"We're making the playoffs, put it that way," Shero told Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Thursday. "Anything less is unacceptable. … Just making the playoffs is never our goal."
The Penguins have lost six games in a row and currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They are without captain Sidney Crosby, defenseman Kris Letang and center Jordan Staal because of injuries.
To say the Ottawa Senators are exceeding expectations this season wouldn't be entirely true.
After a 74-point campaign in 2010-11 that triggered a rebuilding process, players came into 2011-12 with a unique set of expectations.
"It's one of those things. I don’t think we had any expectations," said defenseman Matt Carkner, who has been with the Senators since 2008. "Obviously it's great right now. We know what we're capable of now, so it's kind of expected to perform the way we are now. It's a big bonus that we're putting ourselves in a good position.
"I think everyone was a little harsh on us to judge us so early."
The standings prove Carkner is correct about that.
The Senators are 23-15-6, good for 52 points and fifth place in the Eastern Conference heading into a showdown with the League-leading New York Rangers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Ottawa has won six of its last seven, including a 5-1 victory in Pittsburgh on Tuesday that started a 10-game stretch in which nine of the games will be played on the road.
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- It would have been hard to predict in October what January would bring, but suffice it to say that nobody could have guessed that when the Blues and Vancouver Canucks clash on Thursday, the top slot in the Western Conference would be up for grabs.
Obviously there's still a long way to go, but when the Blues (25-12-5) play host to the Canucks (27-14-3) at 8 p.m. ET, it's a chance for the home team to grab the top spot in the conference with a regulation win -- and that's something no one could have expected not all that long ago.
For the Canucks, the defending Western Conference champions, battling for the top spot is no surprise. But for the Blues, who have just one playoff appearance since the NHL work stoppage in 2004-05, it's uncharted territory -- especially considering the fact that they were 6-7-0 and languishing in 14th place before changing coaches just over two months ago.
Now they have a chance to prove they belong against a team that is 9-3-1 in its last 13 games. The Canucks come to Scottrade Center with 57 points, two more than the Blues -- though St. Louis has played two fewer games.
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner couldn't quite believe what he was hearing.
Yes, it is true that with a regulation win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, the Capitals will jump into the top eight in the Eastern Conference and the Penguins will fall out. As it stands now, the Penguins, losers of five straight, are clinging to eighth place while the Capitals have dropped to 10th after losing both of their recent games in California by identical 5-2 scores.
It wasn't long ago that these two bitter rivals were fighting for Eastern Conference supremacy and battling in an epic playoff series.
"Yes, it does (surprise me), just because the last few years we've both been toward the top of the Eastern Conference and the League," Alzner said. "Having to be in this position, that every game you lose is so huge right now, just thinking about that is an eye-opener for sure. We need to have these points."
Scott Howson spent 10 minutes during a conference call Monday evening discussing the firing of coach Scott Arniel. The questions directed at the Columbus Blue Jackets general manager were varied, but they all had a common thread.
How does the franchise get itself turned around?
"You do it one step at a time," said Howson, who took the first step Monday when he replaced Arniel with assistant coach Todd Richards on an interim basis. "You move forward with a plan. This is not something we wanted to do, but we felt the way the season was going, we had to make a change."
GM Scott Howson relieved Scott Arniel of his duties not long after the Jackets lost 7-4 to the Ducks in Anaheim on Sunday night. The reins of the NHL's worst team -- the Jackets have 27 points and 8 regulation/OT wins in 41 games -- were handed to Richards, who will make his debut Tuesday night in Chicago.
"There's one emotion that's real prevalent right now, and that's just disappointment when somebody has to go and it's somebody that brought you in as a coach you're trying to support," said Richards, who was tabbed an assistant by Arniel in June. "I've been the head guy getting fired and I've been underneath the head guy getting fired. You feel more responsible as an assistant because you're there to support the head coach and help him out. You feel afterward there's more you could've done and you should've done."
At his first head-coaching job with the AHL's Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, he went 98-49-13 in two seasons and reached the Calder Cup Final in 2008. That earned Richards an assistant-coaching job alongside Todd McLellan in San Jose for the 2008-09 season, which he parlayed into the head-coaching gig with the Minnesota Wild the following season.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – He'd spent all day trying to figure out a way to get the monkey off his back – but Shane Doan never figured the 800-pound gorilla might go with it.
Scoreless in six games and with just one point – a Dec. 23 goal in a loss to St. Louis – in his last nine, Doan and fellow power forward Taylor Pyatt – without a goal in 14 games himself, decided enough was enough. With one win in the last seven games (1-4-2) during a brutal schedule with several players out, "It was time for the old men to play like kids," Doan said to Pyatt.
He changed his pregame route to Jobing.com Arena and his entire pregame routine. At the urging of equipment managers Stan Wilson and Tony Silva, he changed the unique, curved knob of his stick – a constant source of ribbing from teammate – and went back to a more standard knob.
By the end of the night, Doan had not only snapped his scoreless streak, he'd ended the longest personal dry spell of all with the first hat trick in his 1,161-game NHL career in a 5-1 laugher against the New York Islanders. It was exactly the kind of lift prescribed for a dragging, banged-up team that had played back-to-back games in the same city just once since Nov. 26 – and won't for another 11 days.
I think everyone left it out there. Every game this season, regular season and playoffs, we played as hard as we could. We're not out of the playoffs right now because of lack of effort, and that's all that we can ask of each other.
— Predators defenseman Seth Jones after Nashville was eliminated by Chicago in Game 6 on Saturday