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HPT Power Rankings (Week 5) † † † 1. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-3-0):†The Pens lead the league with 11 wins after posting a 2-1 record this week, and remaining a perfect 6-0 on the road. Pittsburgh has a West Coast swing coming this week with games in Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose. Chris Kunitz flipped the switch finally and now has 11 points. He’ll play his old ’mates in Anaheim on Tuesday. † † † 2. Colorado Avalanche (10-2-2): The Avs are still tied with the Pens for the best record in the NHL. Peter Budaj, who was supposed to split the goaltending duties with Craig Anderson, has the swine flu. Meanwhile, Anderson (10-2-2, 2.04 GAA) is making a case for Olympic inclusion. Ryan O’Reilly has thrown his name into the Calder Trophy discussion with 11 points in 14 games. † 3. San Jose Sharks (10-4-1): After a busy week, the Sharks find themselves on a five-game winning streak. San Jose leaps up from 10th after going 4-0 and outscoring opponents 14-4. Defenseman Dan Boyle has 13 points in 15 games and is playing well with an ‘A’ on his jersey. † 4. Washington Capitals (8-2-3): The Caps’ six-game win streak was snapped by a 4-3 OT loss to the Islanders. Alex Ovechkin has 23 points and is showing no signs of slowing down. Semyon Varlamov (3.20 GAA, .895 save percentage) is 5-0 and getting more goal support than Jose Theodore (2.66, .915). † † † 5. Buffalo Sabres (8-2-1): Buffalo is looking like an elite team, and Ryan Miller (1.86 GAA, .936 save percentage) is my pick for the Vezina so far. Derek Roy still has no goals. Scoring is still a question, and who knows where the Sabres would be without Miller in goal? † † 6. Chicago Blackhawks (8-4-1): The Hawks went 2-1 this week with wins over Minnesota and Montreal. A five-day rest follows before back-to-back away games in Phoenix and Colorado. Defenseman Brent Sopel has fallen off the charts; he has played all but one game and has zero points. † † † 7. New Jersey Devils (8-4-0): Will Devils fans stop showing up to home games? The Devils are 7-0 on the road and just 1-4 at home. Dainius Zubrus scored two goals in his last three games. The injuries are mounting, with Paul Martin, Jay Pandolfo, and Patrik Elias still out. † † 8. Phoenix Coyotes (9-4-0): The Coyotes are still playing good hockey and still getting NO support. Fewer than 7,000 people witnessed a 3-2 shootout win over Anaheim on Saturday. Their three-game winning streak will get tested in a busy week, with games against Los Angeles, Colorado, Chicago, and the Ducks. † † 9. New York Rangers (8-5-1): First, the good news: Marian Gaborik is healthy and scored the game’s only goal on Sunday in a 1-0 win over the Bruins. That win also stopped a two game losing streak. The bad news: Games in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary are next and threaten to push the Blueshirts closer to .500. † † † 10. Los Angeles Kings (8-4-2): The Kings are looking like playoff contenders and people are noticing: The average attendance at Staples Center is around 16,000. Alexander Frolov is out of the doghouse and onto the score sheet, with 12 points in 13 games. † † 11. Calgary Flames (7-4-1): The Flames went 0-2 this week with losses to Detroit and Colorado. Dion Phaneuf is enjoying a productive season so far, with nine points and his usual complement of ridiculous hits. Jay Bouwmeester has six points in 12 games. † † † 12. Ottawa Senators (6-4-2): The Sens are still playing average hockey. They unloaded 51 shots on Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelic on Saturday and lost 3-1. Jason Spezza still has no goals this year. The Heatley trade is starting to heavily favor the Sharks; Milan Michalek is playing well but Jonathan Cheechoo has no goals and 2 assists in 12 games. † † 13. Philadelphia Flyers (6-4-1): The Flyers have gone 1-2 this week as they are looking less impressive. The usual suspects (Simon Gagne, Daniel Briere) have been put on the injured list. Rookie winger James Van Riemsdyk is picking up some of the slack, with 10 points in nine games. † † † 14. Dallas Stars (6-3-5): The Stars went 1-1-1 this week and are in fourth place in a very competitive Pacific Division. Captain Brenden Morrow is enjoying a productive, injury-free season so far with 13 points. † † 15. Edmonton Oilers (7-6-1): The Oilers were shut out three times this week — by the Bruins, Avs, and Canucks. Their only win came in a 6-5 win over Detroit. The Islanders and Rangers arrive this week, with a five-game road trip to follow Thursday’s home matchup with the Rangers. † † † 16. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-5-1): The Jackets took a step back this week, going 0-2-1.†Losses to the Kings, Coyotes, and Penguins bring them into their Sunday night matchup in D.C. Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason (.881 save percentage and 3.48 goals against average) is not playing like he did last year. † † 17. Boston Bruins (6-6-1): The Bruins certainly don’t look like the powerhouse of a season ago. Phil Kessel’s absence was noticeable in a 2-1 loss to the Devils and 1-0 loss to the Rangers this week. Their only win since Oct. 24 came on Halloween, a 2-0 win over Edmonton. † † 18. Montreal Canadiens (7-7-0): The Habs went 2-2 this week. Brian Gionta has cooled off and sits at eight points through the team’s first 14 games. Jaroslav Halak (5-2) is very close to winning the starting goalie position over Carey Price (2-5). † † 19. Atlanta Thrashers (5-4-1): Ondrej Pavelec is certainly the goaltender of the week. He was completely under siege in Ottawa on Saturday, facing 51 shots, and only gave up one goal. Pavelec is making sure the Thrashers don’t miss Kari Lehtonen (back surgery). Nik Antropov is trying to score his first goal of the season but Max Afinogenov (10 games, seven points) looks happy in baby blue. † † 20. Vancouver Canucks (7-7-0): The Canucks are experiencing an injury frenzy and are playing .500 hockey. Daniel Sedin, Roberto Luongo, Sami Salo, and Rick Rypien are still out of the lineup. The Canucks look to rebound from an embarrassing 7-2 loss to the lowly Ducks before blanking the red-hot Avalanche behind Andrew Raycroft. † 21. Detroit Red Wings (5-4-3): The Wings appear to have woken up and start playing hockey in a 2-0-1 week. Pavel Datsyuk has turned on; he’s got 10 points and sits in second on the team in points. † 22. Tampa Bay Lightning (4-3-4): The Bolts went 1-0-1 this week, including a 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils in which they looked horrific. Tampa recorded 19 shots on goal while yielding 38. Tampa visits the Flyers, Leafs, Sens, and Habs this week. † † 23. St. Louis Blues (5-6-1): The Blues started off hot and quickly cooled, as they sit in last place in a less-than-impressive Central Division. The Blues have been shut out in back-to-back games by the Coyotes and the Panthers. They have four days to think things over before facing the Flames and Flyers at the end of the week. † † † 24. Nashville Predators (6-6-1): The Preds are playing well of late, winning three straight. They are doing it without Jason Arnott, who has now missed six games. J.P. Dumont missed four games with dizziness and still holds the team lead in points. † † 25. Minnesota Wild (5-9-0): The Wild are tied with the Ducks for the worst record in the West. Their play on the road is going to have to get better (1-8-0). So will an offense, that’s averaging little more than two goals per game. † † † 26. Anaheim Ducks (4-6-1): The Ducks are struggling and have the fewest wins of any team in the Western Conference. Handing Toronto its first win was the low point, though they gained some confidence by scoring seven on a decimated Canucks squad Friday. Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer and Saku Koivu have one goal each, and need to rescue this team out of the basement before it is too late. † † 27. New York Islanders (4-4-5): The Isles are starting to play some good hockey while making the Atlantic Division even tougher to play in. The Isles went 3-0-1 this week, including a very impressive 5-0 win over the Sabres on Sunday. † † 28. Florida Panthers (4-7-1): The Panthers are one of three teams yet to gain 10 points in the standings. Nathan Horton (goal, six assists in his last three games) must have read these rankings (or anyone’s) the past few weeks; he’s up to 10 points in 12 games. † † † 29. Toronto Maple Leafs (1-8-4): The Leafs are getting some much-needed scoring in the lineup Tuesday, when Kessel is expected to make his debut in blue and white. Tomas Kaberle is having an impressive season so far as he leads the team with 17 points. † † 30. Carolina Hurricanes (2-8-3): The Canes now have nine losses in a row and are competing with the Leafs for the title of the league’s Most Ridiculously Awful Team. After last year’s playoffs, Cam Ward was throwing himself into the discussion for Team Canada’s No. 1 goaltender. Now he’s 28th in the NHL in goals-against average and has appeared in all but one game.
