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Coaches won't tolerate excuses

by Brian Compton /
Senators coach John Paddock acknowledges that his club's performance has suffered with its two top players -forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley out with injuries.

Some random thoughts before I give Al Gore my two cents on global warming:

Just Not The Same – You almost can’t blame the Ottawa Senators for the way they’ve been playing lately.

Coach John Paddock’s squad lost its second straight and fourth in five games as they were dominated from start to finish by the Philadelphia Flyers in a 6-1 knockout at the Wachovia Center Sunday night.

In all fairness, the Senators were playing without their top two players – forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley. Alfredsson still is recovering from a hip injury suffered last Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes, while Heatley likely will be out for a few more weeks due to a banged-up shoulder.

"Two big key guys out of the lineup," said Ottawa’s Chris Kelly, who scored the Sens’ lone goal. "When that happens, it gives other guys an opportunity to play more and contribute more. For those guys, they haven't done that so far."

Paddock agreed.

"I was disappointed in some individuals that are not taking advantage of stepping up," the coach said. "They're not being responsible in doing the right thing."

Perhaps, but if you took Jam-Master Jay and Reverend Run out of Run-D.M.C., what would you have? C?

Broadway Blues – A team that some in the preseason picked to win the Stanley Cup is on the outside of the playoff chase with 33 games remaining.

The New York Rangers – who added the likes of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury last July – were swept by the Boston Bruins in a home-and-home series, as the Blueshirts dropped a 3-1 decision at Madison Square Garden in a Sunday matinee.

"It's starting to seem like it's going to be a tough challenge," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said when asked about the team’s chances of reaching the playoffs for the third consecutive year. "We played pretty good. There are small things we can do a little bit better because obviously it's not enough. We're not winning. We can't be satisfied."

New York coach Tom Renney certainly isn’t. From the sound of it, jobs now are on the line, beginning with Tuesday night’s game against the Atlanta Thrashers.

"We don't have enough grease in our game,” Renney said. “If we have to rearrange lines or put people in the lineup and take people out of the lineup to ensure that we get at least what we're looking for in the attempt to do things right, then that's where we are. So step up or step back."

Stars coach Dave Tippett was very pleased with his teams effort in Sunday's 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.  The win put Dallas back in the lead in the Pacific Division.

Back In Front – If anything, the Dallas Stars showed the defending Stanley Cup champions that they plan on sticking around in the second half of the season.

Coach Dave Tippett’s club showed a ton of grit on Sunday, avenging last week’s 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks by taking it to the champs in a 5-2 rout at American Airlines Center.

Oh, yeah – the win put the Stars back in the lead in the Pacific Division.

"We were pretty physical tonight," Tippett said. "We had some guys who were good in the grit department, in the heart department."

It was a frustrating loss for the Ducks, who were held to just nine shots on goal through the first 40 minutes. Anaheim entered 8-0-1 since the calendar turned to 2008.

"We didn't play our game," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We didn't do anything with the puck, for whatever reason. We were out of synch for most of the game. We're going to turn the page. I guarantee you we're not going to keep the tape on this one."

I felt the same way when I made the mistake of setting the timer for Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Welcome Back – John Madden always has been Mr. Reliable when it comes to playing in his own zone, but the Devils’ center has shown throughout his career that he has a knack for scoring timely goals, too.

After missing the past two games with an injured right ankle, Madden returned on Sunday and promptly scored a pair of goals to lead New Jersey to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"My thoughts were that we would see how things were going," Madden said. "I was a little winded, since I hadn't skated until Saturday. I felt a little something here and there, but nothing big. I got better as the game went on."

It was a huge win for the Devils, who had dropped their previous two games at the Prudential Center. It also snapped Toronto’s three-game winning streak.

"We played good hockey these last four games," said Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin. "We played against one of the best teams in the conference. We had a lot of chances, and in the third period, we totally dominated them."

Maybe there won’t be Armageddon in Toronto after all?

Youth is being served in Edmonton, as Sam Gagner and the Edmonton Oilers are within six points of a playoff spot in the Western Conference after Sunday's 4-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Young Guns – There aren’t too many veterans on the Edmonton Oilers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not ready to fight for a playoff spot.

Sam Gagner (18), Tom Gilbert (25) and Robert Nilsson (23) all lit the lamp in Sunday’s 4-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. The victory put a halt to a three-game slide for the Oilers, who only are six points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"Our young guys played well," said Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish. "They're a highly skilled unit. They were the difference in the game."

If Atlanta can take anything positive from the loss, well, it’s that the club certainly put forth a better performance than it did in Friday’s 10-1 loss at Buffalo.

"I've said it before, when we respect our opponent we play better, and I don't know how we don't respect anyone at this point," Thrashers coach/GM Don Waddell said. "When we face teams that are going good, we usually come up with a better effort and that's certainly something we need to address."

Stepping Up – Kudos to Joel Quenneville and the Colorado Avalanche for the way they’ve performed sans Ryan Smyth, Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny.

With half of the Lake Erie Monsters now playing in Denver, and with Jose Theodore playing the way he did when he won the Vezina and Hart trophies in 2002, Colorado suddenly finds itself locked in a first-place tie in the Northwest Division following Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"We're not going to sit back and wait for our big dogs to get back," said rookie defenseman Jeff Finger. "We know we're missing some offense, but we're still going forward and we're going to try to get as many points as we can with those guys out."

So this is how the Northwest standings now read: Colorado (56 points), Calgary (56), Minnesota (55), Vancouver (55), Edmonton (49).

Shoehorn, anyone?

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