Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Craig Custance of the Sporting News,
A look at the top storylines in the Western Conference’s first-round series:
San Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks
This Battle of California could be the most compelling series in either conference. Like the Pennsylvania series in the East, these two teams don’t like each other. Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov once called Ducks forward Corey Perry a crybaby, and the last time these teams played in the regular season, 64 minutes of penalties were handed out….
Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues
Nobody wants to give the Blues much of a chance against Roberto Luongo and the Canucks, but St. Louis was as good as anybody in the second half of the season….
from Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice,
A year ago, the Devils lost all three of their home games in a five-game first-round playoff loss to the Rangers, including the series clincher.What made it tougher was having the nearly half the fans in the building be Rangers’ fans.
They’re expecting things to be different in their series against the Carolina Hurricanes. They’ll again be looking for their first ever playoff victory at Prudential Center in Game 1 on Wednesday night,.
“You work hard to get the home-ice advantage. You’ve got to take advantage of it somehow,” goaltender Martin Brodeur said. “Last year was tough for us. For whatever reason, we didn’t feel at home in the playoffs. Tomorrow we’ll feel at home for the first time in the playoffs and that’s going to feel good.
“For the guys that have been here, that was not a fun experience and deserverdly so. We didn’t play well. To a certain extent, our fans had a hard time cheering about anything when we played in this building in the playoffs last year. But this time around it will be different and, hopefully, that home feel will take us a long way.”
from Eric Stephens at NHL.com,
As the Ducks approach Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against San Jose, it is Jonas Hiller who will likely get the nod Thursday night in front a frenzied crowd at HP Pavilion. Hiller has clearly been the better goaltender through the regular season and Giguere accepts that fact.
“I don’t anticipate playing,” Giguere said. “I won’t lie to you. Jonas is a great young goalie and I know he’s going to do the job. On my end, I’ve just got to get ready, prepare and do the things that are needed.”
At the moment, the focus figures to be on the Swiss-born Hiller. When Giguere couldn’t shake himself out of his season-long struggles, the Ducks turned to their 27-year-old backup for their playoff push.
Jim Hughson of HNIC sums up the start of the playoffs in a 2 minute or so video.
Check it out but you will probably walk away with more questions than answers.
“Just a frustrating year. It was tough on everybody, coaching staff, players and management. ... Overall, it was the worst year in probably along time. We just couldn’t seem to win that six or eight games out of 10, or 15 out of 20, to get back in the race. We weren’t really there. Sometimes when you get a little taste of being close to being in the playoffs, you get that extra motivation and you can win 10 in a row or eight and get into the playoffs. It just seems like we weren’t there ever. That’s what made it really tough.”
-Vinny Lecavallier. More from Vinny from Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times.
from Stan Fischler of Game On,
I’m sitting in the barber chair getting my locks clipped, while reading the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. Lo and behold, my eyes drifted down to the Eastern Conference predictions made by Pierre (What Doesn’t He Know) McGuire. Alas and alack, Pierre selected Washington over New York in six games. Poof! Just like that; my doubts about the Rangers were erased.
Since Sports Illustrated’s predictions are always right, about 20 percent of the time, I immediately knew that everything will be just hunky-dory with the Blueshirts. If Sports Illustrated picks them to lose, it automatically means that the Rangers will win.
But I also know that my loyal and intelligent readership wants more than that little SI snippet to prove my point, so I’ll move on to The Fischler Guaranteed to Work Game Plan.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
After playing the final two games of the regular season with only 15 skaters, three short of the NHL maximum, the Calgary Flames had a cast of thousands out for Tuesday’s final day of practice, prior to the start of their first-round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Altogether, 31 players skated including Mark Giordano, out recovering from shoulder surgery, who left before the contact drills and isn’t close to returning. Robyn Regehr, out with a suspected medial collateral ligament tear, was nowhere to be seen. Another defenceman Cory Sarich, recovering from a suspected broken ankle, skated on his own at 8 a.m. and is not scheduled to play in Wednesday night’s opening game.
As a result, the defence pairs for the opener figure to be Dion Phaneuf-Jordan Leopold; Adrian Aucoin-Adam Pardy; and Jim Vandermeer-Anders Eriksson. Eriksson rejoined the team today after clearing re-entry waivers.
from Ed Moran of the Philadelphia News,
There have been rumors all season that Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher would make it back on the ice in time for the playoffs.
And this morning, there he was.
But don’t get ahead. Hatcher is joining the team in a player/coach role and will be traveling with the Flyers through the playoffs.
“Paul [Holmgren, general manager] just asked me to travel with the team yesterday,” Hatcher said. “Obviously I said yes. They want me to be more of a player role than a coaching role and be around the guys, joke around, help them out when I can or whatever.”
from Bruce MacLeod of Red Wings Corner,
An undisclosed injury will keep Kris Draper sidelined for Games 1 and 2 of the Columbus series, at least. Draper was hurt during last Monday’s game in Buffalo. He tested his injury at the start of today’s practice, centering the fourth line, but near the end of the one-hour workout, Draper left the ice.
“This time of year, it’s not easy to handle, but it’s basically where we’re at right no,” said a glum Draper. “I just have to deal with this for Game 1 and Game 2 and we’ll go from there.”
With Draper gone, Darren Helm becomes the fourth-line center with Kirk Maltby and Tomas Kopecky on his wings.
The one problem with that scenario is that Dan Cleary left today’s practice injured, apparently hurt by a Niklas Kronwall hit into the boards during an early drill.
from John Buccigross of ESPN,
The playoffs are here.
For players, coaches and fans, this is the time of year when hockey becomes an all-consuming ordeal. From the time you wake up in the morning on game day until the time they drop the puck at night, your stomach is in knots thinking about and waiting for the game to begin. It’s the same kind of knots you feel after a Raisin Bran-baked beans-blueberries all-you-can-eat fest at the local senior center. The playoff excitement, coupled with the slow warming of the weather, makes this time of year especially euphoric. The air smells better, the music sounds better and the cheese melts easier.
These are the good ol’ days. Enjoy them.
read on for predictions…
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.
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