Tag:Western Conference
Posted on: March 20, 2011 2:36 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Eighth-place teams faceoff

WHO CAN CLINCH: No new teams can secure a playoff berth today. 

ALREADY IN: Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Nashville Predators (37-25-10) at Buffalo Sabres (35-28-8), 5 p.m. ET

The two eighth-place teams in each conference converge for their one and only meeting of the season. Buffalo won't be dislodged from the top 8, but Nashville could be shuffled out with a loss.

The Sabres are 9-5-2 against the West teams this season and are coming off an 8-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers Saturday. The victory was goalie Ryan Miller's 30th of the season, making him the eight goalie in league history to win 30 or more games in six consecutive seasons. Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, a candidate for the Vezina Trophy, made 39 saves in 3-1 victory over Detroit on Saturday. 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Flames (37-27-9) at Ducks (39-27-5), 8 p.m. ET

The first two meetings between the Flames and Ducks couldn't have been much closer. The Ducks won both, the first in OT and the second in a shootout. Depending on how the Nashville-Buffalo game turns out, the winner could move into the top 8. Regardless, these are some crucial points. 

GOLF WATCH: A victory or overtime/shootout loss by the Predators eliminates the Colorado Avalanche. Edmonton already 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 11, 2011 3:25 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 8:50 am
 

Morning Skate: Canucks, Sharks don't disappoint




An overtime with only four skaters per side, the shootout and the date were the only elements that ruined the illusion Thursday's Vancouver Canucks-San Jose Sharks tilt wasn't a playoff game. 

The Sharks, who trailed by two goals early, tied the game on three occasions -- the last with 20.3 seconds left as Ryane Clowe's one-timer beat Cory Schneider as his counterpart, Antti Niemi, sat in favor of the extra attacker. (It was actually 6-on-4 since the Sharks were on the power play.) The Canucks won the game, 5-4, as Schneider was perfect in the shootout and Vancouver's Alex Burrows scored the only goal. 

For two teams who could meet in the postseason for the first time, it didn't get much better for the second week of March. 

“It really was (a playoff vibe),” Sharks captain Joe Thornton told reporters after the game. “These are two really good teams. We're on our end still fighting for our playoff lives, so we need to get as many points as we can. The atmosphere was great and it was an exciting game to be a part of.”

The Pacific Division-leading Sharks pulled within a point of Detroit Red Wings, who sit second in the Western Conference. Still, the Sharks are also seven points away from falling to ninth place and out of playoff picture. 

Vancouver, meanwhile, has won four in a row and remains seven points ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. 

Schneider again showed he's not a bad second option as starter Robert Luongo rested. He made 44 saves, probably none better than when Clowe directed a crossing pass that Schneider somehow got his right pad on early in OT. It was one of his nine saves in the extra frame as the Canucks, who have the second-best best penalty kill in the NHL, snuffed out a Ryan Kesler high-sticking penalty. 

"Tonight you could say they were the better team on the ice," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault told The Associated Press. "But at the end of the night, our goaltender kept us in the game and we found a way to win."

Line Changes
  • Injured Max Pacioretty joins Twitter
  • Eye on Hockey: Habs owner critical on NHL
  • Eye on Hockey: Bettman defends Chara decision
  • Eye on Hockey:Kubina suspended 3 games
  • Blues' Halak beats former club


  • THORNTON, SEDIN WEIGH IN: Thornton may have a little ax to grind when it comes to the team he traded him. Henrik Sedin, the usually soft-spoken Vancouver Canucks captain, doesn't wade into controversies often. 

    But before Thursday game, each came to the same conclusion: The NHL got it wrong by not suspending Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara for his check that led to the scary injuries to Montreal's Max Pacioretty. Here are Thornton's comments via The Vancouver Sun.

    “It's just something with Boston; it seems like they have a horse shoe,” Thornton said. “There's just something about Boston and the disciplinary (decisions) are on their side. I'm not sure why that is or anything. I'm not assuming that Colin's kid being on the team, that's why.”



    That was Thornton's not-so-subtle jab at league disciplinarian Colin Campbell, whose son, Gregory, plays for the Bruins. It was his second in command, Mike Murphy, who made the call not to fine or suspend Chara as Campbell recused himself. 

    Thornton's comments weren't exactly a hit in Boston. 

    “Win a big game when it counts,” Boston TV analyst Mike Milbury retorted. 

    Sedin, however, backed up Thornton’s sentiments and said the fact that Chara isn't considered a dirty play should not have entered into Murphy's decision like it did. 

    “Exactly,” Sedin said. “What are you doing to do the next time Trevor Gillies comes down and runs a guy into the thing? You can't give him anything. And you tell the guys (Chara) has no history, so the next time he does it he still has no history because he didn't get suspended. I don't see the reasoning behind it. Give him at least something to show that's not acceptable.”


