Tag:Buffalo Sabres
Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:53 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 6:07 pm
 

NHL Trade deadline winners and losers

The Nashville Predators were the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline's biggest winners. (Getty)

By: Adam Gretz

It shouldn't be a surprise that Monday turned out to be, for the most part, a quiet day as the 3 ET trade deadline passed.

Increased parity around the league and the fact nearly every team in the NHL still thinks it has a chance to make the playoffs this season reduced the number of true sellers to no more than four or five (If that). That, of course, made it nearly impossible to strike many impact deals, not to mention the sky-high prices teams were apparently putting on their players.

In the end, Rick Nash is still a Columbus Blue Jacket. Steve Ott is still a Dallas Star.  Roman Hamrlik and Mike Knuble are still Washington Capitals. Ryan Suter is still a Nashville Predator.

And speaking of the Predators, if they wanted to send a message to Suter and his partner in crime on the blue line, Shea Weber, not to mention the rest of the organization, the fan base and the NHL as a whole that they're ready to start going for it, they certainly did so on Monday.

Or attempted to, anyway.

The Predators were one of the busiest teams in the NHL over the past week, and after acquiring Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens last week for a couple of draft picks, they made two of the biggest moves on Monday by acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn from the Canadiens for two more draft picks, and then grabbed Paul Gaustad and a draft pick from the Buffalo Sabres for a first-round pick.

The Gaustad trade is a bold one. Perhaps even a little crazy given the price they paid for a role player that also happens to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. But he's a valuable player that is going to help, and now that everything has settled the Predators are a deeper, better team than they were at this time last week.

As general manager David Poile said "These trades have certainly given us a chance to play with the big boys this year."
NHL Trade Deadline
More NHL coverage


Winners

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings big trade came earlier in the week when they landed  Jeff Carter from the Columbus Jackets, giving the team the goal-scoring help it desperately needed, and reuniting him with his long-time teammate, Mike Richards. As I pointed out the night of the deal, the Kings were able to acquire Richards and Carter over the past year in two separate trades that did not require them to give up any of their own franchise, core players, which is pretty big score.

Buffalo Sabres: When word surfaced early on Monday that the asking price for Gaustad would be a first-round draft pick, there was some disbelief, as well as the assumption that as the day progressed that price would drop. The Sabres didn't back down from their demands and ended up getting the first-round pick they wanted for a player that had chance to lose for nothing over the summer.

They also addressed their need for young talent down the middle by striking what was perhaps the biggest deal of the day, sending Zach Kassian to the Vancouver Canucks for Cody Hodgson.

Minnesota Wild: In what was simply a hockey trade that saw two teams swap different types of defensemen the Oilers shipped Tom Gilbert to Minnesota in exchange for Nick Schultz. The Oilers traded an offensive-minded player for a defensive one, the Wild did the exact opposite, but ended up picking up the better player. Gilbert is going to help Minnesota a lot more than Schultz will help Edmonton.

Ottawa Senators: Saturday's addition of goaltender Ben Bishop is one of those deals that could sneak under the radar but provide a big return. Bishop is a highly regarded prospect and with Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak filling the position for the foreseeable future in St. Louis, Bishop wasn't going to get much of an opportunity. He might get it in Ottawa, especially in the short-term now that Craig Anderson is sidelined, and the Senators were able to get him without giving up much in return. Solid addition at a fair price at the right time.

Losers

Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets: The most shocking development to come out of the Rick Nash drama on Monday wasn't that he didn't get traded. For all of the rumors and speculation that followed his name over the past week, it's not a huge surprise that he's still a member of the Blue Jackets on Monday evening. The insanity really started to kick in when.general manager Scott Howson admitted in his Monday afternoon press conference that Nash initially approached the team and asked for a trade, putting the entire process in motion.

Why Howson would admit this is a mystery, but it's becoming pretty obvious that even though Nash will finish this season in Columbus, he's probably not going to be there at the start of next season. Especially now that his (current) general manager pretty much tossed him in front of the bus.

The only question that remains is whether or not Howson will be the man to make the inevitable trade over the summer. And given the return Columbus received on its two trades this past week, selling off Antoine Vermette and Jeff Carter for what amounts to Jack Johnson and some magic beans, not to mention the way he fumbled the Nash situation helping to put a nice bow on a season that only seems to get worse, it's worth asking who will be making that call from the general manager's office.

Of course, Nash isn't completely without blame in this mess either. His agent commented over the weekend that it would be best for a trade to be done sooner rather than later, and if Nash himself were really that desperate to get out of Columbus he wouldn't have limited the Jackets' potential trade partners by only offering to waive his no-trade clause for a short-list of teams, and one that his agent claims will not grow over the summer.

This appears to be a no-win situation for Columbus and its fans.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks goaltending and defense has been a sore spot this season, and their only major move was to add Johnny Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets. Not sure if that's going to be enough.

