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Tag:Sidney Crosby
Posted on: October 10, 2011 8:36 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Sid to see docs this week, could get contact OK

By Brian Stubits

Rumors were beginning to circulate, again, last week that Sidney Crosby could be close to a return. Of course, that was about the seventeenth time that's happened in the past 10 months, but seeing as how Crosby has been doing non-contract skating with the Penguins lately, it seemed more realistic.

He could get some great news toward that end this week. Originally it was reported he would meet with his doctors on Tuesday where he could possibly be cleared for contact, but that meeting will now happen later this week, per Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Here is what Rossi's original story reported about the meeting with doctors.

[Clinical neuropsychologist Michael] Collins has overseen Crosby's treatment from the start and will determine if he can return to contact situations in practices -- the next step as Crosby prepares for his anticipated return to games.

Crosby addressed the situation himself on Tuesday, saying that he has a meeting this week, but it's nothing out of the ordinary.

Crosby said that he'd love more than anybody for the doctors to tell him he's OK to play, but that he has no clue when that could be. As far as how he's feeling, all he would say is that he feels better today than yesterday, whether that was used in a literal sense or more figurative, I'm not sure.

If -- a big if -- Crosby is given the green light for contact, then we might be able to truly set a timetable for his return. This will only be another step. Granted it would be a massive one if he is cleared, but it's still just another step. Don't expect to see him in the lineup for the Penguins' home opener Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers.

Crosby hasn't played in a game since January 5 against the Lightning a game after he suffered a concussion against the Capitals. In that time, there has never been any definite recovery date set.

But you can at least get a little excited Pittsburgh. There was also this from Rossi:

There is a general feel within the organization that the face of the franchise is doing better now than at any point during his recovery.

A somewhat coy Crosby seemed to back that part up in the above interview.

At this point, it's getting hard not to notice a lot of signs indicating things are getting better. And most every hockey fan agree -- even those that hate Crosby -- that his return is good for the game.

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

Posted on: October 6, 2011 2:23 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 2:28 pm
 

NHL prop bets: Sidney Crosby's games played, more

By Brian Stubits

I'm not a betting man. Seriously, I've never made anything more than a friendly wager in my life. But I still enjoy looking at the odds, especially Vegas prop odds.

I think the most interesting of all the ones released by bodog.com this week are the ones pertaining to Sidney Crosby. The over/under on the amount of games he plays has been set at 60.5. That is starting to seem very attainable, too, as it seems Crosby is close to being cleared for contact. Interestingly enough, Crosby is also third down the list of Hart Trophy candidates at 13/2, trailing only Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos.

Speaking of Stamkos and Ovechkin, t's also interesting to note that according to the oddsmakers, nobody is a lock to score 50 goals this season. Stamkos has the highest over/under followed by Ovechkin. Here are the top 5.

Steven Stamkos -- 47.5
Alexander Ovechkin -- 43.5
Corey Perry -- 41.5
Ilya Kovalchuk -- 38.5
Daniel Sedin -- 36.5

A couple other names of note are Zach Parise at 35.5, trendy Hart Trophy pick Evgeni Malkin at 31.5 and Jeff Carter at 34.5.

Here are some of the oddball prop bets for this season. If the preseason is any indication I'm taking the over, WAY OVER on 40 1/2 suspensions.

How many NHL head coaches will be fired during the 2011-2012 regular season?
Over/Under: 1 ½

Total Player suspensions during the 2011-12 NHL season?
Over/Under: 40 ½

Total fines during the 2011-12 NHL season?
Over/Under: 16 ½

Lastly, here are the over/under point totals for the top four or five scorers for every team in the league. There are a few enticing numbers on there, but again, interesting nobody has an over/under in the triple digits.

