Tag:James Neal
Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:31 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 11:04 am
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers get MSG debut do-over

By Brian Stubits

The refurbished Madison Square Garden finally hosted a Rangers game on Thursday night, and it wasn't enough like old times for the fans. And I'm not talking about the $9.50 domestic beers.

No, the fans in attendance were longing for the old MSG, where Sean Avery delighted them on the ice. OK, maybe they were just longing for Avery.

There was also a banner hanging from the upper level earlier in the game in support of Avery. Mysteriously, it was gone later in the game. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the fan didn't have a change of heart midway through the game and took it down him/herself.

The case of Avery is an odd one. He is a player that all the teams in the NHL apparently don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole, including the Rangers, who sent him to the AHL's Connecticut Whale. If you ask 100 people to describe Avery the player in one word, the most flattering response you would receive is "agitator."

He's like a member of the Rangers family. Johnny Ranger fan can insult him all day long, just like I can call my brother a jerk (hypothetically, of course). But don't you even dare to call my brother a jerk. It's in the same vain. Avery might just be an ineffective player whose only role it seems is to piss opponents off, but he's THEIR ineffective player whose only role it seems is to piss opponents off. He's a fan favorite. His antics have gone over well in New York, clearly.

But honestly, this wouldn't be that big of a deal if the Rangers were playing better, specifically Avery's replacement, Kris Newbury. Sure, they are 3-3-2, but it has been less-than inspiring. This is a team that had a lot of hype after an offseason that saw them catch the biggest fish swimming in the free-agent lake. The combination of Brad Richards with Marian Gaborik would be gold, I tell you, gold. The Blueshirts would finally be able to give Henrik Lundqvist the kind of scoring support to show he is a Vezina-quality goaltender.

Well, it hasn't happened yet -- the scoring, not Lundqvist showing he is Vezina-quality. The Rangers offense has scored 16 goals in eight games. Even the mathematically challenged should easily recognize that as two goals per game, not very impressive.

“I’ve known [Gaborik] for a month now,” Richards said. “It would be great if we’d come in here and click perfectly. Realistically, we have some work to do, and we’ve got to get to know each other on the ice. We’re both used to having the puck. That’s a work in progress, for sure.”

“It’s no secret that we have to put more pucks in the net,” Ryan Callahan said after Thursday's game.

This has coach John Tortorella tweaking the lines, trying to find the right combinations. The pairing of Gaborik and Richards just hasn't produced yet the way they hoped. Gaborik was practicing on Friday with Wotjek Wolski and Erik Christensen on one line while Richards was with Brandon Dubinsky and Callahan on another.

It's under that backdrop that the Rangers welcome the Ottawa Senators to new-look MSG on Saturday. You know the Senators, the team most everybody saw as being the worst in the Eastern Conference this year but has surprised the masses by winning four games in a row? The plus side is that the Senators could be the team to jumpstart the typically sluggish Rangers offense. Ottawa has surrendered a league-high 39 goals in 10 games.

Let's look at that game as a second chance to make a first impression at home.

Scorer's delight

Speaking of that Rangers season debut at MSG, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs who spoiled the party with a 4-2 win in New York. With the victory they remained one of the surprising starters of the season, improving to 6-2-1.

But I pose this question: What's more surprising, Toronto starting so well thanks to Phil Kessel's nine goals, or Penguins forward James Neal being tied with Kessel for the league lead in goals scored? We'll have a chance to see them at the same time on Saturday when the Penguins visit the Leafs.

Normally, hearing that a Pittsburgh Penguins player leads the league in scoring doesn't come as a surprise. Rather, it is expected. But that's expected from guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not James Neal.

Which brings me to that trade from last February when the Penguins acquired Neal. Talk about one of those trades where both sides win. Well, let me rephrase; a trade where it looks like both sides came out well. I caution against calling winner and losers in a trade so soon. But Neal has obviously been producing for Pittsburgh as he seems capable of not only reaching his career-high 27 goals he had in 2009-10, but surpassing it. On the other end, Matt Niskanen and Alex Goligoski, while having very cool surnames, have both been good fits in Pittsburgh and Dallas.

