Saturday, March 22, 2014

It happened again: Oilers fan throws jersey on the ice in lopsided loss to Flames


For the second time this season, a disgruntled fan threw an Edmonton Oilers jersey onto the ice at Rexall Place.


It happened this time during the third period of Saturday’s game between the Oilers and their Battle-of-Alberta rivals, the Calgary Flames. Yeah, this one was ugly. The Flames skated to an 8-1 victory.


Click on this link to see Oilers’ goalie Ben Scrivens scoop up the wayward jersey with his stick and then chuck it back into the crowd.


Now, you might recall that this happened earlier in the season. That led first-year head coach Dallas Eakins to rip the fan, calling them a quitter.


“Whoever threw that jersey on the ice, they’re out, they’ve given up, they’re a quitter,” said Eakins back in December. “We don’t want that here.”


He added: “For some fan to show us all that he quit, he’s done, he threw in the towel, I think that says volumes about the individual. I don’t believe this city was built on people like that.”


On Saturday, it clearly looked like the Oilers – the hockey team – quit. The two teams came out of the first period tied at one-goal apiece. And it completely came apart for the host Oilers after that.


They allowed four goals just over three minutes in the second period, and then surrendered three more in the final period.


Frustrations appeared to boil over on the Oilers bench, as Eakins and star forward Taylor Hall had an exchange that occurred after Hall threw a water bottle to the ground in disgust.



Make it 12 straight wins: Bruins beat Coyotes with strong third period


The Boston Bruins have recently proven to be unstoppable.


They won their 12th consecutive game, thanks to a huge third period against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night. Jarome Iginla scored twice, giving him 28 goals on the season, and Shawn Thornton deflected home the winner with less than four minutes remaining in the third period to give Boston a 4-2 victory.


Also impressive about Saturday’s win was Boston had played and won the night before on the road against the Colorado Avalanche to clinch a playoff spot. But 11 straight wins … that was so yesterday.


On Friday, it was back-up Chad Johnson who helped lead the Bruins to a victory. On Saturday against the Coyotes, Tuukka Rask was back between the pipes, and he made 31 saves for the win.


The Bruins are now up to an NHL best 103 points. As for the Coyotes, well, the loss makes things even more interesting in the Western Conference playoff race.


They remain in the second Wild Card spot with 79 points. However, the Dallas Stars, thanks to their win over the Ottawa Senators earlier in the day, moved to within two points of the Coyotes. Even the Vancouver Canucks, with 74 points, are still hanging around, but just barely.


For a full look at the Western Conference standings, click on this link.



Video: Flames score four times in under four minutes against Oilers


The Battle of Alberta became a little one-sided in the second period of Saturday’s game between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.


The Flames scored four times in the span of three minutes – Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan, Paul Byron and Curtis Glencross - and five seconds to open the floodgates. It would give Calgary a 5-1 lead, which the Flames would take into the second intermission.


That also chased Edmonton goalie Viktor Fasth from the net, after he allowed five goals on 16 shots. So, here’s the scoring outburst, goal-by-goal.


The Cammalleri goal at 4:13 of the second period.


Stajan on a penalty shot at 5:20 of the second period.


Byron makes it 4-1 at 6:00 of the second period.


Glencross makes it 5-1 at 7:18 of the second period.



After getting knocked out in their last scrap, Westgarth fights Gazdic


The last time Luke Gazdic of the Edmonton Oilers and Kevin Westgarth of the Calgary Flames fought, Westgarth was knocked to the ice in a very frightening scene.


That was back on March 1. Gazdic landed a heavy punched, which injured Westgarth. But the two dropped the gloves again on Saturday, in a spirited scrap in the first period. The two landed some heavy punches, but no one was hurt. Westgarth was shown skating to the penalty box, clapping his hands.


It appears, based on Westgarth’s recent comments, that the initial fight earlier this month was to act as some kind of deterrent for Gazdic’s physical play.


“(Gazdic) was kind of running around out there, taking shots at our D,” Westgarth recently told the Calgary Herald. “It makes the game safer, in my opinion … The point is to incur damage to the other guy.”



‘This loss stings’: Leafs fall to Habs, lose fourth straight


These aren’t good times for the Toronto Maple Leafs.


They lost their fourth consecutive game, this time by a score of 4-3 to the rival Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Tomas Plekanec gave Montreal the lead for good with a goal just after a Habs power play with under nine minutes remaining in the third period.


Plekanec beat James Reimer short side with a wrist shot from a bad angle, in what was another tough night for the Toronto netminder. The Habs opened up a two-goal lead in the first period, beating Reimer with a pair of soft goals on the glove side.


The Maple Leafs remain in the top Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, but only by two points over the ninth-place Columbus Blue Jackets.


“This loss definitely stings,” said Leafs forward Mason Raymond, as per Mark Masters of TSN.


Added Leafs’ captain Dion Phaneuf: “We gotta pull ourselves out of it … close isn’t good enough right now.”


The subject of goaltending has dominated the conversation lately in Toronto. However, Jonas Siegel of TSN Radio 1050 reports that injured puck stopper Jonathan Bernier will not travel to New Jersey for tomorrow’s game between the Leafs and Devils.


For the Habs, the victory came with a price. Lars Eller left the game after the second period and did not return because of a lower-body injury, according to Stephen Whyno of the Canadian Press. The Habs will recall Michael Bournival.



Devils lose to Rangers, Volchenkov leaves with lower-body injury


The bad news was double for the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.


The Devils fell to their rivals, the New York Rangers, by a final score of 2-0, so they were unable to make up any ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Devils remain 11th in the conference.


Defenseman Anton Volchenkov left the game and did not return because of a lower-body injury, the club announced via Twitter.


His final shift came in the early stages of the second period.


For the Rangers, the win helps them keep pace with the Philadelphia Flyers in the Metropolitan Division. They remain one point of Philadelphia, which also had a big win today over the St. Louis Blues.



