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(Page 6 of 8)'s 30 in 15

Devils seek more 'O', but not at expense of 'D'

Saturday, 09.24.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

Peter DeBoer admits he isn't about to reinvent the wheel in his first season as coach of the New Jersey Devils.

"We can concentrate on scoring more goals, but if it's at the detriment of our defensive identity then you're not going to be further ahead, so the main priority of our coaching staff is to keep our defensive foundation and find a way to create more offense this year," DeBoer told

DeBoer seems intent on giving Devils fans that familiar recipe long associated with success in New Jersey by prioritizing defense.

Offensive woes were Devils' biggest issue

Saturday, 09.24.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist


Category Rank (Conference)
2010-11 Points 81 (11th East/23rd NHL)
Change from 2009-10 -22
Home Points 47 (8th East/19th NHL)
Road Points 34 (13th East/26th NHL)
Advantage Margin: -4
For the second season in a row and the fourth time in six seasons, the Devils led the League in allowing the fewest power plays (241). Unfortunately, they only drew 237, the lowest total in the NHL since play resumed after the 2004-05 work stoppage.

Special Teams Goal Margin: -11
The Devils didn't get many power-play chances, nor were they very good on the ones they got. New Jersey had a League-low 34 power-play goals and ranked 28th with a 14.4-percent success rate.

Goals by defensemen: 18
No team got less offense from its defense than the Devils, who used 13 players on the blue line last season. Henrik Tallinder was tops with five goals and Andy Greene led all scorers with 23 points. New Jersey got just two power-play goals from its defense.

Umberger eager to bring playoffs back to Columbus

Friday, 09.23.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Pete Jensen - Staff Writer

The 2008-09 season was one Columbus Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger always will cherish.

Although Umberger had experienced two trips to the postseason as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, the feat took on a new meaning when the Ohio State graduate played a part in bringing the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the city of his alma mater for the first time in the franchise's history.

Columbus was swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings, but Umberger said the stepping stone for the franchise brought an unprecedented vibe of positivity to Blue Jackets fans.

"The year that we made the playoffs here in Columbus, it was so much fun as a player," Umberger told "The city really embraced it and it really showed the kind of atmosphere that can be here for hockey come playoff time. The people here have been dying for it ever since. Me personally, I played college hockey here, so I want to see that kind of atmosphere again and I want Columbus to be known as a hockey town."

Wisniewski seeks long-term niche in Columbus

Friday, 09.23.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Pete Jensen - Staff Writer

When the Columbus Blue Jackets acquired the rights to free-agent-to-be defenseman James Wisniewski in late June, the plan was to fill the latter of their two biggest needs by the start of free agency.

It's safe to say they executed.

Days after their bold acquisition of center Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers, the club signed Wisniewski to a six-year, $33 million contract July 1. For a franchise that has qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs only once in 11 seasons of existence, the pieces finally were beginning to fall into place.

"It wasn't a type of signing where you're just going after the money," Wisniewski told "It was the type of signing that showed they were trying to make their organization better. Obviously, everyone knows around the League -- it's not rocket science -- that in order to win, you need to spend money. The acquisition of Carter, my deal and (Fedor) Tyutin's deal for six years each and having Rick (Nash) already here long-term showed they're not content with being a bottom-feeder."

Saturday was big night for Canadiens

Friday, 09.23.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist


Category Rank (Conference)
2010-11 Points 96  (6th East/14th NHL)
Change from 2009-10 +8
Home Points 54  (4th East/7th NHL)
Road Points 42  (8th East/19th NHL)
Advantage Margin: -37
Montreal's seventh-ranked penalty-killers got plenty of practice: The Canadiens were shorthanded a League-high 327 times.

Special Teams Goal Margin: +5
The penalty-killers did an excellent job, finishing seventh in the NHL at 84.4 percent. Despite having far fewer chances, the seventh-ranked power play actually scored more goals than the penalty-killers gave up (57-51)

Goals by defensemen: 35
The Canadiens will miss James Wisniewski, who scored 7 goals after being acquired from the Islanders at midseason, but signed with Columbus this summer. A full season from injury-plagued Andrei Markov, their best defenseman, is a must.

