Tag:Ryan Miller
Posted on: February 10, 2012 1:30 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 3:43 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Jets look to carry 'mo' to Pitt

Winnipeg is only three points behind Florida and Washington in the Southeast. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

WASHINGTON -- Here we are in mid-February and the Winnipeg Jets are still lingering right there in the playoff picture, just outside the East's top eight (even closer to the Southeast Division lead). That's how crucial Thursday night's Houdini act was in Washington, to take two points from a game that was seemingly lost.

The next question becomes how they can follow that up?

Winnipeg finishes off a travel-heavy stretch this Saturday in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. It will be their eight road game in their last nine overall, a crucial stretch in their season that many thought would bury their playoff hopes. I admit, myself included.

Instead, they were given a golden opportunity with a lucky bounce to pick up some serious steam for a playoff push.

"We have a big game in Pittsburgh," forward Bryan Little said on Thursday after the 3-2 win in D.C. "If we get a couple points there it would be a great road trip for us."

And it would bring them some strong momentum into a home-heavy stretch they are about to hit.

"We've been playing well at home all season, so we'd be really pumped with that," Little said.

That's why the game against the Pens is so big. It would more or less signify that the win in Washington was a springboard to launch them into their homestand. But any sort of momentum gained from it is for the most part lost with a flat showing in the 'Burgh.

"We've won two in a row now," said Evander Kane, who has played two games since returning from a concussion. "We have to be able to put together strings together and long winning streaks because that's how you're going to make the playoffs."

That's the goal, obviously, bring the playoffs back to the 'Peg. Maybe the White out too. So what better way to head into a stretch where nine of their next 10 are at the friendly confines of MTS Centre than a win in Pittsburgh?

They'll be taking on a Penguins team that will get a lift courtesy of a returning player. No, not Sidney Crosby, but instead Jordan Staal. Coach Dan Bylsma announced on Friday that Staal will be back in the lineup after dealing with a nagging knee issue.

So it's up to you Jets, make that win in Washington really count.

What the Devil has gotten into them?

The New Jersey Devils aren't just hanging around in the playoff race like the Jets, they are climbing into the conversation for home-ice advantage in the first round.

In a rarity, the Devils actually lost in a shootout on Thursday night to the St. Louis Blues. It brought an end to New Jersey's five-game winning streak but extended their points streak to eight games.

The catalyst in the run has been not only the stellar play of Ilya Kovalchuk, but Zach Parise's outburst. With his name being talked about as a possibility in trade discussions, Parise has only shown why teams would love to have him -- including the Devils, of course. In the last six games he has six goals and two assists. Not too shabby.

In case you haven't checked the standings in a while -- here's our nifty Playoff Race -- the Devils have jumped over the Penguins for the time being in the Atlantic Division race and are just three points behind the Flyers.

You have to like the odds of their points streak being extended to nine on Saturday. That's when they'll play the Florida Panthers at the Rock, the fourth and final meeting between coach Peter DeBoer and his former team from Florida. Seeing how the Devils have looked strong in winning two of the three from the Cats and would have taken the other if not for a complete meltdown in the third period, it doesn't seem like this is the time they will be stopped in their tracks.

Add in Florida being 1-6-4 in its last 11 road games and, well, you can see where this is going.

Chicago blues

It's high time the Blackhawks find themselves again. They are mired in a stretch that could be too difficult to overcome when it comes time for seeding in the Western Conference, especially if it continues.

In the midst of a nine-game road trip that still has five more stops to go, the Blackhawks are reeling. They've lost six in a row, picking up a point in only one of those losses. You wouldn't figure the next four games being in San Jose, at Phoenix, in Nashville then at the Rangers will make it much easier, particularly with the Sharks and Coyotes coming back-to-back this weekend.

It seems preposterous, but a couple more games and all of a sudden the Blackhawks are going to find themselves in a serious fight for a playoff spot period, let alone the seeding.

As big as the one Friday night in San Jose is, that game in Phoenix will be particularly big as the Coyotes have made a little surge in recent days and have climbed into the eighth spot in the West. It could pull Phoenix to within three points of Chicago if their skid continues.

Fifth time's the charm?

The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers will have their fifth of six meetings this season on Saturday in Philly, a little matinee.

Despite it being their fifth game of the series, it's actually the first that will be played at Wells Fargo Center. So maybe that will be what the Flyers need to get off the Rangers schneid. They have been on the losing end of all four games so far.

There likely won't be any Ilya Bryzgalov in net again, though. And that's not because he's being benched, enjoying some nice tea in his thermos. Instead, he's enjoying some tea in his thermos because he's ill and, you know, people suggest you drink tea.

Obviously it hasn't mattered who has been in net for the Flyers this season, they haven't been able to figure out the Rangers yet. A game like Saturday's is huge for confidence, if not the standings.

Oh, and if you like fights, this might be your game. Last weekend's matchup broke out into an MMA show.

Mr. 1,000

It feels like we've had a lot of players hitting the 1,000 game milestone this season, doesn't it? On Thursday night Chris Neil of Ottawa celebrated entering four-digit territory. On Friday night it will be Tomas Holmstrom's turn.

The longtime Swedish Red Wings forward has obviously seen some good times in Detroit throughout his career. That tends to happen if you stay in a Wings uniform long enough. He'll be honored for that when the Ducks visit the Joe.

On the ice, this is actually quite the matchup. The Wings are still riding this ridiculous home winning streak, up to 18 games now. The Ducks, meanwhile, have come flying up from the basement and are now within eight points of a playoff spot in the West, still a long way to go but better than before. They are 11-2-2 in the last 15.

So don't be surprised if this is the team that's finally able to upset Detroit in Detroit and spoil the fun of Holmstrom's night.

We're going streaking!

Here is a look at the streaks -- both good and bad -- heading into the weekend.

Montreal Canadiens: Yes, that's right, the Habs are on a winning streak. They take a three-game run to their rivals in Toronto.

Vancouver Canucks: Remember when they were behind Minnesota in the Northwest? Me neither. They have a 15-point lead and carry a three-game win streak into Calgary on Saturday.

Coyotes: I said they've been on a run lately and that means they have a league-high four straight wins. Only Chicago awaits this weekend.

Blackhawks: See entry above: Six straight losses. Will they keep counting? Trips to San Jose and Phoenix on the docket.

Minnesota Wild: They have slipped out of the top eight in the West now having lost three consecutive games. A visit from Columbus is next on Saturday.

Ryan Miller: OK, I never put players on here, but Miller deserves a spot. The Sabres goalie has been much-maligned but he has turned a corner of late. He's on the run of his career. No, really. From Mike Harrington at the Buffalo News.

"Ryan Miller's 0.95 GAA and .969 save percentage over the last five games are the best in his career for any five-game stretch."

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

Posted on: February 6, 2012 2:29 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 4:38 pm
 

Lindy Ruff injured at practice

Ruff is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL. (Getty Images)
By: Adam Gretz

Lindy Ruff has definitely seen better days as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

Currently fighting through a disappointing season that has seen his team fall to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and all but out of the playoff race, the Sabres have been dealing with a combination of injuries, players performing below expectations and their normal level of production and, well, it's pretty much Murphy's Law this year -- everything that can go wrong, is going wrong.

The latest example came during Monday's practice when, according to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, Ruff was injured during what was described as a "scary" collision with defenseman Jordan Leopold. The collision reportedly occurred when Leopold lost his balance while taking part in a 1-on-1 drill with forward Ville Leino and then fell into Ruff, sending him crashing to the ice.

According to the Sabres, Ruff suffered three broken ribs and is expected to return to practice on Tuesday.

Said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, via the Buffalo News, "To see him in that much pain, he probably has something going on there. Hopefully we get that sorted out and he's all right. We need him behind the bench yelling and calling the lines. Lindy being a former player, he knew how to take the fall. He took it into his body instead of letting his head whip back or else it could have been really devastating."

Ruff, of course, is the longest tenured head coach in the NHL, having been behind the Sabres bench since the start of the 1997-98 season, compiling a 548-414-78 record and leading the team to the Stanley Cup Finals in just his second season with the club.

The Sabres host the Bruins on Wednesday, and go into the game with a 22-24-6 record.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: February 1, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Canadiens take exception to Gaustad's chirp

By Brian Stubits

Go back a few months and it was the Buffalo Sabres who were being picked on, called out for being soft or whatever other similar insult people could come up with.

The shoe is on the other foot today. That's nice for a change in what has been a pretty miserable season for Buffalo up to this point.

The Sabres began the post-All-Star break push with a 3-1 win on the ice in Montreal. Paul Gaustad had a point on each of those three goals, so he was probably pretty jacked up. But with a few seconds left and the lead up the eventual 3-1 game-winning margin, there got to be some chirping by the benches.

