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Tag:Tampa Bay Lightning
Posted on: January 25, 2012 7:43 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2012 7:44 pm
 

Tampa mascot let go after silly string incident



By: Adam Gretz

Your bizarre NHL story of the day comes from an incident that took place during a Bruins-Lightning game in Tampa Bay last week.

Video surfaced of the Lightning mascot, Thunderbug, getting tackled from behind by a fired up Bruins fan after he was covered in silly string by said mascot.

Of course, the whole thing was as absurd as you would expect a hockey fan covered in silly string tackling a giant bug to be.

The fan was seen being escorted out of the seating area by arena security and according to WTSP in Tampa Bay, was eventually allowed to return to his seat.

The person that won't be returning to the arena, however, at least in the same capacity, is the woman that was inside the Thunderbug costume, as she will not work another game for the team according to the Lightning. While the silly string incident reportedly played a role in the dismisal, "it wasn't the only factor."

Not surprisingly, there is already a Facebook page dedicated to saving Thunderbug's job, and it's already passed 1,000 fans. So go fight the good fight, if you choose.

Personally, I find almost all mascots to be more trouble than they're worth most of the time, especially if I'm paying good money for a seat only to have a giant sideshow blocking my view of the field/court/ice for any amount of time. But that's just me.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 20, 2012 12:57 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2012 3:50 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Rangers and Bruins finally meet

McDonagh's and Seguin's teams renew acquaintances. (Getty Images)

Weekend Schedules: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

By Brian Stubits

Thanks to the scheduling quirks of the NHL, it has taken us until the end of January to get a dose of some real New York-Boston feuding in hockey. No offense to the Devils and the Islanders, but the city-to-city rivalry is reserved for pretty much only the Rangers against the Bruins.

This season, though, the wait has seemed even longer than it really has been. That's because of the little fact that for the first team in a long, long time, the Bruins and Rangers are the best two teams in the Eastern Conference.

There has been some bemoaning lately of the lack of rivalries in hockey. Well this isn't on par with Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, but there's always a little extra flair when it's New York vs. Boston. This one should have a lot of extra flair.

Nobody at this point will dispute the Rangers are one of the best teams in the league this season. You'd be foolish to try. But there are people, myself included, who are still wondering exactly how good are the Rangers? Well what better way to find out than to send them to the hornets’ nest that is TD Garden in Boston to face the defending champs?

Although it’s too bad we could have had this game a week or so ago. By their standards this season, each of these teams has lost some steam going into the game. The Bruins are only 6-4-0 in their last 10 (gasp!) while the Rangers just slightly better at 7-3-0. I laugh about it a little but it was just in the last two weeks that each of these teams had won nine of 10 games.

One of the tricks for each of the coaches is to find ways to keep pushing their guys in the middle of the season, particularly when you've had as much success as these two Original Six squads have. Sometimes that can be as simple as finding a bear to poke (pun clearly intended).

Bruins coach Claude Julien took his poking stick to the midsection of Nathan Horton this week on the Bruins' recent road trip.

"Horton has got to pick up his game. No ifs or buts about it," Julien said after the shootout win at Florida. "A guy his size needs to get more physically involved. He needs to compete a lot harder. He's skating hard, you can see it on the backcheck ... but we need more from him. When he's emotionally engaged, he scores goals and he's a difference-maker. He's got to find his game. We're at the point where we're a little shorthanded and we need him to step up."

Horton responded by scoring twice in the loss to the Lightning and then one more in the win on Thursday night against the Devils. That might be mission: accomplished.

It looks like Rangers coach John Tortorella has his own target to try and prod.

Brad Richards was the star they brought to New York this summer to give Marian Gaborik that other scoring threat and finally give Henrik Lundqvist some much-deserved support. In that regard, Richards has been alright. But that's it.

In 45 games he has 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points while carrying a minus-3. That stat still means very little, plus/minus, but on a team like the Rangers, it's tough to be negative. He and Ruslan Fedotenko are the only players on the team with more than 10 games played that are in the red.

Going into the game against the Bruins, Richards hasn't tallied a single point in the last six games. Obviously that's not very good, particularly for a guy making $6.7 million per season.

