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Tag:Anze Kopitar
Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:51 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 12:54 am
 

Winners & Losers: Big night for Kings offense

KingsAdam 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.

Winners

Los Angeles Kings: Entering Tuesday's game in Nashville it had been nearly three full months since the Los Angeles Kings scored five goals in a single game, and they managed to do it for the first time since January 9 in a 5-4 win against the Predators thanks in part to a pair of first period goals from Justin Williams.

The Kings offense, which has been the worst in the league for much of the season, is finally starting to show some signs of life in recent weeks and they have now scored 16 goals over their past five games.

Regression to the mean works both ways, and perhaps it was only a matter of time until things started to improve. A team with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty never should be one of the worst offensive teams in recent NHL history, as the Kings have been this season.

[Related Kings 5, Predators 4]

Boston Bruins: It wasn't necessarily pretty, but after losing back-to-back games over the weekend the Bruins were able to get back in the win column on Tuesday night with a 5-4 win in Toronto. The Bruins were led offensively by Tyler Seguin and Jordan Caron, each scoring a pair of goals, and the win allows them to maintain their three-point lead over the Ottawa Senators, 7-3 winners in Tampa Bay, in the Northeast Division race.

The next step for the Bruins is trying to figure out how to do something they haven't done in almost two months … win consecutive games.

They have another chance on Thursday night against Buffalo.

[Related: Bruins 5, Maple Leafs 4]

Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers: For the second straight game Ilya Bryzgalov came up big for the Flyers, stopping 37 of the 39 shots he faced in a 3-2 win over the Red Wings. Max Talbot continued his career year for the Flyers scoring his 18th goal of the season. The only downside of the night for the Flyers was the hit forward Jakub Voracek received from Niklas Kronwall.

[Related: Flyers 3, Red Wings 2 -- Voracek crushed by Kronwall -- Grossmann's name change]

Dallas Stars: The Stars took over sole possession of first place on Tuesday night with an impressive 5-2 win in Vancouver, and in the process completed a perfect three-game road trip through western Canada, a road trip that saw them outscore the Flames, Oilers and Canucks by a 10-5 margin. Thanks to the Coyotes loss in Columbus (more on that below) the Stars now have a two-point lead over Phoenix in the Pacific Division race.

Mike Ribeiro had a three-point night (two goals, assist) in the win and also won over 50 percent of his faceoffs, while Richard Bachman 29 of 31 shots.

Losers

Phoenix Coyotes: After putting together an 11-0-1 run in February some regression had to be expected for the Coyotes at some point. They weren't going to keep winning forever, and even though they entered Tuesday's game riding a three-game losing streak, they showed some signs of busting out of their mini-slump on Monday night.

But that was all erased on Tuesday in Columbus where they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Blue Jackets, losing to the 30th ranked team in the NHL for the second time in less than a week. Those are points you can not let slip away, and the last thing the Coyotes can afford right now is to have this turn into a five or six game losing streak.

[Related: Blue Jackets 3, Coyotes 2 -- For Coyotes, playoffs have already started]

Toronto Maple Leafs: What started as a positive day with the re-signing of forward Mikhail Grabovski ended with not only a loss on the scoreboard to the Bruins, their fifth in a row this season, but also included injuries to forwards Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong, neither of which is expected to play Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Not good.

[Related: Leafs re-sign Grabovski]

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 24, 2012 1:07 am
Edited on: February 24, 2012 1:42 am
 

How the Kings reunited Richards and Carter

CarterRichardsKings

By: Adam Gretz

Between 2005 and 2011 Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were two of the cornerstone pieces of the Philadelphia Flyers organization.

They were both drafted by the team in what turned out to be one of the best draft years the NHL has ever seen (2003). They made their debuts during the same season (2005-06). And for the better part of six seasons they were two of the best players in Philadelphia, until they were both traded last summer in separate deals on the same day, with Richards going to the Los Angeles Kings and Carter being sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

On Thursday night, the two were reunited once again in Los Angeles as the Kings continued to do their part to seemingly move the Flyers westward one player at a time.