Carolina Hurricanes: After re-signing Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason, two popular names in trade speculation over the past month, the Hurricanes did not deal Bryan Allen or Jaroslav Spacek, two players that are eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, which means they could possibly walk out the door for no return. It's still possible that one (or both) can be re-signed, which could be exciting ... if you're interested in keeping together a team that's currently 14th in the Eastern Conference. 

Teams that stayed quiet

Pittsburgh Penguins: For the first time under general manager Ray Shero the Penguins did not make a move on, or near, the NHL's trade deadline. With the way the team is playing right now and the makeup of its roster, with Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal leading the way, a move wasn't really needed. This team is playing well enough as it is, doesn't appear to have many holes and looks like a team that can be a favorite and top contender for the Stanley Cup.

But the mindset around Pittsburgh seems to be that the lack of a move is a positive sign that Sidney Crosby could be on the verge of a return, or that he will eventually be "the big addition" for the roster. That's all well and good, and if it works out that way, fantastic. But assuming anything right now regarding Crosby is a major stretch. Nobody knows for sure when he'll be back, and it's worth pointing out that his last return lasted all of 10 games. Still a lot of uncertainty around that entire situation.

Washington Capitals: The Capitals were expected to be one of the busiest teams on Monday, especially after their decision to move center Nicklas Backstrom to the long-term injured list, opening up a pretty significant amount of salary cap space ahead of the deadline.

In the end the Capitals did nothing, which seems to be a pretty big shock around the NHL. But is it?

The Capitals could have certainly used a center, but with the way this team has looked for much of the season it's hard to imagine there being a move out there that was going to help this team get over the hump this year. Why give up significant long-term assets to chase after the No. 7 or 8 playoff spot when a deep postseason run doesn't look like it's a legitimate possibility?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 27, 2012 5:53 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 6:07 pm
 

NHL Trade deadline winners and losers

The Nashville Predators were the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline's biggest winners. (Getty)

By: Adam Gretz

It shouldn't be a surprise that Monday turned out to be, for the most part, a quiet day as the 3 ET trade deadline passed.

Increased parity around the league and the fact nearly every team in the NHL still thinks it has a chance to make the playoffs this season reduced the number of true sellers to no more than four or five (If that). That, of course, made it nearly impossible to strike many impact deals, not to mention the sky-high prices teams were apparently putting on their players.

In the end, Rick Nash is still a Columbus Blue Jacket. Steve Ott is still a Dallas Star.  Roman Hamrlik and Mike Knuble are still Washington Capitals. Ryan Suter is still a Nashville Predator.

And speaking of the Predators, if they wanted to send a message to Suter and his partner in crime on the blue line, Shea Weber, not to mention the rest of the organization, the fan base and the NHL as a whole that they're ready to start going for it, they certainly did so on Monday.

Or attempted to, anyway.

The Predators were one of the busiest teams in the NHL over the past week, and after acquiring Hal Gill from the Montreal Canadiens last week for a couple of draft picks, they made two of the biggest moves on Monday by acquiring Andrei Kostitsyn from the Canadiens for two more draft picks, and then grabbed Paul Gaustad and a draft pick from the Buffalo Sabres for a first-round pick.

The Gaustad trade is a bold one. Perhaps even a little crazy given the price they paid for a role player that also happens to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. But he's a valuable player that is going to help, and now that everything has settled the Predators are a deeper, better team than they were at this time last week.

As general manager David Poile said "These trades have certainly given us a chance to play with the big boys this year."
NHL Trade Deadline
More NHL coverage


Winners

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings big trade came earlier in the week when they landed  Jeff Carter from the Columbus Jackets, giving the team the goal-scoring help it desperately needed, and reuniting him with his long-time teammate, Mike Richards. As I pointed out the night of the deal, the Kings were able to acquire Richards and Carter over the past year in two separate trades that did not require them to give up any of their own franchise, core players, which is pretty big score.

Buffalo Sabres: When word surfaced early on Monday that the asking price for Gaustad would be a first-round draft pick, there was some disbelief, as well as the assumption that as the day progressed that price would drop. The Sabres didn't back down from their demands and ended up getting the first-round pick they wanted for a player that had chance to lose for nothing over the summer.

They also addressed their need for young talent down the middle by striking what was perhaps the biggest deal of the day, sending Zach Kassian to the Vancouver Canucks for Cody Hodgson.

Minnesota Wild: In what was simply a hockey trade that saw two teams swap different types of defensemen the Oilers shipped Tom Gilbert to Minnesota in exchange for Nick Schultz. The Oilers traded an offensive-minded player for a defensive one, the Wild did the exact opposite, but ended up picking up the better player. Gilbert is going to help Minnesota a lot more than Schultz will help Edmonton.

