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Tag:Brian Stubits
Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:58 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 2:58 pm
 

Lightning G Garon out 3-4 weeks with torn groin

Garon is 23-16-3 with a 2.85 GAA, .901 save percentage. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced on Wednesday that goaltender Mathieu Garon will miss the next 3-4 weeks after tearing a groin muscle in Tuesday's home loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Just when you thought the Lightning might have it in them to come roaring back (see what I did there?) this happens.

It's no secret the Lightning have been struggling with their goaltending this season. That would probably be an understatement, in fact. But Garon has given them a little more stability and good enough goaltending since taking over the reins from Dwayne Roloson. As a result -- and Steven Stamkos' 28 goals in the last 32 games, of course -- the Bolts re-entered the playoff conversation not only in the East but the Southeast Division.

That could all come to an end with this news.

The 42-year-old Roloson came to Tampa last season at the trade deadline and was a catalyst in the Lightning making it to the Eastern Conference finals. He hasn't been anywhere near as good this season. His vital stats? A 3.82 goals against average and .878 save percentage. I have one word for that: Yikes!

In relief of Garon on Tuesday, Roloson played 55 minutes and gave up five goals on 30 shots (the Senators had two more in the empty net).

As a result the Lightning have called up Dustin Tokarski from the AHL, who recently ran off eight consecutive wins for the Norfolk Admirals.

Now, why not put a claim in on Marty Turco before he can join the Bruins? Well it turns out that Turco wouldn't be able to play this season by a team that claims him since it's past the trade/acquisition deadline. So it's Boston or bust for Turco.

What the Lightning could do is sign a goalie from Europe like the Bruins did and then wait for him to clear waivers. The only question is if there's anybody they'd want.

Now I'm not going to say the Lightning are done with this news, I pretty much said that after they started selling at the trade deadline, but it certainly doesn't seem to help matters.

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

Posted on: March 7, 2012 11:00 am
 

Orlov, Tootoo given misconducts for pushing refs

By Brian Stubits

Players know that one of the cardinal sins in hockey -- and sports -- is touching officials in an aggressive manner. You just don't do it, it spells trouble every time.

As a result, we don't see it happen often. But it happened on Tuesday night. Twice.

One incident involved Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov after he and his teammates felt like he was slew-footed by Jeff Skinner of the Hurricanes. Tensions were high when the whistle blew and the scrum ensued, eventually Orlov shoves linesman Jean Morin who was trying to restrain Orlov.

Have a look.

Is it a lot? No, not really. But it still isn't tolerated by the league. It's a line that the NHL has to keep 100 percent clear and you would think this fits the bill. You'd think.

Then again, Bob McKenzie notes that Orlov was not written up for abuse by the linesmen, so that helps Orlov. That doesn't mean he is out of the woods, however. The league could still punish him in some way.

While the league looks at the Orlov incident you know that the Skinner slew foot will also be looked at. The NHL has been punishing players for that this season.

“We were going into the corner, I think he tried to sort of back up and I felt like he tried to come and hit me,” Skinner said after the game. “I think he may have slipped. I don't know. I looked at the replay when I was in the box and it sort of looked like I finished with my hands forward, but that was my momentum. I don't know. I think he just slipped.”

I can buy that, it doesn't seem completely malicious to me (everybody is bound to see that one differently). Apparently the league bought it too.

The other player-official push last night came from renowned Predators pest Jordin Tootoo for a small cross check to the back of a linesman stepping between Tootoo and Matt Greene. Like Orlov, Tootoo was given a 10-minute misconduct but was not written up for abuse of the officials after the game.

Here's an animated .gif of the Tootoo incident so you can watch for the contact over and over and over ...

More NHL Discipline news

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

Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:39 am
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:09 am
 

Pregame Skate: Sabres, Leafs continue push

Lindy Ruff and Buffalo return home. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Pregame 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.

7 ET, Carolina at Buffalo

The first of only two games on an even quieter than usual Wednesday, all eyes will be on the Sabres after a good road trip. They went 3-1-1 on a trip that included stops in Madison Square Garden, Vancouver and Winnipeg. It resurrected their previously dead season.