As for the Leafs' sharpshooter Kessel? Well this is what they hoped for when Brian Burke made that trade a couple of years ago. Just for fun, I'd like to point out that Kessel is on pace for an 81-goal, 144-point season and a plus-45 at this time.

Big Z, Max meet ... again

Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins will be in Montreal on Saturday to pay a visit to the Canadiens. Obviously it's an anticipated reunion for some folks who are into that sort of thing.

Chara has already been back to Habs Town since his hit on Max Pacioretty late last season, the Bruins had to go through the Habs on their way to the Stanley Cup. But it will mark the first time Chara has faced Pacioretty in Montreal. OK, OK, we're stretching a bit. The Canadiens just beat the B's Thursday in Boston, so let's just say this one is about the game, shall we?

These are two struggling teams. Montreal got off to such a bad start, it was their worst in 70 years! It led to the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn and since then, the Habs have reeled off two in a row, including one over the Bruins. Not that that had much if anything to do with Pearn's dismissal, but at least the Habs are showing signs of getting out of the early season doldrums.

For Boston, they have struggled too, although much more quietly. Interesting considering they are the defending champs and all. In a way this might have been expected. You hear all the time about the dreaded hangover, and that might be in play here. Either way, the Bruins are struggling to score.

The game is just like any other in an 82-game season, but this will quietly be an important one. These teams both want to get on track and in the Boston's case, a home-and-home sweep at the hands of the hated Habs wouldn't help in that regard. But for Montreal, it could help forgive much of the early struggles.

Best games, on paper

Entering the season, these two games appeared to be monster October showdowns: The Sharks visiting the Red Wings on Friday then the Capitals taking on the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday. If you had to pick five preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup, there's a good chance three or maybe all four of these teams would make that list.

The Sharks have been somewhat slow to start themselves, but seem to have flipped the switch and won three games in a row, all on the road. The Red Wings, on the other hand, began like gangbusters, but have since lost two games to the Caps and previously winless Blue Jackets. However these two are still titans and will be in the Western hunt all year and just might have another playoff battle lined up. (You might remember they played a great seven-game series last season.)

As for Capitals-Canucks? Well one team has played like a Cup contender and the other, well, the Cup contention seems like a long time ago now. Washington finally took its first loss in Edmonton on Thursday night after getting off to a franchise-record 7-0-0 start. Tomas Vokoun has been spectacular. If there has been anything to complain about up to this point, it's nitpicking.

Vancouver meanwhile has a hot mess of a goaltending situation at the moment. Starter Roberto Luongo is more than a hot topic in the city, a lot of the fans want him gone and would like to see Cory Schneider play. A victory over the Capitals, while not incredibly symbolic at this time of the season, would perhaps satisfy the fan base with the notion that things will be OK. Serenity now!

Somebody get him a compass

Ilya Bryzgalov, who is admittedly "lost in the woods" right now and appears to be a broken goalie, is slated to start Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. He better find his way out of the woods in a hurry.

Since his first two starts of the season when he was stellar, Bryzgalov has been a mess, never worse than Thursday's five-goals-on-10-shots showing in "reprieve" of Sergei Bobrovsky. His best showing since those first two was when he gave up three goals to the Kings in an overtime loss. His numbers right now? Ugggly. Try an .870 save percentage and 3.45 GAA. Ouch.

So Peter Laviolette might have decided that what better way to get a goalie's broken confidence going once again than start him the next time out?

Either that or Lavy didn't want to put Bobrovsky back out there either.

Pregame trash talk

One of the great things about Twitter is the ability for players to interact with fans and other players for thousands to see. Ever wonder what players talk about before the puck is dropped in the faceoff circle? Twitter has helped give fans an idea.

But Anthony Stewart of the Carolina Hurricanes and Daniel Carcillo talking a little pregame smack on Twitter before Friday night's tilt? Yes please!

