Tag:Brian Stubits
Posted on: March 9, 2012 9:37 am
Edited on: March 9, 2012 9:48 am
 

Pregame Skate: Southeast slug race crawls on

Florida just looked behind and saw the rest of the division on its heels. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Pregame 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.

7 ET, Florida at Pittsburgh

The Panthers continue to go back and forth. One day you are thinking they are pretty secure in their playoff chances, the next they are getting blown out 5-0 on the road in Philadelphia as they were on Thursday.

As a matter of fact, this first-place team in the Southeast Division (really) has lost its last two road games by a combined score 0f 12-0. So really, the last thing they want to see on the schedule is the second half of a back-to-back being on the road at the Penguins. They're only 22-8-2 at home and have won seven straight, nothing too impressive.

Florida still does have the benefit of games in hand -- although they lose that tonight in their battle with the Capitals -- but their grip on the Southeast is no stranglehold. The Caps and Jets are just two behind them and the Lightning are five back with a home-heavy stretch to come.

You'd think they would have to start playing better beginning in Pittsburgh, but in all honesty they might not have to in the Southeast. A .500 finish could get them in and they have an even home/road split to the finish. But it certainly would behoove them to play better, that's for sure.

They have handled injuries all season in Florida, but the most recent one seems to hurt more than most have as leading scorer Kris Versteeg remains out with a hip injury.

9 ET, Winnipeg at Calgary

Two Canadian bubble teams, doesn't get a whole lot better in March than that.

The Jets are going to have to prove they can pick up points on the road if they are going to make the playoffs this season. After failing to do so on Thursday night in Vancouver, they have a bit better of a shot on Friday at the Flames. As mentioned above, they have a struggling division leader only two points ahead of them and others champing at the bit behind.

But the Flames are in a similar situation. They have the same point total at this point as the Jets but the race for eighth in the West is slightly better. Hey, I said slightly. Whereas the Jets are tied in points for that last spot, the Flames are three back. They also have two teams in between them and the Sharks.

This certainly isn't a loser-leave-town match (or in this case leave the playoff race) but it's a big opportunity for each to get points against beatable opponents. How else would you describe bubble teams this season?

7:30 ET, Los Angeles at Detroit

The L.A. Kings; the latest victims of the streaking Blue Jackets. Poor Jeff Carter just can't win when he's in Columbus.

If that challenge was tough, wait to see what the schedule has in store for them on Friday night: a trip to Hockeytown, USA and a date with the Red Wings. You wouldn't think that an optimal destination to pick up points in the race for eighth out West.

L.A. has seen a bit of an uptick in scoring recently but it is still mostly feast or famine for them. In the last seven games they have four wins and three losses. In each of the three losses they scored one goal, in each of the four wins they scored at least four. There's not a whole lot of middle ground there.

However, a win not only puts Los Angeles ahead of San Jose and into a playoff spot for the moment, it would actually pull the Kings even with the Coyotes at the same time in points and games. So not even a loss to Columbus could dash their hopes.

Others worth watching

8:30 ET, Rangers at Chicago: Here's the question I have: Can the Penguins actually catch the Rangers? By night's end Pittsburgh could be only four points back of New York. The Blackhawks will try to help revive the Atlantic race.

Your promised miscellany

  • Thursday's Winners & Losers
  • Speaking of those streaking Blue Jackets, coach Todd Richards sounds like he's enjoying the Jack Johnson-Jeff Carter swap. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Jeremy Roenick remains not a big fan of Patrick Marleau's abilities with his old team in San Jose. (CSN Bay Area
  • Wait, now Don Cherry might be silenced by the NHL? Boy, the next Coach's Corner is going to be good. (Toronto Sun)
  • With this empty-netter last night, Max Pacioretty became the first American to score 30 in a season for the Canadiens. He's turned into quite a player.

