Posted on: March 7, 2011 4:18 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 5:31 pm

Playoff watch: Diving Lightning take on Caps

Washington Capitals (36-20-10) at Tampa Bay Lightning (37-21-7)

St. Pete Times Forum, 7 pm ET (Versus)

SEASON SERIES: Washington 3-1-1; Tampa Bay 2-3-0

IMPLICATIONS: Tampa Bay would move back into first with either a regulation win or OT/shootout victory over their division foes. The Lightning have the edge in the first tiebreaker, games played. There's a rundown of the full tie-breaking rules at the bottom of our playoff tracker

BREAKDOWN: These teams enter three-game streaks going in opposite directions. Tampa, which held sole possession of the division lead for more than two months, allowed Washington to take the Southeast lead with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday. 

This sixth and final meeting was expected to be spirited ---even before Caps coach Bruce Boudreau’s comments made the rounds on Monday. “(Steven) Stamkos, dives every two seconds,” Boudreau said in comment picked up by The Washington Post“You start to get a hatred on for guys like that. So, it will be interesting."

Gamesmanship for sure and Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher refused to respond, other than to say he had "more respect for the players to say their players or our players are divers." We’ll see how smart it was to go after Stamkos, who hasn’t had a point in four games. (He still enters with a league-leading 41 goals.) 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Caps LW Alexander Semin vs. Lightning RW Stamkos (above). Stamkos is expected to play the wing opposite pf Martin St. Louis on a line centered by Dominic Moore, according to  Damian Cristodero of The St. Petersburg Times. Stamkos has only one goal over the previous 11 games, just as Semin -- the first Caps player with four hat tricks in a season since Peter Bondra (1995-96) -- has contributed more than just head-scratching penalties. Semin scored the game-winner in OT on Sunday and has 21 goals lifetime against Tampa Bay.

KEY STAT: 8-10. The Caps’ less-than-stellar record in games that go past regulation. 

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 7, 2011 10:12 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 10:43 am

'History Will Be Made' campaign brought back

The NHL’s “History Will Be Made” campaign -- the league’s award-winning, but frequently spoofed promos -- will be back in time for the playoffs, the NHL announced Monday morning. 

And the commercials like the ones that asked “What if Broad Street didn’t fight back?” and “What if Bobby didn’t fly?” will have a wider reach this time. The campaign will go beyond the league’s broadcasts partners and will include online, radio, print, mobile, and, of course, social media platforms.

"Last season, the ‘History Will Be Made’ campaign, which celebrated some of the iconic moments that make the Stanley Cup Playoffs so special, elicited an overwhelming emotional reaction from our fans, Brian Jennings, NHL executive vice president of marketing, said in a statement. “Fans brought handmade ‘History Will Be Made’ signs to games and shared their own versions of the campaign on YouTube.”

Many of the estimated 2,400 fan-produced spots came with tongue firmly planted in cheek, including:

“What Cloutier could stop a beach ball?” 

“What if Ron Hextall wasn’t crazy?”

“What if Dan Boyle knew what team he played for?"

Fans will soon be able to download the instrumental from the real commercials via the NHL’s Facebook page. 

Looking to do it’s best to woo the NHL as its contract is set to expire at season’s end, Comcast is going to put the new spots all many of its family of channels, including Versus, CNBC and MSNBC. No word on Bravo yet. 

New spots will be produced daily during the playoffs and the first of the new crop of commercials -- titled “Wish” and “Mess” -- will debut during NBC’s broadcast of the Chicago Blackhawks-Washington Capitals game on Sunday.

Posted on: March 7, 2011 1:47 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 1:53 am

Morning skate: Don't four-get Pacific Division

The Pacific Division could be very well represented when the playoffs commence next month. 

Four teams would currently get berths if the playoffs started this morning: San Jose Sharks, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. Had the Anaheim Ducks not dropped a 3-0 decision to the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night, they would have booted the Kings out of the eighth seed. 

No other division has more than three teams in contention at the moment. Here’s a look again at our playoff tracker.

The Pacific has placed four teams in the playoffs twice since the current division system was established before the 1998-99 season. (The Northeast leads the way, placing four teams in on four occasions.) The Pacific has only had fewer than three teams in the playoff mix only three times and two Pacific teams skated with the Stanley Cup --- Dallas (1999) and Anaheim (2007) -- during that span.

How tough would it be for all five to make it in, something that hasn’t happened in the division era?