Point Total Over/Unders
Anaheim
Corey Perry 87.5
Ryan Getzlaf 78.5
Bobby Ryan 71.5
Teemu Selanne 52.5
Boston
David Krejci 67.5
Milan Lucic 58.5
Nathan Horton 58.5
Patrice Bergeron 56.5
Buffalo
Derek Roy 69.5
Thomas Vanek 64.5
Brad Boyes 57.5
Drew Stafford 52.5
Calgary
Jarome Iginla 80.5
Alex Tanguay 62.5
Olli Jokinen 52.5
Rene Bourque 47.5
Carolina
Eric Staal 74.5
Jeff Skinner 66.5
Jussi Jokinen 51.5
Tomas Kaberle 44.5
Chicago
Patrick Kane 75.5
Jonathan Toews 74.5
Patrick Sharp 65.5
Marian Hossa 60.5
Colorado
Matt Duchene 70.5
Paul Stastny 66.5
Peter Mueller 50.5
Milan Hejduk 48.5
Columbus
Rick Nash 71.5
Jeff Carter 66.5
A. Vermette 54.5
R.J. Umberger 52.5
Dallas
Loui Eriksson 65.5
Mike Ribeiro 65.5
Jamie Benn 64.5
Brenden Morrow 48.5
Detroit
Pavel Datsyuk 83.5
Henrik Zetterberg 76.5
Johan Franzen 54.5
Nicklas Lidstrom 53.5
Edmonton
Taylor Hall 55.5
Jordan Eberle 53.5
Ales Hemsky 46.5
Linus Omark 45.5
Ryan Whitney 44.5
Florida
Stephen Weiss 56.5
Kris Versteeg 45.5
T. Fleischmann 45.5
David Booth 44.5
Los Angeles
Anze Kopitar 76.5
Mike Richards 66.5
Dustin Brown 55.5
Justin Williams 47.5
Minnesota
Dany Heatley 69.5
Mikko Koivu 68.5
Devin Setoguchi 40.5
G. Latendresse 37.5
Montreal
Tomas Plekanec 57.5
Mike Cammalleri 51.5
Brian Gionta 47.5
Max Pacioretty 45.5
Scott Gomez 45.5
Nashville
Patric Hornqvist 50.5
Martin Erat 50.5
Shea Weber 47.5
Ryan Suter 40.5
New Jersey
Zach Parise 77.5
Ilya Kovalchuk 74.5
Patrik Elias 59.5
Mattias Tedenby 37.5
New York Islanders
John Tavares 71.5
Michael Grabner 52.5
Matt Moulson 49.5
Frans Nielsen 46.5
New York Rangers
Brad Richards 77.5
Marian Gaborik 61.5
B. Dubinsky 56.5
Ryan Callahan 52.5
Ottawa
Jason Spezza 64.5
D. Alfredsson 54.5
Erik Karlsson 43.5
Bobby Butler 39.5
Milan Michalek 36.5
Philadelphia
Claude Giroux 75.5
Jaromir Jagr 63.5
Danny Briere 62.5
J. van Riemsdyk 50.5
Phoenix
Shane Doan 56.5
Keith Yandle 55.5
Radim Vrbata 49.5
Daymond Langkow 34.5
Pittsburgh
Evgeni Malkin 82.5
Sidney Crosby 79.5
Jordan Staal 48.5
Kris Letang 46.5
San Jose
Joe Thornton 75.5
Joe Pavelski 68.5
Patrick Marleau 66.5
Martin Havlat 63.5
St. Louis
David Backes 55.5
Chris Stewart 53.5
Andy McDonald 52.5
Patrik Berglund 50.5
Tampa Bay
Steven Stamkos 95.5
Martin St. Louis 93.5
Vincent Lecavalier 64.5
Teddy Purcell 52.5
Toronto
Phil Kessel 67.5
C. MacArthur 54.5
Nikolai Kulemin 51.5
M. Grabovski 49.5
Tim Connolly 47.5
Vancouver
Daniel Sedin 93.5
Henrik Sedin 92.5
Ryan Kesler 57.5
Alex Burrows 52.5
M. Samuelsson 47.5
Washington
Alex Ovechkin 98.5
Nicklas Backstrom 78.5
Alexander Semin 63.5
Mike Green 49.5
Winnipeg
Andrew Ladd 56.5
Evander Kane 52.5
Blake Wheeler 51.5
Tobias Enstrom 50.5
Bryan Little 47.5
   

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 12:43 pm
 

50 things to know, ask and watch for this season

SC4

By: Adam Gretz


The biggest thing we're watching as the NHL gets ready to drop the puck on the 2011-12 season is when will Penguins captain Sidney Crosby be able return to the lineup?

The only answer to that question, of course, is simply "when he's ready," and not a moment sooner.

But when will that be? That's the question we've been asking since January, and even though it appears to be getting closer, and optimism about his return is higher than it's ever been since he was knocked out of the lineup on Jan. 6, he's not going to be on the ice when the Penguins open up in Vancouver on Thursday night, and he isn't likely to be cleared for contact until Pittsburgh returns from its season-opening trek through western Canada.

Perhaps just as important as when he returns, is whether or not he'll be the same player he was before he left. Prior to the injury Crosby's game had evolved over the previous two seasons to the point where he went from being a great set-up man to the Penguins' go-to goal-scorer, as well as their No. 1 option in the face-off circle. When he left the Penguins' lineup last season he was in the middle of the best year of his career and was on a pace to shatter just about all of his previous career highs.

Not only due to the length of his absence from the game and from contact, but also because of the nature of the injury, there has to be a question of how quickly he'll be able to be that player again.

So that's the big story we're watching this year, and here the other 49 of our 50 things to know, ask and watch for during the 2010-11 season…

2. CBA Talks: This likely won't be settled during the season, but it's still going to loom large and is the giant elephant sitting in the living room ready to make a huge stinking mess all over the couch and floor if you don't feed him on time. The NFL had its lockout come and go, missing only a couple of weeks of training camp and a meaningless preseason game, and the NBA lockout continues to roll on. And soon it will be the NHL's turn. The last time the league was in this situation we lost an entire season, so there's that to keep in mind. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball continues to have labor peace. What a strange world we live in.