    THURSDAY'S RESULTS
    Buffalo 4, Boston 3 (OT)
    Philadelphia 3, Toronto 2 
    Ottawa  2, Florida 1 
    Nashville 4, Minnesota 0 
    St. Louis 4, Montreal 1
    Phoenix 3, Calgary 0 
    Vancouver 5, San Jose 4 (SO)
    CBSSports.com playoff tracker

    Photo: Getty Images

    Posted on: March 11, 2011 3:24 am
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    Posted on: March 9, 2011 4:41 pm
    Edited on: March 9, 2011 6:01 pm
     

    Playoff Watch: Flames aim for Stars sweep



    Calgary Flames (35-24-9) at Dallas Stars (36-23-7)


    American Airlines Center, 9 pm ET

    SEASON SERIES: Calgary 3-0-0; Dallas 0-2-1

    IMPLICATIONS: Three teams -- Dallas, Phoenix and Calgary -- enter tied with 79 points in the tight Western Conference Standings. Either Calgary or Dallas will sit alone in fifth place since Phoenix is idle or, if Chicago loses to Tampa Bay, the winner of this contest would move to fourth. For our playoff tracker, click here

    BREAKDOWN: The Flames won the first three meetings by a combined score of 14-8. But Calgary will be without Brendan Morrison, the center who scored the game-winner in a 7-4 win over the Stars on Jan. 21, for the rest of the regular season with a knee injury. (Morrison told reporters Tuesday that he hopes to be back for the playoffs.) Meanwhile, the Stars will get center Brad Richards -- out with concussion-like symptoms since Feb. 13 -- back for tonight’s contest. 

    MATCHUP TO WATCH: Calgary RW Jarome Iginla vs. Dallas LW Jamie Benn. Iginla, who became the 10th player to score 30 or more goals for 10 consecutive seasons earlier this week, enters on a four-game goal streak. Benn also enters the same goal streak, the longest of his young career, and has two assists this season against the Flames. 

    KEY STAT: 13. The number of goals Mike Ribeiro has scored when the Stars were trailing by a goal or tied. 

    Photo: Getty Images
    Posted on: March 8, 2011 1:31 am
    Edited on: March 8, 2011 12:20 pm
     

    Morning skate: Crosby's sister suffers concussion



    Taylor Crosby, the sister of Pittsburgh Penguins star center Sidney Crosby, recently suffered the same injury that has kept her big brother sidelined for more than two months. 

    The Toronto Star reports that 14-year-old Taylor, a goalie, was injured two weeks ago during a practice for her under-16 team at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prep school in Minnesota. Taylor -- shown above with Sidney, mother, Trina, and father, Troy -- has since returned to the ice.

    Dr. Charles Tator, a leading expert on brain injuries in Canada, said having multiple family members suffer concussions isn't uncommon, pointing to the Lindros brothers as one example. 

    “I know several families that have all had concussions,” said Tator. “We do wonder whether some families have a special susceptibility to concussion. But there’s no proof for this.”

    Twelve NHL players were listed as injured with concussions on Monday and three more with “head injuries” and one with “dizziness,” according to The Toronto Star. A Pittsburgh Penguins spokesperson told the newspaper there has been no change in Sidney Crosby’s status.

    The topic of concussions will be a key issue discussed at next week's GM meetings in Florida, accordng to USA TODAY.

    HOLTBY BAILS OUT CAPS: As Michal Neuvirth was forced out after a period when a piece of metal got lodged in his eye, Braden Holtby was put between the pipes for the Washington Caps on Monday. 

    No pressure. Holtby -- who had gone nearly six weeks between NHL starts -- responded with a 21-save performance, not counting his three stops in the shootout as the Caps earned a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning

    The Washington Post's Katie Carrera reports that Holtby's saves just as he entered the game set the tone. 

    "Right off the bat he comes in and there's a power play," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Holtby. "I think he has three great chances. [Simone] Gagne had a fabulous chance and when he saved that you knew he was going to be on.”


    Boudreau said after the game that it took some time to get the small sliver of metal -- which flew into his eye on a shot by Tampa Bay forward Nate Thompson in the first minute of the game -- out of his eye, but added  Neuvirth would be fine. 

    Caps center Nicklas Backstrom, who has been playing through a broken thumb, fell on his injured hand and missed the third period. Like Neuvirth, Boudreau said Backstrom should be OK.

    PHILLY DOESN'T HAVE IT EASY: The Philadelphia Flyers, losers of four in a row, seem to have the right team coming to town to end their slump. 

    But maybe not. 

    Sure, the Edmonton Oilers are a point away from being the worst team in the league. But they do enter Tueday's contest against the East's top team 7-3-1  7-3-0 in their last 10 games. 

    The Flyers are still suffering through a bout of the flu that has ravaged the locker room. CSNPhilly.com' s Tim Panaccio reports the Flyers coach Peter Laviolette isn't using illness as an excuse, but it's not a bad explanation for Sunday's 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers.  