None of this should strike you as unusual (except Gaustad recording three points in one game). Chirping happens all the time. But the Canadiens didn't like something that Gaustad had to say, specifically him asking Max Pacioretty "Where's Chara?"

That line shouldn't need a refresher at this point, but just in case it does, here you go.

Not to be outdone, the Habs responded by asking Gaustad "Where's Lucic?" referencing the situation earlier this season where Lucic ran over Ryan Miller and the Sabres didn't have much of a response.

Again, none of this is usually a big deal. That's mostly because this stuff normally doesn't make its way into the media. But this one obviously has thanks to the Habs, specifically Mathieu Darche and goaltender Carey Price. Here's Darche after the game last night (from the Buffalo News).

Price had some comments of his own, saying "He's got a big mouth and he likes to run it. What can you do? Can't worry about what he's got to say. He doesn't do much out there."

Seeing how that all took place in the Canadiens locker room after the game last night, the first chance the Sabres had to talk about it publicly was on Wednesday at the morning skate. Gaustad was pretty frank when discussing the matter (again from the Buffalo News).

"I'm just going to address it for the last time today," Gaustad said. "It's something where Pacioretty said something to me, I said something back along the same lines and the guy that kind of brought it up in the media [Montreal's Mathieu Darche] wasn't even involved with it. For Darche to bring it up in the media, in my opinion is stuff on the ice stays on the ice. I don't want to blow it out of proportion. You have to have thick skin in the NHL. I'm fine with it. Just move on."

Hey, maybe the NHL has a new marketing partner in Las Vegas: What happens on the ice stays on the ice.

Lindy Ruff isn't one to shy away from making comments on these matters either, so he had his piece. Again, not much on the mincing words front.

"I could give you one situation every night [where there is trash-talking]," Ruff said. "For them to go public that I thought was ridiculous on their part. They were looking for something to talk about or feel good about after that game and they're barking up the wrong tree if you ask me."

It brings that old unwritten rule book conversation again. What is in bounds as far as trash-talking goes? It's pretty clear that we have some differing opinions from the Canadiens and Sabres concerning injury chirps. But what's the line, if one is even there? If there were one of decorum, there's little doubt Pacioretty's would be off limits, it was a vicious hit that left him with a broken neck.

As Ruff says, there is trash-talking all the time. It's pretty much a part of the game, you know it comes with the territory. Behind the scenes shows like HBO's 24/7 have helped make that plenty clear to those who haven't played hockey or been on the ice.

I've chatted with somebody whose job it was to open the penalty box doors and he had some great stories about the cross-box trash talk, names omitted of course. There isn't a whole lot that's sacred ground.

You be the judge on this one: Did the Sabres cross the line here or are the Habs wrong for making it public?

By the way, doesn't this have to really make the Bruins and their fans laugh? Two division rivals taunting each other with things Bruins players have done to each?

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

Posted on: January 17, 2012 1:41 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 2:49 pm
 

Sabres' Miller gets upset at idea of trade talks

By Brian Stubits

My how fast this season has sailed south for the Buffalo Sabres.

They can't win on the road (their 5-0 pounding from Detroit on Monday night was their ninth consecutive loss away from Buffalo), are average at home, are struggling to do much offensively and their owner has said they don't plan on doing much, instead they have been snake-bitten by injuries.

Ryan Miller has been as much a culprit to their lack of success as anybody. And now it's starting to bubble over.

The Sabres goaltender was beat for five goals in less than two periods on Monday night, eventually being yanked in favor of backup Jhonas Enroth. It came in his home of Detroit against his brother Drew Miller and the Red Wings.

"It's embarrassing," Miller said after the loss. "I got family and friends here. Everybody came to watch Drew and I play. At least they got to watch Drew perform."

(Side note: Here's a good read from The Goalie Guild on Miller's struggles)

But Miller's most intriguing comments came regarding the trade speculation and the Sabres. Everybody outside of the organization seems to be at a consensus that the Sabres need to do something, anything to shake up this roster. It's obviously not working well right now.

From within the organization, the vibe is a bit different, as Miller pointed out on Monday (from the Buffalo News).

"If you guys really think there's going to be any kind of trade made anywhere that's going to affect this team anymore than we can affect it in this locker room, you guys are just ... I don't know," said an emotional Miller, his jaw clenched and his lip quivering. "I don't know what to think because there's no such trade.

"There's not ever going to be a trade in the history of the NHL that's going to affect anything like that. There's no chance anybody comes into this team and just shakes it up or we can even move multiple players and get any kind of return.

