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HPT Power Rankings (Week 2) 1. Pittsburgh Penguins (4-1-1): So far, the Pens are avoiding the Stanley Cup hangover. Despite a 2.70 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage, Marc-Andre Fleury is undefeated. 2. Calgary Flames (4-1-0): Rene Bourque leads the team with seven points, but Dion Phaneuf is a minus-4. As a team, the Flames look pretty solid: They won the first two rounds of the Battle of Alberta and defeated the Montreal Canadiens, before dropping a 5-2 decision to the Dallas Stars. 3. New York Rangers (4-1-0): By blanking the Ducks 3-0, the Blueshirts matched the Pittsburgh Penguins and Calgary Flames for most wins in the league. Marian Gaborik leads the team with four goals, two assists and a plus-4 rating in just five games. 4. Philadelphia Flyers (3-1-1): The Flyers improved to 3-0 by defeating Washington on Tuesday. After that, the Orange Crush dropped a 5-4 decision to the Penguins and a 3-2 loss to the Ducks. Jeff Carter is starting to catch fire. He has eight points (four goals, four assists) in the team’s first five games. 5. San Jose Sharks (3-2-0): Why did it take so long for someone to trade for Dany Heatley? The Heater has 10 points in five games. Thursday he scored a hat trick against the Blue Jackets, then he added a goal and an assist in a 4-2 win over Minnesota on Saturday. Joe Thornton also has 10 points (goal, nine assists), and his chemistry with Heatley is looking pretty darn good. 6. Washington Capitals (2-2-1): Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Brooks Laich and Nicklas Backstrom are all producing at least a point per game so far. Backstrom is looking like a top-line center and Ovechkin is on pace for a 164-point season. The starting goalie position is still up for grabs; Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov have that motivation to play 100 percent every night. 7. Chicago Blackhawks (2-1-1): Jonathan Toews has one point in his first four games, and needs to play strong while the Hawks wait for Marian Hossa to make his debut. Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg lead the team with six points each. The Hawks visit Calgary today to see if they can halt the Flames. 8. Columbus Blue Jackets (3-1-0): The Blue Jackets have started off the season strong. They spoiled the white out in Glendale by making sure the Coyote faithful didn’t get to hear the goal horn at all. Rick Nash is leading the way with six points. 9. Ottawa Senators (3-1-0): The Sens are starting to impress in the Canadian capital. Young center Peter Regin has three points in his first four games, as he is covering for the lack of production by Alex Kovalev (1 point), Jonathan Cheechoo (1 point), and Milan Michalek (0 points). 10. Boston Bruins (2-2-0): The Bruins got hammered by the Ducks, 6-1 on Thursday. After that, they erased a 3-0 third period deficit to the New York Islanders before winning in a shootout. Tim Thomas has a goals-against average of 4.00. Michael Ryder and Patrice Bergeron need to step up for the Bruins to climb the divisional ladder. 11. New Jersey Devils (2-2-0): After dropping their first two games to their rivals, Philly and the Rangers, the Devils bounced back to beat the Florida teams. Travis Zajac has been the Devils’ top forward so far, with three goals and strong play on both sides of the puck. 12. Detroit Red Wings (2-2-0): Is age catching up to the Wings? The usual suspects aren’t showing up often on the scoresheet and Kirk Maltby leads the team with three points. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have a combined five points and no goals. 13. St. Louis Blues (2-2-0): The Blues were undefeated in Sweden and are without a win in North America. Keith Tkachuk is providing good leadership and leads the team with six points. 14. Anaheim Ducks (2-2-1): On a supposedly deep offense, too many forwards (Ryan Getzlaf, Todd Marchant, Erik Christensen, Ryan Carter, Andrew Ebbett) have yet to score a goal. The Ducks pounded the Bruins 6-1 last week but were shut out by the Rangers 3-0 at the Garden two days later. Jonas Hiller and Jean-Sebastian Giguere are splitting the goaltending duties so far. 15. Los Angeles Kings (3-1-0): If the kids keep producing at this pace, the Kings will make the playoffs. Anze Kopitar is coming into his own, scoring nine points in the team’s first four games. Drew Doughty and Alexander Frolov are operating at a point per game pace and Jonathan Quick is looking like a solid starter. 16. Vancouver Canucks (1-3-0): The Canucks fell to 0-3 after a loss to Columbus, then embarrassed Montreal by a score of 7-1. But fans have their finger over the panic button again, as Daniel Sedin is out for four weeks with a broken foot. 17. Montreal Canadiens (2-3-0): In case you are visiting Montreal this winter, they have built a new rollercoaster. After starting 2-0, the Habs have lost three straight, including that 7-1 loss to the Canucks. Brian Gionta needs help on the front end. Scott Gomez has three points though five games. 18. Buffalo Sabres (2-0-1): The Sabres are playing some boring hockey to start the season, scoring four goals and letting up three in four games. Derek Roy leads the team with two assists. If Ryan Miller wasn’t playing out of his mind, the Sabres would be in trouble. 19. Dallas Stars (1-0-2): The Stars are facing a Daniel Sedin-less Canucks squad Sunday. James Neal is leading the team in points (4) on a roster that doesn’t seem to be very deep. Nicklas Grossman is plus-6 despite having no points. 20. Edmonton Oilers (2-1-1): Newcomer Mike Comrie is acclimating himself well to Edmonton, leading the team with four points. Losing Sheldon Souray for an extended period of time will be devastating to the blue line. Shawn Horcoff (one point) has yet to get things going. 21. Colorado Avalanche (2-1-1): After starting the season 2-0, the Avs have dropped two straight. But things are looking up: Bernie the St. Bernard has arrived. The team may be terrible, but now everyone has something cute and furry to look at. 22. Carolina Hurricanes (2-3-0): The Hurricanes are on a 2-1 swing after losing their first two games of the season. After having a great playoffs, Eric Staal is struggling with two points in five games. Cam Ward has started every game so far, as the Canes need his steady presence while the rest of the team gets it together. 23. Atlanta Thrashers (2-1-0): Ilya Kovalchuk has five goals in three games. Ondrej Pavelec has played every game in goal so far for the Thrashers. The team has five days off as they wait for the Devils to stroll into Hotlanta at the end of the week. 24. Nashville Predators (2-1-0): 22-year-old Patric Hornqvist is an impressive youngster. He shares the team lead in goals with Jason Arnott (four points). Hornqvist only played 28 NHL games last season, but is looking to win a roster spot for the full year. Dan Ellis (1.92 GAA) and Pekka Rinne (1.02) and going to battle for the starting spot this year. 25. Tampa Bay Lightning (1-1-2): Was it a mistake that neither Martin St. Louis or Vincent Lecavalier participated in the team’s shootout loss to the Devils on Thursday? They don’t have historically impressive shootout stats, but have two of the best pairs of hands in the league. Steven Stamkos is playing like a veteran and is developing a lethal shot while, besides some rookie mistakes, Victor Hedman is looking like a top pairing D-man. 26. Phoenix Coyotes (2-2-0): After a 2-0 start, the Coyotes are now 2-2. They sold out the home opener by promoting it as a “whiteout” — everyone in the stands in white shirts — in support of the club staying in Glendale. But how far will it go toward keeping the team from moving? Radim Vrbata has been the Coyotes' best player so far, with three goals in four games. 27. Minnesota Wild (1-3-0): Things in the State of Hockey aren’t looking so swell to begin the season. Jacques Lemaire might be feeling remorseful if he takes a look at how his old team is doing in the standings. On the bright side, Marty Havlat has five points in four games. 28. Florida Panthers (1-3-0): The Panthers are going through a three-game losing streak, as no one is really stepping up on this club. Scott Clemmensen, who was dealing with a family emergency, will get a chance to prove himself this week. Nathan Horton has zero points in four games and is a minus-4. 29. Toronto Maple Leafs (0-3-1): Some bad signs: Francois Beauchemin is a minus-5 and five players share the team lead with just three points. Their only point came during an overtime loss to the Canadiens on opening night. 30. New York Islanders (0-0-3): The Islanders have yet to have a game decided in regulation, losing thrice by shootout. John Tavares leads the team with 5 points in three games as he is fast becoming the club's best player. Dwayne Rolson and Martin Biron are still battling for the starting spot on the Island. Brendan Witt (minus-5) should be a good shut-down defenseman, but will need to play better for his team to start winning games.
