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Tag:Colorado Avalanche
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 6, 2012 9:38 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 9:45 am
 

Pregame Skate: Big night for all in playoff push

Jumbo Joe and San Jose enter the night eighth in the West. (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.

10:30 ET, Edmonton at San Jose

This is pretty amazing to type with only a few weeks left in the season, but if the Sharks don't win this game, they could be out of playoff position.

Now here is the part where I throw out the disclaimers: the Sharks have multiple games in hand on the teams ahead or near them in the standings. It's also where I remind you that does you no good unless you actually win those games in hand.

But the Sharks are sinking right now. They are 4-10-1 in their last 15 games, unable to really find their footing since returning from that nine-game road trip they took in February. As a result, they find themselves holding on to the final playoff spot in the West at the moment. Of course, they could also forge a three-way tie with losses by their Pacific Division rivals tonight and regain the third seed. This is how it is shaping up to be for the remainder of the season in the Pacific.

The important thing for San Jose is to not let these types of games slip away. The Sharks have had a couple days off, they're at home and the league's second worst team record wise (the Oilers) are visiting a night after playing in Anaheim. It's as good a shot at two points as any. It's more or less herring just dangling in front of them.

9 ET, Minnesota at Colorado (NBC Sports Network)

The Avalanche won't go away out West either. Unlike the East where teams like Toronto and Washington to an extent have been playing their way out of the playoffs, Colorado is one of those out West that has been winning its way in, meaning they have won five of the last seven games.

That includes a win on Sunday night against the same Minnesota Wild they host on Tuesday. It was a 2-0 win for the Avs with the lone tallies coming from Jamie McGinn in the first period.

I still haven't been convinced by the Avalanche that they have staying power in the Western Conference to make the playoffs this season. But here we are in March and they just won't go away. With that said, their odds still aren't as good as the other teams around them in the standings due to the extra number of games they have played. Sports Club Stats puts the odds on the Avs making it in at 17.95 percent.

It's important to point out that Semyon Varlamov has been significantly better in goal for them of late, showing why they traded a first-round draft pick for him this summer. Only once in his last six starts has he given up more than two goals. In the other five starts his goals against average is a decimal shade above 1.00 even.

7:30 ET, Ottawa at Tampa Bay

Welcome back to the playoff picture, Tampa Bay.

The Lightning have been streaking of late behind the hot stick of Steven Stamkos -- honestly, when is it not hot? -- and are about to enjoy some time at home. Having won four in a row, the Lightning are embarking on a nine-game stretch where eight games will come at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Here's an interesting little tidbit about that: The Lightning actually have the Southeast Division's best home record. Better than Winnipeg. Actually, Washington has a better home record than Winnipeg too (by two fewer OT losses). That's saying something about Tampa's prowess at home.

If they can use this home-heavy stretch the way the Jets just did on their eight-game home stand, there's no reason the Lightning can't get in the playoff seeding very soon, or possibly even jumping the Panthers for first place in the division (they enter tonight six points behind).

Of note for the Senators: Ben Bishop is expected to get his first start since being traded to Ottawa after Robin Lehner was sent back to AHL Binghamton.

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Others worth watching

7 ET, Boston at Toronto: Let's see if the change from Ron Wilson to Randy Carlyle is going to help the Maple Leafs finally get over the Bruins hump. Boston has won all four meetings this season by a combined score of 23-6. Eek.

7 ET, Phoenix at Columbus: The Coyotes come into Columbus straight off a loss -- albeit a good showing -- against the Penguins on Monday. It was just Saturday that the Blue Jackets beat the Coyotes in the desert.

7 ET, Carolina at Washington: The last time these two got together the Hurricanes whitewashed the Capitals 5-0 in Raleigh. Washington comes in having lost two straight at home while failing to score in either. To say the Caps need this is an understatement.

7 ET, Detroit at Philadelphia: Not a whole lot in the playoff picture other than Detroit's battle for the Central Division and Presidents' Trophy, but Mark Howe's number will be retired before the game and it should just be an all-around good game.

8 ET, Los Angeles at Nashville: Kings coach Darryl Sutter joked the Predators “haven’t lost at home since Christ was a child.” Doesn't bode well for a team trying to stay in the playoff hunt too. If things go right, L.A. could be just one point out of first in the Pacific by night's end.

10 ET, Dallas at Vancouver: As the day begins, this is a matchup of division leaders as the Stars took that title on Monday night with Phoenix's loss. But the task is tall if they want to keep that lead after tonight.

Your promised miscellany

  • Monday's Winners & Losers
  • The Senators threatened they might leave Ottawa if tax breaks were eliminated. No worries, they're staying. (Ottawa Sun)
  • The news on the Jonathan Toews mystery injury front is sounding better for Chicago. (CSN Chicago)
  • A little more on my favorite story of the year so far, OHL forward Connor Crisp talks about the experience playing goaltender.

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

Posted on: March 4, 2012 9:37 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 10:13 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Avs, Stars, Cats with big wins

By Brian Stubits

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

Winners

Jamie McGinn, Colorado Avalanche: So they got this guy from the Sharks for scoring, right?

Whether the Avalanche did or didn't (the answer is not really) he's giving it to them anyway. Or at least he did on Sunday.

The Avs, needing to keep pace in the Western race, got two early goals from McGinn and hung on to shut out the Minnesota Wild in Minnesota. It not only kept them squarely in the conversation, it pretty much cemented the fate of the Wild as they drop seven points out of a playoff spot. That's just a little tough to make up at this point.

The Avs have been on one of their patented upswings in an up-and-down season and now join the Kings just one point back of the Sharks in the Western Conference, tied with the Los Angeles Kings.

It was a nice showing for Semyon Varlamov too to stop all 30 shots he faced from the Wild. For a goalie that has struggled for much of the season, to string together some wins like that will go a long way in turning around a young goalie's psyche.

[Related: Avalanche 2, Wild 0]

Florida Panthers: Some team has to win the Southeast Division and in recent days you got the feeling that this team wasn't going to be able to hold on. They still might not, but they have to feel a lot better after Sunday's comeback win.

For the sixth time in the last nine games, the Panthers fell in a 2-0 hole. This time, though, they crawled out of it with four unanswered goals, including a somewhat shocking breakaway score from Krys Barch. Really, you don't see that often.

It brought an end to Ottawa's reign over the Panthers as well. The Sens had won nine in a row -- NINE! -- against Florida including five straight in Sunrise. It looked like they were on their way to making it a perfect 10 until the comeback came.

What the end result is besides the confidence boost for Florida to get over that Senators hump is that the Panthers move four points up on the Jets, five on the Capitals and six up on the Lightning in the Southeast. Keeping that cushion is important.

[Related: Panthers 4, Senators 2]

Dallas Stars: Don't look now, but the Stars have jumped the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division and are now tied with the Phoenix Coyotes for the division lead (but lose out on the tie-breakers at this point). They also bumped the Sharks down to eighth in the West while taking the seventh spot themselves.

That's the result of them marching into Calgary and prevailing in the shootout thanks to their scoring stars of Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.

The Stars are playing as well now as they were at the beginning of the season when they ran out to one of the best starts in the league. There's still a good ways to go, but they have shown they're a serious threat and maybe even a good bet at this point to make the postseason.

The Flames, meanwhile, do get one point and move to within three of the Sharks but remain in 11th place.

[Related: Stars 3, Flames 2 (SO)]

Anders Nilsson, New York Islanders: There was a time this season that people were laughing at the Islanders for carrying three active goalies on the roster each night. Then they called on the fourth man in the rotation, Nilsson, on Sunday and he delivered.

Not only did Nilsson pick up his first NHL victory, it was a shutout. And it had to be as the Islanders only scored once against the Devils, a Kyle Okposo goal in the second period.

If they even dare to dream on the Island, there is still a glimmer of hope that they can get into the playoffs. A glimmer, I said. The win brought them within five points of eighth-place Winnipeg when they finished up. With the way the bottom of the East has been dropping like a rock allowing some of the other cellar dwellers to climb back in (see: Lightning, Sabres) what's to say the Islanders can't? Any kind of winning streak at this point puts you into contention.

Of course they might need a few more goals but points are points no matter how they come.

[Related: Islanders 1, Devils 0]

Losers

Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin: The Capitals were shut out for the second consecutive game at home, being blanked by the Flyers 1-0. Ilya Bryzgalov, who has had his well-chronicled struggles this season, was sharp, very sharp. Obviously, he held the Caps off the board completely despite some of the Flyers' best defensemen (Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros) being out.

Ovechkin, meanwhile, appeared to be benched in the second period by Capitals coach Dale Hunter after his role on the one and only goal, a deflection from Eric Wellwood that beat Michal Neuvirth. His turnover and then pretty poor attempt at stopping the pass to the crease appeared to earn him a seat for the rest of the second.

"My mistake cost us two points and it cost us the game," Ovechkin said.

Now we're left once again wondering if the Caps are dead in the water. With back-to-back home losses, they have fallen five points behind the Panthers in the Southeast and remain out of the playoff picture in the East. If the Sabres -- Buffalo! -- is able to beat the Jets on Monday, the Caps will fall into 10th in the conference.

[Related: Flyers 1, Capitals 0]

Detroit Red Wings: I elected to put the Wings in the losers section instead of the Chicago Blackhawks in the winner section tonight because of the collateral damage that came along with their 2-1 loss at the Joe on Sunday afternoon.

The second period curiously began with Joey MacDonald in the net instead of Jimmy Howard, who had been on for the first 20 minutes. It wasn't immediately clear why. Remember, Howard just missed a couple of weeks with a broken finger.

Eventually Howard was back on the bench and it was revealed that he suffered a lower-body injury and is day to day. That was worthy of a sigh of relief. Of course it's not like MacDonald has been bad in his spot duties so far this season. He gave up the only goal that was scored in the final two periods and took the loss on Sunday, but that dropped his record to just 7-2-1.

The Wings also saw defenseman Jakub Kindl leave the game with an upper-body injury. Add that to the already absent Pavel Datsyuk and the Wings are starting to take some wear and tear.

Oh, and by the tie-breakers, they lost the Central Division lead to the Blues. Not that that means too much right now.

[Related: Blackhawks 2, Red Wings 1]

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

Posted on: March 4, 2012 10:42 am
Edited on: March 4, 2012 2:03 pm
 

Pregame Skate: More big ones in Southeast, West

Florida hasn't had much if any luck with Ottawa of late. (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.

Playoff Race

6 ET, Ottawa at Florida

A pretty amazing thing has happened in the Southeast (that is until you remember it's the Southeast we're talking about here) and that is that it has become a four-team race. Through it all, the Panthers have held onto the lead atop the division but that's not really by their own doing.

Coming off a 3-1 loss to the Predators at home on Saturday, they make a quick turnaround and face the Ottawa Senators in Florida this evening. The problem? Florida can't beat Ottawa. The Sens have taken nine consecutive games in the series and five straight at BankAtlantic Center. That's not exactly inspiring when the Tampa Bay Lightning are suddenly breathing down their necks.

The odds still favor the Panthers to make the postseason with a greater than 70 percent chance at this point. Not quite as comforting as the 90 percent odds earlier this week. Realistically, though, the odds are sure starting to feel a lot lower than that.

It's about time they started to win on home ice if they want to return to the playoffs. In the last six home games they have played, they are a very disappointing 1-4-1, including a 6-2 shellacking by these same Senators. That's not going to cut it.

At this point, with the way the Sabres have come charging back to life as well, they might need to consider it Southeast Division or bust. And with it being a four-team race, it would be a good idea for them to start picking up points again.

7 ET, Philadelphia at Washington (NBC Sports Network)

One of those four teams in that Southeast Division race, the Washington Capitals, need some points just as bad if not worse than the Panthers do right now. That's because their target is as much the eighth seed as it is the Southeast lead. In that race they are still one point behind Winnipeg (with two fewer games played) but are just one point up on the Lightning and Sabres.

My, how interesting the East has become. It seemed just a few days ago like it was a nine-team race.

Just when things were starting to feel a little better in the nation's capital after three straight wins, the New Jersey Devils came into town and smacked them down to the tune of a 5-0 beating. They need to be able to rebound from that in a hurry with the Flyers coming to Verizon Center for the Sunday nightcap.

That shouldn't be an easy task. Philadelphia has been one of the league's best teams away from home this season. They are 20-11-2 away from Wells Fargo Center. Somewhat ironically, that's the same exact record as the Devils away from home. That would seem to be a bit ominous for the Caps in holding home ice today.

6 ET, Dallas at Calgary

Turning our eyes back to the race that has been this crazy all along, the West has another pivotal matchup when looking at that playoff push where it seems just about every team is in the hunt.

Somewhat lost across the league of late has been the play of the Stars, who have not only stormed into playoff position but can actually overtake the San Jose Sharks today in the West. Granted, games in hand and all of that, but it still speaks to how far Dallas has come in recent weeks (and how much San Jose has fallen).

