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Tag:Jeff Carter
Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:57 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Weekend Wrap: Sanford, Jackets starting to roll

By Brian Stubits

Amid Columbus' awful, awful opening to the season, the only bit of defense the team and its fans had was something along the lines of waiting for everybody to be healthy. The team was built in the offseason around the additions of James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter and for the first month and a half of the season; they had not played in the same game. Now they are both playing and the Blue Jackets are now winning.

But it was another injured player returning that has been even bigger. And this one wasn't really on anybody's excuse radar.

Turns out the return of goaltender Curtis Sanford has been huge. Or at least it would appear that way. It was no mystery that Steve Mason in goal was as big an issue as anything else in Columbus' struggles, but I am not sure anybody believed there was a possible solution within the organization.

It wasn't long ago that in this blog we were discussing the possibilities of the Blue Jackets getting a major shakeup in the front office and coaching staff. Some were just saying give it more time, all they needed was to trade for a good goalie. The only problem was the Jackets are right up against the cap and have no flexibility.

This feels as good as a trade right now.

In the five games prior to Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Blues, all Sanford starts, the Blue Jackets picked up at least one point. His record is now 3-0-2 after Columbus' 5-1 beating of the Buffalo Sabres on Black Friday. He entered Sunday with a goals against average of 1.27 and a save percentage of .950. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The recent run has done what not long ago seemed laughable: the Jackets had climbed out of the NHL cellar. With the Devils' squeaker over the Devils on Saturday, the Jackets returned to the basement, but they are hot on the heels of the Isles, Ducks and Flames to move (or down) the draft lottery list.

But the big acquisitions have been doing their part, too. Carter, back after breaking his foot, is finally looking comfortable with his new team. With two beautiful assists against the Sabres, Carter brought his total to five points (3-2=5) in the last five games. Wisniewski has also recorded five points in that span as he also contributed two assists to the win on Friday.

However none of that would matter much if they weren't getting better goaltending. Now, with Sanford getting the bulk of the work, they are. It's not too late to crawl their way back into the picture, but a lot of that will ride on Sanford continuing to play at a level this high.

If he keeps those ice blue pads, maybe he will.

Hangover Part II

Much was made about the champion Bruins' hangover to start the season. They came out slower than any team not named the Blue Jackets. Of course, that's long-ago history as the Bruins have won 11 of the past 12 games, earning a point in all of them.

But not as much has been said about the Canucks' meager beginning. After all, this was the best team in the regular season last year and was within 60 minutes of winning the Stanley Cup. Like the Bruins, the Canucks returned the core of their team and were expected to be powerful once again. Yet they were merely average.

That might be changing. With a road trip that included a 5-0 domination of the Coyotes in a "packed" (with blue) Jobing.com Arena on Friday and a gritty 3-2 win over the Sharks in San Jose on Saturday, the Canucks have won four in a row.

With the eight points in four games, they are now two points behind the Minnesota Wild, two points from reclaiming their seemingly rightful position atop the Northwest Division (they have lived in the Northwest penthouse for a few seasons).

In goal for each of those four games? That would be Cory Schneider, not Roberto Luongo. Schneider -- who had back-to-back shutouts in the four-game run -- was already seen by many to be the best backup in the game, rumored constantly in trade talks around the league over the last season-plus. Now the only goalie that Canucks fans want to throw around in those conversations is Luongo, the Vezina finalist from just last season.

There was already a goalie controversy in Vancouver even before Schneider began playing so well. The controversy? The fact that Luongo was the starter. That was enough to cause a civil war among the fans in British Columbia. This just makes it more heated.

It's show time

We got a taste of the Winter Classic on Saturday with the Flyers and Rangers waging battle in New York, a 2-0 Blueshirts win. Brandon Prust fought not once, but twice, much to the pleasure of John Tortorella.

It was also the first time this season that the league's highest-scoring offense, the Flyers, were grounded. It should come as no surprise that it was Henrik Lundqvist who was first to do it. They don't call him King Henrik for nothing.

But over the weekend, we also got our first taste of the HBO 24/7 series that's set to debut on Dec. 14. No, I'm not talking about the game, but HBO's 12-minute preview of the must-see show for hockey (and non-hockey) fans.

Warning: If you don't already have HBO in your cable/dish subscription plan, the following teaser might make you change your mind (video courtesy of nyrangersblog.com).

There wasn't even an appearance from Jaromir Jagr or Sean Avery in this tease, so clearly they must be saving the best for the show, a refreshing change from movie trailers that show you the only good parts of the movie.

