Posted on: February 25, 2012 9:21 am
Edited on: February 25, 2012 9:25 am
 

Morning Skate: Caps look to solve road woes

Ovechkin

By: Adam Gretz


The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

CapitalsMaple Leafs7:00 ET, Washington at Toronto

The two teams currently sitting just outside of the playoff picture in the nine and ten spots meet at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night, and both are in need of a crucial two points. The Maple Leafs have lost three games in a row and are struggling to find some consistent goaltending.

The Capitals, meanwhile, are playing in the back end of a back-to-back situation and need to find a way to solve their road woes, as they're a completely different team away from the Verizon Center.

At home, the Capitals have more wins (and a better record) than any other team in the Eastern Conference with a 20-8-2 mark. On the road? Just 10-18-3. The only teams in the East that have fewer road wins are the Lightning and Hurricanes (also Southeast Division teams).

SenatorsBruins7:00 ET, Boston at Ottawa

Who would have guessed back in October that a game between the Bruins and Senators in late February would have an impact on the race for first place in the Northeast Division? Entering Saturday's game in Ottawa the Senators trail the Bruins by just three points in the standings, though, the Bruins do have three games in hand. Still, this is the first of two meetings between the teams this week and they still have another meeting, in Ottawa, on April 5.

Perhaps the Bruins will simply take care of business and open up a more comfortable lead in the division, but Boston has been struggling recently and has only won four games in the month of February. Even worse, the Bruins haven't won consecutive games since Jan 10-12 when they knocked off the Canadiens and Jets in back-to-back games.

The Senators, on the other hand, come into Saturday's game on a roll having won four straight and five of their past six, with the only loss on that stretch coming in overtime against Edmonton. During their recent winning streak they've outscored their opponents 21-4, and defenseman Erik Karlsson has continued to pile up the points, now leading all defensemen with  60.

The issue facing the Senators, however, will be the absence of goaltender Craig Anderson, their workhorse this season, after he injured his hand at home following their most recent win on Wednesday night.

KingsBlackhawks8 ET, Chicago at Los Angeles

As always this season, the question for the Kings comes down to whether or not they can score enough to win. Actually, it's not necessarily a question of whether or not they can score enough to win, but whether or not they can actually score. At all.

In 11 games in the month of February the Kings have scored just 18 goals. Total. That's just 1.6 goals per game, which is ridiculously low, even for a team that's at the bottom of the league in goal-scoring for the season.

Not surprisingly, the Kings have won just three games this month (two of them against Columbus and Tampa Bay, teams currently out of the playoff picture) and only two of their past 10.

Perhaps the reunion of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter is what the Kings need to generate some offense. Any offense.

Others worth watching

1 ET, Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh: The Lightning may not make the playoffs, but Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh will feature Evgeni Malkin going up against Steve Stamkos as the players enter tied for the league lead in scoring.

2 ET, St. Louis at Winnipeg: The Jets look to hold on to their top spot in the Southeast Division and have to do so against one of the best teams in the NHL. Fortunately for the Jets, home ice has been very kind to them this season.

10 ET, Philadelphia at Calgary: Philadelphia needs a win to make up for that ugly loss in Edmonton on Thursday, while the Flames need a win just to keep pace with the other bubble teams in the West.

Your promised miscellany
Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:29 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 11:23 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Capitals, Avalanche, Canadiens



By: Adam Gretz


There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Their 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night was just the fourth win in 11 games during the month of February for the Washington Capitals, and only the fourth time they've scored more than two goals over that same stretch. And it couldn't have come at a better time for the Capitals as they still managed to pull to within two points of regaining the top spot in the always comical Southeast Division, despite what has been a month of less-than-stellar play.

Alex Ovechkin returned to the Washington lineup in the win and blasted a one-timer past Carey Price for his 25th goal of the season, giving him at least 25 goals in each of the first seven years of his career.

Some of the NHL's other winners and losers for Friday night…

Winners

1. Colorado Avalanche: Big win for the Avalanche on Friday night as they keep pace in the Western Conference playoff push with a 5-0 dismantling of the Columbus Blue Jackets. David Jones scored a pair of goals, Semyon Varlamov stopped all 28 shots he faced and the newest Avalanche player, Steve Downie, scored his first goal for the club.

[Related: Avalanche 5, Blue Jackets 0]

2. Dallas Stars: The Stars took over sole possession of the No. 8 playoff spot in the West with a 4-1 win over Minnesota. Dallas raced out to an early 3-0 lead in the second period, chasing Niklas Backstrom after only 23 minutes. Eric Nystrom, a member of the Wild at the start of the season, scored his 16th goal of the year while Tom Wandell added a pair to give him six on the year.

[Related: Stars 4, Wild 1]

3. Chuck Fletcher, Minnesota Wild general manager: Whether or not any of the players  or draft picks Chuck Fletcher received in the trade that sent Marek Zidlicky to New Jersey on Friday is pretty irrelevant at this point. He managed to gain three players and two draft picks for a player that no longer wanted to be in Minnesota (and was playing like it) while team itself had little leverage when it came to trading him.

