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NHL Insider

MacDonald on the spot in Detroit

Monday, 03.28.2011 / 2:17 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- He's the reason Detroit Red Wings fans started chewing their fingernails in unison last week, when it was announced that veteran goalie Chris Osgood was being put on long-term injured reserve.

Without the 38-year old Osgood -- who's won three Stanley Cups with Detroit -- it means that 31-year old Joey MacDonald will back up starter Jimmy Howard until at least April 8, when Osgood will first be eligible to return.

In reality, MacDonald might be around through the playoffs if Osgood's surgically-repaired groin doesn't heal enough in time -- which leaves MacDonald just one serious injury away from starting full-time.

You can imagine the anxiety level, then, this past Saturday at Joe Louis Arena when Howard left a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third period with a shoulder injury. Even Howard was worried until an MRI confirmed that it was just a minor shoulder sprain.

Hawks facing questions as season winds down

Sunday, 03.27.2011 / 4:22 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Their forward lines were shaken up during a practice on Sunday at the United Center and questions still surround the Chicago Blackhawks as they head into the final eight games of the regular season.

Do the defending Stanley Cup champions -- currently sitting eighth in the Western Conference -- have enough experience to stave off key injuries to forward Patrick Sharp (knee) and center Dave Bolland (concussion) in their quest for a playoff spot?
How will they respond on the road Monday against the rival Detroit Red Wings -- after dropping a gut-wrenching 2-1 home game to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night? Is there simply too much inexperience and youth on the roster, which was shaken up last summer because of the Leagues's hard salary cap?

The answers will be revealed over the next eight games, but there is one thing that's certain -- if this team is going to make it into the West's playoff field, it needs the "core group" of Stanley Cup champions still on the roster to lead the way.

Crosby continues to impress in workouts

Sunday, 03.27.2011 / 1:28 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

Sidney Crosby is staying on the ice longer these days. So long that Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma sometimes doesn't have time to watch it all.

Asked how the rehabilitating Crosby did during an early morning, 45-minute session Sunday at Consol Energy Center, Bylsma said, "I was on the ice. I left before he got finished. So he tired me out."

Sounds like the old days with Crosby, whose on-ice work ethic has long been part of Penguins' lore. It also appears as if Crosby might be getting closer to rejoining his teammates for practice after missing nearly half the season with a concussion.

That, of course, would be the precursor to Crosby returning for games. 

Latest Battle of Alberta sees Oilers in spoilers' role

Saturday, 03.26.2011 / 4:01 PM / NHL Insider

Robin Brownlee - Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Misery loves company, and the Edmonton Oilers would like nothing more than to have a part in putting an end to the playoff hopes of the Calgary Flames when the Alberta rivals square off Saturday night at Rexall Place.

Out of the Western Conference playoff picture for a fifth straight season and long ago relegated to the role of spoilers, the Oilers can deal a huge blow to the postseason hopes of the Flames with a win.

Provincial bragging rights aside, there's definitely something at stake in the latest edition of the Battle of Alberta.

"It's a big deal for coaches, too, who have got an opportunity to coach in the Battle of Alberta," Edmonton coach Tom Renney said.

Offensive-minded Campoli fitting in well with Hawks

Saturday, 03.26.2011 / 3:30 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO – It's been 10 games since the Chicago Blackhawks acquired defenseman Chris Campoli from the Ottawa Senators on trade deadline day, and early reviews are all positive.
Campoli, a puck-moving defenseman who isn't shy about joining the play on the offensive end, has fit right into the Hawks' stable of similar-style blueliners – scoring a goal and adding a pair of assists since coming to Chicago.
His presence became even more valuable after a foot injury sidelined Brian Campbell for four of the past six games.

Top rookie defensemen meet up in Montreal

Saturday, 03.26.2011 / 3:01 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL – The matchup between Washington and Montreal on Saturday night is more than just a potential preview of the first round of the playoffs, which would be a rematch of an epic seven-game upset by the Canadiens a season ago.

It's also a matchup of two rookie defensemen whose paths to success are practically mirror images of each other, and who are both being largely overlooked in the Calder Trophy discussion as the season winds down.

With Carolina's Jeff Skinner, San Jose's Logan Couture and Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders putting up such gaudy offensive numbers this season, the standout play of Washington's John Carlson and Montreal's P.K. Subban appears to be getting less recognition when people discuss potential rookie of the year winners.

Coyotes streaking down the stretch thanks to Bryz

Saturday, 03.26.2011 / 11:38 AM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Phoenix Coyotes would like to do a little interior decorating at Arena -- and hanging the first division title banner in franchise history from the rafters would be a perfect first touch.

A 3-0 shutout of Columbus on Thursday gave the Coyotes an 8-1-1 record over the last 10 games and a 15-5-2 record since Feb. 5 – when another shutout, a 1-0 blanking of the Wild in Minnesota, sent the Coyotes on a furious stretch run for the second straight year.

Sitting fourth in the Western Conference but still a ways from clinching a playoff berth in this wild race, the Coyotes suddenly have a bolder idea – catching the first-place Sharks. San Jose leads the Pacific Division with 95 points, just two ahead of Phoenix, and the rivals have three head-to-head games during the final two weeks of the season. The first meeting comes here Saturday.

Flyers' Carle can be trusted in all situations

Saturday, 03.26.2011 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Whether it's Chris Pronger, Andrej Meszaros or Nick Boynton skating opposite him doesn't matter to Matt Carle or the Philadelphia Flyers. Carle has emerged as the chameleon of the Flyers' blue-line unit because he'll adapt and give the team consistent minutes regardless of who coach Peter Laviolette puts with him.

But does anyone outside of the Flyers' dressing room realize how valuable Carle is to the top team in the Eastern Conference? The answer likely is no, because of how quietly he does his job to help the Flyers win games.

"Matty is understated," Flyers veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell, Carle's dressing room neighbor inside the Wells Fargo Center, told "His stick is in the right place. He makes the right pass. Unless you're really watching and paying attention, nothing about him jumps out. He just really doesn't do anything wrong."

Hawks' Swedish rookie gets NHL crash course

Friday, 03.25.2011 / 6:15 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO – It was an odd move, to say the least, when the Chicago Blackhawks added 20-year old Swedish rookie center Marcus Kruger for the final stretch of the regular season.
Yes, the defending Stanley Cup champions have a rookie starting goalie in Corey Crawford. Yes, they also have a 19-year old rookie defenseman in Nick Leddy. And, yes, earlier this season they even had 19-year old rookie forward Jeremy Morin taking shifts on the second line.
Chicago also hasn't been shy from calling up young players as needed from Rockford of the American Hockey league. But even by those standards, the addition of Kruger was out of the ordinary – coming from Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League straight to Chicago's third line.

Knuble leading by example for young Capitals

Friday, 03.25.2011 / 2:28 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

When discussing the leadership abilities of teammate Mike Knuble, Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich talked about where Knuble learned his lessons.

"He started in Detroit," he said. "That's a pretty good group to learn from."

Now 38 years old and in his 14th NHL season, Knuble is passing along the lessons learned early in his career to a Capitals team that has righted its ship in the last three months and looks to be picking up steam as it heads into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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