Daily Primer March 23: Blackhawks back in hunt


Nine days ago, it looked like the Chicago Blackhawks had no chance to win the Central Division and might wind up in third place. That was after the Blackhawks lost 3-2 at home to the Nashville Predators, a team unlikely to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.


The Predators come back to United Center on Sunday, and a lot has changed in the interim. The Blackhawks have gone 3-0-1 since that loss, with one of the wins coming against the division-leading St. Louis Blues. Chicago's 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday and the Blues' 4-1 road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday have cut Chicago's deficit in the division race to a more manageable four points.


Here's a look at all of the action Sunday:


Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders -- The Blue Jackets went from third place in the Metropolitan Division to outside the playoff field in less than 24 hours after losing 3-1 at home to the New York Rangers on Friday. They have a chance to move back into one of the wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference by beating the Islanders. New York has been off since being routed 6-0 at home by the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. But the time off hasn't been kind: Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (upper body) is out and first-line right wing Kyle Okposo hasn't skated since leaving practice Friday with a lower-body injury.


St. Louis Blues at Pittsburgh Penguins -- St. Louis' offense has gone cold. The Blues were shut out 4-0 in Chicago on Wednesday and managed one goal in the loss at Philadelphia despite outshooting the Flyers 33-19. That's not the case with the Penguins, who've scored 13 times in their past three games. Evgeni Malkin had two goals and two assists Saturday; the second helper came on James Neal's power-play goal in overtime that gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Toronto Maple Leafs at New Jersey Devils -- David Clarkson, a fan favorite during his time in New Jersey, returns to Newark in a visiting uniform for the first time after signing a long-term free-agent contract with the Maple Leafs last summer. He has four goals and 10 points in 50 games with Toronto after scoring 45 goals in 128 games during his last two seasons with the Devils. Each team is coming off a painful home loss to an archrival: Toronto lost 4-3 to the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey fell 2-0 to the Rangers. Toronto still holds the first wild-card position in the East despite losing four in a row; the Devils are six points out of the second wild-card spot.


Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks -- The Predators ended a three-game trip in Chicago on March 14; they end a four-game sojourn at United Center on Sunday looking for a split after a wild 6-5 win against the Calgary Flames on Friday. The Blackhawks are missing a handful of key players, including star forward Patrick Kane, due to injury. But they haven't lost in regulation since the Predators' last visit and are going for their third win in a row as they try to gain ground on the Blues.


Minnesota Wild at Detroit Red Wings -- This is the back end of an old-fashioned, home-and-home weekend series. The Red Wings went to Xcel Energy Center on Saturday afternoon and left with a 3-2 victory thanks to a third-period goal by rookie Gustav Nyquist, who scored for the 16th time in 22 games. The victory moved the Red Wings into the second wild-card position in the East. The Wild hold the first wild-card spot in the West despite going 1-2-2 in their past five games.


Buffalo Sabres at Vancouver Canucks -- The Canucks' flickering playoff hopes will get some reinforcements. First-line left wing Daniel Sedin will return after missing nine games with a leg injury, and that should help an offense that has struggled to score. Vancouver coach John Tortorella said Sedin will definitely return and center Ryan Kesler, the Canucks' leader with 22 goals, may also be ready to go after a knee injury. More goals would be a welcome boost as the Canucks try to overcome a five-point deficit in the race for the second wild-card position in the West. The last-place Sabres will use rookie goaltender Nathan Lieuwen, who grew up an hour away from Vancouver and rooted for the Canucks as a kid.


Florida Panthers at Anaheim Ducks -- Florida finishes a tough four-game, six-day trip to California and Arizona looking for a split after a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. The Ducks have had a couple of days to regroup after a disappointing 3-2 road loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday that dropped them into second place in the Pacific Division. Anaheim is 3-4-2 in March but has a chance to get rolling again in the next couple of weeks: This begins a stretch of nine games against teams that are currently outside a playoff position in their conference.



POST-GAME AUDIO: Alain Vigneault, Henrik Lundqvist,







Rick Carpiniello, 26, was born and raised in Harrison and began working in The Journal News' sports department (back when it was The Reporter Dispatch and eight other newspapers) in October of 1977 after a year of covering high school sports as a stringer. For more than 20 years he covered the New York Rangers and the National Hockey League. Carpiniello has been writing columns on everything from local sports to the big leagues since 2002.




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Rangers getting better at closing out victories


NEWARK, N.J. -- Less than two weeks ago, the New York Rangers appeared to be showing their warts as a team that could play well, could hang in tight games, but couldn't close. That seems like a distant memory now.


Nothing is set, not even close, especially with a pair of home games this week against the Phoenix Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers followed by a four-game western road trip. But after going 2-4-1 to start the month, the Rangers have won four of their past five games. All four victories have come on the road, where they have a League-best 23 wins.


They beat the New Jersey Devils 2-0 on Saturday at Prudential Center to solidify their spot as the third-place team in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers have 82 points, one fewer than the red-hot Flyers and four more than the fourth-place Columbus Blue Jackets, a team the Rangers beat Friday night.


The Washington Capitals could jump the Blue Jackets with a win against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.


"You have to get traction now," defenseman Marc Staal said. "Look at the standings, everyone wins or gets points every night. It was time to get down to business and start stringing some wins together."



Henrik Lundqvist



Goalie - NYR


RECORD: 28-22-4

GAA: 2.42 | SVP: 0.919



While still leery of the teams chasing them, the Rangers are less concerned now because of how they've been playing. They beat the Devils and Blue Jackets on back-to-back nights because they didn't abandon the type of game they know they have to play in order to clinch a playoff berth.

Henrik Lundqvist was exceptional with 25 saves in a 3-1 win Friday in Columbus. He came back 24 hours later to make 21 saves for his franchise-best 50th career shutout, one more than Ed Giacomin.


New York again received big-time efforts from one of the NHL's best, and arguably most underrated, defense corps. In fact, the Rangers' defensive performance Saturday might have been their best of the season.


