Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post,
While it’s unclear who will be able to suit up, this much is known: The Capitals have been one of the league’s best teams over the past month despite an injury-ravaged lineup that, on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, was minus eight players who were on the ice opening night.
Since the roster became a virtual revolving door on Nov. 24, they’re 10-4-0 and have built a comfortable eight-point edge in the Southeast Division.
In that span, 11 players have been recalled from the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, five have made their NHL debuts, and even a front-office employee was signed to serve as a backup goaltender. In all, 35 players have donned a Washington jersey this season compared with 26 at this point a year ago.
from Kevin Allen of USA Today,
It’s been 22 months since Nashville Predators forward Steve Sullivan has played an NHL game, and no timetable has been set for his return.
But as his family prepared for the holidays, Sullivan felt like he had already received a gift “because I feel like a hockey player again.”
After two back surgeries and overflowing frustration, Sullivan has been able to skate with teammates and embrace the idea his comeback will be sooner rather than later.
TSN has their version of Twas The Night Before Christmas dominated by notable faces from the hockey world.
from Jim Carlton of the Wall Street Journal,
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr. McLellan looked at what he has accomplished and where he hopes to lead the Sharks, who have yet to win a Stanley Cup or even conference championship in their 17-year history in San Jose. Excerpts:
The Wall Street Journal: How much credit do you take in this winning record?
Mr. McLellan: I am a small piece. There are a number of other important people on the staff, and the most important people are the players. They are the ones who lay themselves on the line every night.
WSJ: How much different are you from your predecessor, Ron Wilson?
Mr. McLellan: When I got the job, I had a real good idea how I wanted the team to play. There were some changes in the way some of the players were utilized in the past. For example, we wanted the defensemen to be much more active, shooting the puck more.
The panel then offered their thoughts on their leading candidates for Comeback Player of the Year this season. McKenzie and Matthew Barnaby went with Philadelphia Flyers’ winger Simon Gagne while Dreger chose Michael Ryder of the Boston Bruins.
“Coming back from a concussion is a very difficult thing to do and Gagne is scoring in the tough areas,” said Barnaby. “The Flyers are having a great year and he’s a big reason why.”
McKenzie stressed the enormity of Gagne’s return to form and the road he has had to travel to get there. Through 32 games this season, Gagne has 17 goals and 38 points.
“Gagne’s not just coming off a bad year, he’s coming back from having his career threatened,” said McKenzie.
from Dan Wood of Ducks Blog at the OC Register,
The now-completed pre-Christmas portion of the NHL schedule, usually a pretty good indicator of the league’s relative strength, reveals that the Ducks are far more pretenders than Stanley Cup contenders.
Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome supplied yet another damning piece of evidence that the Ducks, as currently constructed, are a middle-of-the-pack playoff team at best, one highly unlikely to make any significant noise come post-season play….
“Penalties (Monday) night and just some mistakes tonight,” Ducks right wing Rob Niedermayer said. “Everyone in here is playing real hard. It just seems to be that one mistake that’s killing us.
“We’re frustrated, especially losing the last two heading into the (Christmas) break — close games and against (conference) opponents. It’s tough. We have to find a way to make the other team make that mistake.”
from Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun,
Puck drop for the Calgary Flames game in Detroit was a couple of hours away.
As players milled around preparing to face the Red Wings, the tension in the dressing room was palpable.
Then Andre Roy raced through.
With an elastic serving as a head band, his T-shirt tied in the front “like a bar beer-tub girl” and his shorts pulled up in a manner that would make Daisy Duke blush, the Flames enforcer went through the room in a flash.
He then reappeared moments later as if nothing had happened….
Off the ice, the 33-year-old right-winger relishes his job to make his teammates laugh.
It’s been that way since he was a youngster, getting kicked out of class for disrupting.
from Len Ziehm of the Chicago Sun-Times,
With an 18-6-7 record, the Hawks aren’t just playoff contenders—they’re championship contenders. Defenseman James Wisniewski doesn’t think it’s too early to think that way.
‘‘We’re 31 games into the season now,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not like we played eight games and started 6-1-1. You look at some of the games we lost. We lost five in shootouts; if we won those, we’d be five points better and right there with [defending Stanley Cup champion] Detroit.’‘
Just making the playoffs would be a big improvement, given that the Hawks haven’t experienced postseason play since the 2001-02 season, but winning the Stanley Cup remains their goal.
‘‘I don’t think it’s too big a goal,’’ Wisniewski said. ‘‘I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but if we bear down in a couple games and shut down San Jose and Detroit, we’re right up there at No. 1 in the [Western Conference].’‘
more on the Blackhawks…
from Russo’s Rants,
After tonight’s game, assistant GM Tom Lynn announced that the Wild will hold out Marian Gaborik Sunday vs. Chicago and Monday vs. Calgary.
“Marian’s going to take the Christmas break off and it looks like we’re not going to play him in the two games back-to-back. We’re doing this, not him,” Lynn said. “When he played back-to-back the other day, he got very sore. We were thinking of playing him in one game and not the other, but [GM] Doug [Risebrough] made the decision that he’s going to make [Gaborik] rest for four days and hold him out. Hopefully he’ll be back full-time after that.”
This does seem awfully suspicious.
First of all, the Wild is clinging to eighth in the West. To sit its best scorer in back-to-back games against two quality teams seems a little strange.
from Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star,
According to the coach, goalie Vesa Toskala played well, despite being yanked and booed off the ice after allowing his seventh goal midway through the second period.
“He didn’t have a chance on any of those goals,” Wilson said to a stunned media at his post-game briefing. “I don’t think it was fair that the fans got on him if that was their intention. Shot, rebound, shot, rebound and then someone puts it in the empty net. It certainly wasn’t Vesa’s fault, at all.”
Hmm. Wilson reiterated his feelings that the schedule-makers pretty much set the stage for his squad’s horrible contra-performance last night, as if nobody else had ever played back-to-back games within the same time zone in the history of the league. And yes, the goaltender had been sent home from Atlanta on Sunday to nurse his slightly pulled groin back to health – and rest up.
“It was more fatigue than anything,” Wilson argued. “We didn’t have our legs. We didn’t have our minds. Unfortunately it got ugly. It’s already behind me.”
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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