3. Brendan Shanahan: The first question we have is whether or not Brendan Shanahan will get tired of making those videos? (We hope the answer is no; because they're great). The second question is whether or not the suspensions will continue at the same torrid pace we saw in the preseason, or if that was simply the "message sending" phase? And if so, will the players get the message?

4. Player safety debates: After a disturbingly dreadful summer that saw the untimely deaths of three young players, all of whom were fighters, the fighting debate reached an entirely new level, even though we don't know how -- or if -- the two were connected. Should all hits to the head be banned? Is no-touch icing long overdue? Crosby's concussion is the one everybody is talking about, but there's also Matthew Lombardi in Toronto and his recovery. Marc Staal, the top defenseman for the New York Rangers, is still having problems following the concussion he suffered late last season, and there's concern as to whether or not Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins will ever play in an NHL game again.

5. Winter Classic: The highlight of the NHL's regular season schedule takes place in Philadelphia between two bitter rivals, the Flyers and Rangers, on Jan. 2. It's the first time a New York team has appeared in the game, and the Flyers host it for the first time after losing to Boston in overtime back in 2010. Last year's game in Pittsburgh featured unseasonable warmth and rain, forcing a delay and some miserable ice conditions. Here's hoping Eastern Pennsylvania gives us better weather.

6. Winnipeg Jets return: The playoffs would be great for no other reason than to see a return of the Winnipeg Whiteout, but even though that seems like a long shot at this point their first taste of the NHL since 1996 should make every game at the MTS Centre have the feel of a Stanley Cup Final game.



7. Bruins repeat attempt: Over the past 20 years we've only seen two teams repeat as Stanley Cup Champions -- the 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 1996 and 1997 Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins seem to have what it takes to return to the top of the NHL mountain.

8. Realignment decision: The NHL hasnt gone through a divisional realignment in over a decade but it appears to be coming. Detroit wants to go to the East and claims that it's been promised that it will happen, and Winnipeg should be headed to the west.  What other changes -- if any -- will we see?

9. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: The No. 1 overall pick in the June draft is starting the season with the Edmonton Oilers after a strong preseason effort. Is it simply a nine-game look before he gets sent back to his Junior team, or does he make it through the entire season with the big club? Recent history is on his side for making a full-season stay with the Oilers.

10. The NBA lockout: No, this isn't specifically an NHL issue, but if the NBA lockout rolls into the regular season will the NHL gain more exposure because of it, and, perhaps more importantly, will the league be able to take advantage of that opportunity?

11. Life in Philly without Richards and Carter and with Bryzgalov: After a revolving door of mediocre goaltending and an endless list of questions about the position over the years, the Philadelphia Flyers went all in on Ilya Bryzgalov. And now there are some questions about how they'll be able to score after trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

12. Capitals' offensive/defensive balance: Last season the Washington Capitals went from a run-and-gun offensive juggernaut to a defensive-minded team that went from 15th in goals allowed per game the previous season all the way up to fourth. Can they find the happy medium this season and finally get over the playoff hump?

SW313. Nashville negotiations: It took the arbitration process to get Shea Weber signed to a one-year deal, and he's up for restricted free agency again this offseason. Even worse for the Predators is the upcoming unrestricted free agency of Ryan Suter. And don't forget starting goaltender, and last year's runner-up in the Vezina voting, Pekka Rinne. Two big-time defensemen, a top goalie and three massive contract questions for one of the NHL's most efficient franchises.

14. Doughty's new dough: Drew Doughty is now the third highest paid defensemen in the NHL on a yearly basis, and that means he's going to be expected to play like one of the top defensemen in the NHL. He's shown he's capable of it in the past, but his production regressed a bit last season. When you're making over $7 million a year that can no longer happen.

15. Sales of Dallas, Phoenix and St. Louis: We're still waiting for some sort of resolution to the three ownership sales that have dragged on for quite a while.

16. Year two of Boucher in Tampa Bay: In his debut season Guy Boucher took the Tampa Bay Lightning to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals, and that surely has expectations high for his second year on the job.

17. New-look Sharks: Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi are gone. Martin Havlat and Brent Burns are in. Either San Jose and Minnesota are swapping rosters one trade at a time, or the Sharks feel these are the moves that can finally get them to kick through the door that has been the Western Conference Finals.

18. Perry's encore: OK, let's be honest, nobody had Corey Perry scoring 50 goals and leading the NHL last season, right? He's always been an excellent player -- and a frustrating one to play against, and an easy player to, let's say ... dislike, when he's not on your team-- but prior to last year he only topped the 30-goal mark once in his career. Logic says he returns closer to the 30-goal player he's always been. But logic also said he wouldn't score 50 goals last year.

19. Thomas, the Vezina and the Hart Trophy: Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has won the Vezina Trophy two of the past three years, and would have to be the early season favorite to win it again. He's also set his sights on another major NHL award: The Hart Trophy. That one is going to be tough simply because goalies don't typically win that award. It's only happened seven times in the history of the league, and only three times since the league expanded beyond six teams -- Jose Theodore in 2002, and back-to-back wins for Dominik Hasek in 1997 and 1998.  