They kept the Devils on the outside for most of the night and limited second-chance opportunities. The 21 shots on goal were the fewest the Rangers have allowed since Dec. 20, when the New York Islanders had 20 but scored on five of them for a win at Madison Square Garden.


Lundqvist is a much different goalie now than he was then. Heck, he's a much different goalie now than he was a few weeks ago. The Rangers as a whole are playing a much stingier game than they were earlier this month. The lone hiccup came against the Ottawa Senators this past Tuesday, but the Rangers dominated offensively in that game for an 8-4 win. Otherwise they have been lights out on the defensive end.


"We haven't gotten sidetracked from playing to our strengths," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "Obviously in Columbus it was a pretty physical game, and one where we could have taken penalties and gotten out of our game, out of hand. Here [Saturday] they were physical and there were a lot of times they were clogging it up and we weren't able to generate a lot of offense, but we just stayed with it, continued to chip pucks, use our speed and find a way to get one goal there."


The game-winner came in the second period from Rick Nash, who has scored three goals in the past three games after getting one in his previous nine games. Nash didn't score in his return to Columbus on Friday, but he was arguably the best forward on the ice -- he was assertive, aggressive and chippy. Nash had seven shots on goal, and his second fight of the season, against his old team.


He was one of many Rangers who played a smart, simple and physical game Saturday. When the Rangers have those three traits on their side, they can play like one of the top teams in the League.


That's how they looked Friday and Saturday.


"I think our physicality and our attention to detail in our [defensive] end has been a lot better the last couple of games," Staal said. "In Ottawa it was pretty sloppy. I mean, we won 8-4 but we weren't happy with the way we played that game. To turn it around like that, especially after a win, it's hard to do. You get comfortable, but we turned it around and played a solid game in Columbus, and then held them to 21 shots [Saturday night]. I think that part of our game has been good and has to be down the stretch. You can't win if you don't play good defense."


The Rangers would make things a lot easier if they could get their sputtering power play back in order.


They're still in the top half of the League in terms of power-play percentage (18.9), but they are 3-for-31 with the man-advantage in their past 10 games. Even the three is deceiving because one of those three goals is center Derek Stepan's empty-netter Saturday night.


"You look at the good power plays around the League and guys are taking their time, they're making plays, everything is tape-to-tape, they're moving, shooting the puck," center Derick Brassard said. "For us, I think every time we start a power play we try to put everything through instead of getting set up and taking our time. It's not going to happen in the first 10 seconds; it might happen at the end of the power play. I think if we're more patient and just make tape-to-tape passes it's going to be better."


Maybe the power play is the next part of New York's game that will come around. It certainly would make locking up a playoff berth easier. However, as long as the Rangers continue to get quality goaltending from Lundqvist and play their smart, simple, physical brand of hockey in front of him, they really shouldn't have much to worry about.


Nothing is set yet, not even close, but all of a sudden the Rangers look like closers.


"It just seems like we've become more mature as a team, a little bit more experienced with each other, understanding by examples in the past of what it takes for our team to win games, and it's not trying to be pretty all the time," McDonagh said.


"I just like the way we've gone about games and stayed really focused. It seems we've been taking it shift-by-shift as a group and that's a good sign here at this point in the season."


---



Berglund filling offensive void for Blues


ST. LOUIS -- According to Patrik Berglund, nothing has changed since his return from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.


The physical characteristics are certainly the same: He's still a left-handed shooter, he still wears No. 21 and he still plays for the St. Louis Blues.


What has changed is Berglund's name popping up more often on the stat sheet at the end of the night. More often bodes well for these Blues.


Berglund has 14 goals this season -- not an eye-popping number considering the Blues (47-16-7 have played 70 games. But six of those eight goals came in a recent eight-game stretch, and seven of his 31 points on the season came in a 10-game set.



Patrik Berglund



Center - STL


GOALS: 14 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 31

SOG: 124 | +/-: 13



Again, it's not a Sidney Crosby-type stretch in which multiple-point games come with regularity, but since the trade the brought in Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres and saw the Blues lose Chris Stewart's 15 goals, Berglund stepped up to fill the void.

"Ever since I've seen him play here, he's been a force," Ott said. "He's a big, strong body and playing the right way. That's why he's getting success out there."


Berglund went to Sochi and had an increased role in Sweden's run towards a gold medal; the Swedes ultimately settled for silver after losing to Canada. But after returning from Sochi, Berglund has been able pick up where the Olympics -- and even the Blues season -- left off.


"When you get back, it's kind of a restart to get going," Berglund said. "You've been missing the boys a whole lot. You know it's down the stretch before the playoffs start. I just got back happy and I was ready to play.


"I think I'm playing the same way. I'm shooting the puck. Now it's finding its way in. It's obviously nice."


Berglund scored a goal against the Nashville Predators recently that was a perfect example of what is a change in his game. He was able to fend off a defender and get a precise release off from the left circle to beat Pekka Rinne.


"I think he's able to do this because he can hang on offense a little bit longer," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Berglund. "He doesn't have the 200-foot responsibility to play down low. He's got the freedom to hang in a little bit longer. He doesn't have to play safety-wise and things like that. It's allowing and it's freeing up his energy to play maybe a little bit more on offense than he has in the past. He's always been the guy that's had to do the heavy lifting in our zone and it's hard for a guy, unless you're a real quick player, to be able to play 200 feet. ... He's got a great shot.


"A lot of these goals look similar. He's flat-out blowing it right through the goaltender."


Berglund, 25, has always maintained his confident nature, even when he went through prolonged stretches without scoring goals or putting up points. But in the Blues' system, there's so much more responsibility than just scoring.


"You can do a whole bunch of things out there that can get you confidence," Berglund said. "It's not just that the puck goes in. I've been doing other stuff that's been giving me the confidence to put one in. There's a lot of things out there you can do to gain confidence. You've just got to stick with it. If you can't score, you've got to do something else for the team and that's what everybody's doing for our team.