It would take a freefall by the Calgary Flames (3-2 winners Sunday over the Nashville Predators) or the Chicago Blackhawks -- two of the hottest teams in hockey. The fourth-place ‘Hawks are riding an eight-game winning streak and the fifth-place Flames are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

Making the chances even more remote is the fact teams typically face only other division opponents in the closing weeks of the season, meaning it’s very difficult to make up ground in the conference standings without darkening a division foe’s chances.

Not that it enters into the equation this time of year. 

DEAL NOT SO SUITE: An opinion page columnist at The Washington Post called for Capitals and Wizards principal owner Ted Leonsis to take back the two luxury boxes at Verizon Center donated to the city by previous ownership. The suites were a gift to city hall after D.C. approved a $50 million upgrade to the arena in 2007 and the boxes that cost as much as $175,000 annually for everybody else are meant for “economic development purposes.” Colbert I. King wrote that it’s unclear whether the two free suites are actually being used in that manner.
So taxpayers don't know whether the luxury suites have been used only to promote the city or whether they have been used to reward campaign contributors and volunteers, to curry favor with special-interest groups, to entertain family members and friends, or for the officials' personal enjoyment.

COYOTES' LOSSES MOUNT: The Chicago investor seeking to take over the Phoenix Coyotes and Arena told The Arizona Republic this weekend that the team has already lost $40 million this season --- $10 million more than a season ago. The NHL, which has run the team since its previous owner filed for bankruptcy protection two years ago, still expects to sell the team to Matthew Hulsizer without losing money, a price that currently sits at $210 million. 

The Coyotes, who enter action Monday sixth in the Western Conference, have shown signs of life financially, according to team president Mike Nealy.

Despite ownership uncertainty and the NHL tightening the team's front-office budget this season, the Coyotes made gains in ticket sales, ticket revenue and overall revenue per game, according to league statistics dated last month obtained by The Republic.
Nealy said at the end of the season, with lucrative sell-outs and a potential playoff run this spring, he expects losses to drop below last year.

The long-running ownership drama took another turn when reported that the City of Glendale is expected to file a lawsuit today against Goldwater Institute, a watchdog group opposed to a bond sale that would help finance the sale. 

Confused? has created its own Jets Meter.   

LINE CHANGES: Marian Gaborik, out the last two weeks with a concussion, returned to the lineup for the Rangers’ 7-0 rout of the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. In 14 minutes, 28 seconds of ice time, he had four shots and two penalty minutes.  . . . Jarome Iginla became the 10th NHL player to reach 30 goals in 10 consecutive season as he netted a second-period tally in the Calgary Flames’ victory over the Nashville Predators on Sunday.  . . . . For a complete look at Sunday’s action, click here

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 6, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 2:04 pm

Playoff watch: Flames eye season sweep of Preds

Nashville Predators (33-23-9) at Calgary Flames (34-24-9) 

Scotiabank Saddledome, 8 pm ET

SEASON SERIES: Nashville 0-1-2; Calgary 3-0-0

IMPLICATIONS: The Predators' first victory – combined with an Anaheim Ducks loss – over the Flames would move them into the eighth and final playoff slot in the west. (Both Anaheim and Calgary start the night even in points, 77, and games played, 65, but the Ducks have the edge in wins.) The resurgent Flames could move up to fifth in the West with a victory. Here's a look at our playoff tracker

BREAKDOWN: The first three games of the season series have been close with one going to OT and another won via a shootout. But Nashville is coming off one it's most impressive victories of the season, a 3-0 decision over league-leading Vancouver.  Predators rookie Blake Geoffrion, the first NHL player from Tennessee who was recalled Feb. 26, has scored in back-to-back games. Youngsters like Geoffrion will be key down the stretch as Steve Sullivan (groin), Francis Bouillon (concussion) and Marcel Goc (shoulder) have gone down with injuries in recent weeks. Flames captain Jarome Iginla (above), who already reached the 25-goal mark for the 12th consecutive season, has scored at least three points in each of Calgary's last two games. Flames forward Alex Tanguay enters on a seven-game points streak. 

PLAYER vs. PLAYER:  Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff  vs. Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. This is expected to be Kiprusoff's 20th consecutive start and and he enters with a 13-2-3 record over his last 19 starts.  Rinne has entered the Vezina --- maybe even the Hart --- conversation. The Preds which are the fourth-lowest scoring team (2.45 goals per game) in the league are mostly in the playoff hunt because of Rinne, who is second amongst NHL goalies with 10 or more games in goals against (2.08) and save percentage (.929). The two played no bigger role in the season series than in their first meeting on Oct. 19 when they were prefect through regulation. 

