Kukla's Korner Hockey
From Mark Herrmann at Newsday.com:
When everyone looks back on it, this Islanders season might not seem a total loss after all. Aside from possibly helping them ace the draft lottery, 2008-09 looks from here as if it will be remembered as the season Kyle Okposo really earned his NHL sweater, and a USA Olympic jersey.
It is not too early to think about Okposo’s future, which looks brighter by the day. It definitely is not too early to think about next February and the Vancouver Winter Games.
From Shelly Anderson at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar today received medical clearance to return to the [Penguins} lineup.
Gonchar, the team’s top defenseman and quarterback of the power play, will not play tonight against San Jose. He said he will continue to practice and judge himself day to day to determine when he believes he is ready to return.
From Arthur Staple at Newsday:
“It was just a real important time in my life,” [Sean Avery] said today. “Just one of those things where I took some time to sit back and help myself become a better person. It was amazing. It was something that was important for me as a person, as a man. Actions speak louder than words.”
It’s Avery’s actions that will be scrutinized when he does get into a game with Hartford. That likely won’t happen until Saturday, or possibly a week from today—he said he did not do much skating in his two months away—and then, he’ll have to show he can be the abrasive, sometimes abusive, edge player who got himself that multi-million dollar deal.
“I’ve been playing hockey for a long time, and my on-ice game has never been an issue,” he said. “It’s other things I was working on. But I’m sure there’s still going to be an element of Sean Avery hockey that’s exciting to watch.”
from Sam McCaig of the Hockey News,
If the playoffs started today, here are the matchups – and predicted outcomes.
Boston Bruins (1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (8)
The Bruins have come too far, too fast this season to see it all end in the first round. The Canes have the edge in experience, given their Stanley Cup run in 2006, but history lessons don’t win you hockey games.
Outcome: Bruins in five games
read on for all the matchups…
from George Johnson at ESPN,
“I like it here. I enjoy the city. This is a contending team and should be for quite a while. What’ll happen? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”
Cammalleri is being coy. But the Cammy Quandary is the hot topic in Calgary these days. It seems as if he has just arrived, yet already is preparing to become an unrestricted free agent July 1. On short notice, the University of Michigan product has become one of the most popular players in a town that reveres its hockey stars like Aztec gods.
But there is bad that goes with the good. He should by all rights turn in that 13 stitched on the back of his sweater for a “$$.” Every time Cammalleri scores another goal, the sound you hear in the distance is his personal cash register going ka-ching!.
That bittersweet sound must be driving GM Darryl Sutter slightly mad.
from E.J. Hradek of ESPN,
Now, I’m not ready to confuse Renney with Scotty Bowman, but I think Renney has actually overachieved with this roster. That’s right—I think Renney’s 29-20-5 record is pretty good when you consider his team.
Renney doesn’t have a No.1 center or a No. 1 defenseman. He doesn’t have a reliable scorer on the wing. And his most dependable defender is just a sophomore. No, the 2008-09 Rangers aren’t exactly an All-Star group.
Of course, Renney isn’t without fault. I haven’t always agreed with his lineup decisions or in-game moves, and he’s got to find a way to make that power-play unit at least a little better.
Still, Renney shouldn’t be the fall guy.
The real problem is Renney’s boss, Rangers president and GM Glen Sather. If anyone is going to get canned, it should be Sather.
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
As debate about fighting in the NHL has come to the forefront, the Red Wings remain a prime example that while it may appeal to some fans, fighting certainly isn’t something a team needs to win.
Entering Tuesday’s games, the Wings had the fewest fighting majors (seven), with Washington next with 18. San Jose and Boston, the top teams in the league, had 26 and 30, respectively. Anaheim paced the league with 56
from Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe,
However, given the punishing and defensive nature of the postseason, Chiarelli’s wiser upgrade could be along the blue line. That may sound odd, especially with captain Zdeno Chara looking capable of winning the Norris Trophy this season.
But come playoff time, opposing offenses aren’t going to be shooting the puck into Big Z’s corner for the 28, 30, or more minutes he’ll play each night. They’re going to overload to his partner’s corner, which likely points to Aaron Ward getting hammered. The next pairing with big minutes, Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman, will take a beating, too. While both have outperformed expectations this season, Ference is small and Wideman, though much steadier this season, most likely will be heavily pressured on dump-ins and forechecking.
If, as rumored, the Ducks make towering blue liner Chris Pronger available at the deadline, he will become the Hossa of this year’s swap meet. Of the Eastern Conference contenders - Boston, Washington, New Jersey, maybe the Canadiens and Flyers - any one of them would become an immediate favorite to reach the Cup finals if they landed the 6-foot-6-inch Pronger. He is among the strongest, fiercest hitters in the game, a big part of why the Ducks body-slammed their way over the Senators to win the 2007 Cup.
With Pronger on the books for $6.25 million this season and next, the Bruins would have cap room for him, provided the league relaxes on the cap issue.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
With all the uncertainty surrounding this year’s trade deadline, you can really only be sure of one thing. From now until March 4, Burke will be a closet fan of the Blues, Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes and Columbus Blue Jackets. He wants them all to stay within a few points of eighth place in the West, so if they do anything at the deadline, they’re adding, not subtracting.
Because if it shakes out the way it looks - limited supply versus significant demand - that will make Burke’s handful of pawns look like shiny kings on that one crazy day when all reason disappears from the frontal lobes of NHL general managers.
more on the Leafs trade deadline planning…
from Stan Fischler of Game On,
Normally, when the Washington Capitals visit New York, the spotlight automatically trains on Alex Ovechkin, Bruce Boudreau and their merry band of High-Fivers.
Not on Wednesday night, it won’t.
Oh, yeah, Ovie & Co. will bear the usual watching, but the truly fervent focus of Blueshirts fans will be on the folks who simply have not produced satisfactory results. Namely, The Captain (Chris Drury), Scott Gomez, Wade Redden and Tom Renney, just to name a few whose contributions are being cantankerously questioned by the media and fans alike.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org