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Tag:Southeast Division
Posted on: October 21, 2011 1:32 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 5:57 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Will Trotz lose it? Wings-Caps

By Brian Stubits

The Barry Trotz tour of tantrums continues with a stop in Calgary on Saturday to conclude the Predators' first Western Canada swing of the season.

If you haven't been paying attention to the Predators for the past week, you've been missing out. Not so much with their play -- Nashville enters Calgary on a four-game losing streak and a minus-7 on the season -- but from Trotz, the well-renowned head coach for the Preds. He has been less-than pleased about his team's recent performance and hasn't been afraid to tell everybody.

After the Predators lost to the Oilers 3-1, Trotz was clearly upset, saying the team had to "start from scratch." But the majority of the sound bite came from Jarred Smithson, who undoubtedly echoed Trotz's frustration.

"It’s not one guy, it’s not two guys, it’s the whole group. Pekka [Rinne] is the exception. He’s the only guy playing his balls off right now and if it wasn’t for him, we don’t have any points. I don’t know what to say about tonight, it was terrible.”

Oh, but the fun was only just beginning. Because Thursday night brought about a 5-1 loss to the Canucks in Vancouver and more Trotz frustration. A lot more. (Quotes courtesy of Twitter feed from Joshua Cooper of the Tennessean)

His assessment of rookie Mattias Ekholm? "I thought he was horrible, just horrible." Ouch.

How about his feelings on his younger players having to go up against the likes of the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler and the rest of the Canucks? “You’re going to have to line up against the best in the league, if you’re scared of that, get a dog.”

Finally, he took the time to thank Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. Seriously. "“I want to thank Alain Vigneault for not playing his top two lines the last 10 minutes.”

Making matters worse before they face Calgary, it looks like they will be without star defenseman and Norris candidate Shea Weber after the hit he laid on Jannik Hansen of the Canucks. That won't help the struggling offense get any better.

The Predators better hope they show up with a better effort in Calgary or it might be a lot of bag skates coming their way.

Somebody's got to lose

There are only two remaining unbeaten teams in the NHL, and they will meet on Saturday. Hopefully they will both be perfect as that makes for one delicious matchup.

The Capitals are sitting at 6-0-0 for the first time in franchise history of their 5-2 win over the Flyers on Thursday. So they enter the battle against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday in Washington unblemished.

The Red Wings will have to go through the winless Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night first, but considering the struggling Jackets will be without Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, you have to like Detroit's chances.

One thing to keep an eye on, Detroit is the only team in the league not to have played five games entering Friday. They're last game came a week ago Saturday against the Wild. So the legs are as fresh as they can get.

Brotherly love

The Carolina Hurricanes have a pretty famous hockey brother on their team. Captain Eric Staal gets chances to reunite with siblings whenever he plays against the Penguins (Jordan) and Rangers (Marc) while his youngest brother (Jared) is in the Hurricanes farm system.

But Friday night will bring about another sibling rivalry for the 'Canes. When they take on the Blues in St. Louis, Anthony Stewart will go up against his brother Chris Stewart. It marks the first time the brothers will play in an NHL game against each other.

"I'm excited," Chris said. "I felt like it's been a long time and a long time overdue. We went for dinner [Wednesday] night, and I'm sure we'll go for dinner again tonight. I look forward to tomorrow."

"It's a big day for our family. They're going to be watching," Anthony said. "They're not going to make it in, but they're definitely excited and the buddies back home are texting us asking if we're going to fight. We'll be fighting on the score sheet. That's probably about it."

Here's their shot

Let's just assume the Red Wings take care of the Blue Jackets on Friday night. Seems like a pretty safe bet. So they will be 0-6-1 headed into Saturday, their final game without Wisniewski. They will have a very winnable game in Ottawa against the Senators.

Ottawa is a league-worst minus-11 on the season, tied with Winnipeg at the bottom of the league. The Sens have given up 31 goals in seven games, that's more than four per game.

If they can't get the win in Ottawa, then you really have to wonder how long it will be. After playing the Senators, Columbus will play Detroit (4-0-0) at home, go to Buffalo (5-1-0) and Chicago (4-1-1), play the Ducks (4-1-0) and Maple Leafs (4-1-1), visit Philadelphia (4-1-1) then host Chicago again. Finally, they'll get a reprieve and face the Jets at home.

Columbus could sure use one or both of the games this weekend.

Mile(stone) marker

San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton will play in his 1,000th career game this weekend when his team plays the Devils Friday night in New Jersey. Then on Saturday he'll play No. 1,001 in Boston, the city where he began his career.