Blue Jackets aim for playoffs after bold summer

Friday, 09.23.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Pete Jensen - Staff Writer

An offseason filled with positive energy has helped the Columbus Blue Jackets burst onto the radar in the Western Conference -- at least on paper.

But according to second-year coach Scott Arniel, that isn't good enough. After the franchise failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2010-11 for the 10th time in 11 seasons of existence, Arniel knows significant progress must be made in order for the Blue Jackets to translate their high expectations into a postseason berth.

"(The playoffs) are what it's all about," Arniel told before training camp opened. "It's what we all play, coach and live for. At the end of the day, you're always evaluated by whether or not you make the playoffs, and then by how far you go. Our players are skating here for the past few weeks and you can feel the buzz around here. We're in a very tough conference and need to stay in the now by focusing on our first game -- Oct. 7 against Nashville. We can only take it one day at a time and let the pieces fall into place."

Pressure still there, but Price has more slack

Friday, 09.23.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

Carey Price
Goalie - MTL
RECORD: 38-28-6
GAA: 2.35 | SVP: 0.923
MONTREAL -- The similarities were so numerous they were striking, but it was the one huge difference that overshadowed them all.

Carey Price's preseason debut for the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 20 was a near-carbon copy of his first preseason start in goal a year ago.

The Dallas Stars scored on three of their first eight shots and on four of 13 Tuesday, two days short of a year after Price allowed four goals on nine shots against the Boston Bruins in his first start of the 2010 preseason.

The Canadiens playing in front of him were just as porous defensively this week as they were against Boston last September, but Price clearly was not sharp. And just as he did a year ago, Price did not address reporters after the game.

Scoring balance, not size, is key for Canadiens

Friday, 09.23.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

For the past two seasons, the Montreal Canadiens have been criticized for the same deficiency -- a lack of size and toughness.

This offseason was no different.

And Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier couldn't care less.

"We have a pretty clear identity -- we're a team that plays well defensively and which is very quick," Gauthier said. "We are always looking to maintain that balance. But we have some young players coming up and Mr. (Erik) Cole certainly helps address that. But we wanted to have balance on all of our lines. We talked about that at the end of (last) year. Against Boston, it was their third line that really made a big difference. So we wanted to balance things out in terms of our forwards, especially at 5-on-5."

New faces bring high expectations to Panthers

Thursday, 09.22.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

Deborah Francisco - Staff Writer

It's playoffs or bust for the Florida Panthers this season -- at least that's what recently acquired defenseman Brian Campbell says.

While Florida may not be considered a traditional hockey market, GM Dale Tallon and the rest of the Panthers' front office are ready to prove that hockey is indeed Florida's game. For the team with the fewest points in the Eastern Conference last season to do that, though, will require a total attitude adjustment in the dressing room.

"As long as we think that in the locker room, and know that it's playoffs or everything else is a failure and not acceptable, it's a good place to start,” Campbell told "That's the mindset that we all need to have going into the season."

However, with only 30 wins last season, it will take more than just a change of heart to get the team into the playoffs. The Panthers have not qualified for the postseason since 2000, the longest current drought in the NHL.

Post All-Star break slide doomed Avs

Thursday, 09.22.2011 / 3:00 AM /'s 30 in 15

John Kreiser - Columnist


Category Rank (Conference)
2010-11 Points 68  (14th West/29th NHL)   
Change from 2009-10 -27
Home Points 36  (14th West/29th NHL)
Road Points 32  (14th West/29th NHL)
Advantage Margin: -49
The Avs actually allowed opponents four fewer power plays than they did in 2009-10 (314, down from 318). But they drew 53 fewer advantages, a big reason why Colorado fell from a playoff berth to 29th in the League standings.

Special Teams Goal Margin: -29
The power play wasn't bad, finishing 11th at 18.5 percent, though opponents scored 11 shorthanded goals. But the penalty killers got torched, allowing a League-worst 75 goals and finishing 30th on the penalty kill at 76.1 percent.

Goals by defensemen: 22
The Avs were in the bottom-three in scoring by defensemen and saw six of those goals leave when John-Michael Liles was dealt to Toronto. They're hoping midseason acquisition Erik Johnson will manage more than the 8 goals he scored in 77 games with St. Louis and Colorado.
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