Posted on: October 24, 2011 3:08 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 3:17 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Finally, some good news for the Montreal Canadiens. Well, some potential good news anyway.
When the Canadiens take on the Florida Panthers on Monday night they will be getting one of their injured defenseman back as Jaroslav Spacek is expected to be in the lineup for the first time since the second game of the season when he went out with a rib injury in a 5-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Canadiens, plagued by injuries for much of the season, especially on their blue line, haven't won since that night in Winnipeg and carry a five-game losing streak into Monday's home game with the Panthers. That losing streak has caused a bit of a panic in Montreal, and head coach Jacques Martin seems to be sitting on the hot seat whether it's justified or not. When you've been without two of your top defensemen for all but two games of the season, as well as missing players like Michael Cammalleri and Chris Campoli, some struggles should be expected. Maybe not as many as they've had over the first two weeks, but some.
In the absence of Markov and Spacek a lot of the pressure has fallen on P.K. Subban and he's struggled so far, recording just two assists in seven games. A disappointing start for a player that scored 14 goals to go along with 24 assists as a rookie just a year ago.
Peter Budaj is expected to start in goal for the Canadiens, giving Carey Price the night off. Scott Gomez, out with an upper body injury, is not expected to play.
In other news, the Panthers will be without Mikael Samuelsson in this game as he's still in Vancouver dealing with some soreness according to TSN's Darren Dreger. Samuelsson, of course, was acquired over the weekend, along with Marco Sturm, in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forward David Booth.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: October 21, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 3:51 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The incredible run of injuries that arguably helped derail the Pittsburgh Penguins season a year ago has found a way to continue during the start of the 2011-12 season. Playing without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang (though, his recent absence was the result of a suspension) at various times, a group of players that adds up to nearly half of their salary cap commitments for the year, they have still managed to win five of their first nine games and earn at least a point in seven of them.
They've done all of this while being outscored during 5-on-5 play (18-14), and with a power play that has slumped down to a 10 percent rate over the past seven games, scoring on just three of its past 29 attempts. One of the most important aspects of their fast start has been a penalty killing unit that has been as dominant as any other group in the league. This isn't exactly a new development for the Penguins, as they finished with the top spot in the NHL last season at just over 86 percent. Through the first nine games this season they look to be even stronger.
Pittsburgh has found itself in a shorthanded situation 31 times this season and has only allowed one goal to the oppositions power play. That goal came during a 4-on-3 power play, typically considered a tougher penalty to kill than a traditional 5-on-4 due to the extra space the power play has to work with, in overtime during their loss to the Washington Capitals last Thursday.
Other than that? They've been perfect. Even more impressive is the fact the Penguins have already managed to score three shorthanded goals this season. They're not just stopping the other team's power play from scoring, they're flat out beating them on the scoreboard. At this point there is only one other team in the NHL on the "plus" side of the scoring while shorthanded, and that's Chicago which has a 2-1 edge during its 17 shorthanded situations.
When talking to opposing players after some of their recent games the one common theme everybody keeps bringing up is how aggressive the Penguins are on the penalty kill. And that's not really anything new. Every team says it wants to be aggressive, or take away time and space, or whatever other coaching cliche you can throw out there. But the Penguins seem to take it even further than most teams and never let up. Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell called them "relentless" following a performance that saw his team go 0-for-4 on the man advantage and surrender a shorthanded goal during a 4-2 loss last Tuesday.
Such an aggressive style while down a man has a potentially large payoff -- like, say, a shorthanded goal -- but also carries some risk if you're not wisely picking and choosing your spots, which is something Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban brought up following Thursday's game -- they don't put themselves in bad situations.
"They pressure the right way and they pressure at the right times," Said Subban. "They play a smart game. They don't put themselves in trouble, they play smart, they limit your opportunities and they have guys that are willing to sacrifice."
Goaltenders generally get the most attention for a team's strong penalty kill, and Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson have both been excellent in shorthanded situations this season. But Pittsburgh also does a fantastic job of not allowing teams to even get an opportunity to create shots or establish any sort of presence in the offensive zone. Through nine games the Penguins are allowing just .768 shots per minute in shorthanded situations, a mark that is eighth-best in the NHL and well below the league average (at this point) of .857.
They're willing shot-blockers and do an excellent job of not allowing teams to gain a clean entry into the zone or get an opportunity to set up their power play, and that's a testament to the play of forwards like Jordan Staal, Craig Adams, Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke, as well as defenseman Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek. More than one Canadiens forward, including Brian Gionta, commented on Thursday night about his team's struggles to generate any speed through the middle of the ice
"I haven't seen many of their other games," said Gionta. "But tonight we had a hard time getting up through the neutral zone, and when you don't come clean through there and you're trying to win battles to get the puck back it's basically 50-50."
With players like Crosby and Malkin out of the lineup the Penguins aren't going to put up the type of offensive numbers typically seen from them, and they're going to have to keep grinding out wins. Completely shutting down the other team's power play is a good place to start.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Gretz, Brent Johnson, Brian Campbell, Brian Gionta, Brooks Orpik, Chicago Blackhawks, Craig Adams, Evgeni Malkin, Florida Panthers, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Cooke, Montreal Canadiens, P.K. Subban, Pascal Dupuis, Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins, Richard Park, Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy, Zbynek Michalek
Posted on: October 8, 2011 2:40 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 3:04 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Montreal Canadiens picked up Chris Campoli in an effort to boost their depth on the blue line, in large part because veteran Andrei Markov is still having some complications with his knee injury that sidelined him for much of last season. Unfortunately, the signing of Campoli, which took place just two weeks ago, has only managed to add to their injury problems on defense, as the veteran managed to make it through just one regular season before having to be sidelined himself.
According to head coach Jacques Martin, Campoli could be out of the lineup for "months" as a result of a lower body injury he suffered in Montreao's season-opening 2-0 loss to Toronto on Thursday. He played just 11 minutes and was reportedly spotted on crutches after the game. There's no word yet as to what sort of injury he suffered, but based on the potential timeline for his return it's obviously a serious one.
He was availablle as a free agent after the Chicago Blackhawks walked away from him in arbitration, allowing him to hit the open market. He remained unsigned until Sep. 26 when the Canadiens signed him to a deal worth a little over $1 million. He recorded four goals and 17 assists with the Senators and Blackhawks last season.
The Canadien's depth on the blue line is going to get a serious test in the early going until Markov is ready to return, and all of the pressure will fall on P.K. Subban, Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill, Josh Gorges and Yannick Weber to carry the workload.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 29, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 4:27 pm
For the first time since the 1993-94 season began, the reigning champion resides in the Northeast Division after the Bruins ended their Cup drought with a thrilling run through the postseason. The even better news for Boston (but not so awesome for the rest of the division) is that the Bruins are back almost completely intact.
No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the Red Wings in 1997 and 98. Only two other teams have made it back to the Finals a year after winning in that time, the Stars in 1999 then 2000 and once again the Red Wings (2008, 09). There's a reason for it, the fabled championship hangover.
But in hockey, I think it plays a bigger part than any other sport. The offseason is as short as it gets, the playoffs as long and grueling as any of the major sports. The Bruins lifted the Cup in the middle of June and reported back to camp in early September. All the while they were enjoying a whirlwind of a summer that included plenty of partying and celebrating a title. The Blackhawks admittedly struggled with it last season (although the roster being ripped apart didn't help matters). If only getting rid of it were as easy as taking a couple Tylenol and drinking Vitamin Water.
If they do look sluggish and lethargic to start the season then the Buffalo Sabres will be ready to pounce on the opportunity. They are hockey hungry in Buffalo these days with hope their Sabres can become power players in the East. As for the other three in the division, the East's Canadian coalition? Well they will all be hoping to resurrect their glory days.
Now we'll just have to wait and see how the Bruins respondin their quest for another Cup.
Northeast Division (predicted order of finish)
Boston Bruins: Why mess with a good thing? That's an easy philosphy to live by when you are coming off of claiming the Stanley Cup. Really, the only new additions they have to work into the fold are Benoit Pouliot as a bottom-six forward and Joe Corvo on the blue line. With the solid support all around them of a close-knit group, they should be able to seamlessly slide in and fill the voids left by Tomas Kaberle, Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, the only pieces to the championship puzzle missing.
One thing I'm not sure many people realize, but this team is very young in addition to being super talented. There are still five players just among the forwards who will be restricted free agents when their contracts run out. The defense is a bit more grizzled, however, and that's where a good chunk of the leadership comes from, of course including captain Zdeno Chara.
There might be a slight sense of urgency for the B's to repeat as champs as they will have a lot of work to do to keep the team together as 10 of their regulars don't have contracts beyond next season. But GM Peter Chiarelli seems to be preparing for that well, saving the B's cap space to maneuver.
Strengths: What's not to like? They are very balanced as 10 players had more than 40 points a season ago, although two of them have departed (Kaberle and Ryder). Defensively they have plenty of veteran presence and have been a very good unit under Claude Julien. Plus, you know, they have that fella named Chara.
Oh, and how can we make it this far without discussing the team's best player, Tim Thomas? He was simply superb last season and through the playoffs, posting the highest single-season save percentage in league history. It's not as if his backup is chopped liver, either, as Tuukka Rask will be expected to shoulder more of the load for the 38-year-old Thomas this year.
Weaknesses: Despite all of their success when five-on-five, Boston's special teams weren't up to snuff. Without much change in personnel, they are going to have to find a way from within to improve the 20th-ranked power play and 18th-best penalty kill units. The power play was a growing concern in the playoffs, which included an 0-for-21 streak in the opening round win over the Canadiens. They tried all sorts of remedies to fix it, including parking Chara in front of the net, but they found their groove late in the playoffs when Chara and his booming shot returned to the point. Their hope is that success will roll over.
After that, we're just getting picky here. There just aren't too many holes from a team that ranked in the top five both offensively and defensively last season and was the NHL's top plus/minus team. They will have the talk of a championship hangover looming over them for much of the season and they will have the proverbial target on their backs as the champs. Those are hurdles that will be new.
Buffalo Sabres: I'm not sure what fans in Buffalo are more excited about right now: the Bills' 3-0 start or the first full season under Terry Pegula? The Sabres' biggest (and richest) fan ushers in a new era that the fans are still trying to get used to, in a good way: Buffalo is a big spender now. Pegula will make sure of that as he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. And his mouth has expressed some awfully high expectations ... multiple championships.
On that note, the Sabres were active in the offseason, most notably signing Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino to augment the core group that Buffalo has built. But possibly the biggest acquisition they made was the less-heralded of them all, and that was bringing in Robyn Regehr. The stout defenseman should prove to be a great addition as he brings a lot of toughness and all-around defense. Not to mention he will serve as a good influence for assumed partner Tyler Myers, who is in line for a nice bounceback season with more talent with him on defense.
It almost feels like an acquisition, but the return of Derek Roy will be a big boost, too. The front-line center missed the second half of last season due to a quad injury.
Welcome to Pegulaville. Buffalo still can hardly believe it.
Strengths: There is obviously a strong leader, for one. That's a very nice asset to have an owner so willing to win. But beyond him, there's a reason why Buffalo has moved into the conversation to crack the home-ice equation in the East, the new faces likely will make a very good group even better. In particular, the addition of Ehrhoff to the league's ninth-ranked power-play unit will make the special-teams unit a real asset for the Sabres.
Like their division rivals in Boston, as talented as they are all over the ice, their best player probably sits in the blue paint all game long. Ryan Miller didn't have the greatest of seasons last year for Buffalo, but that tends to happen when you come off a Vezina-winning season ... there's only one direction to go. He's still one of the absolute best in the game.
Oh, and the slug logo is gone, wiped away for good. That's positive for everybody.
