Tag:Milan Michalek
Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:46 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:00 pm
 

Milan Michalek's bizarre hat trick

SenatorsBy: Adam Gretz

Milan Michalek recorded his second career hat trick on Tuesday night during the Senators 7-3 win in Tampa Bay, and it was pretty much a gift from Lightning coach Guy Boucher.

All three goals were scored in succession during the third period, making it a natural hat trick, and it was also one of the more, let's say ... interesting, hat tricks that you will see, scoring his first goal on the power play, giving the Senators a 5-3 lead, and then completing the trick by adding not one, but two empty net goals as Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher kept pulling his goalie in a desperate attempt to get his team back into the game.



You don't always see coaches pulling their goalie with a minute to play in a game their team is down by three goals, as the Lightning were when Boucher lifted Dwayne Roloson allowing Michalek to score his third goal, but Tampa Bay is in desperate need of points as it attempts to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race (and, amazingly, the Southeast Division race) and it was a last ditch effort to spark a late rally.

And let's face it, whether they lose by three goals or 20 goals it's still two points they didn't get in the end.

The night really seemed to go off the rails for Tampa Bay in the first period when starting goalie Mathieu Garon had to leave the game due to injury. Roloson came in and almost instantly surrendered three straight goals, putting the Lightning in a hole they were never able to climb out of.

Given the overall mediocrity of the Southeast Division (and the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race) which has the Lightning still very much in the race, combined with their less than stellar goaltending situation, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for the Lightning to put a waiver claim in on Marty Turco.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:01 am
Edited on: February 23, 2012 10:40 am
 

Morning Skate: Playoff ramifications galore


By Brian Stubits

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.

In this day and age with only two teams -- two! -- in the entire NHL being more than 10 points out of a playoff spot, it's hard to find a game on the schedule that isn't carrying a huge impact on the playoff picture. Save for Edmonton playing Columbus, they all have an impact.

That holds even if you have two teams hanging on by life support. Which is just what is on the schedule on Thursday night.

7 ET, Anaheim at Carolina: This is pretty much hockey's equivalent of a loser leave town match. The Hurricanes are eight points back of a playoff position, the Ducks are six back. So, you know, you can't lose this game if you want to stay in the conversation.

To be sure, both face very long odds. More specifically, the 'Canes have a 2.94 percent chance of seeing the postseason according to sportsclubstats.com while the Ducks have a 5.52 percentage.

For Anaheim it brings an end to one hellacious road trip that has been going since what feels like the All-Star break. And they've done very well on it until their last momentum-killing game, a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And Carolina? Well they are actually starting to brim with confidence. They just smacked down the Capitals 5-0 -- then again, who isn't these days? -- and are finally getting the expected production from Eric Staal.

So we have two teams near (or at, in Carolina's case in the East) the bottom of the standings playing some of the best hockey in the league. The game is make or break for both. Should be fun.

7 ET, San Jose at Toronto: The Maple Leafs are still in the thick of the futility battle that is the race for eighth in the East/the Southeast Division. It's like everybody has hit a slump together, giving hope to teams that once appeared on the outs. Toronto is no different.

The goaltending was looking good not long ago. Now Leafs fans are begging for help. They are 1-5-1 in the last seven games. In the last six games -- one OT win in there -- they have yielded 27 goals. That's 4.5 per game. They need to take advantage of the home games they have left, starting tonight.

The Sharks, meanwhile, find themselves actually in a battle for the Pacific Division crown. As of now, they are tied with the surging Coyotes. Now the Sharks do have two games in hand on Phoenix, but those do you no good if you don't win them.

On their own whirlwind road trip, the Sharks are riding a four-game losing streak, three in a row without points. Apparently they think the race for eighth looks so interesting they thought they might play their way into it. As of now, they are only three points up on that eighth spot, but again, have games in hand.

7:30 ET, Vancouver at Detroit: Here's the game of the night without a doubt. Neither team is fighting for their playoff lives, instead they are fighting each other for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Oh, and there is something about a 23-game home winning streak being on the line for the Red Wings? I suppose that might garner some interest here too.

But in reality this game is massive on many levels. In addition to the two-point discrepancy between the teams in the standings, it would do the Canucks a world of good to knock off Detroit at the Joe, prove to themselves that they can do it in case it comes up again at playoff time.

Unfortunately for the Wings -- and fans -- Pavel Datsyuk won't be in the lineup for the Wings, sitting out a couple weeks after having his knee scoped.