20. First-year coaches: Is there a Guy Boucher rookie success story among the NHL's new head coaches, including first-year guys like Minnesota's Mike Yeo, Florida's Kevin Dineen, Winnipeg's Claude Noel and Ottawa's Paul MacLean?

21. Pegula-ville: Buffalo has always been a great hockey town, but these people are absolutely stoked about their new owner, and he went on a summer spending spree that topped just about every other team in the league. But will it pay off?

22. NHL starts in Europe: The Ducks, Sabres, Rangers and Kings are all opening their season in Europe. Will one of these teams lift Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the season? Fun fact: In each of the past three seasons a team that started its season overseas ended up winning the Stanley Cup -- Pittsburgh in 2008, Chicago in 2009 and Boston in 2010.

23. Brodeur's last hurrah? Martin Brodeur has accomplished just about everything a goaltender can accomplish as a hockey player, but will this be his final year in the NHL? Back in April he hinted that it could be.

BR124. Rangers have a new star: Hello, Brad Richards. You're the latest free agent savior of the New York Rangers! Actually, after so many free agency failures over the years this might be one signing that really does pay off for blue shirts in a big way.

25. Islanders arena situation: What will come of the Islanders quest for a new -- and needed -- home? Is Brooklyn the answer?

26. Sophomore slumps: Do you believe in the Sophomore jinx? Personally, I don't, but I am curious to see what Carolina's Jeff Skinner and San Jose's Logan Couture have to offer in year two.

27. New Panthers ... new results? No team was busier this summer than the Florida Panthers, completely overhauling their roster, in part because they had to spend an obscene amount of money just to reach the NHL's salary cap floor. It's definitely a new team, but is it a better team? I guess that depends on how much faith you have in Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Scott Upshall.

28. How bad are the Senators? On paper, it looks like it's going to be a long season for Ottawa as it celebrates its 20th year in the NHL, but how bad are we talking here? Simply on the outside of the playoff picture, or are we looking at a team that's competing for the worst mark in the NHL?

29. Breakthrough year for Kings: After acquiring Mike Richards the Kings went from being a playoff team in the Western Conference to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender with the type of depth down the middle (Richards, Anze Kopitar and Jarett Stoll) a team needs to win it all.

30. Hiller's recovery from vertigo: Jonas Hiller says the vertigo symptoms that robbed him of a good portion of his season -- and the playoffs -- a year ago are gone, and the Ducks need that to be the case if they're going to make a push in the Western Conference. Hiller is one of the best goalies in the league and if he's 100 percent healthy can be a difference maker for Anaheim.

31. Heatley back on a top line: Coming off one of the worst goal-scoring seasons of his career Dany Heatley gets a fresh start in Minnesota, and he's going to be relied on to be a top goal-scoring option for the Wild. Was last year the start of a decline in Heatley's career, or does he return to the 40-goal form we're used to seeing?

32. Will Detroit's defense be good enough? The Red Wings defense has declined a bit in recent years, and this year they're looking to replace Brian Rafalski following his retirement. Nicklas Lidstrom still scores like a champ, but he's not getting any younger back there.

33. Is Matt Cooke a changed man? Penguins agitator Matt Cooke claims he's a changed man following a season that saw him earn two suspensions, including a 17-game ban following a hit on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. It's one thing to say it, but we have to see it.

34. Varlamov gets another shot: The Avalanche need the Semyon Varlamov gamble to work out, not just because they desperately need an upgrade in net, owning the worst save percentage in the league last season, but also because their first-round pick in 2012 -- perhaps a very, very high selection -- now belongs to the Washington Capitals as a result of the trade that brought him to Colorado.  

35. Benn will star for the Stars: The Dallas Stars have done a nice job developing forwards in recent years, and Jamie Benn looks like he's ready to become a 30-goal scorer.

36. Bryzgalov will be missed in Phoenix: The Coyotes will struggle to return to the playoffs for a third consecutive year as they try to replace Ilya Bryzgalov with Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera. Smith is familiar with coach Dave Tippett, but Bryzgalov was a big part of their success the past two years and he won't be easy to replace.

37. The Blue Jackets will be more entertaining: Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski fill huge needs and Ryan Johansen can be a contender for the Calder Trophy. The playoffs are a real possibility in Columbus, and even if the Jackets fail to qualify, they will at least be a more interesting team to watch this year.

38. Patrick Kane at center: Simply put, how long will this experiment last?

39. Vokoun/Neuvirth/Holtby trio of goaltenders in Washington: An experienced veteran signed for way below his market value and two extremely talented youngsters. Michal Neuvirth still thinks the job is his, and when combined with his talent that level of determination has to be an exciting prospect for the Capitals. Vokoun, though, is no slouch and has been one of the best goaltenders in the league the past few years playing on one of the league's worst teams.

40. Malkin's return to the top of the scoring race: For most players, simply averaging a point-per-game is a success. For a player with Malkin's ability it's considered a disappointment. This season he looks poised to return to the top of the NHL's scoring race and contend for the Art Ross Trophy. Speaking of which...

