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NHL Insider

Applying lessons, Caps focus on process, not results

Tuesday, 03.22.2011 / 9:53 AM / NHL Insider

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- How important is winning the Eastern Conference to the Washington Capitals?

It's a fair question, particularly since the Capitals finished tops in the Southeast Division and among the top three in the East the past three seasons only to be relegated to postseason heartache each time. The club was eliminated in the conference quarterfinals in 2008 and '10 and dropped a thrilling seven-game series to Pittsburgh in the conference semifinals in 2009.

Based on the team's performance of late -- 10 victories in 11 games -- you'd assume winning the conference is a priority.

"Really, it's not that important," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said a few days before his team travelled to Philadelphia to play the Flyers for first place in the East.


Penguins concur with League on Cooke punishment

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 6:04 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hunter - Staff Writer

With the continued focus on head hits and the call to increase punishment for repeat offenders coming out of last week's General Manager Meetings, the supplementary discipline handed out to Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke's for an elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in Sunday's game came as little surprise.

Cooke, who received a five-minute elbowing major and game misconduct on the play, was suspended by the League on Monday for the final 10 games of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, a decision with which even his own team could not find fault.

Better vibe around Avs following victory

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 5:17 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The Avalanche players had a little more jump than usual during practice Monday, 36 hours after posting their first win in 3 1/2 weeks, one that snapped a winless streak that reached 10 games.

"When you win the game is more fun. When you have a stretch like we had, it can wear on you. It's one of those things where the more it goes on, the more it's in your head. You almost have to get out of your own way sometimes."
-- John-Michael Liles

"I think just getting that first win, now the guys can breathe again," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said following the workout here at South Suburban Family Sports Center. "You could even tell today at practice, as much as we've been trying to keep positive, you can tell the guys -- I don't want to use the word loose -- but they certainly had a little more energy out there."

The Avalanche were in an 0-9-1 rut before Saturday's 3-2 shootout win in Edmonton, where rookie Ryan Stoa scored in the fourth round for the lone shootout goal and goalie Brian Elliott stopped 31 of 33 shots through regulation and overtime.

"It's nice to win," Sacco said. "That's what this League is all about. It's been a difficult time, no question, but I thought the guys deserved that win."

Flames running out of time in hunt for playoff spot

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 4:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

In the jam-packed Western Conference, where holding onto a playoff spot near the cut-off point has been about as easy as securing hold of a greased pig, the Calgary Flames look like a team about to let their season slip away.

The Flames used a 22-6-6 run that started at the end of December to climb from 14th to fifth in the conference as recently as March 9. But they're now in the middle of a 1-3-1 stretch as they enter Monday's pivotal game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. ET, GCL) in 10th place in the West with 84 points, one point out of eighth.

Working against the Flames is the fact that after Monday's game, they will have played three more games than the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks, the two teams right in front of them in the standings. The Flames will play their 75th game of the season Monday, which will be either three or two more than every team that is ahead of them by two points or fewer in the standings.


'Nagging injury' means Ovi to sit one game

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 3:05 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The news on Alex Ovechkin came early Monday, before the first whistle blew at either the Kettler Capitals Iceplex or the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone. The Capitals announced on their website that Ovechkin was battling a nagging injury and would not be making the trip to Philadelphia for Tuesday's nationally televised game (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2).

It will be the first game Ovechkin will miss this season, and the surprising news obviously gave way to questions.

How long has his injury been bothering him? When will he be able to play again? How serious are we talking here?


Wings' injuries will force Salei back into action

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 2:36 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- Ruslan Salei initially thought he'd sit out Monday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I haven't heard one player in all my years complain (about) too much ice time. We've got enough players."
-- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock

Instead, the Detroit Red Wings veteran defenseman will be pressed into action at Joe Louis Arena against the Penguins (7:30 p.m. Versus, TSN2, RIS) after missing a week to be with his wife in California for the birth of their third child.
The reason: minor injuries to forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body soreness), Johan Franzen (groin) and Jiri Hudler (upper body soreness). Veteran goalie Chris Osgood (groin surgery) also isn't ready to be Jimmy Howard's back-up yet, which leaves Detroit with a financial conundrum considering their limited space under the League's hard salary cap.
Joey MacDonald is currently backing up Howard, which means there's no further room under the cap to call anyone up from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League to replace the injured forwards. Therefore, Salei will be pressed into action in his first day back, possibly logging time at defense and forward on the fourth line with Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader.

Capitals never stopped believing in Boudreau

Monday, 03.21.2011 / 10:09 AM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

"Bluntly, coaches get fired because they've lost their team. To a man, the players like playing for Bruce and respect him as a hockey person. When it was going bad and he changed the system and get buy-in of it, you didn't hear any of the players really whining or complaining. They just believed. To me, that was an unbelievably positive sign. Now we're bearing the fruit of that."
-- Ted Leonsis

For the better part of three years, Bruce Boudreau was revered in the Washington, D.C., area for his part in molding the Washington Capitals into one of the NHL's elite teams.

Hockey fans in and around the District loved Boudreau for his attacking philosophy, candor and folksy charm, manifested in a series of humorous commercials. Most importantly, he won. In a sports town with three other struggling professional franchises, Boudreau made the Capitals extremely successful on the ice and at the box office.

With that success, however, has come increased expectations, and when his team struggled in the middle of this season, Boudreau faced negativity from the fan base he largely was responsible for building to such impressive numbers.

Desire to win hasn't gone from Oilers, Avalanche

Saturday, 03.19.2011 / 4:48 PM / NHL Insider

Robin Brownlee - Correspondent

EDMONTON -- While nobody is going to mistake Saturday's game between the 30th-place Edmonton Oilers and 29th-place Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place as a meeting of powerhouses, don't tell the players or the coaches there isn't anything at stake.

"We'll let the people who want to discuss that do that," Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. "That's their privilege. We're going to go try and win a hockey game.

Grossman back with familiar company for Stars

Saturday, 03.19.2011 / 2:48 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

Frisco, Texas -- The nearly 15,000 fans at American Airlines Center on Thursday night for were not only treated to one of Dallas' best wins of the season (a 5-0 decision against Chicago), but they also saw Nicklas Grossman playing alongside Stephane Robidas as the club's top defensive pairing for the first time in 17 games.

Grossman had missed 11 games with a lower-body injury suffered early in a 2-1 loss to Columbus on Feb. 13 but returned to the lineup March 11 with an assist and a plus-2 rating in a 4-0 win against Minnesota.

Rangers, Penguins see improved health equal wins

Saturday, 03.19.2011 / 1:16 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

The New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins have been saddled with a myriad of injuries this season, but both teams have welcomed back healthy bodies and are among the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference because of it.

These two Atlantic Division rivals will look to continue their positive momentum when they clash in a Sunday matinee at CONSOL Energy Center in NBC Sports' NHL Game of the Week (12:30 EDT).

The Rangers have won five of six games to open some space between them and the teams chasing Buffalo for the eighth spot in the conference. Several key forwards have missed time for New York, but everyone who the Rangers expect to have back this season is healthy.
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Quote of the Day

We have to develop into a good team. We have to develop the pieces now that are a little more evident and in place to become a good team. It's not there yet.

— Sabres coach Dan Bylsma on new Buffalo players working together