Ottawa Senators: Saturday's addition of goaltender Ben Bishop is one of those deals that could sneak under the radar but provide a big return. Bishop is a highly regarded prospect and with Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak filling the position for the foreseeable future in St. Louis, Bishop wasn't going to get much of an opportunity. He might get it in Ottawa, especially in the short-term now that Craig Anderson is sidelined, and the Senators were able to get him without giving up much in return. Solid addition at a fair price at the right time.

Losers

Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets: The most shocking development to come out of the Rick Nash drama on Monday wasn't that he didn't get traded. For all of the rumors and speculation that followed his name over the past week, it's not a huge surprise that he's still a member of the Blue Jackets on Monday evening. The insanity really started to kick in when.general manager Scott Howson admitted in his Monday afternoon press conference that Nash initially approached the team and asked for a trade, putting the entire process in motion.

Why Howson would admit this is a mystery, but it's becoming pretty obvious that even though Nash will finish this season in Columbus, he's probably not going to be there at the start of next season. Especially now that his (current) general manager pretty much tossed him in front of the bus.

The only question that remains is whether or not Howson will be the man to make the inevitable trade over the summer. And given the return Columbus received on its two trades this past week, selling off Antoine Vermette and Jeff Carter for what amounts to Jack Johnson and some magic beans, not to mention the way he fumbled the Nash situation helping to put a nice bow on a season that only seems to get worse, it's worth asking who will be making that call from the general manager's office.

Of course, Nash isn't completely without blame in this mess either. His agent commented over the weekend that it would be best for a trade to be done sooner rather than later, and if Nash himself were really that desperate to get out of Columbus he wouldn't have limited the Jackets' potential trade partners by only offering to waive his no-trade clause for a short-list of teams, and one that his agent claims will not grow over the summer.

This appears to be a no-win situation for Columbus and its fans.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks goaltending and defense has been a sore spot this season, and their only major move was to add Johnny Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets. Not sure if that's going to be enough.

Carolina Hurricanes: After re-signing Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason, two popular names in trade speculation over the past month, the Hurricanes did not deal Bryan Allen or Jaroslav Spacek, two players that are eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, which means they could possibly walk out the door for no return. It's still possible that one (or both) can be re-signed, which could be exciting ... if you're interested in keeping together a team that's currently 14th in the Eastern Conference. 

Teams that stayed quiet

Pittsburgh Penguins: For the first time under general manager Ray Shero the Penguins did not make a move on, or near, the NHL's trade deadline. With the way the team is playing right now and the makeup of its roster, with Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal leading the way, a move wasn't really needed. This team is playing well enough as it is, doesn't appear to have many holes and looks like a team that can be a favorite and top contender for the Stanley Cup.

But the mindset around Pittsburgh seems to be that the lack of a move is a positive sign that Sidney Crosby could be on the verge of a return, or that he will eventually be "the big addition" for the roster. That's all well and good, and if it works out that way, fantastic. But assuming anything right now regarding Crosby is a major stretch. Nobody knows for sure when he'll be back, and it's worth pointing out that his last return lasted all of 10 games. Still a lot of uncertainty around that entire situation.

Washington Capitals: The Capitals were expected to be one of the busiest teams on Monday, especially after their decision to move center Nicklas Backstrom to the long-term injured list, opening up a pretty significant amount of salary cap space ahead of the deadline.

In the end the Capitals did nothing, which seems to be a pretty big shock around the NHL. But is it?

The Capitals could have certainly used a center, but with the way this team has looked for much of the season it's hard to imagine there being a move out there that was going to help this team get over the hump this year. Why give up significant long-term assets to chase after the No. 7 or 8 playoff spot when a deep postseason run doesn't look like it's a legitimate possibility?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 27, 2012 3:56 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2012 4:08 pm
 

Canucks ship Hodgson to Sabres for Kassian

By Brian Stubits

The biggest trade of the day -- by far, if you ask me -- came down some 40 minutes after the deadline. The Vancouver Canucks shipped young star Cody Hodgson and defenseman Alexander Sulzer to the Buffalo Sabres for former No. 1 draft pick and top prospect Zach Kassian as well as defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.

Even on a more normal (see: busier) trade deadline day, that deal is going to make a lot of news. Hodgson is a big-time player who has been blocked from getting good ice time in Vancouver. But the idea of trading him didn't seem to be much of a good one with his potential. The problem is he plays center and the Canucks sort of have some good ones ahead of him. You might have heard of Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.

This season playing bottom-6 minutes, Hodgson has 16 goals and 17 assists. He has been a player that the fans in Vancouver have rallied behind to get more ice time, but again there wasn't much of it for him to take.

So he gets sent to Buffalo for Kassian, who won't be blocked at the center spot. He's a true power winger who is rough and skilled. The best way to describe him is as a freight-train type on the ice, he isn't soft out there to be sure.

