quote of the Day

He is, in my opinion, one of the best defensemen in the NHL and continuing to grow. I think his game, from an offensive standpoint, he continues to drive our offense... I think there's still tremendous upside for Oliver.

— Coyotes GM Don Maloney on defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson