Tag:Alex Ovechkin
Posted on: January 24, 2012 12:24 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 1:28 pm
 

Ovechkin skipping All-Star Game after suspension

Ovechkin has 20 goals and 19 assists. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

It was going to be seriously awkward if Alex Ovechkin, a suspended player, were to take up the honor bestowed upon him and attend the NHL All-Star Game this weekend in Ottawa.

Well, awkwardness avoided. The Washington Capitals announced on Tuesday that he will not attend the All-Star Game, instead staying home after being handed down a three-game suspension from league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Monday.

"My heart is not there," Ovechkin said on Tuesday. "I suspended, so why I have to go there?

"I'd love to be there, but I'm suspended. I don't want to be a target. I feel I'm not deserving to be there."

Caps GM George McPhee released the information, saying that Ovechkin's heart is not in it and that the team supports him.

McPhee also took it as a chance to make a little statement regarding Ovechkin's suspension.

"I was surprised and disappointed, I didn't anticipate he would be suspended for three game," McPhee said.

It was also the first time the Washington media had a chance to ask Ovechkin for his opinion on the hit since the suspension. Unsurprisingly, he didn't like the ruling much.

"I don't think it was a bad hit or dirty hit," he said. "Yeah, I jumped, but he don't get hurt, I don't get two minutes."

Speaking of suspensions and fines, will Ovechkin be facing one now for skipping the festivities in Ottawa? Remember, players in the past have, including Nicklas Lidstrom.

Well according to Darren Dreger of TSN, the NHL is disappointed but won't punish Ovechkin.

In a way, this sort of rights a wrong if you ask me. I objected to Ovechkin's nomination based on merit this season, there were other guys who deserved it more. I understand the marketing value and name recognition with Ovechkin and completely understood why he was named an All-Star, but on merit alone I didn't think he deserved it.

It was a tough situation for Ovechkin, who said that he didn't deserve to be there after being suspended and didn't want to be a distraction. He was certainly not prohibited from playing in the game because of his suspension, but as I said, it would have been a bit awkward.

However, I don't like Ovechkin skipping the game. It really comes across as being sulky more than anything else. I really don't think he would have provided much of a distraction to the All-Star Game by being there. Suspensions are pretty common these days in the NHL.

I didn't rip Tim Thomas for his decision not to visit the White House yesterday in a form of protest. I was perfectly fine with his decision. But Ovechkin is just passing on this because his heart is not in it? I don't like it all that much. It's obvious people like to watch him play.

A replacement will be named to fill his spot and there's one very notable snub still sitting out there: Penguins forward James Neal. I'd be very surprised if he's not the one to get the call to replace Ovechkin.

On an interesting side note, that means that Dennis Wideman will be the only Capital in the All-Star Game. What do you think the odds would have been on that at the beginning of the season?

More from Eye on Hockey

Ovechkin given three-game suspension
Ovechkin raps in Russian and dances
Dissecting the All-Star picks

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

Posted on: January 23, 2012 6:41 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 6:54 pm
 

Alex Ovechkin suspended 3 games



By: Adam Gretz

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has been suspended three games for a hit delivered on Sunday afternoon, the NHL announced on Monday evening.

The hit occurred early in the second period, with the Capitals trailing 2-0, and as he and Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek went into the corner for a loose puck Ovechkin delivered a hit to the head along the boards. There was no penalty called on the play.

"Ovechkin has Michalek lined up for what could and should be a clean, hard body check," said Shanahan on his latest suspension video. "However, he launches himself to deliver the hit on Michalek.

"Although Michalek's shoulder might be the initial point of contact for this hit, the act of launching causes contact to Michalek's head. Often on big hits or collisions a player's feet will come off the ice slightly as a result of the impact. This however is not one of those occassions. Ovechkin drives up, launching and recklessly making contact with Michalek's head."

Shanahan also added that he accepts that Ovechkin did not intend to hit Michalek in the head, but said "the moment Ovechkin launches himself in the air prior to the hit, he becomes responsible for any contact to the head."

