Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:29 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 9:40 pm
 

Video: Alexei Emelin hip checks teammate Cole

By: Adam Gretz

Thursday's game between the Minnesota Wild and Montreal Canadiens featured some pretty bizarre moments, but the highlight of the night just might have been Alexei Emelin executing a perfect, textbook hip check on Erik Cole.

Cole, of course, is Emelin's teammate, and he was sent flying after the Montreal defenseman whiffed on his intended target -- Minnesota's Nick Johnson -- resulting in Cole doing a complete front-flip.



And they say the hip check is a lost art.

Cole eventually returned to the game and seemed to OK, which is good news for him and the Canadiens.

One of the other noteworthy moments in the game took place late in the first period when Montreal forward Ryan White went a little crazy and started throwing punches at Stephane Veilleux as he was being held by Chris Campoli. White recorded 22 penalty minutes in the first period, including 17 for his series of punches (which you can watch by clicking right here).

 For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 1, 2012 5:43 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 5:52 pm
 

Kris Letang has concussion symptoms

PenguinsBy: Adam Gretz

When defenseman Kris Letang had to leave Wednesday's game in Dallas after being on the receiving end of a big hit from Stars forward Eric Nystrom, the biggest concern for the Penguins had to be whether or not their best blueliner suffered another concussion. He's already missed more than 20 games this season due to one concussion, which came after a hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty. The Penguins have had their share of concussion-related issues this season including injuries to Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy, Arron Asham and, as already mentioned, Letang.

Following Thursday morning's practice in Denver, where the Penguins will play the Avalanche on Saturday, coach Dan Bylsma revealed that Letang is in fact suffering from concussion symptons and will return to Pittsburgh on Sunday for more observation.

Nystrom received a two-minute for roughing on the play, and there was much debate as to whether or not he would face any supplemental discipline from the NHL. Brendan Shanahan, vice president of player safety, announced that Nystrom will not face any additional discipline.

Wrote Shanahan on his official Twitter feed, "Our view is that Letang lunges forward just prior to contact and although it appears that the chin is grazed by the side of Nystrom's arm, the right chest and shoulder of Letang remain the PPOC (principal point of contact)."

NBC's Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick were among the people debating (screaming at each is more like it) whether or not Nystrom should face discipline, and it's probably a shock to anybody that is familair with his opinions on these matters but Milbury was actually on the side of supplemental discipline. Roenick, however, wasn't hearing it as the video below (via wyshynski) shows:



It's a tough play to judge, and it's impossible to figure out what Nystrom's intent was, but it does seem a bit interesting that after facing mounting criticism earlier in the season for the number of suspensions he had been handing out during his first months on the job, the amount of supplemental discipline coming out of the NHL offices has slowed down considerably. You could argue that players cleaned up their act, but there have been plenty of examples of plays that drew punishment earlier in the season but have been overlooked in recent weeks and months.

Two such examples: Ottawa's Kyle Turris and his hit on Boston's Joe Corvo last week, and David Clarkson's charging incident on Monday night.

Either way, the potential loss of Letang for any length of time is a big one for the Penguins. With him they are a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. Without him ... they're probably not.

Previously at Eye On Hockey

Video: Letang injured after hit by Nystrom

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 1, 2012 4:05 pm
 

Caps GM says Ovechkin's weight jumped to 242 lbs.

Ovechkin was the last player to score 60 goals in one season. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

In searching for answers to why Alex Ovechkin's scoring totals have gone down one year to the next recently, a lot of different theories have been floated. Some just point to the statistics and say a regression was in order. Some like myself have pointed more to the league figuring him out. Even others have gone to some other outlandish conclusions.

Since 2007-08 when he had 65 goals, Ovechkin's totals have gone to 56 to 50 to 32 last season. His 26 this year has him a little ahead of last season's pace.

In an interview with ESPN 980, Caps general manager offered something else up that could possibly bear an explanation, or at least a factor (from the Washington Post).

“I think the progression in his weights, he came in 218, 224, 232, 237, 242,” McPhee said, which doesn’t exactly reflect the team’s prior reports. “He played at 242 once, and he got suspended for hitting a few people. And he was crushing guys, and he loved crushing guys, and we said you know what, Bruce always thought he was a better player at about 227. And you can see it when he’s moving out there, he’s flying.”