In the end, it took three separate transactions involving three teams, six players and four draft picks to make it happen. And here is how it all went down.

June 23, 2011: The Flyers started their massive roster overhaul by trading Carter to Columbus for forward Jakub Voracek, Columbus' first-round pick in 2011 (No. 7 overall, which the Flyers eventually used to select Sean Couturier), and a third-round pick in 2011 (which the Flyers used to select Nick Cousins).

June 23, 2011:Not long after Carter was shipped to Columbus, the other shoe dropped in Philadelphia with the bombshell that Richards, their captain, would be sent to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forwards Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn and the Kings second-round pick in 2012.
NHL Trade Deadline
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February 23, 2012: The Kings reunited Carter and Richards by sending defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick to Columbus in exchange for Carter, just eight months, 39 games and 15 goals after the Blue Jackets acquired him.

When you get right down to it, the Kings traded what amounts to Schenn, Simmonds, Johnson, a second-round draft pick and what very well could be a mid-to-late first-round draft pick for Carter and Richards. That doesn't seem all that outrageous of a price for two big-time, two-way forwards that should be able to provide above average offense and strong defensive play for the foreseeable future. While also being signed long-term (in the case of Carter, very long-term. Through 2022).

Go back one year, Kings fans, and ask yourselves if you would have taken that deal to land both players. It's very possible, if not likely, that none of the players given up will ever be as good as Carter and Richards currently are, and it didn't involve them giving up any of their own franchise players (Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown). 

Of course, that's not to say things haven't worked out OK for the Flyers, as Simmonds is having a breakout year in Philadelphia and Couturier (acquired as part of the original Carter trade with Columbus) looks as if he has a shot to be a really strong player in the future, already playing a decent role for the Flyers as an 18-year-old rookie.

But the team that appears to come out on the short end of it all is the Blue Jackets.

Over the past eight months Columbus has essentially traded Voracek and the draft picks that turned out to be Couturier and Cousins and come away with only Johnson and the aforementioned draft pick from the Kings (which, again, may be at the back end of the first round). With eight months of Carter thrown in the middle. General manager Scott Howson said on Thursday he doesn't regret the initial trade for Carter, just that it didn't work out. And perhaps Carter deserves some (or a lot) of the blame for it not working out better than it did. But at this point, it's hard to look at Columbus and not see a ship that's aimlessly floating around without any real direction.

Also at Eye On Hockey

Carter traded to Kings
Blue Jackets trade Vermette to Coyotes
Lates Nash Dash: Would he fit with Sharks?

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 8:38 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 9:06 pm
 

Jeff Carter traded to Los Angeles Kings

CarterBy: Adam Gretz

The Jeff Carter era in Columbus has come to an end almost as quickly as it began.

The Blue Jackets traded the veteran forward to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round draft pick in either 2012 or 2013. The deal comes just eight months after the team acquired him in a trade from Philadelphia as one of the focal points of their offseason re-tooling.

The deal is contingent on Carter passing a physical on Friday.

“Jeff is a proven goal scorer in our league," said Kings general manager Dean Lombardi in a team statement. "He brings goal-scoring abilities, speed and at his age he is entering the prime of his career.  We also like his versatility as he can play both center and wing. We also want to wish Jack Johnson the best going forward.”

Columbus initially gave up a package of players and picks that turned out to be Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier (the player the Flyers selected with No. 7 overall pick the Jackets sent to the Flyers), as well as a third-round pick. Turning around and trading him this quickly, at what might be his lowest possible value, for a package that on the surface doesn't appear to be as good as the one they gave up for him initially is certainly eye opening.

Prior to this season Carter had scored at least 30 goals in each of the past three seasons, including a career-high 46 during the 2008-09 season. He appeared in just 39 games for the Blue Jackets this year, scoring 15 goals to go with 10 assists. He still has 10 years remaining on his contract that carries a yearly salary cap hit of $5.2 million.

