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NHL Insider

Leafs getting initiated to Carlyle's style on off days

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 6:00 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

ETOBICOKE, Ont. -- The Toronto Maple Leafs continue their chase for a playoff berth Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre. For the last two days, they've been going through training camp, Randy Carlyle style, here at Mastercard Centre.

After spending nearly 90 minutes on the ice Sunday, including the last 20 doing conditioning sprints, the Leafs were put through the paces again Monday for nearly two hours. They won their first game under Carlyle on Saturday in Montreal, but initiation to his drills, systems, expectations and his overall demanding ways came in the form of two ruthless practice sessions in a 28-hour span.

"For me (it is training camp) in some degree and for the players a little bit," Carlyle said during his 16-minute session with a large media contingent on Monday. "I don't think they spent an hour and a half or close to two hours on the ice back to back in days, but that's all part of the learning curve that we feel is necessary to get our message (across) and to sell our program to these players at this time."

The players say they're buying in. In reality, they don't have much choice with a playoff berth still within their grasp.

Red Wings' injuries mount, as Howard again joins list

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 4:11 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

There's never a good time for injuries, but the Detroit Red Wings are really pushing the envelope of late.

If it seems like most of the team is battling some sort of injury, it's because that's the case for almost half the active roster right now. The latest to go down is starting goalie Jimmy Howard (lower body), who won't be making the road trip to play against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night along with Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle), star center Pavel Datsyuk (knee), power forward Todd Bertuzzi (groin), forward Patrick Eaves (IR/concussion) and defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) and Jakub Kindl (upper body).

Howard, who still sports a bandage on the broken right index finger that kept him out for eight games, now has an injury that flared up in the first period of Sunday's 2-1 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Macomb Daily sportswriter Chuck Pleiness tweeted Monday afternoon that Wings general manager Ken Holland said it was a groin strain.

"It's nothing serious and it's still day-to-day," said Howard, who made five starts after returning from the finger injury. "[We] got ultrasound on the injury and nothing really serious showed. [I'll] just get treatment here and get back as soon as possible. Nothing major showed."

Howard is hoping to be ready for Friday's home game against the Los Angeles Kings, but for the time being he's just another one of 10 Red Wings players who are either out of the lineup altogether or playing through various ailments.

Strong road trip has Blues' confidence rising

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 3:51 PM / NHL Insider

Louie Korac - Correspondent

ST. LOUIS -- When the St. Louis Blues embarked on their latest trek around North America that encompassed 6,000-plus miles and six games, many pundits around the NHL thought it would be the defining stretch of games for a squad not accustomed to mingling with the upper-echelon of the League.

The question many had was whether the Blues could stand toe-to-toe with the best of the West or would they fall off with the rest of the pack.

After taking 10 of 12 points and winning five of the six games, it's safe to say the Blues (41-18-7) are for real and don't have any plans on vacating their current position of second in the Western Conference (first in the Central Division). In fact, the recent results only reaffirm their desire to fight for a Presidents' Trophy.

The Next Wave: Eastern goalies on brink of stardom

Monday, 03.05.2012 / 10:34 AM / NHL Insider

Justin Goldman - Correspondent

Every NHL team wants one, even though very few reach elite status. They take up tons of space, they intimidate and frustrate opponents, and they instill confidence in their coaches and teammates. They're being drafted on a more consistent basis, and they're also claiming more roster spots than in the past.

We speak of none other than the coveted "big" goaltender, of course.

So for this installment of The Next Wave, we focus on three beasts emerging from the Eastern Conference: Robin Lehner, Ben Bishop, and Jacob Markstrom.

These three prospects not only have the potential to be long-term NHL starters, but they all have a chance to be full-time NHL goaltenders next season. But which one is likely to have the biggest impact, and what makes these guys so special?

Injury woes continue to plague Red Wings

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 10:22 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT – It was only a couple of weeks ago when the Detroit Red Wings were talking about how important it was to have experienced depth along the blue line.

In fact, that was the sentiment of both Detroit general manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock after they landed 26-year old defenseman Kyle Quincey in a three team trade on Feb. 21 while in Chicago.

Earlier that same day, Detroit lost its star center Pavel Datsyuk for several weeks after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery – which he's still rehabbing now. Goalie Jimmy Howard also made his return to the starting lineup that night against the Chicago Blackhawks after sitting out eight straight contests with a fractured index finger on his right hand, but all in all they were doing well from a health standpoint.