Sedins

41. Will somebody other than the Sedin's win the scoring title? The past two years two different players from the same family have won the NHL's scoring title. Is it a three-peat for the Sedin twins?

42. Jaromir Jagr: Does he have anything left? The summer of Jagr was certainly interesting, especially if you were following the #jagrwatch on Twitter, but how much does the 39-year-old forward have left in the tank? Philadelphia might need a lot.

43. How big of an issue is Markov's knee? Andrei Markov is still Montreal's best defenseman and he's still fighting through some problems with the knee injuries that have plagued him over the past two years. After losing Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik the Canadiens need him to be healthy.

44. Will Detroit need an upgrade on Jimmy Howard? The Red Wings say they're happy with their goaltending situation, but twice in the past seven months they've tried to add a veteran goaltender, signing Evgeni Nabokov last season only to lose him on waivers before he could report to the team, and making a run at Tomas Vokoun this summer. That's not a coincidence.

45. Center of attention in Toronto: The Maple Leafs have been searching for a true No. 1 center for quite some time, and after missing out on Brad Richards over the summer went with Tim Connolly on a two-year deal. The good news is he's not a bad player, but the bad news is he's constantly injured. Matthew Lombardi is in the mix if he can overcome his concussion problem, but after that it's a relatively thin group. Heck, even with them it's a thin group.

46. Edmonton's defense: The Oilers have loads of potential at the forward positions but their defense is a mess after Ryan Whitney. Who will step up on their blue line?

47. How many games for DiPietro? Like the Oilers the Islanders hope rests with their collection of forwards while serious questions about their defense and goaltending will haunt them all year. For the Islanders the yearly question (as it will be through 2020) is how many games will the oft-injured Rick DiPietro be in the lineup?

48. Bouwmeester: big money, little offense in Calgary: When the Flames gave Jay Bouwmeester over $6 million per year three years ago they were probably expecting way more offense than this. He's averaged just around 27 points per season since signing with Calgary after averaging over 40 during his finals three seasons with Florida, primarily because his goal-scoring ability has suddenly disappeared. Sixty-eight defenseman recorded more points than his 24 last season.

49. Parise's return: Not only his return to the lineup for the full-season, but also his return to being one of the top left wings in the NHL, will go a long way toward helping the Devils in their effort return to the playoffs after a disappointing season a year ago. In a contract year, Parise needs a big season on a personal level to strike it rich next summer.

50. How many 50-goal scorers will we see? During the 2010-11 season we saw one 50-goal scorer (Perry), down from the three we had the previous season. The preseason favorites have to be Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, and Crosby might be able to get into that mix if he returns to action early enough.

Photos: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 5, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: October 5, 2011 10:01 am
 

Daily Skate: Leafs' Franson not pleased with role

By Brian Stubits

FRANSON FRUSTRATION: The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Cody Franson in a trade with the Predators presumably because they thought he could play on their blue line. So did he. Well as they break camp in Toronto, Franson is still on the roster, but is the seventh defenseman. "Right now I'm not too thrilled with it," Franson said. This will be worth watching. (Globe and Mail)

DEBUT DELAY? Martin Havlat is ready to begin his tenure as a member of the San Jose Sharks, but it might have to wait just a little longer. The former Wild forward acquired this summer in a trade flew to Cleveland to meet with a shoulder surgeon hoping to gain clearance for Saturday's first game. Havlat had his shoulder operated on in the offseason after getting hurt in the World Championships. (Working the Corners)

LESSON LEARNED: In September, Milan Lucic made his way into some negative publicity when he was involved in a slight confrontation with his girlfriendand pulled the "Do you know who I am?" card. The young Bruins scorer says the whole incident taught him a major lesson. As far as the "DYKWIA?" card? He says it wasn't to get special treatment, but to ask the police to think of why he, with so much to lose, would do anything to jeopardize it. (CSN New England)

CHARITABLE RIVALS: When the Capitals and Penguins get together in Pittsburgh on Oct. 13, they will be wearing commemorative patches on their jerseys for the KHL's Lokomotiv team. After the game, they will autograph then auction off the jerseys and donate all the proceeds to the families of the players killed in the plane crash. (CBSSports.com)

STILL NO. 1: TSN put out their list of the Top 50 players in the NHL for this season, so who is No. 1? It's still Sidney Crosby, even if there's no guarantee as to when he'll return from post-concussion symptoms. No surprise that he comes in just ahead of Alexander Ovechkin. (TSN)

LUCKY LINEMATE: The winner of the Marian Gaborik-Brad Richards linemate sweepstakes with the Rangers is ... Brandon Dubinsky. He'll start the Rangers' game on Friday manning the left wing spot on the top line and coach John Tortorella will "see where it goes" from there. (@thenyrangers)

NOT A SAAD STORY: The Blackhawks are loaded with talent. It's why many see them as a Stanley Cup contender this season. So that gives you an idea how much second-round pick Brandon Saad impressed as he not only has earned a spot on the roster, but is slated to start on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. Not too bad for a player whose draft stock slipped. (CSN Chicago)