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

Posted on: March 8, 2012 2:11 pm
 

Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson on Kings' kiss, dance cams

By Brian Stubits

The camera has always liked Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson. They're obviously both accomplished actors and in the case of Hanks, I'd say one of the best of the last 25 years. I'm a Big fan.

Turns out they like the camera too. Or at least Wilson does. Hanks seems to go along with it. No really, check out Wilson's reaction when she and Hanks were featured on the Kiss Cam at a recent Kings game in Los Angeles (they show up at the :52 mark).

She was sitting there waiting oh so patiently and then was so excited that she was multi-tasking, giving the camera a very enthusiastic thumbs up while planting a big smooch on Hanks. It's like a lifelong dream come true for Wilson.

Oh, but they weren't done on the big screen -- OK, medium-sized screen -- for the night. The camera went back to the well when it was time for the Dance Cam later in the game.

I dig Tom's understated style here. He's just in his own zone.

Now I don't think it's as good as the dancing Canucks kid (seriously, watch this, it's worth 60 seconds of your day), but hey, second place isn't bad for the week's dance cam contest.

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

Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:15 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:25 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Hitchcock has pointed St. Louis in the right direction at each and every turn. (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.

When it comes to coaches, it feels like nearly half lost their jobs at some point this season. Truth is, it's actually one shy of a 1/3, which is still an astronomically high number.

The ones that have stuck around? It seems like they are all in the conversation for coach of the year.

However it's the guy who came in after the season started that is running away with the Jack Adams Award for the top coach. Like his style or not,

Ken Hitchcock has pretty much been a miracle worker since coming into St. Louis just 13 games through the season. What has he done since? Only put the Blues in the mix of about four teams vying for the Presidents' Trophy. As it stands on Thursday, the Blues are the West's top team and tied with the Rangers for the best point total in the league. Not too shabby.

While I see him as a clear front-runner, I'm not sure everybody feels the same. And that's where the Jack Adams conversation gets interesting. The list of coaches who could be considered is about 10 guys long. Paul MacLean will be on everybody's finalist list with what he has down in Ottawa. You can see the rest of my top 5 below. What you don't see is the guys who didn't make the cut and it's a hell of a group. Dan Byslma, Barry Trotz, Mike Babcock, Kevin Dineen and Dave Tippett deserve mentions too.

When looking at the general managers, the architects, I think we have a much more defined group we're looking at. The nature of an award like this is that it's sometimes tough to gauge. If I were to pick the best GM in the game I might go with Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero or Mike Gillis. They have put together great teams over multiple years. But in just a one-year sense? It cuts it down.

So how do you not start with Dale Tallon in Florida? The Panthers have already eclipsed their point total from last season and they still have 17 games to go. While it's no guarantee yet, they do seem to be on their way to making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

And that's after going into the summer with hardly anybody on the roster. He went out and acquired nine players between the draft and the first few days of free agency. That's almost half the team! He continued by making a few trades including shipping David Booth to Vancouver. All the while he has done nothing to disrupt what looks to be a very promising future with a loaded farm system.

So here you go, this week's rankings. Remember, these are just one man's opinion and you can feel free to share yours below, I'm sure you will. As always, the rest of the races are below with a quick update.

