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NHL Insider

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.

Burke, Carlyle hope change will shake Leafs from funk

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 11:07 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL - After two "brutal" days, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke informed his good friend Ron Wilson on Friday night that he was no longer fit to coach his hockey team.

One of the primary reasons Burke listed Saturday for replacing Wilson with his former coach in Anaheim Randy Carlyle was the reaction of the Maple Leafs fans, who chanted loudly at the Air Canada Center for Wilson to be fired Tuesday night during a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Three days later, the fans got their wish.

"After the last home game, I felt it would be cruel and unusual punishment to let Ron coach another home game," Burke told a packed press conference at Bell Centre in Montreal, site of Toronto's game Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET,  NHLN-US, CBC). "I wasn't going to put Ron through that again."

Large coaching turnover, but results mostly improved

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 10:23 AM / NHL Insider

More than one-quarter of the teams in the NHL have now made a coaching change during the 2011-12 season, and nearly half the 30 current bench bosses were not at their posts at the end of the last campaign.

Randy Carlyle was the fourth NHL coach fired during this season, but he will replace Ron Wilson, who became casualty No. 8 when the Toronto Maple Leafs relieved him of his duties Friday night despite giving him a contract extension in December.

While there has been a lot of turnover among the coaching ranks in the League, the change has more often than not produced improved results.

Five of the seven teams that have made a coaching change have performed better for the new guy. St. Louis and Anaheim are the best examples. The Blues were 6-7-0 when they replaced Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock, and they're 34-11-7 since.

Hodgson, Kassian ready to face former teams

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:30 AM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

Cody Hodgson isn’t quite sure how to feel about returning to the city he was traded from just five days earlier or suiting up against guys he called teammates when the week began.

The 22-year-old hasn’t had much time to process being a key part of a four-player deal that sent him from Vancouver to Buffalo at Monday's  trade deadline, with 2009 first-round draft pick Zack Kassian, Buffalo's top prospect, headed the other way.

Hodgson hasn’t totally wrapped his head around coming "home" to play Saturday night against an organization that picked him 10th overall in 2008 and helped him develop into an NHL Rookie of the Year candidate.

Ducks glad to see Carlyle land in Toronto

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 1:41 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After Randy Carlyle was fired as Anaheim coach on Nov. 30, Ducks players acknowledged that it was time for a new voice in the locker room. But they also took part ownership for not playing up to standards during a disastrous first two months of the season.

The Ducks still have plenty of respect for Carlyle -- after all, he's the only Stanley Cup-winning coach in franchise history -- and they predictably were happy to hear that he was hired Friday as coach in Toronto under former Anaheim general manager Brian Burke, replacing Ron Wilson.

"I don't think there was any question that Randy was going to continue to coach in the League," forward Bobby Ryan said after Friday's 3-2 win against Calgary. "He had a great run here. He won a Cup. I think his resume speaks for itself."

Bettman, two GMs join MIT analytics conference

Friday, 03.02.2012 / 6:35 PM / NHL Insider

Bob Condor - Editor-in-Chief

BOSTON -- The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is staging its sixth annual event about cutting-edge statistics this weekend here in Bruins territory. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli served on a "Hockey Analytics" panel Friday to provide some insights on building a Stanley Cup winner, while NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was part of a group of sports executives who provided perspective on how the management of professional leagues has evolved since Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was elected as baseball's first commissioner in 1921.

ESPN personality Michael Wilbon introduced Bettman as a sports leader who has accomplished quite a number of impressive analytics while running the NHL, including taking the League’s licensing revenues "from $275 million in the mid-1990s to $1.3 billion." Adding in all League and team revenues, the overall number was $2.8 billion for the most recent fiscal year.

"None of the leagues were in the businesses we are now," said Bettman, referencing that he began working in the sports leagues industry 31 years ago. "When I started at the NHL [in 1993] there was no, no NHL Network, no NHL Radio. We have maybe 40 people working for the League. Now we have 500.

Leafs spending time working out defensive kinks

Friday, 03.02.2012 / 5:42 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Que. -- After blaming a lot of the defensive woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs on his goaltending recently, coach Ron Wilson decided Friday to address the problems surrounding his net rather than the one between the pipes.

Wilson ran the Maple Leafs through an intense practice that ran over an hour at the Canadiens' suburban practice facility in advance of their game Saturday matchup at Bell Centre (7 p.m., NHLN-US, CBC), and the focus clearly was placed on how Toronto defends its end of the ice.

"Right now we've just got to play better in our zone," Wilson said. "We're getting chances, we're scoring goals, but we have to be better in front of our goalie. It's as simple as that. That's what today's practice was all about."
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Quote of the Day

Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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