Glory Toews

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews isn't going anywhere anytime soon. If they have their way in Chicago, he'll retire in the black and red.

But if he were to change work addresses, he just might move to Southern California.

The Blackhawks took their turn at the SoCal double dip with a game Friday in Anaheim and Saturday in Los Angeles. What did Toews do? Oh just help the 'Hawks take both games with three goals and three assists. One of those goals came 1960s style with Toews parked in the crease without a helmet and scrambling to hammer home the loose puck.

I have no doubt that when this season is all said and done, Toews will have his say in the Hart Trophy conversation.

Real quickly on the Ducks, this is just too atrocious to leave out (from Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register: The Ducks have now lost six in a row, 12 of 13 and 15 of their last 17. No other word for that than horrendous.

Florida flurry

It's not even December yet and the intrastate rivals in Florida have already met five times. For the second time in the first two months, the Lightning and Panthers had a back-to-back set beginning in Sunrise and finishing in Tampa.

This time, it was the Bolts getting the better of the Cats. One massive reason was the play of Steven Stamkos. He had three goals, including the game-winner in overtime on Friday night, and an assist. He was the best player on the ice on Saturday, no questions asked.

It continues to amaze me how little attention Stammer seems to be generating. After all, he proved last year he's one of the top three scorers in the league. He has quietly amassed 14 goals and 10 assists this season. Yet there seems to be hardly a peep about him.

A few more four-point weekends for the Lightning and I'm sure he'll start getting his due.

Capital punishment

At this point I'm starting to think this will be a regular section in the Weekend Wrap. At least as long as the Capitals continue to play the way they have been.

With their 5-1 beating in Buffalo -- where the Sabres' Zack Kassian scored his first career NHL goal -- the Caps moved to 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. In the past eight, it's been particularly awful.

Check out this stat from Stephen Whyno at the Washington Post. The Caps have now been outscored 34-17 in their past eight games. Minus-17 in the past eight? That's worthy of one big OUCH.

The upcoming week for the Caps has dates with the Blues and Penguins. So things might not get better quite yet.

Quote of the weekend

After the Penguins destroyed the Senators 6-3 and Sidney Crosby continued his stellar return with three assists, Sens forward Nick Foligno attacked Crosby for taking a headshot at him late in the game. He wasn't too happy with Sid, saying he was disappointed and more or less called Crosby a hypocrite.

While Crosby was quiet about the criticism, his coach Dan Bylsma wasn't. Here's what he had to say in response.

"We're talking about a player that bumped into our goalie three times. With the score 5-1 and intentionally going into our goalie, he can expect more than Sidney Crosby coming at him and talking to him during the game. That's how we feel about those situations. He was in our net falling over our goalie, and I don't think there was any question about the intent."

Photo: US Presswire

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

Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:32 pm
 

Handing out some first month grades

octgrades

By: Adam Gretz

The first month of the NHL season is in the books and we're still trying to figure out which teams are good, which teams are bad and which hot start is for real and which one is simply an early season mirage. Let's check in with a progress report on some notable players and teams for the month of October.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs: Let's pretend, just hypothetically, that Phil Kessel is able stay near the top of the NHL's scoring list all.

Now, you shouldn't expect him to maintain his current pace (his shooting percentage is currently 26 percent -- that's probably not sustainable for a full season), but what if he were to do something completely unexpected like, say, win the NHL's scoring title and help lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Would that do anything to change your opinion of the the trade that brought him to Toronto? Should it? Brian Burke has already said Boston won the trade because it has a Stanley Cup, but that trade -- which landed the Bruins two first-round draft picks, including a No. 2 overall selection used on Tyler Seguin, and a second-round pick -- had little to do with that championship. Seguin played about 12 minutes a game and scored 11 goals during the regular season, and only appeared in two postseason series. It's not like he was the driving force behind that cup run. The steep price Toronto paid still overshadow the fact that Kessel is a pretty darn good (three straight years of 30-plus goals) player and still only 24 years of age.

Even if he doesn't maintain this current pace he's been the most dangerous offensive player in the NHL this season and one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs are off to their best start in a decade, and that's worthy of a top-grade for the first month.

Other players and teams earning A's for the month of October

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) -- had one of the best months of any goaltender in the NHL, including three consecutive shutouts; James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins) -- for a Penguins team that continues to deal with injuries, Neal has been their best overall player and looks to be the young goal-scoring winger they've been searching for for years; Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) -- He leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against average for what has been, so far, the toughest team in the NHL to score against; and the Dallas Stars -- winners of eight of their first 11 games, thanks in large part to the play of Kari Lehtonen.