And with that, the firesale is underway in Columbus.

For the Kings, the deal helps to fix their primary area of weakness -- a complete lack of goal-scoring -- as the team is currently the worst offensive team in the league and one of the worst the NHL has seen in recent years. It also reunites Carter and his former teammate in Philadelphia, center Mike Richards, as both players were traded by the Flyers over the summer preceding the addition of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and forwards Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr.

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Even though he's appeared in just 39 games this season, Carter would still be tied for second on the Kings in goals (15) as of Thursday night, only two behind  Anze Kopitar.

The biggest piece going back to Columbus in this deal is Johnson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 draft. He signed a seven-year, $30.5 million contract prior to start of this season, and while he provides a solid amount of offense from the blue line he has had his share of struggles defensively.

This is already the second trade for the Blue Jackets this week, having also sent center Antoine Vermette to Phoenix for goaltender Curtis McElhinney and a pair of draft picks on Wednesday.

Rick Nash's name continues to be the biggest one floating around the rumor mill, and he had been connected to the Kings. At this point it seems that it would be down to either the New York Rangers or San Jose Sharks for his services. Center Samuel Pahlsson is another player on the Columbus Roster that figures to draw a lot of interest before Monday's deadline.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 27, 2012 10:05 am
Edited on: January 27, 2012 12:08 pm
 

Video: Kings players get a fame makeover

By Brian Stubits

There was an article this week in Business Week that listed the Power 100 -- the 100 most powerful figures in sports. On that list, only three hockey players were found (Jonathan Toews 69th, Daniel Sedin 76th and Tim Thomas 86th). That spawned an article from the publication about how the NHL has an identity crisis, referencing the lack of star players to market.

As if in response to that article, Funny or Die put out this video of turning the Los Angeles Kings into famous players, specifically Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Matt Greene (which of those names has the longest odds to make it big?).

Everything from celebrations to Stevie Johnson-type shirts and even Richards rapping. The Richards rap is great -- awful, but great -- however I enjoyed the Doughty jab at Dustin Brown and the backward water bottle, even if it was obvious.

Obviously this is comedy, but the sad part is that a lot of the things they tell those guys to do would, in fact, get hockey more air time on SportsCenter. Hey, the Not Top 10 counts as being on the show, the blooper reel gets more action than game highlights between the Kings and Sharks.

But the celebrity girlfriends item? Unless it's a Kardashian as they say, unfortunately that doesn't even seem to work well for hockey players. Dion Phaneuf, Mike Fisher and Mike Comrie are some of the players who are with celebrities but I'm not sure it has done much to raise their profiles.

Video: Funnyordie.com

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

Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:26 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 10:26 am
 

How the NHL's top scorers have been used

The Kings are relying on Anze Kopitar to do it all. (Getty Images)
Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at how the NHL's have top scorers have been used this season.

By: Adam Gretz


Of all the top scorers in the league this season the most overlooked and underappreciated one of them all might be Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.

Not only because he's their leading scorer (and one of the only players on the team that's actually having a good season offensively) but also because they are asking him to play in every possible situation against the best players on a nightly basis.

More often than not in recent years the player that finishes the regular season as the NHL's leading scorer also tends to take home the Hart Trophy as the league MVP, as has happened in six of the past 10 years. In two of the four years it didn't happen, the Hart went to the player that scored the most goals. That kind of gives you an idea as to what voters are looking at, at least in part -- total production, whether it be goals and/or total points.

Of course, there is a ton of value in a player that scores enough to lead the league in any or both of those categories, and that player is obviously going to be one of the best players in the league. That is, after all, the most basic concept of the game: score goals.

But not all scorers play in situations that are created equal. Some players are put into situations where they can focus entirely on offense (like, say, Henrik and Daniel Sedin).