9 ET, Phoenix at Calgary: This is the West battle being waged in Calgary right here. The Coyotes have been on fire, winning eight of their last nine games and shooting into not only seventh place in the West but in a tie with the Sharks in the Pacific. And they just added Antoine Vermette.

If Phoenix takes two points tonight, you start to wonder if they can prepare for some playoff games in the desert again. Of course that's no guarantee, but they'd be in one good position for it.

But don't sleep on the Flames. They enter the day in ninth place, one back of the Kings and this will be their one game in hand. Here's what makes the Flames a real threat for a playoff berth, if you can believe that. They have 22 games remaining, 14 of them come at home. That's as favorable as any playoff hopeful down the stretch run.

Also worth watching: The Panthers host the Wild with Florida still clinging to the Southeast lead and Minnesota still clinging to their playoff hopes.

The Blues and Predators renew acquaintances in their continued battle for that crucial fourth seed in the West. The Preds have just owned the Blues this season.

The Stars visit the Blackhawks where Chicago has reeled off four in a row after the nine-game losing streak. Dallas is another team that's hanging within striking distance in the West.

The Lightning visit the Jets with Winnipeg entering in a tie for both the Southeast lead and the eighth spot in the East. They need to win these games since they've played more than any team. But the Lightning are still clawing, hanging five points back of the playoffs.

Your promised miscellany

  • Capitals coach Dale Hunter was hard on goaltender Tomas Vokoun after Washington's second big loss in a row on Wednesday. Of course, without Vokoun, there's no telling how low the Caps would be this season. He's been good for them the majority of the season. (Washington Times)
  • Here's a good read from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun about the always interesting P.K. Subban of the Canadiens. (ESPN.com)
  • Now this is entertaining. Check out Maxime Talbot of the Flyers taking on a fan in a Just Dance 3 challenge at the team's recent fair. (Puck Daddy)
  • While Milan Michalek scored one very pretty goal against the Capitals, Mathieu Perreault had one ugly goal that tried to make him ugly (the puck went in off his face). Guess what? They both counted as one score.

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

Posted on: February 22, 2012 10:17 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 11:38 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Karlsson, Capitals, Ruutu



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.

You know things are going bad for the Washington Capitals when the only way they can seem to generate some offense is when Mathieu Perreault has to get hit in the face with a puck, as shown in the above video. It was his 10th of the season, and probably the most painful goal he's scored in his brief career.

Unfortunately, that was probably the only highpoint of the night for the Capitals.

Winners

1. Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators: Over their past four games the Ottawa Senators are outscoring their opponents 21-4, and that includes their 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

It was also another huge performance for defenseman Erik Karlsson as he recorded another three more points, scoring a goal and chipping in two assists, to push his season total to 60. That's now a 20-point lead over the No. 2 scoring defenseman in the NHL, Florida's Brian Campbell.

That is absurd, folks.

The other big star of the night for Ottawa was Milan Michalek as he scored a highlight reel goal in the first period to open scoring, and added another later in the game when he deflected a Karlsson slap shot past Vokoun. Thanks to his two-goal performance he's now set a new career high with 27 goals.

[Related: Senators 5, Capitals 2 -- Karlsson's big year -- Michalek's goal]

2. Tuomo Ruutu's bank account: At this rate trade deadline day is going to come down to whatever the Columbus Blue Jackets do and not much else. For the second time in two weeks the Carolina Hurricanes took one of the most talked about players off the trade market with a long-term contract extension, signing the forward to a four-year contract with $4.75 million per season.

That's a hefty price tag for the Hurricanes, but for a team that's closer to the salary cap floor than the salary cap ceiling, it's probably not that big of an issue.

[Related: 'Canes sign Ruutu]

3. Paul Stastny and the Avs playoff push: Every game down the stretch is important for the Colorado Avalanche, especially when it's against a team that they're chasing in the standings like the Los Angeles Kings. Paul Stastny led the way for Colorado on Wednesday scoring a pair of goals in a 4-1 win to pull to within two points of the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference, which is currently occupied by the Kings.

Stastny and the Avs managed to do what few other teams have been able to do this season, which is get the best of Jonathan Quick, chasing him from the net after the first period, scoring on three of their 11 shots.