Still a Jacket, Nash continues to haunt Coyotes

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 4:32 PM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The trade deadline has come and gone. Rick Nash is still a Columbus Blue Jacket.

The Phoenix Coyotes can't be any happier about that than Nash.

The Blue Jackets were unable to grant Nash's trade request, leaving him once again out of the playoff chase and in the familiar spoiler role in the Western Conference. Fighting for their first division title -- but needing points just to stay in a playoff spot -- the Coyotes face the Blue Jackets three times in the final 18 games of the season.
The standings would say that's a good thing. The scoreboard says otherwise. 

Exactly 40 points behind the Pacific Division leaders, the NHL's worst team rode a vintage performance from their captain, who scored two early goals and manufactured the clinching tally by Derick Brassard in a 5-2 win Saturday in Glendale.

He scored in the first period, schooling Ray Whitney on the rush and beating one of the league's hottest goalies, Mike Smith, cleanly to the far top corner for a shorthanded tally. He made it 2-0 in the second on another breakout, shrugging of a mauling from behind from Phoenix defenseman Chris Summers before jamming the puck home. 

Panthers look to avoid imperfect 10 with Ottawa

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 12:58 PM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers have been struggling of late while trying to maintain or even extend their lead in the Southeast Division. They could hardly face a more difficult task Sunday in trying to get things turned around.

Not only is Florida playing the second of back-to-back games after dropping a 3-1 decision to Nashville on Saturday, the Panthers will be facing the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators have owned Florida over the past three seasons, taking the last nine meetings. With a victory on Sunday, Ottawa would match Boston's dominance over Edmonton and Vancouver's over Toronto for the longest active winning streak by one team against another.

"Didn't even know that," Senators center Jason Spezza said when the streak was brought to his attention. "It doesn't really play much of a factor. As players, you don't pay too much attention to that stuff, or the past, or how you've done against teams. You'd be surprised how short-sighted we can be at times. It's just the nature of the beast to just try to keep things rolling, especially when you're winning games."

Miller's return to fundamentals keys Buffalo revival

Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 2:44 AM / NHL Insider

Ken Baker - Goalie Insider

Earlier this season, Ryan Miller would be the first to admit his game was not at the world-class level that everyone -- including Miller himself -- had come to expect.

Not anymore.

Indeed, it is Miller Time again in Buffalo, making a run by the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Playoffs more than just a talk-radio pipe dream.

Lupul, Carlyle insist Anaheim feud is thing of the past

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:55 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL – Joffrey Lupul doesn't necessarily have fond memories of his new coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he should be relieved to know that Randy Carlyle feels the hard feelings are justified.

"Lupes made a comment that when we were in Anaheim that he felt I didn't use him correctly, and he was right," Carlyle said of his new top-line left wing. "I made the mistake, and I said it at that time, of not putting Joffrey Lupul at left wing in our top-six grouping. But you have to remember that he came back off of some pretty dramatic back surgery, he had a number of infections and we, at one point, thought he would never play again. That's a mistake we made and I made, and I take responsibility for that. I have talked to Joffrey Lupul about it and that is water under the bridge. He's a top-six forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he's having a career year and good for him."

Lupul played one season under Carlyle, who was named the new Maple Leafs coach Friday night, in Anaheim in 2005-06 and put up pretty solid numbers – 28 goals and 25 assists in 81 games. The 28 goals remain a career high for Lupul, while the 53 points was a career high until he passed it this season with 66 points.

Honesty, defense help Coyotes succeed for Tippett

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 11:34 AM / NHL Insider

Jerry Brown - Correspondent

GLENDALE, Ariz. – When it became clear in the summer of 2009 that Wayne Gretzky would not return to coach the Phoenix Coyotes, general manager Don Maloney quickly whittled his list of candidates to two former NHL head coaches.

One was Peter Laviolette, who led the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup in 2006 and remains one of the game's top coaches in Philadelphia. The other was Dave Tippett, who had four straight 40-win seasons with Dallas and had spent a decade coaching in the Pacific Division with the Stars and Los Angeles Kings – something that was pretty important, given that the new coach wouldn't officially take over the Coyotes bench until three weeks into training camp.

A steady hand was needed. A like-minded approach was warranted. And amid all the chaos of a team that still doesn't have an owner almost three years later, a coach that could keep his cool and a sense of calm in the storm was essential.
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I'm a hockey player and that's what I love to do. That is what I am here for. Everything else is just a side note.

— Oilers forward Connor McDavid on moving beyond the anticipation of his long-awaited arrival in the NHL