Posted on: October 4, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 8:06 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Toronto Maple Leafs needed an upgrade in their ability to win faceoffs and on Tuesday afternoon picked up one of the best players in the NHL when it comes to winning draws.
The team announced that it acquired veteran center David Steckel from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in the 2012 NHL draft. The 29-year-old Steckel has played four full seasons in the NHL and every year has steadily climbed the faceoff leader boards, going from 7th in 2007-08, up to 5th in 2008-09, 2nd in 2009-10 and finally to the top of the league this past season, winning over 62 percent of his draws.
His ability to control the puck off the draw is clearly his biggest value, while he typically averages around 12 minutes of ice-time per game and chips in between five and six goals per season. Originally a draft pick of the Washington Capitals, he was traded to New Jersey, along with a second-round pick, in exchange for veteran forward Jason Arnott last season.
Steckel is signed through the end of next season at an average annual salary of $1.1 million. The Maple Leafs have some major questions at center. Tim Connolly, their big free agent signing of the summer, appears to be questionable for the season opener with an upper body injury, while Matthew Lombardi, acquired in a trade with Nashville, is still recovering from a concussion that cost him all but two games of the 2010-11 season. Steckel isn't going to remedy their problems down the middle or be a top-line player, but he does bring some depth and some value as a faceoff specialist.
According to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record, the deal from New Jersey's point of view allows the Devils to open up a roster spot that could be filled by veteran Petr Sykora, who was in camp on a tryout deal, or perhaps a player like Adam Henrique or Brad Mills.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:48 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 4:15 pm
Enjoy this while you can, there's no telling what the Central will look like next season.
One of the premier rivalries in the sport is the Blackhawks vs. the Red Wings. The only two Original Six teams in the West, they have long been fierce combatants. In recent years the Blackhawks have awoken from the doldrums, making this a great series once again.
But this could be it, especially if Detroit has its way. Realignment is coming to the NHL, that much is guaranteed after Atlanta moved to Winnipeg. The Red Wings organization has made it no secret it wants to move East, rivalry with Chicago be damned. Columbus and Nashville would both welcome a move East as well. Something's gotta give, and it will be the Central Division.
It's too bad. Because this year the division is set up to be about more than just these two powers.
Nashville is always sneaky good. People seem to sleep on the Predators every season, but you know they will be there. They are looking to build off the first postseason series win in franchise history with their three Stars in contract seasons. St. Louis seems to think its Blues are ready to make a leap, so long as they can stay healthy. That was a challenge last season. And Columbus? Well there is at least optimism for the first time in a while and some buzz around the team after the addition of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski to join Rick Nash.
But as many strides as those teams have and are taking, in the end it will likely still be about the two powerhouses. That's because the Blackhawks are back. They suffered a little last year after winning the Stanley Cup as they had to shed a lot of salary. That meant jettisoning a good chunk of the team that won the Cup. But the core remained together and the team found its groove in the end, pushing the Canucks to the brink in the first round. But after an offseason of reinforcing the roster, Chicago figures to be in the thick until the end.
And Detroit? The Red Wings are ... well they're just the Wings. It's hard to imagine them not being good. Although this year they don't seem to be as loaded as usual, those are some pretty lofty standards. They will still be a threat not only for the division title but in the Western Conference, they can flat out score. That much we know.
So if this is it as division rivals, it should be fun.
Central Division (in predicted order of finish)
Chicago Blackhawks: Ah, it's nice to be out of salary cap hell, isn't it Chicago? After having to do major salary shedding, the Blackhawks still come out with a cast of characters that includes the names Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and newcomer Andrew Brunette. Throw in Dan Carcillo and Jamal Mayers to give the team some nastiness power and the forwards are well-rounded.
On defense they will miss Brian Campbell, just not his salary. Sure, he is overpaid, but that doesn't mean he didn't bring anything to the table for the 'Hawks. But the defensive corps is still solid, led by Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Expectations are very high in Chicago once again.
Strenghts: It's tough to find a better pair of linemates than Toews and Kane. They are both still stepping into their primes, so they have a lot more to show. Those two are also part of the reason why the power play should once again be successful. Last season the unit ranked fourth in the NHL with the man up, led by Sharp's 12 goals on the power play.
Weaknesses: Depth at center is a major concern at this point. The team has been experimenting during camp with Patrick Kane, of all players, manning the center position. Maybe it's an indictment on the centers on the roster. Perhaps it's an indication of Patrick Sharp's health (or lack thereof). Whatever the reason, it's slightly concerning.