While Tortorella didn't go anywhere close to the level of criticism that Julien did with Horton, he at least made it known that Richards needs to step up some. From Ranger Rants:

Coach John Tortorella said he didn’t want to analyze individual performances after the game when asked specifically about Staal and Brad Richards. But he acknowledged that Richards’ game wasn’t spot on right now (he was a minus-1 in 16:46 though he won 12 of 16 faceoffs).

If the Rangers can get a point-per-game pace out of Richards like he has been doing for most of the past few seasons, then watch out.

This will be the first of four matchups between the foes this season and each will very likely go a long way in determining who gets home-ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

If that leaves you wanting more ...

... Then you'll get it. There is no better way to spend Saturday if you're a hockey fan than to tune in to the NHL Network. Once that Rangers-Bruins tilt is done it's on to the next, but it takes no backseat to the first game.

The Vancouver Canucks seem to have a lot of rivalries these days. We all know about their ongoing feud with the Bruins, they have a fierce battle with the Chicago Blackhawks and pretty much any team from Canada.

But don't forget about their rivals to the south in San Jose, too. They've had some damn good playoff battles as well, including that Western Conference final matchup a season ago where Kevin Bieksa was the only person on the ice who knew what the heck was going on.

The Sharks are an interesting team to me. Perhaps it's a situation of just getting used to it, being desensitized to them, but once again they are right there in the race for the Presidents' Trophy this season. Remember, they have games in hand on every single Western Conference team.

Yet they are just quietly trudging along on the West Coast. It's expected from them now to be honest. That's a great compliment to give to the ownership and front office in San Jose.

Unlike the Eastern powers mentioned above, these Western heavies have already met three times this season, so when they dance on Saturday night in Vancouver, it's the last time they'll see each other until next season. Unless ...

Hot, hot, hot!

The Ottawa Senators are 12-2-2 since Kyle Turris came to town. They are in the midst of a very challenging road trip to the West Coast, starting it off with a win on Thursday in San Jose.

When they looked at the itinerary for the road trip, they had to look at the Saturday visit to Anaheim as a little bit of a reprieve on the tough trip. Not anymore.

It took a while, but Bruce Boudreau is seeing the Ducks play the way we all thought they would this season. All of a sudden, these are the two hottest teams in the NHL (what?!?). The Ducks are 6-0-1 in their last seven games in their own right.

It's likely well past the time for them to get back into the playoff picture. Even with these 13 points in seven games, they are still 13 points behind Colorado for the eighth spot in the West. What a really strong finish can do, though, is affect the way general manager Bob Murray views his team and thus how much of a seller the Ducks will be at the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

In the meantime, each of the Sens and Ducks gets a heat check in one of the few places in either the USA or Canada that it's actually warm right now, Southern California.

Familiar foes

Friday night will feature some old friends facing off as the Florida Blackhawks visit the Chicago Panthers. Wait ...

Since Dale Tallon took over in Florida as general manager, the Panthers have taken on quite a strong feeling of the Blackhawks. They currently carry five former players from Chicago: John Madden, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky and Jack Skille. Of them, only Skille wasn't a contributor to the Stanley Cup a couple of seasons ago.

To make that happen obviously Tallon had to send some of his Panthers players to GM Stan Bowman in Chicago. It's not as strong the other way but the Blackhawks currently employ former Panthers Michal Frolik, Steve Montador and have Rostislav Olesz and Alexander Salak in the system.

But the player to watch in this battle? How about Andrew Shaw, who is quickly making a big name for himself in Chicago. The 20-year-old forward who was a fifth-round pick by the 'Hawks has five points in the last four games on the strength of a goal in each game. That's led to the Twitter hashtag of #ShawFacts where fans have taken their best Chuck Norris jokes and tailored them for Shaw.

Something else worth watching: With weather conditions as bad as they are in Chicago this weekend, will the Panthers have any problems getting out of town and into Winnipeg in time for their game Saturday against the Jets?

Speak of old friends ...

What would the Tampa Bay Lightning give to have the summer over and keep Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson?

The Bolts will get the chance to see firsthand what has happened to Smith since he moved to the desert this offseason. For those not in the know, what has happened is that he has become a quality starting goaltender for the Coyotes.

The Lightning are giving up more goals than any team in the league. Don't you think Smith and his 2.41 goals against average would be handy in Tampa Bay this season?

Then again, it probably wouldn't be too much different if the defenders in front of Smith were playing the same/as injured as they are in front of Roloson and Mathieu Garon.

Fun doesn't stop Saturday

On Sunday there is a nice pair of battles for matinee games in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins will take on another one of the I-95 corridor powers in the Philadelphia Flyers while the Pittsburgh Penguins will host the Washington Capitals for their final bout this season. It might be a bit watered down without Sidney Crosby playing, but it's still worth watching.

Both games are worth it, so get ready to wear out the "last" button on your remote.

We're going streaking!

A look at the winning and losing streaks heading into the weekend.

Penguins: Remember how they just lost six in a row? This is how you rebound from that. The Pens take a four-game winning streak into Friday night's game against the Canadiens before the game against the Caps.

Detroit Red Wings: For the moment, they have taken the lead in the Central Division, which is an unbelievable race this season. Their five straight wins will be put on the line Saturday vs. the Blue Jackets.

St. Louis Blues: They are doing what they can to keep pace with the Red Wings and Blackhawks, and they're doing it just fine. They ride a three-game run into a home game against the Sabres, losers of 10 straight on the road.

Buffalo Sabres: As just mentioned, 10 straight road losses, four in a row overall. Only the one chance in St. Louis to snap it this weekend.

Panthers: They haven't won a game in their last three chances but they have picked up points in two of those three. The double dip this weekend is at Chicago and at Winnipeg.

Minnesota Wild: The ship keeps on sinking. Remember when they were first in the NHL? I hardly do either. Four straight losses and Dallas on tap this weekend.

Dallas Stars: Misery loves company, I suppose. Dallas brings its own losing streak of three games into the weekend, but they get Tampa Bay before facing the Wild.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.
Posted on: January 17, 2012 11:17 am
 

While Lightning sink, Stamkos continues to rise

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- In case you have forgotten, Steven Stamkos is still good. Really, really good.

You don't hear a whole lot about him these days because the Tampa Bay Lightning aren't setting the league on fire again this season. In fact, they're the only ones getting torched. Last season they were battling for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, this season they currently had the last spot thanks to what is currently a seven-game losing streak.

In one of his Pucks & Numbers segments earlier this season, my colleague Adam Gretz broke down the Lightning's struggles this year and while everybody wants to point the finger at the defense and goaltending (it's way subpar, so that's fair) neither was good last season either. The difference is the scoring is down.

Maybe this helps to put it in perspective. Now Stamkos is the best scorer going in the NHL right now, but his 30 goals represent nearly 1/4 of the Lightning's 121-goal total. That's not a whole lot of help. Here we are in January and only three players have double-digit goals for Tampa Bay and one of them, Martin St. Louis, barely qualifies with 10.

To put it another way, he is being asked to carry a massive amount of the Lightning's offensive load. For somebody who is still shy of his 22nd birthday, that's asking a lot. But that's not a workload that Stamkos isn't willing to bear.

"I always put pressure on myself as an offensive guy," Stamkos told CBSSports.com "If you ask Vinny [Vincent Lecavalier] or Marty [St. Louis], they feel the same way. Guys expect us to produce, we expect the penalty kill guys to do well on the penalty kill, our goalies to stop the puck and our defensemen to shut the other team down. Everybody has a role and for me, I want to produce and help our team win. I probably put the most pressure on myself to do that."

He's doing his part more than admirably. As mentioned, he leads the league with 30 goals (clear of the pack by six goals, mind you). He was a no-brainer to be the Lightning's All-Star selection this season. Frankly, there were not any exciting options after Stamkos anyway.

He has been the lone beacon of light in an otherwise dark Lightning season. Expectations were raised significantly after last season when the Bolts were one game away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final, taking the Boston Bruins to the limit in a Game 7. Those haven't been met, to put it mildly.

"It's frustrating right now," Stamkos said. "We don't doubt anybody's character in this room and their desire to win. There's been too many of those this year where we deserved to win and we didn't."

His team St. Louis echoed those sentiments from his stall right next to Stamkos'.

"We've lost six in a row. It's normal to feel the way we do," St. Louis said. "But you got to get ready for the next game, you know? You have to get ready for the next game, you can't feel sorry for yourself. There's still 40, 39 or whatever games left. A lot can happen. If you just give in right now it's going to be a long year."

Their head coach, Guy Boucher, was not long ago seen as the best young coach in the league after his rookie season last year. Funny how perceptions change when the breaks don't go your way.

"There's years where everything works and there are years where things don't work out," said Boucher, the longest-tenured coach in the Southeast at a year and a half. "You see where you are when things don't work out so much. I think circumstances have been tough for us but players have been dealing with it with a lot of class and they've been very resilient. Never quit, we always come back.

"What's tough is that we're just not getting the breaks. It's been like that for a long time, that's the story of our season. We've got injuries and more injuries, adversity and adversity and the breaks just are not coming at all."

The frustration in the locker room is palpable. It's been evident on the ice too. In Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, some of it boiled over for Lecavalier, who was given a misconduct after throwing a punch to Evgeni Malkin's face in a scrum for what Lecavalier felt was a shot at his knees.

In Friday's 4-3 loss to the Capitals, the frustration even showed for Stamkos, normally a pretty reserved guy on the ice. He took exception to a hit from Troy Brouwer on St. Louis that sent the Lightning captain into the boards. It only drew a two-minute minor for interference, but it drew more ire from Stamkos, who came flying in to smash Brouwer into the boards and then start throwing haymakers.

I admit I had to double-check to see it was No. 91 (Stamkos) instead of No. 9 Steve Downie, a guy who isn't a stranger to mixing it up, his fight earlier in the game with Karl Alzner a testament to that. But it was Stammer alright.

"Stick up for your teammates; that's the way I was brought up," Stamkos said. "Everyone on this team, it's a team mentality. Everyone would probably do that for Marty as well."

"Marty's his buddy, Marty's the guy that groomed him," Boucher said. "Anybody who sees Marty get something like that is going to jump in ... I'm proud of him. We stick together. It's like marriage. They ask you through thick and thin, the answer is always yes. But when the tough comes how do you react? We stick together, that's how it is through adversity."

And through that adversity Stamkos has only gotten better. He's on pace to break his own career high of 51 goals but is below his career-best 91-point pace with only 20 assists so far. But he can't assist on his own goals, to state the obvious.

Here's a sign of how much Stamkos is growing as a scorer. His power play goals are way down this season, obviously meaning that he's doing a lot more scoring at even strength. Last season he scored 17 on the man advantage, 24 two seasons ago -- almost half of his season total. But this season's power play goals represent only 1/6 of his scores thus far.

You could look at that the other way and point to his power play numbers being down, but this is a team that has struggled to get the power play right for a while. That tends to happen when you are missing some of your top defensemen. Sagging power play numbers could get to some players and leave them lagging in the confidence department.

But not Stamkos, who is only getting better, even if there's little publicity about it.

"You just try to get better as a player each and every year," Stamkos said. "You try to be more of a complete player each and every year. It's my fourth year now. I've learned a lot in this league. I got the opportunity to go far in the playoffs last year and I figured what hockey is all about. It's made me a better player. I just want to stay consistent and help this team win.

"It's not fun right now the position we're in, but I'm just doing everything I can to improve and help our team win."

He might not be having much fun, but he is getting more fun to watch by the year.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 16, 2012 1:53 pm
 

No discipline for Lecavalier following punch

By: Adam Gretz

During his third period destruction of the Lightning on Sunday afternoon, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin found himself in the middle of a confrontation with Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier.

The incident started when Malkin ducked out of the way along the boards to avoid a check from Lecavalier, and ended when the Tampa Bay captain threw a punch at Malkin's face during a scrum. When all was said and done, Lecavalier was issued 14 penalty minutes (four for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct) while Malkin received a two-minute minor of his own.

It's been reported on Monday that Lecavalier will not face any further discipline from the NHL for that late punch that he delivered.

The entire incident has sparked a bit of a bizarre reaction, as the Lightning felt that Malkin was taking a run at Lecavalier's knee, while analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury put the blame on Malkin for trying to avoid the check, and even went as far as to compare it to the Brad Marchand-Sami Salo incident from last week (and in case you forgot about that one, you can read up on it here).

And here is Milbury and Jones talking about Sunday's incident, and all of the important on-ice action that led to it.



I'm not sure I buy the argument that it's at all comparable to the Marchand-Salo play, but what do you think? Is it the same thing? And should Lecavalier have faced any supplemental discipline from the league for his punch?

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Brad Marchand suspended for clipping
More NHL Discipline news

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 15, 2012 4:06 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 5:24 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Do you believe in the Sens?