"If you want to just destroy a team and go out and be reckless and do something, yeah. Then there's going to be new guys in here. But other than that, this locker room is going to be pretty much the same, if not completely the same and we gotta find it from in here [points to chest]. You can't sit and wait for somebody else to [bleeping] do it."

Normally I'd be on Miller's side of the argument here. It's up to the players to perform, it's why it bothers me how much credit/blame coaches receive for their team's performance. It's the players who play and who should feel the heat and burden to do better.

However this mix just doesn't seem to be working in Buffalo, and it's been a pretty solid core for some time. They haven't won a playoff series in four seasons. With a couple of injuries, the weaknesses are showing -- that would be a lack of forward strength, defensemen turning the puck over and, of course, goaltending.

There is at least one person from outside of the organization who thinks things aren't that bad in Buffalo right now. Patrick Kane, whose grew up in Buffalo as a big Sabres fan but will play them Wednesday night as a member of the Blackhawks, told Kevin Harrington of the Buffalo News that Miller gets too much heat.

"I still think the fans get on Miller a little bit too much back in Buffalo. He's definitely the guy there," Kane said. "He's not having the kind of season he wanted to and maybe things are getting caught up in everything back there.

"I think they can be a good team. They've got everything in place to do well. You want them to do well, especially being from there.  Not better than you're doing but at the same time, growing up there I know a lot of people who root for the Sabres. It's a city that deserves the team to do well."

More to the point, compare the Sabres to last season and things don't seem so bad. At this time a year ago, the Sabres had almost the exact same record (19-21-5 this season vs. 20-21-5) with the same number of goals against and only nine fewer goals for. They rebounded and made the playoffs. So it isn't that the season is gone, although it it slipping away.

But the feeling is just different. Perhaps it's because of the raised expectations or what, however this doesn't have a stay-the-course feel to it being the answer.

I'd be surprised if the Sabres didn't make some roster shifts at or before the trade deadline. It will still be mostly up to the guys currently in the locker room as Miller points out, however that doesn't mean the franchise doesn't need to do what it can to expedite the process (or in this case help it out for the long-run).

Maybe just as interesting to watch is wondering if this will finally be the season where Lindy Ruff loses his job. He is the NHL's longest-tenured head coach, going on 14 seasons behind the bench.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 13, 2012 12:04 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2012 12:06 pm
 

Sabres owner points to injuries

MllerBy: Adam Gretz

A lot of fans in Buffalo might have lost a lot of hope in the Sabres this season, but not their biggest fan, the one who became the owner.

It's no exaggeration to say the Sabres have been one of the worst teams in the league since the opening month concluded. They enter the weekend with a record of 18-19-5, good enough for 11th place in the Eastern Conference. That's not really helping Terry Pegula reach his goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to Buffalo, no matter the cost.

But as far as Pegula is concerned, the roster that GM Darcy Regier has put together is still capable of doing big things. It's just that it needs to be healthy.

Here's what Pegula told Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News in a recent phone interview:

"What everybody is missing is that I've been carrying around 167 man games," he said by telephone Thursday evening. "Forget about the season. I'm talking about the last 25 games. We've had 18 players go down. It's like a merry-go-round every night. You look on the ice and what are your defensive pairs tonight? Hell, who knows? Who's healthy?

"I think what's important is the number of guys. You can have 167 man games with four, five, six guys out for a long period. Eighteen? Cut me a break. I told Darcy Regier one time, 'If I was you, I would be afraid to get on the plane.' "

There is no doubt the Sabres have been hit by the injury bug this season, losing several key players at one time or another, including Tyler Myers, Brad Boyes, Tyler Ennis, Jochen Hecht and Ville Leino, just to name a few. And while that's true, there's probably not many teams in the NHL that are going to feel any sympathy for the Sabres (just take a look at the injury lists for teams like Pittsburgh and Florida, for example).

Of course, injuries aren't the only thing working against the Sabres this year. The early returns on their summer-long free agent frenzy that included the signings of Leino and Christian Ehrhoff, as well as the addition of Robyn Regehr via trade with Calgary, have failed to produce much bang for their buck. And while Leino and Ehrhoff have had some injuries of their own, they haven't exactly produced when they've been healthy. Ehrhoff's offense from the blue line has taken a noticeable drop now that he's no longer getting significant power play time with the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, with the Canucks, and Leino has really only produced for one full season in the NHL.

And then there is goaltender Ryan Miller. Suddenly the target of some criticism from the local press, Miller hasn't been able to recapture the magic from his 2009-10 season when he was one of the best goaltenders in the world, not only as the netminder for the Sabres, but also for team USA in the Vancouver Olympics. This season his save percentage has dropped all the way down to .902, which is 36th in the NHL.

Are injuries hurting the Sabres? Sure, but they're not the only thing that has the team with the largest payroll in the league five points out of a potential playoff spot. There are a lot of players that are underperforming, or perhaps just aren't as good as the Sabres originally thought.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 12:40 pm
 

Buffalo cartoonist shares thoughts on Ryan Miller

By Brian Stubits

In the Eye on Hockey midseason awards posted on Tuesday (Look, right here!), I picked the Buffalo Sabres as the season's most disappointing team so far. They haven't been the worst, but based on their expectations, they have been thoroughly underwhelming.

One reason I cited for that was their lack of scoring. But their lack of stopping the other team from scoring -- a.k.a. Ryan Miller's job as the starting goaltender -- has been as much of a culprit. Like the Sabres as a team, he has high expectations and he's not meeting them.

And the people of Buffalo are letting him know it, if he reads the newspaper, that is.

Check out the latest comic from Buffalo News artist Adam Zyglis.

It's like whatever got to that goalie in that stupid McDonald's hockey ad has hit Miller or something. Staying on the advertisement train of though, I wonder how those ad gurus with the "be manly, drink Miller Lite" commercials feel about this.

I love the detail of putting Miller in the old slug sweater. Obviously that's his job to pay attention to detail, but still, it's great go get a visual reminder of how bad those jerseys were. Then again, if Miller were putting up the same numbers, I bet Buffalo would be more than happy to go back to the slug.

Entering the season, Miller seemed like a prime candidate for a bounceback season. The team in front of him was expected to be improved and he was mediocre -- by his standards -- last season for the Sabres by posting a 2.59 goals against and .916 save percentage.

This season he's on pace for his worst numbers since he played four games back in 2003-04. In 24 starts he is just 10-11-2 while sporting a 3.05 GAA and .901 save percentage.

My how long ago the Vancouver Olympics seem.

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

Posted on: January 8, 2012 3:11 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2012 3:32 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: This one's for the good guys

By Brian Stubits

While you were busy worrying about the upcoming summer of labor after the NHLPA declined the realignment plan ...

With all due respect to the guys of Green Day, nice guys really can finish first. Or at least succeed.

Saturday was a milestone day for two of the classiest and most loyal players in the NHL. One milestone awesome, the other simply dumbfounding, on a couple of levels.

First, the awesome: Jarome Iginla's 500th goal in Saturday night's win against the Minnesota Wild. Nobody is surprised that Iginla hit the 500-goal mark in his career. I've seen it argued that he would have passed that milestone a while ago if he had played with some better centers in his time with the Calgary Flames.

It doesn't matter how ugly it might have been. Iginla's had enough beauties in his career, I don't think for one second he was worried about it coming on a pass from the boards that bounced off skates and into the net.

I could go on about with platitudes about the class of guy that Iginla is. People already know that and my personal experience with the guy did nothing at all to change that impression for me. I like to point to this somewhat infamous and incredibly cringe-worthy exchange with Iginla and a reporter earlier this season that Iginla dealt with as patiently as any player could, even though nobody knew what exactly was being asked.

Iginla became only the 42nd player in NHL history to hit the plateau. So we're talking about a pretty exclusive club. Iginla's case is even more unique when one realizes that he became only the ninth player ever to score his first 500 goals with one team.

Every franchise usually has a designated Mr. (fill in the team name). Iginla no doubt is Mr. Flame.

The second milestone also came from a Mr. Franchise type and it was a bit more amazing.

Unless you work for the Elias Sports Bureau or are the biggest Phoenix Coyotes fan out there, it probably caught you by surprise that Shane Doan's hat trick on Saturday night was the first of his career.

It took him 1,161 games to get there, but Doan finally put three in in one game. And it's not like we're talking about a guy who doesn't score. He joins Scott Mellenby as the only other player in NHL history to score 300 goals before his first hat trick.

The most amazing part of all? It took Doan 59 minutes, 59 and 9/10 of a second to get that third goal.

Sometimes you can't make this stuff up.

Like Iginla, Doan has been a consummate professional, a player with the loyalty to a franchise that fans love to see in sports these days. This is a guy who has stuck with a franchise that has been surrounded in questions for a couple of years but has stuck with the only team he has ever known.