Others are given assignments that aren't quite as conducive to putting up points because of what might be greater defensive responsibilities, whether it be playing more minutes as a penalty killer, where offensive is nearly impossible to come by, or simply playing more even strength shifts in areas where defense has to take a priority over offense (such as a faceoff in the defensive zone).

Last week we looked at the top rookies that have been given the toughest assignments this season, and this week we're going to take a similar look at how the top-25 scorers in the league (at the start of this week) have been utilized by their teams. The chart below takes into account all five-on-five situations and locates players based on the quality of competition they face, as well as the percentage of their shifts that start in the offensive zone (both numbers via BehindTheNet).

The closer a player is to the top left, the harder the assignments. The closer to the bottom right, the "easier."

This, again, is the top-25 scorers in the NHL at the start of this week.

TopScorers

1) See those two guys way out on the right, all by themselves? Those are the Sedin twins, and it's easy to see what their role is for the Canucks. Along with their regular linemate, Alex Burrows, the Sedin's start a higher percentage of their shifts in the offensive zone than any player in the league (not just among the top scorers, but all players) and there really isn't anybody else that is even remotely close to them.

After Burrows, who again is their linemate, the only other regular player in the NHL that has a mark over 70 percent is Tampa Bay's well known defensive sieve, Marc-Andre Bergeron. And these guys are bordering on the 80 percent mark. This is not a new development for the Canucks, as head coach Alain Vigneault has pretty much always used his players this way, whether it be making sure that the Sedin's are always playing in the offensive zone, or players like Manny Malhotra are always on the ice for defensive zone draws.

Obviously, the Canucks are not the only team that operates this way and puts certain players in certain spots, as most of the top-scorers shown above are used in similar situations (favorable five-on-five roles, a lot of power play time, almost no time on the penalty kill). Though, the Canucks do seem to be the most committed to it, and as I mentioned in this week's Power Rankings, if it weren't for icing calls that forced them to stay on the ice for a faceoff in their own zone, I wonder if the Sedin's would ever be asked to start a shift in their own end of the ice.

2) The MVP campaign for Philadelphia's Claude Giroux is no joke, and if there were any doubts about his ability to take over the No. 1 center role in Philadelphia and play the tough minutes that Mike Richards previously played, well, you can forget about it. He's not only playing the key even strength minutes, he also spends two-and-a-half minutes per game on the penalty kill. And he's still the second leading scorer in the NHL, even with the fact that he's missed four games.

Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk is having a similar season, but we already knew he's capable of that and he's simply continuing to do what he's always done throughout his career -- play unmatched two-way hockey and dazzle with his obscene level of skill.

3) Where would the Kings and Devils be without Kopitar and Patrik Elias this season? Not only are they the top point producers for two teams that have little offense after them, but they have also been doing it under less-than-ideal circumstances for offense, while both spend significant time every night killing penalties for two of the top penalty killing teams in the league. Kopitar, for example, logs 2:28 of shorthanded ice time per game for the Kings, while Elias checks in at just under two minutes per game. Of the 25 players on the scatterplot above, only nine of them play more than one minute of shorthanded ice-time per game. Twelve of them play less than 10 seconds per game.

Does this mean that players like Kopitar and Elias are better than players like the Sedins, or Evgeni Malkin and James Neal? Or having better seasons? Well, no, not exactly, because those guys are still scoring at pretty impressive rates and being relied on to carry their teams offensively. In the cases of Malkin and Neal, for example, they're pretty much the only guys scoring for their team right now, so that can't be underestimated.

It does, however, mean that perhaps the gap isn't quite as big as the point total or goal total would indicate.

It means that a player like Kopitar, who never seems to get much attention as being one of the best players in the league (he's not even an All-Star this season, for whatever that's worth) is probably extremely underrated and underappreciated for what he has done for his team every single night this season, and the way he's gone about doing it.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 12, 2011 6:00 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 8:52 pm
 

Terry Murray replaced by John Stevens

Murray1

By: Adam Gretz

Just hours after reports initially surfaced that the Los Angeles Kings could be the next team to make a coaching change, the front office did just that on Monday evening by announcing that head coach Terry Murray has been relieved of his duties. He will be replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach John Stevens.

