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Tag:Eric Staal
Posted on: September 7, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 5:03 pm
 

Hockey world mourns KHL team plane crash



(Pavol Demitra/Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

For the fourth time this summer, tragedy has struck the hockey world. This time it comes in the form of a plane crash in Russia carrying the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team of the KHL, a team that includes many former NHL faces.

Among those who were on the roster are former NHL players Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei Karlis Skrastins, Josef Vasicek and Karel Rachunek. The coaching staff was led by former Bruins, Whalers, Flyers and Red Wings defenseman Brad McCrimmon and also contained former NHL players Alexander Karpovtsev and Igor Korolev.

Plus, there were numerous others who were prospects for NHL teams. Among those was Devils prospect Alexander Vasyunov, who played in 18 games for the Devils last season.

"Words cannot express what has transpired," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said. "I knew a lot of players that were on that team. Nothing could prepare the hockey community for the devastating news ... [This] has left all of us beyond words.

More on KHL crash

"[Vasyunov] wanted to go over and play a lot and come back here. He was so proud to be a Devil. I can't say enough about him."

Riley Armstrong, brother of Colby Armstrong, is part of the team but was not on the plane. He tweeted after the ordeal that he was OK.

"I'm safe, but thanks for the kind words but pray and think of the players and their families on that flight."

As you can imagine, in a league that now contains many Russian players and has its ties grow every year with Russia's top league, the responses have been numerous and distraught. Alex Ovechkin simply said "I'm in shock!!!!!R.I.P ...."

Panthers defenseman and former Lokomotiv player Dmitry Kulikov was left stunned. "It's just an empty feeling. Words can't express how I feel."

Then there was Lightning defenseman Nate Thompson. "A tragic loss for the hockey world. Plane crash with an entire KHL team on board. Thoughts and prayers go out to there families and friends."

Perhaps Demitra is perhaps the best known former NHL player among the bunch. He spent most of his NHL career with the Blues, where he had his best seasons as a player. His best year was 2002-03 when he scored 36 goals and had 57 assists. He was named to three All-Star teams; 1999, 2000 and 2002. He most recently played for the Canucks in 2009-10 before moving on to the KHL.

Moreover, he developed some tremendous friendships in the NHL. The bond he created with Keith Tkachuk in St. Louis was tremendous and Tkachuk was predictably hurt.

"I am beyond devastated by the tragic news involving my good friends Brad and Pavol and the rest of their teammates in Russia. Brad was my teammate in Phoenix and later coached me in Atlanta and was truly a wonderful man who will be greatly missed. Pav was like a brother to me and I cannot believe that he is no longer with us. This is a terrible day for the hockey fraternity. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time.”

Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star- Tribune penned this story back in 2007 (at the bottom of the entry) about the strong bond Demitra developed with Marion Gaborik when the two were playing together for the Wild.

Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins also had lengthy stints in the NHL, even being traded for one another at one point. In the 2007-08 season, the Avalanche sent Skrastins to the Panthers in exchange for Salei. In his one full season in Florida, Skrastins had his most productive offensive year, scoring four goals and 14 assists. The tough-nosed defenseman then played his final two NHL seasons with the Stars. Terry Frei of the Denver Post chronicaled Skrastins' trip to the NHL from Latvia.

"The Dallas Stars are saddened by the loss of former defenseman Karlis Skrastins in today's tragic plane crash in Russia," the team released in a statement.

Salei spent nearly a decade playing for the Ducks in Anaheim before he was signed by the Panthers. Like Skrastins, he had his best offensive season playing with Florida, scoring six goals with 26 assists in 2006-07 before being traded the next season to Colorado.

He was playing with the Red Wings just last season, playing 75 games with Detroit.

Vasicek played parts of seven seasons in the NHL, six of those with the Carolina Hurricanes. Team captain Eric Staal had this to say about Vasicek: "Joe was an awesome guy, always in good spirits, always smiling. It's just a tragedy."