COUTURIER A CATCH: Saad isn't the only player who slipped in the draft that is looking like more than a player on an extended tryout. Sean Couturier was once seen as maybe the best prospect in the draft but fell to No. 8 where the Flyers were waiting with open arms. GM Paul Holmgren is willing to give up a season of control of his contract if Couturier continues to make an impact. (Philadelphia Sports Daily)

HUBYMANIA ENDS: Not all the top draft picks are going to get that extended look. The Panthers elected to send No. 3 overall draft choice Jonathan Huberdeau back to his junior team on Tuesday despite the forward leading the Cats in scoring this preseason. Interesting that a team so desparate to win and attract fans is willing to let their top prospect develop. (NHL.com)

BOUDREAU MIC'D AGAIN: This time it's clear of profanity ... because it's bleeped out. Bruce Boudrea, the Capitals coach who drew plenty of attention for his actions (and words) in HBO's 24/7 last season, was mic'd up for the Capitals' first preseason game held in Baltimore and let's just say he didn't like getting shut out.

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

Posted on: October 1, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 4:35 pm
 

Crosby not expected to play in opener

SC3By: Adam Gretz

When it was announced that Sidney Crosby would be joining the Penguins on their season opening trip to western Canada there seemed to be a slim chance that he might be ready for their game against Vancouver on Thursday night.

That, of course, seemed like an extreme long shot with perhaps a less than one percent chance of actually happening -- and even that might be overselling it -- seeing as how he hasn't even been cleared for contact yet, a rather large hurdle that still needs to be overcome in his comeback from a concussion.

On Saturday any hope of him being ready for the opener went away when Crosby all but ruled himself out saying, "No. I wouldn't expect it."

The Penguins' captain hasn't appeared in a game since Jan. 5 of last season against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he was hit by defenseman Victor Hedman, which came less than a week after his run-in with Washington's Dave Steckel during the Winter Classic. Prior to suffering the season-ending concussion he had scored 32 goals in 41 games and was running away with the NHL's scoring lead. Even though he played what amounts to just half the season he still finished 31st in the league in points and 18th in goals. On a per-game basis (goals per game and points per game) it was by far the best season of his already impressive career.

Earlier this week Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette mentioned on Twitter that Crosby had been involved in some minor, incidental contact in practice, but that it was nothing even remotely close to game contact and he was still wearing the white non-contact helmet. Evgeni Malkin, Crosby's teammate, caused even more excitement when he Tweeted on the same day that Crosby was involved in a contact portion of practice, before quickly following it up by jokingly saying that he just bumped him on a faceoff. And that's what it's come to at this point.

In the end, even though it appears that Crosby is progressing and getting closer to returning, he still has to be cleared for contact, and until that happens the waiting will continue.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: September 27, 2011 6:08 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Atlantic Division Preview: Penguins climb to top

Atlantic1

By: Adam Gretz

Since the NHL went it to its current divisional alignment with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey and both New York teams occupying the Atlantic Division it's pretty much been a three-team race at the top every year.

Since the 1998-99 season only three teams have managed to win the Atlantic outright -- New Jersey (seven times), Philadelphia (four times) and Pittsburgh (one time). The Rangers and Islanders have never won it, while only one of them, the Islanders during the 2001-02 season, has finished higher than third (second place).

Will it be one of the same three teams fighting for the top spot this season, or will one of the New York clubs find a way to win it for the first time under this current setup?

This year the division is loaded with story lines. The Flyers, the defending division champs, re-tooled their roster over the summer, while the Penguins may have to start the season without their best player -- and arguably the best player in the world -- as Sidney Crosby continues to recover from a concussion.

The Islanders look to be a team on the rise, while the Rangers landed the biggest free agent that hit the open market over the summer (of course they did). Meanwhile, the Devils look to build on the momentum of a strong second half and have to figure out what to do with Zach Parise, playing on a one-year deal, as he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Atlantic Division (in predicted order of finish):

PenguinsPittsburgh Penguins: Playing without Jordan Staal for the first half of the season and without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the second half of the season the Penguins still managed to finish tied for the top spot in the Atlantic last season with 106 points, losing in a tiebreaker to the Flyers. That's an impressive accomplishment given how the team is built around those three players. Malkin and Staal look to be ready to go this season, and assuming Crosby returns to his former self, the Penguins should have the personnel to not only finish on top of the division, but also make up for two straight early exits in the playoffs.

Strengths: How did the Penguins manage to stay competitive last season without their three best players for such a long period of time? An outstanding defense anchored by Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. Combine the defense with the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson and the Penguins finished the regular season allowing the sixth fewest goals per game in the league. Even if Crosby isn't ready for the start of the season the Penguins still have excellent depth down the middle with Malkin, Staal and Mark Letestu, a nice two-way player that excels in the faceoff circle.