[Related: Avs 4, Kings 1]

Losers

1.The Washington Capitals: Already without Nicklas Backstrom, the Capitals had to hit the ice on Wednesday without Alex Ovechkin due to what was described as a lower body injury, and it goes without saying that those are two huge blows. But man, this team is quickly going in the wrong direction having won just four of its past 15 games.

Like the other two playoff contenders in the Southeast Division, the biggest thing keeping them in the playoff hunt at this point is the collective mediocrity of the division.

2. The Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets are obviously sellers at this point, but the decision to trade Antoine Vermette, a skilled, very useful player having a down year at what his probably his lowest possible value for what amounts to a throw-in goalie and two draft picks --  a second and a fifth -- is just … bizarre.

Vermette still has a couple of years remaining on his contract and unless the Blue Jackets think the bottom is about to fall out on his career, there shouldn't have been any rush to trade him for such a small return. The most valuable asset they received in return was a second-round draft pick, and as I pointed out last week, the odds of such a pick turning into a useful NHL player at some point down the line aren't exactly high. Especially if it's a mid-to-late pick in the round.

[Related: Vermette traded to Coyotes]

3. The Kings (lack of) offense: If Jonathan Quick doesn't stop every single shot he faces, the Los Angeles Kings don't have a chance right now. After scoring just one goal on Wednesday they've managed to score just 15 goals in their past 10 games. It shouldn't be much of a surprise that they've won just two of those games.

[Related: How would Nash fit in with the Kings?]

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 22, 2012 8:36 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 9:05 pm
 

Milan Michalek goal of the year candidate

By: Adam Gretz

There are so many beautiful things about this Milan Michalek goal during the first period of Ottawa's game against Washington. If you're a Senators fan, that is. 

The pass from defenseman Erik Karlsson that covers nearly three quarters of the ice. The move by Michalek to dangle through defenseman Dennis Wideman, a move that Michalek attempted earlier in the period against Dmitry Orlov and nearly pulled off. The casual way he beats Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun to score his 26th goal of the season.

It also perfectly sums up the way both teams have been playing over the past week. The Senators look like a buzzsaw that is just ripping through people. The Capitals? Well, the less said about them right now, the better.



For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 1, 2012 3:23 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2012 3:28 pm
 

Grabovski playing his best hockey at right time

Mikhail Grabovski is playing his best hockey right now. (Getty Images)
By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- As difficult as it had to be for the Toronto Maple Leafs to watch a three-goal lead with less than 10 minutes to play turn into a 5-4 shootout loss on Tuesday night, costing them a crucial point in the standings, there were still a couple of positives developments.

One of the biggest: the continued emergence of forward Mikhail Grabovski, and it couldn't be coming at a better time for the Maple Leafs.

The team is well into the stretch run and hoping to end what has been one of the longest playoff droughts in the league, being one of just two teams (the Panthers being the other) to not make the playoffs in the post-lockout NHL.

Coming out of the All-Star break they started the week as one of three teams deadlocked for what would be the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference,  which is why that loss in Pittsburgh was so damaging (potentially, anyway). The race is so tight right now that they can't afford to let any points slip away like that, especially when it's during a game they completely controlled for over 50 minutes against one of the teams they're chasing.

But the Leafs were still hopeful to build on the things they did well in the loss.

"You can definitely build on the positives," said forward Joffrey Lupul after the game. "Unfortunately it's starting to get to the time of the year where you need results, but there is a lot to build on there. We played one of our better games of our year for 50 minutes, and it's terrible to let that point get away, but we did have some positives to build on."

Among the positives: Toronto continued its recent run of disciplined play, putting itself in a shorthanded situation just one time on the night. Over their past 11 games, a stretch that has seen the Leafs put together a 6-4-1 record and allow just a little over two goals per game, they have been shorthanded just 12 times, including three games with no penalty killing situations. That is probably the best (and only) way to hide what has been the league's 30th ranked penalty killing unit this season.

Perhaps the biggest positive, though, was the aforementioned play of Grabovski as he completed his best month of the season with a two-goal performance that also saw him finish with seven shots on goal, two blocked shots and a 50 percent mark in the faceoff circle. And he did all of that while spending the majority of his night on the ice against Evgeni Malkin's line, which is no small assignment.

Getting minutes against the oppositions best player hasn't been a new situation for Grabovski. During the month of January, for example, he saw most of his shifts in individual games come against forwards like John Tavares (Islanders), Milan Michalek (Senators), Ryan Callahan (Rangers), Derek Roy (Sabres), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Evander Kane (Jets) and Steven Stamkos (Lightning). Despite drawing the top assignments, he still finished the month with 16 points (eight goals, eight assists), which was tied with Malkin for the second most in the league, trailing only Tavares.