Award watch
Jack Adams GM
Ken Hitchcock The Blues are 36-11-7 since he took over. All I have for that is Wow! He has helped make a borderline playoff team to a borderline Stanley Cup team. How can there really be any other choice? Dale Tallon Consider the monumental task it has proven to win in South Florida then consider that Tallon basically built a new team that is winning in one year. He was widely criticized for his team building this summer and while he did overpay for some players, it's tough to argue with the results so far.
Paul MacLean Bonus points for the mustache that makes Wilford Brimley blush. The majority of publications/panels had the Senators finishing dead last in the league this season. Oops. The difference between MacLean and Cory Clouston has been pretty clear and the players have responded, especially Erik Karlsson. David Poile Maybe this one is tough until the offseason when we find out the fates of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, but Poile has done all he could to show the Predators are in it to win it. The re-signing of Pekka Rinne, the acquisitions at the trade deadline all while on a low budget. He's usually in this conversation and he is again.
John Tortorella Yes, the Rangers are good and that's not a great surprise. This good, however? Yes, I think that's surprising. Players have really bought in to what Tortorella is doing. Perhaps the sign of a good coach is how much the team takes on the coach's personality/style. Nobody has done better at that than Torts and Hitchcock. Don Maloney This was another team left for dead before the season began but as I write this, the Coyotes are currently seventh in the West and two points out of the Pacific Division lead. He has had so many obstacles to go through but has continued to bring in good guys and build a winner on a budget.
Peter DeBoer I feel like the Devils first-year coach is under the radar in this conversation, but why should he be? The Devils floundered last season and without changing a whole lot have been significantly better this time around. DeBoer definitely deserves some credit for Ilya Kovalchuk's evolution to a complete player, too. Doug Armstrong Brian Elliott on a two-way contract? Replacing Davis Payne with Hitchcock before anybody else could? Sneaky additions of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner? That's not a bad year, then add in that he's locked in many of his young core players. Hitchcock deserves a lot of attention for the Blues' success, but so does Armstrong.
Glen Gulutzan This was one hiring in the offseason that made people say "who?" but it has worked well. Despite the departure of Brad Richard and his offensive output, the Stars are in better position this season. In fact, they lead the Pacific Division. For a guy who is two seasons removed from coaching in the ECHL, that ain't bad. Glen Sather The headline grabber was obviously the addition of Richards this summer, but locking in his younger players might have been the better move. Plus, he has presided over a franchise that has stocked the shelves for the future, just look at the Columbus Blue Jackets' wish list for Rick Nash, a trade that didn't happen.

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

Hart: Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist

Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, David Backes

Calder: Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

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

Posted on: March 8, 2012 11:04 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 1:17 pm
 

Avs' Duchene out 3-4 weeks with ankle injury

By Brian Stubits

Right back in the thick of things out West, the Colorado Avalanche shared some bad news on Thursday when they announced that Matt Duchene is going to miss the next 3-4 weeks after suffering an ankle injury. The good news? At least it doesn't require surgery.

Have a look at the play that caused the injury as the puck slipped between his feet and a pokecheck came. The best word to describe it is awkward.

The No. 3 overall draft pick a couple summers ago, Duchene has fallen into the junior slump. Yes, I just made that up but after impressive rookie and sophomore campaigns, his numbers have dipped some this season, partly due to the injuries he's battled through. But at this point he has just 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 48 games played.

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When he is on his game, though, Duchene is one of the flashier young players in the league. And for a team like Colorado that is in a three-way tie for the last playoff spot and doesn't have a tremendous amount of scoring, his absence isn't good. Although since coming back from a knee injury that sidelined him for nearly two months he has just one goal and one assist in nine games. But the team has won six of the last eight with him in.

Does this cripple the Avs' postseason hopes? I don't think so. The odds are already against them with so many teams in the mix right now out West and the fact that the point totals are slightly misleading at the moment considering how many games the Avs have played. But they have hung around without a tremendous amount of production from him directly.

However this doesn't help them much, that much I'll say.

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

Posted on: March 8, 2012 9:47 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 9:51 am
 

Pregame Skate: Jeff Carter back in Columbus

Carter returns to Columbus, just in black. I guess that's fitting. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Pregame 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.

7 ET, Los Angeles at Columbus

Sure, there's the story of the Kings' playoff push to watch for in this one. They only enter the night in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. So, ya know, the game is pretty important in that regard.

But even at this time of the year that takes a little bit of a back seat to the bigger storyline of the game: Jeff Carter returning to Columbus. Already. Even though he denies it, Carter never seemed to be too pleased to be in Columbus after the summer trade out of Philadelphia. His short time in Ohio was also disturbed by a few injury setbacks that have cut his season shorter.