| News/Features | Monday, 02 November 2009 02:41 | Print | PDF
BOSTON – While progress has come at a painful pace for the Boston Bruins this season, their archrival Montreal Canadiens — who have also been snakebitten by the injury bug — are moving in light years by comparison. And the Habs, compared to the rest of the NHL, are still moving at a turtle’s pace. In a game that saw the two original six franchises face off for the 700th time Thursday night, the Bruins (6-7) — despite losing one of their best scorers, David Krejci, to the H1NI virus — avoided their longest scoring drought in 80 years by 51.7 seconds. Meanwhile, despite the fact that Montreal (8-8) needed extra time to win the 2-1 shootout, at least they could take stock in the fact that rookie Ryan White collected his first NHL point in his first NHL game. “It wasn’t [pretty] but it’s my favorite one up to date I’ll tell you that,” White said of assisting on his team's only regulation goal. “It wasn’t like it was a nice backward pass or anything like that, but it was perfect and I wouldn’t want to get it any other way.” What was started with White's utilitarian assist was finished spectacularly by former Bruin Glen Metropolit. The first-period goal came after White fed Andrei Kostitsyn in the neutral zone, poking a puck that popped out of a collision between Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick. Kostitsyn drove to the net, which he wrapped around from the left to the right and dumped the puck off to Metropolit in front of the goal at the 17:32 mark. “It was beautiful; those guys made a great play,” White said. “I just made a little one in the zone but it worked out good.” About five minutes later the Bruins had a goal disallowed after a replay showed the net was jarred off the hook before Patrice Bergeron knocked the puck in. But Bergeron would finally get a goal, the team’s first in 192:06, by slamming home a rebound off Derek Morris’s shot. “Once again, it’s like a broken record,” Blake Wheeler said. “We say the same thing over and over again, night in, night out. You’ve got to be tired of it. You look around; we’ve got a lot of guys who can score goals and all of a sudden we are going on nine periods of no goals. We’ve got to take that to heart. We’ve got to take it personally.” While the Bruins were glad to finally see the end of their goal-scoring drought, the game also marked the end of a losing streak for Habs goalkeeper Carey Price. “I hadn’t won in six games, and that was not the time to get upset,” Price, who finished with 42 saves for his third win of the season, said of allowing Bergeron’s goal. “I had to refocus in a hurry because if I let it slip, then I lose another game.” In the shootout Price stopped Wheeler, Bergeron and Mark Recchi while Montreal’s Mike Cammalleri beat Bruins netminder Tim Thomas on the only shootout goal to improve the Canadiens’ overtime mark to 7-0. In the end, a game billed as a matchup between teams that are shadows of their previous selves transcended mediocrity through the sheer intensity of their historic rivalry. “It’s always fun,” Metropolit told reporters before a which was the first meeting between the two teams since Boston knocked Montreal out of the playoffs last season. “Who knows what kind of rivalry we’ll start tonight?” NOTEWORTHY: Wheeler was on the Krejci’s left wing Tuesday night, a day before Krejci was diagnosed with H1N1. “Kind of took me by surprise, like everyone else,” he said. “I guess that’s the way the word is today. You’ve got to be careful. Obviously we wish him the best and a speedy recovery.” The Bruins were quick to point out they had no plans to be vaccinated for the swine flu, unlike the Calgary Flames, who recently took heat for jumping ahead of eligible Alberta citizens who were waiting for innoculations. “We do the best we can. David Krejci is not around the team, and hopefully that’s where it will stop, but there is no guarantee,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “We are all vulnerable to it, we just have to deal with it the best way we can.”
| News/Northeast | Friday, 06 November 2009 19:07 | Print | PDF
HPT Power Rankings (Week 6): It seems to happen once a year. Richard Zednik. Adam Burish. Clint Malarchuk. Teemu Selanne. This week, Cam Ward joined the list of hockey players who found themselves on the wrong end of skate blades, and we hope it's the last one we see this year. It's more bad news for a Carolina team that seems mired at the bottom of the rankings. The defending Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, once mired at the top, are slipping thanks to injuries of their own. Who† dethroned the champs this week? 1. San Jose Sharks (12-4-2): The Sharks went 2-0-1 this week and got Joe Pavelski back in the lineup in a 5-0 romping of the Penguins on Saturday. The trio of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and Dany Heatley have combined for 63 points just 18 games into the season. 2. Colorado Avalanche (12-3-2): The Avs are still playing some terrific hockey, tied with the Sharks for the best record in the league. Peter Budaj is healthy but, unfortunately for him, it doesn’t look like he’s the team’s number one choice in net. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins (12-5-0): The Pens went 1-2-0 this week. Evgeni Malkin is nursing an injury and the Pens won’t be able to stay on top for long without him. Marc-Andre Fleury gave up five goals to Los Angeles on Thursday before giving up four and getting pulled in San Jose on Saturday. 4. Washington Capitals (10-3-4): Besides a loss to the Devils, the Caps don’t seem to have missed a beat without Alex Ovechkin in the lineup. The team swept a weekend home-and-home with the Florida Panthers with 4-1 and 7-4 wins. The Caps have three days off until the Islanders and Wild come into D.C. on Wednesday and Friday. Ovechkin eyes a Saturday return in New Jersey. 5. New Jersey Devils (11-4-0): A five-game winning streak and an 8-0 record on the road is darn impressive considering Patrik Elias, Rob Niedermayer, Jay Pandolfo, Paul Martin, and Johnny Oduya were out of the lineup Saturday in Ottawa. Elias was impressive Friday but rested Saturday and will look to return full-time Wednesday. Andy Greene has stepped up to look like a number one D-man in the absence of Martin and Oduya. 6. Los Angeles Kings (10-5-2): Following a 2-1 week, Anze Kopitar is the league leader in points and Ryan Smyth is looking like he did in Edmonton, with 20 points in 17 games. The Kings have a tough week coming up with four road games in six days. 7. Calgary Flames (10-4-1): The Flames finished a 3-0 week by beating the Rangers on Saturday. Rene Bourque still leads the team in points with 17. Dion Phaneuf (six goals) is playing very well after coming under fire by fans and media. 8. Philadelphia Flyers (9-4-1): The Flyers go into their four-day break riding a four-game winning streak. Besides the injuries, the flu bug has hit the Flyers locker room. Ray Emery has played all but one game this season and still looks solid. 