Carcillo (@CarBombBoom13) got it started with this: Goin 2 Carolina to throw a beat down on the Hurricanes and on@EhStew13 Just like in bantam when I'd drop u in buckets b4 pracy #indafaaace

Here was the response from Stewart (@EhStew13): You remembered u got Tko'd, keep the Bus in the Windy City, these 2 points aren't for sale #meh.

The short back-and-forth concluded with Carcillo: @EhStew13 we aren't lookin to buy #5fingerdiscount and I recall me havin to double shift in practice bc some1 had post concussion syndromes.

Good stuff. Guys having some playful smack (I'm assuming its playful) for all to see is good fun.

As to the game itself between the 'Hawks and 'Canes in Carolina? Well Chicago is looking for its first win in Raleigh since 1998. Granted there is unbalanced scheduling, but still, that's a long time. Also, Eric Staal needs to improve and that league-worst minus-9 he's sporting at the moment. Ouch.

Back to Vancouver ...

There will be no Green Men sitting by the opponent's box to torment Alex Ovechkin and crew. Vancouver's most famous fans will instead be ... in Bakersfield, Calif.?

Well look at that, the Green Men have turned their antics into appearances at hockey arenas. The Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL (originally from the WCHL) will have the spandex-wearing fans at their game on Friday night. Then Saturday will be Star Wars night.

I don't know about you all, but I'd rather see Star Wars night. Either way, these promotions are two big reasons why minor-league hockey is so awesome.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 20, 2011 12:57 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 3:26 pm
 

Penguins to get Orpik back; Kennedy concussed

By Brian Stubits

The Penguins training room is looking more like an infirmary these days. In the beginning part of the season they have been without Sidney Crosby, Brooks Orpik, Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy for one or more games.

At least they will get one of the back for Thursday night's battle with Montreal. Orpik will return to the lineup the team announced. Also, a banged up James Neal -- the NHL's leading goal scorer -- is expected to play. That's the good news.

Of course there is bad news, too. Malkin's day-to-day approach will still have him out against the Habs as he is waiting for his knee to be completely ready. It continues, though, with Kennedy being diagnosed with a concussion, obviously meaning he's not playing. Finally, rookie defenseman Brian Strait, who hasn't played much in the early going, won't be available for a few weeks due to a hyperextended elbow.

Then add to the mix the suspension of defenseman Kris Letang and, well, the Penguins are just a little bit short against Montreal.

In Orpik the Pens get back a defenseman has been a fixture on their blue line since 2003-04. He has been a plus player each of the past five seasons while helping out a lot with the penalty-killing duties. Although Pittsburgh has been alright in that department without him; they have only given up one power-play goal while they have scored three short-handed.

Kennedy's loss will hurt as he has been growing into a more integral part of the Penguins offense. In the six games he played to start the season, he had five points (2-3). Now, with a concussion, there's no telling for sure when he might return. Pittsburgh knows all too well how that can go.

Photo: Getty Images

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


Posted on: October 14, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2011 10:58 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Mike Richards returns to Philly

By Brian Stubits

Mike Richards the hockey player basically grew up in Philadelphia. He was the centerpiece around which the Flyers were built, their captain by the time he was 23 years old. The next Bobby Clarke, they dubbed him.

Then came last summer, when he was unceremoniously shipped out of town like a package at FedEx. The Flyers had seen the light, and that was the importance of goaltending and defense.

As a result, Richards and his $69 million contract that took effect in 2008-09 were sent to Los Angeles for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and cap flexibility. On Saturday night, he'll return to Philly a King. Funny enough, he's back in Philadelphia for a game before even playing in his new home in L.A.

Inquiring minds want to know; what will it be like returning to an arena he once called home, just now as a visitor?

"I try not to think about it as much as possible," Richards said after Thursday's morning skate before the Kings' 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils. "It will be an exciting night once I get there.

"I expect to be nervous. I think that being on the opposite side playing against a lot of great friends ... I spent a lot of time there, a lot of great friends. It was an organization that game me an opportunity to come in the league. I think it's going to be nice to get it over with and turn the page."