By Brian Stubits

As the Monkees once sang, I'm a believer.

It has taken more than half a season, but I'm ready to buy stock in the Ottawa Senators. Now I don't think I'd like them to do much beyond make the playoffs at this point, but considering preseason expectations, that's a minor miracle in and of itself.

Before the season began, I remember seeing Senators GM Bryan Murray saying he thought his team could make the playoffs this season contrary to about everybody's prediction of the team's outlook. I also remember my reaction to it was to laugh.

My laughing has stopped.

The Senators pretty much dispelled any notion that this has been a fluke. Their 46 games played are enough to convince you otherwise.

Something else I personally was laughing at was their trade for Kyle Turris. Based on a few seasons of minimal production in Phoenix, I was of the mind that Kyle Turris wasn't as good as his draft position a few years ago indicated, that he was still living off a "potential" tag that wasn't going to materialize the way everybody hoped. In short, I saw Turris as being overrated.

So here's an "oops" on a couple of accounts.

The match of Turris and the Senators has been one forged in heaven. Or something like that. Since Murray shipped defenseman David Rundblad to the Coyotes (who has since been sent down to the AHL) in exchange for Turris, it's been a win for the Senators. A lot of wins.

With Turris in their lineup, the Senators are a sensational 12-2-2, including four consecutive wins after the prevailed over the Canadiens in a shootout on Saturday. Turris has contributed two goals and seven assists in that time.

They have come a long way since that 1-5-0 start to the season.

On the sobering side, they still give up way too much. Their 3.13 goals against per game clocks in at 27th in the league, ahead of only the Hurricanes, Blue Jackets and Lightning. Just check the standings to see how those teams are faring by giving up so much.

But the Sens can score. You can nit-pick their four All-Star selections, but none of them is completely undeserving. In a game that values offense, the Sens have that covered. Between Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and the venerable Daniel Alfredsson (as well as Erik Karlsson on the blue line) you see how Ottawa is where it is.

Now you have to account for some inflation here. The Senators have played more games than any of the other contenders in the East, so everybody has games in hand on them. But fact of the matter is they have put themselves in a good position to withstand the tide turning back toward other teams in the games-played department.

This is a big stretch for the Senators, playing nine games out of 10 on the road and so far they are three for three.

Feel free to believe.

Home sweet home

The game of the weekend got Saturday started off right with an early faceoff in Detroit. The Red Wings and Blackhawks met for the third time this season, and for the third time it was a 3-2 final. Talk about great hockey.

More from the weekend
Recaps
Stories

Considering the game was at the Joe in Detroit, you should have no problem correctly guessing who prevailed. It was an OT tally from Todd Bertuzzi that gave the Wings the second point on the day, an overtime that was completely controlled by Detroit.

The Red Wings have a great history. You all know that. They have become the definition of a playoff staple. So it's saying something about this year's team when you consider they just captured their 14th consecutive win on home ice to tie a team record. That goes all the way back to 1965.

"Even though we're in the thick of a tight race, it is something we can be proud of as a team," defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said. "This franchise hasn't done this since the 1960s, so it says a lot that we've been able to do it."

That's why the Central Division race is going to be so critical this season. If the Red Wings can get the division title, they are guaranteed to have home ice for at least one series come playoff time. In a division as tight as the Central.

The devil inside

One question I've heard a few times in the press box this season is if the New Jersey Devils are for real. My answer: no doubt.

They aren't without their concerns, for sure. Their goalie situation isn't ideal these days with Martin Brodeur and as good as their power play can be with the skill they have, they have a little problem allowing short-handed goals.

But the thing with the Devils that people forget is that last season was the anomaly. The expectations weren't high because of the miserable first half they endured last season, partly due to salary cap constraints, partly due the absence of Zach Parise.

Bring back a healthy Parise and the rookie Adam Henrique and you have the Devils playing good hockey this season. They were able to do what very few teams have been able to on Saturday night and that was to go into Winnipeg and come away with a victory over the Jets at the MTS Centre thanks to two third-period goals. The winner came from Patrik Elias, his 16th.

Therein lies one of the things I like about any staying power for the Devils, they are more than Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Henrique. They have some second-level scoring to fill in.

Plus, they don't lose in shootouts or overtime much at all. That doesn't help when the postseason comes around but it can help them get there.