| News/Features | Monday, 12 October 2009 00:51 | Print | PDF
It's that time of year again. Check out our preseason power rankings. 1. Montreal Canadiens This team has been completely revamped. Scott Gomez, Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, Glen Metropolit, Hal Gill and Paul Mara are in, while Saku Koivu, Mike Komisarek and Alexei Kovalev are out. Moen and Georges Laraque will have their work cut out for them — the rest of this team is small but fast. Gomez working with Gionta again might prove to be vital, while Markov is a valuable, underrated defenseman. The Kostitsyn brothers will need to have a good year, and Carey Price will have to block out pressure from media and fans. 2. Pittsburgh Penguins The defending Stanley Cup champs go into this season with a similar team, minus Petr Sykora and Rob Scuderi. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby form one of the most powerful pairs in NHL history, and Marc-Andre Fleury is coming into his own as a solid starting goaltender. 3. Chicago Blackhawks Here’s an interesting offseason: After the franchise posted its best record since 1993, Martin Havlat left to sign a six-year, $30 million deal with Minnesota, Marian Hossa signed for 12 years at an average of $5.2 million per season, and Stan Bowman replaced Dale Tallon as GM. Now, Hossa needs shoulder surgery and rumor has it he’ll be out until December. Losing his firepower puts more pressure on guys like John Madden, who was added to provide a good forecheck and penalty kill. Pressure also falls on a returning defensive unit and new No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet. 4. San Jose Sharks Dany Heatley is in, but losing Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo takes away from the Sharks’ scoring depth. Losing Christian Ehrhoff also doesn’t help the defense. Heatley and Thornton look dangerous on the same line, but makes for a slow pair. Ex-captain Patrick Marleau will have to play solid to keep the front office from trying to trade him. 5. New Jersey Devils The focus is on Brian Rolston and Dainius Zubrus, two players that are getting paid a good amount and both underperformed last year. If they have good seasons, the Devils will have one of the most balanced offenses in the league. Zach Parise and Travis Zajac are one of the best scoring duos around, and Martin Brodeur is still in goal. Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya return to lead an underrated defense, and Jacques Lemaire is back behind the bench — which could prove to be a plus as players leak their true feelings about Brent Sutter. 6. Calgary Flames The Flames have solidified their stance in an always-competitive Northwest Division. They lost Mike Cammalleri in free agency, but won the Jay Boumweester sweepstakes. Adding Brent Sutter looks like a good move — unless players join the chorus coming from New Jersey claiming the coach wasn’t well-liked in the locker room. A solid defensive group is backed by Miikka Kiprusoff in goal. 7. Boston Bruins What were the Bruins thinking by trading their leading goal scorer to Toronto? Phil Kessel isn’t complaining after signing a $27 million with the Maple Leafs, but fans in Boston might be. The Bruins signed Derek Morris to a $3.3 million deal, giving them less than $2 mil of cap space to work with, and forcing their hand on Kessel. Still, the rest of the club is almost identical to the group that claimed the East’s top seed last season, and that’s not a bad thing. 8. Detroit Red Wings In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last season, the Wings looked old, slow, and disinterested. This season should be interesting as Niklas Lidstrom, 39, Kris Draper, 38, Tomas Holmstrom, 36, Kirk Maltby, 36, Brian Rafalski, 35, and Chris Osgood, 36, start showing their age. Detroit picked up Patrick Eaves, Jason Williams and Todd Bertuzzi, but lost Jiri Hudler and Marian Hossa. 9. Philadelphia Flyers The Flyers’ season could hinge on a questionable draft-day trade: Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, and two first-rounders to Anaheim for Chris Pronger. If Daniel Briere is healthy, and Jeff Carter can repeat his breakout season, Philadelphia should be a division contender. The question mark is in goal. Ray Emery has been away from the NHL for a little while and Brian Boucher isn’t a proven playoff goalie. James van Riemsdyk should crack the lineup this year as a very impressive youngster. 10. Vancouver Canucks Re-signing the Sedin twins this summer was the number one priority, but the Canucks got better in other areas, too. Mikael Samuelsson will make the power play much better, and newcomers Christian Ehrhoff, Brad Lukowich and Mathieu Schneider replace Mattias Ohlund’s offense. Roberto Luongo is one of the best goaltenders in the league. 11. Washington Capitals Any team with Alexander Ovechkin will be good, but his supporting cast needs to play well for the Capitals to build on last year. A healthy Michal Nylander and newly acquired Mike Knuble will help the offense. Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin are my players to watch, while Brendan Morrison could also excel as a second- or third-line center. Mike Green could challenge for the Norris Trophy, but the rest of the defense — and goalies Jose Theodore and Simeon Varlamov — can’t let a poor back end ruin the dangerous front. 12. St. Louis Blues The Blues surprised many and made some noise last season before an early playoff exit. They should pick up where last year’s edition left off. T.J. Oshie, David Perron, Patrik Berglund and Erik Johnson round out a solid young core, and make the Blues a fast and scary team to play against. Chris Mason has to be solid in goal. 13. Dallas Stars The Stars look to rebound from a rollercoaster year with a new coach, Marc Crawford, who brings a new system. At least this season there won’t be any distractions from Sean Avery. Hopefully Brendan Morrow, one of the best captains in the game, will stay healthy. Mike Modano is still kicking, and newly acquired Karlis Skrastins will get the chance to help the back end. The season hinges on goalie Marty Turco’s ability to rebound, and Brad Richards proving he is worth his $7.8 million price tag. 14. New York Rangers Another year, another roster turnover. Some of GM Glen Sather’s moves are questionable: His big free-agent pickup, Marian Gaborik, is already injured; Ales Kotalik landed in Manhattan for lack of interest around the league; and restricted free agent Brandon Dubinksy didn’t re-sign until a week into training camp. Not to mention an underachieving Wade Redden signing for $6.5 million. Look for rookie Matt Gilroy to crack the lineup. 15. Carolina Hurricanes Boy, did the Canes put on a show during the playoffs. After upsetting the Devils and Bruins, Carolina added Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward, and Andrew Alberts. Anton Babchuk is an RFA that has not re-signedand is on his way to the Kontinental Hockey League. Losing Dennis Seidenberg is also a blow to the blue line. Cam Ward is another underrated goaltender and can steal any game, but it might not be enough. 16. Anaheim Ducks The Ducks had an active offseason. Losing Pronger is never a good thing but getting two first-rounders, promising 19-year-old Luca Sbisa and Joffrey Lupul makes the Ducks look like bandits in that deal. The Ducks were also able to lure Saku Koivu in with a one-year deal. Evgeny Artyukhin adds some size and Steve Eminger adds some more youth to the blue line. 17. Ottawa Senators The Senators could end up the winners in the Dany Heatley deal by landing Michalek and Cheechoo. They now have a solid top six, rounded out by Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher and Alex Kovalev. The defense is solid, and Pascal Leclaire should work out in net. 18. Edmonton Oilers Being rejected by Heatley may be the best thing that happened to the Oilers this summer. They were prepared to give up the farm with Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano supposedly on their way to Ottawa. Instead, they look like a team that is much better than last year’s version after adding Patrick O’Sullivan, Mike Comrie (again) and Nikolai Khabibulin. 