Putting on 24 pounds isn't the best way to maintain your game when it relies a lot on speed and agility.

For the record, McPhee said Ovechkin is weighing in at 224 right now.

McPhee was also asked about Ovechkin's commitment to the game, something that was put in question by former Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig.

“Um, well, it’s a lot better than it was,” McPhee said, hinting that there was indeed some issues about his commitment level.

How much might this have to do with his numbers decreasing in recent seasons? I don't know. It would only be speculation on anybody's part so attempt to say what affect it had, if any. But the GM more or less admitting in a round-about way that Ovechkin wasn't as committed as much as he should have been is definitely an interesting sign.

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

Posted on: March 1, 2012 1:09 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 1:17 pm
 

USA Hockey, Hockey Canada to ban junior fighting?

The Rangers' Brandon Prust (right) in a 2004 OHL fight. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The discussion of fighting in hockey has been ramped up recently for some obvious reasons. Now USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are on the verge of making the biggest statement yet in the discussion to date.

The New York Times reported this week that the two organizations are looking at banning fighting altogether in the junior ranks.

Viewing fighting as a safety issue in light of increasing concussion research, and unwilling to wait for the National Hockey League to propose changes, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are seriously considering rules that would effectively end fighting in nonprofessional leagues as soon as next season.

The rules would apply to dozens of leagues stretching from near the Arctic Circle to south Texas. Even the three top junior leagues in Canada, major fight-friendly feeder systems to the N.H.L., are considering immediate ways to make fighting a rarity, not an expectation.

“The appetite is there,” said David Branch, the president of the Canadian Hockey League, which oversees the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. “The time is certainly right to move forward.”

Talk about a big move. This would have as big an impact as anything in the discussion that continues. These are the leagues that pump the most talent into the NHL. We're talking about the WHL, OHL, QMJHL and USHL among those that this would effect.

It's important to keep in mind that these are players who aren't paid. Chris M. Peters of United States of Hockey notes that is an important distinction to make.

It’s a different story in Junior hockey. These kids don’t get paid (for the most part). While fighting might fill a few seats here and there, the more significant number of people who go to USHL games are families looking to have a little fun at the arena. Maybe it’s different in the Canadian Hockey League, but I’d imagine a good deal of the folks heading to rinks across the little big towns in Canada are going to get a glimpse of future NHL Stars. Whether those future stars knock the snot out of each other is irrelevant to their enjoyment.

Besides, who over the age of 20 would want to admit that the reason they go to Junior hockey games is to watch a 17-year-old get pumped by a 19-year-old?

Peters goes on to note a study that shows that younger brains are actually not prepared to withstand trauma as well as somebody who is older for a variety of reasons, including the strength of their necks.

You don't need me to tell you that fighting is a huge part of junior hockey. But there are a lot of worthwhile points to getting rid of for the junior ranks and that's on the verge of happening. It has already happened at the NCAA and international levels.

There are going to be a lot of people opposed to this, of course. Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic is one who doesn't like the idea. He was known to drop the gloves a time or two in juniors.

“I’m totally against it,” Lucic told The Province on Wednesday.

“I think there will be more injuries because there’d be no fear of fighting. The game will become dirtier. And, for myself, I don’t think I could have made the NHL the way I did without it.”

That might be the case, it might not be. But we might find out soon.

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

Category: NHL
Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:29 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 11:39 am
 

NHL Award Races: Calder close, Norris not so much

The top two draft picks are in it. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Races. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

We began our Award Races last week by looking at -- in my opinion -- the two most prestigious in the Hart Trophy and the Vezina. One of those races (Vezina) has a clear front-runner then a tight fight for runner-up. The other (Hart) is very tight and will be a battle to the end.

That seems to be what we're talking about this week too, only with the Norris Trophy and Calder. Let's start with the Norris.

At this point, Erik Karlsson seems like a shoe-in for the award. He has taken the points lead and laughed at the rest of the league's defensemen, doing circles around them. He's 23 points ahead of the second highest-scoring defenseman, Brian Campbell. Seriously, he's tied with Henrik Sedin and Joffrey Lupul for sixth in points among all skaters.

