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Tag:Western Conference
Posted on: March 30, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: March 30, 2011 3:55 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Seeds could shift in East tonight

WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Tampa Bay Lightning can lock down a berth if the Carolina Hurricanes lose in regulation to the Montreal Canadiens

ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.   

GAME OF THE NIGHT: New York Rangers (41-30-5) at Buffalo Sabres (38-29-9), 7 p.m. ET
The Sabres could tie the seventh-place Rangers points-wise with a victory. Both enter with 33 regulation/overtime wins -- the first tiebreaker -- so if this game goes to a shootout it becomes even more convoluted. But with five games left for each team after tonight, there’s plenty of time sort things out. Buffalo, which fell to Toronto on Tuesday, is probably more worried about the team behind them. The Carolina Hurricanes are just three points back. One thing the Sabres have going for it is that they haven’t lost consecutive games since Feb. 18-20. The Rangers have won two of the first three meetings between the clubs. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Montreal Canadiens (41-29-7) at Carolina Hurricanes (36-30-10), 7 p.m. ET
The Eastern Conference is not as bunched up for the final playoff seeds as the West, but games like this make things interesting. The ‘Canes beat the Washington Capitals --- for the first time in six meetings this season --- on Tuesday, a victory powered by rookie Jeff Skinner and the goaltending of Cam Ward. Skinner knotted the game at the end of regulation and scored one of Carolina’s two shootout goals in the 3-2 win at Verizon Center. The Hurricanes face another team that they have gone winless against this season, this time in the previous three meetings. 

GOLF WATCH: The New Jersey Devils will be eliminated a couple different ways tonight: If New Jersey loses (in regulation or overtime) and the Buffalo Sabres defeat OR if the Devils lose in regulation and the Sabres earn at least one point. The St. Louis Blues will be eliminated if: they lose to the Detroit Red Wings, in any manner.  Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Colorado and Edmonton have already mathematically out of it.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: March 29, 2011 2:55 pm
 

Playoff Watch: 'Canes look for win No.1 over Caps

WHO CAN CLINCH: The Tampa Bay Lightning can lock down a playoff spot if they beat the Ottawa Senators and the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the Washington Capitals in regulation. The Vancouver Canucks can win the Western Conference by earning at least one point against the Nashville Predators tonight. 

ALREADY IN: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.  

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Carolina Hurricanes (35-30-10) at Washington Capitals (44-22-10), 7 p.m. ET
The ‘Canes enter five points in back of the Buffalo Sabres, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Carolina has lost each of the first five meetings between these Southeast Division rivals and the ‘Canes are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. 

The Capitals could get forwards Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott back in the lineup tonight. (Both have been sidelined with undisclosed injuries.) Washington coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t disclose to reporters at the morning skate if either will see action, but both skated with the team again. The Caps are returning from a season-long six-game trip where they posted a 4-2-0 record. For the month of March, Washington is 11-2-0. 

Carolina forwards Eric Staal, Cory Stillman and Erik Cole each enter with four-game points streaks.

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Dallas Stars (38-26-10) at Phoenix Coyotes (41-25-11), 10 p.m. ET

The Stars enter the night four points out of eighth, making this final regular season meeting between these Pacific Division rivals crucial. Phoenix has won three of the first five meetings and the last three contests were decided by a goal. Dallas enters 1-3-2 over the last five games, a skid that has seen the Stars drop from fourth to 10th in the West. 

GOLF WATCH: No new teams will be eliminated today. Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Colorado and Edmonton have already mathematically out of it.
Posted on: March 28, 2011 4:00 pm
Edited on: March 28, 2011 4:05 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Crucial points at stake for 'Hawks

WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Vancouver Canucks can win the Western Conference if the Detroit Red Wings lose Monday in regulation to the Chicago Blackhawks.

ALREADY IN: Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington. 

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Chicago Blackhawks (40-26-8) at Detroit Red Wings (44-22-9), 7:30 p.m. ET (Versus)

The Blackhawks can't drop out of the top-8 in the West, although a loss could make the defending champ's shot at the playoffs a little more trying. Calgary is a point back and the Dallas is two points behind the the 'Hawks to start the night. 

Chicago coach Joel Quennville has toyed with shuffling the lines since his team's 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. The Red Wings have been forced into making a change of their own. Joey MacDonald will start in net in place of Jimmy Howard, who is day to day with an injured shoulder. 

"The one thing you want to do is get a lot of shots and a lot of traffic," Quenneville told ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers. "We want to make sure he has a hard time fighting through the traffic." 

Chicago has won two of these teams' first three meetings. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING:  Colorado Avalanche (28-38-8) at Anaheim Ducks (42-28-5), 10 p.m. ET

This is the only other game of the night, but it could still play a role on how the West plays out. Like the 'Hawks, the Ducks aren't in danger of falling out of the top-8 tonight. But the Ducks could fall a spot with a loss combined with a Blackhawks win. 

The Ducks enter 3-0 against the Avs. 

GOLF WATCH: No new teams will be eliminated today. Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Colorado and Edmonton have already mathematically out of it. 
Posted on: March 26, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 5:25 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Carolina, Tampa get quick rematch

WHO CAN CLINCH: The Pittsburgh Penguins (idle Saturday) are in if the Carolina Hurricanes lose in any fashion. The Boston Bruins could have clinched with some help today, but fell to the New York Rangers, 1-0.

ALREADY IN: Vancouver, Philadelphia and Washington. 

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Tampa Bay Lightning (39-24-11) at Carolina Hurricanes (35-29-10), 7 p.m. ET

The first half of this home-and-home went well for the ‘Canes, who remained three points behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres. Erik Cole scored twice to lead Carolina past host Tampa Bay, 4-3, on Friday. The teams have split the first four meetings this season, although the two Southeast Division clubs have been going in opposite directions as of late. 

The ‘Canes enter on a three-game winning streak, while the Lightning have dropped four in a row with only two victories over the last 10 games. (Tampa did get points in four of those games with OT/shootout losses.) Tampa has allowed three goals on the penalty kill over the last two games, but they’ve also scored that many on the power play with two coming off the stick of Simon Gagne on Friday. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Anaheim Ducks (41-28-5) at Chicago Blackhawks (40-25-8), 8:30 p.m. ET

With the Western Conference standings as bunched up as they are, this Blackhawks (seventh place) and the Ducks (eighth) game should have another playoff game vibe to it. When Patrick Kane scores, like he did in Wednesday’s victory over the Florida Panthers, things usually bode well for the ‘Hawks, who are 15-1-2 when the forward lights the lamp. It’ll be interesting to see which goalie -- Jonas Hiller, Dan Ellis or Ray Emery -- Ducks coach Randy Carlyle will go with tonight. Hiller was shaky in his return from more than a month off due to vertigo and Ellis and Emery had been solid in net in recent weeks. 

GOLF WATCH: The New York Islanders need to win and have the Buffalo Sabres lose in regulation to remain in it. Florida, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Colorado are already mathematically eliminated. 

--- A.J. Perez
Posted on: March 25, 2011 12:35 am
 

Nashville's Ryan Suter punts puck into own net

The Anaheim Ducks don't need any extra help late in games these days, not with 40-year-old forward Teemu Selanne becoming the first NHL player in history to score four game-tying goals in the final three minutes of play in a season. The Ducks won each of those game, which have all occurred since Feb. 11

Regardless, Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter lent a hand -- or rather a foot.

He booted a loose puck past Preds goalie Pekka Rinne with 26.5 seconds left in regualation. The goal, credited to Corey Perry, made it a one-goal game, although the Predators held on for a 5-4 win. 

The victory extended Nashville's winning streak to five games – the longest current streak in the league – and moved up to fifth place in the West. Here's a look at the goal:

Posted on: March 24, 2011 3:07 am
Edited on: March 24, 2011 3:46 am
 

Morning Skate: Desjardins sports rare number



Andrew Desjardins' goal was just another tally in a 6-3 San Jose Sharks victory Wednesday that further dimmed the Calgary Flames’ chances of the making the postseason -- at least until the 24-year-old center skated away from the net after his first career goal.

