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Down The Stretch They Come

from Ted Montgomery at USA TODAY,

As the 2008-09 NHL regular season winds down, the intrigue surrounding potential first-round matchups increases. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting storylines that are unfolding in the season’s final weeks.

• The battle for the Presidents’ Trophy between San Jose and Detroit should go down to the wire. San Jose has the advantage with a couple of games in hand, but the Sharks have struggled a bit in the last while. An interesting scenario could develop if the Sharks and Wings go all out to capture the top spot. Will the energy and urgency both teams expend in the final weeks affect their performance in the first round of the playoffs?...

• Vancouver might not catch Calgary for the Northwest Division crown, but at this point, the Canucks stand a better chance to go deeper in the playoffs than the Flames, simply because Roberto Luongo is a better goaltender than Miikka Kiprusoff. The Flames have some defensive issues; only four other teams in the Western Conference have surrendered more goals than Calgary….

more with other bullet points…

Filed in: NHL Teams, | KK Hockey | Permalink

The Norris Race

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal via Faceoff.com answers some email questions…

Q: Who do you think will win the Norris Trophy? What are newcomer Mike Green’s chances over a six-time winner like Nicklas Lidstrom?

A: It’s a wide-open race this year. The incomparable Lidstrom, 38, who has six wins and three second-place finishes, has been playing with a sore elbow this year. His minutes have been cut back to 24:49 a game, several minutes below his average. He went into Tuesday’s game with the Oilers with 50 points, tied for fifth in defencemen with the Sharks’ Dan Boyle, but he was plus 29. That’s a better plus/minus than Green (64 points, plus 23) and Wings’ teammate Brian Rafalski (55 points, plus 19).

Personally, I think you have to knock the heavyweight champ out to get his crown, but there’s also a feeling the voters would like to give it to somebody new….

read on and a few more questions regarding the Sharks and Steve Mason…

Filed in: NHL Teams, | KK Hockey | Permalink

The Best-Case Scenario For Canadiens Owner

from ESPN Soccernet,

Gillett’s best-case scenario would include both the lucrative sale of the Canadiens and a debt restructuring agreement with Liverpool’s creditors. Failing that, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he combined portions of his interest in both clubs and packaged them off to investors. He has been mulling the idea for some time, telling reporters in December that such a strategy “might enable fans or interested parties in investing in one or more of our sports properties.”

Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie could very well be one of the “parties” Gillett referred to. The co-CEO of Research in Motion revealed Gillett’s intention to sell the Canadiens in November 2008, telling Montreal daily La Presse that the 24-time Stanley Cup champions were on the block. Gillett vehemently denied the speculation, although Balsillie’s remarks were validated less than four months later.

If Gillett opts to hang on to the Canadiens and offers combined Liverpool-Montreal investment packages - what he calls “investment strips” - to new investors, he will no doubt damage his already battered reputation in the eyes of many Liverpool supporters who opposed the American takeover of the club in the first place.

more and thanks to a KK member for the pointer…

Filed in: NHL Teams, Montreal Canadiens, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: george+gillett

Dan Bylsma Wakes-Up the Penguins

from Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

“This day and age, it’s like the old Yogi-ism, 90 percent of the game is half mental, and a lot of that is true,” said Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton after another of Bylsma’s upbeat practices. “A month ago this was a pretty fragile hockey team with a timid attitude. Now it’s like we feel there’s nothing we can’t do. We can get behind, come back and win, but it was a long time coming.

“I think everyone knew the team had this kind of potential. Going back to the beginning of the year, we knew this team was capable of playing this kind of hockey.”...

“At times before he got here,” Sidney Crosby said yesterday, “we could all look around the room and see guys who could give more than they were giving. It wasn’t easy for him. It’s been a combination of things, but part of it was we had to face up to the fact that we weren’t doing everything we could do.”


Filed in: NHL Teams, Pittsburgh Penguins, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: dan+bylsma

Edmonton Could At Least Taste A Point - Then Nothing

from the CP via the Globe and Mail,

The Edmonton Oilers had the Detroit Red Wings on the ropes for two and a half periods, but their failure to deliver a knockout punch left them in a precarious position in the tight Western Conference playoff race….