I would also be a little worried about the backup goaltender situation behind Corey Crawford. Alexander Salak is going to have the job and he might be more than adequate in the role, we just don't know much about him at the NHL level where he has little experience.
Detroit Red Wings: The Wings are remarkably consistent as they have made the playoffs in each of the past 20 seasons. They also stay consistent in their roster, retaining a lot of their players over time. Case in point, this year's forward group. The Wings will trot out mostly all the same forwards as a year ago for when they finished second in the NHL in scoring.
But the defensive corps received quite a shakeup after last season's 2.89 goals against average, the retirement of Brian Rafalski and loss of Ruslan Salei.
In net they have Jimmy Howard with Ty Conklin backing him up. You have to wonder how much confidence Ken Holland and Mike Babcock have in their starter Howard, though, after the team had a failed pursuit of Tomas Vokoun.
Strengths: As mentioned, the Red Wings can score, almost all of them. Last season there were 13 players that recorded double digits in goals scored, led by Johan Franzen's 28. There is certainly loads of experience in Detroit, too. These guys aren't in their first rodeos. That especially includes defensive stalwart Nicklas Lidstrom, who put of retirement for another year on the ice.
Having the leadership that players like Lidstrom can provide certainly doesn't hurt. Also, you might have heard this Babcock fellow on their bench isn't so bad.
Weaknesses: Defense, defense, defense. That is the major concern/question mark here. They revamped the D, bringing in Mike Commodore and Ian White through free agency. Young defenseman Jonathan Ericsson received a pretty lucrative new deal, so he will be expected to improve.
In the defensive vein, the goaltending will also need to get better. Of course, that goes hand in hand with the defense, but Howard has room to improve. Playing for the Wings, his record was solid -- a nice 37-17-5 mark -- but the goals against average of 2.79 (36th out of 47 eligible goalies) and save percentage of .908 (33rd best) aren't worth writing home about.
Nashville Predators: Hope is high in Smashville coming off the best showing in franchise history, making it to conference semifinals. The Predators have more or less become the NHL's version of a Moneyball team, continuing to cultivate home-grown talent and win on the cheap.
The team is led by the high-profile trio of goalie Pekka Rinne (Vezina finalist) and defensemen Shea Weber (Norris finalist) and Ryan Suter, who are all going into contract seasons. It will be interesting to see how that plays out for each of them. For some players, it's a major distraction, for others it brings out the best playing for a new deal.
If there's anything we've learned about the Predators in recent years it's not to count them out, at least as long as Barry Trotz is on the bench. Maybe this will be the year he finally wins the Jack Adams as the best coach?
Strengths: The Preds have one of the best defenses in all of hockey. That's due to a multitude of reasons stretching from Trotz's system and philosophy to the outstanding personnel on the blue line -- which might get stronger with the addition of heralded prospect Ryan Ellis -- and the elite goaltending of Rinne. All in all, it led to the team posting the third-lowest GAA a season ago.
The farm system is also a strength, it usually is for Nashville. In addition to Ellis, they have forward Craig Smith, who drew rave reviews by scoring six goals in two games in the team's rookie tournament games.
Weaknesses: You would love to have somebody who is the clear-cut scorer on the team. Unfortunately, the Preds just don't score a lot, period, forget about one player. Only two players (Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist) topped the 20-goal mark with Kostitsyn pacing the team with 23. Perhaps a healthy Mike Fisher can help with that, at least that's the hope.
As you'd expect with low offensive numbers, the power play placed in the bottom five of the entire league a season ago. The leading power-play scorer was Martin Erat last season with seven.
St. Louis Blues: After coming out of the gate firing 9-1-2 last season, the Blues slowed down as the season wore along, eventually missing the playoffs by 10 points partly because the team dealt with a rash of injuries. Despite that finish, there is positive momentum going in St. Louis and the ownership sees it. That's why they left the young core of the team pretty much untouched this offseason, just electing to bring in a couple of savvy veterans in Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott to make an impact.
You can see the potential here, especially with another year under their belts. It will be interesting to see how they fare over a full season with Chris Stewert, who they acquired midseason from Colorado last year. After getting the forward, the Blues' offense saw a big uptick in scoring, eventually finishing 10th in the league.
Defensively they came in just below the median at 18th in the league. The Blues should be in the playoff picture all season long.
Strengths: There is a good amount of individual talent here, starting with Stewart and new captain David Backes. In all, they had six players last season score 20 goals or more and one of them, Andy McDonald, reached that plateau in just 58 games. With the abundance of talented and skilled skaters this is a team with plenty of speed up and down the lineup.