The Flames meanwhile are one of those chasers of Dallas. That's why this is such a critical game. It's like any old division battle where it's described as a four-point game. Well, Dallas has the potential to build a somewhat formidable six-point advantage by the end of the night on Calgary or have it cut down to just two points on the Flames (never mind the Kings and Avalanche part of the equation).

What's interesting is that this is the first of three games between these two in the month of March. They will have a home-and-home near the end of the month as well. There is still plenty of chances for each of these teams to take their destiny into their own hands.

Others worth watching

12:30 ET, Boston at Rangers (NBC): Keep in mind, we highlight the games with meaningful impacts on the playoff race, not necessarily the best games of the day. If you want the latter, here you go, a classic matchup among two of the East's best. This comes as highly recommended viewing.

4 ET, Chicago at Detroit (NHL Network): See the above statement on the Rangers and Bruins and here you go. The Blackhawks have been able to regain a little footing and are slightly clear of the pack at the bottom of the West again but not many go into Detroit and pick up points.

7 ET, Colorado at Minnesota: Not to neglect the Avs here (and Wild to a small extent) as they are still in the playoff hunt here too. If they can get a win and the Flames keep the Stars pointless, Colorado will be just one point back. Minnesota comes in seven points back with three teams in between.

Your promised miscellany

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

Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:37 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 11:57 pm
 

Winners & Losers: Jagr, Jets, Krejci

Jagr

By: Adam Gretz


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

Winners

Another milestone for Jaromir Jagr: After a slow start against the New York Islanders on Thursday night, the Flyers roared back to earn a 6-3 win against their divisional rival, and leading the way was seemingly ageless veteran Jaromir Jagr with a goal and an assist, a two-point performance that moved him into sole possesion of eighth place on the NHL's All-Time scoring list (ahead of Joe Sakic) with 1,642 career points.

Next up on the list: his former linemate, Mario Lemieux, with 1,723 points.

The win for the Flyers moves them into the No. 5 spot in the East as they jump over the idle Ottawa Senators. The Flyers still have two games in hand on the Senators.

[Related: Flyers 6, Islanders 3]

Winnipeg Jets: Yeah, games between the Jets and Panthers are still important now that we're into March, and this is still only possible in the Southeast Division.

The Jets continued their home dominance this season with a complete and thorough destruction of the Panthers, rolling over them by a 7-0 margin at the MTS Centre. The win puts them back into the top-eight in the Eastern Conference and brings them to within two points of the Panthers for the top spot in the division.

[Related: Jets 7, Panthers 0]

David Krejci and the Bruins: David Krejci hasn't been having the best season in Boston, but he had a huge game on Thursday night during the Bruins 4-3 overtime win against the Devils, recording a hat trick, including the game-winning goal 2:59 into the extra period. The Bruins have been alternating wins and losses for a month-and-a-half now and on Saturday against the Islanders they will have a chance to win consecutive games for the first time since the middle of January.

Pretty amazing for a team that is still second in the conference to that long without any sort of a winning streak. Even one as short as two games. Speaks to how dominant they were earlier in the season.

[Related: Bruins 4, Devils 3]

Losers

Florida Panthers: The Panthers no-show performance in Winnipeg can be described to perfection with one replay. This Brian Little goal in the third period that is scored on a 5-on-1(!) rush.



[Related: Playoff Race]

Colorado Avalanche: If the Colorado Avalanche miss the playoffs by one or two points, this might be the game they look back at and ask what the heck happened.

Hosting the worst team in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets, and going up against a struggling netminder in Steve Mason, the Avalanche were blanked in their own barn by a 2-0 margin. Even though the Avs generated over 30 shots on goal for the night, they created very few scoring chances and never really gave Mason much of a test.

Not a good performance, and a not a good loss.

[Related: Blue Jackets 2, Avalanche 0]

Photo: Getty Images

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

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

NHL Award Races: Calder close, Norris not so much

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

By Brian Stubits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hart: Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Lundqvist, Claude Giroux

Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott

Jack Adams: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, Pavel Datsyuk

Top GM: Dale Tallon, Don Maloney, David Poile

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

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

Morning Skate: Sabres creeping back in

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

By Brian Stubits

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

Playoff Race

10:30 ET, Buffalo at San Jose

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

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

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

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

8 ET, Florida at Winnipeg

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

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

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

9 ET, Calgary at Phoenix

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

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

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

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

Others worth watching

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

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

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

Your promised miscellany

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

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

Posted on: February 27, 2012 11:55 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 12:31 am
 

Winners & Losers: Avs get big win, others miss

By Brian Stubits

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

Playoff Race

This isn't the trade deadline winners & losers (those are right here!) but from the winners & losers from the actual games that were played.