Ovechkin's prior history was also taken into account, as he has been suspended twice and fined twice previously in his career. Back in 2009 he received a two-game ban for a knee-on-knee hit to Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason. He also suspended that season for a boarding incident involving Brian Campbell.

He will miss Washington's upcoming games with Boston, Tampa Bay and Florida. Obviously that game against the Panthers, which will take place on Feb. 1, is a big one as the Capitals and Panthers are currently in a back-and-forth fight for the top spot in the Southeast Division. He will be eligible to return to the Capitals lineup on Feb. 4 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Even though he's currently suspended, he will be eligible to play in next weekend's All-Star game in Ottawa.

His absence also adds to the current problems facing the Capitals as the team is already playing without center Nicklas Backstrom and top defenseman Mike Green. Washington is starving for offense right now, and this won't help.

Even though Michalek was on the receiving end of the hit from Ovechkin, he also had a disciplinary hearing with Shanahan on Monday for a hit he delivered in the same game on Capitals forward Matt Hendricks (you can watch it right here). While Ovechkin was suspended for three games, Michalek will not be disciplined for his hit, which will only add more fuel to the fire when it comes to (the lack of) consistency and NHL discipline.

More NHL Discipline news here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 22, 2012 4:46 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2012 11:59 pm
 

Was Ovechkin's hit on Michalek punishable?

By Brian Stubits

Alex Ovechkin is known for his scoring. Since he was selected first overall in the 2004 draft, he's reminded everybody why.

But it shouldn't be forgotten that Ovechkin is also a power forward. He is a big body who will lay the wood. Big hits from Ovechkin aren't uncommon at all.

There was one hit from Ovechkin in particular in the Capitals' OT loss to the Penguins on Sunday afternoon that drew some attention. And not in a good way for the Caps captain.

That hit on the Penguins' Zbynek Michalek drew no penalty call from the officials in the game. Seeing it on replay, it no doubt deserved one, his skates clearly came off the ice to deliver the check to Michalek.

It's close to being a situation where the principal point of contact is the head as well. But it does appear that the first contact comes on Michalek's shoulder before going through to his head.

I wouldn't be surprised if this draws a phone call from Brendan Shanahan. Right now I'd think there's no suspension coming Ovechkin's way but he could get a warning, something Shanahan has done with other players this season. It's certainly within the realm of possibility he could be punished for the hit, but my premonition is that it won't get a suspension. However I've been wrong -- many times -- before when it comes to suspensions this season.

At the least, it was a penalty that was missed in the game. And it was also a reminder about the bad blood that exists in the Pens-Caps rivalry. It's about more than Sid vs. Ovi (that's a big part of what built the rivalry).

It must be mentioned that Michalek had his own questionable hit later in the game. That one did lead to a penalty after he boarded Matt Hendricks in the corner. What goes around comes around I guess.

As is the case with Ovechkin's hit, it will garner a harder look from Shanahan. Any time a player is hit in or near the head, the league will look hard at it.

Now I'll let you make the calls.

UPDATE: Turns out each player could, in fact, be in line for a suspension as the NHL announced on Sunday that night that each player has a discipline hearing slated for Monday.

More NHL Discipline news
Recap: Pens 4, Caps 3 (OT)

H/t to Pro Hockey Talk for second video

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

Posted on: January 19, 2012 3:17 pm
Edited on: January 19, 2012 3:29 pm
 

Advice to the Washington Capitals: Shoot the puck

Ovechkin is shooting a lot, his team isn't. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

It's almost everybody in hockey's belief that the Washington Capitals will, in the end, prevail and take the Southeast Division crown. They have been either behind the Florida Panthers or sharing the top spot with them (as they are now) since mid-November.

The rationale goes something along the lines of people believing the Caps can and will play better, or up to their potential, as many say.

Well I can't help but wonder ... what if this is their potential? They aren't the same team they were a couple of years ago. Under new coach Dale Hunter, they won't light teams up. It's not because they don't have players who can score, it's that they stopped shooting the puck.

I'm in attendance for most Capitals home games, I see them play first hand a lot. It seemed to me that every game they have played lately, they have been outshot and outchanced. In this case, perception is reality.

The Capitals have been outshot in each of the last seven games and 12 of the last 13. The only game where they outshot their opponent? The Calgary Flames where the Caps had a 21-19 shot advantage, a number that more often than not will be less than the opponent. In total, they have been outshot in 17 of the 23 games under Hunter.

It actually seems to be getting worse in this regard. The Capitals just played back-to-back games, Tuesday at home vs. the Islanders and Wednesday at the Canadiens. In those two games the Capitals had 33 shots on goal ... combined. The other teams had 59.

In fact, since Hunter came along, the Capitals are averaging only 24.7 shots on goal per game while giving up 30.5 per game. Those team totals are in spite of the fact that Alex Ovechkin is actually still shooting at a high rate, clocking in at fifth in the league in shots on goal. That means the rest of the team? Not so much.

Thanks to my colleague Adam Gretz, here is a chart showing the disparity in shots between the Capitals and their foes, splitting it up also to see the differences between the Bruce Boudreau reign and Hunter era.

You'll notice that the disparity lately is starting to settle into a trend where the Caps are not getting the shots off like their opponents are. It would be logical to assume that that must mean the Caps are focusing more on defense and aren't giving up as many shots either, but that's not the case. Notice in recent games how the volume of shots against has been at 28 or more. To state the obvious, that's not good either, it indicates that they aren't controlling the puck often enough.

What's more, another thing that seemed to me without looking at the stats to be the case is that when the Capitals get ahead, they shut down offensively. It has felt like every game they have won at home recently, the puck has been in their defensive zone for 75 percent of the third period. To illustrate that, take a look at this shots graph from Wednesday's win in Montreal and not the plateaus in Capitals attempts after the goals, marked by the vertical colored lines (via behindthenet.ca). Granted, most teams play more in their zone when they have the lead in the third period, but in the case of the Capitals, it feels pronounced.

Now the interesting part is where I tell you that the Capitals are winning these games. They have won eight of their last 11, in fact.

The question then becomes a matter of if the Capitals can continue to sustain their winning ways if the shot totals remain roughly the same. Let's just say the odds aren't in their favor.

On the season the Capitals are 13-13-2 when they are outshot. It's just more than a point per game, which would put them on pace for around 85 points or so in a full season. Conversely they are 12-5-0 when they outshoot their opponents. It's pretty easy to see the benefits of throwing the puck on net.

Sooner or later those numbers will catch up a team. It's hard to keep up a pace of scoring three goals on 16 shots as they did on Wednesday in Montreal. A shooting percentage a touch under 20 percent in a game? Unsustainable.

One reason why they have been able to creep on the Panthers in the division has been the play of former Panther Tomas Vokoun in net. He has rebounded since he was benched for five straight games and has done an excellent job of keeping the Caps in games and their leads safe.

They have also enjoyed the comfy confines of Verizon Center where they are 17-6-1 this season as opposed to 8-12-1 on the road. Of those eight wins in 11 games, seven have come at home.

Now to be fair, it has to be noted that Nicklas Backstrom has missed each of the last seven games. He is still dealing with post-concussion symptoms since his hit from Rene Bourque when he was with the Flames. That can certainly account for their recent drop in shots, after all he is still the team's leading scorer

The good news in all of this though is that they aren't in a division where a team is going to run away with the lead. We've already seen the Panthers come back to the pack. The same idea holds for the Eastern Conference as a whole. There's still a little less than half of the season to go, but it's sure shaping up to be a situation where there are 10 teams fighting for the eight postseason spots.

But if they don't start throwing the puck on net more, people are going to continue to wait to see their potential.

It's an adage as old as the game itself: Just throw the puck on net and see what happens. There is hardly ever anything bad that can come from getting the puck on goal. A soft shot might go in. A surprising rebound might present itself like a big present underneath the Christmas tree. Or in some cases the goalie can freeze the puck to cause a faceoff in the offensive zone. Stats show how valuable that is to creating offense.

I'd suggest the team adopt the motto of shoot first, ask questions later.

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

Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:51 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 7:48 pm
 

Watch Alex Ovechkin dance and rap in Russian

By Brian Stubits

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is pretty good at his day job, to state the obvious. So here is where I'll suggest he sticks to it instead of getting into the music industry.

But if you want to play in the alternate universe and you wonder what it would be like if Ovie were a rapper and hip-hop dancer, well this is your lucky day. Unless you speak Russian you won't understand this song, but it doesn't matter, everybody can enjoy Ovechkin dancing -- and rapping to boot.

It's good to see that Ovechkin's dancing repertoire has grown so much since his Eastern Motors commercial a few years back. The singing/rapping ability is a bit better too.

Thanks to Fedor Fedin at the blog Russian Machine Never Breaks, here's a translation of Ovechkin's part of the song called Champion.

Alumni of Dynamo
8 on the back.
In the All-Star game all attention is on me.

On the NatTeam since 17
Scored 100 points in a season
Gold medal in Canada in ’08

Among the ten best players of the decade,
Stick in my hands, Rap in my headphones,
Saying hello from Washington,
Together with Sanya Belyi,
For every champion

[And then a bizarre sound that sounds like the English words "Look out!"]

Now my question is which player had a better dance and rap in a video recently: Ovechkin in Russian or former NHL tough guy Georges Laraque in this French Chris Brown rip off? (By the way, if you ever doubted how big the Canadiens are in Quebec, that should end your doubt.)

Now I'll wait for Ovechkin to celebrate a goal with his dance from this video, minus the blurred out finger part, of course.

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

Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 4:24 pm
 

All-Star Game: Dissecting the picks; predictions

By Brian Stubits

The NHL announce its full list of All-Stars on Thursday in about as poor a way as it could have. Remember when Mario Lemieux called the NHL a garage league? Maybe he was thinking of days like this.

The NHL had ample opportunities to put this front and center. They could have announced the selections on Wednesday night using NBC Sports Network and TSN. Heck, they could have made the announcement using the NHL Network instead of running a replay of a game from last night.

All of that would have been better. Instead, the All-Star selections started leaking one at a time. The first was the Florida Panthers announcing Brian Campbell would be representing them. Then the Blackhawks followed with the Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The leaks continued until the NHL finally released the entire list of players about an hour later.

It's almost like it wasn't planned.

Anyway, on to the guys who were selected. These are the guys who will head to Ottawa for the All-Star Game and will be part of the second NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, much like the way you would pick teams for kickball at recess with two captains selecting players until they're gone.

As usual, there are a few head-scratchers in here.

Forwards

Jason Spezza (Senators), Milan Michalek (Senators), Daniel Alfredsson (Senators), Jamie Benn (Stars), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Marian Gaborik (Rangers), Claude Giroux (Flyers), Marian Hossa (Blackhawks), Jarome Iginla (Flames), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs), Mikko Koivu (Wild), Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins), Logan Couture (Sharks), Alex Ovechkin (Capitals), Jason Pominville (Sabres), Daniel Sedin (Canucks), Henrik Sedin (Canucks), Tyler Seguin (Bruins), Corey Perry (Ducks), Steven Stamkos (Lightning), John Tavares (Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks).

Defensemen

Erik Karlsson (Senators), Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs), Dustin Byfuglien (Jets), Brian Campbell (Panthers), Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Alexander Edler (Canucks), Dan Girardi (Rangers), Shea Weber (Predators), Keith Yandle (Coyotes), Dennis Wideman (Capitals), Ryan Suter (Predators), Kimmo Timonen (Flyers).

Goaltenders

Tim Thomas (Bruins), Brian Elliott (Blues), Jimmy Howard (Red Wings), Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers), Carey Price (Canadiens), Jonathan Quick (Kings).

For those wondering on the breakdown, that's 24 players from the Eastern Conference, 18 from the Western. The six vote-ins all coming from the East helps with that bit of disparity, though.

Now, on to the superlatives ...

Biggest snub

You never know who actually said no to the invite. That's the caveat here. But if nothing else the players should get the honor and then decline to appear (I get the murkiness of it, but they deserve the honor).

With that said, wow, where do I begin? Teemu Selanne? Nicklas Lidstrom? Well they asked out, so no use getting bent out of shape there. So moving on ...

I understand that Nicklas Backstrom (the Capitals center, that is) is injured at the moment, but he's day to day and the game isn't for another few weeks. There is zero doubt that he has been the Capitals' best player this season, not Ovechkin, who made the roster ahead of a long list of players that probably deserved it more.

I scratch my head a little with the selection of Byfuglien on defense. Not that he is bad by any stretch, but I probably would take a few guys over him. From the Jets perspective, I would have liked to see Evander Kane more.

You could make a case -- probably not a great one, however -- for Florida's Jason Garrison, as well. He leads defensemen in goals with 11 and has a slap shot that might possibly stand a chance in the hardest shot competition against Chara and Byfuglien.

There are a few more in the forward role who seem to be more deserving. It's going to continue to come back to Ovechkin because he's the high-profile name with mediocre numbers. Thomas Vanek in Buffalo? Scott Hartnell in Philly? Kris Versteeg in Florida? Patrik Elias for the Devils? Patrice Bergeron in Boston? Patrick Sharp (who was reportedly not picked before injury concerns) Or even Radim Vrbata from the Coyotes? The lists goes on.

It goes to show how even when the fans aren't voting, star power is a big factor. It's always about a little more than just performance.

Least deserving

To make room for the snubs you obviously have to decide who shouldn't be on the list, otherwise they aren't a snub, right? Well that is pretty tough to do.

I do not think Ovechkin deserves his selection based on merit alone. But again, there's more to it than just the stats. Ovechkin gets in based on the star power and marketing more than anything else. I don't necessarily like that, but I can accept that. I think Kane falls into this category to an extent, too. All things being equal, a few of the snubs probably deserve the honor more than Kane this season, but he has a little star power that, say, Versteeg doesn't have.

I'm not terribly high on the other Caps pick of Wideman either. He's had a good season offensively, which is what this game values most, so in that regard it's OK. But even he admitted he was surprised when he was told, he thought he was getting traded.

After them (not counting the guys voted in) it gets pretty tough. Not any wholly undeserving guys (not even the above mentioned).

Keeping in mind that every team gets represented through the All-Star Game or the rookie selections, some guys are safe. That makes it tougher.

Who will be Mr. Irrelevant?

We know this much: It won't be Kessel again. Absolutely no way to predict this accurately, so my stab in the dark is going to say Couture. He's the only member from the Sharks, he is young and plays at the position with the most players, on the wing.

Who will be the captains?

The official announcement will come in a week, so for now we're left to speculate. Alfredsson is a given seeing how the game is in Ottawa. Take that one to the bank. The other was likely going to be Selanne, but now ... Iginla? Maybe you go with an old Senator in Chara? I'd take my chances it's Iginla.

Or maybe Kessel? That would be interesting.

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

Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:42 am
 

SI players poll: Phaneuf, Ovechkin most overrated

By Brian Stubits

It's always fun when players are asked who is the most overrated player in their sport. It often shows a divide on how players are perceived within the game vs. outside from the media and fans.

With that in mind, here are the results of Sports Illustrated's poll of 161 players asking them who the most overrated player in the league is.

Taking the cake? Vote-in All-Star defenseman Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although if Phaneuf gets wind of anybody who said it, they can expect one of his completely not overrated checks.

Second in the lineup is Alex Ovechkin from the Capitals. Considering the season-plus he has had, that's easy to see.

There are a couple of things that stick out to me. Players obviously are very aware of how much players are being paid and their corresponding production. Why else would Scott Gomez make No. 3 on this list? I think he fell off the rating radar more than a year ago for the fans/media side. He has become an afterthought for most people, that's how bad he has been. Same goes for Vincent Lecavalier, just to a much lesser extent than Gomez.