Weaknesses: We weren't entirely sure where to put goaltending in this equation since Jaroslav Halak had some struggles in his first season as a No. 1 goaltender. However he showed what he's capable of when he was with the Canadiens. But based on his just average numbers of a season ago and the unsure situation behind him (Ben Bishop vs. Brian Elliott), we'll put this as our best guess.
Another area where the Blues are lacking is in the physicality department. You wonder where exactly the toughness will come from.
Columbus Blue Jackets: What is that coming from Columbus? Is that hope? Why yes, I think it is. GM Scott Howson was active this summer by bringing in Wisniewski and Carter along with Vinny Prospal and Radek Martinek on the blue line. In addition to signing new players, Howson was also busy in signing his current players to long-term deals, specifically R.J. Umberger and Fedor Tyutin.
Yes, the Jackets are spending money, that's not the problem. What is is the matter of how bang for the buck they are getting. To put it in perspective, the Jackets currently have a higher payroll than the Boston Bruins. The hope is that it translates into success, and a few more fans at the turnstiles as Columbus was 27th in the league in attendance last season.
Strenghts: They have struggled to score recently, but that should be done with, or at least minimized. They have a true No. 1 center now in Carter, which should only further help Nash show he is one of the best players people don't talk about in the NHL. The power play, perhaps Columbus' biggest bug-a-boo in recent seasons, should be significantly better now that they have a quarterback for the unit in Wisniewski (when he's back from suspension) and two very capable scorers up front. It had to get better from last year's 29th-ranked unit.
Weaknesses: Did somebody say goaltending? This is one area where the Blue Jackets didn't do a whole lot of upgrading. Instead, they elected to give the starting reins back to Steve Mason and signing the inexperienced Mark Dekanich to be his backup. Since winning the Calder as the league's top rookie, Mason has struggled. Last season he had a 3.01 goals against average and .901 save percentage. That's a big reason why the Jackets were 26th in scoring in the league.
And while Wisniewski helps, there still isn't much scoring threat from the blue line. Tyutin led Columbus in scoring among defensemen with just 27 points.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: 2011-12 Season Preview, Alex Pietrangelo, Alexander Salak, Andrew Brunette, Andy McDonald, Barry Trotz, Ben Bishop, Brent Seabrook, Brian Elliott, Brian Rafalski, Brian Stubits, Central Division, Central Division Preview, Chicago Blackhawks, Chris Stewart, Columbus Blue Jackets, Corey Crawford, Dan Carcillo, David Backes, Detroit Red Wings, Duncan Keith, Fedor Tyutin, Fedor Tyutin, Ian White, Jamal Mayers, James Wisniewski, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jaroslav Halak, Jason Arnott, Jeff Carter, Jimmy Howard, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, Jonathan Toews, Ken Holland, Kevin Shattenkirk, Kyle WIlson, Marian Hossa, Mark Dekanich, Martin Erat, Mike Babcock, Mike Commodore, Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Patric Hornqvist, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Pekka Rinne, Realignment, Rick Nash, Ryan Ellis, Ryan Suter, Scott Howson, Sean O'Donnell, Sergei Kostitsyn, Shea Weber, St. Louis Blues, Steve Mason, Steve Montador, Ty Conklin
Posted on: September 12, 2011 5:33 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 5:50 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The New Jersey Devils announced on Monday that they will be bringing in three free agents on tryout contracts for training camp, including an old friend that was a part of their top line during their Stanley Cup winning season back in 2000.
Petr Sykora, Steve Bernier and Anton Stralman are the players that will be getting a look with the Devils, with Sykora's name being the one that will stand out given his history with the club. Not only was he the Devils' first-round draft pick in 1995, he ended up scoring 145 of his 302 career goals as a member of the Devils over parts of seven seasons, and also helped to form their top-scoring line, along with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias, during their Stanley Cup victory over the Dallas Stars at the start of the decade.
The 35-year-old Sykora did not play in the NHL last season, having spent the year in Russia playing for Dynamo Minsk of the KHL, scoring eight goals in 28 games. He also spent some time playing in the Czech Republic. His last NHL appearance was with the Minnesota Wild during the 2009-10 campaign where he scored two goals in 14 games before being sidelined with a concussion. He was eventually released.