19. Buffalo Sabres Losing Maxim Afinogenov (still unsigned) and Andrew Peters will take speed and size, respectively, off the front end. If Tim Connolly has a concussion-free year, it will help. But scoring depth is a question here, as are the playoffs, despite Ryan Miller’s best efforts in goal. 20. Minnesota Wild This will be their first year without Lemaire behind the bench, so time will tell how they respond to a new coach (Todd Richards) and new system. Havlat is an impressive pickup. Niklas Backstrom has to be solid in net, and the offense has to score goals, which has been a problem for years in St. Paul. Petr Sykora, who signed a one-year contract after being invited to camp, will add some much-needed scoring. 21. Columbus Blue Jackets The Blue Jackets seem to get a tiny bit better each year. Goaltender Steve Mason will try to build his Calder Trophy season. Sammy Pahlsson gives their offense more experience and solid two-way play. Antoine Vermette, starting his first season in Columbus, will get the ice time to put up some big numbers. 22. Los Angeles Kings Adding some veteran leadership to a young core, Ryan Smyth was signed to bolster a weak front end, and Rob Scuderi to add depth to the blue line. Goalies Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg will have to play strong for the defensive-minded Kings to excel. This is a very young, fast team, but the kids are in for a long fight in a tough division. 23. New York Islanders Long Island is an interesting place for hockey. The team is still battling for approval to start building its Lighthouse project; if a new building isn’t approved, the Isles might relocate. For now, fans are raving over number one draft pick John Tavares. Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron were signed as insurance to injury-prone starter Rick DiPietro. 24. Tampa Bay Lightning An Alex Tanguay-Vincent Lecavalier-Martin St. Louis line looks scary. Scoring depth is a bit of an issue, with Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos rounding out the list of potential goal scorers. The defense is very solid with Andrej Meszaros, Ohlund, and No. 2 overall draft pick Victor Hedman. Mike Smith is a solid goalie but still has a lot to prove. 25. Atlanta Thrashers Making Ilya Kovalchuk want to stay is the name of the game in Atlanta. The Thrashers signed Nik Antropov and acquired Pavel Kubina to add some veteran presence. Ron Hainsey was also a solid pickup on the back end last summer. Look for Zach Bogosian and Anssi Salmela to have good sophomore campaigns. 26. Toronto Maple Leafs The Leafs are still in Brian Burke-rebuild mode. Mike Komisarek, Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin, Jeff Finger, Luke Schenn, and Mike Van Ryn round out the top 6 defensemen with Garnet Exelby and Ian White waiting in the wings. The hope is that Kessel adds the scoring depth the team sorely needs. Vesa Toskala has not proven himself the number one starter in goal, and free-agent signee Jonas Gustavsson will look to take his job. 27. Nashville Predators The Preds didn’t make any improvements over the off-season, retaining all their key parts, save Radek Bonk and Greg de Vries. Without any powerful goal scorers outside of Martin Erat and Jason Arnott, this group could be among the Western Conference’s bottom feeders. 28. Florida Panthers Losing Jay Bouwmeester is never easy, but interim GM Randy Sexton tried by bringing in Dennis Seidenberg, Jordan Leopold and Ville Koistinen. Bryan McCabe, Keith Ballard and Bryan Allen round out the blue line. The goaltending should be strong with a duo of Tomas Vokoun and newcomer Scott Clemmensen. Offense is going to be the issue for a squad that’s young and thin on talent. 29. Colorado Avalanche Craig Anderson and Peter Budaj will most likely split the season between the pipes, as neither is a bona fide number one. The offense is young and rebuilding following Joe Sakic’s retirement. Matt Duchene, the third overall draft pick, will likely crack the lineup this year. Defensemen Tom Preissing and Kyle Quincey are new to the club, acquired in the trade that sent Smyth to Los Angeles. 30. Phoenix Coyotes With all the media attention surrounding the team’s bankruptcy, bidding war and possible relocation, it’s hard to take this franchise seriously. Young forwards Kyle Turris, Martin Hanzal and Peter Mueller will have to step up. Defensemen Ed Jovanoski, Jim Vandermeer and Adrian Aucoin were acquired to make life easier on Ilya Bryzgalov, who was inconsistent as the starter.
| News/Features | Monday, 21 September 2009 04:49 | Print | PDF
Northeast Division notebook: The Ottawa Senators not only suffered a humiliating defeat in Philadelphia on Thursday night, it came at the hands of their former goaltender Ray Emery. Emery saved 22 shots in the 5-1 victory and was reportedly glowing afterwards when he spoke to reporters: “Those are fun ones to play but definitely the nerves are going,” Emery said. “It's a different situation. Two good teams and a little personal story for myself. “I think you could see out there, we played an amazing defensive game. The boys I thought were real mindful of that, and sacrificed a bit and then started to roll and buried our chances. “As long as you win, you're satisfied. You can't look too much into things. Just do what you normally do.” Meanwhile, the man who holds Emery’s old post, Pascal Leclaire, put in another uninspired performance. He faced 27 shots in the game and, afterwards, the first time Senators coach Cory Clouston tossed his netminder under the bus. “We've got to find a way not to have that emotional letdown, but tonight it appeared – it seemed to drain some of the emotion, some of the momentum from us, for sure,” he told reporters. “They got that third one early (in the third) and that seemed to (cause us to) lose our momentum, so to speak.” TORONTO Even though the last of its 13 Stanley Cup titles cam in 1966-67, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the most valuable NHL team according to Forbes magazine, at an estimated $470 million. rising five percent in value. Followed by the New York Rangers, the Montreal Canadiens are third on the list, at $339 million. “Despite not winning the Cup in decades and missing the playoffs last year, the Leafs raised ticket prices an average of 3.5 percent for the 2009-10 season and will once again have the highest ticket prices in the NHL,” Forbes said. … D Mike Komisarek’s lower-body injury was officially diagnosed as a “small tear” in a muscle in his “quad” and he could be sidelined for up to three weeks. Komisarek collided with Detroit forward Todd Bertuzzi during Saturday night’s win over the Red Wings. BUFFALO The Buffalo Sabres reassigned goaltender Jhonas Enroth on Thursday to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in to Portland, Maine. The move came a week after Enroth was called up fill in for backup Patrick Lalime, who was nursing a groin injury. In his NHL debut on Saturday, Enroth made 33 saves in a 4-2 loss at Boston. … Jim Lorentz, one of the most recognizable voices in Buffalo Sabres history, was selected to the team’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday. He will be inducted alongside Joe Crozier, who coached the Sabres from 1972-74. BOSTON Boston’s Milan Lucic finally rejoined his teammates on the ice on Thursday after breaking his right index finger on Oct. 16. He has been undergoing solo on-ice sessions to try to restore his leg strength and hopes to return on Thursday against Atlanta. ... After being isolated from his teammates following an H1N1 diagnosis, C David Krejci returned to the lineup Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. ... G Tim Thomas, after losing a 1-0 shootout to Florida on Thursday: "When you win a shootout you feel too good about yourself and when you lose a shootout you feel too bad about yourself." MONTREAL Tomas Plekanec assisted three of the Canadiens’ four goals in a 4-2 victory against the Coyotes on Thursday night that snapped a two-game losing streak. It was also just the third victory in eight games for the Habs. ... Forbes ranks Les Habs as the league's third-most valuable franchise, at an estimated $339 million, writing that "over the years [owner George] Gillett has sucked a lot of cash out of the Canadiens and piled a lot of debt on the franchise." ... The Montreal Gazette notes that the franchise has not won in its vintage red-and-green sweaters, worn in Tuesday's loss to Calgary, since Feb. 28, 1911.