The addition of Gragnani for Sulzer in the deal makes it a lot more appetizing for Vancouverites. Sulzer is a bit of a journeyman defenseman who plays in the No. 5/No. 6 role when he actually does play (only 12 games with Vancouver this season) while Gragnani is inexperienced but still very young. This was the first season in which he played more than 10 games, appearing in 44 so far for the Sabres while scoring a goal and 11 assists while sporting a plus-10.

Giving up Hodgson definitely comes as a surprise but apparently he was expendable. And it helps the Canucks get something they could use, a little more grit and toughness. It's hard not to view this addition of Kassian as partly in preparation for a possible rematch with the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final based on last year's series. Bruins or not, it's a move to get a little tougher.

For Buffalo, it will be interesting to see if this satisfies the fan base's desire to see the team do something. It's been a very disappointing season, particularly based on the expectations for the Sabres so it was expected they'd do something. They waited until the very end by first trading Paul Gaustad to Nashville for a No. 1 draft pick and then this bombshell.

It's pretty easy to say that Hodgson is the big piece of this deal and he goes to Buffalo. But Kassian will have a role to fill in Vancouver without a doubt.

For the Canucks it was part of a busier day where they were determined to add some forward punch. In addition to the Kassian/Gragnani acquisition, they also landed Sami Pahlsson from the Blue Jackets and finished the day by getting Andrew Gordon from the Anaheim Ducks.

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

Posted on: February 27, 2012 3:33 pm
 

Paul Gaustad traded to Nashville

SabresPredatorsBy: Adam Gretz

The Nashville Predators made two of the biggest trades on Monday, and after picking up Andrei Kostitsyn from Montreal earlier in the day, they also landed center Paul Gaustad and a fourth-round draft pick from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a first-round draft pick.

The first-round pick was the rumored asking price for much of the day, and the Sabres were able to find a team willing to give one up.

Gaustad was one of the most talked about players heading into the deadline, which should have given us an idea as to how quiet Monday would be, and gives the Predators a big body down the middle that can play a number of different roles. The most valuable asset he brings to the team might in fact be his ability in the faceoff circle as he's one of the best players in the league on draw, consistently near the top of the NHL. That fills a pretty big need for the Predators as they are currently one of the worst faceoff teams in the NHL.

It's certainly a high price to pay for Gaustad, an unrestricted free agent after this season, but it's also a clear sign that the Predators are going for it this season. Over the past week they've added Gaustad, Kostitsyn and Hal Gill to go to a team that already has two of the best defensemen in the NHL (Shea Weber and Ryan Suter) and one of the top goalies in the league in Pekka Rinne.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:38 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 8:48 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: No hating on Wings now

The weekend saw Detroit's home streak go from 21 in a row to 23. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

I took a lot of heat for suggesting last week that the Red Wings' home win streak, as impressive as it is, might be deserving of a little side not in the history books thanks to the shootout.

But even I'll concede now you can forget that. I said if the Wings continued to push out the streak it becomes a non-issue and you are just left in too much awe of what Detroit has done. They've done exactly that.

After failing in their last five regular-season games against the San Jose Sharks, the Wings instead finished off a six-game homestand with another win, a hard-fought 3-2 victory at the Joe. For those counting at home, and I'm sure that's most all of you, that's 23 consecutive home wins, three more than the previous record.

It all underscores a bigger point. Sure, the NHL record is great and all, but that's nothing more than a nice stat to go in the history books. Otherwise it means nothing. However it will mean something if the Red Wings earn the Presidents' Trophy, or at least the top seed in the Western Conference.

You look hard to find holes on this team. At one point you might have said it was the backup goaltending, then Jimmy Howard got hurt, Joey MacDonald was called up and he has proven he is capable of replacing Ty Conklin. More than capable, in fact.

Before the season the hole was glaring on the defense. That's why they brought in some players to help in that regard, although none seemed to be all that significant at the time, at least to me. Oops.

While one of those additions, Mike Commodore, has been sparingly used, you can't say the same for Ian White. Despite pretty solid career numbers, I wasn't too crazy about a guy who played on three different teams last season (Calgary, Carolina and San Jose). Apparently that was a silly worry.

He has been as solid a plug into their blueline group as anybody out there. He chews up more than 23 minutes per game, he contributes some offensively and is on pace to smash his career best plus/minus mark (currently he is plus-29). I know, I know, plus/minus doesn't mean much, but you'd rather have a player who is that far above zero than below it, wouldn't you?

Moreover, they have scoring depth. Who'd a thunk that Drew Miller -- no longer just the brother of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller -- would be on his way to 15 or so goals? He is one of the 10 Red Wings players who are in double digits in goals this season. That means there is little reprieve at any point in a game against the Wings.