    “If everyone is honest here and look at the [loss] as an isolated game, we had no gas,” Laviolette said during a conference call. “We had no energy. To bring them in again, the mental part of it and physical part, I just didn’t see any good it was going to do.”


    The Oilers aren't exactly healthy either. Talor Hall, the first overall pick in last summer's draft, is out for the season with an injured ankle suffered in a fight last week and Ales Hemsky is out at least a few more days with a shoulder injury.

    And then their GM was also nearly put in the injured reserve. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports that Steve Tambellini was hit in the head by a piece of Plexiglas as he stood near the bench during practice on Monday. 

    He wasn’t cut, but he took a wallop to his noggin and definitely was shaken up.

    “That’s the hardest I’ve been hit in a long while,” said the former NHL center.


    MONDAY'S RESULTS
    Washington 2, Tampa Bay 1 (SO)
    St. Louis 5, Columbus Blue 4 (SO)
    Dallas 4, Los Angeles 3 (OT)
    CBSSports.com playoff race tracker 

    Photo: Getty Images
    Posted on: March 7, 2011 1:47 am
    Edited on: March 7, 2011 1:53 am
     

    Morning skate: Don't four-get Pacific Division




    The Pacific Division could be very well represented when the playoffs commence next month. 

    Four teams would currently get berths if the playoffs started this morning: San Jose Sharks, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. Had the Anaheim Ducks not dropped a 3-0 decision to the Vancouver Canucks Sunday night, they would have booted the Kings out of the eighth seed. 

    No other division has more than three teams in contention at the moment. Here’s a look again at our playoff tracker.

    The Pacific has placed four teams in the playoffs twice since the current division system was established before the 1998-99 season. (The Northeast leads the way, placing four teams in on four occasions.) The Pacific has only had fewer than three teams in the playoff mix only three times and two Pacific teams skated with the Stanley Cup --- Dallas (1999) and Anaheim (2007) -- during that span.

    How tough would it be for all five to make it in, something that hasn’t happened in the division era?

    It would take a freefall by the Calgary Flames (3-2 winners Sunday over the Nashville Predators) or the Chicago Blackhawks -- two of the hottest teams in hockey. The fourth-place ‘Hawks are riding an eight-game winning streak and the fifth-place Flames are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

    Making the chances even more remote is the fact teams typically face only other division opponents in the closing weeks of the season, meaning it’s very difficult to make up ground in the conference standings without darkening a division foe’s chances.

    Not that it enters into the equation this time of year. 

    DEAL NOT SO SUITE: An opinion page columnist at The Washington Post called for Capitals and Wizards principal owner Ted Leonsis to take back the two luxury boxes at Verizon Center donated to the city by previous ownership. The suites were a gift to city hall after D.C. approved a $50 million upgrade to the arena in 2007 and the boxes that cost as much as $175,000 annually for everybody else are meant for “economic development purposes.” Colbert I. King wrote that it’s unclear whether the two free suites are actually being used in that manner.
    So taxpayers don't know whether the luxury suites have been used only to promote the city or whether they have been used to reward campaign contributors and volunteers, to curry favor with special-interest groups, to entertain family members and friends, or for the officials' personal enjoyment.


    COYOTES' LOSSES MOUNT: The Chicago investor seeking to take over the Phoenix Coyotes and Jobbing.com Arena told The Arizona Republic this weekend that the team has already lost $40 million this season --- $10 million more than a season ago. The NHL, which has run the team since its previous owner filed for bankruptcy protection two years ago, still expects to sell the team to Matthew Hulsizer without losing money, a price that currently sits at $210 million. 

    The Coyotes, who enter action Monday sixth in the Western Conference, have shown signs of life financially, according to team president Mike Nealy.

    Despite ownership uncertainty and the NHL tightening the team's front-office budget this season, the Coyotes made gains in ticket sales, ticket revenue and overall revenue per game, according to league statistics dated last month obtained by The Republic.
    Nealy said at the end of the season, with lucrative sell-outs and a potential playoff run this spring, he expects losses to drop below last year.


    The long-running ownership drama took another turn when ESPN.com reported that the City of Glendale is expected to file a lawsuit today against Goldwater Institute, a watchdog group opposed to a bond sale that would help finance the sale. 

    Confused? TSN.ca has created its own Jets Meter.   

    LINE CHANGES: Marian Gaborik, out the last two weeks with a concussion, returned to the lineup for the Rangers’ 7-0 rout of the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. In 14 minutes, 28 seconds of ice time, he had four shots and two penalty minutes.  . . . Jarome Iginla became the 10th NHL player to reach 30 goals in 10 consecutive season as he netted a second-period tally in the Calgary Flames’ victory over the Nashville Predators on Sunday.  . . . . For a complete look at Sunday’s action, click here

    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