Weaknesses: When you have so much money invested down the middle (centers, defense and goaltending) it's going to be difficult to fill in talent on the wings. James Neal is supposed to be the goal-scoring winger they've been searching for, but he struggled in his debut season with the Penguins after coming over in a trade with Dallas. Steve Sullivan signed a one-year deal this summer and can still provide some offense, assuming he's able to stay on the ice.

The Penguins power play has been, well, pretty awful the past three years, even with the talent they're capable of putting on the ice. There are a lot of reasons they went out in the first round last year, and their 1-for-35 showing on the power play is at the top of the list.

RangersNew York Rangers: Surely you're not surprised that the biggest free agent available (Brad Richards) landed with the New York Rangers. Especially when said free agent has such a great track record playing for coach John Tortorella. The two spent a number of years together in Tampa Bay, including the 2003-04 season when the Lightning won their Stanley Cup, while Richards took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Still, a lot of their success will depend on how well Richards and Gaborik play together, and whether or not Gabork bounces back from a disappointing season a year ago.

Strengths: Henrik Lundqvist is as steady and durable as they come in the crease, and a goaltender that's capable of stealing a game by himself. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan bring a nice mix of skill and grit to the top lines.

Strong team defensively -- and Lundqivst certainly helps that -- even if their blue line, which is anchored by Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, doesn't contain a single player over the age of 27.

Weaknesses: Speaking of Staal, he's still dealing with some symptoms as a result of a concussion he suffered at the end of last season, which is not a good thing. Gaborik, for all his skill and ability, is always one shift away from his next injury (and yes, that's technically true for every player, but Gaborik's career speaks for itself: he's played more than 65 games just five times in 10 years). Mediocre power play during the regular season that scored one goal in 19 attempts during their first-round playoff loss to the Capitals.

FlyersPhiladelphia Flyers: Talk about a team that went through a transition this summer. When all was said and done the Flyers basically swapped Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Daniel Carcillo, Sean O'Donnell and Darroll Powe for Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Andreas Lilja and Max Talbot. Better? Worse? The same? Paul Holmgren and Flyers fans are about to find out.

Strengths: Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk are excellent young forwards, and Van Riemsdyk could be ready to have a breakout season following his impressive postseason run from a year ago. Danny Briere is still around to be one of their leading offensive weapons.

In a bizarre twist, goaltending moves from an area weakness to one of their biggest strengths thanks to the offseason addition of Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes.

Weaknesses: Unfortunately, in order to improve their goaltending the Flyers had to make a series of moves that involved trading Richards and  Carter, while also losing Leino to free agency. That's three of their top-five scorers from a year ago.

It's possible the addition of Bryzgalov, combined with the development of the young players and draft picks they acquired in the Richards and Carter deals, could allow this to  allwork out for the better in the long run, but they may have taken a step back in the short-term.

Will Giroux and Briere be as productive now that they'll be facing the other teams best players in the absence of Richards and Carter?

Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen are both a year older, and Pronger's health was a big problem last season.

DevilsNew Jersey Devils: When it comes to making coaching changes, no league seems to make more than the NHL, and within the NHL, no team seems to make more than the New Jersey Devils. After a summer-long saga involving their pursuit and eventual signing of Ilya Kovalchuk (who they acquired at the trade deadline of the previous season), the Devils had a disastrous start to last season, winning just nine of their first 31 games, resulting in the firing of head coach John MacLean.

Who did the Devils turn to at the point? Jacques Lemaire, naturally, for his third different stint with the team.

They finished with a 29-17-3 record under his watch and managed to stay in the playoff race longer than anybody could have expected following their awful start. Pete DeBoer takes over behind the bench this season, making him the 9th different coach to lead the team since the start of the 2000-01 season.

Strengths: The Devils should have a strong top-six once Travis Zajac returns, and they'll also benefit from the return of Zach Parise after he missedall but 13 games of last season. He's also playing on a one-year contract (perhaps a "show me" contract. As in, show me you're fully recovered and can once again be one of the top left wingers in the league before we sign you long-term).

As always, they finished with strong numbers defensively allowing just over 2.5 goals per game. Will they be as strong defensively without LeMaire running the ship?

Weaknesses: Who on the defense is going to provide some offense? No defenseman scored more than Andy Greene's 23 points a season ago. Adam Larsson, the Devils first-round pick in June, looks to have a ton of upside but some growing pains should be expected as a rookie.

Martin Brodeur is a Hall of Famer and one of the best goalies to ever play in the NHL, but he's clearly not the player he once was. And if the Devils do make it back to the playoffs, well, he's been pretty bad in two of his past three postseason appearances, while the Devils haven't made it out of the first round since 2006-07.

IslandersNew York Islanders: The New York Islanders made headlines last season because of a massive on-ice brawl in early February. They should make headlines this season because they're an improving team that's going to compete for a playoff spot thanks to their impressive collection of young forwards, with the recently signed John Tavares leading the way.

The Islanders offseason didn't see them bring in anybody significant from outside the organization, unless you're counting on Brian Rolston returning to his 30-goal form from four years ago, but they are getting back their top defenseman, Mark Streit, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, and that can be a huge addition to a team that's thin on the blue line.