9. Buffalo Sabres (9-4-1): The Sabres went 1-2 this week, including losses to the Flyers and Bruins. Losing three of their last four, is this team slowing down? The Sabres remain in first place almost by default, in a Northeast Division where no team is on fire. 10. New York Rangers (10-7-1): In a 2-2 week, the Blueshirts lost Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky to injury. They’ll get four days to recover before hosting the Atlanta Thrashers. Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal continue to be two of the most productive players in the league. 11. Chicago Blackhawks (8-5-2): The Hawks dropped out of the top eight in the West this week, losing both of their games. Next week doesn’t look to get any easier as the Kings and Avs visit. The Hawks better look to right the ship by Sunday’s home game against the Sharks; they only have two wins on the road and a six-game road trip follows. 12. Phoenix Coyotes (10-7-0): The Coyotes lost three of four this week, and all signs point to a slowdown in an increasingly tough Pacific Division. If only 5,855 people saw the Coyotes lose to the Kings last Monday, then did it really happen? 13. Columbus Blue Jackets (9-5-2): The Blue Jackets have been on a tear lately and now sit on top of the Central Division. While that’s impressive, they’ll have a tough time staying there with a goals for-to-goals against ratio of 51-to-54. The Steve Mason of last year is going to have to make an appearance to right the ship. 14. Vancouver Canucks (10-8-0): The Canucks went 3-1 this week despite being hit hardest by a league-wide injury bug. Henrik Sedin’s foot injury was just a false alarm. He hasn’t missed a game and still leads the team in points. Ryan Kesler has 16 points and is enjoying his best season so far. Andrew Raycroft has been a solid replacement while Roberto Luongo is healing. 15. Ottawa Senators (7-5-2): The Sens blew a 2-0 lead Saturday in a home loss to New Jersey, but are still playing well. Jason Spezza only has one goal this year and the team would benefit greatly if he were able to start finding the net on a regular basis. Jonathan Cheechoo: 14 games, 0 goals. 16. Dallas Stars (7-4-6): The Stars sit in fourth place in the Pacific Division after a 1-1-1 week. The team has four days off before taking the ultimate test by traveling to the Shark Tank on Thursday. Loui Eriksson is the latest youngster to step up as he has 15 points in 17 games. 17. Detroit Red Wings (7-5-3): The Wings went 2-1 this week, getting two strong starts (and one bad one) from Chris Osgood. Scoring is still a concern: Nick Lidstrom is averaging a point every three games and Pavel Datsyuk is still not at the top of his game. 18. Boston Bruins (7-7-2): The B’s are doing a decent job of staying afloat until the injured players (Savard, Lucic, Krejci) can return to the lineup. The Bruins will face the Penguins twice following a 1-1-1 week. 19. Montreal Canadiens (8-9-0): The Habs fell below .500 with a 1-2 week. Brian Gionta scored his seventh goal in a loss to visiting Tampa Bay on Saturday. It’s hard to believe that one player, Andrei Markov, could influence the team so much with his absence. 20. Edmonton Oilers (7-8-1): The Oilers snapped a three-game losing streak Sunday with a 5-3 win over Colorado. Ales Hemsky only has four goals through 16 games, and the team is 12th in the league at 2.94 goals per game. Denis Grebeshkov stands out in a bad way in the plus/minus column with a minus-8 stat. 21. Tampa Bay Lightning (6-4-5): The Bolts sit in second place in the worst division in hockey, seven points behind the first-place Capitals. Vinny Lecavalier only has two goals and Martin St. Louis has three. If it weren’t for Steven Stamkos, this team would be lucky to score at all. 22. Atlanta Thrashers (6-6-1): The Thrashers went 1-2 this week as they continue to play without superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. Rich Peverley leads the team in points and Nik Antropov is still looking for his first goal. Johan Hedberg may be seeing more action soon as Ondrej Pavelec is like an on/off switch in net. He’s either Patrick Roy or Dan Cloutier on any night. 23. New York Islanders (6-6-5): The Islanders got some bad news Wednesday, when Radek Martinek was pushed into the boards awkwardly by Zach Parise and will be out for the season. The Isles are playing some good hockey at home with a 5-2-2 record. Matt Moulson (who?) is tied with John Tavares for the team lead in goals. Dwayne Roloson has looked good in net; Martin Biron has not. 24. Nashville Predators (6-6-1): The injured Preds fell down to Earth in a 1-1 week, losing to the Ducks and beating the Kings on a Southern California swing. Scoring is even more scarce without leading scorer J.P. Dumont, who hasn’t played in November because of an upper-body injury. 25. Anaheim Ducks (6-7-2): Scott Niedermayer won’t get to play his brother Wednesday in New Jersey as Rob is sidelined with an upper-body injury. Ryan Getzlaf (one goal) seems too content to pass. Jonas Hiller remains the number one goalie with J.S. Giguere sidelined with a strained groin, though Giguere is expected to return, at least as a backup, on the four-game road trip. 26. St. Louis Blues (5-6-4): The Blues are closing in on the basement of the Western Conference. It’s not a good sign when your leading scorer is 37-year-old Keith Tkachuk, with nine points in 15 games. Patrik Berglund was a player on everyone’s radar to begin the season but he has been disappointing so far (four points in 14 games). 27. Minnesota Wild (6-10-0): The Wild sit at the bottom of the Western Conference with six wins. If things don’t improve, expect Marek Zidlicky and Andrew Brunette to draw interest from contenders. The Wild now have a four-game road trip with stops in Toronto, Tampa, Washington, and Carolina. 28. Florida Panthers (5-9-1): The Cats got pounded in a home-and-home with Washington this weekend by scores of 4-1 and 7-4. They have four days to regroup before traveling to Boston on Thursday, then returning home Saturday for a date with the Islanders in the “Battle For Relocation Rights!” matchup. 29. Toronto Maple Leafs (3-7-5): The Leafs are out of the Eastern Conference basement and are playing some decent hockey for a change. The Leafs head west this week to face the Wild, Blackhawks and Flames. Phil Kessel has three points in his first three games of the season. 30. Carolina Hurricanes (2-11-3): Guys, I know you like to start off slow and then pick things up later and surprise everyone in the playoffs, but this isn’t funny anymore. The Canes are just flat-out terrible. To make things worse, Cam Ward (gruesome leg cut) is expected out of the hospital Monday and will miss at least four weeks. Also, former Selke winner Rod Brind’Amour is a minus-12. Who saw that coming?