A little bit of irony in Doan's goal coming with only 0.1 second left, the Coyotes fell victim to a similar situation earlier this season. The Rangers potted a goal with the same exact amount of time on the clock. The only difference between those two last-second tallies? The Rangers' was for a win, Doan's for the hat trick in an already-decided game.

And all those hats he collected? They are reportedly being donated to the Phoenix Children's Hospital.

It was almost as if Saturday was a night for the good guys in the NHL. Two great honors for two great players. Certainly beats more concussions.

Blue moon

The St. Louis Blues are no fluke, people. This sample size with Ken Hitchcock at the helm is big enough to draw that conclusion.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

The Blues are in the Central Division. They compete with the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators. Yet, after Saturday's games, it's the Blues that are sitting in first place of the monster division, for my money the best in the NHL.

St. Louis dominated the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, pitching a 4-0 shutout. The Avs had been maybe the hottest team in the NHL, bringing a four-game win streak into the Lou. Instead they were just another victim for St. Louis.

That moved the Blues to 18-5-5 under Hitchcock. Their sole lead isn't going to last long. By the end of Sunday they will at least be in a tie with either the Blackhawks or Red Wings. But they are right there and will remain right there for the entire season.

The goaltending duo of Brian Elliott -- who had another shutout -- and Jaroslav Halak has rightfully received a lot of the attention for the Blues' success, but the guys in front of them deserve a lot. Just look at what the Avalanche were able to -- or unable to -- do: They only had 15 shots on goal for the entire game. That's why Elliott didn't even get one of the three Stars of the game. The most shots in one period that Colorado had? Seven. In the first they had just two.

I'll admit I'm happy for the fans of St. Louis. It's not a market that gets a lot of recognition as a big one like the cities in the Northeast or Canada, but it's been a strong market for hockey and remains that way. They haven't had a lot to cheer for in the past couple of years but they do now.

And of course the Western Conference has another team to be reckoned with.

Jerseylicious

The story out of Pittsburgh on Saturday was that the Penguins lost their fourth straight game, something they had not done in two years. On Sunday it was compounded by the announced injuries of James Neal (broken foot) and Jordan Staal (out 4-6 weeks).

But that's taking away from the success of the New Jersey Devils.

Their 3-1 win in Pittsburgh came a night after their 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers at home on Friday. They have points in seven of their last 10 games. They have also hurdled the Penguins in the Atlantic Division and are creeping up on the Flyers, four points behind Philadelphia.

A common thread in those two weekend wins? Ilya Kovalchuk had the game-winner. He's up to 15 goals on the season now, tied with David Clarkson for the team lead. He has the penchant for turnovers -- that's nothing new -- but is still as electric as almost any player in the league with the puck on his stick. What Peter DeBoer wouldn't give to continue to get that kind of production from Kovalchuk.

Danny's dance

What a day it was Saturday for Danny Briere. The Philadelphia Flyers veteran had a double rarity in the Flyers' 3-2 win over the Senators: He finished off a hat trick with a goal in the final seconds of overtime and dropped the gloves with Kyle Turris (!).

First, here's the bout from HockeyFights.com.

Not terrible for a couple of guys who don't normally go a round. For Briere it was only his third career fight.

But in the end it was his fifth career hat trick that was the biggest moment of the night. Apparently content to take the game to the shootout, the Senators seemed to give up once the clock moved under 10 seconds. It was up to Craig Anderson to keep them alive. He made the first stop on Briere from point-blank range but couldn't prevent the second from slipping in and winning the game with 5.3 seconds left.

Buffalo bull

They're getting pretty desperate up there in Buffalo where the Sabres just can't seem to do anything right.

It's a solid cast of characters. There's a reason why people thought this would be a contender in the East this season. Add in the ownership takeover of Terry Pegula, and there was a lot of noise coming out of Buffalo. Now, not so much. Really.

"Married couples fighting upstairs, you can hear that on the ice," Ville Leino joked to John Vogl of the Buffalo News.

That'll happen when you're not scoring much. Like they didn't score in the 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night in Buffalo.

Their lack of scoring is the biggest culprit for the following: Since Nov. 12 -- as in the day Ryan Miller met Milan Lucic -- the Sabres have the fourth-worst record in the NHL. The fans are beginning to beg GM Darcy Regier to do something. This isn't how it was supposed to go.

Quote of the weekend

"It got a little tight, so we're being careful with him. We took him and pulled him out." -- Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter on defenseman Mike Green and his hamstring.