Part of the equation that goes into the Norris obviously is how good you are on defense too, it can't be all about offense. But maybe this time it can be, when a guy is just that much more dominant in that regard than the rest of the field. And it's not like Karlsson is completely defenseless. He might not be as good in his own zone as some of the others on this list, but he's responsible enough to garner more than 25 minutes a game in ice time.

So that one is pretty clear. The Calder going to the top rookie? Now this is a race.

At the midpoint of the season it seemed like it was in the bag for last year's No. 1 overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to take the award. Well he's still in the conversation, but he's been joined by others ... and overtaken.

The comments on the second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog's scouting report were promising for instant production. He was seen by most everybody as the most NHL-read prospect in the draft. He has good size already and is a mature player. So his ceiling wasn't believed to be incredibly high, the production was thought to be very good and consistent.

It might have taken him a little while, but now he's showing all of that. Check this out: With the Avalanche making a move to get back into the heart of the playoff race, Landeskog has been great of late. In the last five games he has four goals and four assists while averaging close to 20 minutes a night. Not bad for your first playoff race.

But he has some stiff competition that isn't far behind him at all.

Remember, this is just one man's opinion and there are sure to be disagreements. Feel free to share your thoughts (I know you won't disappoint there).

Award watch
Norris Calder
Erik Karlsson The Ottawa Senators have been the biggest surprise this season and Karlsson has been the biggest surprise for them. In addition to lapping the field in total points, he's also first among defensemen with 15 goals. The offense is just too overwhelming to ignore in his case. Gabriel Landeskog Knowing full well it is not the be-all, end-all of stats in hockey, especially today when advanced metrics are becoming more prevalent, but Landeskog has an impressive plus-22 on the season. That's 13th best in the league. Note: The Avs as a team are minus-5 this season. That has to say something.
Shea Weber Arguably the top all-around defenseman in the game, Weber is a perennial contender for this award, especially as long as he remains in Nashville with Barry Trotz. He's physical and responsible in his own end, explosive and dangerous in the offensive end. There's a reason (lots of them) teams would like to see him in free agency. Adam Henrique He exploded on the scene earlier this season playing with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise in what became one of the better lines in the entire league. But he has cooled down, scoring just two goals and racking up five assists since Jan. 11. His slip combined with Landeskog's surge puts him here.
Nicklas Lidstrom The 41-year-old has won this award seven times. At age 41, he's going to be hard pressed to win an eighth, but that doesn't mean he isn't having a heck of a season. He's still a huge part of what the Red Wings do and is a quintessential two-way defenseman. It's hard to believe he's his age with how he plays. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Injuries have derailed his hopes here, to be sure. Points-per-game wise, he's the best among rookies with 15 goals and 23 assists in 43 games. But the fact that he played one game in January and then missed a few weeks in the middle of February has hurt his chances. He has come back with two goals and an assist in the last three, though.
Brian Campbell Without Campbell, there's no telling where Florida would be in the standings. He was the big acquisition of the summer by Dale Tallon and he's found his comfort zone after a scrutinizing time in Chicago. He is second among dmen in points and routinely plays close to 30 minutes a game for the Panthers. Matt Read Of all the rookies playing in Philadelphia this season -- and there are a lot -- Read has been the best, and probably the most surprising. The 25-year-old has 16 goals with 19 assists playing multiple roles for the Flyers. He also has only four minor penalties on the season with no majors. That counts for something.
Ryan Suter Still a bit overshadowed by his teammate Weber in Nashville, Suter is obviously no slouch. He'll be the most coveted free agent this summer if the Predators can't re-sign him. Like Weber he's a good two-way player who isn't as threatening in the offensive zone but can score. He has seven goals and 30 assists. Cody Hodgson He could be a dark horse in this race with his recent trade to the Sabres. In Vancouver he wasn't getting a lot of ice time being stuck between Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler but being in Buffalo could give him a shot to flourish. He has a good starting point with 16 goals and 17 assists despite averaging just 12:44 of ice time per game for the Canucks.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Hart: Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Lundqvist, Claude Giroux

Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott

Jack Adams: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, Pavel Datsyuk

Top GM: Dale Tallon, Don Maloney, David Poile

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

Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:53 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:01 am
 

Morning Skate: Sabres creeping back in

Miller has wins in four of his last five starts. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

10:30 ET, Buffalo at San Jose

Well would you look at that, the Buffalo Sabres are back in the conversation. Somewhat miraculously it's true.