However the question remains if it was more of an anomaly or the Sabres have turned the corner and shown flashes of the team many thought they would be. They can start to find that out with Wednesday's game against the Hurricanes.

Buffalo starts the night four points back of the Jets for eighth place in the East and tonight will play its one game in hand on Winnipeg. So not only would a win bring them to within just two points of the Jets, it would also pull the Sabres even in points with the Capitals in ninth.

The small bit of irony there is they would have to thank the Hurricanes for helping them achieve that as the 'Canes head to Buffalo just 24 hours after taking down the Caps in Washington with a bonus-hockey goal.

Obviously Carolina isn't going to roll over and the idea of an easy win in the NHL is almost non-existent, but this is a game the Sabres should and almost need to win. They can't make that road trip feel like it was for naught by laying an egg in their return home if they want to keep belief in a playoff berth.

7:30 ET, Toronto at Pittsburgh

The Maple Leafs are still trying to regain any semblance of their season. One way they were hoping to do that was with the hiring of Randy Carlyle. The good news? In the two games he has coached, the Leafs are outscoring their opponents by a goal. There's a plus.

The bad news is that they have still lost 12 of their last 13 games and only one of those losses came beyond 60 minutes. That's five out of the last 26 points up for grabs that they have taken. Is it any wonder then that they are almost as close to the bottom of the East as they are to Winnipeg in the playoff push?

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Now the good news is that it isn't too late to salvage their hopes even if the prospect is dire. But going into Pittsburgh and taking two points from the Penguins could potentially move them back over a pair of teams and just three points out. That's life at the bottom of the East this season, you have to fail really hard to make the playoffs out of reach.

It's pretty tough to go through a stretch of Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in five days but that's where the Leafs are. Then it's on the road for five straight. It's safe to say you'll see a very desperate team playing the Penguins tonight, but the Pens have been handling that a lot lately and are doing just fine.

Don't forget, the Penguins will be unveiling the much-anticipated Mario Lemieux statue outside of the arena.

Others were watching

There's nothing else. That's all we've got.

Your promised miscellany

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

Posted on: March 6, 2012 12:22 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 2:32 pm
 

Crosby cleared for contact, could play on Sunday

Crosby has two goals and 10 assists in eight games this season. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Sidney Crosby has one again been cleared for contact and could be returning very soon. How soon? Perhaps as soon as Sunday.

"I'll give myself days with contact," Crosby said. "We have two more practices this week. No sooner than Sunday, I would say, but I'm not going to sit here and put a date on it. It would be total guesswork. I just want to make sure I get through these days fine and that would be a great decision to make if I get to that point.

"The big step is contact. Hopefully, I can do that for a few days and get back out there."

If he does make his return on Sunday it will come against the Boston Bruins -- NBC already has it scheduled to be the national game of the week. The interesting angle there, of course, is that it was against the Bruins that Crosby played his last game.

Crosby has been practicing with his Penguins teammates for a while but there were no updates coming from the Penguins about his status until after the team's skate on Tuesday. That's when Crosby revealed he has been cleared.

You'll remember that Crosby played eight games earlier this season after sitting out for nearly a full year because of a concussion. He returned to the sideline later with what many were assuming was another concussion. It was later discovered that Crosby had a neck issue that was causing many of the problems since its symptoms can be very similar to those of a concussion.

If -- and this remains an If until Crosby is able to return for an extended time -- he is healthy, is there any question that the Penguins will be one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup? They already have the second best record in the Eastern Conference with Crosby out for all but eight games thus far.

As he showed earlier this season, it shouldn't take long at all for him to get back into top form -- which makes him in my and plenty of other's opinions the best player in the league.

"I've been through this before. Contact is the big step," Crosby said. "It's nice to be symptom free, but it's not as fulfilling until you get out there. I just want to make sure that I take the right steps here and get back out there soon."

It might not be a great day for the rest of the league per se, but it's a great day for hockey.

More from Eye on Hockey

Crosby has 'soft tissue injury'

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

Posted on: March 6, 2012 11:31 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 11:43 am
 

Most miserable city? Post-Thrashers Atlanta

The fans pleaded to no avail in Atlanta. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

To the city of Atlanta and the sports fans there, I'm sorry, this feels a bit like piling on. But your city has been named the Most Miserable Sports City in America by Forbes, usurping Seattle for that dubious title.