Along with the return of Streit, a full-season for Kyle Okposo, an excellent two-way forward, will be a welcome addition as well.

Strengths: Definitely their forwards. They're young, they're productive, and many of them are signed long-term for what could be excellent value against the salary cap. The Islanders had eight different players score at least 10 goals last season, and seven of them are returning this season (the only one that isn't is Rob Schremp and his 10 goals).

Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson, Tavares, Blake Comeau and P.A. Parenteau all scored at least 20 goals for the Islanders a year ago.

Frans Nielsen is one of the NHL's most underrated defensive forwards and showed last season he's also capable of chipping in some offense, scoring 13 goals. He finished sixth the voting for the Selke Trophy which goes to the NHL's best defensive forward.

Weaknesses: Even with the return of Streit, as well as the presence of emerging young defenseman Travis Hamonic, who looks like he's going to be quite a player, there is still a lot of questions about this team defensively and in goal, and in the end that could prove to be their downfall this season. 

Rick DiPietro is still signed through the 2020-21 season and has appeared in just 39 games over the past three years.

NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: September 22, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 1:30 pm
 

Canucks, Caps tabbed favorites to win Stanley Cup

By Brian Stubits

It's always fun to see how the oddsmakers view championship contenders. For example, many people believe that a better indication in college football is what Las Vegas says, not the AP Top 25.

So when the odds for the Stanley Cup were released by Bodog on Thursday the question was who is the favorite entering the season? Personally, I'm not removing the Bruins from that designation, but Bodog is. For the betting service the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals are the co-favorites at 7-to-1 odds with the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins with the second-best odds at 10-to-1.

Obviously there is no griping with either the Canucks or Caps being up that high. The Canucks were a win away from being the champions right now and the Caps have been knocking on the door for years and everybody agrees they only got better this offseason. In regards to the Penguins, you have to think the belief is Sidney Crosby will be back -- and recent signs are good since he's returned to practicing. They are still a good team without him, but second-best odds? I'm not sure.

Who is bringing up the rear? It's still the New York Islanders, believe it or not. I guess the oddsmakers aren't buying into the improvements the Isles have been showing of late. They go off at 80/1 to win the Cup. Not far behind is a three-way tie for second-longest odds with the Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets beginning at 75/1 longshots.

To see the entire odds from Bodog, here's the list.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: September 20, 2011 9:52 am
Edited on: September 20, 2011 12:08 pm
 

Daily Skate: Second Stars suitor; Sid's bodyguard

By Brian Stubits

INTEREST IN BIG D: The Stars sale is actually moving along, with the team agreeing last week to sell the team to Vancouver businessman Tom Gagliardi. Now, enter former Texas Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg and we might actually have a bidding war for the debt-ridden franchise on our hands. (Biz Journal)

SID'S BODYGUARD: There is a new enforcer in Pittsburgh, and he knows exactly what he is supposed to do. Steve MacIntyre, one of the game's most feared, says "My job is to make sure [Sidney Crosby's] transition back to hockey goes smoothly." (Pittsburgh Tribune- Review)

BROTHERLY LOVE: Rangers defenseman Marc Staal is struggling with post-concussion symptoms and is sitting out the first three preseason games for precautionary reasons. He seems to be OK, but that isn't helping the man who caused the concussion, his own brother Eric Staal with the Hurricanes, to feel better. (News Observer)

PLAYING THE GOAT: Todd Bertuzzi has a new role this season with the Red Wings, dropping down to the more defensive-minded third line. There he joins Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, resulting in one of the better line names: the Two Kids and a Goat line. For Bertuzzi, it's a whole new world. (Detroit Free Press)

SOPHOMORE STEP UP: In the playoffs, the Bruins had to turn to rookie Tyler Seguin in the playoffs after Nathan Horton's injury sidelined him. The former No. 2 pick responded immediately but then went quiet. After an offseason of heavy work, the B's might be ready to count on Seguin more. (Boston Herald)

SUPER HUBER: The Florida Panthers' No. 3 pick in this summer's draft isn't likely to make the team as a rookie. But he's doing all he can to make the roster instead of going back to the junior level, scoring a goal and an assist in the Panthers' doubleheader game against the Predators on Monday. (Sun- Sentinel)

READY FOR MORE: Shea Weber took the role of captain last season and the Predators went further than they ever have before in the postseason. Now, armed with a huge new contract for this season, he's excited about Year 2 wearing the C having learned a lot already. (Hockey Night in Nashville)

HOCKEY CRAZE: Throw this under less-than surprising tid-bits: sports fans in Toronto chose the Maple Leafs' first preseason game over one of the Blue Jays' final home games of the season. More than 18,000 showed up to see the Leafs while just over 11,000 were on hand to see the Jays. (The Canadian Press)

CAPS GM DEFENDS SEMIN: Washington Capitals general manager took his chance to defend forward Alexander Semin after he took heat this summer from former teammate Matt Bradley, saying Semin is just a quiet kid and Bradley regrets having said it. You can watch the whole interview on NHL Live! below.

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