This all comes after what had been a pretty slow start offensively, having recorded just 19 points over the first three months of the season, a total he nearly matched in January alone. The Leafs offense this season has been carried almost entirely by the play of its top line, Lupul and Phil Kessel, and there is going to be a need for some secondary scoring if/when that top line slows down. Grabovski has demonstrated throughout his career that he's capable of providing, even when given the task of matching up against the other teams top lines, which can open things up a bit more for Kessel and Lupul.

"He's playing well right now," said Lupul of Grabovski's play. "He had two [on Tuesday] and he could have had a lot more. He's bringing a lot of energy right now you can really see he has his confidence back and has his legs going."

Eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer, he would surely be one of the most attractive players to hit the open market (if a new deal isn't signed before then) given his skill-level, production and ability to match up against top talent and keep them in their own end of the ice.

Grabovski, who was celebrating his 28th birthday on Tuesday, didn't want to talk all that much about his own performance or his confidence level, simply saying "I'll start to feel better when we win the games, that's the most important thing."

If he keeps playing like he did in January, the wins might start coming a little more often.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 29, 2012 8:38 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 8:40 pm
 

Best and worst of the All-Star Game

Henrik and Thomas meet again. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The All-Star Game is about fun and it ends up being a lot about offense. The scoring is always through the roof. That's what happens when defensemen get stuck in 1-on-3s, players don't hit and the intensity level is lower than a mites game at intermission.

It doesn't always make for compelling television, but it does result in some pretty interesting statistics for the players. This saddens the skaters but the goalies couldn't be happier.

So here you are, the All-Star Game superlatives from Team Chara's 12-9 over Team Alfredsson in Ottawa.

Snapshot of the game: Seen to the right, Henrik Sedin and Tim Thomas coming together after Daniel scored on the rush. So Bruins and Canucks can co-exist, who knew?

Most goals: That would go to MVP Marian Gaborik, the only player to record a hat trick on the day. Sadly, nobody in Ottawa threw a hat on the ice, but Gabby did have a pretty memorable moment by beating his Rangers teammate Henrik Lundqvist and celebrating like Artem Anisimov.

Most points: Also Gaborik, who was the only player to reach four points. He assisted on Zdeno Chara's game-winning goal.

Most unselfish (assists leader): Pavel Datsyuk earns the "award" with his three assists in the game, the benefits of playing with Gaborik (or the other way around). "I wanted to score, too," Datysuk told Dan Rosen of NHL.com. "I never scored in my career in the All-Star Game. The dream is still there."

Ironman (most minutes): Shea Weber had more ice time than any player in the game, clocking 22:12 for Team Alfredsson. Still, he didn't record a point on the night. Something about nobody taking slap shots ...

Plus/Minus ace: Chara and Brian Campbell were tied for the best mark, playing together for much of Team Chara's win. Each was an impressive plus-seven.

Plus/Minus goat: Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Keith Yandle all were a minus-5 on the night, though each of the Sens players did score a goal in the losing effort.

Forgettable forward: Despite playing for the team that scored 12 goals and won, Jamie Benn was the only forward in the game on either side that didn't record a point.

Hitman: Yes, there was actually a hit in the game. A single hit. Scott Hartnell (of course) come on down! He had the audacity to get credit for a hit in an All-Star Game.

Best goalie: The award goes to Thomas, who pulled off a pretty incredible feat by winning the All-Star Game for the fourth straight time. He stopped 18 of 21 shots for an .857 save percentage.

Worst goalie: It was like old times in Ottawa for Brian Elliott, unfortunately. He surrendered six goals on 19 shots in the third period for a save percentage of .684. Oy.

Prettiest goal: It's a tough call after Daniel Alfredsson's first of the game, but I'm going to go with Marian Hossa's third-period goal when there was a player who was actually trying to play defense in front of him. It gets some extra credit for the saucer pass from Datsyuk to spring the breakaway.