Of course the biggest contribution to Atlanta's rise (fall?) to the top (bottom?) of the rankings was the loss of a franchise, the Thrashers leaving the city for the greener (or whiter with all that snow) pastures that were Winnipeg.

And no, the list doesn't refer to Atlanta being a bad sports city, even it that does apply. Atlanta would probably be in the running for that award neck-and-neck with Miami/South Florida.

It must really burn the hockey fans in Atlanta to see the franchise clear the executive offices out, get itself a new general manager and finding some success this season with nearly the same team that disappointed in Atlanta a year ago. Having to be reminded constantly about the Jets going from one of the worst home-ice advantages in the NHL to the best can't help either.

Here is the summary on Atlanta's deservingness of the title.

Over the past year, Atlanta fans have watched their hockey team leave for Winnipeg, their baseball team blow the playoffs on the final day, and their football and basketball teams bow out early in the playoffs.

Yea, that doesn't sound too pleasant. Then again one city that didn't even crack the top five doesn't have a hockey team, has a football team that hasn't made the playoffs in 10 years, a baseball team that has made it just once in the last 10 years and a basketball team that was left crushed when it was spurned by its biggest star. Yes, I'm looking at you, Cleveland. It’s not found until No. 8 on the list.

The top 5 cities are:

1. Atlanta
2. Seattle
3. Phoenix
4. Buffalo
5. San Diego.

Phoenix could be making a move to pass both Seattle and Atlanta in the next year if the Coyotes fall to the same fate that took the Thrashers from Atlanta. It remains a very real possibility with no deal yet to keep the team in Phoenix/Glendale.

Who says hockey doesn't matter? Sure seems to carry a lot of weight here, even if it's for the wrong reasons.

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

Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:08 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:32 am
 

Leafs re-sign Mikhail Grabovski for five seasons

Grabovski has 20 goals this season for Toronto. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed center Mikhail Grabovski to a five-year contract, ensuring that their talented centerman won't hit the free-agent market this summer.

The cost? Well it's going to be a little expensive for the Leafs.

There hasn't been a whole lot of good news coming out of Toronto recently, so consider Tuesday morning's break to be a relief. The team has lost its grip on the playoff position it held for so long, head coach Ron Wilson was just fired and GM Brian Burke has continued to be Brian Burke, making news for something every other day.

This bit of newsmaking is good, though. Very good. Grabovski's name was floated a bit at the trade deadline since he wasn't under contract for next season. But in an interesting phone interview with TSN's James Duthie on deadline day, Burke expressed interest although not a whole ton of optimism they would sign Grabovski. Either way he wasn't going to be traded.

"We are extremely pleased to have Mikhail under contract for the next five seasons,” Burke said in the team's release. “His speed and skill are valuable commodities and fit perfectly with our style of play. He leads by example and his work ethic speaks for itself."

Grabovski is technically the No. 2 center for the Leafs but many would argue he's the best centerman on the team. He helps give Toronto a solid second line. This season he has 20 goals and 25 assists to follow up his 29-29=58 of last season.

The price tag, as you might expect, comes in a little high. But compare it to other recent signings such as Ales Hemsky in Edmonton and it shouldn't be a total shock. Grabovski is a legit top-six centerman and people all across hockey will tell you that's not easy to find. The Leafs have a good one and they had to make sure they kept him.

I get the sense that I'm in the minority on this one in thinking it's not a bad deal for Toronto. Grabovski will still be just 33 when the deal is done and he should consistently give the Leafs 25-plus goals each season at center.

What do you think, good deal?

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

Posted on: March 6, 2012 9:38 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 9:45 am
 

Pregame Skate: Big night for all in playoff push

Jumbo Joe and San Jose enter the night eighth in the West. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Pregame 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.

10:30 ET, Edmonton at San Jose

This is pretty amazing to type with only a few weeks left in the season, but if the Sharks don't win this game, they could be out of playoff position.

Now here is the part where I throw out the disclaimers: the Sharks have multiple games in hand on the teams ahead or near them in the standings. It's also where I remind you that does you no good unless you actually win those games in hand.