| News/Features | Monday, 09 November 2009 03:15 | Print | PDF
Northeast Division notebook: At the helm of the worst team in the NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson not only got an up-close look Friday night at one of the best teams in the league, the Buffalo Sabres. He also got a glimpse of his new netminder. Well, his goalkeeper for the Olympics, that is. Wilson, the head coach of the U.S. Olympic team, watched his Toronto team (1-8-2) fall 3-2 on Friday night after Tim Connolly netted a power-play goal 1:04 into overtime. On the bright side, Wilson watched Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller make 33 saves. Taking a 1.60 goals-against average and .944 save percentage into Friday night, Miller (8-0-1) has led his squad to a surprising 8-1-1 start. “I’m well aware of how well he’s played this year,” Wilson told reporters before the game. “We expect him to be one of our goalies, if not the starting goalie. “I just hope Buffalo doesn’t wear him out.” The Maple Leafs, who came in with the best power-play unit in the league, finished 0 for 4 with the man advantage on Friday night. Toronto completes a five-game road trip against Montreal on Saturday. BUFFALO Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier announced that rookie defenseman Tyler Myers will stay with the Sabres indefinitely. Regier said on Thursday that Myers, who still has junior eligibility remaining, will “remain with the team for the foreseeable future.” Myers’ three-year, entry-level contract officially began against Toronto on Saturday night. He had two goals and three assists through nine games. … The Sabres are 9-2 in their last 11 games against Toronto, including six straight wins. ... Buffalo defender Toni Lydman missed his third consecutive game on Friday with a groin injury. ... Before returning home to take on the Leafs, the Sabres swept a three-game road trip, including a 4-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night. BOSTON Despite a 2-1 loss to New Jersey on Thursday night that dropped the B’s record to 5-5, the underperforming team was pleased to come 86 seconds away from playing a complete game. “I can’t say I’m disappointed with the way we played but [I’m] definitely disappointed with the outcome, Bruins coach Claude Julien said told the media after his team gave up the game winner to Dainius Zubrus with 1:26 to play. … The first meeting between two original-six teams will be on Sunday, when the Bruins travel to New York for a 1 p.m. showdown with the Rangers. It is the second in a stretch of three games in four nights for Boston. MONTREAL After having a four-game win streak broken by a 6-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night, Montreal looked to get back on its feet with a win against Chicago on Friday. After coming back from a 2-0 deficit, the Habs fell 3-2. Before its win streak, Montreal (6-7-0) had lost five straight. ... Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the date former Montreal goaltender Jacques Plante altered hockey forever. On Nov. 1, 1959, after taking a shot to the nose off the stick of New York Ranger Andy Bathgate, Plante became the first goalie in pro hockey history to wear a mask. OTTAWA The Ottawa Senators fell victim to their own success on Thursday night, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 just two weeks after beating Tampa by a count of 7-1. “We definitely used that as motivation,” Lightning center Steven Stamkos told reporters after scoring two goals and three points.
| News/Northeast | Friday, 30 October 2009 23:18 | Print | PDF
Northeast Division notebook: With the lowly New York Islanders finally picking up their first win of the season Wednesday, a 4-3 shootout victory against Carolina,†the Toronto Maple Leafs remain the only winless team in the NHL. But the mood around the Leafs remained upbeat Thursday as they left for a five-game road trip, including Saturday night’s game against the Canucks, who were 4-5 as of Friday. “It's all about staying positive,” defenseman Mike Komisarek told the Canadian Press. “It's easy to get caught up in the negativity if you follow what the media (are saying). You can’t let it get to you, you have to stay positive. The results haven't been there and you have to build somewhere -- and that starts in practice for us.” The 0-6-1 Maple Leafs flashed smiles and joked around with each other as they packed up for the road trip after wrapping up a four-day stretch of practice that†Leafs coach Ron Wilson tried to keep lighthearted. Wilson reserved time for a 3-on-3 tournament during practice to try to pump life back into his team. But the big question mark remained: Would goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who went through his first full practice Thursday since injuring his groin on Oct. 6, return on Saturday? Wilson told a Toronto radio station†that he had his “fingers crossed” that Gustavsson could play. “It's getting better and better,” Gustavsson told the Canadian Press. “I'm not sure about Saturday. We'll see what happens.” MONTREAL Center Glen Metropolit finally returned to the lineup on Thursday night after missing six games with a rib injury. He collected two assists in a 5-1 victory against the New York Islanders. … The win against the one-win Islanders was an ugly one. New York took seven penalties, turned the puck over 23 times and allowed Montreal to rifle 43 shots at goaltender Martin Biron. …†Team president Pierre Boivin called for a Quebec hockey symposium on Thursday, noting that the province has had a tough time developing its youth players for the NHL. The speech came just after ex-NHL player Bob Sirois released a controversial book arguing that discrimination still exists in the NHL against French-Canadians. BUFFALO Starting the season 5-1-1, the Sabres are leading a charmed season thus far. Despite not scoring in the final two periods against Florida on Wednesday night,†the Sabres still pulled out the victory -- because they registered five goals in the opening 20 minutes of the contest at Bank-Atlantic Center. “We weren’t ready to play,” Florida coach Peter DeBoer told the Miami Herald.†... Playing for the first time in eight days, Thomas Vanek returned from an upper-body injury to score a goal against the Panthers. ... Defenseman Toni Lydman missed practice Friday with a groin strain and could be replaced by Nathan Paetsch in the lineup Saturday in Tampa, the Buffalo News reported on its Sabres Edge blog. BOSTON Daniel Paille has taken quickly to his new home in Boston. After being traded by Buffalo on Tuesday he logged an assist in Boston’s 3-2 victory against Nashville the following day. “It was a little bit of a shock, but I'm also excited at the same time,” Paille told the Boston media after joining the team. “It was just to a point where I wasn’t playing in Buffalo, and Buffalo thought I deserved to play, whether it was with them or with someone else. They thought somebody else, and I'm more than happy to be here. It's exciting for me.” ... Paille is the first player ever to be traded between the two franchises. ... Brad Marchand was recalled from AHL Providence for Wednesday's game and picked up an assist in his NHL debut. OTTAWA The Senators were happy to leave with a point on Thursday night against Nashville after erasing a three-goal deficit in the third period. The 6-5 OT loss improved their record to 5-2-1, putting them tied in the points category (11) at the top of the division with Buffalo.†... G Pascal LeClaire (flu) and F Milan Michalek (upper-body) were doubtful for Saturday's game against Boston, the Ottawa Citizen reported. ... F Jesse Winchester was assigned to AHL†Binghampton on Friday for conditioning. ... D Matt Carkner signed a two-year contract extension on†Tuesday. ... Binghamton Sens†forward†Ilya Zubov, the†club's leading scorer last season,†was loaned to the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.