Ottawa Senators: For the first two weeks of the season the Ottawa Senators looked to be every bit as awful as they were expected to be.

Over the next two weeks? They won six games in a row and end the month two game over .500. Even through the awful stretch to start the season the Senators were impressive with their determination to never quit in a game, regardless of the score, resulting in acouple of late come-from-behind victories (against Minnesota and the Rangers).

They've been outscored 27-15 over the first two periods but have outscored their opponents 21-18 in the third period. It's not likely they'll be able to continue to rely on huge third period comebacks to get wins, and they're going to have to start getting some better starts in games so they're not constantly trying to play catch up, but a 7-5 record at this point is more than could have (or should have) been expected.

Other players and teams earning B's for the month of October

Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) -- He's been the best player on a Nashville team that is losing the possession battle just about every single night and is facing more shots than any other goaltender in the league. He's keeping the Predators in it while they search for some offense; Jaromir Jagr (Philadelphia Flyers) -- Three years away from the NHL and at 39 years of age Jagr opened the season and showed everybody that he can still play at the highest level with a point-per-game pace for the Flyers.

Detroit Red Wings: The A-plus honor student that brings home the rare and unexpected C. You know they can do better, and you expect them to do better. (And they will do better.) But after starting the season 5-0 the Red Wings dropped four in a row by a combined margin of 16-4. That streak includes a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, a game that was followed by a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets for their first victory of the season. Their defense definitely took a hit when Brian Rafalski retired over the summer, and they're not the defensive stalwart they were a few years ago, but they should be better than they've looked over the first month.

Other players and teams earning C's for the month of October

Montreal Canadiens -- Injuries to their defense, as well as top forward Michael Cammalleri, didn't help, but a rather uninspiring start for the Canadiens that only started to turn around when an assistant coach was forced to take the fall.

Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula spent a ton of money this summer in an effort to make the Sabres a Stanley Cup contender, and one of his biggest investments, Ville Leino, has been a complete non-factor through the first month of the season. In 10 games the 28-year-old Leino has scored just one goal to go with one assist and has recorded just five shots on goal, or one every other game. He's definitely talented, but based on what he's actually produced at the NHL level the six-year, $27 million contract was, at the very least, one hell of a gamble. And so far it's a losing one.

Other plays and teams earning D's for the month of October

 Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) -- And he's probably right on the line between D and F. Let's just say this: the only goaltender in the NHL that has a worse save percentage entering November is Ottawa's backup, Alex Auld.

Columbus Blue Jackets: An offseason with such excitement and a season that seemed to have so much promise was opened with … the worst start in franchise history and the worst record in the NHL. There is obviously time to turn it around -- and I still believe the Jackets can -- and the two big offseason acquisitions have been limited so far, which isn't helping things. James Wisniewski was suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, while Jeff Carter, acquired from the Flyers, was limited to just five games in October due to a foot injury, scoring zero goals. Still … the worst start in franchise history?

Other players and teams earning F's for the month of October

The Boston Bruins -- Defending champs with the second-worst record in the league.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 30, 2011 12:17 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 9:50 pm
 

Report: Jackets could fire coach, GM on Monday

By Brian Stubits

You didn't think the Columbus Blue Jackets could start the season 1-9-1 and the head coach and GM would still be safe, did you?

Despite team president Mike Priest giving coach Scott Arniel and GM Scott Howson a "vote of confidence" -- further proof that is often more curse than reassurement -- amid the slow start, Aaron Portzline at the Columbus Dispatch reports that folks around the situation are on "high alert.

Multiple NHL sources have informed The Dispatch early Sunday that Jackets president Mike Priest has contacted Ken Hitchcock about returning as the club’s coach, and that former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button has been contacted about taking on the same job with the Jackets.   Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson and/or coach Scott Arniel could be replaced by Monday, the sources indicated

Here's a little more on Hitchcock and Button from Portzline.

Hitchcock coached the Blue Jackets to the Stanley Cup playoffs following the 2008-09 season, the franchise’s only taste of the post-season. He was fired the following season when the Jackets were languishing at 23-27-9 in early February.

Button was briefly a candidate with the Blue Jackets when Scott Howson was hired to replace Doug MacLean during the summer of 2007.

