Tag:Eastern Conference
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 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
Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 4:00 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Caps are in with win over Flyers




WHO CAN CLINCH: The Washington Capitals can clinch their fourth consecutive trip to the postseason a few different ways tonight. The Caps are in if they beat the Flyers, get an overtime or shootout loss combined with a Carolina Hurricanes loss (in regulation or otherwise) or if Carolina loses in regulation to the Ottawa Senators

ALREADY IN: The Vancouver Canuck and Philadelphia Flyers. 

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Washington Capitals (42-21-10) at Philadelphia Flyers (44-19-8), 7:30 p.m. ET (Versus)

If memories haven’t already faded about that eight-game slide the Capitals had in December, a victory tonight might just do it. A win by Washington would pull them even in the points department with the Flyers atop the Eastern Conference. The Flyer will remain in first no matter what happens, however, since they have two games in hand on the Caps, which results in a better winning percentage. Here's a look at our playoff tracker.

The Caps will be without Alex Ovechkin, who the team announced Monday would be out seven to 10 days with an undisclosed injury. Arguably the Flyers most recognizable player, defenseman Chris Pronger, will also be out of the lineup as he recovers from an injury to his right hand that required surgery. The Flyers announced Tuesday that enforcer Jody Shelley would be out four weeks due to a fractured orbital bone suffered in practice. He will undergo surgery on Thursday. 

There’s still plenty of players left to make one of the East’s better rivalries interesting to watch. The Flyers won two of the first three meetings this season and all went to at least overtime. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: New Jersey Devils (34-34-4) at Boston Bruins (39-22-10), 7 p.m. ET 

The Devils are getting close to the point where they need to run the table to make the playoffs. Two teams and seven points stand between New Jersey and eighth-place Buffalo entering Tuesday night’s action. The Bruins won the first two meetings this season. 

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

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 18, 2011 3:34 pm
Edited on: March 18, 2011 3:41 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Devils face another roadblock

WHO CAN CLINCH:  The idle Philadelphia Flyers could clinch a playoff berth if the Carolina Hurricanes lose in regulation and the New Jersey Devils lose in any form. The Washington Capitals would get in by beating the Devils combined with a Carolina loss in regulation. 

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Washington Capitals (41-21-10) at New Jersey Devils (33-33-4), 7 p.m. ET

The Devils didn't help their playoff push by losing 3-1 to the last-place Ottawa Senators on Thursday. The task gets just slightly more difficult tonight as New Jersey plays host to Washington. The Capitals are 9-1-0 over their last 10 and are primed to challenge the Flyers for the top spot in the East. 

The Devils, who have won 23 of the last 29 games, enter six points out of the eighth and final spot in the East. With only 11 games remaining after tonight, the Devils are running out of time to complete their improbable comeback. This game will mark the first time David Steckel will play his former club and could have seen the return of Jason Arnott. But Arnott, swapped for Steckel before the deadline, has an undisclosed injury and the Caps say he’s week-to-week. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Phoenix Coyotes (38-23-11) at Vancouver Canucks (47-16-9), 10 p.m. ET 

The road team has won each of the first three meetings between these two clubs. While the Canucks have already clinched a playoff berth, the Coyotes could move to within a point of the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks with a victory. 

GOLF WATCH: Edmonton Oilers have been mathematically eliminated.   
Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Canucks can clinch berth tongiht



WHO CAN CLINCH: The Vancouver Canucks will become the first team to clinch a playoff berth (via securing the Northwest Division title) by earning at least one point tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Toronto Maple Leafs (30-30-10) at the Carolina Hurricanes (32-28-10), 7 pm ET.

The Maple Leafs could all but call off their bid to return to the postseason for the first time in since before the lockout with a loss tonight. Losers of four of their last five entering tonight’s contest at RBC Center, Toronto would slip to 12th in the Eastern Conference and fall to six points back of eighth-place Buffalo if they don't manage to secure at least a point. 

The Hurricanes are coming off 1-0 victory over the Sabres, Carolina’s first road win in a month, and could pull even with Buffalo (76 points) with a victory. (Buffalo would remain in eighth since it has a game in hand, thus a better winning percentage.) Cam Ward made 44 saves against the Sabres on Tuesday as he made Brandon Sutter’s goal late in the first period hold up.