The Caps just got Mike Green back from a hamstring-induced absence that stretched back to early November. Now it might cost him even more time now. If so, that will be the third time that Green has been out with injury. He also had an ankle issue cost him time earlier this season.

The Capitals saw their four-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday night in San Jose to the streaking Sharks. It was actually the first loss of the season for the Caps when Green played. They are now 9-1-0.

Looking beyond this season, Green will hit free agency this summer and here's one argument being laid out for why the Capitals shouldn't re-sign him. It will be worth a debate for GM George McPhee.

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

Posted on: December 18, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Selanne returns, but Jets take off

By Brian Stubits

Saturday night in Winnipeg was just a little bit louder this time. That's because the Jets fans were more than eager to welcome back Teemu Selanne, a one-time favorite son in the 'Peg under the Jets 1.0.

He didn't leave Winnipeg in a bad fashion (he was traded to the Ducks). He didn't burn any bridges or ever say anything negative about Winnipeg and the fans there. Oh, and he was pretty damn good when wore the red, white and blue of the old Jets, too.

As good as Selanne has been throughout his career, he was never better than he was in his first season in the NHL, playing for the Jets. He set career highs that season with 76 goals and 132 points, marks that he really hasn't come even close to seeing since.

So it took an awful long time (try 15 years) for the Jets fans to get their chance to welcome him back, and they took it.

When Selanne's Anaheim Ducks took to the ice, the crowd was already cheering for the hometown team. The cheer was almost doubled when Selanne came out and the ovation continued through Selanne getting a standing ovation. It was a great moment.

That was well and good, a highlight of the weekend to be sure.

But then came the hockey game. And with that came another Jets home win, 5-3 over Selanne's Ducks.

Yes, the Jets are playing some pretty good hockey these days, especially at home. Coming into the season, the assumption was easy to make that the Jets would be a much better home team, but I still don't think many believed that would translate into Winnipeg having the best home record in the Eastern Conference a week before Christmas.

As things stand right now, the Jets are the closest competitor to the Southeast-leading Panthers. They got off to a bad start, but have flipped the script. The Jets have won six of their last eight games and are just one point behind the Sabres and Maple Leafs in the East playoff picture.

It's essentially the same team that was playing in Atlanta as the Thrashers this time last season, so we can still draw comparisons and warnings from that team. So I'd like to take this opportunity to remind everybody that the Thrashers were leading the Southeast Division this week one season ago. How did that turn out for them, exactly?

Still, it's hard not to believe this team is taking strides, as small as they might be. Evander Kane is beginning to break out and become the player the franchise thought he could be. The young sharpshooter has a team-high 15 goals, five behind the league-leading pace from Steven Stamkos. Dustin Byfuglien, for as rough of an offseason as he had, is still playing well ... offensively at least.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

Ondrej Pavelec has been good enough in goal. His numbers are hardly stellar, but that's pretty much the goalie that he is. He won't compete for any Vezina trophies, but he is good enough to hold the Jets in a lot of games.

If the ship continues to take on water in Anaheim -- and really, at this point it seems like the holes won't be patched this season, even with a new coach in there -- they will have decisions to make with the roster. Talks about Bobby Ryan were already a hot topic. But the Ducks might consider doing more.

At this point in his career, Selanne made it very clear that he was going to only play in Anaheim if he were to play this season. He likely wouldn't waive his no-movement clause if asked. But maybe, if there were one place he would consider it, perhaps it would be Winnipeg. At his age, the Ducks obviously don't have Selanne in the long-term plans, so if they were able to get a player/players or picks for Selanne, they probably would love it at this moment.

That's all pure speculation and the chances of a Selanne trade are awful at best. But wouldn't it be great if Selanne had another return to Winnipeg later this season?

Wish finally granted

For months, Kyle Turris made it clear that he didn't want to play for the Phoenix Coyotes any more. His contract negotiation was long and contentious. During that time, Coyotes GM Dan Maloney was insistent he wasn't trading Turris, no matter what teams offered for the 22-year-old former first-round draft pick. He held firm and eventually got Turris under contract or two years and $2.8 million.

But the calls didn't stop and Turris certainly didn't seem to be secure in his position with the Coyotes. He had to be under contract or risk sitting out the entire season. So this weekend Maloney found a deal to his liking for Turris from Senators GM Bryan Murray. In exchange for Turris, the Coyotes received young and promising defenseman David Rundblad and a second-round draft pick.

I had long held the notion that any return in the trade that netted the Coyotes even a decent return would be a good deal. This would qualify as at least a decent return.