"I'm challenging more, holding onto the puck a little more, doing more and more cutbacks and trying to get more stuff going. It's been giving me more confidence and I've been getting some better chances to score. Obviously that's what I've been doing."


"He's played strong all year," said teammate Alexander Steen, who played on the same line with Berglund at Sochi. "The same with him, nothing really changes in his game. He's very consistent the way he plays. Right now, he's got a little extra jump, he's feeling pretty good with it. He's scoring some big goals for us."


Berglund's career high in goals (22), assists (30) and points (52) came three seasons ago, and he's not on pace to match those totals. But lower offensive numbers translate into better team success, Berglund will make the trade in a nanosecond.


"We're playing so well now," said Berglund, who has 14 goals, 17 assists and 31 points in 67 games. "We're really calm on the bench and really calm in the way we play. It's really huge that we can play this type of team game. It's great for everybody that we're playing such solid hockey."



Shark Club Game Day: Game #72, Canadiens at Maple Leafs


I know Reimer could not stop the third, but 10 seconds before that he needed to control the little dump in to the corner. He was scared to touch it, it went around to the Canadians, back of the net. Poor defence, but Reimer is brutal.



Video: Cam Ward robs Bryan Little with spectacular stick save


This might be the save of the year.


Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes was down and out, but somehow recovered to make a spectacular stick save on Winnipeg Jets’ forward Bryan Little.


Little was staring down a wide open net when the loose puck came right to him just off to the side of the Carolina net. Ward didn’t have any other play but to throw out the paddle of the stick, somehow stopping the puck.


It’s been a day of terrific saves across the NHL. Earlier, we brought you this highlight of Jonathan Quick making a desperation glove stop on Florida Panthers’ forward Tomas Fleischmann .



Jets assign Cormier to AHL St. John’s


The Winnipeg Jets are hosting the Carolina Hurricanes tonight in a battle of former Southeast Division opponents.


Off the ice, the Jets announced the club had reassigned forward Patrice Cormier to the St. John’s IceCaps in the American Hockey League.


The 23-year-old Cormier has played in only six games this season for Winnipeg, tallying one assist.


Cormier is a former second-round pick, 54th overall, of the New Jersey Devils. In 46 career National Hockey League games with the Jets and formerly the Atlanta Thrashers, he has one goal and three points.



Stars snap losing streak with win over Senators


Trying to get back into the Western Conference playoff race, the Dallas Stars needed a victory in the worst way.


On Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, the Stars peppered goalie Robin Lehner with rubber – finishing with 44 shots on the day – before finally opening the game up on their way to an important 3-1 victory. It snapped the Stars’ losing streak at four games.


For now, it also gets them back to within two points of the Phoenix Coyotes, currently holding down the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The Coyotes are in action tonight, as they go up against the red-hot Boston Bruins, winners of 11 consecutive games. So, it was critical for the Stars to do their part in trying to make up on ground in the West.


The Stars (with 77 points) now have 12 games remaining in their regular season. After tonight, the Coyotes (currently with 79 points) will have only 11 remaining.


Cue the scoreboard watching, if players haven’t been doing that already.


“Sometimes, you think it’s best not to, but I know it’s there. I’ve done the math, and I know what we have to do,” Stars’ center Vern Fiddler told the Dallas Morning News.


“I think the veterans can handle it, and we have to help the younger players with that. You obviously have to concentrate on each game and each shift, but I don’t think there’s any harm in knowing where you stand.”



Video: Kings’ Quick makes desperation glove save


Tomas Fleischmann might have nightmares about this one later on.


The Florida Panthers’ forward looked like he had a sure goal against the L.A. Kings on a rebound off the end boards in the second period of Saturday’s game. He was able to get a backhand away, with the puck sailing on its way into an empty net.


Not so fast.


Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick quickly pushed back to his left, doing the splits, to make a miraculous desperation glove save and keep the Panthers off the board.


The save wasn’t just spectacular but important, too. The Panthers, on a power play, had a chance to cut the Kings’ two-goal lead in half early in the second period and perhaps make a game of this one. Instead, the Kings powered their way to a 4-0 victory.



Kings’ Brown suffers upper-body injury against Panthers (Updated)


L.A. Kings captain Dustin Brown has suffered an upper-body injury against the Florida Panthers.


According to Lisa Dillman of the L.A. Times, Brown is not expected to return to the game. According to the Time on Ice Report, Brown’s last shift came just past the midway point of the second period.



Flyers sign Raffl to a two-year contract extension


It hasn’t even been one full season, but the Philadelphia Flyers like what they’ve seen from Michael Raffl.


So much so, that on Saturday the Flyers announced a two-year contract extension with a $1.1 million cap hit for the 25-year-old left winger. It’s a nice raise from the $925,000 in annual average salary – that’s according to Capgeek.com – he is going to get from his current one-year deal with the Flyers.


Raffl was never drafted, and he spent five seasons in Austria and Sweden before making the move to North America. In 57 games with the Flyers, he has scored nine goals and 21 points.


He played just over 13 minutes for the Flyers in their 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues earlier in the day.



AHL suspends Bobby Shea for fight off ice that police had to break up


The American Hockey League has slapped Rockford IceHogs defenseman Bobby Shea with an eight-game suspension after a bizarre incident against the Chicago Wolves on Friday.


Shea was involved in a fight off the ice with Ty Rattie, and nearby police officers actually had to come in to help break it up. Shea had previously been ejected from the game for an elbowing major.


From the AHL:


Shea was suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 28.1 (supplementary discipline) as a result of his game misconduct for fighting off the playing surface, as well as for an elbowing incident.


The league announced it also suspended Rockford defenseman Jared Nightingale six games for leaving the bench for the purpose of starting an altercation. That incident happened earlier in the second period of Friday’s game, before the Shea-Rattie incident.


As per the AHL score sheet from that game, Nightingale was assessed a minor for instigating, a major for fighting and a game misconduct for the instigator.



Red Wings defeat the Wild, move into second Eastern Conference Wild Card spot


The Detroit Red Wings have suddenly won three games in a row, with the latest victory pushing them back into the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.