That’s when one of the rarest jersey numbers in hockey history came into full view: No. 69. 

Desjardins is thought to be one of only two players in NHL history to don the number. The other, according to azhockey.com, was enforcer Mel Angelstad, whose hockey career spanned all of two games with the Washington Capitals during the 2003-04 season. 

Desjardins told CBSSports.com after last night’s game that it wasn’t by design -- or at least his design. 

“I came into camp last summer and that’s what I got,” said Desjardins, minutes after his first career point of any kind in the NHL. “As numbers go, that wouldn’t have been my choice.”
Line Changes

Desjardins, however, wasn’t about to complain about the unusual digits. 

His route to the NHL was hardly direct. Desjardins went undrafted out of juniors and played a season in the Central Hockey League for the Laredo Bucks. He caught on with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks, in 2008-09 and has played there ever since --  minus a five-game stint in the ECHL -- and he usually wears No. 22.

Desjardins made his NHL debut Jan. 3 with the Sharks and was called back up on March 7 -- the same day his former linemate in Worcester, John McCarthy, was sent down. The two players, along with Dan DaSilva, made up Worcester’s “Crazed Rats” line. 

“I’m not exactly sure how that started,” said Desjardins, who grew up in Lively, Ontario. “A coach or somebody said our line was tenacious and chased the puck down like crazy rats. It just kind of stuck. Fans started to call us that and they even made signs and brought them to the games.”

Now, Desjardins just has an odd number, one that he hints he may attempt to change if he sticks with the club.

“You just have to laugh about it,” Desjardins said. “It’s not something I looked at and said, ‘Oh, awesome!’ You just have to take a step back and think that you’re playing in the NHL and not worry what’s on your back. My friends and family haven’t been too bad about it. It’s just something you don’t see every day.”

Wednesday’s was Desjardins' 10th NHL game and it came against a Flames team that entered tied with two others -- the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars -- for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. He may be new to the NHL, but it didn’t take him long to sense the Flames’ urgency. 

His goal midway through the first period -- where he took a pass at his own blue line, skated up the boards, spit two defenders and beat  Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff over the blocker -- put the Sharks up 2-1.  A goal by Cory Sarich tied the game about four minutes later before the Sharks pulled away. 

“To be able to play in these types have games has been exciting and challenging,” Desjardins said. “(The Flames) didn’t give up and every game has been like that. That’s the way hockey is this time of year. There are a lot of desperate teams.”

The Ducks, who have been one the league’s most exciting teams to watch over the last several days, reached overtime with a tally by Teemu Selanne with seven seconds left before rookie Cam Fowler clinched a 5-4 victory over the Stars in OT. That leaves the Ducks alone in eighth with 87 points, one point ahead of the Stars and two in front of the Flames. 

WEDNESDAY’S RESULTS 
Vancouver 2, Detroit 1
Chicago 4, Florida 0
Anaheim 4, Dallas 3 (OT)
San Jose 6, Calgary 3

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 23, 2011 4:26 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Battle for 8th in West on display



WHO CAN CLINCH: No new teams can clinch tonight. 

ALREADY IN: The Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Anaheim Ducks (40-27-5) at Dallas Stars (38-25-9), 8:30 p.m. ET

The Ducks and Stars are part of a three-way tie with the Calgary Flames for eighth place in the Western Conference. (With more wins, Anaheim officially holds that final playoff spot at the moment.) The Ducks have won three in a row and have taken three of the first four meetings between these two clubs. 

The Stars could get Loui Eriksson, out the last two games with a concussion, back tonight, The Dallas Morning News reports. Eriksson will need to be cleared by the team physician under the league’s new concussion guidelines. This is the final game of a seven-game homestand for the Stars, their longest of the season. Ray Emery, who is 2-0 with a .972 save percentage, will likely get the not in net for the Ducks. The Stars will counter with Kari Lehtonen.