Bernier, a former first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks, has been a member of four different teams (San Jose, Buffalo, Vancouver and Florida) since entering the NHL during the 2005-06 season, and has scored 76 goals in 385 games. He was traded to Florida from Vancouver prior to last season, along with Michael Grabner and a first-round pick, in exchange for defenseman Keith Ballard.
In what has turned out to be a rather dubious decision in hindsight, the Panthers kept Bernier and ended up placing Grabner on waivers before the start of the regular season in an effort to demote him to the minor leagues. The result: Bernier scored five goals for Florida in 68 games while Grabner went on to blossom after being claimed by the New York Islanders, scoring 34 goals in what proved to be a breakout season for the speedy forward.
Stralman, a defenseman with a bit of an offensive game, spent the past two years with the Columbus Blue Jackets and managed to produce some respectable offensive numbers from the blue line, scoring seven goals to go with 45 assists in 124 games. The Devils are definitely in need of some offensive punch from their defense. During the 2010-11 season, for example, Andy Greene led all of their rearguards in scoring with just 23 points, while no other defenseman on the roster managed to tally more than the 18 points Stralman put up with the Blue Jackets.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 5:47 pm
By Brian Stubits
The St. Louis Blues have spent the majority of their offseason trying to re-sign their own free agents. On Wednesday, however, they dipped into the free-agent market as they announced the signing of center Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner to one-year deals. They have matching contracts of $2.5 million, plus $300,000 in bonuses.
The Blues have a young core all around, and they did their best to keep it intact over the past few weeks. Now, they add a pair of veterans to the mix and put the pieces in place to build solid depth. Most importantly, though, the veterans will serve as mentors to their growing teammates.
Arnott ended last season with the Capitals after starting in New Jersey. His stints with the two teams yielded 17 goals and 14 assists. It was his lowest goal total since 1997-98. It's pretty safe to say he's on the back-end of his career, but the Blues are banking on a little production (of course, they'd take more) and a lot of leading.
Langenbrunner's story is much of the same. Last season with Dallas, the former captain of Team USA scored nine goals with 23 assists, his lowest number of goals since he played 12 games as a rookie in 1995-96.
There isn't a whole lot of risk in either move for the Blues, and they could instead prove invaluable to the growth of the team.
Posted on: July 4, 2011 1:37 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 12:55 pm
NHL free agency is unilke any other sport's. Within the first few hours -- first day at the latest -- the majority of the free agents, let alone impact players, are off the market. But not all of them.
Atop the list of players still looking for work is Tomas Kaberle. A bit maligned in Boston for the team's power-play struggles, it's not as if Kaberle isn't still good at what he does. Last season for the he had four goals and 43 assists.
It is still no foregone conclusion that he won't be back in Beantown next year. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said before free agency opened that Kaberle would test the waters, but that they would continue negotiations.
Or perhaps he could be on the radar of the Rangers down the coast. New York still needs a little bit of help on the back end and Kaberle could be a nice fit. If he doesn't make sense cap wise (the Rangers have $15 million but multiple restricted free agents left to sign) then they could stick with Bryan McCabe at a cheaper rate.
Regardless, there is still some useful talent to be had. Here's a look at the best available.
Jason Arnott: He's a bit long in the tooth, but Arnott can be a solid veteran center for any team in the market. Scored 17 goals with 14 assists last season between New Jersey and Washington.
Jamie Langenbrunner: It will be interesting to see what role teams think Langenbrunner can fill at this point. Saw a drop of 19 points between 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Antti Miettinen: He has a little bit more youth than most of the players still up for grabs and he can provide some decent scoring. Last season with the Wild he had 16 goals, the season before he had a career-high 20. However, he could be KHL-bound.
Vaclav Prospal: Prospal played only 29 games last season due to injury, but was pretty darn productive in that time for the Rangers when the 36-year-old had nine goals and 14 assists.
Sergei Samsonov: Samsonov found a little spark after being traded to Florida at the end of last season, tallying three goals and 11 assists in 20 games for the Panthers. There is probably a home on a third line somewhere for him.
Teemu Selanne: The suspense here isn't where he will play, it is if he will play. Selanne will sign with the Ducks if he decides he'll play another season, if not it's off to the world of retirement. Still very productive with 31 goals and 49 assists last season.
Cory Stillman: Like many of the guys on the list, he is a veteran with plenty of experience but can still wield the stick a little. Stillman had 12 goals with 27 assists last season between Carolina and Florida.
Nikolai Zherdev: Zherdev has youth on his side compared to the rest here at just 26 years of age. Didn't have an incredibly productive year (and played just 56 games) with Philly last season, but with an increased role he could show more of the form that saw him score 23 and 26 goals the previous two seasons.