| News/Northeast | Friday, 13 November 2009 17:55 | Print | PDF
HPT Power Rankings (Week 8) Whenever Alex Ovechkin steps on the ice, he is impossible to ignore. In this regard, rankings imitate life: The Capitals jumped over Jersey for No. 2 behind the Sharks this week, thanks to the return of the reigning leaue MVP. Ovechkin also has the Capitals back atop the Eastern Conference standings rather quickly. Could this be their year? 1. San Jose Sharks (16-5-4): The Sharks went 2-1-1 this week and continue to look like the best team in the league. Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and Joe Thornton make up three of the league’s top five scorers. 2. Washington Capitals (13-5-5): The Caps took over first place in the Eastern Conference by beating the Rangers, losing to the Canadiens and dropping a shootout thriller in Toronto. Alex Ovechkin returned to score two more goals, and is tied for second in the league in that category (with 16) despite missing six games. 3. Pittsburgh Penguins (15-8-0): The Pens are back atop the Atlantic Division and are starting to get healthy. Sergei Gonchar and Brooks Orpik returned this week, but Alex Goligoski is now out on a blue line that’s been banged up all year. A three-game road trip started slowly with a loss to Ottawa (6-2) and a narrow 3-2 win in Atlanta. 4. Chicago Blackhawks (14-5-2): Coming into Sunday’s matchup in Vancouver, the Blackhawks are filthy rich with momentum: The team’s won six straight, Marian Hossa has begun practicing, and Cristobal Huet (2.16 GAA) is playing much better in goal. At this rate the ’Hawks will be scary come playoff time. 5. New Jersey Devils (14-6-1): Injuries are finally catching up to the Devils, who went winless against Dallas, Nashville and Philadelphia. Dainius Zubrus (fractured patella) is the newest Devil on the shelf, he’ll miss another four to six weeks following surgery Friday. 6. Colorado Avalanche (13-7-3): Gravity eventually pulls every avalanche down: The Avs went 1-2 this week and are 3-6-1 in their last 10. Rookie Matt Duchene and veteran Marek Svatos are sporting minus-8 and minus-11 ratings, respectively. 7. Calgary Flames (13-6-2): An embarrassing 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks punctuated a stretch that hasn’t seen the Flames win back-to-back games since Nov. 7-10. Thanks to a hat trick in Los Angeles, Jarome Iginla passed Rene Bourque for the team lead in points. The Flames close out November with five games in nine days. 8. Los Angeles Kings (13-9-2): The Kings (1-2 for the week) took a step backward. So did their power play, which allowed an unsightly short-handed goal Saturday to Calgary, and will need serious help with Ryan Smyth out for up to a month with an upper-body injury. 9. Philadelphia Flyers (12-7-1): After defeating the rival Devils and the LA Kings, the Flyers finished out the week with tough losses to San Jose (6-3) and Phoenix (3-1). Besides the injured Simon Gagne, the Flyers remain one of the healthiest teams in the league and have to take advantage of that while other teams are mending. 10. Buffalo Sabres (12-6-2): After a perfect 3-0 week, the Sabres fell a bit this week with an 0-2-1 record including losses to the Panthers, Bruins, and Sens. Ryan Miller can only do so much: Buffalo still does not have a player in double-digit goals yet. 11. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-6-3): The Blue Jackets are sitting in second place, three points back of Chicago, in the Central Division. In their past 10 games Columbus has just one regulation loss, but a tough road trip continues against the Rangers, Canadiens and Sens. As usual, Rick Nash is leading the way with 25 points in 21 games. 12. Phoenix Coyotes (13-9-1): The Coyotes went 2-1-1 this week and remain in third place in the Pacific. Most games have been close for the desert dogs. As other teams get healthy, the Coyotes might find themselves left behind. 13. Detroit Red Wings (11-6-4): The Wings went 1-1-1 this week. Of more concern, their leading blueline scorer, Niklas Kronwall, was on the receiving end of a dirty play Saturday by Montreal’s George Laraque. What appeared to be a knee-on-knee hit knocked Kronwall out of the game, and he’s expected to miss at least four weeks. 14. Dallas Stars (10-6-6): An impressive 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday concluded a 2-1 week. Stephane Robidas had a goal and two assists in the win. The win also came without suspended forward James Neal, who has one more game to serve after his dirty hit in a loss against the Blue Jackets. 15. Ottawa Senators (11-6-3): The Capitals, Devils, Blue Jackets, and Bruins present a tough week for the Sens, who are riding a three-game winning streak. Jason Spezza (one goal) is looking to improve his goal total. 16. Nashville Predators (12-8-1): The Preds went 3-0 this week and have won five games in a row — including head-turning victories over the Sharks and Devils. Suddenly, they’re one point out of eighth place in the Western Conference. 17. New York Islanders (8-8-7): Losses this week to the Blues and Wild (ouch!) left the Isles tied with the Rangers for fourth place in the Atlantic. Reports indicate that Rick DiPietro is inching closer to a possible return, which includes changing his goaltending style to better suit his abilities. Go for it Rick — so far your appearances are limited to “Hockey is for Everyone” ads, running around with little kids in your arms. 18. New York Rangers (11-10-1): Free-agent pickups Vinny Prospal, Marian Gaborik and Ales Kotalik are playing much better than expected, but the team can’t muster enough offense to consistently win games. As a result, they’re 3-7 in their last 10. 19. Vancouver Canucks (12-10-0): The Canucks won their only game this week, a 5-2 rout of Colorado. The light week was good news for an injury riddled lineup; Daniel Sedin is on his way back, which should infuse some much-needed goal scoring. 20. Atlanta Thrashers (10-7-2): The Thrashers are playing .500 hockey lately and can’t seem to get over the hump to become a powerful team in the East. The Sabres must be wondering what happened to Max Afinogenov (20 points in 19 games). Did he play himself out of Buffalo on purpose? 21. Boston Bruins (10-8-4): Patrice Bergeron leads the team with 14 points, the fewest for any team’s leading scorer. Tim Thomas is also having a shaky year as his backup, Tukka Rask, is putting up better numbers. The Bruins will play four games this week. 22. Florida Panthers (10-9-2): The Panthers went 2-0-1 this week as their play has improved vastly. Although the Cats sit in 13th place in the East, they’ve won five of their last six to pull only point shy of a playoff spot. 23. Tampa Bay Lightning (8-5-7): The Bolts went 1-1-1 this week. Steven Stamkos turned heads again with an unbelievable highlight-reel goal in Thursday’s loss to the Ducks. Tampa still has not lost in regulation on home ice despite four extra-time losses. 24. Montreal Canadiens (11-11-1): Scott Gomez missed Saturday’s game, making Glen Metropolit the team’s number-one center by default. Thanks mostly to injuries, the forward lines are never the same for more than a period or two, sapping momentum from a potentially powerful team. 25. Edmonton Oilers (9-11-3): The Oilers are not in good shape, averaging a little more than four goals against in the four games this week. A tough and busy week awaits, with games against the Coyotes, Kings, Sharks, and Canucks. 26. Minnesota Wild (8-12-2): Minnesota started its four-game homestand by splitting a pair of 3-2 games, a loss to Phoenix and a win over the Islanders. Boston comes to town before a home and home with the Avs on the weekend. Martin Havlat (eight points in 19 games) has been a disappointment. 27. Anaheim Ducks (7-11-3): The Ducks are 1-4-1 in the last two weeks and they are not playing good hockey. Jean-Sebastien Giguere has yet to regain his No. 1 spot, and could be the first to go if GM Bob Murray follows through on his threat of a roster shake-up. 28. St. Louis Blues (8-8-4): Trying to remain competitive in a very tough Central Division, the Blues put together back-to-back wins over Phoenix and the Islanders. David Perron’s highlight-reel goal against the Islanders was just part of a streak of six goals in his last six games. 29. Carolina Hurricanes (5-12-5): The ’Canes pulled themselves out of the 30 spot by winning three of their last four. With an injury-depleted lineup, this doesn’t look to last. Ray Whitney leads the team with 15 points. 30. Toronto Maple Leafs (4-11-6): The Leafs went 1-1-1 this week and fell back to the bottom of the rankings. A 2-1 win over the Caps ended a four-game losing streak. When a defenseman, Tomas Kaberle, leads the team in points and only has two goals, that’s ugly. Phil Kessel has eight points in nine games.