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Calgary Flames (37-27-11) at San Jose Sharks (42-23-8), 10 p.m. ET

The Flames have played more games than any other club in the NHL (75), so points are even more crucial down the stretch. Calgary left points on the table in both games against California’s other two teams in an OT loss to the Ducks on Sunday and a shootout loss to the Kings on Monday. The Sharks have won two of the first three meetings between these two clubs. Calder Trophy candidate Logan Couture will be in the lineup a game after he took a scary spill into the boards, The Mercury News reports. 

GOLF WATCH: The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers won't get any new company tonight.   

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 23, 2011 1:36 am
Edited on: March 23, 2011 1:54 am
 

Morning Skate: Rookie Reimer keeps Leafs going



Toronto Maples Leafs rookie goalie James Reimer must be doing something right if he's getting compared to a Transformer.

A couple “Optimus Reim” posters were spotted Xcel Energy Center Tuesday night where Reimer turned in a 29-save performance in a 3-0 Leafs victory over the Minnesota Wild, the Toronto Star reports.

The 23-year-old from Arborg, Manitoba, is the chief reason Toronto still has a shot at its first postseason berth since before the lockout. He had fair amount of admirers as friends and family members made the 540-mile trek from his hometown.

“You always want to win and always want to put on a good show for family, especially when they drive a long way,” Reimer told the newspaper. “They’re the ones who put in the time and effort into my life and into my hockey career.”
Line Changes

Reimer is 11-3-4 over his last 18 decisions and his three shutouts have come since Feb. 3. Not bad for a guy who was sent down to the AHL three times this season.

The Leafs finished the night in 10th place in the East, five points behind the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres. The Leafs have eight games remaining and it’s a safe bet Reimer will get a chance to start in each of those -- especially when you factor in the outrage when coach Ron Wilson started J.S. Giguere in a loss to Florida last Thursday.

Beyond the playoff push, Reimer has also emerged as a candidate for the Calder Trophy. The discussion for the league's top rookie has been dominated by Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner, San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner and Sabres forward Tyler Ennis.

Unlike those skaters who are on lines with talented teammates, Reimer is often on his own --- like when he turned away two shorthanded breakaway chances on Tuesday. But what'll hurt his Calder hopes is his short resume.

He'll play at most 37 games, fewer than Chicago's Corey Crawford, Philly's Sergei Bobrovsky and Washington's Michal Neuvirth --- all rookie goalies with solid stats on playoff-bound teams.

But if he gets the Leafs into the playoffs, that'll cover up his short job history and transfrorm him into Calder contender. 

COOKE AFTERMATH: It appears New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh feels for Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke, who was suspended Monday for the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs for an elbow he delivered last weekend to McDonagh’s head. 

He spoke with Rangers broadcast outlet MSG before Tuesday’s game (Here’s the quote transcribed by TSN.ca): 

“You're trying to get good momentum going into the playoffs or keep your playoff spot and that was a close game at the time and momentum could go the other way. I think he's trying to make a big hit and he just caught me wrong. I don't think it was his intent.

"The suspension … it is what it is. The league is really pushing to get these hits out of the game. If that's a statement, it's a pretty big statement, for sure."


Earlier in the day, Pittsburgh's two newspapers (The Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review) reported Cooke expressed regret for the collision: 

"I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change," Mr. Cooke said. "That's what I wanted my message to be."

"I'm fortunate that Ryan McDonagh wasn't hurt," he said. "I don't want to hurt anybody. That's not my intention. I know that I can be better. ... I made a mistake, and I'm the one who's accountable for that. And I take full responsibility for it."


WEST END: Four points separate the fourth-place Phoenix Coyotes and 10th-place Calgary Flames entering play Wednesday. At the same point last season, that margin between the same two places in the Western Conference was 19 points.


TUESDAY'S RESULTS
NY Rangers 1, Florida 0
Boston 4, New Jersey 1
Carolina 4, Ottawa 3
Washington 5, Philadelphia 4 (SO)
Buffalo 2, Montreal 0
NY Islanders 5, Tampa Bay 2
Nashville 3, Edmonton 1
Toronto 3, Minnesota 0
Colorado 5, Columbus 4 (SO)
Phoenix 2, St. Louis 1

-- A.J. Perez

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