Scott Hannan: Hannan is a solid own-end defenseman who will find a home somewhere for teams looking to lock down in the back end. Because of his lack of offense (one goal, 10 assists last season) he should come at a pretty cheap price for whoever signs him.
Tomas Kaberle: After spending 11 seasons in Toronto, Kaberle could be joining his third team in three years if he doesn't return to Boston. He is still young enough (32) that he can get a pretty nice contract from some team.
Bryan McCabe: One of the better power-play captains a few years ago, McCabe still does a good job commanding the special teams. He won't command anywhere near the same contract he's coming off of and should be an affordable offensive option. Still very possible he could return to the Rangers.
Brent Sopel: Like Hannan, he's more of a defenseman's defenseman, a guy that will block shots and do his best to keep the puck out of the net. Teams interested in him won't be in the market for a top-four defenseman, but that doesn't mean he has no value, his plus-6 last season in 71 games for the Habs evidence.
Ray Emery: I thought Emery might be one of the goalies teams would target, but now he and the rest of the guys on this list are left in a tough spot as the goaltender market dried up pretty quickly and the need isn't big. But Emery should find a home.
Pascal Leclaire: Leclaire could be out of luck for NHL jobs, perhaps waiting until the middle of the year when some team is looking for depth. The concern with him is the injury history as he has struggled to stay healthy for his whole career.
Marty Turco: After years as the starter in Dallas, Turco has now been pretty much relegated to a backup, playing last season behind Corey Crawford in Chicago. Could be a midseason acquisition for teams searching for some depth and experience.
By Brian Stubits
Posted on: June 29, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 2:36 pm
You ever see a fish feeding frenzy? When the fish basically jump on top of each other to get the food first? That's what free agency will look like because of the dearth of big fish to be found, to mix our metaphors.
There is no doubt who the most coveted free agent is this season. Brad Richards tops all names up for grabs and pretty much every team is likely to show some interest in signing the former Stars center.
Richard expects to be a busy man come Friday, according to his agent, Pat Morris, who spoke to Buffalo radio station WGR 550 on Wednesday.
"If five teams call, I'd be shocked by the limited number. If 25 teams called, I wouldn't be shocked," Morris said.
Perhaps the first ring will come from the Rangers, who seem to be the team most coveting Richards. They would love to find a center who can score to anchor the first line with Marian Gaborik. Just a reminder, though: veteran newcomers don't always work out so well for the Blueshirts, just think of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.
If Rangers GM Glen Sather isn't first to get in touch with Richards, then it could very well be Brian Burke and Toronto. The Leafs are hungry to get back to the playoffs after a lengthy drought by the organization's standards (six seasons). Richards grew up a Leafs fan, so that has helped drive speculation in Ontario. But honestly a massive chunk of the NHL players grew up Maple Leafs fans, so that means next to nothing.
Frankly, any team that has enough room to sign Richards will probably be standing with food in hand, hoping to get the hook, line and sinker on the best player to be had.
Here are this year's best forward options (in alphabetical order).
Sean Bergenheim -- Lightning: Before the postseason, Bergenheim would have likely re-signed quietly with the Lightning after a modest 14-goal, 15-assist season. But he busted out in a big way during the playoffs, scoring nine goals in 16 games. Since then he has turned down an offer from Tampa Bay with GM Steve Yzerman commenting that the two sides obviously see Bergenheim's value a little differently. At this point it looks like he'll be playing elsewhere.
Erik Cole -- Hurricanes: Cole has been a near lifer in Carolina, spending all but a part of his nine seasons in the red of the 'Canes (he was sent to Edmonton and then promptly reacquired by Carolina). He enters free agency coming off a 26-goal, 26-assist campaign, more than attractive numbers. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford would still like to re-sign Cole and keep him around longer, but at this point they haven't been able to find common ground. Carolina is still the odds-on favorite, though.
Simon Gagne -- Lightning: Gagne is coming off a 17-goal, 23-assist season in Tampa Bay, his first with the Lightning. It wasn't long ago that Gagne was a 40-goal scorer for the Flyers, last hitting that mark in 2006-07. It isn't as if he's too old to still flash that form at 31, but the concern might be in the injury department, specifically concussion concerns. Could be worth a shot from a team looking for scoring on the wings.