| News/Features | Sunday, 22 November 2009 20:25 | Print | PDF
Northeast Division notebook: In a season in which the Buffalo Sabres have sat atop the Northeast Division the entire year, and benefited from the Olympic ambition of goalie Ryan Miller, there are bound to be some stumbles. Taking a three-game win streak into a home meeting with Florida on Wednesday night, Miller let up the most goals he has all season in the 6-2 loss in which the Panthers scored four third-period goals. But pound-for-pound Miller’s season to date has been good enough to earn him the starting job on the Team USA in the upcoming Olympics, according to Sabres general manager Darcy Regier. “I think we've been good from the goaltender on out,” Regier said on The NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman. “It really starts with Ryan Miller. He's been outstanding this season and it's not just the saves he makes, it's the confidence everyone else gets from him making those saves. ... He's led the way in that regard. “We're also getting very good contributions, not just from the veterans, but from young players on the blue line, like Chris Butler and equally important, Tyler Myers, who we drafted a couple of years ago. ... He's 6-foot-8 and 222 pounds, still a skinny young man with a great sense for the game ... and someone who will get a lot of notoriety over the course of his career. “And we are getting great contributions from our forwards.” On Friday night the Sabres looked to avenge one of their stumbles earlier in the season — a 4-2 loss in Boston on Nov. 7 — when they played the Bruins at home, where they were 7-3-1 going into the game. A larger test looms: Buffalo will play its next three on the road, beginning with Saturday's stop in Ottawa. OTTAWA Singer Carrie Underwood will not be moving in with her Senators boyfriend Mike Fisher anytime soon. “Call me old-fashioned. He’s there. I’m here,” Underwood said recently on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “We're both doing our thing and it’s good. The next guy I move in with will be my hubby. Whoever that is. I’m not saying it’s going to be him." Fisher confirmed the news through a Senators spokesman and added that the couple is “very happy together.” ... Ottawa defensemen Chris Phillips collected two goals in his 800th regular-season NHL game in a 6-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. He entered the game with just one goal all season “I’m not expected to, for sure,” Phillips said of his offensive spurt. “It feels good to do it and it felt like one of those high energy games, for us anyways, and it’s nice.” BOSTON Marc Savard practiced for the first time Wednesday morning since aggravating his foot injury last month. But he will likely not be ready for game action until Monday night against St. Louis or Wednesday against Minnesota. “I feel great out there,” the former Thrasher told reporters in Atlanta. “You’ve got to put your time in, tough, like every guy does. They got to skate a couple times. I’d love to be playing here tonight, especially in Atlanta. But I’m going to have to wait a bit.” … Milan Lucic expected to return from a broken index finger injury on Wednesday morning but came down with food poisoning on Tuesday night. He managed to skate 14 shifts in Thursday night’s 4-3 shootout victory against Atlanta. TORONTO A meeting between the NHL’s worst teams on Thursday proved to be of the most exciting games of the season. Toronto (3-11-4) lost a 6-5 heartbreaker in a shootout with the Carolina Hurricanes (4-12-2). Carolina rallied from three goals down before Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen scored in the shootout. ... Toronto scored first on Thursday night for just the time all year. ... Phil Kessel has gained points in six consecutive games, the sixth-longest active streak in the league. Tomas Kaberle sits just behind with points in five straight. MONTREAL The Montreal Canadiens are reviewing their protective equipment after a slate of crippling injuries, with the latest coming to free-agent forward Brian Gionta, who will be out indefinitely with a broken bone in his foot. The team may require players to wear extra protection that goes over skates. … Montreal is 8-1 when scoring first and just 2-10-1 when giving up the first goal. ... C Tomas Plekanec has five assists in the last three games, including two in Tuesday's win over Carolina ... G Carey Price has stopped 83 of 87 shots in his last two starts, including 53 of 55 in a 2-0 loss to Nashville this past Saturday. ... LW Gregory Stewart was assigned to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs for conditioning purposes Thursday. In five games with the Canadiens, Stewart was held pointless with 11 penalty minutes. 
| News/Northeast | Friday, 20 November 2009 20:21 | Print | PDF
HPT Power Rankings (Week 9): This is one of those weeks when you wish you had the BCS on speed dial — not to complain about college football rankings, but for some help sorting out the NHL. Marian Hossa returns and the Blackhawks promptly crush the front-running Sharks, then lose to lowly Anaheim and a depleted Kings squad. So who’s on top now? How about an even-more-depleted Devils squad, for whom injuries are just weakness leaving the roster. 1. New Jersey Devils (17-6-1): The Devils turned in a three-game losing streak for a three game winning streak, even as the injured list keeps growing (David Clarkson will now miss 4-6 weeks with an ankle injury). Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias each had two goals and two assists in a 6-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday. 2. Pittsburgh Penguins (18-9-0) : The Pens went 3-1 this week, finishing with an 8-3 romping of the Rangers on the strength of a Sidney Crosby hat trick. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are both operating at a point-per-game pace. 3. San Jose Sharks (17-6-4): The big three of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau keep on rolling. The team had a collective hiccup against Chicago, losing 7-2 on Wednesday, and needed the shootout to dispatch Edmonton on Friday. 4. Chicago Blackhawks (16-6-2): After causing that minor earthquake in San Jose, the Hawks finished the week with two losses. Marian Hossa scored twice in his debut, but was quiet the next two games. There was some buzz Wednesday that this could be the best team in the Western Conference, but it’ll take more than one game. 5. Washington Capitals (15-5-6): The Caps went 2-0-1 this week. Mike Green may not make the Canadian Olympic squad, but he’s getting some serious Norris consideration (again) with 25 points and a plus-6 rating in 25 games. Semyon Varlamov only has one regulation loss in 13 decisions. 6. Calgary Flames (16-6-3): The Flames stayed atop the Northwest Division with a 3-0-1 week. They have the league’s third-best road record at 9-1-3, while Olli Jokinen (seven points in the last five games) is improving. 7. Los Angeles Kings (15-10-2): Anze Kopitar (one point his last five games) is feeling the consequences of Ryan Smyth’s upper-body injury, having relinquished the title of league’s leading scorer. The Kings finished November with a 2-1 week. 8. Colorado Avalanche (14-8-4): The Avs are slowly coming back down to Earth, posting a 3-5-2 record in their last 10 games. Their 78.9-percent penalty-kill rate ranks 21st in the league. The Avs will look to stop a three-game losing streak on Monday night in Tampa. 9. Buffalo Sabres (14-7-2): For the first time all season, the Sabres surrendered first place for a few days in the Northeast Division (to the Sens). Now tied for first, Buffalo will face the Leafs, Habs, and Rangers. Tomas Vanek (eight goals) is having a disappointing season. 10. Ottawa Senators (13-7-4): The Sens went 2-1-1 this week but remain impressive at home with a 10-3-3 record and have caught the Sabres in the Northeast. Mike Fisher has been out with an upper-body injury and Alex Kovalev has two points since coming off injured reserve. 11. Nashville Predators (15-9-1): The Preds went 3-1 this week. The team is also an impressive 9-3 in November and would be in the playoffs if they started today. This is in spite of, not because of, their offense: Jason Arnott leads the team with seven goals. 12. Boston Bruins (13-8-5): The Bruins went 3-0-1 this week, their only loss coming in a shootout to the Devils on Friday. Patrice Bergeron leads the team in points but has zero in his last three games. His seven goals are only one behind his total from all of last season. Tim Thomas may have lost his starting spot to Tuukka Rask. 13. Philadelphia Flyers (13-10-1): The Flyers went 1-3 this week and would not be in the playoffs if they were to start today. That’s not a good sign for a healthy, highly touted team. Simon Gagne (sports hernia surgery) is, not surprisingly, the team’s biggest injury loss. 14. Vancouver Canucks (14-11-0): After a 1-0 loss to the Blackhawks last Sunday, the Canucks finished the week with a 4-1 win over the Kings and a 7-3 win over the Oilers. Daniel Sedin has a goal and two assists in his first three games back from his foot injury. 