Weaknesses: The cap situation is a bit troubling. With Pegula's desire to spend, the Sabres actually exceeded the salary cap over the summer, so they will have to be extra diligent with how they manage the roster. Unfortunately, it doesn't leave them much room to try and make any improvements midseason if need be.
Overall, it's not a roster with many holes in it whatsoever. It will just come down to how talented the team proves to be as there are multiple players capable of 50-plus point seasons.
Montreal Canadiens: Last season, without Max Pacioretty or Andrei Markov, the Canadiens captured the six seed in the East and took the eventual champions to the brink. I'm sure this team, almost al of it remains in town, is still stewing over blowing a 2-game lead to its bitter rival in Boston.
I definitely like the signing of Erik Cole in July, he is a solid (and physical) forward who could prove to be one of the bigger acquisitions of the summer for any team. He adds to a good, but not great group of forwards. They are capable, but need to be better than 23rd-best in the league like a season ago.
Where the success of this team will likely hinge is on the blue line. They have a couple of excellent young talents in P.K. Subban and Markov and some solid players behind them like Josh Gorges and Hal Gill.
A few steps toward a return to form for Scott Gomez (just seven goals last season) wouldn't hurt eiher.
Strenghts: Special teams. Under Jacques Martin, the Habs have been good in both departments of special teams, ranking seventh in both phases a season ago. If Markov remains healthy, the power play remains lethal as Subban and him both are excellent with the man up.
It's pretty Wild the goaltending this division features. Like both teams above them here, the Habs have an oustanding man living in the crease. It took fans a while in Montreal, but they finally warmed up to Carey Price, who finally lived up to his expectations last season. Playing a 72-game work load, Price posted a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage. The trick will be doing it again, but the safe bet is that he turned a corner and an encore shouldn't be a problem.
Weaknesses: Let's be honest, having to rely on Gomez to anchor a top-six line after a 37-point season doesn't have overwhelming talent. It showed in their scoring totals from last season when they averaged 2.60 goals per game. Cole will help as he not only brings a power game (among the league leaders in hits for forwards) but he can score. They would love to see him at least match his 26 goals from a season ago, that would have been good for second on the team.
A major concern all season will rest on the blue line and the depth there. Adding Chris Campoli after camp began was a nice addition to help with the concern, but they still can't really afford for injuries to set in, particularly for Markov. They just invested in him with a rich contract this offseason, so they are counting on him returning at full strength from the ACL tear and remaining that way.
Toronto Maple Leafs: How much longer will the fans in Toronto put up with a team that can't make the playoffs? The postseason drought stretches back to the lockout as the Leafs have been on the outside each season since. The only other team in the same boat is Florida, and let's just say the fans in Toronto take their hockey a touch more seriously than those in the Sunshine State. There's hope that this could be the season where they break through and return to playoff hockey, but that's a tall order for this group still.
Over the summer, GM Brian Burke really coveted center Brad Richards, but his staff was unable to convince the top free agent to head to Toronto. So as a backup plan he signed Tim Connolly from Buffalo to anchor the team's top line. If healthy, a very big if, Connolly can prove to be a good addition, the Leafs had to get deeper at center. Also, I really liked the quiet addition of John-Michael Liles to the defense.
But not much else will matter if the goaltending situation isn't solved. That has been the achilles heel for years in Toronto, but they think -- or hope -- the answer lies in James Reimer in his first full season in the NHL.
Strengths: As you'd expect for a team built by Burke, they have become a physical bunch in Toronto. The team captain, Dion Phaneuf, is one of the toughest hitters in the league. But there is obviously a danger of that being a weakness if the team is getting sent to the sin bin (or being Shanabanned with the new emphasis on safety) too often.
The second line is probably good enough to be Toronto's No. 1 group. The combination of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin placed second, third and fourth in the team scoring, respectively. Each had at least 21 goals.
Weaknesses: The problem is, the skill on the team doesn't go much deeper. Only six players on the team last year reached double digits in scoring. The fact is the Leafs have two lines that can hold up with most in the league, but the third and fourth lines are where they feel the drop.