Oh, and he also cleared a few million in salary cap space for next season. That's a win for the organization, even though the team lost on the ice.

[Related: Zidlicky traded to New Jersey]

Losers

1. Montreal Canadiens: The only positive development to come out of their loss in Washington on Friday night was the fact that Rene Bourque scored a shorthanded goal. Why is this so meaningful? Or even a little meaningful? Because until Bourque scored that goal, the Canadiens had gone more than 12 periods of hockey without scoring a goal against the Capitals, dating back to last season. In their past four games against Washington Montreal has been outscored 11-1. Since the start of last season they've been shutout by the Capitals four times.

2. Calgary Flames social media: I appreciate the rivalry between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. It's one of the great ones in the NHL, and it reached a new level on Friday when an anonymous member of the Flames social media team accidentally sent out a Tweet mocking the proposed contract terms for Oilers forward Ales Hemsky. The Flames acknowledged it, said it was a mistake, don't condone it, and will handle it internally. That's great, but it's not like the Flames don't have their own contracts that would draw a few chuckles from other teams around the league.

[Related: Flames official Twitter mocks Hemsky contract talk -- Oilers re-sign Hemsky]

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 8:58 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 9:02 pm
 

Marek Zidlicky traded to Devils

WildDevilsBy: Adam Gretz

In a move that had been rumored and expected for a couple of weeks now, the Minnesota Wild have traded defenseman Marek Zidlicky to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Kurtis Foster, forwards Nick Palmieri and Stephane Velieux, as well as a pair of draft picks.

Zidlicky has been struggling through one of the worst seassons of his career in Minnesota, and recently sounded off about the number of times he had been a healthy scratch under first-year head coach Mike Yeo. In 41 games this season he's yet to score a goal and has 14 assists, and throughout his career the 34-year-old rearguard has usually been a around 40-point producer from the blue line, providing most of his offense on the power play. Perhaps a change of scenery is what he needs at this point. It certainly can't hurt.

He's signed throug the end of next season and his contract pays him $4 million per year.

Zidlicky is going to a Devils team that could certainly use some offensive production from its defense, as their leading scorer among defensemen this season is 19-year-old rookie Adam Larsson with 16 points in 48 games.

The key player for Minnesota, along with the draft picks and the additional cap space it will save for next season, is probably the 22-year-old Palmieri. He's spent limited time with the Devils over the past couple of years scoring 13 goals in 78 career games.

The Devils acquired Foster in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks earlier this season in exchange for Mark Fraser, Rod Pelley and a seventh-round draft pick. Foster previously spent time with Minnesota from 2005 to 2009.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 7:46 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 7:52 pm
 

Ales Hemsky signs 2-year extension with Oilers

HemskyBy: Adam Gretz

Another potential trade target was pretty much removed from the market on Friday evening as the Edmonton Oilers announced that forward Ales Hemsky has signed a two-year, $10 million extension.

(And yes, that is the exact same term that had been rumored earlier in the day on Friday, prompting a since-deleted comment from the Oilers' main rivals, the Calgary Flames, in a since-deleted Tweet mocking that price.)

Hemsky was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if the two sides did not agree to a new deal, and when combined with Edmonton's current place in the standings it made his name a popular one when it came to trade speculation ahead of Monday's trade deadline.

He's an extremely gifted playmaker and has been a productive player for the Oilers over the years when he's been in the lineup, averaging close to a point-per-game throughout his career. The problem he's consistently run into in recent seasons has been a seemingly never-ending run of injuries that have robbed him of quite a few games over the years.

Entering this season, he had appeared in just 279 of a possible 410 regular season games for the Oilers going back to the start of the 2006-07 season.

He's appeared in 47 games this season for the Oilers and has scored five goals and recorded 21 assists. He's never been a huge goal-scorer, but is a skilled passer and set-up man and has been one of the few bright spots in the Edmonton lineup over the years.

Now that he's signed for the next two years it helps keep together what is now a pretty promising young core of forwards to go with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

Also at Eye On Hockey

The Flames Twitter feed finds Hemsky contract talks amusing

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 6:47 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 6:49 pm
 

Willie Mitchell re-signs with Kings

By: Adam Gretz

Less than 24 hours after adding what should be a key piece to the Kings organization (forward Jeff Carter), general manager Dean Lombardi  managed re-sign another key player (one that was already on the team) on Friday evening by agreeing to a new two-year deal with defenseman Willie Mitchell.

The contract is reportedly worth $3.5 million per season, which is the exact same salary cap hit his previous contract carried.