With a 23rd consecutive playoff berth hanging in the balance, the Red Wings defeated the Minnesota Wild by a score of 3-2 on Saturday, to jump one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for the Wild Card.


Gustav Nyquist – remember, he’s scoring more because he’s shooting the puck more – scored the winner on a quick wrist shot just over five minutes into the third period. It’s his 21st on the season and fifth in four games.


Darren Helm also returned to the Red Wings lineup, after missing eight games with a concussion. He had 12:06 in ice time, although there appears to be some question as to whether he’ll play Sunday, when the Red Wings and Wild wrap up this weekend home-and-home set.



Daniel Sedin ready to rejoin Canucks, Kesler questionable


After missing nine straight contests with a hamstring injury, forward Daniel Sedin will play for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres, per the team’s Twitter account.


Vancouver might also get Ryan Kesler back, but he will be evaluated further tomorrow before a final call is made. He has missed four straight games.


His knee appeared to buckle during Saturday’s practice, which caused him to briefly get off the ice. He tried to shrug the incident off after the skate.


“I had to check my phone,” Kesler told the Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap.


Meanwhile, Alex Burrows is still day-to-day with a hand injury that Canucks GM Mike Gillis recently admitted didn’t look good.


Sunday’s contest will be a must-win game for the Canucks as they try to claw their way back into the playoff race. As it is, they can only earn a maximum of 94 points this season, so there’s a chance they’ll miss the playoffs even if they win all of their remaining 10 games.


At this point, this is more about at least ending the season on an upbeat note after the Canucks traded away goaltender Roberto Luongo and before they look at making some other major moves this summer.


Related:


Playoff bubble watch — Canucks edition


Vancouver columnist: If Torts isn’t fired, Kassian should request trade



Rangers at Devils tonight (7 p.m.) … pre-game notes


Pre-game notes courtesy of the NYR:


NEW YORK RANGERS at NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Saturday, Mar. 22, 7:00 p.m. ET

Prudential Center – Newark, NJ

Rangers: 38-29-4 (80 pts)

Devils: 30-27-13 (73 pts)


TONIGHT’S GAME

The Rangers will face-off against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center (7:00 p.m. ET — TV: MSG Network; Radio: ESPN 98.7), in the second game of a back-to-back road set. The Blueshirts currently rank third in the Metropolitan Division standings, and sixth in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 38-29-4 (80 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-1, yesterday at Nationwide Arena, in a Metropolitan Division matchup. The Blueshirts have won three of their last four games, including three straight on the road. The Devils enter the contest with a 30-27-13 (73 pts) record to rank 11th in the Eastern Conference, and have lost three of their last four games. Following the contest, the Rangers will return to action when they face-off against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday, Mar. 24, at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in the first of two straight home games.


RANGERS vs. DEVILS:

All-Time: 105-87-27-7 overall (58-31-20-3 at home; 47-56-7-4 on the road)

2013-14: Tonight is the fifth and final meeting this season, and the third of three road meetings. New York is 1-2-1 (0-1-1 at home; 1-1-0 on the road), following a 7-3 win on Jan. 26 in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Yankee Stadium. Mats Zuccarello leads the Rangers with five points, including a series-leading three goals, while Marc Staal (two goals, one assist) and Chris Kreider (one goal, two assists) have each registered three points in the series. Henrik Lundqvist is 1-2-1 with a 3.51 GAA.

Last Season: New York was 3-1-0 overall (2-0-0 at home; 1-1-0 on the road). The Rangers out-scored the Devils, 12-6, including an 8-1 advantage at MSG and a 6-2 advantage after the first period. Derek Stepan and Brad Richards tied for the series lead with five points apiece, while Rick Nash tied the series-high with three goals. Henrik Lundqvist was 3-1-0 with a 1.51 GAA, .940 Sv%, and 1 SO.

• The Rangers and Devils have been separated by two goals or less in 17 of their last 25 meetings

• The Blueshirts have registered a point in 18 of their last 27 games against the Devils (15-9-3)

• New York is 22-13-0 on the road; New Jersey is 17-9-7 at home

• The Rangers are 13-11-3 vs. Metropolitan Division opponents; the Devils are 14-8-3 vs. Metropolitan Division opponents

• New York lists no former Devils on their roster

• New Jersey lists two former Rangers on their roster: Ryane Clowe (2012-13); Jaromir Jagr (2003-04 – 2007-08)


INDIVIDUAL CAREER LEADERS vs. DEVILS:

• Henrik Lundqvist – 49 GP, 29-14-6, 7 SO, 1.91 GAA

• Martin St. Louis – 50 GP, 19-27–46

• Brad Richards – 46 GP, 6-33–39

• Derek Stepan – 20 GP, 5-10–15

• Dan Girardi – 42 GP, 2-15–17


SPECIAL TEAMS:

• The Blueshirts penalty kill is 25-26 (96.2%) with four shorthanded goals in the last nine games

• Ranks eighth in the league in combined PP% + PK% (103.2%)

• Power Play: The Rangers were 0-4 (7:31) yesterday at Columbus. New York is tied for 13th in the NHL overall (43-230, 18.7%), and ranks sixth on the road (25-111, 22.5%). The Rangers are 6-18 (8:36) in five-on-three situations (last – 3/21 at CBJ), and 0-6 (6:56) when four-on-three (last – 1/19 vs. WSH). Shorthanded goals allowed (6): 10/8 at SJS (Vlasic); 10/24 at PHI (Read); 11/19 vs. BOS (Paille); 12/20 vs. NYI (Clutterbuck, PS); 12/20 vs. NYI (Grabner); 3/2 vs. BOS (Campbell).

• Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts were 3-3 (6:00) yesterday at Columbus. New York is tied for sixth in the NHL overall (175-207, 84.5%), and ranks seventh on the road (94-111, 84.7%). The Rangers are 4-7 (6:27) in three-on-five situations (last – 3/7 at CAR), and 6-8 (6:06) when three-on-four (last – 1/21 vs. NYI). Shorthanded goals for (6): 10/7 at LAK (McDonagh); 12/27 at WSH (Hagelin); 1/19 vs. WSH (Callahan); 3/5 vs. TOR (McDonagh); 3/5 vs. TOR (D. Moore); 3/7 at CAR (McDonagh).

• Four-on-Four: New York did not skate in a four-on-four situation yesterday at Columbus. The Rangers are now -1 in 75 four-on-four situations (117:55), and even in one three-on-three situation (1:03) this season. Four-on-four goals for (7): 10/16 at WSH (J. Moore); 10/26 at DET (Brassard); 12/12 vs. CBJ (Girardi); 12/18 vs. PIT (Hagelin); 1/31 vs. NYI (Brassard); 1/31 vs. NYI (McDonagh); 3/7 at CAR (Nash). Four-on-four goals allowed (8): 10/3 at PHX (Vrbata); 10/7 at LAK (Muzzin); 10/12 at STL (Backes); 12/8 vs. WSH (Grabovski, PS); 12/18 vs. PIT (Sutter); 12/27 at WSH (Fehr); 1/6 vs. CBJ (Atkinson); 3/5 vs. TOR (Bozak).


BACK-TO-BACKS:

• Scheduled to play in 13 back-to-back sets this season

• Combined record – 14-10-1

• Record in 1st game – 6-6-1 (2-2-1 at home; 4-4-0 on the road)

• Record in 2nd game – 8-4-0 (3-3-0 at home; 5-1-0 on the road)

• Last season – 7-4-1; 1st game, 4-1-1 (3-0-0 at home; 1-1-1 on the road); 2nd game, 3-3-0 (0-2-0 at home; 3-1-0 on the road)

• The Rangers are 19-9-5 in the first half of back-to-back games dating back to the start of the 2011-12 season, and 21-9-2 in the second game over the span

• Henrik Lundqvist has started on consecutive days 68 times in his career (41-20-7, 2.12 GAA, .928 Sv%, 6 SO in the 2nd game)


CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT

Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves in an 8-4 win on Tuesday at Ottawa to become the franchise’s all-time wins leader with 302 career victories. He registered his 300th career win with a 30-save shutout, the 49th of his career, in the Rangers 3-0 victory over Detroit on Mar. 9 at Madison Square Garden. He became the 29th goaltender in NHL history to reach the 300-win mark, and is one of six active goalies with at least 300 wins. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lundqvist is the fifth fastest goaltender to record 300 wins (560 games). He is now tied with Ed Giacomin for the franchise lead in career regular season shutouts (49).


ROAD WARRIORS

New York enters the contest with a three-game road winning streak, and has won 20 of their last 27 contests on the road. The Rangers have posted two separate six-game road winning streaks this season for the first time in franchise history. The Blueshirts are now 22-13-0 on the road this season. Their 22 road wins lead the Eastern Conference, and are tied for first in the league overall.


SINCE 2007-08

The Rangers are 24-11-4 overall (13-5-2 at home; 11-6-2 on the road) against the Devils since 2007-08, dating back to a 2-0 win on Oct. 25, 2007. Henrik Lundqvist is 24-11-3 with a 2.08 GAA, .921 Sv% and seven shutouts in 38 games over the span.


HEAD-TO-HEAD

Henrik Lundqvist has faced-off against Martin Brodeur in 40 career regular season games, posting a record of 25-9-6 with a 1.78 GAA, .928 Sv% and five shutouts in those contests.


MAC TRUCK

Ryan McDonagh has registered eight points (four goals, four assists) in the last 10 games, a stretch that began with a career-high, three-game goal streak, and has logged 25:00+ of ice time in each of the last five games. He leads the Rangers and ranks 14th in the NHL in average ice time (24:44), and ranks second on the team with 120 blocked shots. McDonagh notched a shorthanded goal in consecutive games on Mar. 5-7, to become the first Rangers player to record a shorthanded goal in consecutive games since Michal Rozsival on Nov. 17-19, 2007. He has also tied Brian Leetch’s single-season franchise record for most shorthanded goals by a defenseman with three shorthanded goals this season. McDonagh is tied for fifth in the league in shorthanded goals (three) and ninth in shorthanded points (four).


RICK ROLLING

Rick Nash has posted four multi-goal performances and leads the Rangers with 22 goals this season. He has tallied at least 20 goals in each season since his rookie year in 2002-03 (17 goals), and is the only player in the NHL with an active streak of 10 straight 20-goal seasons.


THE HOT LIST:

• Henrik Lundqvist – Has held opponents to two goals or less in 15 of his last 22 games (15-6-1, 2.05 GAA, .933 Sv%, 2 SO), and is 5-2-0 with a 1.87 GAA, .940 Sv%, and one shutout in his last seven contests

• Derek Stepan – Has tallied a point in 10 of the last 12 games, registering 13 points (four goals, nine assists) over the span, including a goal in each of the last two contests

• Ryan McDonagh – eight points (four goals, four assists) in the last 10 games

• Mats Zuccarello – Has registered 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in his last 14 games, including four assists in the last two contests

• Carl Hagelin – six points (five goals, one assist) in the last eight games, including five points (four goals, one assist) in the last four contests

• Derick Brassard – three goals and four points in the last two games

• Kevin Klein – four points (one goal, three assists) in the last six games


MILESTONES APPROACHING:

• Henrik Lundqvist – 1 shutout from 50th NHL career

• Ryan McDonagh – 2 points from 100th NHL career

• Brian Boyle – 3 points from 100th NHL career


INJURIES (102 Man-Games Lost):

• None


RECENT TRANSACTIONS:

• Mar. 17 – Agreed to terms with defenseman Ryan Graves


Photo by Getty Images.



Islanders lose Kyle Okposo, Lubomir Visnovsky


Maybe the fact that the New York Islanders have already been essentially eliminated from the playoffs is the silver lining for them at this point, because the string of injuries they’ve had to endure would be pretty devastating otherwise.


Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky missed Friday’s practice due to an upper-body injury and forward Kyle Okposo left the ice early with lower-body problems, according to Newsday.


There’s no timetable for Okposo’s recovery yet, but Islanders coach Jack Capuano conceded that they need to be particularly cautious with injuries now that they have nothing left to play for. Even still, Okposo was the last remaining member of the Islanders’ once great first line that also consisted of John Tavares (knee) and Thomas Vanek, who was dealt to Montreal.


For Visnovsky, this is the latest setback for him after he missed 46 games earlier this season with a concussion. He returned on Jan. 27 and has 11 points in 24 games this season.


Like Okposo, there’s no timetable for the 37-year-old blueliner’s return, but he’s doubtful for Sunday’s contest versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.



Sutter has Richards practicing on fourth line


Mike Richards hasn’t recorded a point in his last six games, which might not be noteworthy under normal circumstances, but taken in the context of his 2013-14 campaign and it has to be discouraging for Kings’ fans.


Richards has just nine goals and 39 points in 70 contests this season and has gotten to the point where he was skating alongside Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis on the fourth line during Friday’s practice.


Afterwards, Darryl Sutter compared Richards to Dustin Brown, whose playing time has dropped substantially this season as he fails to live up to expectations.


“Hopefully they’re getting their games together at the right time,” Sutter said, per the Los Angeles Times. He added, “These guys are experienced, veteran players on our team. They have to get their game in order if we’re going to be a playoff team.”


Richards didn’t exactly shine during the 2011-12 regular season either with his 44 points in 74 games, but he stepped up during the team’s playoff run to help them win the Stanley Cup. Sutter just has to hope history repeats itself as the postseason approaches.



Penguins’ Bennett heads to AHL on conditioning stint


Beau Bennett has recovered from a hand/wrist injury that’s sidelined him since late November, but the road back to the Pittsburgh Penguins will go through AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.


Bennett will spend “a few games” with the minor-league squad after he was sent down on a conditioning assignment.


“I’m just excited to play some games and get back into some action,” Bennett told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s been a long time coming.”


Before the campaign started, Bennett was regarded as a potential top-six forward, but the 22-year-old has been limited to just 12 games. At this point he will probably serve in a depth role during the Penguins’ playoff run, but he would be capable of moving up if injuries necessitate it.


Meanwhile, defenseman Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke, is practicing with the Penguins, but isn’t expected to return in the near future.


“There are still some days I don’t feel quite right,” said Letang.


“On the ice, it’s fine. It’s more outside the ice that it’s a problem.”


Pittsburgh will play against Tampa Bay this afternoon.



Hitchcock: East teams should be nervous about facing Flyers in playoffs


There’s no question that the St. Louis Blues are the favorites going into this afternoon’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. In fact, now that they have goaltender Ryan Miller, just about any team that faces the Blues are the underdogs.


That doesn’t mean that Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is underestimating the Flyers though. In fact, he holds them in very high regard.


“If I was in the East, I’d be really nervous to play them,” Hitchcock said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “They look like a team right now that not only has a lot of resolve, but they are fully committed to checking.”


Hitchcock predicted that the Flyers will be “a bear in the playoffs.”


He has a history with the Flyers as their former head coach for parts of four seasons starting with 2002-03. The Flyers got over 100 points in each of Hitchcock’s first three campaigns with the team and he led them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004.


This will be the Blues’ first meeting against the Flyers this season and they will play again on April 1. After that, they won’t face each other again unless they both make it to the Stanley Cup Final — which by the sounds of things, is a scenario that wouldn’t shock Hitchcock.



Nash wanted to make Bobrovsky ‘own up’ after whacking him, pushing stick


Rick Nash looked incredulous when he was asked after his New York Rangers’ 3-1 victory over Columbus what set him off against Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.


“Did you see me go pick up my stick?” Nash asked, referring to the fact that he went to grab his stick after the play was called dead and Bobrovsky flung it aside. That led to Nash shoving him, starting a scrum in front of the Jackets’ net.


The Rangers forward added that he also got whacked twice by the goaltender during the first period.


“You got to own up when you do something like that,” Nash said.


His former teammate, Matt Calvert, took exception to Nash’s actions, calling them gutless and picking a fight with Nash during the game.


Despite that and the booing, Nash felt his first trip back to Columbus’ Nationwide Arena was a “great game” and “a lot of fun.” He doesn’t even seem particularly bothered by Bobrovsky’s actions now that the contest is in the past.


The Rangers have won three of their last four games as they battle for second place in the Metropolitan Division.


You can watch Nash’s postgame interview below:



Byfuglien, Bogosian, Slater will probably rejoin Jets tonight


If the Winnipeg Jets are going to make the playoffs, they have to win nearly all — if not all — of their remaining 11 games. The odds are stacked heavily against them, but at least help is on the way.


Jets coach Paul Maurice thinks that Dustin Byfuglien (lower body), Zach Bogosian (upper body), and Jim Slater (lower body) will all be available for tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, according to NHL.com. The final call will be made after they participate in the morning skate.


Byfuglien and Bogosian rank second and third on the Jets respectively in terms of minutes per game. With 52 points, Byfuglien is also third in the team’s scoring race.


Winnipeg had to make do without the trio on Wednesday, but the team managed to earn a 5-4 overtime victory against Colorado thanks to forward Blake Wheeler’s heroics.


That improved the Jets to 32-30-9, but they remain six points shy of the second Wild Card spot and Phoenix despite the fact that the Coyotes have played in one less contest.



Bruins' defense, depth led to NHL's first playoff clinch


Zdeno Chara is still arguably the best defenseman in the National Hockey League and Tuukka Rask is a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this season. Toss in enviable forward depth and a solid defense corps behind Chara along with a seasoned coaching staff, and there are plenty of reasons why the Boston Bruins are the first team to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.


The Bruins punched a ticket to the playoffs Friday night by winning their 11th straight game, fittingly with a near-flawless defensive performance in a 2-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.