Murray was in his fourth year as the team's head coach and had compiled a 139-106-19 regular season record, while qualifying for the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, exiting in the first round each time.

“I don’t think words can ever describe how hard something like this is," said Kings general manager Dean Lombardi during a conference call. "You’re talking about, first off, a really good man. As far as a coach, if you look at what he’s done for us, he really stabilized this franchise, pointed it in the right direction. He taught these players a lot. When they look back, they’re going to realize they learned a lot from him. The team got younger and got better under him. He did a lot for this franchise.’’

After a blockbuster trade over the summer that saw the team acquire top-line center Mike Richards in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Kings were expected to be -- and probably still should be -- one of the top contenders in the Western Conference as he joined a team that already had young Stars Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty. So far, things have not worked as planned as they have stumbled out of the starting gate with a 13-12-4 record that currently has them in fourth place in the Pacific Dividion, ahead of only the struggling Anaheim Ducks.

Making the slow start even more frustrating is the fact the Kings have received excellent goaltending from Jonathan Quick since the season started. The problem, however, has been that the offense, once you get past Kopitar and Richards, has been pretty much invisible in all situations (even strength, power play).

Replacing him on an interim basis is the 45-year-old Stevens who joined the Kings organization last season as an assistant.

He'll be taking over a team that has plenty of talent, and what should be high expectations given the talent at his disposal. Will this be the kick in the rear the Kings need to get things going back in the right direction? And, perhaps more importantly, is Stevens the right person to do that?

He does have previous head coaching experience in the NHL, running things behind the bench in Philadelphia between the 2006-07 season and 2009-10. He replaced Ken Hitchcock early in the '06-07 season and remained on the job until early in the 2009 season when he was replaced by Peter Laviolette. The Flyers then went on to win the Eastern Conference and lose in the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. During his stint with the Flyers the team had a record 120-109-34 under his watch.

But while he's currently behind the bench, he may not be there for long. Speculation has already started that his tenure is going to be a temporary one, and one name that's been mentioned is Darryl Sutter. Lombardi was asked specifically about Sutter and how he's spoke highly of him in the past.

“Like I said, there’s no timeline and we’re looking at all our options. Right now, I think that’s as far as I can comment.’’

This is already the fifth coaching change of the NHL season. Previously, the St. Louis Blues replaced Davis Payne with Hitchcock, while the Capitals, Hurricanes and Ducks all made changes over the past month.

More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel here

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 12, 2011 10:17 am
Edited on: December 12, 2011 11:02 am
 

Report: Kings prepping to fire coach Terry Murray

By Brian Stubits

There have already been four coaches fired this season in the NHL. According to the L.A. Times a fifth could be coming this week.

The report in the Times says the Kings are preparing to fire coach Terry Murray. There is no replacement lined up, so the job would likely go to assistant John Stevens on an interim basis.

At no point were the Kings expected to be fourth in their own division -- which has been subpar as a whole -- and 12th in the Western Conference. Moreover, even with the defensive style that Murray runs, the Kings really have no business being the worst team in the league at scoring. Their 2.24 goals per game is the lowest in the NHL, even below Anaheim.

An offensive cast of Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Simon Gagne, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner supported by Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson should be scoring more. Jonathan Quick can only stop so many shots.

Here is what Brown told the Times over the weekend about the way the team has been playing of late.

"We have to be more desperate right now. We have to be more desperate the rest of the year," Brown said Saturday. "We aren't playing with enough intensity or enough desperation. We are a good team and now we are not playing like one."

That never is a ringing endorsement for a coach. Fair or not, players not playing up to their potential will always fall on the bench boss' shoulders. We've seen it a few times already this season. When a team isn't living up to its potential -- or at least the potential that everybody thinks they have -- it's going to be time for the coach to go.