Mitchell originally joined the Kings prior to the 2010-11 season after spending four years with the Vancouver Canucks, and in his first 112 games with the Kings has scored eight goals to go with 13 assists. His greatest asset (and value to the Kings) is his ability to play as a shutdown defenseman. He logs on average over 21 minutes of ice-time per night, and when he is on the ice the Kings rarely get scored on. This season he has only been on the ice for 1.37 goals against per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, which is the best mark of any defenseman currently on the Los Angeles roster.

It's been quite a busy 24-hour period for the Kings defense, as Jack Johnson was shipped to Columbus in the trade that brought Carter to Los Angeles, which was then followed by Slava Voynov being called up from the American Hockey League.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 6:05 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 6:23 pm
 

Jerred Smithson traded to Panthers

PredatorsPanthersBy: Adam Gretz

For the first time in a quite a while the Florida Panthers are in a position to add players at the trade deadline, and on Friday evening they announced that they have acquired forward Jerred Smithson from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick.

Smithson, 33 has appeared in 53 games for the Predators this season scoring one goal to go with four assists, and gives the Panthers another veteran presence that can play some tough minutes on the penalty kill and win some faceoffs, which is pretty much the message general Dale Tallon passed along in a team statement.

“Jerred is a hard working, responsible, veteran player who plays well at both ends of the ice,” said Tallon. “He is a very good penalty killer, who has consistently ranked among his team’s leaders in face-off win percentage."

Smithson has won over 55 percent of his draws this season and has been over 52 percent every season since 2005-06. He's spent the past seven years with the Predators organization and for his career has 36 goals to go with 56 assists.

He is signed through the end of next season at a salary cap rate of $800,000.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 8:07 pm
 

Flames Twitter laughs at Hemsky contract talk

By: Adam Gretz

The Battle of Alberta reached new levels of insanity on Friday afternoon when the Calgary Flames official Twitter feed sent out a rather interesting tweet regarding some potential contract negotiations between their long-time rivals, the Edmonton Oilers, and one of their top players, forward Ales Hemsky.

The Flames have since deleted the Tweet, but screen shots never go away. So here we are.

Flames

This, of course, was in response to the news that the Oilers were reportedly offering Hemsky a two-year contract extension worth $5 million per season. And again, please keep in mind, this is the official account of the Calgary Flames. The team has since sent out an apology that says, "We apologize for a tweet that was sent out from our account inadvertently. We are looking into the matter."

Our best guess is that it was either an attempt at a direct message that was accidentally broadcast to the entire Internet, or somebody thought they were posting on their personal account as opposed to, again, the official account for an NHL team (Update: The Flames addressed the Tweet later Friday evening and confirmed it was meant for a personal account, while also saying they don't condone that, either). Or perhaps somebody was just trying to George Costanza their way into another job.



For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 3:32 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 3:38 pm
 

Quincey apologizes for comments about Avs

Quincey had five goals and 18 assists with the Avs this season. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Kyle Quincey caused some ripples back in Colorado after the Avalanche traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who then quickly flipped Quincey to the Detroit Red Wings. He talked to Yahoo!'s Nick Cotsonika about life on the trading block and moving on from the Avs.

They came off a bit rough.

“Everyone is ready to get shipped out any day,” Quincey said. “There’s a lot of guys, their bags are packed beside the door, and they wouldn’t be unhappy to go -- trust me. I know I had a big smile on my face, and all the guys were jealous. I think there’s a bunch of guys that were pissed off they weren’t in a package deal.

“I truly believe, if you have confidence in a player, then give it to them, show it to them,” Quincey said. “When there’s so much uncertainty if those guys are going to be there next year, it would be nice for guys to get extensions. But that’s their policy, and that’s what they do.”

Consider the feathers ruffled. But it didn't take Quincey long to backtrack and apologize for his comments, playing the "out of context" card.

“That was taken out of context and I didn’t mean any of that. And the stuff that I said about guys having their bags packed was bad ... but it wasn’t all in Colorado, it was the whole league," Quincey said. “Everyone until Monday at 3 [p.m.] is pretty anxious, not just in Colorado.

“I don’t want to put any of my former teammates in hot soup. I regret saying the stuff that I did, but it wasn’t towards them. Colorado is an unbelievable place to play, I had a great time there, I love it there, I bought a house there, and that’s my home now, so the last thing I want to do is get them upset with me."

I'm not going to skewer the guy here. He was probably a bit excited to get traded from a team fighting for its playoff life to a team that's fighting for a Stanley Cup.

I wouldn't doubt the sincerity of his apology. NHL locker rooms are tight, they spend so much time together and develop strong relationships. No doubt Quincey has some very good friends in that Colorado locker room and that doesn't just disappear the moment he's traded.

I only hope that something like this doesn't make Quincey clam up and become as robotic as most athletes when it comes to quotes and spit cliché after cliché.

By the way, the Avalanche visit Quincey and the Wings on Saturday night. He can mend a few more bridges then if there are any left to be mended.

More from Eye on Hockey

Quincey goes to Wings in three-team deal

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com