More from Eye on Hockey

Alfredsson shines through in loss
Gaborik pulls an Anisimov after goal
Recap: Team Chara 12, Team Alfredsson 9
Full 2012 All-Star Game coverage

Photo courtesy of Sean Gentille twitpic

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

Posted on: January 29, 2012 7:13 pm
Edited on: January 30, 2012 6:54 am
 

Alfredsson stars in Ottawa despite All-Star loss

By Brian Stubits

After a true All-Star Game with players skating half-speed, no hitting taking place (although there was one) and zero defense being played, it was a hat trick for Marian Gaborik that was enough to get him the honor of All-Star Game MVP and a brand new car.

But he had some serious competition on the night. I don't mean from the other team's defensemen, of course he didn't have that. Instead, it came from the captain of the losing team, Daniel Alfredsson.

Playing on his home ice in Ottawa, Alfie helped bring his team back in the second period when he scored a pair of goals to give his team the lead for a brief time in the game. As you'd expect, the fans relished the moment.

All three Senators forwards in the game scored for Team Alfredsson (Jason Spezza in the first, then Milan Michalek in the third) but there was no doubt which goal the hometown crowd enjoyed the most. Just take a look at how they responded in what could be their captain's final All-Star game.

"It's unbelievable," Alfredsson said to Pierre McGuire in a midgame interview. "I'm not sure I deserve it, but it's been incredible."

Humility. That's just part of what makes Alfredsson so beloved.

Throughout the third period, it was the mission of Team Alfredsson to get Alfie one more goal, to match Gaborik and pick up the hat trick in the All-Star Game. Everybody seemed to be on board with it, continuing to pass it back to Alfredsson who even fired a slap shot.

Everybody was for it except for Tim Thomas, of course. The Bruins goalie doesn't like to get beat, ever. He denied Alfie on his last-minute attempts, preserving his own bit of All-Star glory. Thomas was the goalie on record for Team Chara and with the 12-9 win, he was the winning goalie for the fourth consecutive All-Star Game, a remarkable feat in a game with so much scoring.

"I've never been so happy losing a game," Alfredsson said afterward.

One of the many conversations in Ottawa this weekend was the future of Alfredsson. Nobody wanted to take away too much from the spotlight he was enjoying as captain in his home city but it's a natural question for a guy who has been in Ottawa since 1995-96.

He's said of late that he's open to playing again next season depending on how he feels. With the Senators' success this season, he said he's been having fun.

As of now, the best Alfredsson will commit to playing another season is 50/50 and the decision isn't just his. His wife will have the answer in the other 50 percent, he said.

There is obviously a second half of the season left to play and his Sens are in the thick of the Eastern playoff race. So there are a lot more memories he can make this season. But this night, combined with his 400th career goal earlier this season, have to be unforgettable for Alfie, even if this was a meaningless, watered down hockey game.

More from Eye on Hockey

Gaborik pulls an Anisimov after scoring
Recap: Team Chara 12, Team Alfredsson 9
Full 2012 All-Star Game coverage

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


Posted on: January 27, 2012 3:13 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 3:39 pm
 

All-Star Game preview: Finding lines to entertain

By Brian Stubits

When it comes to All-Star Games, the NHL is probably in the middle. It's certainly a notch below the holy grail of games, baseball's Midsummer Classic, but it's undoubtedly ahead of football's Pro Bowl. Like the NBA's version, defense isn't even optional, it's pretty much discouraged.

So truth be told, people don't watch the All-Star Game for the hockey. Really, mid-week games featuring the Blue Jackets and Oilers will provide a better game (not necessarily entertainment, however). Instead, fans watch it for the Stars , the chance to see their favorite players.

Or to see things we never get the chance to see.

Thanks to the Fantasy Draft, the possibilities exist for some squeamish line combinations that wouldn't otherwise have been feasible. Such as Bruins playing with Canucks. However seeing as one of the two captains was a Bruin, we missed out on some golden opportunity to have Zdeno Chara paired with Alex Edler while playing with Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Tyler Seguin in front of them with Tim Thomas in net. Oh, if Chara could have only seen the potential.

What Chara did end up doing was drafting a host of right wingers, making this pre-draft incredibly awkward exchange all the more apropos.

With all that said, thanks to our Line Mixmaster 3000 (patent pending) we were able to come up with some interesting lines with the teams that were selected -- and some lines that make you go "meh." Hey, you can't win them all.

(Do note we had to execute some position changes to get four even lines. But to Joffrey Lupul and Daniel Alfredsson: I see what you did. Lupul only helped Chara draft one left winger and Alfredsson only picked one right winger. Sorry fellas, you can't triple shift.)

Let's start with Team Alfredsson, considering he's the host and all.