| News/Northeast | Friday, 23 October 2009 12:47 | Print | PDF
HPT Power Rankings (Week 4) 1. Pittsburgh Penguins (9-2-0): Despite a 4-1 loss at the hands of the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, the Pens are still the best team in the league. They embarrassed the Blues and snuck by the Panthers. Alex Goligoski (nine points) continues to impress on the blue line, and will need to continue this play in the absence of Sergei Gonchar. 2. Calgary Flames (7-2-1): The Flames won both of their games this week — 6-3 over Columbus and 5-2 over Edmonton — in a display of offensive depth. The Flames now boast a 3-0 lead in the Battle of Alberta and a 5-1 record at home. 3. Colorado Avalanche (8-1-2): Tied with the Penguins for the best record in the league, the Avs have yet to descend from the stratosphere. They seem intent on disappointing critics all season long. Darcy Tucker will be out 10 days after receiving a dirty hit from Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu, who was suspended for three games. 4. New York Rangers (7-3-1): Losses to the Sharks (7-3), Devils (4-2) and Canadiens (5-4) this week bring the Rangers back down to Earth. Vinny Prospal’s impressive play is earning some big ice time (20:13). Ales Kotalik (five goals, 11 points) is averaging a point per game. 5. Washington Capitals (6-2-2): The Caps won both games this week without Alexander Semin, who is nursing an illness. Jose Theodore is playing very well in net and seems to be closer to claiming the starting spot. Free-agent signee Brendan Morrison (eight points in 10 games) has been a nice surprise. 6. Chicago Blackhawks (6-3-1): Losing Jonathan Toews for any amount of time will hurt the Hawks; the captain suffered a concussion in a 3-2 loss to the Canucks on Wednesday. Cristobal Huet was excellent in net Saturday in a 2-0 victory over Nashville. 7. Philadelphia Flyers (5-2-1): The Flyers had a two-game win streak halted Sunday night against San Jose, as Brian Boucher spelled Ray Emery for the first time this season. Should Mike Richards have been suspended for his hit on David Booth? Yes. There was a clear intent to injure. 8. New Jersey Devils (6-3-0): The Devils are 5-1 since dropping their first two games, and posted impressive wins this week against the Rangers and Penguins. Injuries are the issue here: Mike Mottau, Jay Pandolfo, and Paul Martin have joined Patrik Elias in the trainer’s room. Elias is due back in two weeks, but the club can’t survive without Martin for long. 9. Buffalo Sabres (6-1-1): The Sabres went 2-0 this week and are now sitting atop the Northeast. Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly are playing well. Derek Roy has yet to score a goal, but is leading the team with seven points, all assists. Ryan Miller is 6-0-1 with a .940 save percentage. 10. San Jose Sharks (6-4-1): Ryan Vesce has four points in his first four NHL games, making a strong case to stay in the league. Now playing his natural center position, Patrick Marleau leads the team with nine goals. Somehow, the Sharks only sit in third place in a competitive Pacific Division. Defense is an area of concern: San Jose is allowing an average of three goals against per game. 11. Ottawa Senators (5-2-2): The Sens suffered two losses this week but gained a point in each, a 6-5 overtime loss to Nashville and a 4-3 shootout loss to Boston. Have Jonathan Cheechoo (two assists) and Ryan Shannon (no points) realized the season already started? 12. Columbus Blue Jackets (6-3-0): The Jackets went 1-2 this week, giving up 16 goals in three games. Steve Mason has a troubling 3.14 goals-against average, while backup Mathieu Garon gave up five goals in a loss at Edmonton. Jakub Voracek is surprising everyone with eight points and a plus-5 rating in nine games. 13. Dallas Stars (5-2-4): If the Stars can get this overtime thing figured out, they’d have one of the best records in the league. James Neal is an impressive youngster and captain Brenden Morrow has 10 points in 11 games. Getting Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen back from IR will only make this team better. 14. Edmonton Oilers (6-3-1): Though they’re generally playing well, the Oilers are going to have to beat the Flames eventually if they want to challenge for the division crown. They’ve lost three times to the Flames already. Edmonton got Luongoed in Vancouver, 2-0 on Sunday night, and faces the surging Avalanche on Tuesday. 15. Phoenix Coyotes (6-3-0): The Coyotes went 1-1 this week and are still playing some good hockey. A total of 7,968 showed up Saturday night to witness a 5-3 loss to the Kings. Fans clearly seem disinterested in keeping their team; Quebec City here we come? 16. Los Angeles Kings (7-4-0): The Kings went 3-0-0 this week to climb atop the Pacific Division. Anze Kopitar has a ridiculous 19 points in 11 games and Ryan Smyth seems comfortable wearing purple. After a questionable start, Jonathan Quick is starting to look like a true number one between the pipes. 17. Boston Bruins (5-4-1): The Bruins went 2-0-1 this week but will be without the services of offensive stalwarts Marc Savard and Mlian Lucic for a while. It’s troubling to see that defenseman Derek Morris is tied for the team lead in scoring. The team has four days off before the Devils come to town on Thursday. 18. Montreal Canadiens (5-5-0): The Habs have brought themselves back to .500 and, in turn, brought some fans back away from the ledge. Mike Cammalleri had a great game in a 5-4 overtime comeback win on Saturday over the New York Rangers. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron is proving to be a solid pickup, with three points in his first three games. 19. Vancouver Canucks (5-5-0): Christian Ehrhoff is proving to be a solid pickup with eight points from the back end. Kyle Wellwood (one assist in 10 games) needs to step it up. Mason Raymond scored twice in a win over Toronto on Saturday. After a slow start, Roberto Luongo has won three straight and finally pushed his save percentage north of .900. 20. Atlanta Thrashers (4-3-1): The Thrashers are another early surprise team that seems to be leveling off. The best news in an 0-2-1 week is that Ilya Kovalchuk seems interested in signing long-term. A rejuvenated Maxim Afinogenov (six points in eight games) has been a big help on offense. 21. St. Louis Blues (4-4-1): Bad news away from the ice during a 1-2 week: T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. David Backes, recently a considered an Olympic squad sleeper, isn’t helping his cause, with just two points in nine games. 22. Detroit Red Wings (3-4-2): The Wings have lost three in a row. Pavel Datsyuk has yet to score this season and Henrik Zetterberg only has one goal. If this is the year the Wings fall from the top, is it time to rebuild? 23. Tampa Bay Lightning (3-3-3): The Bolts went 1-0-1 this week. Vinny Lecavalier got his first goal of the year and Steven Stamkos continues to impress. Alex Tanguay (two assists, no goals in nine games) lacked offers this summer and is helping to confirm opinions among NHL general managers. 24. Anaheim Ducks (3-5-1): The Ducks have lost three in a row at home. Jonas Hiller had been keeping the team afloat, then was pulled midway through a Wednesday loss to St. Louis, then Jean-Sebastien Giguere tweaked his groin Saturday and may have to go on IR. Add that to a list of problems that includes Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and Saku Koivu (one goal each). 25. Carolina Hurricanes (2-5-3): The Canes struggled through an 0-1-2 week. Tuomo Ruutu has been suspended three games by the league for a dangerous, inappropriate hit on Darcy Tucker in Colorado on Friday. Eric Staal only has four points. 26. Nashville Predators (3-6-1): The Preds are not going anywhere this season. They have scored a laughable 18 goals in 10 games. J.P. Dumont is the leading scorer with seven points. Already this year, 27 different players have suited up. 27. Minnesota Wild (3-7-0): The Wild went 2-1 this week, as this team may be turning the corner with Cal Clutterbuck off IR and Chuck Kobasew in from Boston. Martin Havlat’s injury was not serious and remains in the lineup. Clutterbuck had a highlight-reel overtime goal in a win over Carolina on Saturday. 28. New York Islanders (1-4-4): The Isles got their first win of the year in a 1-1-1 week. Carrying their share of the burden, Matt Moulson, John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo are becoming a bona fide top scoring line. The goaltending picture hasn’t cleared up, with duties still being split between Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron. 29. Florida Panthers (2-6-1): The Panthers sit in last place in the division after going 0-2-1 this week. If they don’t get David Booth (concussion) back for an extended period, things will just get worse. Steven Reinprecht leads the team with six points. It may be time to get off the Nathan Horton train. 30. Toronto Maple Leafs (0-7-1): When the consensus is that the Leafs played their best game of the year in a 3-1 loss to Vancouver, it speaks volumes. So do the fans wearing paper bags on their heads. The Leafs’ ECHL-affiliate Reading Royals could probably beat them right now.