15. Dallas Stars (12-7-7): The Stars have played a lot of close games and, if they could win them, would be in much better shape. A 5-2 loss to Phoenix on Friday didn’t help. James Neal has no points in three games following his return from a suspension. 16. Detroit Red Wings (12-9-4): The Wings’ improvement took a step back this week, with one win in four games, including shutout losses to the Thrashers and Flames. Dallas, Edmonton, and New Jersey await. Henrik Zetterberg only has one goal in his last five games. 17. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-9-4): The Blue Jackets have slowed considerably and bring a five-game losing streak into Monday’s matchup with the Blues. Steve Mason’s .890 save percentage and 3.46 goals-against average aren’t what the Jackets got used to last season. 18. Phoenix Coyotes (14-11-1): A sluggish offense rebounded from back-to-back losses in a 5-2 win over Dallas on Friday. Captain Shane Doan had three points in five games entering Sunday’s matchup in Anaheim. The Coyotes are now offering lower-level seats at $25 each for the rest of the season. Tell the front office it’s not the price of the ticket, but the fact that no one wants to invest time and money in a team that might not be around next season. 19. Atlanta Thrashers (13-7-2): The Thrashers won all three of their games this week and Maxim Afinogenov (five points his last five games) is looking like one of the better free-agent pickups of the summer. The Thrashers have a home-and-home with the Panthers next week and a matchup with the New York Islanders. 20. New York Rangers (13-12-1): If the playoffs started today, the Rangers would not be in. Considering that Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal are having exceptional seasons, this doesn’t add up. The Rangers suffered an embarrassing 8-3 loss Saturday on the front end of a home-and-home with the Penguins. 21. New York Islanders (10-10-7): The Islanders were playing some impressive hockey before they were rudely interrupted by a 6-1 loss to the Devils on Saturday. John Tavares (10 goals, 21 points) is a leading Calder candidate. 22. Tampa Bay Lightning (10-6-8): Steven Stamkos (17 goals) is climbing up the league scoring leaderboard. The Bolts went 2-1-1 this week as Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier each have one goal in the team’s last five games. 23. Montreal Canadiens (12-12-2): The Habs went 1-1-1 this week and face the Leafs, Sabres, and Bruins to start a busy December (17 games in 31 days). Tomas Plekanec is having a career year, with 25 points in 26 games. 24. Florida Panthers (10-11-4): The Panthers unveiled their new uniforms, a copy of the Penguins’ baby blues. The team has an abysmal 14 percent power-play success rate. Their 73.4 percent penalty-kill rate is second to last in the league. Nathan Horton has two goals and three assists his last five games. 25. Edmonton Oilers (10-13-4): How long can the Oilers exploit the success of Dustin Penner? He’s got six points in his last five and is tied for sixth in the league in scoring, but the goaltending has been poor and Ales Hemsky is now out for the rest of the season. 26. St. Louis Blues (10-9-5): The Blues went 2-1-1 this week. Defenseman Erik Johnson leads the team in points and has four in his last five games. That doesn’t say much for the rest of the offense. 27. Anaheim Ducks (10-11-3): The Ducks are starting to improve, taking a three-game win streak into Sunday night’s game against Phoenix. They have the league’s fourth-best power play and a decent 6-2-3 record at home. Corey Perry tied a franchise record with a point in 17 straight games on Friday. 28. Minnesota Wild (10-12-3): The Wild swept their home-and-home with the Avalanche this past weekend by scores of 5-3 and 3-2. The Ducks visit the state of hockey Friday before the Wild embark on a home-and-home with the Predators. 29. Toronto Maple Leafs (6-11-7): The Leafs went 2-0-1 this week to pull out of the last spot in the rankings. Phil Kessel is having a terrific season and the Leafs have one of the league’s best power plays. The Sabres, Habs, Jackets, and Bruins are up next in a busy week. 30. Carolina Hurricanes (5-14-5): The Hurricanes have embarked on another fun losing streak — four in a row. Things don’t get any easier, as the Caps and Canucks are the next to come to Raleigh. Ray Whitney has no goals and one point in the last five games but still leads the team with 15 points (ouch).
| News/Features | Sunday, 29 November 2009 23:09 | Print | PDF
Northeast Division notebook:   The Boston Bruins’ surprisingly lopsided loss to Montreal on Friday night didn’t do much for the B’s confidence going into Saturday night’s game against the Maple Leafs in Boston — the first time the B’s would host their former All-Star Phil Kessel since they dealt him to the Leafs.   The 5-1 loss to the Habs also allowed Buffalo to retain possession of first place in the division, which Boston briefly held last week.   “We were just terrible all over,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters after the loss. “I don’t think there’s anybody who played well tonight.”   In the meantime, Kessel has been on fire since getting back on the ice for the Leafs. In only 15 games he has 10 goals and is three behind team leader Niklas Hagman, who has played in 11 more games.   “I expect to get booed but, whatever,” Kessel, who signed a free-agent deal worth $27 million over five years, told reporters on Saturday morning.   He is averaging more than four minutes of ice time per game than he did with the Bruins and is playing on Toronto’s first-unit power play.   “It's a different system,” Kessel said. “I am able to use my skill a little more and just play hockey.”   On Friday afternoon, Kessel said he never wanted to leave Boston, even though Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has said otherwise.   “I never asked for a trade,'' Kessel said. “That never happened. They went a different direction.”   TORONTO   Despite remaining one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Maple Leafs’ off-season overhaul over is starting to pay off. A 6-3 win against Columbus with third-string goalie Joey MacDonald in the net Thursday night marked the Leafs’ fourth win in their last five games. All of those wins were also on the road for a team that has earned points in its last eight games. … The Maple Leafs are ranked second overall in road scoring at 3.5 goals per game and own the fifth-ranked road power play (25.5 percent). … The Leafs traded AHL forward Jiri Tlusty to the Carolina Hurricanes for prospect Philippe Paradis on Thursday. The deal was not only between the NHL’s worst two teams but was also a swap for two first-round draft picks. Tlusty was taken 13th overall in 2006 while Paradis was selected 27th last June. Tlusty has appeared in 74 career NHL games for Toronto over the past three seasons.   OTTAWA   The Senators started a five-game road trip 0-2-1 heading into Phoenix Saturday night and are not likely to have their defensive issues figured out by the time the trip ends Sunday in Anaheim. “Right now, our mistakes are costing us and what happens is you become emotional,” head coach Cory Clouston told the media before a 6-3 loss to the L.A. Kings on Thursday night. “If those don’t go in, you don’t really even think about the little turnover here or there. But right now, they’re going in the back of our net, so they become much more magnified.” … Defenseman Alex Picard, who left Thursday’s game with an undisclosed upper-body injury, was “doubtful” for Saturday’s game against the Coyotes ... Forward Chris Neil was behind schedule in his recovery from a right knee injury. “He's probably another 10 days away,” Clouston told reporters. “It's not coming (along) quite as quick as we thought it would.”   MONTREAL   Continuing its celebration of its centennial season, The Canadiens retired the numbers of Elmer Lach and Emile (Butch) Bouchard during an 85-minute ceremony on Friday night. Lach, who wore No. 16, was a center on the 1940’s legendary Punch Line. Bouchard, who wore No. 3, was a defenseman from 1948-56 and the team’s 14th captain. … The team assigned forward Ryan White to AHL Hamilton on Saturday. The 21-year-old has collected two assists in 13 games.   BUFFALO   The Sabres played without defenseman Chris Butler on Saturday night after he sprained his ankle in Thursday’s game against Montreal and missed practice on Friday. … Buffalo entered Saturday’s game on a penalty-killing tear. They've denied opponents on 39 of 42 power plays since Nov. 11, going from 20th to second in the league in penalty killing over that span.