The center position remains a concern. Sure, Connolly was brought in to help that and same with Matthew Lombardi, but you can't be sure what you are getting from either guy from a health standpoint. As mentioned, Connolly has a history of injury issues. He has only played more than 70 games once (2009-10) since the 2002-03 season. With Lombardi, he's coming off a concussion that cost him all but two games last season. If either or both goes down, then Toronto is right back to being razor thin down the middle.
Ottawa Senators: This is odd territory for the folks in Ottawa. Never in the franchise's history have they had to actually rebuild. Since originally building the team in the early 90s, the team had a long, successful run that included a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006-07. A couple of the members from the old guard are still around -- Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, but the majority of the team is in place to win in the future, not necessarily now.
Expect to see a lot of the kids getting burn this season. It appears as though the team's top draft pick this summer, Sweedish center Mika Zibanejad, is going to make the team out of camp. Another coveted prospect, Jared Cowen, is also making a bid for the roster and join David Rundblad among the defensive corps. Nikita Filatov, who hadn't lived up to his perceived potential in Columbus, will also be given a shot to show what he can do. If he fits in and focuses on his game, his addition could prove to be a steal for Ottawa.
While new coach Paul MacLean and GM Bryan Murray are saying all the rights things about this team being competitive this season, it will serve as a good opportunity to get a glimpse of the future.
Strenghts: They didn't score much at all or play defense particularly well, but they were alright on special teams, particularly on the penalty kill, which ranked ninth in the league. Sergei Gonchar can help keep that ball rolling. That will qualify as a positive here.
We'll also throw goaltender Craig Anderson into the category. He wasn't spectacular last season split between Colorado and Ottawa, but he's shown before what he is capable of when he starred for the Avalanche two seasons ago. And his stint with the Sens was encouraging as he was 11-5-1 with his new team.
It speaks well for what is in the system that the team's AHL affiliate in Binghamton won the Calder Cup.
Weaknesses: This says a lot: No player that participated in more than 30 games for the Senators had a plus-rating last season. Chris Phillips was the lowest of them all at minus-35.
This team struggled mightily to score last season and that is unlikely to get easier this time around. Right now there just isn't a heck of a lot of talent to talk about. Spezza was the only player to top the 20-goal mark last year and he barely did so with 21.
The youth is a weakness for now as it will be error prone and show it is green, but the hope is that it turns into a strength down the line.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: 2011-12 Season Preview, Andrei Markov, Benoit Pouliot, Boston Bruins, Brad Richards, Brian Burke, Brian Stubits, Bryan Murray, Buffalo Sabres, Carey Price, Chris Campoli, Chris Phillips, Christian Ehrhoff, Clarke MacArthur, Claude Julien, Craig Anderson, Daniel Alfredsson, David Rundblad, Derek Roy, Dion Phaneuf, Erik Cole, Hal Gill, Jacques Martin, James Reimer, Jard Cowen, Jason Spezza, Joe Corvo, John-Michael Liles, Josh Gorges, Mark Recchi, Matthew Lombardi, Max Pacioretty, Michael Ryder, Mika Zibanejad, Mikhail Grabovski, Montreal Canadiens, Nikita Filatov, Nikolai Kulemin, Northeast Division, Northeast Division Preview, Ottawa Senators, P.K. Subban, Paul MacLean, Peter Chiarelli, Robyn Regehr, Ryan Miller, Scott Gomez, Terry Pegula, Tim Connolly, Tim Thomas, Tomas Kaberle, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Myers, Ville Leino, Zdeno Chara
Posted on: September 22, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 5:48 pm
By: Adam Gretz
There are plenty of new faces in the Philadelphia Flyers locker room this season, and they are going to have the difficult task of replacing the offensive production that belonged to several of last season's top-scorers that are no longer with the team, including Mike Richards (traded), Jeff Carter (traded) and Ville Leino (free agency). Players like Danny Briere and Claude Giroux are still there to help lead the charge, and big things are expected from 2007 No. 2 overall pick James van Riemsdyk.