More from the weekend
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Obviously you're a good team when you win 23 in a row at home. Clearly no slouch is going to get that done. But the biggest thing about this home streak for me is that it will contribute to them playing a lot more at home. Ironic, I know. But what really matters will be the home games beyond the guaranteed 41.

Philly's problem

This week the Flyers made not one but two trades to get help on the defensive corps. While the help was definitely needed, not a lot is going to get better if the goaltending duo doesn't improve.

A sight that has become all too familiar this season, Ilya Bryzgalov was yanked mid-game after Matt Cooke scored the all-too rare 3-on-5 goal. Sergei Bobrovsky came in and din't perform any better. Eventually it ended in a 6-4 loss for the Flyers to the intrastate rival Penguins.

But evidenced by the downpour of boos from the Wells Fargo Center faithful, this has been a season-long issue for Philadelphia. Heck, it's been a lot longer than this season, but it was supposed to be resolved when they brought in Bryzgalov.

His save percentage has been floating around .900 all season. Right now it's sitting square on that mark, the lowest of his career. His goals against average is up to 2.79. His only worse season was in 2008-09 when he gave up 2.98 per game with the Coyotes.

Needless to say this isn't what the Flyers invested so much into him for. You have to think that with the success the team has had despite the goaltending woes, if either one of the goalies could get it going and start playing up to an acceptable level at minimum, they could make some serious noise in the playoffs.

You just wonder if that's possible at this point, if it's in either goalie with the current situation, from the defense in front of them to the coaching. It's a conversation that continues to linger around the Flyers.

Just check out what the Flyers had to say, including Bryzgalov after Saturday's loss.

Hockey Day in America

So among all the American players playing on Sunday, who'd a thunk that Paul Gaustad would be the first to score on Sunday's Hockey Day in America?

Assuming you don't count Canadian-born Jason Pominville even though he does play for the American natonal team as a dual-citizen, it was his Sabres teammate that scored the first goal by an American. He barely beat Drew Miller in Detroit for that honor.

It was part of a rare breakout for the Sabres. It's been a big struggle for them this season in Buffalo, but they brought out the scoring sticks and pounded the Penguins 6-2. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't do much for Buffalo who is too far out of the playoff picture, but it was perhaps a nice audition for Gaustad in this month of the trade deadline.

He's not going to be as sought after as a lot of the other players, but some team seeking grit and toughness with a side of skill, Gaustad could fit somewhere. Just go back and watch his work on Evgeni Malkin on Sunday to get a sense of that.

Unlucky break of the weekend

Speaking of Hockey Day in America, one of the other big games of the day was the St. Louis Blues visiting the Chicago Blackhawks. It was also a big matchup in the Central Division as well.

As is the case with every Blues game, it was a low-scoring affair that turned with one bad break. This one going against the Blues.

The game-winning goal for the Blackhawks technically went to Dave Bolland, but if they could, it should have gone to the Blues' David Backes, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The centering pass shot off of Backes and he couldn't stop the puck from going in the net in time. The 'Hawks eventually potted an empty-netter for their third straight win after the nine-game skid.

Vancouver love

This year's NHLPA players poll voted the Vancouver Canucks as the league's most overrated team. Don't think I'd agree at all in calling them overrated. They were one game from winning the Cup last season and as we all know, only one team can win the Cup each season. I mean the Canucks have won the games to put them in the positions they've been in each postseason, it's not like it's a fabrication, they earned those points.

In fact, I'd say that this team doesn't get enough credit, at least in the States. They seem to be in the news a bit, but not often for their play. Yet all they do is win as DJ Khaled so eloquently said. This is the team that could take away from that Red Wings home-ice advantage in the West this postseason.

That's because they extended their points streak to 12 games after beating down the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2 on Saturday in Vancouver. They are 9-0-3 in that time. They became the second team behind the Wings to reach the 80-point plateau.

Perhaps that overrated label has come from the fact that we expect this now. It might also explain why they are winning so quietly. Or maybe it has been the large amount of overtime and shootout wins, especially lately. But no matter the reason, people should probably pay attention.

Just can't Capitalize

Every time you think the Washington Capitals are going to get it going after a big and impressive win, they fall flat. It happened again this weekend.

They took two points from the division-leading Panthers on Friday night in a dominating effort, outshooting Florida by a wide margin. So how'd they follow that up? By looking like the Caps we've seen for the most of Dale Hunter's tenure ... being outshot and outchanced for the majority of the game and losing a low-scoring affair to the Lightning 2-1.

It seems every step they take forward they take one step back. It's why the Panthers are still sitting in first place in the Southeast with just 65 points. That's the seventh most in the Eastern Conference yet best in the division.

At some point if the Caps are going to make the playoffs they need to start stringing together a couple of these wins in a row instead of missing these chances.