| News/Northeast | Saturday, 05 December 2009 21:31 | Print | PDF
HPT Power Rankings (Week 10): If Mark Wahlberg ever runs out of story ideas for "Entourage," he need only look to the real lives of three wealthy young men from Chicago. Likewise if Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane ever run out of ideas on how to spend their free time (and all that money), they know what to pop in the DVD player during the next road trip. While the signing of the young superstars on Thurdsay offered the Blackhawks three reasons to look forward, the Canadiens took a day Friday to look 100 years back. In the present? No change at the top. 1. New Jersey Devils (19-7-1): The Devils hold the edge over the Caps for being 3-0-0 in head-to-head play this year. Rob Niedermayer, Jay Pandolfo and Johnny Oduya all have points since their returns. Paul Martin is skating and eyeing a return. 2. Washington Capitals (18-5-6): The Caps went 3-0-0 this week, even with Alex Ovechkin injured and suspended. Alex Semin picked up the slack with six points in his last two games. 3. San Jose Sharks (19-7-4): Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley each have 19 goals, which is just ridiculous at this point of the season. After a 2-1 week, the Sharks sill play the Kings, Stars and Coyotes. 4. Pittsburgh Penguins (20-9-1): The Pens are the league’s only 20-win team. Some of that has to do with a top-heavy schedule, but some is because their depth players are stepping up big time: Mike Rupp scored a hat trick. 5. Chicago Blackhawks (18-7-3): Re-signing Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith long term are positive developments in a league without a salary cap. Add Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell to the mix, and the Hawks will have to give up some promising young talent. 6. Calgary Flames (18-7-3): The Flames went 2-1 this week and are now on top of the Northwest Division. Jarome Iginla is climbing the scoring ladder with 30 points. 7. Los Angeles Kings (17-10-3): The Kings went 2-0-1 this week and are still playing good hockey. Good play and the 2010 Entry Draft being awarded to L.A. is putting the city back on the hockey map. 8. Buffalo Sabres (16-8-2): Ryan Miller (1.85 GAA/.936 save percentage) is a shoo-in to start for Team USA in Vancouver. The Sabres have a tough week ahead with the Devils, Caps, Hawks, and Rangers on the horizon. 9. Colorado Avalanche (16-9-6): The Avs fell from the top of the division but are still playing well. Defense is the main concern; only five teams have allowed more goals against (94). 10. Nashville Predators (16-11-2): Jason Arnott became the first Predator to hit double digits in goals. If they want to be more than a bubble team in the Western Conference, the Preds will need to trade for a scoring winger. 11. Boston Bruins (15-9-5): The Bruins are playing better hockey and Marc Savard is showing why he is so important to this team. Maybe his shiny new contract helped him get back onto the ice. 12. Vancouver Canucks (16-13-0): The Canucks went 2-1 on their eastern road trip. Henrik Sedin has 34 points in 29 games while brother Daniel has 11 points in 11 games. Those twin contracts look better and better every day. 13. Phoenix Coyotes (17-11-1): The Coyotes won all three games they played this week and are determined to show fans that they intend to be competitive all season long. Ilya Bryzgalov is sporting a 2.07 goals-against average. 14. Dallas Stars (13-8-8): The individual efforts are there: Brad Richards, James Neal, Loui Eriksson, Mike Ribeiro, and Brendan Morrow all have over 20 points. Marty Turco and Alex Auld also make up for a pretty solid goalie duo. How come this team can’t string together more than two wins? 15. Atlanta Thrashers (15-8-3): The Thrashers went 2-1-1 this week and remain in playoff position in the East. Strong play from Ilya Kovalchuk, Max Afinogenov, Rich Peverley, Nik Antropov, and Tobias Enstrom have helped, while Johan Hedberg (7-2, 2.24 GAA) is the best backup in the league. 16. Detroit Red Wings (14-10-5): The Wings went 1-0-1 during a weekend in New Jersey and New York. dropping a shootout loss to the Devils before beating the Rangers. Until Johan Franzen gets back, a .500 record might have to be enough. 17. Ottawa Senators (13-10-4): Whenever the Sens take a step forward, they take two back. A shootout win Sunday in Anaheim should be occasion for a nice little slump. 18. Columbus Blue Jackets (13-11-5): The Jackets are struggling big-time, having allowed 105 goals against so far. The only rebound in store for Steve Mason is a long one for the Panthers to bury on Wednesday. 19. Philadelphia Flyers (13-12-1): What happened to these Cup favorites? John Stevens gets canned and the Flyers lose by an embarrassing score of 8-2 against the Caps in Peter Laviolette’s first game behind the bench. 20. St. Louis Blues (12-10-5): The Blues went 2-1 this week while they look to climb the standings in one of the toughest divisions in the league. Defenseman Erik Johnson is leading the team in scoring, one byproduct of not having a marquee scoring line. 21. Tampa Bay Lightning (11-9-8): The Bolts went 1-3 this week. The good news is that Victor Hedman scored his first NHL goals and looks like a true veteran back there — which is more than Alex Tanguay can say at the moment. 22. New York Rangers (14-14-1): The Rangers are just not playing well. Though Brandon Dubinsky remains on the shelf, not even he could cure what ails the rangers: Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto have dropped off, and Michael Roszival is not the player he was expected to be. 23. Montreal Canadiens (13-14-2): A two-hour ceremony and a win on their 100-year anniversary made Friday a special night. The other nights haven’t been so special. 24. Minnesota Wild (13-12-3): Five straight wins moves the Wild up a few spots. They’ll be pressed to keep it up this week against the Coyotes, Avs, Flames, and Canucks. 25. New York Islanders (11-11-7): Rick DiPietro’s knee let up three goals on 13 shots in a rehab start in Bridgeport. Meanwhile, Matt Moulson (14 goals, 22 points) has come out of nowhere to be the team’s number one center. 26. Edmonton Oilers (10-13-4): The Oilers should get an automatic pass every week for what they have had to deal with on the injury front. Only five players have played in every game this year. 27. Florida Panthers (11-13-5): Keith Ballard almost decapitating Tomas Vokoun is about the most exciting thing to happen in Sunrise. The Panthers give up an average of more than 3.3 goals per game, 0.72 more than they allow. 28. Toronto Maple Leafs (8-13-7): The Leafs would certainly be in a better position if they had Phil Kessel (15 points in 16 games) for the whole season. Looks like Brian Burke knew what he was doing with that one. 29. Anaheim Ducks (10-13-5): The Ducks followed a three-game win streak with a five-game losing streak. Teemu Selanne (broken hand) is going to be out for a while and the team cannot get consistency out of either of its goalies. 30. Carolina Hurricanes (6-17-5): Duke is 7-1. Nice.