Ryan Miller is showing flashes of the goaltender America came to know two years ago. He's been up to the quality we've come to expect from him in recent games, including Wednesday's shutout of the not-long-ago streaking Anaheim Ducks. As a result -- and of the East's struggle at the bottom -- the Sabres begin the day only five points back of Washington.

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's time to remind everybody that the chances still aren't good and that's a lot of ground to make up still. According to Sports Club Stats, the odds the Sabres make the postseason are still only 4.1 percent. A win tonight in San Jose, however, then we're talking. They would hop two teams and move into 10th place, just three behind Washington (and we'll wait to see what Winnipeg does).

The Sharks meanwhile are still fighting for a playoff spot that is in no way guaranteed to be theirs right now. They just grabbed a huge 1-0 win over the Flyers the other night in San Jose to give them a little breathing room from the eighth-place chasers.

8 ET, Florida at Winnipeg

The Panthers are one of the rare teams that have had success this season in Winnipeg. They have played their twice and won both times. In those two games, Kris Versteeg scored five goals. To put that into context, he has 22 on the season, so nearly 1/4 of his goals have come at MTS Centre despite play 2/59 of his games there.

So the good news for the Jets? Versteeg won't be playing. That's a huge plus for a team that really needs this game at home. Winnipeg enters the night with four fewer points despite three more games played. Win this one and the Panthers stay within reach, fail to pick up any points and, well, that gets to be a big task.

But luckily for the Jets, the eighth seed in the East is still available too. They enter the night one point behind Washington there and can jump back into playoff position by the end of the evening. Again though, they have all those games in hand. That's why their margin for error is so slim, they need to pick up 2/3 of the points available the rest of the season to have a good shot.

9 ET, Calgary at Phoenix

The good news for the Flames as they head to face the Coyotes? The calendar no longer shows February. Phoenix was literally unbeatable (in regulation) for the month going 11-0-1 which included a comeback win in Calgary a week ago.

With that game a key culprit in the equation, the Flames have been slipping lately despite playing a home-heavy schedule. Perhaps getting away from home -- however unlikely that is -- might help them get back on track. It's about time they do if they want to keep in the conversation. Because right now they are four points back of being in with two teams in between them.

And it's not a terribly big secret why the Flames have lost four in a row. Miikka Kiprusoff can only be superman back there for so long. Without him it's hard to picture Calgary still being in the race. In the last four games, however, he has given up 15 goals as well as picking up a loss in two shootouts.

On the other side they face the hottest goaltender this side of ... well anywhere. You can already write Mike Smith's name in pen for the first start of the month of February. He was 11-0-0 in the month. My word.

Others worth watching

10 ET, St. Louis at Vancouver: Hoooo boy, this should be a good win. By virtue of a tie-breaker, these are the top two teams in the Western Conference. Heck, if the Blues win, they're in the lead for the Presidents' Trophy. Plus they have four straight wins on the road. Buckle up.

9 ET, Columbus at Colorado: The Blue Jackets might be out of it, but the Avalanche certainly aren't. They have the opportunity to move into the eighth spot in the West tonight. Pretty remarkable for a team that has been as streaky as they have.

7 ET, New Jersey at Boston: There isn't a whole lot here on the Devils' end. They are somewhat comfy in, but they'd like to start winning again to feel a little better. The Bruins actually find themselves in a division race. They have been mediocre (yes, really) for well over a month now.

Your promised miscellany

  • Wednesday's Winners & Losers
  • Rangers captain Ryan Callahan might be out for the Rangers' game against the Hurricanes tonight. (Rangers Rants)
  • A look through the mirrors back to an age of smoking in hockey. (SI)
  • The Ducks' slim playoff chances are getting even slimmer now and the team is showing some frustration. (O.C. Register)
  • ECHL coach Nick Vitucci lost his mind with the officials and went on one hell of a tirade. (Puck Daddy)

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

Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:07 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 12:48 am
 

Winners & Losers: Penguins, Blackhawks, Leafs



By: Adam Gretz

There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.

Winners

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pittsburgh-Dallas Stars matchup is your typical, run-of-the-mill East vs. West game that takes place once, maybe twice per year.

There really isn't much of a history between the two teams, and it's not really a game that would (or probably should) get any extra attention on your schedule.

