Believe it or not, there actually are people out there who look at this time of year and think about baseball, flowers, warmer weather and some sort of basketball tournament.
Yes, we pity them here at Ice Age because it just shows they don’t get it. This time of year means two things.
The stretch drive to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Need more proof? Well, just check out this week’s assortment of quotes from around the NHL.
“It’s in our hands right now. I’m not sure what it is, but we’d better start picking it up here ... or it’s going to slip out of our hands.”
-- Flyers forward Mike Richards
“This is why you play. Every second matters. Every game matters. And you control where you end up. It may even come down to one game at the end of the year. We have to be geared up, focused, jacked up and ready to play every game. It’s going to be playoff hockey the rest of the way.”
-- Minnesota Wild forward Todd Fedoruk
| Phil Coffey is NHL.com's editorial director. He has covered the NHL since 1981.
Ask Ice Age:
Got a question? Nursing a gripe? Itching to call Phil Coffey every name imaginable? Well, you can achieve all these goals through the magic of email. Send your questions, comments and critiques of Phil's photo to email@example.com and look for the answers in the mailbag section of Ice Age each weekend.
“Being on a winning team and around the young guys here with the skill level they have - it’s fun. I feel like I am on (a great) team again. I feel like we have a real chance to do something pretty special.”
-- Veteran winger Petr Sykora on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“There’s a reason why you play 82 games. Look at some teams now that are having bad endings. We, unfortunately, had a bad start and have been playing catch-up ever since. But as bad is it sounds, you’d almost rather be where we are now having momentum and playing great and having the teams ahead of us worry.
“This time of year you don’t want that pressure on you, squeezing your stick going into games. When you are a team that is barely hanging on and the other teams behind keep winning, it is not an enviable position.”
-- Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig
"Our organizational motto is no complaints, no excuses. That's not going to change. There are no complaints about this and no excuses for it. Chris Pronger plays the game the way we -- when I say we, the royal family, we in the National Hockey League -- want it played, as far as being a highly skilled player who's also physical.
"This particular action, stepping on a player with his skate blade, does not belong in our game. He knows that, and he's responded appropriately. Does he have to change his game? Certainly, this can't be part of his repertoire, or any other player's. As far as the rest of Chris's repertoire, being a physical force out there, I don't think he can change, and I don't think he should change."
-- Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke on Chris Pronger’s eight-game suspension.
“It starts with me. I’m the head of the snake if you want to call it that. We have a staff here that works diligently and extremely hard to get this team ready to play in terms of preparation. ... We’re going to be relentless to get this team ready to go.”
"He’s just a bull. He’s got a little bit of everything. He’s got the release and the hands of (Mike) Bossy, the quickness that (Jari) Kurri had and the toughness that (Mark) Messier had."
-- Wayne Gretzky offers quite the critique of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin
-- Flyers coach John Stevens
“All along we’ve known what our goal is. We’re never going to say never and keep trucking and take it day by day. That’s all we can do right now.”
-- Blackhawks rookie center Jonathan Toews
“It’s not the way you draw it up. Our jobs don’t really change, no matter who’s in the lineup. We have to go out there and play as a team, play the systems as well as we can, do it together, and that will give us a chance to win.”
-- Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer on facing the majority of the stretch drive without the suspended Chris Pronger
“This group here deserves a lot of credit for getting ourselves in this situation, being able to play some big games down the stretch. And we feel confident that if we continue to prepare for each game like we have, we’re going to be there in the end.”
-- Edmonton Oilers defenseman Steve Staios
“You’re looking for a No. 1 at one point, but I’ve been here for three years and we’ve used both goaltenders every year. The future is going to tell us what we have, but I always say you need two good goalies. If you have (Martin) Brodeur, who can play 75, 76 games, then it’s easier. If you have someone who can play 60, you still have 22 games and you need someone who can win.”
-- Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau on using two goalies.
“It was something I had to accept if I wanted to stay here. I was willing to make that sacrifice at this stage of my career in order to help this team be successful.”
-- Anaheim forward Todd Marchant, the team’s Masterton Trophy nominee, who has become an adept checker, penalty killer and faceoff man
“If you ask anyone when they’re a young kid, ‘Do you think you’ll play 1,000 games,’ they’d (have) said, ‘C’mon.’ I’ve been lucky. It’s pretty special, but it’s something I’ll look at down the road. We’re in a playoff race and I’m not really thinking about that, just about getting wins.”
-- Boston Bruins forward Glen Murray on his 1,000th regular-season game
"Things can change all the time. I was shocked when I heard that Cristobal was traded. But it was a big challenge and a big opportunity for me. I'm trying to do all I can to be my best when I get a chance. I expected to be the No. 2 goalie and to play just once in a while. That's what's happening right now. I'm happy, even if I play every fifth game."
-- Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak on being Carey Price’s backup
“If you looked on paper at our roster and compared it to some other teams in the conference, possibly not. But I think some guys on this team are underrated as far as putting up numbers.”
-- New Jersey Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner on whether his team measures up offensively in the Eastern Conference.
Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.