Tag:Western Conference
Posted on: March 6, 2011 1:46 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 2:04 pm
 

Playoff watch: Flames eye season sweep of Preds



Nashville Predators (33-23-9) at Calgary Flames (34-24-9) 

Scotiabank Saddledome, 8 pm ET

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

IMPLICATIONS: The Predators' first victory – combined with an Anaheim Ducks loss – over the Flames would move them into the eighth and final playoff slot in the west. (Both Anaheim and Calgary start the night even in points, 77, and games played, 65, but the Ducks have the edge in wins.) The resurgent Flames could move up to fifth in the West with a victory. Here's a look at our playoff tracker

BREAKDOWN: The first three games of the season series have been close with one going to OT and another won via a shootout. But Nashville is coming off one it's most impressive victories of the season, a 3-0 decision over league-leading Vancouver.  Predators rookie Blake Geoffrion, the first NHL player from Tennessee who was recalled Feb. 26, has scored in back-to-back games. Youngsters like Geoffrion will be key down the stretch as Steve Sullivan (groin), Francis Bouillon (concussion) and Marcel Goc (shoulder) have gone down with injuries in recent weeks. Flames captain Jarome Iginla (above), who already reached the 25-goal mark for the 12th consecutive season, has scored at least three points in each of Calgary's last two games. Flames forward Alex Tanguay enters on a seven-game points streak. 

PLAYER vs. PLAYER:  Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff  vs. Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne. This is expected to be Kiprusoff's 20th consecutive start and and he enters with a 13-2-3 record over his last 19 starts.  Rinne has entered the Vezina --- maybe even the Hart --- conversation. The Preds which are the fourth-lowest scoring team (2.45 goals per game) in the league are mostly in the playoff hunt because of Rinne, who is second amongst NHL goalies with 10 or more games in goals against (2.08) and save percentage (.929). The two played no bigger role in the season series than in their first meeting on Oct. 19 when they were prefect through regulation. 

KEY STAT: 491. That's Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester consecutive game streak, the longest in the NHL. It began exactly seven years ago today.

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 5, 2011 2:22 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 3:08 pm
 

Playoff watch: Chicago takes streak to Toronto



Chicago Blackhawks. (36-23-6) at Toronto Maple Leafs (29-27-9) 
Air Canada Centre, 7 pm ET


SEASON SERIES: First (and only) meeting

IMPLICATIONS: The Leafs can move within two points of idle Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Chicago, which was well out of the playoff picture six weeks ago, could move within five points of the Central Division lead with a victory and a Detroit Red Wings loss. 

BREAKDOWN: Both Original Six franchises are surging. The Blackhawks enter on a seven-game win streak, while the Leafs are unbeaten in regulation over the last nine games. The Blackhawks have won each of the last five contests against the Leafs. 

PLAYER Vs. PLAYER: Chicago's Marian Hossa vs. Toronto's Phil Kessel. Depending on how Leafs coach Ron Wilson matches lines with the last change, these right wingers could see each other a bit tonight. Kessel (above) has eight points over the last four games. Hossa, who has 36 points (14 goals and 22 assists) career against the Leafs, had his five-game goal streak snapped in Friday's victory over Carolina, but he still managed two assists. The 'Hawks are 20-4-2 this season when Hossa gets at least one point. 

KEY STAT: 9. That's how many consecutive one-goal games the Maple Leafs have played in, going 6-0-3 during this stretch.
Posted on: March 4, 2011 2:51 am
Edited on: March 4, 2011 3:10 am
 

Morning skate: Is this finally San Jose's year?



The San Jose Sharks, winners of the Western Conference the last two seasons, didn't look like they'd contend for much more than a low playoff seed, if that, just a few weeks back. 

Then Antti Niemi, the goalie the Sharks acquired from the Stanley Cup champ Chicago Blackhawks last offseason, took over. The Sharks have won 17 of the last 20 games -- all with Niemi in net -- including Thursday's 3-1 victory over Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion. Niemi (above) made 26 saves in his latest win.

The Sharks have won eight in a row, are tops in the Pacific Division and now sit three points behind the Red Wings in the Western Conference. (Here's a look at our playoff tracker.) 