Chad LaRose echoed those sentiments. "It's a shocker, a tragedy. Joe was a great guy. A life ended too early."

Vasicek's final season in North America was with the Islanders where he played alongside Radek Martinek.

"He was one of my best buddies. He was in my wedding. I can't believe this," Martinek said.

Among the confirmed dead is former Red Wings and Flyers defenseman McCrimmon, Lokomotiv's coach. The news was just as somber in Detroit with Wings coach Mike Babcock.

McCrimmon had been an assistant with the Red Wings the past three seasons, having spent time wit the Thrashers, Flames and Islanders as an assistant as well. He left Detroit to lead the KHL team in hopes of becoming a head coach in the NHL some day.

As a defenseman, he put up some absolutely unbelievable numbers in his career. In only two of his 18 seasons did he ever record a negative plus-minus mark and he posted a career-high plus-83 in 1985-86 with the Flyers. He ended his career with a plus-444, the 10th best mark in NHL history. Each of the nine players ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame.

This will go down as one of the biggest, if not the biggest sports tragedies we've ever seen. About the only things I can think that compare are the plane crashes that affected the Marshall football team and Oklahoma State basketball teams. Hopefully, and we hope with every bone in our body, this is the end of what will be known as the Summer of Sorrow in hockey. This has truly been an offseason from hell and hopefully one that we never see again.

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

Posted on: April 9, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: April 10, 2011 1:31 am
 

Hurricanes lose control early, miss playoffs

Let's be literal when it comes to the phrase “destiny is in your own hands.”

By definition, that can't happen. Destiny is not controllable. Just look at the Carolina Hurricanes, who were a win away from a playoff berth entering Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Hurricanes responded -- well, they took the ice at least at the RBC Center -- with a listless first period and never recovered en route to a 6-2 loss. Instead of the playoff returning to Raleigh, it will be the New York Rangers who get to face the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.

“I didn't feel the tension (early), but it mounted when it got (to a) two (goals),” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice told reporters after the game. “Simple things became difficult to do. . .  I think there was a chance (that Carolina) was in shock at 3-0. We felt alright going out and had come off the good night and then, boom. It happened so fast that you're shell-shocked a little bit.”

The 'Canes could not solve lanky Lightning goalie Mike Smith, who only had one victory in 10 games against Carolina. (That one victory did come March 26, the ‘Canes only regulation loss in their previous 10 games.) Smith made 42 saves, had one assist and came a couple feet away from scoring with 'Canes goalie Cam Ward pulled in the closing minutes of regulation.

Not bad for a goalie who will likely begin the playoffs on the bench in deference to the more veteran Dwayne Roloson

The Lightning built a 3-0 lead in the first period off goals by Dominic Moore, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. It became a 4-0 lead midway through the second period off a Brett Clark tally. 

By the time the ‘Canes got on the board with 7:29 left in the second via a Cory Stillman power play goal, the game was basically unsalvageable. 

What a difference 24 hours makes. The ‘Canes cruised to a 6-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers a night earlier, a game that put them into a position to earn the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference a couple different ways. A Rangers loss to New Jersey would have made the Lightning-Hurricane game moot. Instead the Rangers earned a 5-2 comeback victory over the Devils to set up a win-or-golf game for the Hurricanes. 

Still, Maurice said he’d take the disappointment of just missing the playoffs over being an also-ran. 

“It should make it harder (to take),” Maurice said. “It should make it more painful. The more you invest in something, the more painful it should be when it goes away from you. Still, we’d much rather be in a situation where we fought as hard as we could to get to this point and have to go through the pain of this result than if we would have let it slip away a month ago.”

With the end of the season, teams usually start to list the injuries they have hid the last several weeks. The first was captain Eric Staal, who Maurice said suffered a pulled groin three weeks ago. 

“It got to a point last week (that) we weren’t certain we were going to have him in the lineup,” Maurice said. “He played so very well on limited legs and produced points.”

With Saturday’s loss comes the end of a stellar season by rookie Jeff Skinner, a favorite for the Calder Trophy. Skinner had an assist to bring his point total to 63, the highest of any rookie.  His 31 goals were the third-most goals by a rookie, trailing New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner (34) and San Jose’s Logan Couture (32). 

Soon the ‘Canes will assess who will be around next season. Forwards Erik Cole, Chad LaRose, Stillman and Jusi Jokinen, along with defenseman Joni Pitkanen will be unrestricted free agents. Maurice, who is in his second stint as Carolina’s head coach, even addressed if he might be back. 
“(General manager) Jim (Rutherford) will make his assessment,” said Maurice, who took the ‘Canes to the playoffs after he replaced Peter Laviolette during the 2008-09 season. “I’m very proud of the way the team has performed this year.” 

It didn’t take long, however, for Luke DeCock of The News & Observer to point the blame: 
Someone’s going to have to answer for this. Surely it will be coach Paul Maurice, who hasn’t taken a team he has coached for a full season to the NHL playoffs since 2002 and who cannot account for a loss Saturday that cost the franchise millions of dollars.

No matter how highly owner Peter Karmanos and general manager Jim Rutherford regard Maurice, even they must see that it’s time for a change. Maurice is a good man and a good coach, but the past two seasons haven’t measured up, and Saturday’s flat-line with everything on the line defies explanation.

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Associated Press
Posted on: April 7, 2011 1:41 am
Edited on: April 7, 2011 2:28 am
 

Morning Skate: 'Canes, Stars only 2 chasers left

And then there were two.

The Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes are the only teams outside the top-8 in each conference who remain mathematically in the hunt for a playoff spot after Wednesday night’s action. Despite a 6-1 victory over the rival Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames didn't get the help they needed elsewhere. Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks -- one of which needed to lose -- both won, although Chicago's OT victory over the St. Louis Blues wasn't without controversy.

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  • Carolina pulled to within two points of the idle New York Rangers with a 3-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. It was Cam Ward’s fourth shutout of the season and captain Eric Staal assisted on all three goals. Both the Hurricanes -- Atlanta (Friday) and Tampa Bay (Saturday) -- and the Rangers --- Atlanta (Thursday) and New Jersey (Saturday) -- have two games remaining. 

    The 'Canes and Rangers are currently even in the first tie-breaker, regulation and overtime wins (34). The Hurricanes have the edge in the second tie-breaker, points head to head. Carolina has picked up six over their four meetings to the Rangers’ four points. 

    "Up to this point, no team has done us any favors," Derek Joslin, who scored a power-play goal in the second period, told The News & Observer. "If we can get two more wins we definitely give ourselves a shot at making the playoffs.

    "I know the Rangers are peeking over their shoulders, especially after a big win tonight against a team like that. Maybe they'll be gripping their sticks a little tight."

    Neither the Flames nor the Stars were done any favors either by the referees or the replay officials in Toronto. The Chicago Blackhawks used an iffy  second-period tally to help force overtime, where they eked out a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues. 

    Trailing 2-0, replays appear to show Chicago forward Marian Hossa kick the puck across the goal. (Hossa may very well have tipped it with this stick after he booted it to make it a legal play, but it was hard to tell in the replays.) Even more difficult was determining whether the puck indeed crossed the goal line since Blues goalie Ty Conklin’s catching glove was over top of it. 

    Judge for yourself:




    Here's what Calgary Sun's Scott Fisher, who was live blogging the game, had to say: 
    After a lengthy review, Hossa’s goal is upheld — even though he appeared to kick the puck, which went off the post and never conclusively crossed the line. Considering the Flames’ recent dealings with the NHL’s war room, conspiracy theorists are given added ammunition.

    Either way, the game’s in the books and the Blackhawks finished the night tied for seventh place points-wise with the Anaheim Ducks. Both teams are four points up on the Dallas Stars, who finish with games against the Colorado Avalanche (Thursday and Friday) and the Minnesota Wild (Sunday). 

    PERRY REACHES 50: Corey Perry’s third career hat trick in a 6-2 rout of the San Jose Sharks pushed the Anaheim Ducks forward over the 50-goal mark on Wednesday. 

    He became the third player in franchise history to reach that plateau -- joining Paul Kariya (1995-96) and Teemu Selanne in 1996-97 and 1997-98) -- and extended his points streak to 10 games in the process. 

    Perry, one of the leading candidates for the Hart Trophy, is six goals ahead of Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos in the race for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.

    WEDNESDAY'S RESULTS
    Washington 5, Florida 2
    New Jersey 4, Toronto 2
    Boston 3, NY Islanders 2
    Carolina 3, Detroit 0
    Chicago 4, St. Louis  3 (OT)
    Calgary 6,  Edmonton 1
    Anaheim 6, San Jose 2
    Los Angeles 3, Phoenix 2 (SO)  

    -- A.J. Perez
    Posted on: March 30, 2011 2:38 am
     

    Morning Skate: 'Canes gain ground in East

    WASHINGTON -- Eric Staal let himself have a little glance at the out-of-town scoreboard after overtime Tuesday. 

    “I didn’t want to look until the shootout started,” the Hurricanes captain said. “It was a 4-3 final, so I knew the shootout was going to be huge. Then those guys came through with those huge goals.”

    Rookie Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu scored in the shootout as the Carolina beat the Washington Capitals, 3-2, at Verizon Center. The score Staal mentioned came from the only other game the ‘Canes had to concern themselves with Tuesday, a contest where the Maple Leafs squaked out win over the Buffalo Sabres.

    “We got a little bit of help,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “Now we have to go back at it. That’s our fate with the schedule we have this year.”

    The Sabres hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and things just got a little tighter. Carolina moved to within three points of the Sabres and both teams have six games left on the schedule – including a head-to-head matchup on Sunday. The Leafs finished Tuesday five points behind the Sabres. 

    Carolina’s playoff hopes appeared slightly dim in the second period. Referees missed a high stick by Caps defenseman Karl Alzner that resulted in a gash in Staal’s forehead, a cut which required seven stitches to close. Maurice took issue with a couple other calls, including a too many men on the ice call just before the Caps pulled ahead 2-1 on a Marcus Johansson tally late in the period. 

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  • “This game was so much more important to us than what happened there in the second period,” Maurice said. “I didn’t know what was going on. At the same time, we had to refocus and get back to playing.”

    No matter. The Caps gave it all back when goalie Semyon Varlamov let in soft goal by Skinner that tied the game 1:46 left in regulation. Overall it wasn’t a bad way for the ‘Canes to avoid getting swept by the Caps in their six meeting this season. 

    “The biggest thing coming into the game was where we are in the standings,” Skinner said. “I don’t think you look back on a head-to-head. When you come this far, your focus is on the next game and the future and it was a big two points for us.”

    Maurice added that those points were bigger when you factor in the two players that returned to the lineup for the Caps. Captain and former MVP Alex Ovechkin (out three games with an undisclosed injury) and center Jason Arnott (out six games with an undisclosed injury) were both back in action. 

    “It was a little bit of curve ball when they got their players back,” Maurice said. “We handled that well, too. We wanted to beat at team with their best. Confidence is something that we’ve been searching for. We’ve played hard and played well. You should feel good about wins like this.”

    This victory can’t be savored long. The ‘Canes will host the Montreal Canadiens tonight, another team ahead of them in the East standings. 

    TUESDAY'S RESULTS
    Carolina 3, Washington 2 (SO)
    Toronto 4, Buffalo 3
    Philadelphia 5 Pittsburgh 2
    Columbus 3 Florida 2 (SO)
    Montreal 3, Atlanta 1
    Boston 3, Chicago 0
    Tampa Bay 5, Ottawa 2
    Minnesota 3, St. Louis 2 (SO)
    Vancouver 3, Nashville 1
    Los Angeles 2, Edmonton 0
    Phoenix 2 , Dallas 1 (SO)

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