KEY STAT: 491. That's Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester consecutive game streak, the longest in the NHL. It began exactly seven years ago today.

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 6, 2011 12:40 am
Edited on: March 7, 2011 5:29 pm

Video: Sharks' Demers punches official

San Jose Sharks defenseman Jason Demers' attempt to slug Dallas Stars forward Steve Ott instead landed on the chin of a linesman during a scuffle at HP Pavilion Saturday night. 

Demers and Ott were being separated by officials moments after Ott delivered a hard check along the boards with a few seconds left in the second period. Linesmean Brian Mach, who has officiated NHL games more than a decade, took a shot meant for Ott right on the chin. 

Demers, however, only received two minutes for roughing -- and it was Sharks went on the power play -- as Ott was given charging and roughing minors. 

Demers told The Mercury News' David Pollak that he offered an apology. 

“I wasn’t looking at him at all. I was looking through to Ott and he sort of jumped in the way,” Demers said of Mach. “But he was fine with it. That was inadvertent. Things happen in the heat of the moment. He was all right with it. I talked to him and apologized.”

Posted on: March 5, 2011 2:22 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 3:08 pm

Playoff watch: Chicago takes streak to Toronto

Chicago Blackhawks. (36-23-6) at Toronto Maple Leafs (29-27-9) 
Air Canada Centre, 7 pm ET

SEASON SERIES: First (and only) meeting

IMPLICATIONS: The Leafs can move within two points of idle Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Chicago, which was well out of the playoff picture six weeks ago, could move within five points of the Central Division lead with a victory and a Detroit Red Wings loss. 

BREAKDOWN: Both Original Six franchises are surging. The Blackhawks enter on a seven-game win streak, while the Leafs are unbeaten in regulation over the last nine games. The Blackhawks have won each of the last five contests against the Leafs. 

PLAYER Vs. PLAYER: Chicago's Marian Hossa vs. Toronto's Phil Kessel. Depending on how Leafs coach Ron Wilson matches lines with the last change, these right wingers could see each other a bit tonight. Kessel (above) has eight points over the last four games. Hossa, who has 36 points (14 goals and 22 assists) career against the Leafs, had his five-game goal streak snapped in Friday's victory over Carolina, but he still managed two assists. The 'Hawks are 20-4-2 this season when Hossa gets at least one point. 

KEY STAT: 9. That's how many consecutive one-goal games the Maple Leafs have played in, going 6-0-3 during this stretch.
Posted on: March 4, 2011 7:59 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 12:17 am

Kris Letang tossed after jersey comes loose

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang received a rare game misconduct for something he didnt' do.

Tie down his jersey. 

Letang apparently didn't loop the belt through the tab on the back of his Pens road jersey, something that became plainly evident when he squared off against New Jersey's Travis Zajac six minute into Friday's contest. Along with the fighting major each received, Letang was tossed from the game -- not a good thing for a Pens team that's already minus forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz due to injury.

Rule 46.13 states that jerseys not  “tied-down on”  on player who egnages in fisticuffs and that jersey become dislodged, a game misconduct must be called. A player doesn't receive the sanction if his jersey comes off even when its tied down due to equipment failure, although it does have to be reported to the NHL. 

Posted on: March 4, 2011 6:11 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 7:28 pm

Playoff watch: Rangers look to end slide

New York Rangers (33-29-4) at Ottawa Senators (22-33-9)
Scotiabank Place, 7:30 pm ET

SEASON SERIES: Rangers 1-1-0; Senators 1-1-0

IMPLICATIONS: A victory by the Rangers moves them up to seventh place in the  Eastern Conference. The Sens will only hurt their chances in the draft. Here's our playoff tracker.

BREAKDOWN: The Rangers have scored four goals during their current three-game skid, a slump that began right after New York posted a 6-0 victory over the Washington Capitals. (The Rangers are 1-11 on the power play during this stretch.) After Ottawa, New York faces three teams with legit shots at the playoffs (Philadelphia, Anaheim and San Jose), so it might be a good idea to halt the free fall against the worst team record-wise in the East. 

PLAYER Vs. PLAYER: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist vs. Senators goalie Craig Anderson. Anderson, acquired from Colorado before the deadline, is 4-1-1 with a shutout, a 1.48 GAA and .958 save percentage in his career against the Rangers. Lundqvist has a losing record (9-11-0) against Ottawa. 

KEY STAT: 10-5-0. That’s the Rangers’ record in the second of back-to-back games this season, where they have outscored opponents 39-25. New York is coming off a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild at the Madison Square Garden on Thursday. 

Photo: Getty Images
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