Fair or not, that's the way it works in sports. It's funny to me that in most professions, if the employees aren't getting the job done, it's them who will be fired. Obviously the world of contracts and high-priced ones at that alter the dynamics, so the manager takes the fall.

Adding to the confounding nature of L.A.'s start, so far they have only played 11 road games compared to 18 at home. You wouldn't figure that bodes too well for a team that would like to catch up in the standings.

But the good news for any new coach that takes over in the case Murray is fired? Despite being 12th place in the Western Conference, the Kings are only three points behind the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes for the Pacific Division lead. That doesn't fit anybody's definition of insurmountable.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: December 2, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 8:42 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Quick on top of his game again

By Brian Stubits

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

It's tough to find a position in sports that lends itself to streakiness more than goaltender in hockey. For some reason, most of them fail to maintain an even balance throughout the course of a season -- Tim Thomas' consistently spectacular play notwithstanding. There season charts resemble roller coasters tumultuous enough to turn even the heartiest rider's stomach.

L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick isn't immune to the turbulence. In the opening month of the season, Quick was absolutely phenomenal. He turned in three consecutive shutouts in mid-to-late October. For his work, he was given a day off on Oct. 25 and that good mojo seemed to vanish.

In his next seven starts and nine of 11, he surrendered at least three goals. Instead of being a large part of why they were winning early in the season, he became a large part of why they were losing. It was a quick reversal of fortunes, if you'll pardon the pun.

But like any streaker -- we're still talking goalies here -- he has reversed course again. Entering Saturday's matinee against the Montreal Canadiens, Quick comes in on a tear. Thanks to a shutout of the Sharks and a nearly flawless 41-save showing against the Panthers, Quick has stopped 74 of the last 75 shots he has seen. Go back a little further and he has actually saved 84 of the last 85 shots.

Here's what Pierre McGuire told an Ottawa radio station about how good Quick was in Thursday's win. "If the kings don't have Quick Florida wins that game. Kevin Dineen's team dominated with speed game".

Yes, he's back on his game. It really is no coincidence, then, that the Kings enter their game against the Habs having earned points in seven of their last 10 games.

They really need him to be the good Quick this season. The Kings have high hopes for this season. Many, myself included, saw them as legitimate threats in the Western Conference race this season. Despite the addition of Mike Richards to some other talented offensive players like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, the Kings aren't going to do a whole lot of scoring. As of now, they are 24th in the league in goals per game with 2.32.

So much more than other goalies, when Quick is playing poorly it shows.

Assuming he'll get the start on Saturday, he'll have a chance to extend his already league-high shutout mark of four. The Canadiens haven't been very good this season, that's obvious. But moreover, they have really struggled on the road. You have to go back four weeks to Nov. 4 to find the last time the Habs won a road game in regulation.

In Kings terminology, that was near the beginning of the bad Quick days.

As a bonus for L.A., if the Kings are victorious, coach Terry Murray will have his 500th career victory.

The Bryz is back in town

When the Flyers visit Phoenix on Saturday Ilya Bryzgalov's arrival will be highly anticipated by the local crowd for the second time this season. Earlier this year he made his first trip to Winnipeg, a city he wasn't too fond of possibly moving to once upon a time. He didn't play in that game.

Now Bryzgalov returns to Phoenix, the city where he did play and left this past offseason. It was with the Coyotes that Bryz built up his reputation as one of the better goaltenders in the league before taking a bigger pay day with the Flyers.

This will be the second time Bryzgalov has faced his former team this season. Before the first meeting in Philadelphia, some of his former teammates had some less-than-kind things to say about Bryz. Derek Morris even admitted to being glad that Bryzgalov was gone.

Everybody knows the Coyotes don't draw a lot of butts to the seats. But this game should have a few more tickets purchases not only because of the abundance of Flyers fans who will be there -- rest assured, they will be -- but likely from a few of the Coyotes fans who just want to boo. Or thank Bryzgalov for his time there. Take your pick.

