A few thoughts as we get ready for Hockey Weekend Across America:
All hail the King — King Henrik’s reign over Broadway will last at least another six years.
That’s the length of the new contract between the New York Rangers and goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The $41.25 million deal with keep the 25-year-old Swede in Broadway Blue through the 2013-14 season.
Lundqvist could have become a restricted free agent on July 1, but he showed little interest in changing teams.
“It feels good," he said Thursday after practice. "I said since Day 1 that I really like New York, I like to play for the Rangers and am so excited to be done with this deal."
Lundqvist is 24-21-5 this season with a 2.37 goals-against average in 50 games. In his NHL career, spent entirely with New York, Lundqvist is 91-55-22 with a 2.32 GAA in 173 games. He has 14 shutouts, including seven this season.
The Rangers think Lundqvist’s best days still are to come.
"All I'm seeing is the metamorphosis of a top-notch goaltender in this League," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "He's still evolving."
Can’t get to eight —
Four times the Dallas Stars
franchise has taken a seven-game winning streak into a game … and four times, it’s come out with a loss.
The fourth time was Thursday night, when the Stars had their winning streak ended with a 5-2 loss at Phoenix, which was desperate for a win after four straight losses dropped the Coyotes out of the top eight in the West.
That desperation — and the fact that his team didn’t have it — was what struck Dallas coach Dave Tippett the most.
“Every game you have to recognize your opponent’s desperation level,” Tippett said. “If you’re not willing to compete at that level and execute at that level, you’re not going to win very often. Our execution was poor.”
Dallas had 34 shots on Ilya Bryzgalov, but Tippett downplayed the amount of rubber the Phoenix goaltender faced.
“We had a lot of shots,” he said, “but no finish.”
Lightning strikes Philadelphia … again — If first prize, as W.C. Fields once joked about a contest, is one week in Philadelphia and second prize is two weeks, the Tampa Bay Lightning gladly will take the latter.
In fact, the Bolts have to be wondering if they can get an extra trip to the City of Brotherly Love onto their schedule after they extended their winning streak in Philadelphia to eight games by beating the Flyers, 5-3.
Tampa Bay hasn’t lost at the Wachovia Center since Jan. 18, 2003.
"We play hard against these guys," said defenseman Dan Boyle, who scored a goal. "They seem to get the best of us, so we get excited to play here."
Lately, the Bolts have been excited to play anywhere. They haven’t lost a road game in regulation since Jan. 3 and have climbed out of the Eastern Conference cellar. They are just six points out of first place in the Southeast Conference race.
"I think we're realizing that we've got to win some games," Boyle said after Tampa Bay’s fourth win in five games. "If we lose a couple we're going to be finding ourselves in the back seat here. With so few games to go, it's no secret. We have to win games."
The kids do the job — It would be hard to blame fans at the RBC Center for Thursday’s game against Pittsburgh for wondering who some of the guys in the red uniforms were.
The Carolina Hurricanes were down three regular defensemen due to illness and injury, then lost captain Rod Brind’Amour 90 seconds into the game with a knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season. Despite all that, the Hurricanes battled their way to a 4-2 victory over the Penguins.
“We had a lot of pieces out of the lineup,” said forward Ray Whitney, whose third-period goal snapped a 2-2 tie. “The three defensemen we called up did a good job.”
No one appreciated the newcomers’ work more than Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward.
“We were put to the test mentally with everything that's going on — the illnesses, we've faced some injuries, but you can't say enough about the kids that came up today," Ward said. "They played like true pros and looked like they've been playing for years. ... They deserved it."
They still believe — After last season’s improbable finish, in which they won their last four games to make the playoffs, it’s tough to convince the New York Islanders the postseason is out of reach — not when there are 24 games left to be played.
"We saw the improbable last year when we were left for dead," goalie Rick DiPietro said after a 5-4 win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto moved them into 12th place, four points out of a playoff berth. "There's still a lot of hockey left."
The Isles have back-to-back wins after a seven-game losing streak, and have no intention of going away despite an injury list that includes three of their top six defensemen and No. 2 center Mike Sillinger.
"There's still belief in this room," said center Mike Comrie, who scored one of the Isles’ four power-play goals. "Ted (Nolan) and the coaching staff have us focused on the game at hand. We're not looking too far ahead."
Fast starts pay off — The team that scores first wins more than two-thirds of the time in today’s NHL. Getting the first three goals is even better.
For the second straight night, the Chicago Blackhawks got to coast after a big first period. On Wednesday, the Hawks put up four goals in Columbus; on Thursday, they hit Nashville with three in the opening 20 minutes and went on to a 6-1 win.
''For our team, I don't know if it's because we are young or what, but that first goal seems to give us a lot of confidence,'' said Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith, who scored the first goal. ''It gives us a big boost.''
The best news for the Hawks was that prized rookie Jonathan Toews had two of the three first-period goals — they were his first in three games after returning from a knee injury that cost him nearly six weeks.
''We are getting some luck goals here and there the last couple of games,'' Toews said. ''I think it is the result of the effort we have been putting out. I don't think it is just a coincidence.''
He’s got their number — After stopping 39 shots to beat the Colorado Avalanche for the 13th time in 15 career decisions, you’d think Manny Legace is in the heads of the Avs’ shooters.
He doesn’t think that way.
''You don't think of that,'' Legace said after leading the Blues to a 4-1 victory at the Pepsi Center, where he’s now 6-0-0 lifetime. ''You have to watch every bounce of the puck and every pass against them. You can't take anything for granted against them.''
Legace has a career 1.88 goals-against average against the Avs. But he still remembers the Blues’ previous meeting against Colorado, when he was beaten five times.
''I didn't need to be reminded,'' Legace said. ''I brought my 'D' game the last time we played them. They buried me.''
This time, he was at his All-Star best, though he said seeing a few less shots would have been nice.
''They kept coming and coming,'' he said.
Point of view — Is a shootout loss at home a case of the glass being half-full or half-empty? To hear the Vancouver Canucks, a 5-4 shootout loss to Minnesota at GM Place definitely was a “half-full” night.
“We got one point,” said captain Markus Naslund. “It was unfortunate we couldn’t pull the other one out.”
Especially because the Canucks still are outside the top eight in the West. With 64 points they’re ninth, one point behind the Colorado Avalanche.
Coach Alain Vigneault feels his team is ready to make a move.
“Slowly but surely we’re turning the corner here,” he said. “We’ve got points in five of our last six games. Our focus has to be on us and not on what the other teams are doing. If we win our games, we’ll be OK.”
Poor ending — With an eight-game road trip on the horizon, the San Jose Sharks were primed to beat the Edmonton Oilers and close out a six-game homestand on a high note. It didn’t happen.
The Sharks outshot the Oilers, 30-18, but got only two pucks past Mathieu Garon in a 3-2 loss that left them with a 3-2-1 mark on their homestand. Next stop: Madison Square Garden, where the Sharks face the New York Rangers on Sunday.
The loss left the Sharks with a bad taste as they leave town.
"There's definitely some frustration," said forward Joe Pavelski. "We wanted those two points, didn't get the start we wanted. We came back strong, had good opportunities to close the game and we weren't able to get the goals."
Contact John Kreiser at email@example.com.