Posted on: December 5, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 5:40 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Florida Panthers are off to their best start in years, and they are pretty pumped up for Monday's game against the Washington Capitals.
For one, the Panthers are in the rare position of entering the game ahead of Washington, the team that's owned the Southeast Division for the past four years, in the standings, and it was expected to be a game against their former long-time goalie, Tomas Vokoun.
Vokoun, of course, spent four seasons as the starting goalie in Florida and did a stellar job given the circumstances surrounding him (such as a team that routinely gave up the most shots in the NHL) before signing with the Capitals as a free agent this summer. Over the weekend, the Panthers official website was decorated (and still is as of Monday afternoon) with a page hyping up the matchup in an effort to sell tickets, with a massive picture (seen above) and headline that reads "Battle for first: The return of Vokoun".
Unfortunately for the Panthers, the Capitals didn't get the memo (and probably don't care) as Vokoun is expected to spend Monday's game on the bench while Michal Neuvirth gets the start from head coach Dale Hunter.
So much for that. Of course, it needs to be pointed out that Vokoun has already faced the Panthers this season, stopping all 20 shots for a shutout in a 3-0 win back in October. That game was in Washington. The significance to this game is that it's the first meeting between the two teams this season in Florida.
Said Vokoun, via Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post, “I’m a paid employee and I don’t make those kind of decisions. I’m a hockey player and I’m here to play games.”
“It’s just a choice, there’s not much to explain,” said Hunter.
This isn't the first time this season a coaching decision by the Capitals regarding the starting goaltender made some waves. If you think back to the season opener, former coach Bruce Boudreau opted to start Neuvirth over Vokoun against the Carolina Hurricanes, a game the Capitals would eventually win in overtime.
Following that announcement Vokoun's agent, Allan Walsh, said that decision could be "perceived as a slap in the face."
Both goalies have struggled this season for the Capitals, though Vokoun does have slightly better numbers entering Monday's game with a .909 save percentage in 19 starts, compared to Neuvirth's .878 mark in his nine appearances. Neuvirth started the Capitals' most recent game, a 3-2 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators, so perhaps Hunter just wants to stick with what worked to get him his first NHL win behind the bench.
Vokoun signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Capitals over the summer, shortly after the Panthers signed former Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore to a two-year deal that pays him an identical yearly salary.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 2:36 pm
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Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:21 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 8:54 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Derick Brassard was the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and his career to this point has been a mixed bag of injuries and flashes of ability, all of which has been accompanied by a bit of disappointment.
After setting a career high with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) in 74 games last season, Brassard has struggled this year, recording just four points in 18 games for a Blue Jackets team that currently finds itself at the bottom of the NHL standings. He has been a healthy scratch in recent weeks, and is expected to watch Thursday's game in Calgary from the Press Box as well, which will be the seventh time in the past 10 games.
His agent, Allan Walsh, who has quite a history of making public statements in defense of his clients, ripped Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel on Thursday for his handling of the 24-year-old center.
Said Walsh in a statement, via Puck Rakers: "While I have tremendous respect for (general manager) Scott Howson and the rest of Columbus' management team, the situation regarding Derick Brassard has become untenable. The coach has a history of burying players and using them as scapegoats to mask his own lack of success on the ice. Derick has been singled out, almost from the very beginning of the season, to be the fall guy in case things don't go well. The Columbus organization cares about Derick and has been good to him, but at some point, one has to say, enough is enough."
Blue Jackets general Manager Scott Howson responded with a statement of his own, saying,“Scott has my full support with respect to his decisions on who plays and the handling of our hockey team. We all want Derick to play better and be the player we know he can be. The only person who will impact Derick’s playing time is Derick himself.”
That kind of sounds like a trade demand at the end of Walsh's statement, even though Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch says Walsh made it clear he's not requesting a trade for his client. Hockey Night In Canada's Elliote Friedman, for what it's worth, reports that the Blue Jackets have "tried hard" to trade Brassard with the Ottawa Senators showing interest. That wouldn't be the first time Ottawa has had an interest in one of Columbus' young players in the hopes that a change of scenery could spark something, having previously acquired goaltender Pascal Leclaire and Nikita Filatov.
As it stands right now, the Blue Jackets simply have centers that are better players and more deserving of the ice-time (Antoine Vermette, Jeff Carter, Samuel Pahlsson, Mark Letestu).
Brassard is signed through the end of the 2013-14 season with an average annual salary of $3.2 million.
Photo: Getty Images
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Posted on: October 10, 2011 1:42 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 2:03 pm
By: Adam Gretz
There was some debate over the weekend as to whether or not Calgary Flames defenseman Cory Sarich would be suspended for a hit that left Penguins forward Matt Cooke dazed during Pittsburgh's 4-3 win on Saturday night. The immediate reaction, aside from the surprise that the discussion was taking place with Cooke being on the receiving end of such a hit, was that it would probably be viewed as a full body hit with little chance for any sort of discipline.
In the end, that is indeed what the NHL has determined, and Sarich will be available when the Flames travel to St. Louis on Monday afternoon to take on the Blues.
Gary Meagher, senior vice-president public relations and media, told Steve MacFarlane of the Calgary Sun that Sarich's hit was considered a "full body check" and that even though there was some contact with the head, it was not the principal point of contact, nor was it targeted by Sarich.
The veteran defenseman insisted that he wasn't trying to do anything illegal when he delivered the hit, and also suggested that it was "embellished a little bit."
Meanwhile, Minnesota Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard filed an appeal on his two-game suspension for a stick-swinging incident against the Columbus Blue Jackets over the weeked. That suspension sent Boucard's agent, Allan Walsh, on an epic rant that was directed at Brendan Shanahan for running what Walsh called a "kangaroo court."
The appeal was heard by Gary Bettman Monday morning and was ultimately upheld, meaning Bouchard won't be able to return to the Wild lineup until Thursday when they host the Edmonton Oilers.