Quote of the weekend

“I haven’t been on a vacation for 15 days,” Boudreau said. ”This is ridiculous. The East has no idea how lucky they are. And I think every team in the West should start with 10 points before the season starts.

“Eight games and 15 days. And I’m sure Pittsburgh goes through it, too. But when you have a four-game road trip in seven days, you’re coming home exhausted. We’re at seven days right now and this is just the halfway point in our trip.

“For a guy that’s played in the East or coach in the East as well, I don’t know how they do it,” he said. ”I really don’t. It’s quite a testament to every team in the West’s character for not griping as much as I’m doing right now about it.

“You don’t even know what hotel room you’re getting into. You forget the hotel rooms and everything during the course of the day on this trip. It’s pretty Wild. But it is what it is. You can’t use it as an excuse and you’ve got to keep going.”

-- Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau on the travelling for his Anaheim team. It was technically said on Thursday, but hey, it's worth pointing out, particularly as the Ducks went from New Jersey on Thursday to Carolina on Friday and Florida on Sunday evening.

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

Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:01 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Hockey Weekend in America

Hossa and the 'Hawks are about ready to return home. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Weekend schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

In case you didn't know -- and chances are you didn't -- this weekend is Hockey Weekend in America. Mostly it's a name attached to a normal weekend of games, but dammit it's Patriotic and I'll be a son of a gun if Old Glory doesn't get me pumped up for anything.

The weekend showcase will be the triple-header early Sunday in what has become the spotlight game of the week now that football is in hibernation until the end of summer. Your choices -- OK, NBC's choices to show you based on where you live -- are Sharks at Red Wings (yes please!), Blues at Blackhawks (I'll take that) and Penguins at Sabres (hey, it looked good at the start of the season). It wraps with a game at 3 ET on NBC Sports Network as the Bruins visit the Wild.

With no slight to that Blues-Blackhawks game back in Chicago (home sweet home, eh 'Hawks?) the Sharks-Wings battle is the one to really watch. For if the Red Wings are still riding their record win streak into Sunday -- a mighty big "if" with the Predators visiting the Joe on Friday night -- then this will be the biggest threat to date.

There aren't many teams that can say this, but the Sharks have had Detroit's number recently. They are one of the few teams who have won in Detroit this season, doing so way back before Halloween. Go back to the beginning of last season and the Sharks are 9-4 vs. the Wings, including the playoffs. That includes five consecutive wins in regular-season matchups.

Must be coach Todd McLellan still knowing a secret or two to beating his old squad.

So while the bout in Motown might be the best from an action standpoint and as far as NHL history is concerned, I argue the more meaningful game is the one in the Windy City.

It was such a massive relief for the Blackhawks to finally end their losing streak that had peaked at nine games. Against the Rangers, no less. That's not like ending the skid against the Blue Jackets -- their final stop on this massive road trip Saturday -- it's the type of win that can really signify that things are alright. Taking down the best team in the league in their barn? Talk about a slumpbuster.

A return to home ice will be nice. Think about how you feel when you walk back in your front door after a vacation. Now think of how great that feeling is when you've had about the worst vacation you can imagine.

Then again, it's not so great when you have a house guest like St. Louis sitting on your porch awaiting for you to let them in. The good news is they aren't the type of guest who trashes your place, they're respectful that way. They are just 10-12-3 away from Scottrade Center.

Extended metaphor aside, there's no better time than now for the Blackhawks to regain their footing. That would put an end to the ridiculously stupid Patrick Kane trade suggestions and allow them to safely put space between them and the playoff chasers in the West.

One thing to consider: Face-off will be at 11:30 local time to accommodate NBC's time slot. That's an awfully early wakeup call after so long away from home.

Southeast showdown Part V

The Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals will square off for the fifth time this season Friday night in Florida. Strangely enough, it's going to be the first time that Tomas Vokoun has started a game back in Sunrise, his former stomping grounds, and the first start against the Capitals period for Jose Theodore this season. It's a bit odd that the No. 1 goalies have only received two of the eight starts in this series so far this season.

It makes sense both starters get the nod on Friday. It's another massive night for these teams. If the Panthers can do what they have done twice already this season and beat the Caps at home, they'll move six points up on Washington in the division. That's a nice cushion when we're getting down to 25 games or fewer left this season. Not insurmountable, but nice.

This is the third time these two have met this month. The last meeting was a 4-0 whitewashing by the Capitals in D.C. Coach Dale Hunter referred to that as a playoff game before it began and the Caps make it look as such. Since? They're 1-3-1. By my count, that'd have them eliminated (from the mythical Feb. playoffs, folks).

The good news is that Mike Green might return for the Caps against the Panthers. He's stopped and started so many times this season you'd think he was driving on the Washington Beltway during morning rush hour.