The Sharks have integrated defensemen Ben Eager (acquired in from the Atlanta in January) and Ian White (acquired from Carolina last month) and are relatively healthy, minus defenseman Dan Boyle (upper-body injury) and goalie Antero Niittymaki (groin). Both are expected to return soon. The taht has a solid stable of forwards -- including Dany Heatley, who had a two-goal effort on Thursday -- and a capable defense. 

For a team that was a trendy pick for the few seasons to win it all, could this be the season where the Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history? Maybe even win it all?

Or, are the Sharks just teasing us again?


A PLEA IN PHOENIX: After about two years, the Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga could be coming to an end. That's if a citizen watchdog group drops it objections over how the City of Glendale is helping finance the transaction via a sale to of $116 million in bonds. FOXSportsArizona.com's Matt Swartz reports the Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and Greater Phoenix Economic Council leader Barry Broome spoke at a news conference on Thursday where they urged the Goldwater Institute not to follow through their threat of a lawsuit, which could prevent investor Matthew Hulsizer from taking over the team. Hulsizer said he intends to keep the team at Jobing.com Arena, although any more delays ups the chances that the league-controlled franchise that once called Winnipeg home could be headed back north of the border. 

GILLIES HEARING TODAY: New York Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies is scheduled to meet with NHL officials in Toronto this afternoon to discuss Wednesday's blindside hit of Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild. (Link to hit here.) TSN.ca reports that such in-person meetings usually mean a suspension of five or more games is on the horizon. Gillies had just returned from a nine-game suspension for a blow to the head delivered to Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi on Feb. 11. Because of that, Gillies will be treated as a repeat offender. 

LINE CHANGES: Jason Arnott has acclimated himself pretty well in Washington. His slapshot late in the third period led the Capitals past the visiting St. Louis Blues, 3-2. That makes it one game-winning goal and a primary assist on a game-tying tally in Tuesday's victory over the Islanders since he arrived from New Jersey. . . . Philadelphia forward Kris Versteeg scored twice against his former club, but the Maples Leafs rookie goalie James Reimer made a key glove save in the closing seconds to preserve a 3-2 victory. The Leafs, who dealt Versteeg before the deadline for a first-and third-round picks, moved two within three points of eighth place in the East. . . .  The Buffalo Sabers, unable to score on a power play late in regulation, failed in thier bid to move into eighth place in the East, as Carolina won, 3-2, in OT. 
Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: March 3, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: March 3, 2011 2:08 am
 

Morning skate: Flames lose game, maybe Morrison



The Calgary Flames may have lost more than a crucial couple points when they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-4, at the United Center on Wednesday. 

First-line center Brendan Morrison skated gingerly off the ice in the third period and did not return. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reports that Flames coach Brent Sutter didn’t specify or how bad it might be. 

The victory by the Blackhawks -- their season-best sixth in a row -- moved the defendding Stanley Cup champs to fourth in the West.

Nine of the 10 teams in action Wednesday have at least a fathomable  shot at the postseason and the only one that didn't (the New York Islanders) played the role of spoilers. Here’s our playoff race tracker

GILLIES WASTES NO TIME: In his first game back from a nine-game suspension, New York Islanders forward Trevor Gillies went a little more than a period before he repeated the offense. Gillies blindsided Minnesota Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck, whose head hit the glass after the collision. (Clutterbuck had just hit Islanders rookie Justin DiBenedetto, which drew a penalty as well.) Gillies was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Clutterbuck got back up and was in the lineup as the Wild fell, 4-1. Chris Botta of The New York Time’s Slap Shot blog gives a full rundown with video

PARISE ON THE MEND: New Jersey Devils winger Zach Parise was cleared to skate on Wednesday, three months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. “He can begin skating lightly immediately,” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said in a story on the team’s website. Parise has been out 51 games since hurting his knee Oct. 30. Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger reports that Parise would need a minimum of two more weeks of rehab before he can practice with the team, although there’s still a decent chance he could return by the end of the season. New Jersey edged the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, to keep the Devils’ slim playoffs hopes alive. 

LINE CHAGES: The Toronto Maple Leafs unlikely run for a playoff spot continued with a 3-2 OT victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mikhail Grabovski scored 42 seconds into the extra frame as the Leafs moved to within two points of the Carolina Hurricanes, who tenuously hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.  .  . . Bobby Ryan’s goal via penalty shot in overtime hoisted the Anaheim Ducks to a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Ryan was hauled down by Detroit defenseman Ruslan Salei just as he reached the net, resulting in the ref pointing to center ice. Here a link to the video
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 2, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Game of the night 3-2-11

Calgary Flames (33-23-9) at Chicago Blackhawks (34-23-6)

Alex Tanguay, Getty Images United Center, 9 pm ET
Calgary: 5th in West, 75 points (6-2-2 in last 10 games)
Chicago: 7th in West, 74 points (7-1-2 in last 10 games.)

