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NHL Insider

Caps relish challenge of fighting for division title

Monday, 02.06.2012 / 5:14 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, VA. -- The Florida Panthers came to Verizon Center on April 5, 2008, and ended up with a first-hand account of the beginning of a Southeast Division dynasty.

Washington won that night, 3-1, and it was the final step in frenetic dash to a division title. The atmosphere in the building was electric and the ovation as the final seconds counted down reached decibel levels normally reserved for playoff games in most NHL arenas.

The Capitals will welcome the Panthers to Washington on Tuesday night, and they will be there trying to take another step toward ending that same dynasty. Washington has won each of the past four Southeast Division titles -- the previous three with relative ease.

"In my time since I've been here there haven't been that many," veteran forward Mike Knuble said of playing critical games in February. "At this time of year we've kind of been cruising and just waiting and not really involved too much in things."

That is going to change this season. The Capitals have scuffled since a 7-0-0 start and enter their Tuesday matchup one point behind the Panthers and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

Capitals focused on winning without Laich

Monday, 02.06.2012 / 3:55 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Brooks Laich did not practice Monday with the Washington Capitals, and the team will learn the severity of his left knee injury after a doctor visit later in the day.

Laich was helped off the ice with eight minutes to play in the second period Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center during a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. He was hit by Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg behind the net, and left the arena after the game on crutches, with his knee in a brace.

"He was walking on it, so he was fine," Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. "He wants to play. He's day-to-day and it's not major, so it's just day to day and we'll see how he goes."

Laich has been a versatile stalwart in the Washington lineup during this era of great regular-season success. He has missed just four games in the past five seasons, and that was only because of a fluke bounce of a puck that caught him in the face during a practice.

Belfour enjoys outdoors, coaching sons in retirement

Sunday, 02.05.2012 / 12:59 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

DALLAS -- Before Saturday's game between the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, the Stars honored Ed Belfour, a 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and key contributor to their only Stanley Cup championship team in franchise history.

"Winning the Stanley Cup in '99 was a dream come true," Belfour said in his remarks to a sellout crowd. "It was an unbelievable experience. I'll never forget it. So thankful for (former Stars GM) Bob Gainey for bringing me here and giving me an opportunity to play in such a great city."

But before the Hall of Fame netminder began his prepared remarks, the Dallas fans serenaded him with a rousing chant of "Eddie, Eddie," something which was a regular occurrence during his time with the Stars between 1997 and 2002.

During his 16-year NHL career, Belfour was a six-time All-Star, won the 1991 Calder Trophy and a two-time Vezina Trophy winner.

Ovi a little rusty in return

Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 7:46 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- This was not exactly the way Alex Ovechkin wanted to make the highlight reels off his grand return from a three-game suspension, but at least he was able to see the humor in his own rust.

Alex Ovechkin
Left Wing - WSH
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 39
SOG: 172 | +/-: -4
Ovechkin came off a 12-day layoff in the Washington Capitals' 3-0 win in Montreal on Saturday afternoon by playing 19:57, dishing out three hits but registering only a single shot on goal for just the sixth time this season.

However, it was a golden opportunity for a shot he passed up that had Ovechkin laughing at himself after the game.

In the second period, having beaten Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban to a puck deep in the offensive zone, Ovechkin was in prime position to shoot when he inexplicably passed it across to Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges, who simply turned the puck back towards the Capitals' end.

An Ovechkin at the top of his game would simply have wired it on net even if he thought teammate Alexander Semin was open on the other side. But a 13-day layoff meant Ovechkin wasn't exactly himself.

Jokinen has big (Mac) game

Saturday, 02.04.2012 / 6:58 PM / NHL Insider

Aaron Vickers - Correspondent

CALGARY -- He's been retired since 1999, but No. 99 is still piling up the assists.

Olli Jokinen
Center - CGY
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 40
SOG: 148 | +/-: -1
Mired in a 15-game scoreless drought, Olli Jokinen turned to a piece of advice bestowed upon him by Wayne Gretzky during his tenure as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Jokinen was mired in a slump during the 2008-09 season when the Great One told him to get a little greasy.

"In Phoenix, I think I went 10, 11 games without a goal and he pulled me into a meeting and said ‘Hey, you take everything pretty seriously and you work out and your preparation is pretty good so maybe you should let it go a little bit and go have a burger and relax and maybe you'll get out of the slump'," Jokinen said.

"If the Great One tells you to go have a burger, you'd better go and do it, you know."