But the Sharks are sinking right now. They are 4-10-1 in their last 15 games, unable to really find their footing since returning from that nine-game road trip they took in February. As a result, they find themselves holding on to the final playoff spot in the West at the moment. Of course, they could also forge a three-way tie with losses by their Pacific Division rivals tonight and regain the third seed. This is how it is shaping up to be for the remainder of the season in the Pacific.

The important thing for San Jose is to not let these types of games slip away. The Sharks have had a couple days off, they're at home and the league's second worst team record wise (the Oilers) are visiting a night after playing in Anaheim. It's as good a shot at two points as any. It's more or less herring just dangling in front of them.

9 ET, Minnesota at Colorado (NBC Sports Network)

The Avalanche won't go away out West either. Unlike the East where teams like Toronto and Washington to an extent have been playing their way out of the playoffs, Colorado is one of those out West that has been winning its way in, meaning they have won five of the last seven games.

That includes a win on Sunday night against the same Minnesota Wild they host on Tuesday. It was a 2-0 win for the Avs with the lone tallies coming from Jamie McGinn in the first period.

I still haven't been convinced by the Avalanche that they have staying power in the Western Conference to make the playoffs this season. But here we are in March and they just won't go away. With that said, their odds still aren't as good as the other teams around them in the standings due to the extra number of games they have played. Sports Club Stats puts the odds on the Avs making it in at 17.95 percent.

It's important to point out that Semyon Varlamov has been significantly better in goal for them of late, showing why they traded a first-round draft pick for him this summer. Only once in his last six starts has he given up more than two goals. In the other five starts his goals against average is a decimal shade above 1.00 even.

7:30 ET, Ottawa at Tampa Bay

Welcome back to the playoff picture, Tampa Bay.

The Lightning have been streaking of late behind the hot stick of Steven Stamkos -- honestly, when is it not hot? -- and are about to enjoy some time at home. Having won four in a row, the Lightning are embarking on a nine-game stretch where eight games will come at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Here's an interesting little tidbit about that: The Lightning actually have the Southeast Division's best home record. Better than Winnipeg. Actually, Washington has a better home record than Winnipeg too (by two fewer OT losses). That's saying something about Tampa's prowess at home.

If they can use this home-heavy stretch the way the Jets just did on their eight-game home stand, there's no reason the Lightning can't get in the playoff seeding very soon, or possibly even jumping the Panthers for first place in the division (they enter tonight six points behind).

Of note for the Senators: Ben Bishop is expected to get his first start since being traded to Ottawa after Robin Lehner was sent back to AHL Binghamton.

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Others worth watching

7 ET, Boston at Toronto: Let's see if the change from Ron Wilson to Randy Carlyle is going to help the Maple Leafs finally get over the Bruins hump. Boston has won all four meetings this season by a combined score of 23-6. Eek.

7 ET, Phoenix at Columbus: The Coyotes come into Columbus straight off a loss -- albeit a good showing -- against the Penguins on Monday. It was just Saturday that the Blue Jackets beat the Coyotes in the desert.

7 ET, Carolina at Washington: The last time these two got together the Hurricanes whitewashed the Capitals 5-0 in Raleigh. Washington comes in having lost two straight at home while failing to score in either. To say the Caps need this is an understatement.

7 ET, Detroit at Philadelphia: Not a whole lot in the playoff picture other than Detroit's battle for the Central Division and Presidents' Trophy, but Mark Howe's number will be retired before the game and it should just be an all-around good game.

8 ET, Los Angeles at Nashville: Kings coach Darryl Sutter joked the Predators “haven’t lost at home since Christ was a child.” Doesn't bode well for a team trying to stay in the playoff hunt too. If things go right, L.A. could be just one point out of first in the Pacific by night's end.

10 ET, Dallas at Vancouver: As the day begins, this is a matchup of division leaders as the Stars took that title on Monday night with Phoenix's loss. But the task is tall if they want to keep that lead after tonight.