Thornton was a member of the Bruins from 1997 until the 2005-06 season when he was sent to the Sharks for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart.

To show how good he's been throughout his career, here's a stat courtesy of fellow Eye On Hockey blogger Adam Gretz (@agretz on Twitter): Only five players have at least two 90-assists seasons: Joe Thornton is one of them. The others: [Wayne] Gretzky, [Mario] Lemieux, [Bobby] Orr, and Adam Oates.

"It goes by incredibly fast," Thornton said. "As a young guy everybody says enjoy it because it goes by very quickly. It sure does. Now I'm the older guy telling the younger guys."

Of course with all his accomplishments, including the Art Ross and Hart trophies in 2005-06, he's missing the biggest one, the Stanley Cup. That's the goal this season, but the Sharks are slow out of the gate.

"We're obviously 1-3 in the standings but I feel we've played pretty well," he said. "Just stay positive and start getting some points."

Quick start

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has himself quite a little streak going. He has recorded back-to-back shutouts, one against the Blues, the other vs. the Coyotes on Thursday night.

Assuming he gets the start on Saturday back home in Los Angeles, he'll get a stern test from the Dallas Stars, who are off to a quick start themselves.

They come into the weekend in Tinsel town with a 5-1-0 record and will not only face Quick's Kings, but first must go through the 4-1-0 Ducks on Friday. Throw in the Sharks' potential and the Pacific Division might be on its way to being a monster this season.

There will be some good hockey in Southern California this weekend, so enjoy.

Southeast Winnipeg

The most awkward divisional alignment begins this weekend when the Jets will host the Hurricanes. It is Winnipeg's first taste as a member of the Southeast Division, an arrangement that is just a touch unnatural, something that will be remedied before next season.

Hockey night indeed

It's always worthwhile when the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens do battle. They played the first game of the season (get the honor thanks to Boston's pregame Cup ceremony) and will have Part II on Saturday in Montreal.

Let's play two

We'll also have a pair of division leaders doing battle for the second time in three days. The surprising Colorado Avalanche, a perfect 5-0 on the road this season, will be in Chicago to face the Blackhawks on Saturday night. Chicago won the opening game of the home-and-home series, beating the Avs 3-1 on Thursday.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:41 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:09 pm
 

Southeast Division preview: Still chasing Caps

By Brian Stubits

The days of the South-least Division are slowly fading away.

For the last half decade, the Southeast Division has been the Washington Capitals' playground with four teams chasing. Of course the Caps have been very good through that time, but fattening up on their division "rivals" undoubtedly helped them to four straight division championships.

Just take the 2009-10 season as an example. That year the Capitals had 18 more points than the next closest team in the East while no other team in the division finished even in the top nine of the conference standings. That's especially amazing when you consider there are only 15 teams in the East.

They stil finished atop the East despite a transformation. Head coach Bruce Boudreau changed the way the team plays, trying to lock down on defense. As a result, the league's highest-scoring team the past few years dipped all the way to 19th in scoring. Alex Ovechkin had a very good season by almost anybody's standards. Just not his own.

The trick for Boudreau is to find that happy medium. They showed defense is something they can and in the past they showed they can score. Now they need to show they can do both. If they don't, especially early, Boudreau will hear the calls for his firing. The most successful regular-season team hasn't done enough after it to satisfy the increasingly antsy and demanding fan base.

But the somewhat surprising emergence of the Lightning last year has beefed up the division's rep. Tampa Bay figured to be on its way back up the NHL ladder, but the boom that came out of last season seemed to be ahead of schedule. Now the division has two of the game's elite scorers in Steven Stamkos and Ovechkin. With the Bolts unceremoniously sweeping the Caps in the playoffs last year, we just might have the beginning of an actual division rival for Washington.

The division also features something new: the most amped up fan base in the league, at least for one season. The Winnipeg Jets are still stuck playing in a division that will have them being true fish out of water. To say the Jets will suffer from jet-lag isn't just a fun pun but a reality they face. With that said, what was one of the easiest road trips in the NHL just became one of the toughest, especially for the teams in the Southeast that should look into taking the Concord to Manitoba.

Southeast Division (in order of predicted finish)

Washington Capitals: The Caps have become one of the league's elite teams and have done a pretty remarkable job of keeping their core together. Well this offseason owner Ted Leonsis and crew decided it was time to shake up the roster a touch to try and find the missing recipe to move Washington deeper into the playoffs. Enter Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Tomas Vokoun among others. I don't think there was a bigger offseason addition in this division than the Caps getting Vokoun, especially when you factor in the salary he'll be getting. Vokoun's talents have been hidden in Florida in the past four seasons, but he's an excellent goaltender but he is (or at least was) prone to prolonged slumps. As for Ward and Brouwer, they considerably beef up the Caps' toughness up front along the boards who are very capable two-way players.