Jussi Jokinen -- Hurricanes: Another player Rutherford has said he's not sure if he'll be able to re-sign but wants to, Jokinen should draw a good amount of interest if Carolina can't lock him up. The last two seasons for the 'Canes he has surpassed 50 points, highlighted by a 30-goal, 35-assist campaign in 2009-10. (June 30: Re-signed with Hurricanes for three years, $9 million)
Ville Leino -- Flyers: The 27-year-old Fin is coming off his best season in the NHL, scoring 19 goals with 34 assists on the heels of his 21-point postseason when the Flyers went to the Cup Finals. There is no question the Flyers would like to have him back, but it's a matter of if they can have him back. The Flyers are still reportedly eyeing RFA Steven Stamkos, so Leino could be left in the lurch and snagged by another team while Philly chases that option.
Richards -- Stars: Richards is a true No. 1 center. Last season in 72 games for the Stars he tallied 77 points on 28 goals and 49 assists. The mystery isn't who will be interested in Richards, it's who will Richards be interested in? He will likely have his pick of the litter, from his old stomping grounds in Tampa to New York or Chicago.
Michael Ryder -- Bruins: The 31-year-old Ryder hasn't made the best impression in the world in either Montreal or Boston, the two stomping grounds in his career. However, the guy has scoring ability, hitting the 25-goal plateau in four of his seven NHL seasons, including 38 as a rookie.
Maxime Talbot -- Penguins: Talbot isn't the highest-scoring center you'll find (just eight goals and 13 assists last season) but he has earned a reputation as a postseason performer, which never hurts. The Maple Leafs have shown interest in Talbot since it became clear he wouldn't be returning to Pittsburgh and seem the most likely destination at this point.
Scottie Upshall -- Blue Jackets: Smack dab in the middle of his prime at 27, Upshall has plenty of talent to draw interest. He hasn't found the perfect spot for himself in either Columbus or any of the spots before. But each of the past four seasons has seen his goal total rise, hitting 22 last season for the Jackets. Once concern is that last season was the first time he played 75 games (he played all 82).
Others of interest: Jason Arnott (WAS), Tomas Fleischmann (COL), Radim Vrbata (PHO), Joel Ward (NSH), Marcel Goc (NSH), Raffi Torres (VAN), John Madden (MIN), Andrew Brunette (MIN), Tim Connolly (BUF)
By Brian Stubits
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: 2011 Free Agency, Andrew Brunette, Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Erik Cole, Jason Arnott, Joel Ward, John Madden, Jussi Jokinen, Marcel Goc, Maxime Talbot, Michael Ryder, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Radim Vrbata, Raffi Torres, Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergehneim, Simon Gagne, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tim Connolly, Tomas Fleischmann, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ville Leino
Posted on: March 29, 2011 7:04 pm
Edited on: March 29, 2011 7:33 pm
WASHINGTON -- Both Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott are in the lineup as the Washington Capitals take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
Ovechkin had missed the last three games with what Washington coach Bruce Boudreau called nagging injuries. Arnott has not played since March 13, missing the past six games with an undisclosed injury.
Ovechkin and Arnott returned to practice in recent days.
Follow the game on our GameTacker.
-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: March 29, 2011 2:55 pm
WHO CAN CLINCH: The Tampa Bay Lightning can lock down a playoff spot if they beat the Ottawa Senators and the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the Washington Capitals in regulation. The Vancouver Canucks can win the Western Conference by earning at least one point against the Nashville Predators tonight.
ALREADY IN: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Carolina Hurricanes (35-30-10) at Washington Capitals (44-22-10), 7 p.m. ET
The ‘Canes enter five points in back of the Buffalo Sabres, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Carolina has lost each of the first five meetings between these Southeast Division rivals and the ‘Canes are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
The Capitals could get forwards Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott back in the lineup tonight. (Both have been sidelined with undisclosed injuries.) Washington coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t disclose to reporters at the morning skate if either will see action, but both skated with the team again. The Caps are returning from a season-long six-game trip where they posted a 4-2-0 record. For the month of March, Washington is 11-2-0.
Carolina forwards Eric Staal, Cory Stillman and Erik Cole each enter with four-game points streaks.
ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Dallas Stars (38-26-10) at Phoenix Coyotes (41-25-11), 10 p.m. ET
The Stars enter the night four points out of eighth, making this final regular season meeting between these Pacific Division rivals crucial. Phoenix has won three of the first five meetings and the last three contests were decided by a goal. Dallas enters 1-3-2 over the last five games, a skid that has seen the Stars drop from fourth to 10th in the West.
GOLF WATCH: No new teams will be eliminated today. Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Colorado and Edmonton have already mathematically out of it.