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Washington Capitals (41-20-10) at Detroit Red Wings (41-20-8), 7:30 pm, Versus.

There are only four games on the schedule tonight, but Versus will broadcast what should be a high-powered contest against two of the best teams in NHL. The Caps enter on a nine-game winning streak and we’ll get to see two Russian buddies, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, go head to head.

GOLF WATCH: Edmonton Oilers have been mathematically eliminated. 

PLAYOFF TRACKER

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:38 pm
 

Playoff Watch: 'Canes look to keep pace in East

Carolina Hurricanes (31-28-10) at Buffalo Sabres (34-27-8)

HSBC Arena, 7:30 p.m. ET (Versus) 


SERIES: Carolina (9th in East) 1-1-0; Buffalo (7th in East) 1-0-1
IMPLICATIONS: Carolina can move to within fourth place with a victory combined with a New York Rangers loss. (The Rangers host the New York Islanders tonight.) Buffalo won’t fall out of the top-8 no matter what happens tonight, but would slip to eighth with a loss coupled with a Rangers win. 

BREAKDOWN: The Sabres have netted points in each of their last four home games, but these are a couple crucial points up for grabs since the ‘Canes are one of a handful of teams with a shot for the final two playoff slots in the Eastern Conference. Counting tonight’s contest, the Sabres have 13 games with four of those against teams that enter 8th-10th in the standings (Carolina, 2 games, Rangers and Toronto). 

The Hurricanes, winless in their last four outings, are seeking their first road win since Feb. 13 and Carolina might not be able to count on their power play. Carolina hasn’t scored on their last 21 opportunities on the power play, a span of five games.  The Sabres, meanwhile, have allowed just one goal over their last 16 penalty kill opportunities. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Carolina F Jeff Skinner vs. Buffalo F Tyler Ennis. This is another chance to see a couple leading contenders for the Calder Trophy go head to head. Skinner scored his 24th goal of the season over the weekend, but it was only his second tally over the last 10 games as his production has slowed since he was featured attraction at the All-Star game in Raleigh. Skinner, however, still leads all rookies in scoring with 50 points. Ennis enters on a three-game point streak and is coming off a two-goal effort against Ottawa on Sunday.

KEY STAT: 126. The number of goals the Sabres are on pace to score over the second half of the season, which would be a 22-goal improvement over the first 41 games. 
Posted on: March 11, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 3:46 pm
 

Playoff Watch: ‘Canes look to solve Caps



Carolina Hurricanes (31-26-10) at Washington Capitals (38-20-10)

Verizon Center, 7 p.m. ET

SEASON SERIES: Carolina 0-3-1; Washington 4-0-0

IMPLICATIONS: Carolina would pull into a tie with Buffalo and the New York Rangers at 74 points with a win. (The ‘Canes would technically be in eighth place since they have a game in hand.) The Caps would move to within two points of the East lead as Philly has the night off. Conversely, a loss coupled with a Tampa Bay win Friday would knock them out of the division lead since the Lightning would have a game in hand and, thus, a better winning percentage.

BREAKDOWN: This would be a good time for the Hurricanes to get their first victory of the season against their Southeast Division rivals. Other than a 3-0 tilt on Oct. 27, these games have all been decided in Washington’s favor by a single goal. 

The Caps enter on a six-game winning streak and a victory would give them the longest string of wins on the season. Braden Holtby, who earned his first career shutout against Wednesday against the Oilers, will get the start in net for Washington.  The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera reports No. 1 goalie Michal Neuvirth is healthy, although left this morning’s optional skate early. The Caps will again be without first-line center Nicklas Backstrom, who won’t get the cast that protects his injured left thumb removed for a few days. 

Cam Ward will be back in the Carolina net tonight after a one-game break. He had started the previous 24 games in a row for Carolina. He is 13-7-4 with a 2.58 goals-against average and three shutouts lifetime against Washington. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Carolina center Eric Staal vs. Washington ceter Marcus Johansson. Staal, one away from reaching the 30-goal mark, has a point in four consecutive games. Johansson, a rookie, has stepped into the No. 1 line after Backstrom went out after the second period of Monday’s game. The 20-year-old gets to play with Alex Ovechkin on one of his wings, so that’s never a bad thing. 