The other observation I made is that the list has a high number of Canadian-based players. Eight of the 15 on the list play for one of Canada's seven teams. The Calgary Flames, for example, have three players on the list. That leads me to wondering how Jarome Iginla could crack this list, but I digress.

A name I thought I'd see on here that's absent? Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

Who's your pick for the most overrated?

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:56 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 4:47 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Bruins and Canucks meet again

By Brian Stubits

Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

Vancouver to start Schneider over Luongo

The Boston Bruins are out-of-this-world good. Six times this season they have beaten their opponent by at least five goals. That includes Thursday's 9-0 rout of the Calgary Flames.

On the season they have scored 138 goals (most in the NHL) and only allowed 69 (fewest in the NHL). For the mathematically impaired, that's exactly twice as many goals for as against. They have an absolutely staggering plus-69 goal differential on the season.

To put that in further perspective, here's a stat that was pointed out to me by a friend. In only half a season, the Bruins' plus-69 is better than all but three teams' season total in the last three years.

Since their 3-7-0 start, it's been utterly ridiculous what they have done. Their record since is 23-3-1. That means they have earned 47 of the past 54 possible points.

It's scary to think about, but the numbers point to the Bruins being a better team than they were a season ago when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.

Well the Canucks will get their one and only chance this season to see how much better, if at all, the Bruins are than a season ago.

These teams have had rather similar paths since their great seven-game Final a season ago. The Bruins have received a lot of the attention for the way they have just been steamrolling the competition, but the Canucks are going through a somewhat similar season. They, too, rebounded from the long postseason with a sluggish start but have since come to play the way they were expected. They have retaken their seat atop the Northwest Division and are in the thick for best record in the league.

It's no exaggeration to say that these very well could be the two best teams in the NHL again this season.

Yet this Saturday's matchup in Boston isn't as much about this season as it is about last season, specifically the Finals.

“I know there’s going to be a lot of hype for that game, but we’re a different team than we were last year. We’ve added some different components,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told ESPN.com. “Boston is pretty much the same team, but it’s a new year. We’re going to just go in there and try and play our best game.”

There was enough hostility in that seven-game series to last for three series. We had finger-biting, tire-pumping, trash-talking and rioting. Well OK, that last one wasn't in the series, but still.

The biggest bit of trash talk that came out publicly wasn't until after the series when now retired Bruins forward Mark Recchi said he has never hated an opponent like he did those Canucks. That prompted Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa to suggest Recchi go play a round of golf or take a nap.

Recchi, now working with NBC, did backtrack this week.

“I probably shouldn’t have said anything and I wish I wouldn’t have, but that’s what happened and that’s how the series was,” Recchi told Vancouver’s The Province. “People know I love B.C. and Vancouver and it was an unbelievable series but there was a lot of dislike on both sides. And it wouldn’t have been a Stanley Cup final if there wasn’t that much dislike -- we really didn’t like each other.”

It's not likely that the dislike has worn off in the half-year since.

The rematch will have about all you could ask for in a midseason contest, assuming the Bruins don't turn it into a snoozer with another rout.

Mr. 499

I haven't come across anybody who doesn't like Jarome Iginla. The Calgary Flames forward has long been the epitome of what people want in their professional athletes. He's humble, approachable, charitable and of course talented.

He's on the cusp of reaching a great milestone, sitting one goal away from No. 500 in his career. Quite honestly, it's about the only reason why non-Flames fans would want to watch Calgary at the moment.

Iginla told CBSSports.com this week that the pursuit of the milestone isn't something that he's been worried about, but he certainly has thought about it.

"No, it hasn't weighed, but now that I'm at 499, you definitely try not to think about it on each shot and think 'well it could be' or whatever. So I think about it a little bit," Iginla said. "But once you get to the game you're just competing and want to win the game. I don't look at it like I'm counting down games. Just keep going and just keep trying to shoot and get chances and keep the same approach. But you definitely think about it a little bit."