As Seen in Ottawa line: Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson. Intrigue? Nah, there's not a whole lot on this one, frankly. Senators fans can see these guys together most every night. But you have an entire line of guys not out of position in their hometown ... it's a lock. But hopefully they keep the mic on Spezza during the game like he had it on in the draft and this time we can hear a full-out laugh. That's interesting enough.

Third Wheel line: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Logan Couture. OK, I'll relent and keep the Sedins together. The best third wheel for them is Couture. You have the whole Predators of the sea thing (Canucks' killer whale vs. the Sharks), the little rivalry between their teams and, well, just another way to pick on Couture a little bit after he was Mr. Irrelevant. Sorry Henrik, I don't think you're going to get those better players to play with this year (It's OK, Daniel, you can smile!).

I Believe I Can Fly line: Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, John Tavares. I had a harder time naming this line than any of the others (no doubt it shows). But the Flyers connection is pretty clear and they get an Atlantic Division friend in the mix in Tavares, somebody who has wheels that just might inspire Hartnell to try and skate faster and contribute to the Hartnell Down-O-Meter. Tavares converts to the wing to make it happen, a pretty easy transition from center.

The Forgotten line: James Neal, Steven Stamkos, Jason Pominville. Neal was the guy who the NHL just didn't seem to want to invite. It took the last replacement spot for Neal to get the call despite being second in the league in goals scored. Stamkos is the only guy with more goals than Neal and yet he's such a quiet superstar that some might not even be aware of that fact. As for Pominville? Well it's been a forgettable season in Buffalo so far, so he fits in here.

Defensive pairings: This is really a hodgepodge of names when put together, there's not a whole lot that screams out for obvious potential pairings. So I've got Shea Weber with Alex Edler (Western Conference the tie that binds), Erik Karlsson with Kris Letang (excessive use of the letter K) and Dan Girardi with Keith Yandle (ummm, they were each in that game that was won with 0.1 seconds left this season).

Now on to Team Chara. Here are the lines that we can put together, seeking maximum intrigue.

Cyborg line: Corey Perry, Pavel Datsyuk, Jarome Iginla. The cyborg obviously references the man in the middle, but it also includes one of the league's ageless wonders in Iginla plus a guy with a connection to Disney. Hey, we have to make some stretches. The only person out of position here is Perry, being forced to the left wing because of Chara's right-side glut.

Miss-match line: Jamie Benn, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Gaborik. Yea, there isn't a whole lot of connections with this line except Malkin and Gaborik are both from Eastern Europe. But hey, good for Benn to play his first game in weeks alongside the best player in the NHL the last couple of weeks in Malkin. He'll take it, I'm sure.

Two Blackhawks and a Kid line: Jordan Eberle, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa. So this line has a couple of players "out of position" but Kane is no stranger to center. We had to convert somebody to the middle and he's the easy pick seeing that he's played there this season. He gets to be alongside his Chicago buddy Hossa. Poor Eberle, he might not get to see the puck with these two guys. That won't make his fan club president (on the right) too happy.

Blackhawks and ladies? No doubt this will be Joey the Junior Reporter's favorite line to follow.

The Awkward line: Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel. We saved the best for last. Yes, consider this the coup-de-grace of interesting lines. The two players -- Seguin and Kessel -- who will forever be tied to each other thanks to the trade between the Maple Leafs and Bruins, alongside another Leaf in Lupul.

“I said ‘Kess, I think we’re linemates,'" Seguin said to Kessel on Thursday (from the Boston Herald). "He said ‘That be cool. I think the media would like it.’”

Yes, Phil, yes we would.

Defensive pairings: Well we have to put Chara with Dion Phaneuf. Again, it's the Leafs-Bruins angle but also two of the more fearsome defensemen in the league. Good pairing. Ryan Suter gets paired with Kimmo Timmonen so they can find out if there is any chemistry there in case Philly is Suter's landing spot if he's traded. That leaves Brian Campbell to pair with Dennis Wideman. All I got here is Campbell is a current Panthers defenseman and Wideman used to be one.

As for a goalie to be mic'd up like Cam Ward was last year? I'm going to vote for Carey Price. Hey, any guy that does a campaign video like this and nearly spits his drink out when he's picked in the draft is probably entertaining enough to help carry the event for a period.

Enjoy the game. It will be a lot easier with some of the above intrigue. But please, leave your gripes about the lack of defense at home, we all know it's sorely lacking.

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