Winners

1. Colorado Avalanche

They are the one and only team that gets to land on the winner's side tonight. They were the only team who really needed it that scored a big win, taking down the Ducks in Colorado. And just in case there were any hopes left, probably ending Anaheim's playoff hopes in the process.

That deal that the Avs swung for Steve Downie has paid some nice dividends early. In the now four games he's played with his new team, Downie has himself two goals and five assists after notching two helpers on Monday night. Not so bad for a guy not exactly known for his scoring prowess.

With the win the Avs are back on the streaking side as they moved into a tie with the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They hold the ninth spot based on playing one more game than Dallas thus far, but with the rest of the West contenders for that last spot falling on Monday night, it's a very big two points.

[Related: Avalanche 4, Ducks 1]

Arnott's head dress. (Jeremy Rutherford)

2. Jason Arnott

The veteran Blues center had two goals to help the Blues take care of the the Flames in Calgary on Monday, arguably the top performer of the night.

With the win the Blues actually climbed back to .500 on the road this season. They've been very good at home and not near as much on the road, but they just rattled off their third road win in a row, perhaps taking care of one of the remaining questions about their ability to win in the postseason.

Perhaps more importantly is the fact that Arnott donned the Weenie Hat for his postgame interview with the media.

Like a lot of teams, the Blues have a postgame award that they hand out to the player of the game. The Rangers have the Broadway Hat, the Blackhawks have the championship belt, etc. The Blues did have a hard hat in exchange for the Weenie Hat.

NHL locker rooms really are fun places after wins.

3. Matt Duchene

The Avs already made the list on the winner side, but I had to include Duchene here.

Duchene gets the award for goal of the night by swatting in the bouncing puck saucered his way by Paul Stastny to give the Avs the insurance goal.

I'm going to take a guess and say Duchene played some baseball growing up. Great hand-eye coordination to finish that one off.

Losers

1. Viewers of Rangers and Devils

Oh sure, Henrik Lundqvist had another shutout and Martin Brodeur only gave up one goal. We could be lauding them for their fine performances. We would, if either had broken a sweat.

Lundqvist pitched a shutout, but the Devils only managed a measly 13 shots. In the entire game. The Rangers meanwhile only had 15. And one of those came on Ryan Callahan's empty-net goal.

Not even the hatred between the two teams could really make up for the general lack of excitement with the game itself being played. Things were just a little clogged up. Not that I blame either team for the way they play, it's just when their two styles come together it doesn't make for incredibly exciting hockey. This game had twice as many goals as their previous meeting.

[Related: Rangers 2, Devils 0 | Video: Clarkson's charge on Dubinsky]

2. Winnipeg Jets

The Jets are in the middle of a long homestand that has allowed them to get back in the Southeast Division race. They've been great on home ice all season in front of their rabid fan base.

That's why it hurts so much to lose to the Edmonton Oilers at home. Having played more games than anybody in the NHL, that's a perfect example of the game they have to win if they want to make the playoffs. Instead, they gave up four consecutive goals to Edmonton in the third period, the second worst team in the NHL record wise.

As a result, they remain two points back of Florida in the Southeast despite having played four more games than the Panthers. They do hold on to the eighth spot in the East but that too is very tenuous.

[Related: Oilers 5, Jets 3]

3. Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames

Each team is on the outside looking in for the last playoff spot in the West and both came up empty on Monday night.

Granted, each was playing one of the monsters of the Central Division, but the end result is the failure to get points out of the games.

It's particularly painful for Calgary, which lost another game at home, falling to the Blues. General manager Jay Feaster guaranteed to TSN earlier this week that his team will make the playoffs. Well if they're going to do that they need to win these games at home, of which they have a lot down the stretch run.

The Kings meanwhile were only able to muster one goal, and it came in the closing minutes. It's been the story for them all season, one which the acquisition of Jeff Carter is supposed to take care of, or at least help. But again, we'll grant them the stiff competition in the Predators and particularly Pekka Rinne. He's been pretty good lately.

[Related: Predators 2, Kings 1 | Blues 3, Flames 1]

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

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