Because of the World Junior tournament that just ended on Thursday with one hell of a game between Sweden and Russia, the Flames have been road warriors for the past couple of weeks. But on Saturday night they'll return home to the Saddledome to take on the Minnesota Wild with Iginla still just one away.

In a way it's great that Iginla didn't reach the milestone in the past week for it will give him a chance to do it back home in Calgary. He'd be applauded handsomely in whichever city it happened, but it's always best to do these things at home.

Certainly the team will be happy to be back home, too. The Flames petered out the end of their seven-game road trip, losing the last five, including that 9-0 rout in Boston.

"We feel that we're good at home and that we're confident," Iginla said. They better hope so, they don't want to fall too far behind in the playoff picture.

Capitalizing

One team that has crawled back into the playoff picture is the Washington Capitals. The Caps were, to be frank, very average for a good chunk of the first half. However they have begun to play just how they were expected to. That's every more so the case with Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin had gone 23 straight games without multiple points in one night. He snapped that streak and has since run off four consecutive multi-point games. Maybe he had a great Christmas. Or perhaps it was the excitement of his two-year anniversary as captain. Whatever the reason, he has elevated his game big time and probably not coincidentally, so has Washington.

They travel to the West Coast to take on the San Jose Sharks on Saturday riding a four-game win streak. Again, it's no coincidence that Ovechkin has four straight multiple-point games.

But I'm still not 100 percent sold this team is back to its big-time status. Of the four wins, three have come at home where they have been very tough to beat, regardless of the overall mediocre performance. The fourth was a road win at Columbus. So this trip to San Jose, where they haven't won since 1993, will be a better gauge to see how the Capitals are coming along under Dale Hunter. Once they start winning on the road, then I'll start believing in them again.

Boom! Madden's debut

The Florida Panthers are still beating the odds and hanging onto first place in the Southeast Division. On Friday night they'll get some reinforcement to help them stay there.

Recently signed veteran John Madden is expected to make his debut with the Panthers in New Jersey. It's an interesting place for his first game as a Panther considering he spent the majority of his career with the Devils and helped them win two Stanley Cups.

That adds to the storyline this season of Devils coach Peter DeBoer facing his former team. Really, that doesn't hold much weight after the first meeting, so Madden's debut puts a little zest in another game between the two.

I'm sure the Devils fans will give Madden a nice, hearty hand even if he's in the other team's red.

More Wings work

It's going to be an Original Six weekend for the Detroit Red Wings.

On Saturday they will get a crack at their neighbors a little to the Northeast in the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite not being in the same conference, these two teams still have a good rivalry that stretches way back. Their proximity to each other helps too. It's why so many want to see the Leafs play in next year's Winter Classic against the Wings, possibly in the Big House.

Once they are done with the team from Toronto, they face their other Original Six big rival, the one that's still in their division. The Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will wage a big battle on Sunday that will continue to help shape the ever-tight Central Division.

Great weekend of hockey for the folks in Hockeytown.

We're going streaking!

Here are the winning streaks and losing streaks in play entering the weekend.

New York Rangers: The Blueshirts keep on winning, taking a three-game streak into Friday's matchup with the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

New York Islanders: The Isles make the list this week, and it's on the good side! A three-game win streak is on the line at the Ducks on Friday and then the Coyotes on Saturday.

Ottawa Senators: The quietest of the NHL's surprise teams, the Senators have a four-game run going into the home-and-home with the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and Sunday.

Capitals: Aforementioned four-game win streak with the one game at San Jose.

Colorado Avalanche: The up-and-down Avs are playing well again, having won three straight. They have a tough Friday-Saturday road trip of at the Blackhawks and at the Blues.

Sharks: Not mentioned above, the Sharks also come into the game against the Caps hot, having won three in a row.

Flames: They look to end their five-game skid against the Wild on Saturday.

Anaheim Ducks: Three losses in a row and counting? With all their players now on the trade block, they face the Islanders and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.

Photo: Getty Images

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