Your promised miscellany

  • Monday's Winners & Losers
  • The Senators threatened they might leave Ottawa if tax breaks were eliminated. No worries, they're staying. (Ottawa Sun)
  • The news on the Jonathan Toews mystery injury front is sounding better for Chicago. (CSN Chicago)
  • A little more on my favorite story of the year so far, OHL forward Connor Crisp talks about the experience playing goaltender.

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

Posted on: March 5, 2012 11:00 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 12:27 am
 

Winners & Losers: Jets win to finish homestand

By Brian Stubits

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

Winnipeg: Not the Jets -- although they fit too -- but the city of Winnipeg. Its support of the Jets in their return season has been spectacular and it seemed as amped up as ever at MTS Centre on Monday night with the Sabres in town. Winner earned the right to hold the eighth seed.

As always this season (and for many more to come, I'm sure) they filled the place to the rafters and in unison heckled somebody on the other team. Tonight's choise was Sabres goalie Ryan Miller and the Jets fans might have had the chant of the season, reigning "Sil-ver Med-al!" chants on Miller. Even if he was the best goalie in that tournament in 2010, it was still clever.

But of course its being fueled by the Jets (I'd like to say that pun was intended, but not really). They have still played more games than most every other team in the league but they are now starting to make that a moot point by winning right now. They are forcing those teams with games in hand to pick up all the points to catch them at this point. The win on Monday night, for example, put the Jets four ahead of the Sabres in the East.

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More importanlty, they come out as winners on their long homestand. The victory tonight capped off their eight-game home stand in which they went 5-1-2. They did exactly what they had to which was use the comfy confines of MTS Centre to launch themselves into a position that they can hold on to what was was pretty unthinkable considering they are the Thrashers with a different name: a playoff berth. Nine of their final 15 games are on the road.

[Related Jets 3, Sabres 1]

Teemu Selanne, Corey Perry: The Anaheim Ducks got a win to keep their slimmest of slim playoff hopes alive, but that wasn't the biggest story out of the game. Instead it was, as is often the case, Teemu Selanne notching another milestone.

By assisting on Bobby Ryan's go-ahead goal against the Oilers, Selanne earned his 1,398th career point. That was good enough to tie him with his boyhood idol Jari Kurri for 19th on the all-time scoring list. You know that is one milestone that has to just be a little more special than the rest.

Perry then put in what proved to be the winning tally with only a couple minutes left in the game to reach his own milestone: Career goal No. 200. Sure, it isn't exactly tying your boyhood idol for 19th all time in scoring but it's nothing to sneeze at either. He added No. 201 in an empty net.

And yes, the win keeps the Anaheim hopes alive even if that's a still barely. They move five points behind eighth-place San Jose in the West while the Sharks have three games in hand. What it did accomplish, though, is that they passed the Minnesota Wild to take 12th place by themselves.

[Related: Ducks 4, Oilers 2]

Dallas Stars: Only in the NHL can you win by not playing. See the losers side for an explanation.

Losers

Phoenix Coyotes: What they wouldn't give to get February back. After gaining 23 of the 24 points up for grabs in the month of love, they have been left heartbroken so far in March. The latest was Monday's 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh, the early 2-0 hole too difficult to overcome against Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins.

But they lost more than the game on Monday night. The Coyotes also lost their position atop the Pacific Division. Sure, it's by way of tie-breakers, but as of this moment, the Dallas Stars -- not the Coyotes, Sharks, Kings or Ducks -- are your division leaders and current holders of the No. 3 seed out West. Don't believe me? Take a look.

This is how quickly you can go from feeling comfortable to feeling very nervous at this time of the season. They have just a three-point lead at this point on the ninth-seeded Kings and 10th-seeded Avalanche, which isn't different than it was before the night. Except that they lose one game in hand.

It might be time to give goaltender Mike Smith a breather. He has now started 20 of the last 21 games after Monday night and he's obviously dropped the last three. He would probably like the two goals from Monday back, particularly the winner from Chris Kunitz back. After that, though, he was sharp.

[Related: Penguins 2, Coyotes 1]

Goal of the night

Chris Thorburn, Jets: This isn't a regular item in the Winners & Losers, just on occassion when when warrants it. And this one warrants it.

Back to Winnipeg we go.

H/t to Puck Daddy for the video

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

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com