KEY STAT: 41. Number of games out of 55 the Caps have won at least  half of their faceoffs. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 9, 2011 3:50 am
 

Morning Skate: Should Chara be suspended?



Montreal Canadiens coach Jacque Martin all but called for the suspension of Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, who minutes earlier Tuesday sent young Habs forward Max Pacioretty to the hospital for at least an overnight stay. 

“The league has to deal with those issues,” Martin told reporters after his team’s 4-1 victory over the Burins at Bell Center, a game marred by the scary collision. “It’s not the first time. It seems to be getting worse. The league has to take some responsibility.”

As frightening as Pacioretty’s headfirst collision with the so-called turnbuckle, word came out later that he was able to move all his extremities and was conscious. His agent, Alec Schall, sent a message via Twitter that Pacioretty “is going to be OK.”

There’s no telling how long the 22-year-old from Connecticut will be out of action, but debate raged into the morning on how long Chara should sit -- if at all.

Chara said the hit that sent Pacioretty into the divider between the benches was the result of a few unfortunate events. Here’s a link to video of the incident along with more details

“We were racing for the puck and battling for position,” Chara told reporters after the game. “I was riding him out and it was very unfortunate that at the same time I pushed him, he kind of leaned and jumped up a little bit and hit the glass extension.”

Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien said Chara is not a dirty player, something that’s not really in dispute. But there are a few things working against Chara: his scuffle with Pacioretty the last time these two rivals met, the score (it was 4-0 when Pacioretty went down in the final minute of the second period), the fact the puck was already well up ice when he finished the check and the recent scrutiny of head injuries. 

TSN’s Bob McKenzie wrote that it’s hardly an easy decision for the league’s disciplinarians, who could be minus VP Colin Campbell’s voice since his son, Gregory, plays for Boston.

Personally, I didn't see or sense any malice or obvious intent to injure on the play but one would have to be a mind reader to know for certain what exactly Chara was thinking at that moment. Who knows, really?


Chara was given an interference penalty and a game misconduct becaues Pacioretty was injured on the play. Since the Bruins don’t play again until Thursday, the league has a little bit of time to figure out if any more punishment is needed. 

BETTMAN TAKES A STAND: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hasn't given up in hockey in Arizona, even if it appears to be the easiest path once again. 

The Goldwater Institute, a public policy group, who is seeking legal action to stop the City of Glendale's $100 million bond sale that would clear way for Chicago investor Matthew Hulsizer to take over the Phoenix Coyotes

The Arizona Republic reported the latest Tuesday:

"It's time for Goldwater to stand down," he said. "In light of their conduct in this matter, I question whether this is really an organization concerned with the public interest."

Bettman affirmed the league continues to support the city's deal with team buyer Matthew Hulsizer.

"Our commitment remains as strong as ever," he said. "But time is running out."



The Vancouver Sun's Cam Cole said the NHL is going to let Glendale to explore every option before the franchise is allowed back into Canada. 

If it were put to a vote of the NHL player membership at large, rest assured the league would be back to three Canadian cities, not thinking about adding a seventh in one of the coldest, windiest parts of the land — and Phoenix would be granted exempt status as a destination of choice, unto eternity, regardless of viability as a hockey market.


FORMER NHLERS VISIT TROOPS: NHL Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald, former NHL goaltender Mark LaForest and retired forward Pierre Turgeon were in a group of former players who visited Afghanistan on Tuesday.

They met some of the 2,800 Canadians serving in Afghanistan and even played in a pickup ball hockey game, which was dubbed "Hockey Morning in Kandahar." 

"Everyone's thankful that we're here, but I've got to be honest with you, it's just a privilege for us to be here," Turgeon told The Canadian Press.

 Comedian Tom Green was the celebrity component of this of the trip, so we’re guessing fellow Canadian Bryan Adams was on tour. 


TUESDAY’S RESULTS 
Philadelphia 4, Edmonton 1
NY Islanders 4 Toronto 3 (OT)
Ottawa 2, New Jersey 1
Pittsburgh, 3 Buffalo 1
Montreal 4, Boston 1
Florida 3, Chicago 2
Minnesota5, Colorado 2
Vancouver 4, Phoenix 3 (OT)
San Jose 3, Nashville 2 (OT)

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