| News/Features | Monday, 26 October 2009 04:25 | Print | PDF
Northeast Division notebook: The Boston Bruins might not be giving fans much to cheer about on the ice — they were 3-3 heading into Saturday night's game in Phoenix — but Oliver Wahlstrom has. The 9-year-old has become a YouTube sensation after he scored a dazzling goal during an Oct. 4 “Mini One-on-One” tournament taped at TD Bank Garden. The goal, in which the Maine resident picks the puck up on the side of his blade, spins and then flicks it into the net, appeared on ESPN. It had received more than 300,000 views on YouTube by Saturday. The boy also appeared on the CBS Early Show on Friday. Wahlstrom told the Boston Globe he modeled the move after University of Michigan’s Mike Legg’s 1996 goal in which he carried the puck on his blade before popping it in the net. “I call it ‘The Michigan,’ ” he said. “I just dreamt it up.” MONTREAL Despite having seven men on the ice in the final moments of a 3-2 loss to Colorado earlier this week, the Canadiens couldn’t net the equalizer. The Habs sent out an extra attacker but, when Hal Gill’s penalty ended in the final minute, Gill remained on the ice and the officials didn’t realize the Canadiens had an extra man. ... A similar situation went down in Game 3 of the Staley Cup Finals last year when Pittsburgh had six skaters on the ice for 21 seconds before beating Detroit 4-2.† … It does not appear that the team will discipline Georges Laraque for endorsing an alcoholic energy drink. The Canadiens enforcer appeared in an Internet ad for the drink Octane 7.0 — playing street hockey with scantily clad women — despite the fact the league prohibits players from sponsoring alcoholic beverages other than malt-based beverages, such as beer. The Habs say sanctions will have to come from the NHL, which has not commented on the issue. ... Prime Minister Stephen Harper helped unveil a set of commemorative stamps celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center on Saturday. He was accompanied by hockey legends Rejean Houle and Guy Lafleur and Habs president Pierre Boivin. TORONTO One of two winless teams as of Friday (the Islanders being the other), the Maple Leafs attempted to lighten things up during Thursday’s practice. Coach Ron Wilson introduced activities such as dodgeball with tennis balls and relay races. He also sent players through a length-of-the-ice gauntlet while the rest of the team shelled them with pucks. ... The Leafs did, however, get some good news this week: Thursday was also Phil Kessel's first day back to practice after an injury. ... And some bad news: defenseman Mike Van Ryn will have major knee surgery in late October, removing him from the lineup for the season and possibly ending his career. OTTAWA Milan Michalek collected a hat trick in the most spectacular fashion Thursday night, not just scoring once in each period of a 7-1 victory against Tampa Bay, but by scoring twice short-handed and once on a power play. ... Head coach Cory Clouston told the Ottawa Sun that defenseman Filip Kuba, who has missed five games with a groin injury, was to skate Saturday with an eye towards returning Thursday when the Senators host the Nashville Predators. ... Defenseman Anton Volchenkov had 18 blocked shots through Friday, tied for fourth in the league. BUFFALO The “upper body injury” sustained by standout winger Thomas Vanek kept him out of back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. Vanek left Wednesday’s 6-2 victory against the Detroit Red Wings with 12:46 to go in the second period and did not return. After the game his coach, Lindy Ruff, said it was possible Vanek would be out for “weeks.” ... Ryan Miller ranked second among all starting goalies in goals-against average (1.58) and third in save percentage (.938) through Saturday. The Sabres' eight goals allowed through Saturday were the fewest in the league.
| News/Northeast | Sunday, 18 October 2009 00:00 | Print | PDF
How much movement can there be in the preseason? Ask Theo Fleury. (Last week's rankings in parentheses) 1. Montreal Canadiens (1) The Habs finished out the preseason with a 4-2-1 record. The new faces have made their mark, but Carey Price still remains somewhat of a liability. Scott Gomez, Michael Cammalleri, and Brian Gionta looked solid in the 4-3 win over the Penguins on Sept. 21. 2. San Jose Sharks (4) Manny Malhotra is an underrated signing. He’s a good two-way center that will help the Sharks out on both sides of the puck. Jamie McGinn, 20, has a shot at making the team. Dany Heatley has posted one point, but Patrick Marleau’s effort shows he’s trying to earn the captain’s C back. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins (2) Is Sidney Crosby hurt? He missed the preseason finale with a groin issue. The Pens also only managed to record one victory in six tries, an overtime victory over Columbus on Sept. 15. 4. Vancouver Canucks (10) The Canucks went 7-1-1 in the preseason. They look terrific and Roberto Luongo seems to be on top of his game. This will be a good year in Van City. 5. New Jersey Devils (5) The Devils are 3-0-1, with only a home game against the Islanders remaining in the preseason. Nicklas Bergfors looks like he is going to make the team, as is Yann Danis, who was given the only opportunities to be the backup goaltender. Only time will tell if Rob Niedermayer was a good signing. Either way, the Devils had better pray that Patrik Elias is healthy. 6. Boston Bruins (7) Even though it’ll take some convincing that trading Phil Kessel wasn’t a horrible idea, this team looks built for a strong postseason run. Goal-scoring is the question mark: The Bruins scored more than two goals only twice in eight preseason games; one was a win. 7. Chicago Blackhawks (3) The Hawks have had a less than impressive preseason, though they only played four games through Sunday. They’re now in Europe tuning up for the season opener. While most clubs are close to deciding their opening-night roster, the Hawks still have spots open. 8. Calgary Flames (6) Nothing out of the ordinary in Calgary: After being reinstated by the league, Theo Fleury was given a tryout on the understanding that, if he wasn’t going to be used as a top six forward, he’d be cut. On Friday, he was cut. 9. Philadelphia Flyers (9) Ray Emery had a good preseason, and he better be ready for a full season: Brian Boucher left in the middle of the first period against the Devils on Saturday. If that injury is serious, the Flyers may have a goaltending issue. Other than that, this club looks strong coming into the season. 10. Detroit Red Wings (8) The Wings never had much of a full roster at any time during the preseason, but there aren’t many questions about who will be on it opening night. Questions about their goaltending and speed weren’t answered but youngster Justin Abdelkader has impressed. He was thrown into the fire during the playoffs last year. Let’s see what he can do with a full season. 11. New York Rangers (14) ¬† We may see a very young lineup on opening night. Matt Gilroy. Enver Lisin, and Artem Anisimov look to have played their way onto the team. Marian Gaborik needs to stay healthy. He was very impressive in the games he’s played so far. 12. Washington Capitals (11) Life is good: The Caps went 4-2 in the preseason, and Alex Ovechkin is healthy. Alexander Semin will force people to notice him this year. 13. Anaheim Ducks (16) The Ducks have a very strong team coming into the season. The Chris Pronger trade seemed better for them than for the Flyers on draft day. Strong preseasons by Luca Sbisa and Joffrey Lupul (three goals, second on the team) have only reinforced that. The blue line is fast on a team with some BIG guys. 14. St. Louis Blues (12) The Blues are young, fast and have good leadership in Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk. Maybe everyone will have a career year: Thirteen players are in a contract year. 15. Buffalo Sabres (19) The Sabres haven’t made much noise this preseason. Besides role players Mike Grier and Steve Montador, their roster looks the same as it did last year. Without Ryan Miller in net, the Sabres don’t touch the postseason. With him, they have a chance. 