Not to mention it's a pretty darn good game, too. Richards just adds some extra theater to it. But when we are looking at the matchup at hand, we have two genuine Stanley Cup contenders here. Los Angeles received one vote to represent the West from the CBSSports.com preseason picks. With Richards' addition, they have two All-Star worthy centers to go with a good young defense.

Philadelphia didn't have as many believers beore the season began, but that was just because nobody truly knew what to expect. If early returns are any indication, however, shipping Richards and fellow young star Jeff Carter (to Columbus) seems to have put in motion a great base behind goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The Flyers are 3-0-0 and have only surrendered five goals.

So yes, from a hockey standpoint, it's a marquee matchup. There's plenty of intrigue from that standpoint alone. But the homecoming King who scored 133 goals and 350 points in a Flyers sweater is the focal point.

"When you think of Mike Richards you think of Philadelphia, so this is certainly a big event for him and for the fans," Kings assistant coach John Stevens said.

You never can be sure with the notorious Philadelphia fans, but I'd expect to see a king's welcome (seriously, that pun wasn't intended) for Richards, at least at first. Once he scores or assists on any L.A. goal, they will treat him the same as any other opponent.

"I enjoyed playing in front of them every night and was excited to play in front of them," he said. "And I will be excited to play in front of them on Saturday."

Homeward bound

There are still seven teams that have yet to play their home-openers, but a few will finally take to the home ice this weekend. The Sabres will return to Buffalo to face the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night after a very successful trip to Europe. The city is so jacked up for Sabres hockey right now, that place (who knows what name the arena is going by now?) will be rocking.

Anaheim is also back Stateside after exploring Europe. The Ducks host the Sharks, who have somehow only played one game up to this point.

The Florida Panthers will debut their new all-red arena (and their red jerseys) against the instrastate rival Lightning on Saturday night. The two will play a home-and-home that concludes on Monday with the Bolts showing off their revamped arena for the first time.

The New York Rangers and Kings will remain as road warriors for a bit longer. L.A. doesn't return home until the 18th while New York is traveling all the way until October. 27 when it hosts Toronto at a slightly renovated Madison Square Garden.

Jets past and present

The one other team that has yet to play a game in front of the home crowd, Phoenix, will do so on Saturday. It should be interesting, too.

The Coyotes will host the Jets in what is instantly an awkward rivalry. It sort of feels like domestic abuse. The former Jets who are now the Coyotes meet the current Jets who were once the Thrashers. There is no real animosity to speak of between the two teams, but a lot of folks in the 'Peg still hold a grudge against the Coyotes, even if they have a team back to help close that wound.

Here's the oddity of the weekend: Shane Doan will play against his former team even though he has never left the organization that drafted him. Huh? Of course we're taking some liberties with relocation here, but Doan is originally a Jet, playing 74 games in Winnipeg before moving to Phoenix and becoming a career Coyote.

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night!

You just have to love Saturday's in the NHL. You are almost always guaranteed your favorite team will be playing, but if not, you will have plenty of other games to choose from. This Saturday, 28 of the league's 30 teams will be in action.

Only the Hurricanes and the Ducks have the night off.

Still standing

There are still are still six teams in the NHL that have yet to lose (yes, I'm counting OT losses as losses, imagine that). The Flyers, Sabres, Maple Leafs, Capitals, Red Wings and Sharks all remain unblemished. In the case of the Sharks and Sabres, they'll have to do double duty to remain perfect come Monday.

Best chance for a loss? Have to think it's Buffalo in Pittsburgh with Detroit visiting the Wild next on the list.

On the flip side

Of course, there are still some teams looking for a win, too. The Rangers, Jets and Blue Jackets are yet to experience the thrill of victory. In the case of the Jets, they remain pointless going into the weekend.

Fun with numbers

Small sample sizes create fun little stats such as James Neal of the Penguins leading the NHL in goals (with four in five games), the Senators' Erik Karlsson ahead in assists with six and the Predators' David Legwand in front for points at seven. Even with the small sample size distorting things, did anybody foresee a Predator near the top of an offensive category?