They needed that

It sounds like hyperbole, but this really might have been the biggest weekend of the season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They were struggling bad, having lost six games in a row for the first time in years. Then there was the drama about some possibly internal strife and the idea that the Penguins might name a captain in Sidney Crosby's absence.

The team debunked any of that talk on Friday when they took to the ice in Sunrise, Fla. for their morning skate with everybody wearing a C on their sweater (except for Evgeni Malkin who wore a K). The media scrutiny of them and their captain was apparently getting to them so they fought back.

And then they fought back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture, too. They came out against the Panthers on Friday night and assaulted the Southeast Division leaders (not for much longer) on their way to a slump-busting 4-1 win. Making sure not to follow it up with a thud, they jumped on the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Sunday and held on to give the Bolts a seventh straight loss.

To put in perspective how dominating they were, the Pens outshot the Panthers and Lightning by a combined 85-46 and won each game by three.

That was a weekend that was sorely needed. The team appears to be galvanized by the whole episode, playing some great hockey in Florida. Either that or the feel of a vacation in the Sunshine State did the trick.

Quote of the weekend

"That should suggest to this whole locker room that we're not far off." -- Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison.

That came after the Hurricanes pulled off the "say what?" moment of the weekend by doubling up the Bruins in Carolina 4-2 on Saturday night.

They might believe they're not far off as far as putting it all together, but they're still very far off when it comes to the standings. However three wins in a row has done something for them in the standings, take them out of the Southeast cellar thanks to the Lightning's skid.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 13, 2012 1:15 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Brothers Sutter meet in Calgary

By Brian Stubits

One of the many things I love about hockey is that it doesn't revolve around the coaches, they are hardly ever the stories. You can't say the same about other sports, particularly college athletics where the coach is sometimes the only constant there is. In the NHL, a lot of coaches are so quiet I'm not even sure half of the hockey fans out there could name all 30 bench bosses.

But this weekend in Calgary? It's about the coaches. Well it's now partly about a certain player's Flames debut too, but first to the coaches.

The Los Angeles Kings will be traveling to the Saddledome for a slightly awkward reunion. It's the first time that Darryl Sutter has been involved in a game in Calgary since he resigned -- all but forced -- as general manager for the Flames a little more than a year ago, leaving his younger brother Brent behind to continue to coach the Flames.

For those who suggest you shouldn't mix business with family, this is a good example why. During the time they were together working with the Flames, they had some problems with each other to the point that they stopped talking after Darryl was ousted. Imagine that, two brothers getting to the point of not talking based largely on their working relationship.

They were giving each other the silent treatment until Darryl reached out this week and at least reopened the lines of communications. Probably a good idea on many fronts, particularly about the one of avoiding the awkward moment at the game.

“We had a good chit-chat -- it was good,” said Brent, whose brother initiated the call, to the Calgary Sun.

“We talked about their team, about our team ... never once did we talk about anything personally. We talked about the kids. We were all over the map with it. That was the first time I talked to him. It was nice.”

Saturday won't just be the first time these two have been back together at a Flames game since Darryl left, but now it's also about the first time that Mike Cammalleri returns to the Saddledome in a Flames jersey since he left. That's thanks to the Thursday night trade of Cammy to Calgary in exchange for Rene Bourque going to Montreal.

The Flames could use the fire under their behind that perhaps current GM Jay Feaster is trying to send. His team hasn't been playing particularly well and a jolt to the roster might help recharge their playoff push. They aren't dead and buries in that race, especially considering the season is only half over, but they could use a run to help set them up for the finish.

At the least they got a player who's excited to be in Calgary -- again, in the case of Cammalleri.

"I am extremely excited, I was told I was traded and I wasn't sure where. I hoped it was Calgary," he said on Thursday after the trade.

"It's a place that I have such fond memories, I really have strong relationships with some of the players. I really appreciated playing there."

So that will bear watching, no doubt. But it's going to be tough to overcome the drama of the bench bosses.

And I just love it when things come together like this. It means absolutely nothing and has no bearing on anything that will happen on the ice, just little coincidences that are fun to mark. Darryl coached 210 games for the Flames. On Saturday night Brent will coach his, you guessed it, 210th game with the Flames. Not that that will steer the spotlight away from Darryl vs. Brent and the Sutter family equation.

“We’ve now had communication since then, and it has been good,” Brent said.