There will be a lot of interesting things to watch for in the game, but one for me will be the intensity of the Caps. In their last visit to Florida, Karl Alzner explained away their poor start by the lack of energy in the building. A pretty soft excuse in a pivotal division matchup.

They can't afford to start slow again. The Panthers have been doing that a lot lately themselves and coach Kevin Dineen is determined to make that stop in such an important game.

Desert streaking dogs

Holy Coyotes that team is hot right now.

Perhaps it's been a push to help garner interest to keep them in Phoenix, I don't know, but the Coyotes have caught fire. Just when you were ready to bury them in the desert sand, they spring off a run like this. "This" would be six wins in the last seven games to get into the playoff seedings at the moment.

To further their standing in the, um, standings, they get their own pivotal matchup. The Dallas Stars, one of the plethora of teams on their heels outside of the playoff picture at the moment, come to the desert on Saturday night.

It's a classic "four-point game" for the teams battling in the West and Pacific Division. Here's hoping there's a better than normal crowd to watch it, should be close to a playoff atmosphere.

Keystone clash rekindled

The Flyers and Penguins will renew acquaintances again this weekend. It's the start of a stretch with a lot of meetings for the intrastate rivals.

It will be the first of four meetings for the teams from now until April 7, the final day of the season. No wonder the chirping between the fan bases has been mostly quiet this season, they have hardly met.

The importance here should be pretty clear. As of now they are jockeying back and forth -- and with New Jersey -- for that all-important fourth spot in the East, the only home-ice award that goes to a non-division winner. It's very possible that these four tilts, starting with the Saturday matinee, will decide that race.

Plus it's about that time of the season where the Flyers could really stand for Ilya Bryzgalov to heat up and carry some momentum into the postseason. He's back in action now after an illness and this is the type of game where it would be so big if he came up humangous big for the Flyers but unfortunately the kind we've come to expect a few bad goals this season.

Sibling rivalry renewed

Unlike the last time the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings met, this one won't be about the coaches. Very much, at least.

Brothers Brent and Darryl Sutter this time get the undercard billing with another battle of teams at the bottom of the playoff picture out West.

After their own long road trip, you'd think coming home might be enough to jolt that putrid 2.07 goals per game number for the Kings. Well they were shut out by the Coyotes on Thursday night at Staples Center, so you can probably shoot that theory down. Fact is they haven't been able to score much anywhere, no matter if it's at home or not.

The way it stands going into the weekend, L.A. is clinging to the eighth spot out West and Calgary is right behind them. Pretty astonishing I think, but the Flames are still right there.

So you see, this one is about a lot more than a sibling rivalry.

We're going streaking!

Here are the streaks -- both good and bad -- headed into the weekend.

Red Wings: Considering they've been playing a lot at home recently and they have an NHL record win streak going, it's no surprise they've won four straight. Two toughies this weekend with Nashville and San Jose visiting.

Anaheim Ducks: In the midst of an eight-game road trip, the Ducks have run off three in a row. They head to the Southeast now and face the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers.

Sabres: It keeps getting worse and worse. After seven unanswered goals against on Thursday, they now have a three-game skid. They have the Canadiens on Friday and Penguins on Sunday.

Capitals: Needing to go on a tear late like they have in recent seasons, the Caps are instead sputtering. They do the Florida double-header this weekend entering with a three-game slide.

Wild: Six-game skid ... and likely counting. A back-to-back at the Blues and vs. the Bruins doesn't figure to be the remedy. This weekend could all but officially bury their once promising playoff hopes.

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

Posted on: February 15, 2012 3:35 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 3:35 pm
 

Kovalchuk is becoming complete player in NJ

By: Adam Gretz

The trade that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to the New Jersey Devils prior to the trade deadline two years ago may prove to be the best thing that has happened to him in his NHL career.

Not only because the Devils have given him an opportunity to play on what has been a consistent playoff team (something his previous team, the Atlanta Thrashers, was not) but also because his time in New Jersey has resulted in him becoming a better, and more complete player.

Kovalchuk has been on a roll offensively for the Devils over the past couple of weeks, and thanks to his three-goal, four-point effort against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night he's recorded nine points in his past five games for a Devils team that looks as if it's going to return to the postseason after a difficult first half kept them out of the playoffs a year ago, and a lot of that has been due to the play of Kovalchuk.



His current per-game averages for the season would give him 40 goals and 90 points over an 82-game season, which is pretty much what we've grown to expect from him offensively.

But he's not doing it the same way he used to do it in Atlanta. Just watching him you can notice a difference in the way he plays when he doesn't have the puck, but he's also seen role and value expand beyond just goal-scoring. It's not uncommon to see him on the ice late in games with the Devils protecting leads, and he's taking on more responsibility. Even though his total ice-time per game is about the same (around 21-22 minutes) it's being spread out across the board a bit more.