Photo: Getty Images

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


Posted on: August 29, 2011 5:58 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 7:24 pm
 

Eating healthy with Gary Roberts

RobertsBy: Adam Gretz

Even at 45 years of age and two years into his retirement former NHL player Gary Roberts is probably in better physical shape than most of the players that are still active..

He's a health food freak and workout junkie (and whatever other cliche you can think of) and has spent the past couple of years working with young NHL players -- perhaps most famously Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning -- to whip them into shape and improve their overall conditioning.

A large portion of that program is dietary, and James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail has an excellent piece highlighing the strict -- and limited -- diet Roberts instructs young players to follow.

Writes Mirtle:
Players are assigned a diet that has no wheat, no sugar, no soy and no processed or packaged foods. Everything must be organic, from deli meats on up, and the 26-item list of what players should eat includes goat’s milk, sunflower sprouts, mung beans, salba, chia and hemp.

While their workouts at Mr. Roberts’s High Performance Centre gym north of Toronto get most of the outside attention, players find that it’s what they eat that’s the most important part of the program.

“It’s nutrition, then body maintenance – treatment or yoga – and then it’s the training. If you don’t do the first two, the third one’s not going to work out that well,” says Mr. Roberts.
In other words: No late-night stops (or any stops) at the drive-thru window. I can honestly say I've never tasted a mung bean, and the only thing I know about them is that Creed Bratton once mentioned them on an episode of The Office and described them as, "very nutritious, but they smell like death."

You can check out the complete menu over at the Globe and Mail, as well as a couple of sample recipes that Roberts has players like Brayden Schenn, Jeff Skinner, James Neal, Jordan Staal and Cody Hodgson chowing down on to stay in top physical shape. I have to admit, I think I'm going to try some of them, especailly the shakes, including "Gary Roberts's Molten Chocolate Mousse" and "Steven Stamkos's Mango Mousse."

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @agretz on Twitter.


Posted on: March 1, 2011 5:01 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2012 10:10 am
 

Game of the night 3-1-11: Dallas at Phoenix

Under the RadarDark Horses
Dallas Stars forward Brad Richards won’t play a role in tonight’s game as he’s expected to miss his seventh consecutive contest with concussion-like symptoms. But the fact that the Stars will be able to lean on the veteran center -- possibly as early as Friday -- should be reassuring for Dallas fans and maybe even the players who will skate against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at Jobing.com Arena. This 9 p.m. ET tilt is yet another game that will sway the bottom half of the Western Conference standings. (The Blackhawks did just that by moving from ninth to fifth with a victory over the Minnesota Wild on Monday.) Both teams enter with 33 wins. Dallas is in eighth place with a game in hand on the Wild and the Nashville Predators, who all have 72 points. Phoenix, who has been atop of the Pacific Division a good portion of the season, is in fourth in the conference with 76 points and two points behind the division-leading San Jose Sharks.At the end of the day, Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk apparently wasn’t offered enough in return for Richards, who is set to become a free agent this offseason. Richards told reporters he was willing to waive his no-trade clause, but added that he’s curious to see how the Stars' ownership situation shakes out this summer. That took a little bit of a twist on Tuesday when The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell reported Dallas oil tycoon Douglas Miller offered about $110 million to purchase the franchise. Campbell reported that the purchase price would be announced closer to $225 million since debt and losses written into the deal for the first four seasons would be included in the larger figure. (Forbes ranked the Starsas the 10th most valuable NHL franchise at $227 million in December.) Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, however, is seen by many as the frontrunner to acquire Stars, who also play at American Airlines Center. Defenseman Rostislav Klesla will make his Coyotes debut tonight  -- in the team's alternate black jerseys no less. He was acquired before the deadline along with minor league winger Dane Byers from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for forward Scottie Upshall and defenseman Sami Lepisto. Defenseman Alex Goligoski, who the Stars acquired Feb. 21 from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for winger James Neal defenseman Matt Niskanen, has a goal and two assists and is plus-2 in his first three games on the Stars. The Coyotes have won the last three meetings and are 3-1 overall against the Stars this season.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com