“Any way you want to look at it, we’re still brothers. I care deeply about what happens with him and how he does.”

Well the family feud will live on for 60 more minutes on Saturday.

Oh, Ottawa

I still haven't decided if the Ottawa Senators are as good as they have shown, but it's getting really tough to deny them based on a small sample size.

Now they have played at least two more games than every other team in the East except for Carolina, but that excuse isn't flying any more either. They are comfortably in the top eight in the East as it stands right now, right on the heels of the Flyers for the fourth seed. When you start beating the Rangers at Madison Square Garden with a shutout no less, then yea, it might be time to believe.

But we're going to find out a lot in the upcoming weeks, starting Saturday. OK, it actually started on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. That was when the Senators played their first of nine road games in a 10-game span. The only interruption in that road show comes on Monday with the Jets coming to Ottawa. After that, they go into their weekend as host for the All-Star Game with a trip that takes them out West.

But they can't play those before the play this weekend's game against the Canadiens first. They seem to be getting Montreal at the perfect time. They have all sorts of struggles and strife to deal with at the moment and could possibly be without P.K. Subban after his hit on David Krejci on Thursday night.

If the Sens can do what most everybody else is doing right now and beat the Habs, they will finish with six points in the three-game road trip.

It sure makes those four All-Star selections a lot easier to swallow, too.

Taking a Flyer

In all honesty, this isn't the best slate of games the NHL has seen this year for the weekend. There aren't a whole lot of really intriguing matchups pitting two elite teams.

But one of the better ones will be in Nashville, a cross-conference battle to boot. The Philadelphia Flyers will take on the Predators in Smashville. Adding a little more intrigue to the good matchup? The in-person scouting that the Flyers might or might not be doing on the opposition.

You are going to hear a lot about the status of Ryan Suter in the coming weeks, his name will surely be at the fore of all the trade speculation unless he signs a contract extension before then. Among the top contenders for his services will be the Flyers, already mentioned in the speculation.

That just adds a little underlying story to what should be a very good game.

Speaking of good games ...

The Blackhawks and Red Wings clash again. They went a long time this season without renewing acquaintances, but now they are meeting seemingly every week.

The next round in their Central Division battle comes on Saturday at the ripe ol' hour of 12:30 from the Joe in St. Louis. I wonder if the Blackhawks will even be functioning at that hour.

Joking aside, hopefully the start time doesn't take away from the quality of games these two put on. The first two meetings this season came in Chicago and each was a 3-2 game (Blackhawks won the first, Wings the second in OT). You can always count on great hockey when these two get together.

Now that realignment has been halted, hopefully the next proposal doesn't split these teams up.

Pesky Stars

That's the nickname that has caught on in Dallas regarding their Stars. Pesky. I guess it's because they won't go away.

Dallas isn't as big of a surprise as a couple of other teams this season, including the above-mentioned Senators, but that doesn't mean they aren't a surprise. Here it is mid-January and they continue to hang around in the Pacific Division race as well as the Western Conference.

They will look to continue their pesky ways against the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. The Avs are as up and down as any team in the league this season. There seems to be no happy medium with them. After their most recent run they are no slipping back down the slope, going into Dallas with a three-game losing streak.

It's a battle of a pair of mild surprises in the West. These all count when it comes down to season's end and each of these hopefuls is trying to sneak into the postseason. The schneid list is getting long.

We're going streaking!

Here are the hot and cold streaks going into the weekend's action.

Senators: Talked about above, they have won three straight and only visit Montreal.

Toronto Maple Leafs: How 'bout them Leafs, huh? They take a four-game win streak into Buffalo on Friday night and if it holds will take a five-gamer into Saturday night's home game against the Rangers.

Predators: Three games and counting heading into the Philly matchup.

Flames: Lost in all the other talk surrounding Calgary, they have actually rattled off three straight wins since returning home from an unfruitful road trip.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens are entering unchartered territory here. They bring a six-game losing streak with them to Florida for the Sunshine State saunter, at the Panthers on Friday, Lightning on Sunday.

Buffalo Sabres: While the Leafs have won four in a row going into Friday's game, the Sabres have lost three straight. They also visit the Islanders on Saturday.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The postseason run followup isn't going as planned. Five straight losses going into Friday at the Capitals, Sunday vs. the Penguins.