Strengths: They have shown they can do every facet of the game well. It is a challenge to find a more talented team in hockey, including on the blue line. That's not something you could say in the past, but John Carlson and Karl Alzner complement each other well enough to make one of the best young defenseman duos in the NHL.

Weaknesses: It is tough to pinpoint any with this team, it is very well-rounded. It will be interesting to see how they handle expectations and increased heat when they hit some rough patches. Also, from an organizational standpoint the team has very little room to maneuver under the salary cap. That could be worth monitoring if/when GM George McPhee decided to tweak the roster.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Everything came together for a great run to a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference finals last season under new coach Guy Boucher. He brought in the ol' 1-3-1 system that seemed to be a magic trick for the Bolts. Now the question becomes can they repeat or was last year lightning in a bottle (that pun really was not intended)? One thing strongly in their favor is that the return almost the entire roster intact from last season. They did lose a couple of players such as Simon Gagne, but not much in the way of being unable to repair. one player who is back is Eric Brewer, and he'll be better for having spent camp and beginning the season in Tampa Bay. It will be interesting to see how this team fares with expectations on their shoulders.

Strengths: They roll out two excellent lines at the top. The Ryan Malone-Stamkos-Martin St. Louis line is one of the best in the game and the second group of Nate Thompson-Vincent Lecavalier-Teddy Purcell isn't too shabby, especially if Purcell continues his growth. They also had excellent special teams last year, ranking in the top 8 of both power play (it helps to have Stamkos, who scores 17 on the PP last year) and penalty kill a season ago. I also love the man on their bench as Boucher is a star in the making among coaches.

Weaknesses: I am still not in love with the goaltending situation. Dwayne Roloson was very good after being picked up by GM Steve Yzerman (he would qualify as another strength), but he just doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me to keep it up. The addition of Mathieu Garon to back him up is a good one, though. Moreover, consistency might be an issue, especially for Stamkos. He really slowed down last season, failing to score 50 goals when he appeared to be on his way to 60 midseason.

Carolina Hurricanes: If the playoffs were a night club, the Hurricanes have been the guy standing at the front of the line until the bouncer says they're full. Every year it seems they are squarely on the playoff bubble, including last season when it came down to Game 82, which was a sound defeat. This season figures to be more of the same for the 'Canes as they might just be the next-best thing to a playoff team the East has to offer. They had a very pleasant surprise in Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner last season and captain Eric Staal is still leading the show. Gone, though, is another Carolina long-timer in Erik Cole (now in Montreal). One thing you have to love about this franchise, though, is its consistency. GM Jim Rutherford has been there ever since they became the Hurricanes (and before). It seems like their best players don't leave the organization, either. Hopefully for them the consistency in their finishes doesn't stay the same, but instead they crack the postseason. But in a beefed up East, that will be tougher said than done.

Strengths: They have an excellent captain in Staal, both from a leadership standpoint and player quality. They also boast one of the better goalies in the league in Cam Ward, an All-Star last season. And there's that whole consitency thing they have going on, often helps in the old chemistry department.

Weaknesses: There is not much depth to talk about in Carolina. After Stall, Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, they aren't likely going to find a whole lot of scoring. They also don't posses a ton of size among the forwards, hence the reason they brought in Anthony Stewert and Alex Ponikarovsky this offseason to help. There just doesn't seem to be enough to crack the postseason, but Rutherford admits to this being somewhat of a "rebuilding" phase. That's a pretty competitive team for one that's rebuilding.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers were incredibly active in the free-agent market in July, adding a slew of veterans to hold the tide while the youngsters develop. Undoubtedly the Panthers are better than they were last season, but how much better? They did lose arguably their best player in Vokoun and are replacing him with the combination of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, not exactly an exciting development. But it can't be denied that the Panthers now at least have NHL-quality players across their lines (and defensive pairings, led by Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski), but they still aren't high-quality players, not guys that you figure can get them into the playoffs, finally. The trick in Florida is not doing anything now to hinder the future, which is very bright as the system is loaded.

Strengths: I do like the defensive corps they are putting together, especially if 2010 No. 3 overall draft pick Erik Gudbranson makes the team as expected. It's very hard to say at this point with so many new faces coming together what kind of strenghts we're looking at, it's tough to predict how they will play together. But we do know something that isn't likely be a strength this year ...