BREAKDOWN: The game features two of the hottest teams going and they just happen to be jockeying for position in the Western Conference, where the bottom half of the standings shuffle around from night to night. (Idle Chicago dropped two slots last night alone.) Neither team has the best shot at catching the leaders in their respective divisions, making these games all so vital.

The Flames are coming off a 6-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues. The ‘Hawks are winners of five in a row and this will be the first game for defenseman Chris Campoli, acquired at the deadline from the Ottawa Senators. He will likely be paired with Brian Campbell tonight, according to Tim Sassone of the Daily Herald

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has netted 11 points over the last six games. Flames winger Alex Tanguay is coming off a three-point night (one goal, two assists) and enters on a five-game points streak. 


Posted on: March 2, 2011 2:56 am
Edited on: March 2, 2011 4:21 am
 

Morning skate 3-2-11: Quick payoffs

Jason Arnott assisted on the equalizer for the Washington Capitals with 48 seconds left in regulation. Rostislav Klesla’s helper was part of the Phoenix Coyotes’ late run. Scottie Upshall forced OT with a second-period goal for the Columbus Blue Jackets

Overall, several deadline day acquisitions made immediate impacts as they donned new sweaters on Tuesday. That’s not even counting Brad Boyes (power-play goal for the Buffalo Sabres) and Cory Stillman (goal and an assist for the Carolina Hurricanes), both acquired days before Monday’s deadline who also contributed to their new teams. (OK, it was also for an old team in Stillman’s case.)

Here’s a breakdown of the highlights: 

GREAT 8 RESURFACES: No, not the ice -- even if Alex Ovechkin has blended into the background during some games as much as your average Zamboni driver this season. Ovechkin, who is almost certain to finish with a career low in goals, scored his 25th of the season -- and quietly his league-leading ninth game-winning goal -- in overtime to send the Caps to a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders. (He also had a secondary assist on Brooks Laich’s goal in the final minute of regulation.) Nathan Lawson, playing his ninth NHL game, made a game-high 40 saves before Ovechkin made a stellar deke 1:55 into the extra period. Here’s the video: 



DISAPPOINTMENT IN THE DESERT: The Phoenix Coyotes’ rally from two goals down late in the third period against the division rival Dallas Stars sputtered not long after Ray Whitney tied the game with 38 seconds left. Radim Vrbata took a hooking penalty – an infraction Stars forward Mike Ribeiro made sure the refs didn’t miss -- with 13 seconds left in regulation. Jamie Benn then scored with five seconds left in regulation (video below) as the Stars moved up two slots in the standings with those vital two points via the 3-2 victory. 



Bruins’ PERFECT FINISH: The Boston Bruins wrapped up their first 6-0 trip since Bobby Orr roamed the blue line with a 1-0 victory in Ottawa. (That 1972 season was also the last time Boston hoisted the Stanley Cup.) Nathan Horton banged in the game’s lone goal early in the third period for the Bruins, who were called “spaghetti-legged” by CSN Boston’s Joe Haggerty. Tuukka Rask, who won his fourth consecutive game, made 33 saves in the shutout. 

LINE CHANGES: Buffalo Sabers goalie Ryan Miller has appeared more locked than at any point this season, which doesn’t bode well for teams vying for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Miller stopped 29 shots in the Sabres’ 3-2 victory over the host New York Rangers --- the seventh consecutive game he’s given up two or fewer goals. Entering play Wednesday, the Sabres are a point behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and Buffalo has two games in hand. . . . In a night that featured eight one-goal games and one two-goal game that included an empty-netter, no contest went as long as Columbus Blue Jackets-Vancouver Canucks. Roberto Luongo, who has been knocked previously for his play in the shootouts, earned a 2-1 decision after an eight-round shootout. . . . The San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers also won in shootouts. The nod for the snazziest goal in the post-overtime portion goes Edmonton’s Linus Omark. Here's a look: 


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.
 
 
 
 
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