He has worked for the Stars, Flames and Maple Leafs and is currently an analyst on the NHL Network’s NHL On The Fly.

For the record, Button, who now works for TSN, denied being in touch with Columbus. "While it's flattering to be mentioned in GM rumors, I've had no contact with Columbus. I wish Scott H. the best to turn things around."

He then gave another denial later Sunday on camera.

Part of Priest's "vote of confidence" was the fact that the team had yet to play with the full roster that Howson built. James Wisniewski missed the first eight games because of a suspension and then Jeff Carter was sidelined with a hairline fracture in his foot. Still, dating back to last season, the Blue Jackets are -- get this -- 4-21-8 in their last 33 games. That's not a typo.

As for the roster, it's equally as hard to believe that Columbus has the league's fifth-highest payroll. According to capgeek.com, Columbus only has $81,643 in cap space available. This in spite of the Jackets being in a "small" market, one where they are drawing the fourth-lowest amount of fans per game this season at a little more than 12,000.

Moreover, Howson has been working on a long-term plan for this franchise. He has put together a roster with five players signed through at least the 2016-17 season. That's a lot of foresight and commitment to the plan for the future. It would not be an enviable position for any new GM to come in to who would be looking to take the franchise on his own path.

Looking at the investment vs. production to this point, it's easy to see where a bombshell like this is coming from. Clearly the people in charge in Columbus aren't happy with a three-points-in-11-games start, but I can't help think along Priest's original line of thinking, that no judgments should be made about the roster until they newcomers have all had a chance to play some games together. Since Carter has been out since October 15, he and Wisniewski haven't been on the ice together yet this season.

Maybe Sunday night's home game against the Anaheim Ducks will be a lost chance at salvation for Arniel and Howson.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 27, 2011 11:23 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 1:24 am
 

Bryzgalov says he stinks, has no confidence

By: Adam Gretz

Ilya Bryzgalov was supposed to be the answer to the one problem the Philadelphia Flyers have been trying to solve since Ron Hextall was occupying the crease -- goalie. The Flyers have so much confidence that Bryzgalov is the man to get them over the postseason hump that after acquiring his free agent rights over the summer from the Phoenix Coyotes, they signed him to an enourmous nine-year, $51 million contract that was also accompanied by the trades of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

The entire sequence of events basically made Bryzgalov the face of the franchise. After two starts, Bryzgalov allowed just one goal in wins against Boston and New Jersey, and all seemed to be well. Over his past six appearances, however, everything has been a struggle.

He didn't start the Flyers' 9-8, goaltending optional loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, but did enter the game after Sergei Bobrovsky allowed five goals in less than two periods of work. Bryzgalov wasn't any better and surrendered four goals on just 10 shots. Add that performance to his previous five, and he's allowed 25 goals on 157 shots for a brutal .840 save percentage since a shutout against New Jersey. Given how tough of a hockey market Philadelphia can be, there's no doubt some serious concern filling the call-in shows.

And Bryzgalov's post-game comments on Thursday might be causing some panic.

"I have zero confidence in myself right now," said Bryzgalov during his post-game interview. "I just can't stop the puck, it's very simple. You can't ask more from the forwards, they scored eight goals and we're still losing."

He later added that he feels like he's "lost in the woods right now."

You can watch his entire presser right here, via Flyers beat writer Anthony SanFillippo:



Bryzgalov definitely has a bit of a personality to him, and it's not uncommon for him to give candid -- and sometimes bizarre -- quotes in interviews, but it's a bit early in the season to sound that defeated.

The Flyers are currently without their best defenseman, Chris Pronger, following an eye injury he suffered against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and in their first two games without him they've given up 14 goals against two teams off to bad starts in Montreal and Winnipeg. The defense is a mess, and the goaltending isn't helpinng.

Bryzgalov had his best seasons in Phoenix playing in Dave Tippett's tight defensive system, and it was going to be interesting to see how he would adjust to the changes around him. Like Roberto Luongo in Vancouver Bryzgalov isn't going to be this bad all season, but in Philadelphia, where the home town team blew up its roster to acquire -- and sign -- him this isn't the start anybody was looking for.

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

Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Saturday Story: Jon Quick on fire; Booth dealt

By Brian Stubits

You ever notice that there seems to be 15 or 20 goalies who are described as one of the top 5 in the league? Well I'm starting to get the feeling I know of another.