16. Carolina Hurricanes (15) The ’Canes had a short, four-game preseason and went .500. This team has an almost certain opening-night lineup and there should be no surprises here. 17. Dallas Stars (13) Dallas will have up to 14 players looking for new contracts next season, which might be extra motivation for everyone — including goaltender Marty Turco. The Stars will need to score more goals in order to push for a playoff spot. 18. Edmonton Oilers (18) The Oilers have a young and very fast team, but talk about a mediocre preseason: 2-2, 13 goals for, 13 goals against. Nikolai Khabibulin makes this team look more playoff-worthy. 19. Minnesota Wild (20) Martin Havlat is having a lot of fun on his new team. Petr Sykora is also a welcome offensive addition. The Wild will be interesting to watch this year as they look to become stronger on the offensive side of the puck. 20. Ottawa Senators (17) The Sens had two wins this preseason as they looked less than impressive. You can’t judge fully from preseason games, but this team has a long way to go to get back in the playoffs. 21. Columbus Blue Jackets (21) The Jackets had a loaded eight-game preseason schedule; they won four. This gave the staff a good look at some of the young guys, especially 19-year-old Nikita Filatov, who notched a goal and four points in five games. Martin Skoula hopes his efforts (in camp on a Pro Tryout Contract) will result in a spot on the blue line. 22. Los Angeles Kings (22) The Kings can go either way, but have the young talent to really cause some damage. Some, like checking-liner Wayne Simmonds (five preseason games, five goals) look like they’re ready. Goaltending is still a question mark, as neither Jonathan Quick or Erik Ersberg are proven starters. 23. Tampa Bay Lightning (24) Looking past the ownership circus, the Lightning had a decent preseason. For once, there’s enough talent on the roster to challenge in the division. If Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman play above their age, this team will be dangerous. 24. Nashville Predators (27) Although the schedule was light, the Preds looked better than expected in the preseason, winning four out of six. Rookie center Mike Santorelli (two goals, four points in four games) looks ready to be the second-line left wing. 25. Toronto Maple Leafs (26) Ron Wilson, three days before cutting Nazim Kadri: “If I keep Kadri, you guys will say it's a stupid decision. If I send Kadri down, you guys will say it's a stupid decision.” If you insist. … Phil Kessel adds much-needed scoring. Is it enough? Not if Kessel doesn’t suit up until December. 26. New York Islanders (23) All eyes were on John Tavares this preseason. He has one point. Where is DiPietro? (Maybe check the trainer’s room.) Kyle Okposo was the recipient of a Dion Phaneuf flying attack (read: dirty hit), and the Isles hope he’ll recover quickly. 27. Atlanta Thrashers (25) The Thrashers have looked less than impressive with two wins in six tries. Ilya Kovalchuk has the front office wrapped around his finger. Thrasher fans hope that the situation doesn’t make him bigger than the team. If keeping him is going to be such a problem, they should trade him before he becomes a free agent in a Heatley-type deal and stock up on quality players. 28. Florida Panthers (28) There is not enough firepower on the Panthers’ roster. The Southeast Division is getting a lot stronger, and the ‘Cats may have let themselves sink to the bottom. Sixteen goals in seven games? Then again, it’s still the preseason. 29. Colorado Avalanche (29) The Avs are averaging 2.5 goals per game through six preseason games. That’s not enough for a team with a suspect defense and Craig Anderson in goal. 30. Phoenix Coyotes Wayne Gretzky stepped down as head coach. Anyone that thinks this will impact the team negatively forgets that, without skates, Gretzky is just a name. Dave Tippett is a much better coach, but that won’t help things in the desert.
| News/Features | Monday, 28 September 2009 03:40 | Print | PDF
HPT Power Rankings (Week 1) 1. Philadelphia Flyers (2-0-0): Who is this Ray Emery, and what have the Flyers done with the real Ray Emery? He posted an opening-night shutout against Carolina before the Flyers† stormed into New Jersey and convincingly defeated the Devils 5-2. Everyone on this roster is contributing. The problem for the Flyers has almost always been goaltending. If Emery can keep this up, look out. 2. Montreal Canadiens (2-0-0): Trouble for the Habs has started. This time, it isn’t boneheaded plays and locker room turmoil, it’s injuries. Andrei Markov was hurt in the season opener in Toronto and will be out for almost four months. Saturday in Buffalo, Ryan O’Byrne and Glen Metropolit left the game in the second period with injuries. Metropolit may be replaceable, but O’Byrne would be another tough loss. On the bright side, they're 2-0 and no fans are jumping off Mount Royal yet. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins (2-0-0): Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are wasting no time helping the Penguins remind everyone why they are the champs. The Pens won their first two games defeating the Rangers and Islanders 3-2 and 4-3 respectively. Together, Malkin and Crosby have five points in the first two games. Ruslan Fedotenko had two points and played very well against the Islanders. 4. Washington Capitals (2-0-0): Alexander Ovechkin. That is all. Well, there’s more. Alex Semin is also playing some really good hockey. Ovie has three goals and Semin has two in the first two games. 5. Calgary Flames (2-0-0): The Flames looked good in their first two games but, more importantly, did so while flashing some scoring depth. In their 4-3 win over Edmonton on Saturday, David Moss scored twice with Curtis Glencross and Nigel Dawes notched the other goals. Four goals were scored on opening night by people not named Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, or Jay Buomweester, as the Flames defeated Vancouver 5-3. 6. St. Louis Blues (2-0-0): The Blues are for real, handing the Detroit Red Wings two losses in Sweden. Paul Kariya is back with a vengeance, as he looks in top form at age 34. 7. San Jose Sharks (1-1-0): Patrick Marleau was the bright spot in the season opener, as he scored two goals in a 5-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. On Saturday, the Sharks got revenge on a Ducks squad that bounced them from the first round last season. San Jose defeated the Ducks, 4-1, and Dany Heatley (two assists)†and Joe Thornton (goal, assist)†displayed some chemistry. 8. Boston Bruins (1-1-0): The Bruins did not fare well against the Capitals opening night, losing 4-1. They bounced back with a dominant 7-2 win over Carolina. That fares well for the offense on a team with solid defense and goaltending. In the preseason, I questioned the depth of the Bruins. Saturday against Carolina, they had seven different goal scorers. 9. Chicago Blackhawks (1-0-1): The Hawks opened the season in Finland with two games against the Florida Panthers. Antti Niemi was the better of the Hawks goalies, helping his team to a 4-0 victory in game two. The Hawks suffered a shootout loss in the first game. Patrick Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, and Patrick Sharp each had two goals on the trip. 10. New York Rangers (1-1-0): Marian Gaborik impressed critics in his first game with the Rangers, as he scored a goal in a loss to the Penguins. He added another goal and Brandon Dubinsky scored twice in the 5-2 win over the Sens. Michael Del Zotto, the sixth defenseman by default, got a lot of playing time and added a goal Saturday. 11. Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0): The Avs looked pretty good in the early going. Craig Anderson looked like a brick wall in goal, only giving up two goals against a good Sharks team, and shutting out the Canucks on Saturday. Although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, first-round draft pick Matt Duchene played a great game against Vancouver. 12. Detroit Red Wings (0-2-0): Who would have guessed that the Red Wings would have flown to Sweden, the home country of many of their players, and left without a win. Neither Chris Osgood or Ty Conklin were able to backstop the Wings to a win. Will goaltending be a soft spot? 13. Vancouver Canucks (0-2-0): The Canucks are one of the opening weekend surprises — and not a good one. Roberto Luongo is looking awfully human. He gave up five goals on opening night in Calgary and three to the Avs. The Sedin twins have to start picking things up soon. Each had assists in a 5-3 loss to Calgary, and none as the Avs shut out the Canucks 3-0. 