But man, something flipped the switch on Wednesday night as the two teams played one of the most physical -- and entertaining -- games of the season, with what appeared to be plenty of bad blood. The Penguins lost Kris Letang and Steve Sullivan during the game, and didn't necessarily play their best, but still ended up coming away with the 4-3 win in a shootout. That gives them another two points in the Eastern Conference standings and moves them three points ahead of the Senators (with two games in hand) and four points ahead of the Philadlephia Flyers.

The real concern for the Penguins now is the status of Letang, easily their best defenseman. With all of the talk about Sidney Crosby's absence this season (and back to last season) the Penguins still have plenty of scoring and depth down the middle, especially with the way Evgeni Malkin and Jodan Staal are playing. They can still be a Stanley Cup contender, if not one of the favorites, without Crosby, and have played like it.

They may not be without Letang. During his earlier absence the Penguins were 10-11 witout him.

[Related: Penguins 4, Stars 3 -- Kris Letang injured (Video)]

Chicago Blackhawks: February hasn't been the best month for the Chicago Blackhawks, and entering Wedneday's game against the Maple Leafs, another team that's been sleepwalking through the month, the Blackhawks were riding a three-game losing streak and falling dangerously close to the Western Conference playoff bubble.

After falling down early in the first period, the Blackhawks roared back and earned a 5-4 win thanks to a big performance from Marian Hossa, scoring two goals, including the game-winner ... which turned out to be an empty net goal late in the third period.

[Related: Blackhawks 5, Maple Leafs 4]

Ryan Miller: The Sabres goalie spoke out earlier in the week about his team trading Paul Gaustad to the Nashville Predators for a draft pick (he didn't like it), and in his first appearance since the trade deadline he played perhaps his best game of the season, stopping all 43 shots he faced, including 20 in the third period alone, as Buffalo picked up a 2-0 win over the Ducks to keep a small glimmer of hope alive when it comes to its playoff chances.

[Related Sabres 2, Ducks 0 -- Sabres trade Gaustad to Nashville]

Losers

Toronto Maple Leafs
: After slow start after slow start, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally had a fast start on Wednesday night in Chicago, in a game they absolutely needed to win, not only for their playoff hopes, but to keep some sort of sanity within the city of limits of Toronto. They actually jumped out to a 3-1 lead first period lead.

Things looked promising. And then they watched as the bottom completely fell out, resulting in a 5-4 loss to the Blackhawks. And just like that, things went from bad to total meltdown.

Toronto has now lost 10 of its past 11 games, with the only win during that stretch coming in overtime against the Edmonton Oilers, and remain four points behind the Washington Capitals for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference -- a playoff spot that no team seems to want.

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks already slim playoff hopes took a big hit on Wednesday night, and thanks to the Stars gaining a point in a shootout loss, and Anaheim's 2-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, Bruce Boudreau's bunch now finds itself seven points out of the No. 8 seed in the West, and still in 13th place.

They put together a heck of an effort in the third period, firing 20 shots at Ryan Miller (and 43 for the game) but could never break through on the scoreboard.

[Related: Playoff Race]

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:44 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:58 pm
 

Kris Letang injured after Eric Nystrom hit

By: Adam Gretz

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang missed 20 games earlier this season with a concussion after he was hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty (and then made a controversial return to that game, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime).

That's why it had to be scary for the Penguins to see him go down early in the first period of Wednesday's game in Dallas after a hit by Eric Nystrom.



Letang left the game and his night appears to be over. On the list of players the Penguins can't afford to lose, Letang's name is near the top as he is without a doubt their best defenseman and plays the most minutes in every situation.

Perhaps the most shocking thing to come as a result of the hit was NBC analyst Mike Milbury, who seems to usually favor on-ice anarchy, condemned the hit and argued during the first intermission that it should be worth at least a five-game suspension.

The league will certainly review it, as it does every play, and it's impossible to guess what, if anything, will come out of it. The argument for a suspension is that there's contact to the head and Nystrom took advantage of a vulnerable player. The argument against is that Letang put himself in that vulnerable position and the puck-carrier has just as much responsibility as the player delivering the hit. It should be interesting to see how the NHL interprets it.

Nystrom was issued a two-minute minor for roughing.

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