In case you haven't noticed, Jonathan Quick is having himself quite a stretch in net for the Los Angeles Kings right now. He blanked the streaking Stars in a 1-0 Pacific Division battle, marking his third consecutive shutout. Going back to last Saturday's game against Philadelphia when Matt Carle beat him on the power play, that's 188:10 consecutive minutes without a goal.

If you want to make that even more impressive, the last team he was beaten with an even-strength goal? You have to go back to 13:03 of the first period against the Devils on Oct. 13. That's 286:57 straight minutes.

"Anytime a goaltender gets a shutout, everyone contributes. But you've got to give him a lot of the credit," Kings coach Terry Murray said after the win. "He's focused on the play and he's aggressive to the shots. Tonight he was again on his game, and he just followed up on the game at Phoenix and brought the same game here tonight."

A lot of attention this summer was paid to the addition of Mike Richards in Los Angeles and Drew Doughty's contract. That's all rightfully so. They were massive moves worthy of their attention.

But you can't forget about Quick. When push comes to shove, a team is usually only as good as its goalie. Look at the Bruins and Tim Thomas a season ago.

It's not like we're going off again on another small-sample size judgment parade here. Quick just posted a .918 save percentage and 2.24 goals against average last season. For his career, which consists of 186 games, he has a .914 save percentage. But streaks like this will get you noticed.

Plus, it's pretty great to have him on your Fantasy team, too (#humblebrag).

Booth dealt

When news of the David Booth to the Canucks found its way to the press box at the Verizon Center on Saturday night, the collective response was one of shock. Why on Earth would the Panthers give up Booth for Marco Sturm and Mikael Samuelsson? What was the end game for Dale Tallon?

Well, having had a little more time to digest it, I think I can at least see the rationale for Tallon. That's not to say I buy it, but I can see it.

Booth was more than sluggish to start the season. His one point in six games didn't exactly fit the profile of a player making more than $4 million per season. Considering he scored 23 goals last season and had just 40 points, the perception of him is still high considering his 31-goal season a few years back. That was also before his concussion.

So there was still some high-stock value for Booth. Any longer of a slow start and that would have gone down. But still, only Sturm and Samuelsson for Booth, Steven Reinprecht and a third-round draft pick? There has to be more.

Well, consider that obviously Sameulsson and Sturm aren't in the Panthers' long-term plans. When Tallon went on the spending spree this past summer, he signed four lines worth of NHL-caliber players to longer deals. There was no room for the Panthers to begin showing off their expansive farm system.

But with these two deals coming off the books, that's conceivably two roster spots that will be available for highly touted players like Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden to play. That could be the biggest part of all.

And for the Canucks? Well yea, the deal makes too much sense. Booth with fellow Michigander Ryan Kesler could be magic. Of course, Booth could struggle, too. It's not a completely risk-free trade, but it's close.

How to stay winless in 60 seconds

The Columbus Blue Jackets were so close they could probably taste it. Going in to the final minute against the Senators, the Jackets had the lead and seemed at least sure to get one point. That would have doubled their season total. But the real fish they were chasing was their first win.

Instead, they reminded everybody why they are the only winless team in hockey by collapsing in the final minute, giving up not one, but two goals to the Senators, including the winner with 4.7 seconds left.

"It's tough. It seems like we're not getting any bounces," Rick Nash said. "It seems like we're finding ways to lose games instead of finding ways to win games. That's the difference between good teams and bad teams right now."

The saving grace for Columbus? The team is about to get a lift. James Wisniewski will finally make his Blue Jackets debut after his eight-game suspension and Jeff Carter shouldn't be out too much longer.

Still, there is no easy treading ahead. The next seven games will come against teams above .500. At this point, they just need to get the proverbial monkey off their backs because this will only weigh on them the longer it goes.

Long season ahead

The Washington Capitals are flying sky high right now. They are off to a 7-0-0 start and D.C. is buzzing about its hockey team again. Seriously, outside of the arena before Saturday's game against the Red Wings there was a marching band which had one of the adjacent streets shut down.

After they dismantled the Wings 7-1, optimism is even higher. But that's why we have Ted Leonsis around (well that, and he kind of owns the team).

In a nutshell, here's the main message of his blog post to his Caps faithful.

It is October.

It is not how you start -- it is how you finish.

Enjoy the ride.

But don’t ever get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. Thank you. Go Caps!

It's a good moment of clarity from Leonsis, to be sure. Obviously he knows all too well about the Capitals being regular-season warriors who haven't delivered in the playoffs. But I just can't help but notice a more well-rounded and dare I say better team.