“Obviously when I got traded from Philly, it was hard on me, something that I didn’t expect. Over time, you get over that," Carter told Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider I came in here [Columbus] with an open mind. There were a lot of expectations around the team, from the fans and the city and stuff like that. For whatever reason, it didn’t really work out that way, and things just started to snowball from there. When you’re losing games, like we did, and giving up leads late, it’s pretty tough on guys. It’s hard to kind of keep going. It was a tough year."

You know the already disgruntled Blue Jackets fans who have sat through that tough year are going to let Carter know how they feel about him, and I can only guess it's not overwhelmingly positive. And while the Carter storyline might be front and center to start the game, once the puck drops it's back to the action.

“Obviously you want to go out and play good and beat your old team," Carter said. "I think above all that is, we’re in a pretty tight race here too. We need two points, for sure."

7 ET, Tampa Bay at Washington (NHL Network)

The Capitals and Lightning enter the night only two points apart in the Southeast Division with a couple weeks left. It feels like last season for one night, at least.

The problem, of course, is that they aren't battling for first in the division on Thursday night. They are fighting for eighth/ninth in the East. That's a position the Caps are in with their current 1-2-1 home stand and the Lightning from a first half of the season of very mediocre play. But speaking of mediocrity, the East has it and so these teams are still dreaming.

It's amazing to think that with a regulation win tonight, the Lightning will pull even with the Capitals in the playoff race. They'll have to await the final between the Jets and Canucks to see where they stand in relation to the last playoff spot.

Of course for Tampa they come in with an injury at their worst position on the ice, goaltending. Mathieu Garon is out and so it's up to Dwayne Roloson and Dustin Tokarski. The good news? The Caps aren't doing a whole lot of scoring this season, so this game could prove to a remedy for either side: the Caps offense or Lightning goaltending.

8:30 ET, San Jose at Dallas

This much we know: The Stars will remain in first place by the end of the night. But what they could do that's even more impressive is open up a five-point advantage on the Sharks in the Pacific and Western Conference race. Now that would be something.

The Sharks have been in a freefall for a few weeks now and it has led them to the brink of slipping out of the playoffs altogether. Imagine that, the Sharks missing the playoffs? It's not too tough to imagine right now. By virtue of having games in hand on the other teams, the Sharks hold the eighth position right now in the three-way tie, but with both the others in action, it's possible the Sharks could be 10th by night's end.

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I'm still trying to figure out which is more surprising, though: The Sharks being on the playoff bubble or the Stars being the division leader.

By the way, this is the third meeting between these teams and the final day of the season, April 7. So they're going to have a few chances to make some big swings in the standings, starting with tonight.

Others worth watching

9 ET, Minnesota at Phoenix: It was only a few days ago that the Coyotes were the surprise Pacific Division leader. Now they have lost four straight, including two to Columbus. They get another bottom feeder in the Wild. They kind of need to win this.

10 ET, Winnipeg at Vancouver: Now we find out how real the Jets are. They did what they had to do and held down the home-ice advantage on their long home stand, but where they will make the playoffs is on the road. It starts at the Canucks.

7 ET, Buffalo at Boston: Another hard to believe sentence: The Sabres can move into the eighth position in the East with a win tonight. This was expected to be the Northeast battle this season, but at least it's a big game with the Sabres' resurgence.

Your promised miscellany

  • Wednesday's Winners & Losers
  • The Canucks have hit a bump in the road, but it's hardly a reason to panic. Just look at the Bruins a year ago. (The Province)
  • Bobby Ryan is looking ahead to life after Teemu in Anaheim and he wants to take that second-line role. (O.C. Register)
  • Did Brian Burke also target Ron MacLean when he complained to the CBC about Coach's Corner. Yes, yes he did. (Pro Hockey Talk)
  • Lastly, I'm a proud American and make no apologies for it, but I'm a fan of Canada ... and it's national anthem. So even I cringe at this from last night's game in Buffalo.

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

Posted on: March 7, 2012 3:00 pm
 

Avery not on AHL playoff roster; is career done?