Weaknesses: The aforementioned goaltender position. With Vokoun gone, the Panthers are relying on the combination of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen. Now, both do have experience, Theodore more so than the Clemmer, but in no way do they make up for what Vokoun, Florida's best player in recent seasons, took with him. You also have to wonder about chemistry issues with this team having brought in so many new faces. We'll put new coach Kevin Dineen as an "unknown."

Winnipeg Jets: The virtue of such a home-ice advantage will likely make the Jets a little better than the Thrashers were last season, but not enough. Thankfully for them the new home crowd in Winnipeg will just be jacked to have hockey back. They will need to take advantage of the home crowd, especially with a stretch of 10 home games in 11 contests that stretches from the end of November through December. But they will need to find scoring punch, especially from the forward group. They have excellent point producers among the defensemen in Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom, but Ladd needs more help. Hopefully, that's where Evander Kane will fit in. In his third year since being drafted in the first round (all of his time spent at the NHL level) this could be the year he steps up his game and becomes a franchise fixture. He is already a popular figure partly by virtue of his Twitter account and the way he has taken to Winnipeg.

Strengths: They were above average on the power play last season, finishing 12th in the league thanks to Byfuglien and Enstrom. Thrown in the potential of Zach Bogosian as an offensive weapon and that's a lunch of firepower coming back the blue line. I like Ondrej Pavelec in net if he can get a little better support from his teammates. I will put one more in this category, and that's the patience of the front office. They have a lot of first-round talent on the roster and they don't seem willing to abandon the long-term plan for a quick fix to appease the riled up fans.

Weaknesses: The forwards need to show more. Outside of Ladd, nobody up front cracked the 20-goal barrier last season in Atlanta. They need to find a way to tighten down defensively after giving up the second-most goals per game in hockey last year at 3.20. The forwards doing a better job of creating scoring chances and possessing the puck will certainly contribute. The penalty kill was almost equally bad last year, clocking in at 27th in the NHL. Like the Panthers, we'll put new coach Claude Noel as an "unknown."

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 @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.



Posted on: March 8, 2011 1:31 am
Edited on: March 8, 2011 12:20 pm
 

Morning skate: Crosby's sister suffers concussion



Taylor Crosby, the sister of Pittsburgh Penguins star center Sidney Crosby, recently suffered the same injury that has kept her big brother sidelined for more than two months. 

The Toronto Star reports that 14-year-old Taylor, a goalie, was injured two weeks ago during a practice for her under-16 team at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prep school in Minnesota. Taylor -- shown above with Sidney, mother, Trina, and father, Troy -- has since returned to the ice.

Dr. Charles Tator, a leading expert on brain injuries in Canada, said having multiple family members suffer concussions isn't uncommon, pointing to the Lindros brothers as one example. 

“I know several families that have all had concussions,” said Tator. “We do wonder whether some families have a special susceptibility to concussion. But there’s no proof for this.”

Twelve NHL players were listed as injured with concussions on Monday and three more with “head injuries” and one with “dizziness,” according to The Toronto Star. A Pittsburgh Penguins spokesperson told the newspaper there has been no change in Sidney Crosby’s status.

The topic of concussions will be a key issue discussed at next week's GM meetings in Florida, accordng to USA TODAY.

HOLTBY BAILS OUT CAPS: As Michal Neuvirth was forced out after a period when a piece of metal got lodged in his eye, Braden Holtby was put between the pipes for the Washington Caps on Monday. 

No pressure. Holtby -- who had gone nearly six weeks between NHL starts -- responded with a 21-save performance, not counting his three stops in the shootout as the Caps earned a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning

The Washington Post's Katie Carrera reports that Holtby's saves just as he entered the game set the tone. 

"Right off the bat he comes in and there's a power play," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of Holtby. "I think he has three great chances. [Simone] Gagne had a fabulous chance and when he saved that you knew he was going to be on.”


Boudreau said after the game that it took some time to get the small sliver of metal -- which flew into his eye on a shot by Tampa Bay forward Nate Thompson in the first minute of the game -- out of his eye, but added  Neuvirth would be fine. 

Caps center Nicklas Backstrom, who has been playing through a broken thumb, fell on his injured hand and missed the third period. Like Neuvirth, Boudreau said Backstrom should be OK.

PHILLY DOESN'T HAVE IT EASY: The Philadelphia Flyers, losers of four in a row, seem to have the right team coming to town to end their slump. 

But maybe not. 

Sure, the Edmonton Oilers are a point away from being the worst team in the league. But they do enter Tueday's contest against the East's top team 7-3-1  7-3-0 in their last 10 games. 

