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NHL Insider

Avs seek points against similarly struggling Hawks

Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 5:58 PM / NHL Insider

Rick Sadowski  - Correspondent

DENVER -- Something has to give Tuesday night when two slumping teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche, meet at the Pepsi Center.

The Blackhawks, playing the fourth game in a nine-game road trip, have been outscored 22-10 in a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) and have been outscored 30-17 during a seven-game road winless streak (0-5-2) since a 4-3 shootout victory at Minnesota on Dec. 14.

The Avalanche, playing the third game of a four-game homestand, have been outscored 12-8 in a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) and outscored 34-21 during a 3-7-2 slide since a 4-0 victory in Chicago on Jan. 6 that capped a streak in which the team won nine of 10 games.

Playoff atmosphere surrounds Panthers' visit to Caps

Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 3:32 PM / NHL Insider

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- After his team's practice Monday, Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter said Tuesday's night game against the Florida Panthers was going to be "a playoff game."
After his team's morning skate Tuesday, Hunter made the same statement. It may have seemed incredibly unlikely six months ago, but the Panthers and Capitals will battle at Verizon Center in early February and first place in the Southeast Division will be on the line.

"I've got a veteran lineup. I've got guys that can count and read the paper," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "They know what the deal is. It's very simple. You look at our situation and we can talk and we can build up about tonight's game, but it is going to be the same thing Thursday and the same thing Saturday and Sunday. We're in a situation where every game has a large level of importance."

The Panthers have a one-point lead on the Capitals, and Florida also has a game in hand. They have also had an extra day to rest, with Washington losing Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center to Boston.

Washington has a collection of banners in this building to signify its dominance over the rest of the Southeast in the past four years. Florida hasn't made a postseason appearance since defenseman Erik Gudbranson was 8 years old.

Devils go for fifth straight in first trip to MSG

Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 1:30 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Of all the things that have Martin Brodeur excited about his first game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden this season, the renovated visiting locker room is what's piquing his interest the most.

Before the Rangers' home arena was upgraded during the offseason, the visiting room was notoriously dingy, so much so that it wasn't uncommon to see a cockroach or mouse slithering along the floor.

"It wasn't the best place before," said Brodeur, who will be in net Tuesday night against the Rangers as the Devils look for their fifth straight win since the All-Star break. "It'll be nice to see how they worked it out. It's got to be better. It's hard to make it worse."

The remodeling of MSG that bled into late October coupled with a scheduling quirk has the Devils making their first trip across the Hudson River later in the season than usual. The Devils began their four-game winning streak with a stirring 4-3 home win against the Rangers last Tuesday, sparked by a game-tying goal by David Clarkson off a lucky bounce in the final seconds of regulation and capped with an Ilya Kovalchuk goal in the shootout.

Western Canada struggles highlight Hawks problems

Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 12:25 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The natural beauty of Western Canada might be quite the tourist attraction, but it is safe to say that the Chicago Blackhawks aren't looking forward to their next visit there.

Chicago has dipped to the sixth spot in the Western Conference and fourth in the Central Division after going five straight games without a win. And, for the second time this season, Western Canadian teams are at the root of the problem.

The Hawks have gone just 1-4-1 in two three-game road trips to play the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames and were blown out twice by the sub-.500 Oilers at Rexall Place. The most recent undressing came in an 8-4 loss there last week, with Edmonton's Sam Gagner adding salt to the wound by making a name for himself with 4 goals and 4 assists for a jaw-dropping 8-point night.

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."
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