I have just never understood the drooling over Turris from a lot of teams. There was reportedly a lot of interest on Turris from numerous teams, both before he signed the contract and after. And just as he should have, Maloney was playing hard to get and making it obvious that it was going to take a lot for him to trade Turris.

Who knows, maybe Turris will find the environment suitable enough to become the player that everybody seems to think he can be. Maybe getting more of a chance to play and being in a less-regimented system will allow him to put up the best numbers of his career. If he does, I'll eat my crow.

But at this point in his career, he has been underwhelming, for sure. Heck, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett had made Turris a healthy scratch in his final two games as a member of the Coyotes. The interest in him still surrounds that potential tag, and I don't know how many seasons a player gets to play while still holding onto that tag.

Rundblad, meanwhile, has that potential tag, too. But he's a rookie in the NHL, so the sample size is much, much smaller. And with the way Erik Karlsson has developed this season for Ottawa, it made Rundblad a bit more expendable. However it is never an exciting prospect when you give up a young defenseman with loads of potential, those are pretty solid commodities.

My immediate reaction is that I don't like the deal for Ottawa. But like any trade, you can't truly judge it for another five years or so.

Give the Devil his due

The New Jersey Devils are starting to play some pretty good hockey. With their 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens and interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, New Jersey has run off four wins in a row and has two points in six of their last seven games. They have moved into sixth place in the East, joining Atlantic foes the Penguins, Flyers and Rangers in the top six.

The line of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and rookie Adam Henrique has been spectacular. Henrique is the name that sticks out like a sore thumb in that trio with two perennial All-Stars, but he has been just as terrific. Any time this line is in the game right now, you get the sense that the Devils are on the verge of scoring.

But there is still some secondary scoring coming right now, including two goals from Patrik Elias in Saturday's win. Why is that noteworthy? Because the two goals allowed Elias to tie then surpass John MacLean as the franchise's all-time leading goal scorer.

Also on the minds of the Devils is the status of this year's top draft pick, defenseman Adam Larsson. He took an elbow to the head from the Canadiens' Erik Cole behind the net, a hit that Brendan Shanahan didn't deem worthy of a suspension.

Outside of that, things are going pretty well for the Devils these days.

Tip of the hat

Without Sidney Crosby on the ice, it's a lot easier for Evgeni Malkin to get the spotlight and attention that he deserves. That's easy when you have a game like he did on Saturday, with or without Crosby playing.

Malkin had a hat trick and two assists (of course I'm going against him in Fantasy this week) as the Penguins drilled Ryan Miller and the Sabres, 8-3. That brings Pittsburgh's goal total to 107 this season, behind only the Flyers and Bruins for the most in the league.

What makes it even all the more amazing is this gem of a stat from @PensInsideScoop.

"#Pens salary of their 20-man roster Sat was $38.9 million. That's 25 mill under cap (64.3) and 9 bellow cap bottom (38.9) missing $25 million in salary w injuries 2 Crosby, Staal, Letang, Martin, Michalek. That doesn't include 5 other hurt guys"

Speaking of injuries ...

This won't surprise too many fans out there, but San Jose Sharks forward Martin Havlat appeared to injure himself pretty badly in San Jose's 3-2 win on Saturday night.

When he was hopping onto the ice in a line change, Havlat seemed to get stuck for a second on the boards and immediately came right back off the ice in pain, seemingly in his leg.

It comes just when the Sharks appear to be finally piecing things together a little bit. For the first time this season, San Jose has won three games in a row at the shark Tank and is now in first place in the Pacific, tied at the moment in points with the Stars while having a game in hand.

For Havlat, though, maybe a break could give him a chance to revitalize himself. It's been a big struggle for him since being traded to San Jose this summer. He has just two goals and 13 assists through 26 games, well off his 22-goal, 40-assist season he had with the Wild last year.

Quote of the weekend

"The Leafs have always been a team I hated as a kid. For some reason it feels good to play here -- it's a great building, the fans are great, it's nice to play. I know a lot of fans in Vancouver don't like this team. ... It just makes it extra special." -- Alex Burrows, Vancouver Canucks.

Burrows, who hails from Quebec and grew up a Canadiens fan, finds it awfully easy to hate the Maple Leafs for that reason alone.

So for him, scoring the game-winning goal in Toronto is always special, particularly when it's on Hockey Night in Canada.

And with the 5-3 win, the Canucks keep climbing back to where people expected them to be this season. They are now 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have climbed to within five points of the Wild in the Northwest Division.

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

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