| News/Features | Monday, 07 December 2009 04:09 | Print | PDF
HPT Power Rankings (Week 11): They say the Secret Service has no margin for error, allowing a pair of uninvited guests into a recent White House party. But what about the NHL's Western Conference? Who handed out playoff invitations to Colorado, Phoenix and Nashville? What are Detroit, Vancouver and Anaheim doing on the outside? This season one loss can really hurt out west, where five non-playoff teams have enough points to be counted among the top eight in the Eastern Conference. The Oilers were the biggest gainers (six spots), have won five in a row – and still would miss the playoffs if they began today.  Fortunately, they don't. Onward ... 1.New Jersey Devils (22-8-1): Niclas Bergfors is second in rookie scoring with eleven goals and 22 points. He and Patrik Elias each had two-goal nights on Saturday as the Devils defeated the Flyers 4-1. 2.Washington Capitals (20-7-6): Despite missing eight games, Alex Ovechkin is fifth in the league in points, second in the league in goals, and second in the league in plus/minus. 3.Pittsburgh Penguins (22-10-1): After starting slow, Sidney Crosby is climbing the leaderboard with 20 goals. The Pens get to see the rival Flyers twice this week in a home-and-home. 4.Chicago Blackhawks (20-8-3): Patrick Kane scored a goal but only logged under five minutes of playing time against the Lightning in a 4-0 victory on Sunday. Turns out he narrowly missed a serious eye injury – good news for the Blackhawks' new $6 million man. 5.Los Angeles Kings (21-10-3 ): The Kings went 4-0 to leap two spots in the rankings and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. Jarett Stoll has five points in five games to help an injury-riddled forward corps, while Jonathan Quick posted a 1.58 GAA and .941 save percentage this week.   6.San Jose Sharks (19-8-7): Going 4-3-3 in the last 10 has cost the Sharks first place in the division – and three spots in the rankings. Joe Thornton is a very generous man with a league-leading 37 assists. 7.Calgary Flames (19-8-4): The Flames are tied for the Northwest Division lead with 42 points. Jarome Iginla has been a true leader in Calgary this year. Jay Bouwmeester is second in the league in time on ice (27:03).  8.Buffalo Sabres (19-9-2): The Sabres went 3-1 this week. Having firmly established they're a one-man team ... did you see Ryan Miller rob Shaone Morrisonn not once, but twice on Wednesday? 9.Phoenix Coyotes (19-11-2): Wow. The Coyotes just won’t go away! The NHL has begun the process of selling the team to Ice Edge Holdings, which wants to continue the team's holding pattern in Glendale. At least they're moving up (four spots) in the rankings. 10.Colorado Avalanche (18-10-6): The Avs have a tough showdown with the Caps on Tuesday. This will be a big measuring stick for the young club. 11.Nashville Predators (18-11-3):  The Preds went 2-0-1 this week, rolling along without a superstar on their roster. Picking up the slack this week is Martin Erat, who has a hat trick and six goals in his last five games. 12.Vancouver Canucks (18-14-0): The Canucks are 2-0 to start their eight-game homestand. The bad news: Sandwiched around the Olympic break lies a 13-game road trip. Vancouver is 6-10 on the road. 13.Boston Bruins (16-9-6): The Bruins are playing good hockey considering how unreliable they've been on offense; Zdeno Chara is second on the team in points.  14.Detroit Red Wings (16-11-5): The Wings went 2-1 this week. Still out of the Western Conference's top eight, they don’t have much room for error. 15.Ottawa Senators (16-11-4): Alex Kovalev had a hat trick Saturday to show his doubters that he is still capable of being a show-stopper. After a 3-1 week, the Sens have the Leafs, Sabres, Devils, and Wild.  16.Atlanta Thrashers (16-11-3): The Thrashers took a step back this week, losing three games. Four games in six days offers a chance for redemption.  17.Dallas Stars (14-8-10): The Stars don’t have a regulation loss this month, although the team may be looking to set a record for overtime and shootout losses. One more, and they'll tie last season's team record of 11. 18.Montreal Canadiens (15-15-3): A weaker Eastern Conference would put the Habs in the playoffs if they began today. Once Andrei Markov and Brian Gionta return from injuries, the team could take off. 19.Columbus Blue Jackets (14-12-6): Hope is fading fast for reigning Vezina winner Steve Mason, who isn't making the rebound many expected. Could the Jackets be in the market for a goalie? 20.Edmonton Oilers (15-13-4): The Oilers have won five in a row to gain six spots in this week's rankings. Their injured list makes that even more impressive.  21.Minnesota Wild (15-14-3): The Wild are in last place in a division in which every team is over .500. Andrew Brunette is goal-less in his last four games. 22.St. Louis Blues (13-12-5): The Blues went 1-2 this week. Be sure to catch Brett Hull’s Hall of Fame night on Tuesday.   23. New York Islanders (12-13-7): Life is good for Islander fans: Their team is in front of the Rangers and Flyers in the standings, and Rick DiPietro is coming back. 24.New York Rangers (14-15-2): The Rangers are having a lot of trouble. Goal scoring is scarce, the defense is suspect, and no one is helping the top point-getters, Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik. Defenseman Matt Gilroy was demoted to Hartford this week.  25.Philadelphia Flyers (14-15-1): Who expected this? The Flyers have been embarrassed in games against Washington and New Jersey since Peter Laviolette took over. No one seems to be taking the leadership reins and Chris Pronger is skating around, looking for a head in which to smash his elbow 26. Florida Panthers (12-14-7): The Panthers proved they can play away from home, beating the Devils 4-2 on Friday night and taking the Penguins to overtime before losing Saturday. Too bad they don’t play like that more often. 27.Tampa Bay Lightning (11-12-9): The Bolts went 0-3-1 this week and are 2-6-2 in the last 10. Steven Stamkos has no points in his last five games.  28.Anaheim Ducks (12-13-7): The Ducks went 2-0-2 this week. Bobby Ryan has seven points in the last five games; he and rookie linemate Dan Sexton (five games, four goals) stepping up since the loss of Teemu Selanne. 29.Toronto Maple Leafs (11-14-7): The Northeast Division is becoming one of the NHL's most competitive and it's a good time for the Leafs to improve. They are 7-3 in their last 10 after posting a 3-1 week.  30.Carolina Hurricanes (7-19-6): It’s common practice to fire the coach when a team is playing this bad. In this case, let Paul Maurice keep his job. Fire the team.
| News/Features | Monday, 14 December 2009 16:25 | Print | PDF
Northeast Division notebook: Nobody seems to be playing particularly well in Montreal these days, not even Sidney Crosby. Despite his team netting the 3-2 victory against the Canadiens on Thursday night, the game marked the third straight in which one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers has failed to collect a point in Montreal. Jason Spezza of Ottawa, and Philadelphia's Jeff Carter, were held off the scoresheet in the Habs' previous two games. The loss also dropped Montreal to 15-15-2 on the season, breaking a three-game winning streak. Mike Cammalleri also had a three-game goal streak ended. Pascal Dupuis scored the winner 13:21 into the third period on a slap shot from the top of the left circle that struck goalie Carey Price’s glove before going into the net. Otherwise, Price stopped 38 shots. "Carey was great,” Cammalleri told reporters afterwards. OTTAWA Brian Elliot made 22 saves for his second NHL shutout as the Senators defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0 on Thursday night. Nick Foligno and Jesse Winchester each scored third-period goals. With 9:30 left, Foligno took a wrist shot from just above the circle and then put his rebound past diving goalie Brian Boucher, who is 1-5-1 in eight career starts against Ottawa. ... Elliott, who posted his other NHL shutout on March 29 against Tampa Bay, was a ninth-round pick in the 2003 NHL draft (291st overall). “I've been under the radar in a lot of places,” Elliott told ... D Alex Picard was set to return Saturday night after resting all week with an upper-body injury. ... With Pascal Leclair on injured reserve with a fractured cheekbone, Elliot has made 10 straight start with Mike Brodeur serving as the backup. BOSTON Six Boston Bruins could still make Olympic teams for their respective countries, including Zdeno Chara for Slovakia, David Krejci for Czech Republic, Marco Sturm for Germany, Tim Thomas for the United States and Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron for Canada. … Dennis Wideman returned to the lineup Thursday night after missing three practices with an upper-body injury. He was injured against the Leafs last Saturday and missed the third period. Wideman, who also missed three games earlier in the year with a shoulder injury, recorded three shots, three blocked shots and one hit in 23:35 of ice time on Thursday night. … Byron Bitz didn’t play Thursday night against the Leafs because he was not feeling well. ... During the Bruins' recent 8-1-1 surge, "we're starting to play more like we did last year as a team and you know, we're starting to get our swagger," forward Mark Recchi told the Bruins' Web site. "We're still not there, but we're getting there. We've got a lot of work to do but we're slowly making our way there." TORONTO For the second time in six days, former Bruin Phil Kessel was shut down by his old mates. Boston’s former 36-goal scorer returned to Boston for the first time since being traded to Toronto in a 7-2 loss on Dec. 5, and once again played in TD Garden on Thursday night in a 5-2 defeat. He had a blank line both nights and has gone four games without scoring a goal. “We did a good job [covering him],” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters after the game. “We know he’s a pure scorer and if you give him room, he’ll score. We reacted well.” ...  Against teams other than Boston, Toronto is 4-0 to start the month of December. ... G Jonas Gustavsson practiced Friday in his comeback from a procedure to correct an elevated heart rate. ... D Tomas Kaberle, the Leafs' leading scorer, is third in the league with 28 assists. BUFFALO The Sabres became the first team in 11 months to shut out Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night. Ryan Miller made 35 saves in the 3-0 victory. … The Sabres ended a five-game homestand on a positive note on Friday night by beating Chicago 2-1. Backup Patrick Lalime made 39 saves for his first win of the season. They finished 3-2-0 on the homestand.  ... F Mike Grier missed the game due to "personal reasons."
| News/Northeast | Saturday, 12 December 2009 00:00 | Print | PDF

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