14. New Jersey Devils (0-1-0): Marty Brodeur let in five goals in a 5-2 opening-night loss to the Flyers; four were extremely soft. There were a few bright spots, as Brian Rolston and Jamie Langenbrunner had goals and Dainius Zubrus had two assists. Patrik Elias cannot come back soon enough. The Flyers skated circles around the Devils for 60 minutes. 15. Anaheim Ducks (0-1-0): Not much to judge the Ducks by yet. Ryan Whitney scored the only goal in a 4-1 loss to the Sharks, but also had a boneheaded giveaway and a shot blocked that led to San Jose goals in the first period. The Ducks better hope this was an abberation. 16. Buffalo Sabres (0-0-1): The Sabres had only one game this weekend, a 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal. Ryan Miller looked good (as always) and Tim Connolly scored for the Sabres. The questions about offense remain. 17. Dallas Stars (0-0-1): Marty Turco looked solid in an opening-night shootout loss to the Predators. James Neal, who scored twice, might be able to avoid a sophomore slump, but can Mike Modano avoid the IR? Reports out of Dallas are that he'll undergo an MRI on his ribs Monday after being speared in the Nashville game. 18. Edmonton Oilers (0-1-0): Forty-nine seconds away from overtime, the Oilers allowed a goal and dropped their season opener at Rexall Place, 4-3 to the rival Flames. Sam Gagner played a solid game, scoring a goal and winning a fight. But it's the type of loss that stings for a while. 19. Carolina Hurricanes (0-2-0): The Hurricanes have zero wins in two tries to start off the season. In all fairness, they had to play two teams many predicted to run the East: the Bruins and Flyers. Not much good to say about a team that scored twice and gave up nine in its opening weekend. 20. Minnesota Wild (0-1-0): The Wild began life without Jacques Lemaire with a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Will the Wild be able to get on the scoresheet? Nicklas Backstrom will be able to steal a game or two for the Wild, but not if they don't score. 21. Columbus Blue Jackets (1-0-0): The Blue Jackets opened with a 2-1 win over the Wild. Steve Mason was solid in net, R.J. Umberger scored a goal, and newly re-signed Rostislav Klesla added the other tally. 22. Ottawa Senators (0-1-0): The Sens traveled to the Garden to open the season with a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers. Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo were silent — a collective minus-3 — as they try to get acquainted with their new teammates. 23. Nashville Predators (1-0-0): The Preds handed the Stars a 3-2 shootout loss in their season opener. Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan scored, and Dan Ellis got his first win of the year in net. 24. Atlanta Thrashers (1-0-0): The new-look Thrashers scored a 6-3 win over the Bolts. Rich Peverley and Ilya Kovalchuk each scored twice. Anssi Salmela also scored in the first game of his first complete season with the Thrashers. 25. Phoenix Coyotes (1-0-0): The Coyotes are in first place, thanks to a dominant win over a supposedly improved Kings team. Savor it, Glendale. Pay close attention to the attendance in Saturday's home opener. 26. Los Angeles Kings (0-1-0): No one wants to lose to the Coyotes, yet the Kings were embarrassed in a 6-3 loss at Staples Center. They will surely rebound, and hopefully Anze Kopitar will show his full potential soon. 27. New York Islanders (0-0-1): I think more eyes were on John Tavares than on the scoreboard Saturday night, when Tavares scored his first goal in his first NHL game. Dwayne Roloson was handed the loss; look for Martin Biron to get his first shot this week in the battle for the starting spot. 28. Florida Panthers (1-1-0): The Panthers split their series in Finland with the Blackhawks. Tomas Vokoun spent both games in net and looked alternately strong and weak. Florida looked much better in their opener than in a 4-0 loss on Saturday. 29. Tampa Bay Lightning (0-1-0): The Bolts lost their season opener to the Thrashers, 6-3. At least Victor Hedman looked impressive in his first regular-season game on the blue line. 30. Toronto Maple Leafs (0-1-1): With an entire community trying to will this team into the playoffs, scoring depth is shaping up to be a huge issue. Jonas Gustavsson got his first shot in goal in relief of Vesa Toskala on Saturday; he may get a real shot at the starting spot.
| News/Features | Sunday, 04 October 2009 20:00 | Print | PDF
Northeast Division notebook: While Chris Neil has served 1,298 minutes in the penalty box over eight NHL seasons, he’s been on his best behavior through the first three games of the young season. So maybe the fact that the Ottawa forward hasn’t made a trip to the box yet this year is why his coach, Cory Clouston, dismissed Neil's first scuffle of the season: a fight with his own teammate, Jason Spezza, in practice Thursday. “That’s alright,” TSN reported Clouston saying after practice, despite the fact that Neil has fought his own teammates in practice at least two other times. “That’s just intensity … they’ll shake hands and make up.” Indeed, Spezza told the Ottawa Citizen on Friday that "I'll buy him lunch today." It’s not clear why the two forwards feuded but Neil’s two-handed slash to Spezza’s back sent a pretty resounding message. As did the rebuttal from Spezza, who compared to Neil is usually much more mild-mannered. Only spending 302 minutes in the penalty box during seven NHL seasons, Spezza has not visited the box this year either. “I don’t know what happened,” Spezza told reporters. “Sometimes teammates get into it, it’s no big deal. As soon as he dropped the gloves, it was time to get out of there, though.” BUFFALO When the Sabres hosted the Phoenix Coyotes last night at HSBC Arena, many of the players on the home team had empathy for their opponents. While the Coyotes are currently bankrupt, wondering what will happen next and where their next paycheck will come from, the Sabres experienced a similar situation in the 2002-03 season. Henrik Tallinder was a rookie that season and explained to the Buffalo News exactly how hard the year was: “It was confusing times because you look up to older guys on teams — Stu Barnes, Curtis Brown, Jason Woolley, all those guys — and they were confused. When they are confused, it means that you are even more confused as the new guy. ... you walk in and it's like, ‘Oh, now we have a meeting about [bankruptcy].' What you really want to do is just practice and do your normal business.” BOSTON In their first game after signing forward Milan Lucic to a three-year contract on Tuesday, the Bruins suffered an embarrassing 6-1 loss to Anaheim at TD Garden on Thursday night. In their next practice, the Bruins suffered through one of the toughest practices head coach Claude Julien could throw at his team. In-house beat writer John Bishop quoted Julien as saying, “It’s something that needs to be addressed. There’s no doubt about that. You know, both games [including a 4-1 Oct. 1 loss to Washington] have been the result of not handling adversity very well. Until Washington scored, we played well. We were up 1-0.” TORONTO The NHL hit the Maple Leafs with an undisclosed fine earlier this week after it ruled head coach Ron Wilson guilty of tampering while expressing interest in Vancouver forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin before they reached free agency. The league said Wilson referenced the twins in an interview while they were still under contract. They ultimately re-signed with Vancouver. MONTREAL Jonathan Roy, the son of former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy, pled guilty to an assault charge earlier this week and received an absolute discharge. The charge stemmed from a hockey fight last year when Jonathan Roy was a member of the Quebec Remparts. The QMJHL goalie-turned-singer will not have a criminal record. He will have to donate $5,000 to local charitable organizations. He was charged after pounding rival goalie Bobby Nadeau during a brawl in a March, 2008 game.
| News/Northeast | Friday, 09 October 2009 21:02 | Print | PDF

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