His power play time is down and his even strength and, perhaps most surprising, his shorthanded minutes are up. Way up.

Only once over the past six seasons did he finish a season averaging more than 15 seconds of shorthanded time per game (and that was when he averaged 23 seconds back in 2007-08).

This season he's playing over a minute per game on one of the best penalty killing units in the league, and during his 60 minutes of shorthanded play Kovalchuk is a plus-four on the season, having been on the ice for five Devils shorthanded goals (scoring three of them himself and assisting on the other two) and only one power play goal against. There are only seven other players with a minimum of 30 games played in the NHL this season that are "plus" players during 4-on-5 play, and only one of them (Pittsburgh's Kris Letang) has played more than 23 minutes of total shorthanded ice time this season.

I don't know if a 15-year contract like the one New Jersey signed Kovalchuk to prior to last season is always the right investment for a team, but with the way his game has evolved in a short period of time, he should continue to be the franchise building block the Devils expected when they acquired him.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 15, 2012 12:08 pm
Edited on: February 15, 2012 12:20 pm
 

A look at the NHL playoff bubble

Can the Islanders pull off a miracle run? (Getty Images)

Pucks and Numbers:
a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the playoff bubble and what the teams on it need to do to make the postseason


By: Adam Gretz

Recent hot streaks by the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning have sparked some playoff hope for their respective fan bases. On the other side, a recent slump that's come in the form of a 9-game losing streak has left some wondering if the Chicago Blackhawks could, amazingly, find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture when the regular season comes to a close.

Anything is possible, but even though there appears to be a large number of teams that are still "in" the playoff race, the harsh reality is that even a two or three-game deficit (four or six points in the standings) is a lot to overcome. It doesn't seem like it should be, but it is.

A couple of months ago I looked at how a slow start is extremely damaging to a teams playoff chances sooner than you might realize, and as the days of the regular season start to fall away those deficits become even more daunting. I mentioned on Twitter earlier this week that since the start of the '05-06 season there have only been two teams that managed to overcome a 5-point deficit this late in the season (the '06-07 Rangers and the '08-09 Blues) to qualify for the playoffs.

Ninety-five points is usually a safe bet to get your team into the playoffs, so with that in mind, let's take one more look at what each of the bubble teams will need to do over their remaining games to reach that level. Of course, it is possible for a team to make the playoffs with fewer than 95 points, and that may in fact happen this season, especially in the East, but I'm simply going with the number that tends to be a near automatic playoff berth.

Let's start with the Eastern Conference...

Eastern Conference Playoff Race
Seed Team Games Remaining Pts Needed Record Needed
7 Ottawa Senators 23 29 13-7-3
8 Toronto Maple Leafs 25 33 15-7-3
9 Washington Capitals 26 34 15-7-4
10 Winnipeg Jets 25 37 17-5-3
11 New York Islanders 26 39 17-4-5
12 Montreal Canadiens 25 40 18-3-4
13 Tampa Bay Lightning 26 41 18-3-5
14 Buffalo Sabres 26 41 18-3-5

Incredibly, Washington and Winnipeg still have an outside shot (at this point, a very outside shot) at winning the Southeast Division, which speaks more to the quality (or lack of it) of the division than anything else, but that hope of a Division title gets smaller with each loss. Once you get past Washington in the No. 9 spot the remaining teams have almost no margin for error.

The Canadiens? Better start praying. The Islanders, for example, have been playing some pretty great hockey recently, especially veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, but does anybody believe they have a 17-4-5 finish in them?

Even if it only took 90 points to reach the playoffs, they would still need a 15-7-4 finish.

Now, a look at the Western Conference...

Western Conference Playoff Race
Seed Team Games Remaining Pts Needed Record Needed
6 Chicago Blackhawks 25 30 15-10-0
7 Los Angeles Kings 25 30 15-10-0
8 Phoenix Coyotes 25 32 15-8-2
9 Calgary Flames 25 33 15-7-3
10 Colorado Avalanche 25 35 16-6-3
11 Dallas Stars 26 36 17-7-2
12 Minnesota Wild 26 37 17-6-3
13 Anaheim Ducks 26 40 20-6-0

When you look at in terms of how many games these teams need to win the rest of the way, the playoff races may not be as deep as they appear to be. When you get right down to it, there might only be four teams (Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Calgary) in the West fighting for three playoff spots.

Minnesota would need to play almost as well as it did in October through December to get back into the top-eight, which shows just how far that team fell over the past month-and-a-half. After 30 games the Wild had the best record in the league. Just 26 games later they're going to need to play like the best team in hockey for the remainder of the season just to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Bruce Boudreau has certainly helped get Anaheim going back in the right direction, but he's going to need to turn water into wine to get Anaheim, as well as its played in recent weeks, into the playofs this season.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz 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