“Those are the games that drive you to drink,” said Oilers forward Dustin Penner. “It doesn’t feel good. I’d say that feels worse than losing 10-2. Especially at this point of the season with the way we have been playing and who we were playing tonight. That one stings.”

Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish admitted it was tough to take the loss when he felt his team had done so much right in the contest.

“A game like that leaves everybody with a heavy heart,” he said. “It’s an incredible sense of disappointment. But at the same time we played pretty well and in a lot of ways outstanding. The way we checked and killed penalties. It’s disappointing but we’ll take some solace in that.

“It’s going to be quite the nine-game stretch here down to the end.”

read on

Filed in: NHL Teams, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Avery Leading The Rangers

from Stan Fischler of Game On,

Playing his best hockey — EVER! — as a Ranger, The Great Gabbo is making the homestretch look rosier for the Blueshirts every day and in every way; and that’s not a stretch either.

To avoid famine, a hockey club must feast and next on John Tortorella’s menu is a Thrasher named Atlanta to be served on Thursday in dear, old Georgia. And if Avery plays his all-rink game then, as he did on Tuesday at The Garden, the Thrasher will be sauteed and sliced….

New York’s gears have meshed so perfectly that the Sunday night loss to Ottawa seems so distant, so much an aberration, one might imagine that it happened in 1939.

Avery made forgetting Sunday possible by challenging Cal Clutterbuck in an old-fashioned first period sluggeroo. Each worthy doffed gloves and then — great stuff! — also their helmets in a who-cares-who-wins tilt that lifted The Garden a few feet off its moorings. For Gabbo it merely was the beginning of an MVP night.

more & watch the Avery/Clutterbuck battle below…

Continue Reading »

Filed in: NHL Teams, New York Rangers, | KK Hockey | Permalink

The Hossa/Franzen Contract Talk

from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

Contract talks between the Detroit Red Wings and free-agent forwards Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen appear to be at a standstill, as neither side is budging.

General manager Ken Holland is hoping to sign one before the end of the regular season. If he has no deal in place by the first week of April, he will postpone talks until after the playoffs.

“I’ll obviously stay in touch,’’ Holland said. “I understand where they’re at and they understand where I’m at. We’re talking.

“They both have indicated their first choice is to stay. I can address it in June if I have to. They know the (team’s other) contract commitments.’‘


Filed in: NHL Teams, Detroit Red Wings, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Wild In Need Of Offense

from Michael Russo of Russo’s Rants,

The Wild just didn’t create a whole lot tonight (outshot 30-19), but in the end, if Marian Gaborik buries the partial breakaway or Dan Fritsche doesn’t redirect the puck wide on the 2-on-1 or Eric Belanger buries the 3-on-2 or Cal Clutterbuck can score on that late scramble, it’s a tie game.

But there’s no what-if’s anymore, not when the season’s quickly evaporating and the Wild lacks such go-to guys right now with the injuries to Mikko Koivu and Brent Burns. The Wild has missed the spark Burns provides for some time. But tonight, you really saw how much Koivu’s absence kills. Not just the 22 minutes a night he plays — “and not just 22 minutes of skating around,” said James Sheppard — but the big minutes.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Minnesota Wild, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Did You Know…

from Japers’ Rink,

Each of the last three Stanley Cup Winners have entered the playoffs with a starting goaltender who was on the bench when they hoisted the trophy. In Carolina, Ward supplanted Gerber. In Anaheim, Giguere reclaimed his starting job from Bryzgalov. And last year, Dominick Hasek was riding the pine as Chris Osgood took over in net the last 18 playoff games.

In their teams’ last 10 regular season games, Osgood started only 3, Giguere 5, and Ward 2.

read on for a looks at the Capitals goaltending situation…

Filed in: NHL Teams, | KK Hockey | Permalink

Gillett Should Have Sold The Canadiens Last Year

from Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail,

If George Gillett was a really smart guy, if he was the craftiest of wheeler-dealers, adept at getting into deals and getting out, at trading assets like hockey cards — and a seer — he would have put the Montreal Canadiens on the block a year ago.

Think back.

Emotions were riding high, the team was first in the NHL’s Eastern Conference and obviously playoff bound. Its mix of veteran talent and an apparently endless supply of terrific young players from the farm seemed to bode well both for the Canadiens’ present and future.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Montreal Canadiens, | KK Hockey | Permalink

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com


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