As Seguin's star rises, Boston embraces him

Friday, 02.03.2012 / 3:04 PM / NHL Insider

Matt Kalman - Correspondent

WILMINGTON, Mass. – The notoriety Tyler Seguin has around the city of Boston, and especially Bruins fans, continues to astound him even now that he's more than halfway through his second full NHL season.
The latest example of Boston's love for Seguin was during warm-ups before a game Tuesday night against Ottawa at TD Garden. Signs wishing the young forward a happy 20th birthday were being held up all over the building, by people of both sexes, folks young and old.
"In warmups I think counted 25, 26 signs in our end," said Seguin after the Bruins practiced at Ristuccia Arena on Friday. "It was a little unexpected. I was expecting maybe a few in the distance. But I guess it was nice to see. It's nice to see that there's true fans out there and I've never gotten so many birthday wishes as I did in that 24 hours, from even people on the streets and in the mall."

Season-saving path nothing new for Clemmensen

Friday, 02.03.2012 / 11:48 AM / NHL Insider

Alain Poupart - Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. — Between former Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore and top prospect Jacob Markstrom, it was easy to overlook Scott Clemmensen in the Florida Panthers goalie group.

But as the Panthers begin their second-half push to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2000, it's Clemmensen who is manning the crease. And he is stealing points for Florida in the process.

Exhibit A: At Winnipeg on Jan. 21. Panthers were outshot 44-29 but pulled out a 4-3 shootout victory. Exhibit B: Home game against Vancouver  on Jan. 9 where Clemmensen stopped all 14 third-period shots he faced in a 2-1 victory.

Snow discusses Isles' future on NHL Hour

Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 7:44 PM / NHL Insider

It wasn't all that long ago when Garth Snow was stopping pucks for the New York Islanders, the final stop in a five-team, 12-season career for the 1987 sixth-round draft pick of the Quebec Nordiques.

Yet Snow is already in his sixth season as general manager of the Islanders, a position he was named to on the same day he officially announced his retirement. Snow, who earned an MBA from the University of Maine, said during Thursday night's appearance on "NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman" that being part of a front office had appealed to him.

"It was something that was always in the back of my mind if a hockey career didn't materialize," Snow said. "It was something that I had a great interest in, whether it was in management with a professional team or in college coaching or something in that realm. That was always something for me that when my career was done that I wanted to pursue."

Bettman addresses clock controversy

Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 6:44 PM / NHL Insider

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the controversial ending to Wednesday night's game between the Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets during his weekly radio show Thursday night.

Drew Doughty scored a power-play goal with :00.4 seconds remaining to give the Kings a 3-2 victory against the Blue Jackets on Wednesday night. While video replay showed the puck crossed the goal line before time expired, television replays indicated that the game clock stopped briefly with 1.8 seconds remaining before starting again.

"Not good, not acceptable -- if [the clock] had run straight through, the game would have been at a tie at that point, would have gone to overtime," Bettman said. "And maybe L.A. would have won anyway, maybe not. That's not the point. We are taking this very seriously. We're investigating as to how it happened. Obviously it's either human error or a technology glitch. We don't know which, but we've already begun investigating and we will get to the bottom of it."

Weight's transition to retirement an ongoing process

Thursday, 02.02.2012 / 2:08 PM / NHL Insider

Kurt Dusterberg - Correspondent

Doug Weight is in a good place.

It is late morning, and he is dangling the puck on the bright, white ice inside RBC Center in Raleigh. High above him in the rafters hangs the Carolina Hurricanes' 2006 Stanley Cup banner. Weight played for that team, so stickhandling in the quiet arena is special -- a moment of basking in personal accomplishment.

At the same time, there are a couple of disconnects at work. Weight is long gone from the Hurricanes organization. And despite the display of skills, he is retired. He now conducts all his idle puck work in a New York Islanders warm-up suit, serving as an assistant coach and advisor to the general manager.

As Weight goes through his puck paces hours before the Islanders face Carolina that night, something is becoming clear. This man with more than 1,000 NHL points is not altogether comfortable without an NHL uniform.

"I'm still going through it, to be honest with you," said Weight, who retired last May at age 40 after three injury-plagued seasons with the Islanders. "I certainly don't want to play a violin because I've been lucky to play 20 years in the sport I love the most and make a living from it. But it's hard."
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It's not just going to happen on its own. We have to have guys commit to the areas we need to improve on. We're going to be better than last year but there is still a long way to go. But I really like the pieces and where we're headed.

— Sabres forward Tyler Ennis on the progress of Buffalo's rebuilding process