The 22-year-old van Riemsdyk is entering his third season in the league and signed a brand new six-year, $26.5 million contract extension earlier this summer, coming off a 21-goal, 19-assist season for the Flyers in 2010-11. Solid numbers for a second-year pro, but it was during the playoffs where he really started to excel. Considering the expensive new deal he signed a couple of months ago, it's pretty obvious the Flyers expect him to continue his development and become a top player in a suddenly re-tooled Flyers lineup. And it's something he should be able to do.
Van Riemsdyk's breakout started during last year's playoffs when he played top-line minutes against Buffalo and Boston, typically against their best players, and finished tied for the team lead in playoff goals with seven. Along with the goals he was arguably the Flyers' best overall forward in the playoffs, making an impact every time he stepped on the ice, even with star players like Richards and Carter still on the roster.
That should continue to be the case in 2011.
He's going to be asked to take on a larger role for the Flyers this season, and as he showed in last year's playoffs, when the game becomes a little faster and goals a little harder to come by, he is more than capable of handling that assignment. Thirty-or-more goals shouldn't be out of the question.
Four more players, in no particular order, that could be on the verge of a breakout season…
T.J. Oshie, Blues A former first-round pick by the Blues in 2005, Oshie has had his ups and downs in St. Louis, including a suspension last season following an unexcused absence. He's reportedly shown up to Blues camp in top shape and has apparently dedicated himself to becoming more of a pro. Talent has never been an issue for the 24-year-old Oshie, and now that he appears to be in great shape and committed to becoming a top player, a breakout season could be right around the corner.
P.K. Subban, Canadiens With Andrei Markov's status for the start of the season up in the air due to a setback in his recovery from a knee injury, as well as the departure of Roman Hamrlik and James Wisniewski, Subban could quickly become the top offensive option for the Canadiens along the blue line. And the flashy 22-year-old definitely has the tools to make a huge impact. He's kind of a polarizing player at this point in his career -- among both fans and players -- and seems to have that "love him or hate him" attraction, but there's no denying the ability and upside. As a rookie he scored 14 goals to go with 24 assists, which is impressive enough, but he's capable of doing even more damage to opponents.
Colin Wilson, Predators There is perhaps no team in the NHL that relies on its farm system more than the Nashville Predators. This year's team has a couple of interesting youngsters including Nashville native Blake Geoffrion, who scored six goals in 20 gameas last year, and Craig Smith, a fourth-round pick in 2009 that had a sensational summer at the World Championships and the recent prospects tournament. There's also former first-round pick Colin Wilson who has a ton of talent but has yet to fully realize it at the NHL level. Entering the final year of his entry level contract, this could be the season the 21-year-old forward becomes the player the Predators anticipated when they selected him at the top of the 2008 draft.
John Carlson, Capitals Like Subban, Carlson is coming off an excellent rookie season with the Capitals and has All-Star level potential. He already has experience playing top-pairing minutes -- he also saw time in every situation, including the power play and the penalty kill as a rookie -- and is loaded with offensive ability. One of the top young defensemen in the NHL and figures to be a core player for one of the best teams in the NHL.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: September 15, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 10:07 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The Montreal Canadiens took a rather large gamble this summer when they signed veteran defenseman Andrei Markov to a three-year, $17.2 million contract extension.
It wasn't a gamble because he isn't worth that type of money in the current market as a point-producing defenseman and power play quarterback, but because he's entering his mid-30's and has missed significant playing time in each of the past two seasons, suffering two torn ACL's, the most recent of which cost him all but seven games of the 2010-11 regular season.
It appears that he's had a bit of a setback in his rehab according to Tony Mariano of the Team 990 Radio, and had to have some water drained from his knee three weeks ago.
The setback was reportedly a result of overtraining, which obviously means he needs to now dial it back a notch and take things a little slower. Given that he just signed a contract that's paying him over $5 million per season and has appeared in just 52 regular season games the past two years, the possibility of him not being ready for the start of the season has to be a concern for the Canadiens given how much he means to their defense and power play.