Avery played 15 games this season with New York, scoring three goals. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Is this it? Have we seen the end of Sean Avery the professional hockey player?

The AHL Connecticut Whale put together their playoff roster and Avery wasn't on it. What's more, they even told him he no longer needs to report to the rink for practices or games according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post. Sounds like a complete excommunication to me.

It's been one whirl of a season for Avery, who clearly has worn out his welcome with the Rangers. Just before the season Avery was cut and sent to the AHL at which point he considered possibly playing overseas. The Rangers then called up him due to injuries and early lackluster play but then sent him back to the AHL just before the new year. This from Brooks is what Avery has been relegated to since.

Avery has not played in a game for the Whale since Jan. 27 and has not practiced with the team for approximately three weeks, instead skating on his own under management orders.

He even has gone through waivers and obviously wasn't claimed, making you wonder if any team is interested. So is this it for Avery in the NHL? I mean, if he's done playing I don't get the feeling we're never going to see or hear from him again like a lot of players. The question is if we'll hear about him on the ice.

He is an unrestricted free agent this summer so I suppose some time might decide its worth taking a flyer on a two-way contract for cheap. I just have a hard time believing it will happen at this point.

But if there were a team interested, Sean Hartnett of CBS New York has an idea as to who it might be.

One team in particular known to gather players from their rivals is the New York Islanders. The Isles were believed to been interested in the 31-year old had he been passed through waivers.

We'll have to wait and see, but I don't think there will be many fans crying if Avery doesn't have an NHL job for next season.

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

Posted on: March 7, 2012 1:18 pm
 

Leafs' Lupul separates shoulder, out 3-4 weeks

Lupul is right behind Kessel for the team lead in points. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

When it rains it pours, which is what is happening to the Toronto Maple Leafs right now. On Wednesday they announced that All-Star winger Joffrey Lupul is going to miss the next 3-4 weeks after separating his shoulder.

In the process, the Leafs also announced that Colby Armstrong is day to day after breaking his nose and the team called up Ashton Carter to fill in. Carter was the return from Tampa Bay in the Keith Aulie trade.

Just in case you still had hopes that the Leafs were going to turn things around under the guidance of new coach Randy Carlyle and get back into the playoff pictures, this news has to remove any hope. Lupul has been a massive part of Leafs this season since coming over from Anaheim. His 25 goals and 42 assists are good enough for the sixth-highest point total in the league at 67.

Losers of 11 of their last 13 games, this isn't exactly what the Leafs needed to hear, even if Carlyle and Lupul haven't always gotten along going back to their Anaheim days. I can't imagine that Carlyle is too happy with this news.

Sorry to say, Toronto, but at this rate it is looking like you are going to take the lead in the longest playoff drought (as long as the Panthers don't choke down the stretch).

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

Posted on: March 7, 2012 12:52 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 1:14 pm
 

Penguins honor Mario Lemieux with statue

The new statue up close. (Kevin McGran)

By Brian Stubits

The Pittsburgh Penguins honored one of the all-time greats and the multi-time savior of their franchise on Thursday, unveiling a statue of Le Magnifique, Mario Lemieux.

The ceremoney, held on a warm, 66-degree day (so perfect) in Pittsburgh was attended by a large amount of Penguins fans who came to not only honor Lemieux as a great player, but thank him for saving the franchise on multiple occassions.

The statue depicts Lemieux splitting a pair of defenders on the ice on his way to a breakaway goal.

"I'm very happy [with the statue]. We went through hundreds of pictures that they showed me and this is the one we picked," Lemieux told Root Sports. "It really illustrates my life off the ice and my life on the ice. I was known in the late 80s, early 90s to break away from people at center ice and this is the perfect statue to illustrate that."

It's an interesting choice, I thought you might see something more of him celebrating or hoisting the Stanley Cup, some thing that makes him the focal point.

But it certainly does represent classic Lemieux, so there's that.

Here is video of the play that they used for the statue.

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