Stinking up the place

Rangers coach John Tortorella was brief in his postgame interview after New York's 2-0 loss to the Oilers on Saturday night. Real brief.

I take it he wasn't too happy with his team?

Somebody who was impressed? Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson. Not with the Rangers, but with Tortorella's postgame showing. Here is what Wilson tweeted on Sunday.

"Impressive Torts! U just set a new presser record at 16 secs. I'm going to break that record!"

Man, I can't wait for 24/7, this is going to be good.

Habs heat?

A start of 1-4-2 in Montreal? You know this is going to go well.

The Canadiens are just a little slow out of the gate. Part of that is injuries, so there's nothing to really blame there. But free-agent acquisition Erik Cole is yet to do one thing they brought him in for -- score a goal.

Montreal fans can be ruthless. They are serious about their hockey, obviously. So they were clamoring for a shakeup to the roster. So what do they get? Try a trade of Brock Trotter and a seventh-round pick to the Coyotes for Petteri Nokelainen and Garrett Stafford. I'm sure that's exactly what the Habs fans had in mind.

At the least, they expect playoff appearances in Montreal. So the longer the Habs wallow out of the gate, the more pressure coach Jacques Martin will feel.

Photo: Getty Images

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

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: October 19, 2011 6:25 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 7:56 pm
 

Brayden Schenn is back with the Flyers

BSchenn1By: Adam Gretz

When the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Washington Capitals Thursday night they're going to get their first regular season look at Brayden Schenn, one of the key players acquired in the Mike Richards trade over the summer. He was recalled from the American Hockey League on Wednesday, after spending four games playing for the Adirondack Phantoms. He started the season in the minors for two main reasons. For one, he was recovering from a shoulder injury, and perhaps more importantly, his salary cap hit wasn't going to fit on the Flyers roster at the start of the year.

Because of his contract structure his cap hit for this season goes from $3.1 million all the way down to $1.69 million because he played at least one game in the minor leagues. He ended up playing four, scoring four goals to go with four assists. For a team that is crammed to the top of the NHL's salary cap that extra $1.41 million in cap space is a huge deal.

In a related move, the Flyers also sent Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk back to the minor leagues.

Tim Panaccio of CSNPhiladelphia speculates Schenn could make his debut on a line with fellow rookies Matt Read and Sean Couturier, Philadelphia's first-round pick from this past June, which was acquired in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Jeff Carter. It would certainly be an interesting line, and a nice glimpse of what the future might hold for the Flyers as all three are highly touted, and in the case of Read and Couturier, already playing quite well at the NHL level.

As an 18-year-old rookie, Couturier is already logging a ton of minutes on the penalty kill, averaging 4:27 per game, a number that is fourth among all NHL forwards, trailing only Max Talbot, Lauri Korpikoski and Adam Hall. Read, meanwhile, has emerged as an early-season Calder Trophy favorite with two goals and four assists in five games. He's second on the team in scoring behind only Claude Giroux.

The Flyers, one of just four teams in the NHL that has yet to lose a game in regulation, are off to a 4-0-1 start and were the most recent team to systematically dismantle the Ottawa Senators, 7-2, on Tuesday night.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:54 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 11:05 pm
 

Jamie Benn adds to Columbus' struggles

By: Adam Gretz

If we've established anything this week it's that the Columbus Blue Jackets are in trouble. A lot of trouble. And things aren't getting any better with the injury to Jeff Carter. What has been the worst start in franchise history continued to get worse on Tuesday night thanks to a 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, which was played in front of just 9,158 people at Nationwide Arena.

They managed to generate a lot of shots, out-shooting the Stars by a 40-18 margin, but it still wasn't enough as Steve Mason once against struggled in net and the Blue Jackets couldn't find a way to break through on Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen. If there is one play that can sum up the Columbus season to this point, it's probably this highlight reel goal from Stars forward Jamie Benn early in the third period.

It was a fantastic effort from the young power forward as he managed to skate through four Columbus players, somehow maintain possession of the puck, and find a way to fire off a wicked shot to beat Mason.



The loss drops Columbus to 0-5-1 on the young season, the worst mark in the NHL.

How bad does it look for the Blue Jackets right now? During its loss on Tuesday retired NHL player Mike Modano took to his Twitter account and asked All-Star forward Rick Nash, one of the four players that Benn managed to beat on the above goal, to ask for a trade out of Columbus.

Yeah, that's probably not going to happen. Hopefully.

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


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com