When he's on the ice Markov runs Montreal's power play, logs between 22 and 24 minute of ice-time per game and is one of the top scoring defensemen in the league. During the 2009-10 season, when he appeared in just 45 games, he recorded 34 points, which followed a season that saw him put up a career-high 64 points, a mark that was second among all NHL defensemen that season, trailing only Washington's Mike Green (73).
In his absence last season the Canadiens top power play options on their blue line were P.K. Subban, James Wisniewski (acquired from the Islanders in late December) and Roman Hamrlik. As a group they were good enough to help the team finish with the seventh best power play mark in the NHL (in previous years with Markov in the lineup on a regular basis they were at the top of the NHL). The problem for this season is Wisniewski and Hamrlik have since moved on to new teams, with Wisniewski going to Columbus and Hamrlik signing with the Capitals. If Markov is not ready for the start of the season that would place almost all of the workload on the 22-year-old -- and extremely talented -- Subban to lead the power play.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 18, 2011 4:30 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 1:01 pm
Apparently, the fact the NHL doled out suspensions on consecutive days didn't stop the questionable hits on Thursday.
Nashville Predators forward Patric Hornqvist delivered an elbow (or at least a shoulder) to Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin late in the first period, a collision that resulted in a gash near Seguin's ear that required stitches. North of the border, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier was tossed after a two-hand chop delivered to Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban.
So much for deterrent value.
San Jose Sharks forward Dany Heatley was suspended Wednesday and Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand received a ban on Thursday, each receiving two games for blindside hits to the head.
And Hornqvist, who received an elbowing major and a game misconduct, appears to be the most likely between two players ejected Thursday to be on tap for another ban. (The collision takes palce about 45 seconds into this replay .)
"I came into the room, and (the trainer) said 'nice ear lobe, it looks its falling off' and I got stitches," Seguin told CSNNE's Joe Haggerty after the Bruinhs fell, 4-3, in overtime.
Haggery reports that the Preds tried to explain away the hit.
Preds coach Barry Trotz attempted to claim that his player “pulled his elbow in” at the last minute on the hit, but that leaves no explanation for how the 19-year-old’s ear was gruesomely ripped open and sewn together after the game. Perhaps it was the leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day, eh Barry?
While it wasn’t a headshot, Lecavalier didn’t exactly deliver a love tap to Subban. Here's the video of the incident .
Damian Cristodero of The St. Petersburg Times reports on what Lecavalier said preceded the slash and his reaction to the ejection:
"He slew-footed me a couple of times in front of the net," Lecavalier said of Subban. "And when I went around the net, he slashed me twice on the wrist, and that's when I turned around and slashed him back."
PACIORETTY PROGRESSING: Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens forward carted off after his head collided with a stanchion last week, could be back as soon as the playoffs, Habs coach Jacques Martin told reporters on Thursday.
“Good news today regarding Max Pacioretty,” Martin told The Montreal Gazette . “He’ll be able to return to training with contact within four to six weeks of his injury.”
That would mean he’d be able return to full practices as quickly as April 5, five days before the end of the regular season. Martin added that Pacioretty, who suffered a broken bone in his neck and a severe concussion, would “be on complete rest” until Saturday and would follow the league’s new concussion protocol that dictates a player’s route back to game action after a concussion.
That’s certainly not bad for those who watched as he lay on the ice and wondered if the 22-year-old would be able to walk -- let alone play hockey -- again.
Atlanta 4, Philadelphia 3 (SO)
Detroit 2, Columbus 0
Florida 4, Toronto 0
Ottawa 3, New Jersey 1
Montreal 3, Tampa Bay 2 (SO)
Nashville 4, Boston 3 (OT)
Dallas 5, Chicago 0
Phoenix 3, Edmonton 1
Calgary 5, Colorado 2
San Jose 3, Minnesota 2
St. Louis 4, Los Angeles 0