Avalanche: How long will this skid go? Right now it's at three games.

Edmonton Oilers: My how long ago that season start seems. They have fallen 23 points behind the Canucks in the Northwest and have lost four in a row. Their one chance to snap that comes against the Kings on Sunday night.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 11, 2012 3:51 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:42 am
 

SI players poll: Phaneuf, Ovechkin most overrated

By Brian Stubits

It's always fun when players are asked who is the most overrated player in their sport. It often shows a divide on how players are perceived within the game vs. outside from the media and fans.

With that in mind, here are the results of Sports Illustrated's poll of 161 players asking them who the most overrated player in the league is.

Taking the cake? Vote-in All-Star defenseman Dion Phaneuf of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although if Phaneuf gets wind of anybody who said it, they can expect one of his completely not overrated checks.

Second in the lineup is Alex Ovechkin from the Capitals. Considering the season-plus he has had, that's easy to see.

There are a couple of things that stick out to me. Players obviously are very aware of how much players are being paid and their corresponding production. Why else would Scott Gomez make No. 3 on this list? I think he fell off the rating radar more than a year ago for the fans/media side. He has become an afterthought for most people, that's how bad he has been. Same goes for Vincent Lecavalier, just to a much lesser extent than Gomez.

The other observation I made is that the list has a high number of Canadian-based players. Eight of the 15 on the list play for one of Canada's seven teams. The Calgary Flames, for example, have three players on the list. That leads me to wondering how Jarome Iginla could crack this list, but I digress.

A name I thought I'd see on here that's absent? Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

Who's your pick for the most overrated?

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 6, 2012 7:36 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 11:48 pm
 

NHLPA blocks new realignment for 2012-13

By: Adam Gretz

Remember all of that time we spent on NHL realignment last month, and how different the league was going to look during the 2012-13 season, all the way down to a new playoff format? Well, it's not happening. At least not at the moment.

The NHL announced on Friday evening that league will maintain its current divisional alignment and playoff format for next season because the NHLPA did not approve of the new plan. In case you didn't remember, the league's CBA is up after this season, and it's pretty clear that the players want to use realignment as a bargaining chip for those discussions.

Here's what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement released by the league:

"It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a Plan that an overwhelming majority of our Clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including Players. We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success.  Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season."

"We believe the Union acted unreasonably in violation of the League’s rights.  We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate."

This is what the new proposal would have looked like:



Later in the night the NHLPA issued a statement of its own (and it's a long one).

“On the evening of December 5, 2011, the NHL informed the NHLPA that they proposed to put in place a four-conference format beginning with the 2012-13 season. As realignment affects Players’ terms and conditions of employment, the CBA requires the League to obtain the NHLPA’s consent before implementation. Over the last month, we have had several discussions with the League and extensive dialogue with Players, most recently on an Executive Board conference call on January 1. Two substantial Player concerns emerged: (1) whether the new structure would result in increased and more onerous travel; and (2) the disparity in chances of making the playoffs between the smaller and larger divisions.

In order to evaluate the effect on travel of the proposed new structure, we requested a draft or sample 2012-13 schedule, showing travel per team.  We were advised it was not possible for the League to do that. We also suggested reaching an agreement on scheduling conditions to somewhat alleviate Player travel concerns (e.g., the scheduling of more back-to-back games, more difficult and lengthier road trips, number of border crossings, etc.), but the League did not want to enter into such a dialogue.  The travel estimation data we received from the League indicates that many of the current Pacific and Central teams, that have demanding travel schedules under the current format, could see their travel become even more difficult. On the playoff qualification matter, we suggested discussing ways to eliminate the inherent differences in the proposed realignment, but the League was not willing to do so.

The League set a deadline of January 6, 2012 for the NHLPA to provide its consent to the NHL’s proposal.   Players’ questions about travel and concerns about the playoff format have not been sufficiently addressed; as such, we are not able to provide our consent to the proposal at this time.  We continue to be ready and willing to have further discussions should the League be willing to do so.”
This all means that, as of right now, the Winnipeg Jets (previously the Atlanta Thrashers) will remainin the Eastern Conference and the Southeast Division for another season and continue to play the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthes and Carolina Hurricanes.

It also means that the CBA talks will be loads of fun. And by fun, I mean total chaos.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

NHL Announces realignment to four conferences
Winners and losers of the new alignment

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com