The Flyers are still suffering through a bout of the flu that has ravaged the locker room. CSNPhilly.com' s Tim Panaccio reports the Flyers coach Peter Laviolette isn't using illness as an excuse, but it's not a bad explanation for Sunday's 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers.  

“If everyone is honest here and look at the [loss] as an isolated game, we had no gas,” Laviolette said during a conference call. “We had no energy. To bring them in again, the mental part of it and physical part, I just didn’t see any good it was going to do.”


The Oilers aren't exactly healthy either. Talor Hall, the first overall pick in last summer's draft, is out for the season with an injured ankle suffered in a fight last week and Ales Hemsky is out at least a few more days with a shoulder injury.

And then their GM was also nearly put in the injured reserve. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports that Steve Tambellini was hit in the head by a piece of Plexiglas as he stood near the bench during practice on Monday. 

He wasn’t cut, but he took a wallop to his noggin and definitely was shaken up.

“That’s the hardest I’ve been hit in a long while,” said the former NHL center.


MONDAY'S RESULTS
Washington 2, Tampa Bay 1 (SO)
St. Louis 5, Columbus Blue 4 (SO)
Dallas 4, Los Angeles 3 (OT)
CBSSports.com playoff race tracker 

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 7, 2011 4:18 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 5:31 pm
 

Playoff watch: Diving Lightning take on Caps


Washington Capitals (36-20-10) at Tampa Bay Lightning (37-21-7)

St. Pete Times Forum, 7 pm ET (Versus)

SEASON SERIES: Washington 3-1-1; Tampa Bay 2-3-0

IMPLICATIONS: Tampa Bay would move back into first with either a regulation win or OT/shootout victory over their division foes. The Lightning have the edge in the first tiebreaker, games played. There's a rundown of the full tie-breaking rules at the bottom of our playoff tracker

BREAKDOWN: These teams enter three-game streaks going in opposite directions. Tampa, which held sole possession of the division lead for more than two months, allowed Washington to take the Southeast lead with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday. 

This sixth and final meeting was expected to be spirited ---even before Caps coach Bruce Boudreau’s comments made the rounds on Monday. “(Steven) Stamkos, dives every two seconds,” Boudreau said in comment picked up by The Washington Post“You start to get a hatred on for guys like that. So, it will be interesting."

Gamesmanship for sure and Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher refused to respond, other than to say he had "more respect for the players to say their players or our players are divers." We’ll see how smart it was to go after Stamkos, who hasn’t had a point in four games. (He still enters with a league-leading 41 goals.) 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Caps LW Alexander Semin vs. Lightning RW Stamkos (above). Stamkos is expected to play the wing opposite pf Martin St. Louis on a line centered by Dominic Moore, according to  Damian Cristodero of The St. Petersburg Times. Stamkos has only one goal over the previous 11 games, just as Semin -- the first Caps player with four hat tricks in a season since Peter Bondra (1995-96) -- has contributed more than just head-scratching penalties. Semin scored the game-winner in OT on Sunday and has 21 goals lifetime against Tampa Bay.

KEY STAT: 8-10. The Caps’ less-than-stellar record in games that go past regulation. 

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 3, 2011 3:15 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Playoff watch: Sabres making their move



Buffalo Sabres (30-25-7) at Carolina Hurricanes (30-25-9)
RBC Center, 7 pm ET
Buffalo: 9th in East, 67 points (5-3-2 in last 10 games)
Carolina: 8th in East, 69 points (4-4-2 in last 10 games)
Season series: Buffalo def. Carolina, 3-2, in first meeting on Jan 13. 


BREAKDOWN: A Buffalo Sabres win puts them in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, at least for one night. (Buffalo would get the edge in the standings since it has two games in hand. Click here for our rundown of the playoff chase, along with the league’s tiebreaking procedures.) Sabres goalie Ryan Miller probably hasn’t been this much on his game since he led Team USA to silver at the 2010 Winter Games. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in regulation over his last five starts, including Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Without him, the Sabres, who were in 12th place and 10 points out of playoff spot at the end of December, wouldn’t be here. 

Carolina has some room to advance up the standings as well. A victory and a Rangers loss would put them into seventh place. Cory Stillman has two goals and an assist in his return to the Carolina via trade with the Florida Panther on Feb. 24. Goalie Cam Ward is expected to make his 24th consecutive start. Jeff Skinner, one of the contenders for the Calder Trophy, hasn’t scored a goal over the last five games, although he still leads all rookies in points (47).
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com