Welcome back, Bruce

We hardly forget ye.

Anaheim Ducks' coach Bruce Boudreau (looks weird) will make his debut with his new team on Friday with the Philadelphia Flyers in Southern California. One thing we know we'll see, at least to start the game, will be the reunion of Bobby Ryan with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on the top line.

In his final days as coach, Randy Carlyle had been trying to mix and match, trying to find the best results and cure the woes the lack of depth was causing his team. Boudreau, however, restored the top line to its old self and will try to make due.

Remember, when he arrived in Washington he didn't inherit a Caps team with a lot of depth. It was a very similar situation, actually, with some highly skilled forwards. They soared under his leadership. Will the same happen in Anaheim? We'll get the first glimpse on Friday when the Ducks host the Flyers.

Too bad HBO hasn't begun the 24/7 filming yet and depriving us a chance of more Boudreau, if only in a very small sampling.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

In this case, the ranch would be Washington, Boudreau's old stomping ground.

The Capitals enter the third game of the Dale Hunter era still searching for their first win. If the third time's the charm, it will have to come at the expense of the Ottawa Senators, who visit the Caps on Saturday.

They are badly in need of a win, for their confidence if nothing else. The Caps have lost four games in a row and seven of their last nine. They have fallen -- get this -- five points behind the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division, and that's even with the Panthers leveling off in recent weeks.

There has been a whole lot of difference so far for Washington, but they do appear to be focusing more on defense again and the effort has appeared to be better. But right now they just need a win.

Jason Chimera put it better than I can. "We're going to find ourselves packing an early golf bag."

Still searching Part II

Carolina Hurricanes new coach Kirk Muller is in the same boat as Hunter, 0-2 in his NHL career behind the benches. His task, on paper at least, looks a bit tougher than Hunter's.

That's because the 'Canes will host the high-flying Penguins on Saturday night. Not exactly the team you want to see when trying to bust out of a slump.

It has to start with getting the defense squared away. In the Hurricanes' current five-game losing streak, they have given up at least three goals in each game. Tomas Kaberle isn't working out, that's no secret. But that's only part of the defensive woes. The unit continues to leave Cam Ward high and dry in net behind them.

Nobody told Muller this was going to be easy.

More to prove

The St. Louis Blues have been ridiculously good since Ken Hitchcock came aboard. They are 8-1-2 under his leadership.

But Hitchcock is still delaying his excitement for the team's play until their next stretch of games. Starting with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, they will begin playing teams for a second time. That's when you can start to draw some conclusions.

"We're going to get a push," Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "You can surprise a team, but we're now playing a second wave. When we start playing the Chicago's and Detroit's again, now we'll have a look. They'll be ready for us. They won't be surprised by our game

What's shocking about it all is that by the end of the weekend, the Blues -- 14th in the West when Hitchcock was hired -- could be leading the Central Division. With their crisp and disciplined play, that's certainly a possibility.

We're going streaking!

New York Rangers: It took them a few games to get going at the beginning of the season, but when they got going, boy did they. John Tortorella heads back to Tampa Bay with the Rangers having won four in a row.

Blues: In addition to Saturday's game against Chicago, they play the Avalanche on Friday night. That's where they take their four-game win streak.

Detroit Red Wings: All this team does is streak. No seriously, look at their schedule. Like the Blues, they have two games over the weekend, Friday in Buffalo then Sunday at Colorado.

Canadiens: Already mentioned, the Habs go into Los Angeles on Saturday having lost four straight.

Capitals: See above: Caps have lost four in a row headed into Saturday date with Senators.

Hurricanes: Currently at five losses in a row, the Penguins visit next. Ouch.

Edmonton Oilers: With the battle of Alberta looming, the Oilers enter on a three-game skid. They would probably like to have Taylor Hall back.

Photo: Getty Images

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