Chara has been his usual minute-munching, forward-crunching self this season. He once again plays nearly 25 minutes per game and always faces the toughest matchups, and Chara, who turned 37 earlier this week, should again be up among the top candidates for the Norris Trophy. He won the trophy in 2009.


Rask, another mainstay in Boston, is proving to be worth the eight-year, $56 million contract he signed last July. He is among the League's leaders in all four major statistical categories for goaltenders. Rask is third in goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.929), fifth in wins (31) and first in shutouts (6).


With Chara and Rask it's no wonder the Bruins are once again the top contender in the Eastern Conference after reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season. But they're only part of Boston's success story this season.


Here are five more reasons the Bruins are heading back to the playoffs:


1. No tinkering


While many coaches will change lines mid-game to try to give their team a spark or jumpstart the offense, Bruins coach Claude Julien prefers a more consistent approach with his forward lines. He clearly knows what he's doing.


Save for injury, Boston's forward lines have remained virtually the same for the bulk of the season because, well, they work.


David Krejci has centered Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla since the start of the season. Iginla replaced Nathan Horton on that line and has fit in seamlessly. The line has combined for 168 points. Krejci leads the Bruins with 60 points, Iginla is second with 56 and Lucic is third with 52. Iginla leads the team with 26 goals. They are Boston's top three scorers and make up arguably the best line in the NHL, or at least the Eastern Conference.


Patrice Bergeron consistently plays in between Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith. Bergeron is having another season worthy of the Selke Trophy, if not the Hart. Smith, who was originally projected as a bottom-six forward, has been Boston's most surprising contributor after being considered the other guy in the Tyler Seguin trade during the summer that also brought Loui Eriksson to Boston.


Marchand has rebounded after a tough start to surpass 20 goals for the third time in his career.


The third and fourth lines have been subject to more adversity than the top two because of injuries and suspensions, but when Julien has his preferred bottom-six available he typically goes back to the same alignment, with Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Eriksson on a dangerous, scoring third line and Gregory Campbell in between Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille on the fourth line.


Soderberg has chipped in with the secondary scoring Boston needs. He has 41 points and averages nearly 14 minutes of ice time per game. Eriksson has had a tough season because of concussions, but he still has 28 points in 49 games.


2. Young 'D' coming along


The Bruins started the season with a plan to use their three young defensemen a lot, thinking that Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski would be part of a top-seven led by Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid.


Injuries to Seidenberg and McQuaid forced Julien to alter those plans and even add Kevan Miller to the group after he started the season with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League. Krug, Hamilton, Bartkowski and Miller have fared well despite some intense circumstances, so much so that Boston's defense has barely taken a hit without Seidenberg and McQuaid in the lineup.


Krug leads all Boston defenseman with 37 points in 69 games, but he's also the most sheltered of the defense corps as he typically starts his shifts in the offensive zone. Hamilton, who has lately gotten some time as Chara's defense partner, has 21 points and is a plus-20 in 52 games. Bartkowski has 15 points, all assists, and is a plus-21 in 54 games. Miller has five points and is plus-15 in 37 games.


They have helped the Bruins drive possession, and Boston's group of defensively-abled forwards, particularly Bergeron and Kelly, haven't had to alter their games much to make up for the loss of Seidenberg and McQuaid. It's been a seamless transition.


3. Mr. Everything


The advanced stats community has helped bring Bergeron's impact to light. In fact, if the Hart Trophy were awarded based on advanced stats (zone starts, quality of competition, Corsi, etc.) Bergeron would be one of the leading candidates. He probably should be anyway.


Bergeron faces the toughest competition on a game-to-game basis and starts more shifts in the defensive zone than in the offensive zone, yet he's one of the top players in the League at driving possession and ending his shifts in the offensive zone.


The Bruins possess the puck more because of Bergeron, who wins nearly 60 percent of his faceoffs and also contributes offensively. He has 49 points in 70 games this season.


Among impactful centers who contribute in all areas, Bergeron should be included in the discussion with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar.


4. Iggy's still got it, and he's the perfect fit


Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli thought he had acquired Iginla before the NHL Trade Deadline last season, only to find out that the former Calgary Flames captain decided he wanted to go play with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins instead. He was put on the left wing in Pittsburgh and never quite seemed to fit.


Chiarelli finally got his man on July 5, signing Iginla to a one-year, bonus-based $6 million contract that has proven to be arguably the shrewdest free-agent signing of the offseason. Iginla has been the perfect fit as a right wing, his natural position, in Boston.


Julien didn't really have to think too hard or long before putting Iginla on the right wing of the top line with Krejci and Lucic. Horton was playing there before signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Like Horton, Iginla is a goal-scoring power forward with a right-handed shot and was a natural replacement.


Nobody, though, could have predicted that the Lucic-Krejci-Iginla line would stick from Day 1. It has and Iginla is on his way to his 12th season with 30 or more goals. He leads the Bruins with 26 and has 12 games to play.


5. Smith's unexpected impact


As mentioned above, Smith came to Boston in the summer blockbuster trade that sent Seguin to the Dallas Stars. Smith was a bottom-six player for the Stars, but the Bruins haven't shielded him because he's proven that they don't need to.


Smith has played regularly on the second line with Bergeron and Marchand and is fifth on the team with 47 points, including 19 goals, through 70 games. Julien let him fight through a scoring slump that lasted from Jan. 30 through mid-March, but he's started to create more and heat up lately.


Chiarelli said earlier in the season that he wanted Smith in that trade because he had shown an ability to be a solid two-way player. What has surprised the Bruins is Smith's strength on the boards. Chiarelli said he didn't know that was one of his strongest attributes, but it is.


Julien admitted last month during a visit to Madison Square Garden that Smith has been a surprising contributor, and suggested the best part of his game is how he has consistently been a factor. Smith lost that consistency in February but Julien stuck with him, mostly because he didn't want to tinker with the other lines that were working. It appears his faith is paying off.


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